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Monday, January 26, 2015

Freedom 40 in 40 – Part V

Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 14, 2015

Today’s post is all about having fun.  Really! Today I’m talking about making sure I have a good plan around my leisure activities.  I find it sort of ironic we tend to plan a lot of our lives, but never give much thought to our leisure time.  All to often we just fall into our leisure activities rather than planning them a bit more.  In my case that ends up showing up as too many night just sitting in front of the TV watching Netflix if I’m not careful.

So in that light what do I enjoy doing?  The short answer is: too much.  You see I have this habit of trying things out or doing experiments as my wife refers to them.  I’ll read about something online and then give it go at home.  It could be turning apple juice into wine or how to make something like granola bars from scratch.  The problem with this is I end up going in too many directions and can lose focus on things and I end up with too little time on things I really enjoy doing.  The experiments are not all bad as I do figure out some thing I enjoy doing like making wine from fresh fruit, but I need to ensure I’m not doing too many of them.

In the end I need to get a bit thoughtful about my free time.  So to help me sort things out here are a list of items I enjoy doing and feel I should either keep doing or do more of:

  • Reading books
  • Watching the occasional movie or TV show
  • Writing (which I covered in detail in Part IV)
  • Cooking
  • Playing with my kids or doing family events (like swimming, sledding, going to the park, etc)

Yet to make time for these things I really need to stop doing the following:

  • Mindlessly surfing the internet
  • Watching crappy movies or TV shows (if it sucks turn it off or better yet screen it in advance to ensure it is good)
  • Reading blogs that don’t challenge my thinking
  • Doing stuff to avoid working on what I should get done (for example, doing a bunch of crap while I procrastinate on cleaning)

So to help accomplish all of this I will do the following:

  • Watch movies or TV no more than three nights a week
  • Screen movies or TV shows to ensure they are at least an 8/10 on IMDB
  • Think about what I want to do on the internet before turning on the WiFi.
  • Ensure I have at least one novel and one non-fiction book to read at home at all times (most of this will come from the library)
  • Ensure that I always have some baking in the freezer at all times such as muffins, biscuits, squares, etc.  If I’m running low I need to make sure I do some cooking.
  • Write 90% of the time, 750 words daily
  • Do at least one family activity per month outside of the house
  • Make sure I play with my kids at least twice a week (movie night, board games, video games, Lego…what ever they want)

Ugh, that’s a fair bit of rules to recall, so I think I might play around with a scorecard to help me keep track of this until they become more habits. (Update: I did develop a scorecard in Evernote and tested it out last week…works good as a reminder, but I need to decide where to transfer the info if I want to track the results for a longer term.)  I’ll revisit this at least annually to consider what is working well and what needs to change.

So do you have things you should do less of or others you should do more of, if so, how to you keep yourself on track?

Freedom 40 in 40 – Part IV

Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 12, 2015

Today’s post will look at finding something to do in my retirement years that is both creative and meaningful to me.  In my case, this would obviously be continuing to write on a regular basis.  To me writing satisfies some deep need to create something and I actually feel worse when I’m not writing on a regular basis.  Cheesy as it sounds writing provides fulfillment to me.

Yet I have also struggled to write on a consistent basis for years, just check out the wild swings in my posting frequency on this blog as an example.  Yet after finishing the National Novel Writing Month I learned a few things about myself and found a good reasonable output of writing for me right now is about 750 words a day (90% of the time, so that allows the odd day off).  At that rate I can write approximately write at this blog about three days a week and also finish two major projects a year (one novel and one non-fiction book).  This is a bit lower than my initial estimate, but I found 750 words works nicely for a scene in a novel so I used that as a good benchmark to work towards.

The other issue I have is finding time to edit the books I write since all first drafts always suck and need work.  I’ve accepted this reality after a number of years.  So I will also try to work out a editing schedule that allows me to also edit two books a year (not the same same ones I have just written…I find I do much better editing if I ignore things for a while and then get back to them).  During my time off in December I didn’t figure out a good method to do this so that is my project in January to figure out.  Try various methods of measuring progress and times to do it and find out what works for me.

To support my development on writing skills I really need to take some more professional classes on it and read a bit more about the mechanics of writing.  So I plan to attend at least one training event per year and also read two books per year on writing.   I know it sounds a bit like a low threshold, but I rather not just take some training to fill a quota and not get much out of it.  Good courses at a reasonable cost that I can fit in my schedule haven’t historically be easy to find.  The same is true of books on writing.  I find a lot of them either too textbook like and dry as hell to read or too readable with very little useful content.

The long term goal of all this work is to get myself lined up to switch to a writing career when I leave work.  While I would ideally like to have a novel published before I turn 40, I’m not going to worry about that right now.  As I think it is more important to get some material completed at the moment.  I’ll come back to this in 2016 to start developing some more detailed social media plans for book marketing and other ideas to support my writing career.  I also plan to write some shorter pieces in 2016 and shop those around for publication.

So fellow writers…any other ideas of things I should include here either now or in the future?

Freedom 40 in 40 – Part III

Posted by Tim Stobbs on January 7, 2015

I find it rather odd that in my early life I never did much volunteering, I was perhaps too self absorbed or thoughtless to realize that I like giving back to others.  Not so much in just donations of money, but rather time and skills to support causes that I care about.  Now I find I really enjoy doing it, but again I have a similar problem to my friends (as discussed in Part II) that one of my major sources of giving back is tied to my current career.  I was elected to my local engineering association council for a three year term in 2014.  So what I really need to do is look at other options to giving back and make sure they align with where I want to go rather than where I current am.

I currently also volunteer at our kid’s schools as part of the school community council, which I don’t mind doing and I can see continuing there for a while longer.   The time commitment if fairly reasonable and I enjoy supporting the school.  What I need is similar options for other organizations more aligned to where I want to go in the future.

So to support this I need to find other organizations that I would like to give back to and that align where I want to go in life.  Given my interest in writing I figure a good place to start would be groups that are part of the local writing community such as the the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild or the SaskBooks which is the local publisher’s association.  While I am a member in both groups, I have historically haven’t done much with either of them.  So I need to learn more about both of them and figure out if I could lend a hand in some meaningful way.  So 2015 objective is to research more about the groups and do more with them…either attending some training or local events and get to know both groups and figure out what options exist to get involved with them.

Then in 2016 the plan would be to start helping out a bit if possible.  I’ll revisit this later in 2015 to work out exactly what the next steps will be.