Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Planning for a New Year

When I was a child there was always a sense of excitement that I would get when I received a blank notebook.  As I looked at the empty pages I would imagine all the things with which I would fill the notebook.  It might have been drawings or it might have been articles I clipped from the newspaper and pasted onto the pages or it might even have been things that I wrote.  Regardless, having that blank tableau in front of me filled me with wonderful thoughts of all that I might create.

The beginning of a new year feels like that blank notebook to me.  As I awake on New Years Day I try to imagine all the fun, exciting and interesting things that I will do that year.  Being the anal retentive and numbers oriented person that I am, I always have a ton of plans developed for what I want to do each year.

I suppose you could call my plans New Years Resolutions, but instead of nebulous, lofty goals I try and make my plans distinct and quantifiable activities.  I don't even call them resolutions, instead I call them my goals for the years.  To ensure that I keep on target in reaching these goals I track them religiously in an MS-Excel workbook.  The workbook, aptly named "Yearly Goals.xls" has been the repository for my plans and dreams for the last 15 years.  It all started in the winter of 1998 when I was feeling tremendously let down by my failure to achieve success on my "partnership" project at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture).  In the fall of 1997 my most high-profile project for work to that point had gone down the drain.  My career was sidetracked and I lost my opportunity to make associate partner at Andersen Consulting.

In the aftermath of this disappointing outcome, I found myself sitting around the Andersen Consulting office with little to do.  Getting myself back on track from a career perspective was critical and so I started this workbook in February of 1998 listing all the things that I was going to accomplish that year.  In the end I never made partner at Andersen Consulting because I left for another opportunity with PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting in April of 1999.  However the workbook that I started to get myself back on track has stuck around and it is now the guidepost for all the goals I want to achieve each year and the overall goals I hope to reach in my life.  (I suppose you could call it a bucket list - but it includes a lot of things that people won't put on a bucket list, like education and books to read, etc.)  Near the end of each year I add another worksheet in the workbook and start sketching out my plans for the year.  By the start of the new year most of my plans are laid in and I am ready to get rolling and achieve on January 1.

Having all this information in one place is a library of my hopes and ambitions.  The goals listed in this spreadsheet highlight things from how many miles I want to run to the art work I want to collect.  It's the Private Idaho of my life.

The goals I set for myself each year are lofty and I realize that I won't reach all of them.  But what is the point of setting easy goals for myself?  If I set a bunch of easy goals for myself then I will never stretch myself to do greater and better things.

Setting goals like this isn't for everyone, as I realize I can be very detailed oriented and focused on numbers.  If you don't have a fixation on numbers, keeping a spreadsheet and tracking the results like I do probably won't be any fun.  But it works for me!

As I sat down and thought about all the things I wanted to achieve with this year many of my goals were focused on things I couldn't achieve last year because of my injured leg and back.  Now that I am pretty much free of those things I have made athletic and outdoor accomplishments a key part of my goals.

For example this year I hope to run and hike over 500 miles, climb three 14,000 foot mountains, explore a series of new trails in the Eagles Nest and Lost Creek Wilderness, ride my bike for over 1000 miles, work out at the gym over 100 times, complete the Canyonlands Half Marathon and read at least 20 books (serious books not trash novels that I can go through in a day).

Those are just a few of the goals that I have for the year.  But for each of my readers, think about the fact you only have so much time on this earth and ask yourself what do you want to accomplish.  To reach those big over arching goals of life you have to start one step at a time.  If you haven't already done it, get busy and set some really cool and interesting goals for yourself for 2013.  Whether you develop a detailed spreadsheet like I have or just jot them down on a piece of paper - just do it!

Hope everyone is having a great week so far!

Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

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