31 Jan 2012

Review of My Personal Goals for 2011– Part 3

This is the third and final part of my review of last year’s goals.  In my previous posts, I covered the first three goals.  My fourth goal was:

  1. Career - Become Microsoft Certified in SharePoint 2010.

I actually met this goal fairly easily, passing exam 70-573 (Application Development in Microsoft SharePoint 2010), and in addition becoming a MCITP in Business Intelligence Development (exams 70-448 and 70-452), as all 3 exams were required for work.  Of course the fact that Microsoft certifications for developers are effectively worthless is neither here or there. 

  1. Financial – Save 20% of my net salary (in addition to pension contributions)

I feel slightly short on this goal, with a total savings of 18.76%.  Given that this was from a base saving rate of just under 10%, I’m counting this as a pass!



Overall, I‘m actually happy enough with how I progressed my goals, but there were definitely a number of issues with the goals I set for 2011:

  • Too many general aims, with too many specific goals.
  • The various goals were too disparate, with no underlying theme.
  • Several of the goals weren't of any true benefit to me.

All of which I will take into account in my next post, when I’ll finally spell out what my goals are for 2012.

17 Jan 2012

Developer Community Groups and Buses

Just a quick post to highlight two new Belfast developer groups that are having their first events this month.

The first event is being hosted by Bash! on the topic of Lessons in Clean Fast Code.  The talk is being given by performance guru Martin Thompson, and it is taking place this Thursday evening (19th January) at the Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue.  With some 200+ people registered to attend, it is guaranteed to be a great night!

The second event is from the newly formed Belfast Ruby community group, which has been formed by the guys in Rumble Labs..  They describe themselves as “a community of aspiring & experienced developers in Belfast passionate about Ruby and Rails”.  Their first event will be a meetup on making the Jump to Ruby, with the aim of getting complete beginners coding in Ruby by the end of the night.  The meeting is on Tuesday 31st January, at the Rumble Laboratory on Ormeau Avenue, Belfast.

It is great to see new community groups forming, and shows that local developers want to share their experiences and get involved in new(ish) technologies. 

The title?  Obviously, community groups are like buses – you wait forever, then two come along at once.

3 Jan 2012

Review of My Personal Goals for 2011– Part 2

This is the second in an impromptu series of posts reviewing my progress in meeting my 2011 resolutions.  In the first post, I covered my goal of getting fit.  In this post, I look at the second and third goals:

  1. Friends and Family
    • Spend some time each week staying in touch with friends and family.

There are so many things wrong with this goal that I really don’t know where to begin.  I met this goal; but then everyone who isn’t a hermit could have met this goal!

What went wrong?  It certainly isn’t a SMART goal, as it is not specific.  A better goal would have been to say that I would phone a friend or relative weekly. But the worst thing about it is that it such a blatant piece of  “motherhood and apple pie” that it is worthless to state as a goal.  Apologies!

What can I improve on? I need to consider if a goal is worthwhile pursuing – will it help improve me?  Will it improve the lives of those around me?  And is the goal a SMART goal?

Motherhood and apple pie...

  1. Personal Interests
    • Read 100 new books.
    • Watch 50 films.
    • Release an open-source project.
    • Write a new blog post weekly.

Again, I repeated the mistake I explained in the earlier post – too many sub-goals.

A quick check shows that I read at least 73 books last year.  I’m not sure how many of these books were in the original list of 100 books I created at the start of 2011 – I’m guessing under 20. A lot of my reading is spurred by investigating random topics (for example, Judo, WWII, bodyweight workouts, Linux, productivity and self help books).  The list is evenly split between fiction and non-fiction.  The fiction selection is a mixed bag even by my standards.  Some were classics (Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin).  Others were simply dire (A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – I threw it away from me after 20 pages).  You can view the full list on my Shelfari Profile.

I definitely didn’t watch 50 films during last year. At a guess, I watched around 25-30.  Which I’m very glad about.  Given the number of TV series that I follow, I certainly don’t have time to watch a film a week as well.

I haven’t released an open source project, which I’m very disappointed about.  Indeed, I managed to do very little coding in my personal time.  Likewise, I only wrote 7 blog posts last year, compared to 45 articles in the year before.  This is definitely something I’m looking to change with this year’s goals.

