January: A Retrospective

Before I move on to setting February goals, I wanted to record the successes and failures of January so that I can remember that I’m capable of many mundane things. This would have been a nice activity for the last day of the month, but I was busy fitting in my dinner party that day. Procrastination notwithstanding, I did almost everything I set out to do last month, which makes me pretty happy.

What I/we did this month

  • Washed the dishes almost every night – When I don’t do this, it always seems like a monumental task meant only for superhuman robot people. When I do do this, I don’t feel very superhuman…it’s kind of easy. It’s my clearest example of the futility of certain kinds of procrastination: if I don’t wash the dishes now, I’ll just have to wash them later, and I will never ever want to wash them later, so there are few legitimate reasons to delay. I don’t know why that’s so hard to grasp, but it’s one of those things for which I have a mental switch. I never know what flips the switch, but when it’s on, it’s on.
  • Got up at 6 to run or walk every day (except one, but I made up for it in the evening) – This happened because 1) we made the daring decision to move the treadmill into the living room where I can watch TV while I exercise, 2) I have a secret exercise goal, and 3) I’m a slave to my Fitbit. I think my Fitbit was the key to most everything I accomplished this month because it inherently encouraged me to move at times when I would otherwise be inclined to just huddle in the corner of my couch. Really, the only thing that suffered from the Fitbit was blogging…I haven’t figured out how to walk and write at the same time.
  • Cleaned downstairs – It took most of the month, and upstairs is still atrocious, but we did it! I had all the Christmas stuff boxed up within a week of New Year’s, I got new bins for certain categories of clutter, and I made a strategy for baby toys. AND, it’s all stayed just as clean for THREE DAYS. That’s kind of big for us…it implies that we even cleaned up after having people over.
Talia knew we like a good challenge. Here she is scattering all her play food around for the fifteenth time in a row.

Talia knew we like a good challenge. Here she is scattering all her play food around for the fifteenth time in a row. Still, we won in the end.

  • Bought and installed our Christmas-present TV – This might not seem like an accomplishment for normal people, but it is painfully difficult for us to make decisions about major purchases. This was Jonathan’s major success, and many thanks to Patrick for helping us get it on the wall.
  • Cooked at home 3/4 of the time – The Fitbit makes it FUN to shop for groceries. And to jog in place while browning meat.

Homemade pancakes…yum!

  • Took my lunch to work every day – Except the day we ate off campus with friends. Socializing trumps cold spaghetti…go figure.
  • Did active things with Talia – Fitbit for the whole family! I’ve refrained from putting it on her yet, but only because I wouldn’t get credit for my own steps while she was using it. Anyway, we went to the park and to the other park and even to the other park, visited the aquarium, and walked halfway around the block (just imagine that our block is big enough for that to be impressive. For a baby).

One of the “other” parks. Despite our success at going to the park so much, Talia failed at her January goal of relocating all the pea gravel into my hands.


Walking around the block…or to the park…or both.

  • Had people over! – January project complete! I still need to formalize the plan for keeping the house clean and having more people over (I could only manage a single tableful this time around), but I do think we have some good habits in place (did I mention the dishes?). Just as long as I don’t lose my Fitbit…

What I didn’t do this month

  • Work at home…as much – Turns out that I value work-life balance more when I actually have projects to focus on at home. I like my job a lot, but it’s good for it to have competition :)
  • Plan our secret hike – More on this soon. I meant to get started last month, but that didn’t happen.
  • Allow myself to work on other projects – I can’t decide if this is good or not. I wanted to start reorganizing my bedroom AND decorating our walls AND building shelves for the garage, but I thought it wiser to stay focused on my January project. I avoided starting too many projects at once, so that’s good, but it’s going to be hard to wait several months for the projects that don’t get scheduled until the fall.
  • Save on food bills – I was kind of shocked about this. I thought that, by eating at home more, we’d save food money for sure, but that didn’t really happen. We think it’s because we were temporarily in the habit of taking Talia out to lunch on the weekends, which usually landed us at a sit-down restaurant at least two days a week. Then we’d reserve an evening to get “high-quality” take-out. And, I’m not terribly practiced at being a frugal food shopper…it’s hard to eat healthily AND cheaply. I take this as a challenge, though, and I’m looking forward to doing better in February.
  • Post Talia pictures – We should do that.

What I should change for next month

  • Balance monetary and nutritional goals – Now that I’m on a roll with eating our food instead of take-out food, I think I can start juggling the financial aspect as well. At the very least, we’re not going to make a habit of taking Talia out to lunch every weekend, and I’m going to try making Jonathan’s lunch at least some of the time. I might also float the idea of having specific budgets for certain kinds of food (e.g. soda).
  • Continue working on procrastination – As I said, the dishes were an emblematic victory over procrastination for me. However, I really did put off my dinner party plan until the last week of the month (after working so hard during the first week!). I specifically thought that I didn’t need to do it earlier because I had time to do it later. I didn’t realize that letting it hang over my head would make me feel “guilty” starting other projects. Now that I’ve made that connection, maybe I can use it to my advantage.

Overall take-aways

  • I NEED two birds per stone – Exercise + tv, exercise + shopping, exercise + cleaning, healthy eating + saving money…whatever my goal, I’m lots more likely to do it if I’m doing something else at the same time.
  • Maybe it’s okay to live a project-based life – And maybe it’s too early to conclude this. However, it’s undeniable that the times I’m most productive are the times I’m working toward something bigger than a single day’s routine. Planning a party, decorating a nursery, creating a presentation for work – these are chances to frame smaller actions into bigger purposes and messages.
  • My future self is probably just me – Procrastination assumes that I’ll feel differently in the future, but I won’t. Remember that. And remind me.

About Sarah

10 years ago, I was a computer science student. 5 years ago, I taught kindergarten. 2 years ago, I trained teachers. Now, I'm a technical writer. I have thoughts about most of these things, but most likely I'll just write about neuroses and why I love Mr. Gatti's pizza. Which might be a neurosis.
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