I’m not a huge fan of resolutions. It’s too easy to decide to start something, and then the first time you miss it or get it wrong or wake up without motivation, the resolution is broken — and that gives you permission to say “I tried, oh well” and give up. You’re setting yourself up to not succeed by making it easy and painless to fail.

The change of the calendar is a convenient time to remind yourself to step back and consider, take stock, and draw lines on the map that leads to tomorrow and align the ship to follow those lines. Even if you aren’t sure you know what the destination is, it never hurts to think about it and make sure your course is bringing you closer.

What I try to do is identify what commitments I have, and what interests me — and then prioritize to see where my time needs to go.

A huge part of this is deciding what NOT to do. I don’t know about your life, but in my life, there are many things I’d love to do — from picking up my clarinet again to restarting my needlepoint — but I don’t, because I’ve found if I start doing too many things, I end up doing none of them well. One of the challenges here is keeping the list short enough that the ones that make the list thrive, without making the list so short you end up regretting leaving something off it.

Once I chose those priorities for the next {choose period of time}, it’s about defining tasks and goals to drive them forward. Sometimes this process takes no time at all, because it’s obvious. Sometimes it takes days, or weeks, or months. And sometimes, you just leave it as “to be determined” because you won’t know until you get there…

So my roadmap for the next year? Here’s the 30,000 foot view:

  1. My family — because nothing is more important. We lost Archie this year, which is a painful reminder that it’s never safe to assume for tomorrow, and that makes it even more of a priority to myself that I not take this part of my life for granted.
  2. Myself — one of the realizations I had over the last year is that I was constantly deferring things that mattered to me because others wanted me to do things that mattered to them, and that I had hit that point where I was starting to resent how much of my time was being used by others. The answer (once I realized this) was simple: to make sure I prioritized myself into my list and make sure I didn’t commit myself to the point I had no time for my own needs. I’ve been trying to do that more in the last year, and surprisingly, the universe didn’t implode. So now, I plan on making sure I reserve time for my own interests and needs as a formal part of my planning and not just deal with it in terms of “whenever everything else is done”, because it turns out, “everything else” never is done
  3. My Job — many people I talk to about this forget to add this item to the list (“it goes without saying!”), but in reality, to find the right balance in life, you have to balance everything in it. Your job is going to take a lot of your time, your energy and your brain. It can add stress or create enjoyment (or both!) — it’s going to affect everything else in your life. And it pays your rent and your bills, and so it deserves to be consciously prioritized into your life (see note 1). My job is important to me. Beyond being my primary income, it’s always an important part of my identity and self-worth. I won’t thrive if i don’t give it proper respect and plan to give it the time and energy it needs to be successful. And if you don’t understand that and plan for it, you’ll tend to under-estimate your commitments to it, and end up overcommitting on other things and have to figure out how to squeeze it all in… (see note 2).
  4. My website — I’ve consciously chosen not to push my online web “stuff” too hard, leaving it more as “the places i hang out” rather than try to turn it into some kind of “personal brand” portal thingie. It’s allowed me to just keep it casual and informal and, like the Apple TV, enjoy it being in “hobby mode”. But as I look forward into things I want to try to accomplish over the next couple of years (see points 5, 6, and 7) it’s clear that has to change, and so now is the time to start shifting gears and work and making my blog and site and the other pieces of online life that touch each other ready so that when these other initiatives start happening the site is ready to support them properly. So I’ve started a project to put in place a better online infrastructure and presence to start creating what I’ll want for these other initiatives.
  5. My photography — as a practical reminder that all your planning means nothing in the face of reality, I thought I knew what I was going to do with my photography in 2011; I came home from the Yosemite trip completely frustrated and unsure what direction to head. I think I’ve figured it out and I’m ready to push myself forward again (but the details will need to come some other time…)
  6. My writing — 2011 was a year where I went from “no, I’m retired” as far as any non-blog writing to “hmm. I want to write”. As it turned out, I did very little writing, but a lot of thinking and a lot of research, especially into the emerging ebook revolution and the disruption it’s causing traditional book and fiction publishing. This also caused me to realize that Palm/HP’s “employees can’t publish apps” policies were fundamentally incompatible with (see note 4) and when it became clear the efforts to fix this were going to get stonewalled again, made me start thinking about choices about what I wanted and what was standing in the way of that. Moving into 2012, I’m still frankly in thinking and research mode, and I don’t know where, if anywhere, this is going. But my novel keeps scratching at the garage door and saying “hey, remember me? let’s talk”.
  7. My app development — I’m not the first person who worked in Developer Relations to wake up one day and say “I have this neat idea for an app”, and I’m sure I won’t be the last. In fact, right now I have three, none of which are related to photography, photo books or fiction. No idea where this is going, or if it will, but the reality is it was 100% incompatible with working at HP and that wasn’t going to change, so I left it in the “maybe someday” place. Now that those conflicts are gone from my list, it’s time to start thinking about what “maybe someday” means. right now, all I know is that the first platform will be IOS (sorry, webOS fans; when HP has hardware to sell again, I’ll think about it), but I don’t know how viable the ideas are or whether I really want to invest the time to head down this direction. Or if I’ll have the time to invest. But it’s been increasingly — interesting — to me, so I’m committing time to figure it all out and see what happens.

And those are the things that made the cut. I expect it’ll keep my busy. And there’s only one given — when I look back at this list in a year, things are going to have changed along the way. But at least I know where I am and what direction to go in to get to where I want to be, and that’s a start….


Note 1: I’ve done a lot of research into this over the years, primarily because there have been times in my life when I realized it was a mess and I had to get my act together. I’ve also talked to lots of folks I know about this to learn from them, or to help them understand things I do they might want to try for themselves. One common thing we do that I believe is a mistake is not include “the given things” into the priority list “because they are givens”.

When you do that, however, it’s really easy to take things for granted, or not put the right priority on things, or to write up a priority list that is what you “should” do vs. what you really end up planning to do. For instance, if your family is first, but you’re putting in 60 hour weeks at work and never home for dinner, aren’t you really lying to yourself (and your family?) — these things do nothing for you if you lie to yourself. It is better to be honest to yourself about this in private than be politically correct about it and share. And if you aren’t honest to yourself, you’re going to end up with problems.

Note 2: This is, ultimately, teaching yourself that there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year, and physics wins; given that, you have to figure out how to allocate your time across your priorities to fit it all in and still get what you want to accomplish done. (see note 3).

Note 3: And when you come back to this list in a few weeks or a few months, if you find that where you’re putting your time isn’t aligned to what you said your priorities are, you either need to rearrange where you put your time, or fix your listing of priorities. Especially early on, we tend to lie to ourselves about our priorities, doing the “should be” list instead of the “will be” list. And a big part of going through these exercises for me is to make sure where my time goes is in sync with what’s important to me — and making sure I understand what’s important to me, so I don’t waste time on low priority things and later regret not doing things that are important to me. (because if you finish a higher priority thing, then you can add something else to the list and start doing it. If you don’t get to a higher priority thing because you’re off playing with other toys — you’ll end up regretting it down the road. assuming you aren’t lying about priorities, of course. (see note 2).

Note 4: I know I’m going to have to try to explain this; at some point, I will try. Suffice it to say for now that the policy was that if you were employed by them, you couldn’t independently publish apps on any platform (webOS or not), and especially not on webOS. And while some of this was ambiguous (was a Kindle ebook covered? who knows? could I get a straight answer? Hell no) I didn’t want to risk HP making claims on my personal IP (like my photos) because I published them as a photo book that happened to go through an app store. So I just decided to put any work on these things on hold until it was, ahem, no longer a problem.