Couch Potato

What went wrong? Again, too many goals.  Also again, goals that weren’t relevant – what was the point in trying to watch a film a week?  The book list is very useful, but the original list has changed from a list of 100 books to read in a year, to a list of books that I will read at some point.  In fact, I plan on deleting the original list and migrating the list to Google Tasks.  Trying to read all these books and films was part of the reason why I didn’t spend enough time coding and blogging.  the various sub-goals were in fact contradictory.

What can I improve on? Again, I need to focus on what is the true goal I want to achieve.  The goals to read a certain number of books or watch a certain number of films were irrelevant; I needed to focus on spending time on my personal projects, on actually creating something.  It is pretty clear that I’m spending 90% of my time consuming, and only 10% of the time producing, when it should be the other way round.

2 Jan 2012

Review of My Personal Goals for 2011– Part 1

At the start of this year, I compiled a list of goals for 2011.  I thought it would be useful to look again at the 5 general aims that I set out then, to see if there were any lessons I could learn for the year ahead.

To recap, I had 5 main goals for 2011:

  1. Get fit!
    • Reduce weight to 68kg.
    • Eat no chocolate, and work to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet.
    • Exercise daily for at least 45 minutes.
    • Get at least 7 hours sleep every night.
    • Start a martial art by April.
  2. Friends and Family
    • Spend some time each week staying in touch with friends and family.
  3. Personal Interests
    • Read 100 new books.
    • Watch 50 films.
    • Release an open-source project.
    • Write a new blog post weekly.
  4. Career
    • Become Microsoft Certified in SharePoint 2010.
  5. Financial
    • To save 20% of my net salary (separate from pension contributions).

I had hoped to do this review in a single post – it turns out, I’ll need to do a series of post to cover everything.  In this post, I’ll look at the first goal – getting fit. 

Overall, I missed this goal by a mile – I’m definitely not fitter than I was at the start of 2011.  Considering each of the sub-goals in turn:

My current weight is 76.4kg, higher than the start of last year.  A check of my online bodyweight log shows the following graph for my weigh over the 2011:

Bodyweight Chart for 2011

Part of the initial weight loss in the graph above was due to changes in my diet; I didn’t eat any chocolate in the first half of the year.  Unfortunately, I simply displaced my chocolate craving with other sugary treats.  In the second half of the year, my diet started to decline, and I started eating chocolate occasionally, which led to the weight gain.  I experimented at various times with keeping a photo food diary, but found it difficult to keep this going.  In the future, I’m planning on maintaining a written food diary, and looking at the use of portion control.

For the goal of exercising daily, it was partial success.  A quick check of my diary shows that I exercised on 312 days, or approximately 85% of the time.  There were two main periods when I couldn’t exercise – two weeks in April, due to injury, and a further two weeks in November, when due to major  deadline for a work project I couldn’t exercise as planned.  A major improvement in my exercise plan was to start each day with some light circuit training and stretching.  This only take 25-30 minutes, and is a great way to wake yourself up.  It also means that if I miss a scheduled exercise session in the evening, I only need to add a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes to meet my daily exercise quota.  This is something I plan on keeping on in future.

I definitely didn’t get 7 hours sleep every night. I also noticed that a lack of sleep definitely hindered my diet, as I tend to binge late at night. 

I did start a martial art during the year.  In fact, I started two, attending both Judo and kickboxing during the year.  Unfortunately, in my first Judo session, I tore my pectoral muscle (an extremely painful injury – I initially thought I had cracked a rib), which led to two weeks unable to exercise completely, followed by  6 weeks of light exercise.  I started kickboxing in June, and stuck at for 4 months, at which point I ditched it – I found it very boring.  Strangely, I could see myself going back to Judo.

What went wrong?  The overall aim of getting fit was a worthwhile one.  But I attempted to do too much, with too many sub-goals; I should have focused on losing weight.  I was already exercising regularly, but I was still slowly gaining weight.  I didn’t focus on the reasons for the weight gain – my poor diet.  Until this happens, I’m not going to get fitter.  I also wasn’t flexible enough in my goals – I didn’t plan on injury or work commitments stopping me training.

What can I improve on?  Concentrate on the core issue – my diet in this case.  Everything else will fall into place when this is dealt with.  Also, I need to be more flexible in planning to meet the goal.