measure and manage

Ahh, here we are again, at the tail end of another year.

As tempting as it is to look ahead, keep going, and ignore everything that’s happened these last twelve months, there’s a voice in my head that’s piped up with “Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”, so I guess we’ll look back before we turn and keep going.

Of course, I do this constantly anyway. “Ruminate” is probably in my top 100 favourite words. (That’s just a rough estimate because I don’t think it would make the cut for top 10, and even top 50 could be a bit tricky to figure out. Besides, there are a lot of words out there, and a lot that I like.)

Another wise saying that I’ve been mulling over recently is the one that goes something along the lines of “stupidity is trying to achieve a different result by repeating the same process” (I know that’s very much paraphrased and reworded, but I can’t be bothered looking up the original. Well, ok, I will, but only so that I can credit the original genius who came up with it…) Continue reading

2015 report card

Since it is suddenly the last week of the year, I thought I should probably get on with publishing some end-of-year type posts (or at least one such post).

I think 2015 has been a pretty good year overall. This is mostly because if I don’t think about it too much, mostly good memories float to the surface, and the rest of it is somewhere underneath. Well, I probably said the same thing about 2014, but I kind of feel like this year has been better. I mean, I can’t really think of any super significant events from last year (but, again, I’m not thinking super hard on this one because there’s no time for that!)

I already wrote a post earlier this month (partially) about my reading goals for the year, which I managed to accomplish satisfactorily (to my standards, anyway). Next year, I only want to read (at a minimum) four books: David Copperfield, Anna Karenina, Love in the time of Cholera, and Ulysses. I’ll try to read them in that order, and hopefully I don’t get overly side-tracked by other books and recommendations along the way.

Another goal I was quite happy with (surprisingly so) was fitness-related. I’d set myself the challenge of achieving a 3-minute plank …and by the end of October I was doing 4-minute planks …and twice in December I’ve completed a 5-minute plank (5 min 10 sec to be exact). I’m not entirely sure why this has been such an important goal for me, but I was pretty stoked to get to 4 and then 5 minutes. I’ll just have to keep increasing the goal incrementally on this one.

Unfortunately, I did not achieve my other fitness goal of running at least once a week (or fortnight at the very least) because, well, life happened. I’m going to forgive myself for this one, however, because I reckon my fitness hasn’t declined, and that’s always a plus.

Something else I didn’t achieve was taking at least three weeks of annual leave this year. I wouldn’t say I’m a workaholic, but I like my job, and I tend to just not think very much about taking holidays. Consequently, I have a lot of annual leave accrued, and I kind of thought I should use some of it. This year I’ve only taken two weeks off in total, but if you count my time in Rocky as a “working holiday”, then I’ve totally smashed this goal.

I wasn’t going to mention CPD (continuing professional development) because I haven’t gotten any CPD points this last month, and I’ve just been avoiding even thinking about it at all, and I keep telling myself that I can get back into it next year …but I actually did pretty well with CPD this year, so I figure it’s worth a mention. The minimum requirement was 40 points, so of course I set my goal at 80 points. And before too long – actually, no, it did take a long time – I had over 100 points. As proud as I am of this blatant nerdiness, I might reign in this goal for next year (mostly so that I can prioritise other things).

Last but certainly not least: my blogging goal. As always, I wanted to maintain my one-post-per-week minimum. WordPress stats tells me that, including this post, I’ll have posted 90 posts this year. By my maths, that’s two posts per week on most weeks. (It actually makes me wonder how it’s possible that I have had that much to write about.) Don’t think I will change this goal for next year, since a two-or-more-posts-per-week requirement sounds like too much pressure. But we’ll see what happens.

reading insights

Whenever we get close to the end of the year, I like to look back (more than I usually do), and one of the things I look back on is the books that I’ve read. I’m on Good Reads, but long before I’d joined GR, I’d started my own reading database. I can tell you every book I’ve ever read since September 2005.

Anyway, the main reason I was looking at my book list was to check how many books I’ve read this year. My unofficial goal was to read 12 books this year, and I have well and truly achieved that. It was good having a goal like that – very achievable for someone like me – because it encouraged me to keep reading at every opportunity. There are so many books I want to read – 12 per year should be the bare minimum if I want to get through even half of these.

On the other hand, there were times when I did stress out a bit about whether or not I’d actually accomplish this reading goal. Reading a few shorter ones between the longer novels did help (e.g. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s). I’m undecided about whether or not I want to set another reading goal for next year. And, if I do, should I increase it, or leave it the same? Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to decrease the goal.

Well, there’s still time to figure that all out.

Apart from basic details such as title, author, and date (month/year) finished, I also record a number of other things in my book database. Of course, I have a column for ratings (scored out of ten), but I also have one for the “source” i.e. if the book is my own, borrowed from a friend, or from the library.

What I found interesting was that three of the four novels which were given the highest ratings by me were borrowed from others – and from three different people too! The fourth one was a book I own.

I know I’ve written before about how borrowing a book from someone might bias me toward liking the book more, but that was more of a gut feeling, whereas this is slightly more solid proof. Either that or my friends have really good reading tastes. Maybe a bit of both.

Actually, what I might focus on next year is reading the books I own, particularly the ones I’ve owned for a very long time but have never read. Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield has been strongly recommended to me by the same friend who lent me One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so I think that one’s definitely going high up on my priority list (especially considering that this friend is actually not even a big fan of his work in general, whereas Dickens is one of my most favourite authors).

