2018 is a year of self-improvement.
I’m spending each month exploring a different area of life and figuring out how best to improve and optimize.
As of the last quarterly update we had covered life planning, personal finance basics, time management, the science of happiness, money and happiness, and health.
Since then, we’ve added philosophy and happiness, investing and the economy, and relationships.
Let’s check in for the third quarter update.
January – Life Planning
In January we explored all sorts of concepts related to life planning. As with other months that we’ll touch on here, I’m just going to pick a few topics to discuss.
Towards the end of January we explored the different steps to take and plans to make when deciding whether to make a big change in your life. I already added a baby to my life this year, so you’d think big changes were covered, but I added another one this quarter: I moved to a new job.
The new job allows me to help people more directly than the old job, which is great. It has new responsibilities and new areas of the law that I need to learn on top of utilizing the skills that I already have. It should be a great chance to help the community and grow at the same time.
As far as money goes, it comes with a raise in the short term but has slower salary growth than the old job. All in all, the money is probably a wash. That’s fine by me. I’m looking to have a happy and balanced life rather than just to stack cash and retire as soon as possible.
Speaking of balance, we explored that as part of life planning month, as well.
In the first quarter of the year I was pretty much entirely focused on the new baby and helping my wife with her recovery. There was pretty much no balance, and that was fine.
In the second quarter I officially quit all of my side hustles. This helped me have a much more balanced life. Making money is great, but my free time is rare these days and there are plenty of things I’d rather do with it than make money. We’ve got a great foundation at this point and can afford to take our foot of the gas to enjoy life.
The third quarter found me a bit off-balance again, this time from the new job. This was a combination of being new and needing to catch up along with this time of year just being particularly busy for the new employer. I should get back to a normal balance for the end of the year.
SET GOALS THAT SCARE YOU
As part of life planning month, I set a goal that scared me: write a novel.
My plan was to have a draft of a novel completed by the end of the year. I made less progress than planned in the first quarter, but made some serious strides in the second. Unfortunately the new job pushed this to the back-burner for the last few months. I’m hoping that when work starts to calm down I’ll be able to pick this back up.
I don’t think I’ll be able to stick to having a completed draft by the end of the year (at least not while keeping the blog updated regularly) but hopefully I can make some solid progress.
February – Personal Finance Basics
The month of February was dedicated to personal finance basics.
The idea was that we would need to revisit the basics after the baby was born. And we did.
At the time, though, expenses kept changing.
We had a lot of costs in preparation for the baby in January (and last year). We had the actual hospital bills to pay in February, as well as new ongoing baby costs (like diapers…so many diapers). Over the following few months we had fluctuating income as my wife’s leave was only partially paid. And finally, we started daycare, which is the most expensive of all.
We’ve now had a few months of relatively stable expenses (other than a major car repair) and have started settling into a new money routine. We still need to do some work on spending less on restaurants and fast food and more on groceries, but we’re moving in the right direction.
Don’t feel like you need to solve all of your money woes immediately. That is an easy route to frustration and giving up. Small steps over time lead to big results. Be patient.
March – Time Management
I had been in a good place with time management prior to taking on the new job. Now I am working to put new systems in place at the same time as I am learning the actual substance of the new job.
Looking back over my March articles, I can see that my weakness this quarter has been my failure to schedule unscheduled time.
I’ve allowed the busyness of work to swallow up the entirety of my focus and time so that by the time I get home I am fried and useless. I need to force myself to take breaks, get walks in, and recharge so that I stay sharp throughout the day.
April – The Science of Happiness
In April we dove into the science of happiness.
We learned what parts of our happiness we could improve and what were out of our control. We learned about hedonic adaptation and how to combat it.
Other than that, we’re just chugging along.
May – Money and Happiness
The month of May was dedicated to the intersection of money and happiness.
GIVING AWAY MONEY
One method to buy yourself some happiness is to give away your money.
Last update I gave myself an incomplete. I noted that I consistently set aside a set amount of money from each paycheck and put it into my giving fund. However, I hadn’t actually been giving it away.
This is still true. Life has been crazy and I have not been staying on top of giving money away. I have a whole bunch set aside specifically to give to charities, but I need to actually follow through and give more of it away.
WHEN MORE MONEY MAKES US LESS HAPPY/BALANCING THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
I actually have no updates in these sub-categories, but I think they’re important enough that I’m just reusing what I wrote last round:
Money is great, but there comes a point where time is more valuable. We can keep stacking dollars in our vaults, but what good does that do us if we’re not as happy as we could be?
Similarly, it is important to save for our future happiness, but it isn’t worth sacrificing our present happiness to do so. We need to find a balance.
As noted above, I have quit all of my side hustles and am spending more time at home. The balance that I have chosen for this point in my life is to work hard at increasing my income from my day job for 45-50 hours a week and no more. The rest of my week is for myself and my family.
My savings rate is way down (although this is because of the addition of daycare much more than the subtraction of side hustles). This means I am saving much less for the future than I had been. However, I have put a lot of money into the markets over the last few years and am comfortable taking my foot off the gas to enjoy this period of my life, even if it costs me a few extra years of work.
June – Health
This has been quite up and down. I wrote about the highs and lows I experienced in the first month here.
Since then I got into a good routine with exercise, but struggled with food. Then I was doing well with food but wasn’t exercising enough. Since the new job started I have been bad with both.
My old job had a gym in the building, which made it easy to make time to work out. The new one does not. This is obviously manageable – plenty of people exercise without having a gym at work – but I need to figure out a routine that I can stick to.
I need to figure out a new sustainable routine on the food front as well. I am an introvert. This means that if I don’t get breaks from people I will not function at my best by the end of the day. My new job has an open office plan and I am surrounded by people pretty much all the time.
They’re great people! But I still need breaks. I’ve been using my lunch break as a way to get away for a little bit and recharge. The problem is that I haven’t found a good place to sit quietly with food that I bring in. Instead, I’ve been eating a lot of fast food. This is another place where I need to figure out a routine that works and stick to it.
July – Philosophy and Happiness
I got a chance to put the philosophy behind leading with love to work quite recently.
One of my tweets took on a life of its own and ended up before a lot of eyes. Anything with significant traffic on the internet will result in some number of people saying horrible things. And this was no exception.
My old instincts would have been to react to people saying horrible things about me with anger and defensiveness. I would have wanted to prove them wrong or clear my name or make them feel as bad as they made me feel. But what good does that do?
Instead I worked to remain positive and to try to keep love and happiness at the fore. I’ll admit that there was some defensiveness at times, but we’re all works in progress.
August – Investing and the Economy
I’ll be honest: there wasn’t much in August that I needed to do.
This was more sharing things that I had already learned rather than learning new things. They were all subjects that I wanted to talk about and I was crazy busy and starting the new job in August, so it was good fit.
Sorry if that’s cheating!
September – Relationships and Happiness
This past month has been dedicated to learning about the intersection of relationships and happiness.
This is kind of a weakness of mine. I have always been bad at making the time to actually hang out with friends when it requires planning. I had a close group of friends in high school when I could bike (or, later, drive) over with little advanced planning. I had some great friendships in college when we could just walk over to each other’s dorms or grab lunch after class.
Since leaving the insulated world of school, I’ve been worse at building relationships.
Now that the baby is sleeping a bit better, I should be able to get back into going to hockey again and will see that group of guys on a more regular basis. That will help.
I also need to make more of an effort to make plans with friends. It isn’t easy with a baby, but it is worth it.
Join the Conversation!
So that’s how my year has been so far. What about yours? How have you done with these areas of your life? What kind of balance do you have right now? Let us know in the comments!