Adventures in Work-Life Balance: An Odyssey

A blog about one family's adventures in striving to achieve, and then maintain, a healthy balance between work and family life.

Why You Should Plan Your Year: Planning Out 2018

Why You Should Plan Your Year

Well, we are now about two-and-a-half months into 2018. My primary resolution for this year is to spend the time more purposefully. Having survived 2017, I can confidently conclude that having a broad plan for the year far outpaces drifting aimlessly and simply letting things happen. In this post, I articulate my goals for 2018 as well as my long-term goals. Before I share my goals, let me summarize the impetus for doing this planning.

I have previously related the story of 2017 and how it prompted me to write this blog. You can read the details here. What I did not mention in that post, was that at the beginning of 2017, I had planned on sitting down for one weekend to plan my major goals for the year. Yes you read that correctly…I planned to plan. Unfortunately, the actual planning never came to fruition. In addition to my other courses, which were slated to begin later, I was scheduled to teach a course in the first week of January and only found out two days before the first class meeting. I spent the next two days scrambling to put together my syllabus and outline key assignments for the course. Little did I realize that this would set the tone for the rest of 2017. As I related in my introductory post, I spent much of 2017 jumping from one crisis or deadline to another. I finished the year almost burnt out. With that experience in my rearview mirror, I am determined to embrace a more deliberate approach to 2018.

Some might look at planning as creating rigidity and not allowing one to experience surprises. I take a different perspective. I see planning as providing the broad contours of how the year might unfold. With clearly articulated objectives, I feel like I can go through the year with greater purpose while also leaving open the possibility of pursuing unanticipated opportunities when they arise. To quote Benjamin Franklin: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” My 2017 experience is a testament to this. With a plan in place, I can be much more deliberate about how to face any challenges that emerge. With my objectives having been prioritized, not every challenge will be a crisis. We will see how things unfold, but I get the sense that I will reach the end of 2018 with more energy and a greater sense of accomplishment.

Medium-term and Long-term Goals

As I look to set my goals for 2018, I have an eye toward establishing medium-term and long-term goals. The medium-term goals make sense, as 2018 is a short time frame. The long-term goals, however, stretch far beyond 2018, so why articulate them now? Well, I would liken the long-term goals to an elephant that can only be wholly consumed one bite at a time (please forgive the rather graphic analogy). Once my long-term goals have been established, I can identify the intermediate (medium-term) steps and goals that will culminate in the final goal. I can clearly identify which of the intermediate steps and goals I aim to accomplish in 2018 and in subsequent years.

Why to Plan Across Aspects of Life

You will notice that my goals span a variety of areas. Though seemingly scatter-brained, it is quite intentional. It is often tempting to compartmentalize aspects of one’s life. It simplifies things when we can mentally separate one aspect of life from another. Unfortunately, I am not so sure we are built that way. At least I am not. My financial self is not separate from my physical self. My spiritual self is not separate from my social self. I am the same person, with the same mind, and the same experiences across each of these areas. Therefore, I choose to embrace the synergies that exist between different aspects of life. I see this as a core philosophy that underlies my approach to work-life balance. One of my all-time favorite motivational speakers, the late Zig Ziglar, wrote a book in which he described what he called the wheel of life. It encompasses seven spokes—personal, financial, spiritual, career, family, mental, and physical. The idea is that the wheel rolls along smoothly when deliberate attention is devoted to each of these spokes. Neglect any one of them and the wheel becomes unbalanced and makes for a bumpy ride. I love the analogy and highly encourage you to read or listen to the book.

Finally, although not perfect, I have tried to ensure that these goals have the hallmarks of good goal setting. That is, I have tried to ensure that they are specific, measurable, and attainable. The goals need to be specific so that I know what the end objective looks like. It needs to be measurable so that I know how close or far I am from achieving it. And it needs to be attainable so that it can be achieved.

And now, without further ado, here are my goals.

My Long-term Goals

1.      Acquire Property in the North Georgia Mountains. For Mrs. WLBalance and I, one of our big goals is to own property in the North Georgia mountains. I grew up in a very mountainous country and I love being in the mountains. It is a fundamental part of who I am. So much so that since moving to Atlanta, we have gone to the North Georgia mountains with a fair degree of regularity. We envision building a nice small getaway as well as some smaller properties for short-term rental (I’m thinking AirBnB). I will include some posts about this as the plans take form.

2.      Achieve Financial Independence. I have been very intrigued by the robust financial independence-retire early (FIRE) community that has emerged over the past several years. There are numerous excellent blogs that chronicle the journey to FIRE. My all-time favorites include Mad Fientist, Frugalwoods, Millennial Revolution, Mr Money Mustache, Our Next Life, Go Curry Cracker and 1500 Days. There are plenty more that I am continuing to discover and enjoy, but the one’s I have listed here are those that I have followed for at least a couple of years now. I am particularly interested in the FI part of FIRE as I see it expanding the range of things I might do with my time in future. In future posts I will be providing updates on the actions that I am taking to achieve FI.

3.      Become an Angel Investor. Some time in August last year, a friend of mine was in town for a different portion of the conference that I helped organize. He is a close friend of the family and we had arranged for him to crash at our pad during his trip to the conference. Anyway, long story short, he introduced me to the concept of angel investing; something I had never heard of. We had a fantastic discussion about it and I subsequently spent my winter break (such as it was) reading several books about the subject. So, this year I have set out to try out this angel investing thing. I am starting off with some simple, small dollar investments through syndicates. This is a nice way to get your feet wet with angel investing using small dollar amounts. It is an opportunity to learn and to make mistakes without losing my shirt. I will share some posts about what I am learning from this angel investing journey as I go along.

My Medium-term (2018) Goals

In addition to these long-term goals, I have also set some medium-term goals for myself. Broadly, they relate to physical and financial.

1.      Complete Two Triathlons. I have always enjoyed long-distance running. Ever since high school when I was on the cross-country team. I have participated in numerous marathons and half marathons over the years. I thought that triathlons would be something new and exciting. One of my goals is to complete an Olympic distance triathlon. But this is something I would rather build up to. With that in mind, my goal for this year is to complete two sprint distance triathlons. Sprint distance triathlons often entail a 700-meter swim, a 14-mile bike ride and a 5-kilometer run. My hope is that, with two Sprint distance triathlons under my belt, I will be in a position to tackle an Olympic distance triathlon next year.

2.      Track Expenses. As noted in my long-term goals, achieving FI is one of my main objectives. One of the underlying commonalities among the various FIRE blogs that I have been following is that an important starting point for achieving FI is tracking your expenses. Hence, I have set myself the objective of tracking my expenses for a year. Figuring this out will be the first step to figuring out my FI number—the number at which your investments and other sources of passive income meet or exceed your annual living expenses. This provides FI because you are no longer dependent upon paid employment to cover your living expenses—hence the term financial independence.

Tracking Progress

My hope is that this year will be more deliberate than last. By having a plan in place, I anticipate being less prone to jumping from crisis to crisis as was the case last year. That alone, should get me through the year with less stress. It is quite possible that I will fail at achieving some or all of these goals. But the alternative (not having goals at all) is far worse in my humble opinion. It will be an exciting journey. What about you? What your long- and medium-term goals?