Focusing for the new year

I’ve always thought that New Year’s Day was an arbitrary day to set for making resolutions. I mean, why January 1? Why not July 2, or May 18? I know that there’s a certain appeal to the start of the new year, and it feels like it could be a fresh start, but it’s still arbitrary. That’s why, when I do make annual resolutions, I make them on March 25. It’s as arbitrary a day as any, so I figure why not. I could make such resolutions on my birthday, which feels like a less arbitrary day, but my birthday is on New Year’s Eve, and that would make it just as arbitrary as New Year’s resolutions. It’s feel like I’d compromised my own integrity that way. So March 25 it is.

On the other hand, it’s never the wrong date to examine the areas of your life that you give focus to, and possibly to re-evaluate that focus, and I’ve decided to start doing that today, on New Year’s Day. It’s not the same as making New Year’s resolution. It’s something entirely different. I swear it is. Shut up.

So anyway, here are the areas of my life that I’ve decided I’m going to focus on developing this year:

1. Relationships

…including on-line relationships and off-. Relationships with family, friends, and otherwise. I have some dear friends whom I love very much but whom I’ve been neglecting just because I’m sometimes too lazy to pick up the phone and give them a call. Also, I have family that I don’t keep in touch with that I’d like to see more of. Of course, since most of my family members are pretty regular participants on Facebook these days, that will be easier.

Naturally, this leads to…

2. Work

…because there are some on-line communities surrounding the products I work with every day, so I plan on engaging with those more, both on-line and off-line (as far as is possible, at least).

Now, even though I’m doing pretty well at work, there’s always room to grow and improve. In my last performance evaluation — which was excellent — my boss gave me some ideas for areas that I could work on and be more proactive in, so naturally I’ll be giving attention to those.

And, of course, there’s always professional development; I’m a good developer and pretty darned skilled at what I do, but there’s always room for improvement. I plan on continuing to develop my skills, on expanding my programming methodologies, and learning some new programming languages.

Which brings me to…

3. Writing

…which may seem like a bit of a stretch, but there’s relevance here. Because in addition to focusing on the craft of writing (and my sense of craft took kind of a beating last year when I was working on my Story of the Week project, where I was focusing on speed and quantity over quality), I’ll also be upping my submission rate. By February, I’m going to be focusing on keeping five active submissions at all times. To keep track of all these submissions, I’m going to build myself a web-based tool in Python that I can use. Why Python when I’m pretty good at PHP? Because I don’t know Python, and learning new programming languages is always a good thing, and I’ve always found that it’s easier to learn a new language when you have a project to work on rather than just the standard “Hello World” practice applications that show up in programming manuals.

I also have a goal of making my first professional sale this year, as well as finishing up the first draft of my new novel (and don’t worry, fans of Code Monkey!, I’ll definitely be finishing up that one as well).

Oh, and I plan on giving more attention to this blog of mine. So hopefully I’ll be posting more often, and possibly even posting some interesting stuff. We’ll see how that goes.

Now, to keep up a good solid pace in my writing, I’ll have to keep myself in pretty good health, physically and otherwise. Which, naturally, brings me to…

4. Health (Physical and otherwise)

…you know, the same set of resolutions that everyone makes at this time of year. Exercise more. Lose weight. Eat right. And so on. Except it’s not going to be a brand new thing for me, since I’ve been focusing on these for months now (and doing pretty well — heck, I even lost a pound and a half over the Christmas holiday, which is no mean feat).

And I’ll also be giving my attention to my emotional and mental health. I like to think I’m doing fairly well in these areas as well, but, of course, there’s always room for improvement. So these two areas will be getting some attention too. And this brings me, at last, to…

5. Community

…by which I mean my local, physical community and the people in need within it. Which means I plan on doing some volunteering. I have a good life, after all, and I believe in showing some gratitude for that. And what better way to show gratitude than by giving back some of the blessings that I enjoy? So I’ll be engaging in some of that this year. There are a couple of causes that I feel strongly about: literacy and hunger. So I’ll be looking for ways that I can get involved there.

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It’s actually kind of difficult to for me to come up with a list, for several reasons. The main reason, though, is that none of these categories are really discrete. Take the writing category, for example; there are all kinds of subtle ways in which writing affects and is affected by each of the other category. By focusing on the quality of my writing, I will improve my communication skills, which will improve the quality of my work. And I already engage in a writers’ group, and I’ve become close friends with many of the other members; and, thus, the relationship category is invoked. And improving my health will give me more energy to devote to my writing projects and give me a clearer mind and devote to them as well.

See? It’s all intertwined. Still, I think that by giving some attention to all of these areas, I’ll continue to grow as an overall healthy and well-rounded person.
We’ll see how long this lasts. Hopefully by looking at these as “areas of focus” rather than as “resolutions”, I’ll be able to keep them up longer.

So writing this up was fun. Now it’s time for the hard part, which is simply implementing these ideas. Wish me luck. I’ll need it.

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