2018: The Year in Review
It’s that time again friends... the time of year where I review my resolutions from the prior year and we can all see how badly I failed at everything I resolved to do.
(Who am I kidding? These posts where I review last year’s goals and set goals for the coming year are my absolute favorite and y’all know it).
Because I’m nothing if not a goal nerd, and that is why New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday.
(Well that, and the champagne and fireworks.)
So grab your champagne and let’s talk about 2018.
Resolutions, Goals and Unicorns
Before we get to the fun stuff, a disclaimer: I don’t care what you call your resolutions, and I don’t care when you start them. I hear people all the time say that they hate resolutions, so they make goals at the first of the year instead. Ok... so you call your resolutions goals. Cool.
You can call your resolutions unicorns, for all I care. More power to you.
Some people seem to think that resolutions are negative (stop doing this, etc.) and goals are positive (let’s accomplish this, etc.) but goals and resolutions can really be whatever you want them to be. I occasionally have some “stop doing this”-style resolutions that support a larger goal I want to achieve (I have one of those in 2019 that I’ll be introducing in my next post), but I generally don’t have many of those (in 2018, I didn’t have any).
You can phrase the things you want to accomplish in your life however you want to phrase them, and you can start on them at any point in the year. The first of January has always been a time I like to review goals and establish new ones, because I usually have a few days off work which make it easier for me to focus on goal-setting.
In a nutshell, I’d prefer to quit arguing about goal terminology, because there are enough real problems in the world to focus our energy on. So please know that I support you no matter how you decide to set goals for yourself. Be your own unicorn.
Now... on to the fun stuff.
An Introduction to My 2018
I started 2018 with a week off work, during which time I intended to review my prior year journals, set goals for the new year, break those goals into quarterly action items, clean my house, reset and rest, you know... all kinds of healthy, motivational, and productive stuff.
Instead, I wasted that full week of vacation days off work laying on my couch watching Netflix trying to get over a stomach virus.
Should have known then that 2018 probably wouldn’t turn out exactly the way I planned.
My 2018 Resolution Roundup
In 2018, I tried something new with my resolutions. In 2017, I had a problem with balancing priorities. So instead of doing what I usually do and setting five measurable, specific goals to work towards during the year, in 2018 I decided to outline five core priorities in my life that I would strive to balance as equally as possible.
Those priorities were my writing, travel, house, finances and self.
While I still like the idea behind this priorities concept... it didn’t work for me. One of the primary problems with the setup was one that I knew might be an issue when I introduced the priorities at the beginning of 2018: none of them are measurable. Not only are they not measurable, they aren’t even action items. I tried to address this problem by putting sub action items underneath each of the priority categories, but this brought back a problem I had with my resolutions in 2016: I can’t successfully focus on more than five measurable action items per year (particularly if they are aggressive).
Because above five, they start pulling focus from each other... and the whole exercise becomes counterproductive.
Since I am a goal nerd, trying new structures for my resolutions is actually fun for me, because learning what works and doesn’t work usually helps me make better resolutions the following year. In 2019, I’ll be back to the structure I know works for me personally: no more than five specific, measurable action items for the year.
But we aren’t there yet.
First, we need to talk about these 2018 priorities and sub action items.
Underneath this writing priority in 2018, I had three action items: write every day in 2018, read 25 books in 2018, and rebrand my blog.
The ‘write every day’ portion of this goal was such an epic fail that I’m still cringing at having to include it here. But I'm going to focus on lessons we can take away from this epic failure (and keep it positive.) I think there were two primary issues preventing my success when it came to my goal of writing every day in 2018. First, I knew that I historically had a problem creating time to write in my daily schedule which caused my volume of writing to fluctuate wildly. Knowing this, I resolved to write consistently every day... but I did nothing to address or change the structure of my everyday life to create time to write. Second, I never established a way to track this goal. Looking back, a bullet journal tracker where I got to mark off every day that I was writing would have made sense... but I didn’t create that tracker. Because of this, I can’t even tell you how many days I did write, I just know it wasn’t every day in 2018. Verdict? EPIC FAIL.
As for the other goals in this writing category: I read more than 25 books in 2018, so that action item was a SUCCESS. I also rebranded and redesigned my blog when I made the decision to migrate it from Wordpress to Squarespace. Verdict? Also a SUCCESS.
My travel action items in 2018 were to go on at least six separate trips (with at least two of those trips being international), and to learn a language.
The reasoning behind my goal of going on at least six trips was that I wanted to be able to travel more intentionally and consistently. Since starting work full-time over five years ago, I have tended to take either one or two ten-day trips per year and pack WAY too many cities/countries into those ten days. I wanted to spread my 2018 travel out a bit more, so that even if I was buying more flights, I was able to spend more focused time in each place I visited (and hopefully avoid the tendency to try for way too much in each trip).
