2018 Goal: Prioritize

I posted my 2017 Year in Review, which is mostly just a look back at what happened last year. It’s a tool to use in the future, when I wonder “when did this thing happen?” – I can look back and see. But this post isn’t a look back, it’s a look forward. Herein I detail my goals for 2018.

As I mentioned in my review of last year, I constantly felt like I was falling behind. I can’t keep up with Twitter, YouTube, DeviantArt, and other sites, plus do dailies in video games, and you know, work full time, and cook, and still get all the reading, drawing, and other creating that I want to. I can’t even get done all of the housework that I want to do.

But, that’s not really true. I just don’t prioritize my time correctly.

I also wanted to save money in 2017, but we ended up spending a lot of it. Sure, we had to replace our AC unit, and get a new drain field installed for the septic tank, plus vet bills and car repairs, and Buu is going to school. But again, that’s not “the reason” we didn’t put money into savings. The reason is because we didn’t prioritize doing so. We spent money on games and things and going out to eat, without ensuring we’d put money away before doing so.

I will remedy both of these behaviors in 2018. First, the goals:

  • Draw 2 hours per week (minimum)
    This can be anything, from sketching on paper, to drawing digitally, as long as I draw.
  • Read 2 hours per week (minimum)
    Specifically fiction, as I have a mountain of it that others have told me I’d enjoy reading, plus I want to reread my favorites.
  • Write 2 hours per week (minimum)
    Originally I’d wanted to use this time to work on the novel that’s been floating in my head for two decades, but later decided it could be anything. There are dozens of blog posts that I want to write, but never seem to get around to. There are essays, short stories, and poems that start forming in my head, that I never put to paper (digital or otherwise).
  • Be Creative 2 hours per week (minimum)
    This is mostly for nail art, but can be for anything creative that doesn’t fall under reading, writing, or drawing.
  • Housework 2 hours per week (minimum)
    Obviously I do more than two hours per week of housework. But there are some forms of housework I keep avoiding, making any excuse to postpone, or hiding it in the guest room so I can ignore it. I need to spackle and paint walls, alphabetize our Magic cards, fold and put away laundry. These are the things I avoid until I absolutely have no choice but to do them. So I will devote two hours per week to getting these abhorrent chores done.
  • Social Media/Internet 2 hours per day (maximum)
    There are good things about social media, and I like how it connects me to people in a way that works for me. I also like that I can get hours of information from YouTube (science, news, and other educational content makes up 95% of what I watch). But these are also never-ending time-sucks that can sometimes lead to stress. So I just need to limit my daily exposure. This will also free up time for other things.
  • Video Games 2 hours per day (maximum)
    This can end up being another time-suck for me, as I tend to get absorbed in games for hours, and then not want to do anything else. But there are a lot of different video games that I own and want to play, and I tend to play only one at a time. While I still intend to devote a lot of time to Hex (as I did in December), I also want to spend time with some other games. I need to find a good balance here, still working on it.
  • Internet Time and Game Time can be substituted for each other, however only after the intended sub time is matched with some other activity first. If I want to use an hour from my gaming time to spend more time on the internet, I first have to spend an hour reading, writing, drawing, otherwise being creative, or doing housework.
  • Put money in savings every month
    (Not sharing exact details here.)
  • Limit & track discretionary spending

All of the numbers are adjustable, as well. If I find I have set unrealistic goals, or been too lenient with my free time, I will modify the time restrictions accordingly. And if I find that I’ve allocated too little or too much for spending, I will also adjust accordingly. The point right now is not about the specific numbers, but rather, the behavior.

First, time tracking. I wanted to set a goal, and then see a red or green bar as I progress against that goal. I knew this would be something that would entice me to actually track my time, and force me to stick to the goals. (Or adjust them if necessary.) At first I tried Toggl, since that seems to be a pretty popular time-tracking app. Unfortunately it had none of the functionality I need. If there’s a way to set goals in it, I couldn’t find it, so there’s no way to track my progress against them unless I… what, import the data into excel? As much as I love excel, that’s a layer of complexity that’s sure to kill my participation. I need it to be simple and fast. Also, the Toggle widget for Android was totally flaky for me, not syncing properly to the app, and not letting me update anything recorded from the widget.