I was actually going to attempt reading Anna Karenina if I reached 12 books before the end of this year, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’ll have to wait behind David Copperfield, and even then, I’ll probably want one or two easy reads between the two.

I really do like borrowing books from other people, though. Not only is it great for cost-saving, but it’s a wonderful way to connect with other people. It’s like having another story enveloping the actual story. People might not discuss a book in much more detail than to say whether they liked it or what they thought of the characters, but sometimes that’s enough. I can then read through the book with this person in the back of my mind, and I develop an understanding of some part of them.

I’m sure this must happen for other people too. Otherwise, I must just be ridiculously sentimental and/or read into things too much. (Probably both; I won’t deny it.)

Another one that I should probably get around to is Ulysses, which I’ve owned since high school, but have never actually opened. Hmm… maybe I’ll add a fourth epic to this list, and I’ll just read one per season. That should be manageable, right?

Somehow I don’t think this is all going to happen according to plan, but I suppose we shall find out next year…

baseline for new beginnings

New Year’s Eve is an interesting time of the year. It’s kind of similar to Christmas, when everyone seems more cheerful and hopeful. The prospect of a new beginning seems to make NYE feel more special than other days. Although I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t have to wait until NYE to think about what changes you can make in your life, I do appreciate that NYE is special.

I wanted to write a post about things that have changed or improved in 2014, but then I realised that 2014 isn’t very clearly marked out in my memory. There are things that may have been from 2014, or may have happened late 2013, or just some other random point in time; some of it just blurs together.

It’s fortunate that I have this blog, since I can sort of track certain developments through my posts throughout the year. But there are still things that, for one reason or another, I just didn’t write about, so I thought I’d also use this as a baseline entry of sorts – just something that I can look at come December 31st 2015, and more easily gauge my progress. Since I don’t really want to bore you with details of my life, I don’t mind if you skip this post altogether and find something more interesting to read.

I’m not one to really make New Year resolutions, but I do think about certain goals I’d like to achieve during the new year. This year, I had the idea of asking others for suggestions about good resolutions/goals that I could make, with the logic that if I don’t follow through with it, it’s probably because it was set by someone else. It’s sort of like an emergency exit, but don’t worry – it won’t stop me from trying!

Well, I didn’t end up asking many people (and not many of these people were forthcoming with ideas), but one of our interns suggested that I resolve to do more baking, provided that I bring my cakes to work. This is something that I’m actually open to doing, since I really only started any remotely serious baking toward the end of last year. And I only took one of those cakes to work, so surely it wouldn’t be hard to improve on that. A potential hurdle is that I don’t want to become “the person who brings cake to work” because then everyone will just expect me to bring cake for every occasion. Also, there are already people who bring cakes, etc, and I don’t want to compete with them.

In 2014, I read 12 books. I would say that I read only 12 books, but considering that I don’t actually spend that much time reading (or not as much time as I should, or would like to), I don’t read very fast, and I only finished eight novels in 2013, I reckon 12 is a good number for me. Granted, three of the 12 were pretty short (The Alchemist, The Little Prince, and Hyperbole and a Half (I know some people might not technically count that one)) but even if you take those three out of the equation, it’s still an improvement on 2013. This year, however, instead of aiming for a certain number (although, deep down, I really want to aim for 13+ novels), I want to try to focus more on reading the books that I own or have on loan from friends, rather than picking books up from the library, or buying more books.

Something else that I was pondering while sipping my NYE coffee, was when exactly I stopped drinking lattes, and instead started ordering flat whites. I feel like this change happened in 2014, but can’t be sure. I don’t drink coffee very often (maybe once every few weeks or whenever the fancy takes me (yes, you read correctly – weeks)) so it’s a bit hard to tell. And for the record: regular, full-cream milk, no sugar.

One drink preference that I know changed in 2014 is that of alcoholic beverages: if I feel like having spirits, I now avoid vodka in preference of gin. My experience with vodka is that it’s always mixed with something acidic (lemonade, orange juice, etc), which doesn’t make me feel great. G&Ts are much easier to drink. Note, however, that my alcohol consumption seems to have significantly decreased during 2014, and most of my drinks will be beers/ciders rather than more alcoholic drinks.

On the fitness front, I can’t remember the last time I went cycling (probably towards the end of winter?). I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get back into it again this year, but it’s definitely something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot lately. I am, however, satisfied with my running (once a week, or at least once a fortnight) amongst other workouts.

We come now, as we inevitably must, to work and study. I’m in dire need of some revision, and hope to write up some quick reference notes this year. I’m also aiming for 80+ CPD points this year (more than the required amount), so it’s probably good that I haven’t committed to reading >12 books as well (I still need a social life too!) As for work itself, vigilance levels have increased to “constant”, and I cannot let it slip from there. Conversely, I think I should take more holidays this year, since I used less than two weeks’ annual leave in 2014.

Gee, this post turned out to be longer than I was expecting. I’m just going to stop here because otherwise I might keep thinking of random/unimportant things to comment on and set goals for, like snacking (need to stop buying muesli/nut bars when we already have 2+ boxes at home) or social media (if I have a positive comment to add, I should just add it – that’s what makes it “social”). I think I did ok overall in 2014 but, you know, time to focus on what’s ahead, which, right now, is bedtime. Goodnight!