While I didn’t technically achieve this ‘six separate trips’ action item as written... I’m still calling it a SUCCESS, because I achieved the purpose of this action item through another means that I wouldn’t have predicted was possible at the beginning of the year. In 2018, I went on three trips: one domestic long weekend trip to Asheville in January, one international ten-day trip to London and Montreal in May and one international 43-day trip to seven cities in five countries in Europe in October and November 2018. During that Six Week Sabbatical trip, I focused on traveling intentionally and spending enough time in each destination to feel that I got to know it (no less than four nights in any city, with up to fourteen nights in the city I stayed in the longest)… so overall, I feel like I had a successful travel year in 2018.
As for the other component of this travel priority, learning a language: I did sign up for Rosetta Stone in French and used it for about six months. However, I cancelled that subscription in the second half of the year when I shifted focus to saving more money, quitting my job, traveling and figuring out what was next. I’ll have to call it PROGRESS.
This is where the problem with the priorities structure is the most apparent, since I didn’t break down my goals for the Fifties Fixer Upper into any action items at all (and therefore, didn’t achieve as much as I probably could have on the house in 2018).
In the post where I introduced these 2018 priorities, I wrote that “my goal for the house is pretty simple: get things done, but not at the expense of everything else in my life that needs to be done.” While I didn’t feel that the house was dominating my life the way I felt in 2017, I also didn’t get a lot of things done. I did get new light fixtures up, a new bathroom mirror up, the master bedroom painted, my bed moved into the master, and my front landscaping improved. I also had my first garden this year! In my opinion, this was PROGRESS.
Underneath my finance priority in the year 2018, there were two action items: save money aggressively and invest money.
This is probably the area of the five priorities where I felt like I made the most personal progress in 2018. Although I have always been a saver, I went for more aggressive savings percentages than I ever have before during the year 2018 (and even achieved a 50% savings rate in one of the months, a number that has always been a bit out of reach for me). I also opened an investment account with Charles Schwab in the spring of 2018.
While the first six months of the year were fantastic for savings and investing, things started going downhill in the second half of the year.
At the end of July, I was rear-ended in a four-car pileup on my way to work. Although everyone was ok... my car was decidedly not ok. It was totaled, and I had to unexpectedly locate and buy another car on very short notice. Since this was (obviously) not an expense I’d planned for the year, it negatively impacted my savings balance.
Right after the car debacle, I did a little thing called quit my job with no other job lined up and travel for six weeks in Europe. From the end of October until the end of December I wasn’t earning any money (but I was certainly spending some). These two unexpected occurrences in 2018 resulted in a negative overall savings rate for the year (nutshell, I spent more out of savings than I added to savings in 2018). Since a good portion of my savings account had been earmarked to use for a longer-term trip at some point, I’m not at all upset about how this money was spent... but my balance in savings currently is lower than it has been for some time, and I’m looking forward to building it back up aggressively over the next twelve months.
Overall, I’ll say that PROGRESS was made on both finance action items... with more progress in this category coming soon.
Last but not least, I had a vague, catch-all priority I dubbed “self” at the end of the 2018 list. This priority was supported by three action items: personal rebranding, learn to cook, and have fun.
What I had in mind for the personal rebranding goal was to tie in with the goal I had for my blog rebranding in 2018. Part of ensuring you are creating content that is authentic to you is to put some time and thought into what YOU look like. As a part of my Six Week Sabbatical, I put a LOT of thought into authentic content and what I want to create going forward... which led to the creation of my new blog + brand + business, Going Places Media. So as vague as this one was, I’m calling it a SUCCESS.
I never would have predicted this at the beginning of 2018, but I ended up taking a cooking class in Florence this year! I learned to make pasta from scratch... while drinking way too much Chianti. So I'll say I made PROGRESS on learning to cook this year.
At the end of my list of action items for this past year, there was a weird one: have fun. Although I didn’t do the most eloquent job of explaining this idea, I think that I was trying to acknowledge the fact that I occasionally get myself into goal-achieving productivity spirals and forget to live my life. I also wrote, “It may seem counterintuitive, but occasionally doing things for ‘no reason’ is great for productivity and creativity.”
January 2018 Sarah might have been on to something there.
This year, I did a huge thing for “no reason”. I didn’t really see how quitting my job without another job lined up to just travel – solo – for six weeks would affect my life positively. I certainly knew it could affect it negatively, since I may never get hired again. But I am, quite frankly, floored by how different I am as a person having made the decision to take that kind of risk for myself. For no other reason that because I just knew that it was right.
(And of course I had a blast gallivanting around Europe for six weeks, so I’m calling this action item a SUCCESS.)
As is true of most years, 2018 had some ups and downs... but even the downs taught me important lessons, and I can’t really ask for more than that from any year.
If you’ve hung around here this long, thank you so much for reading this post and for being a part of this blog over the past year. I can’t wait to share more epic fails (and hopefully some successes) with you over these next twelve months.
And please know that whether you are setting resolutions, goals or unicorns... I’m wishing you all the best on your endeavors in 2019.
Happy New Year!