Luckily, my second attempt was a lot more successful. ATimeLogger has turned out to be the perfect tool for my needs. You can easily customize the app to create as many or as few time tracking categories as you want, and show them on the home-screen widget if you so desire. A quick tap on the category starts a timer, which can be paused, stopped, and edited. You can add more detail to each task when you start or stop the timer, or not. You can easily set goals, and see progress against them (with red and green bars!), and have the app alert you when you’ve gone past or fulfilled a goal (or not).

I have the widget background set to transparent, which makes the text hard to read, but I only need the icons anyway. I’ve also enabled Night Mode in the app itself.

I’m not tracking everything I do. For example, I’m not tracking time spent working, cooking, sleeping, shopping, etc. I’m only tracking the activities that I want to spend either more or less time doing, or that may interfere with those activities. I may find it useful in the future to track all of my time, but for now I just want to get into the habit of tracking certain behaviors. I was able to stick to this behavior for a week before Christmas, when then both Buu and I got terrible colds. We spent that entire week in bed, and I didn’t track my time at all. I waited until January 1 to start again (my weeks start on Monday, for this purpose), but have been able to stick to the timer so far. Even if I go over one of my allotted times for a given task, or fail to meet one of my goals, right now I’m just trying to instill the behavior of tracking my time against the goals. I want it to become so habitual that I don’t even have to think about it. If I can keep tracking my time, the red and green bars are what will motivate me to keep my time within the set limits as much as possible.

Second, budgeting. Buu and I are trying an app called GoodBudget. I can set up “envelopes” to allot money, and have them refill every month. We’ll track everything we spend out of each category, including groceries and gas. I’m not actually trying to limit what we spend on those things, but I wanted to get a good idea of how much we spend each month. We also each get an allowance, which we can spend on anything we want. However, eating at restaurants also has to come out of this budget, so we’ve agreed to alternate paying for Taco Tuesday between us. We’re also cutting our usual order for Taco Tuesday so the final bill (with tip) will be just over $20 instead of closer to $40. (We usually order a second round and take them home as leftovers for dinner, but we’ve stopped doing that now to save money.) We spent a lot of money going out to eat last year; it wasn’t unusual for us to dine out three or four times in the same week. That adds up quick. We’re still going to have Taco Tuesdays, but any other dining out will wait until the end of the month, when we see how much of our allowance is left. Given how much we’ve each already spent of our January allowances, we’ll probably be dining out very infrequently from now on. Thankfully we did buy some Carrabba’s gift cards back when they had their sale, and we got a few gift cards to other restaurants for Christmas, so we’ll be able to dine out a couple of times without dipping into our allowances.

The main goal is for us to be conscious of our spending. We had both (Buu and I) stopped thinking about spending before doing it. We see something we want, we buy it. Rarely was any one item expensive, but since we did it all month long, it added up. So through this budgeting app, we’re looking to be more conscientious of our purchases, and reduce impulse buys. We have some bad habits that are hard to break, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make progress quickly. At the very least, once we hit our allowance cap, we’ll have to wait to spend money until the following month. That will immediately cut down on spending for sure.

Again, I will happily increase our allowances if I find I’ve set the number too low. But I think I’ve been fair, and I think we’ll be able to get by easily, once we get out of the habit of just buying everything as soon as the whim strikes us. It’s more about getting in the habit of tracking what we buy, and being cognizant of how much we’ve spent so far that month. We’ll have no problem putting money into savings if we just stick to this budget.

So there you have it. My goals this year are to track and properly prioritize how I spend my time and money. There are other things that I’d love to add on (like getting back on a diet and losing another 10-15 pounds), but I’m not even going to make that a goal. I’ve picked the two things that I think are going to have the biggest impact on my health and happiness, and that I think I can actually accomplish. Dieting (and possibly exercise!) can wait until I’ve jumped over these current hurdles first.