Why do I set targets? There are various reasons, I like the structure it brings, I don't want to be lazy, and I wish I was more adventurous. I want to look back in the years ahead and say "early retirement has been great, I didn't waste my opportunity, I've done some cool things". Setting targets gives me a better chance of making this come true.
I could easily be lazy, and I'm not a naturally adventurous person. It would take very little effort to slip into a habit of watching too much YouTube and wasting the opportunities that early retirement offers.
This year, it does feel harder. Coronavirus has us feeling worn down and wondering what's the point in planning when we don't know what the rules are? Will we be able to travel, will we be confined to our homes in more lockdowns? One option is to conclude, in the current environment, there's little point in setting targets. Alternatively, we can be more hopeful and look to make the best of situations - I prefer this more optimistic approach.
So I have set some targets. It has felt more difficult this year, and there aren't plans for three or four month trips like those of 2018 and 2019 , although that's as much because we've re-inherited the family cats than because of Covid. But here is what I've come up with, summarised in the table, with a little more detail after that:
Now for a bit more detail...
Run a marathon, some events with friends, average at least 4 (preferably 5) workouts a week
I'm not setting myself a specific time target for a marathon other than to run it well - I'll know in my heart if I achieve this. Last year's target of sub 3 hours was aspirational and, while I haven't discounted the idea completely, it's not priority number one.
In terms of weekly workouts, I'm going to say this should average at least 3 runs, with cycling and ski touring added on top of this. A total of four activities a week is a B grade, five an A grade.
Something I miss from my old life in Dubai is running races with friends. We're now spread across different countries, but hopefully some of us can find a start line to meet on.
Keep publishing blog posts
At least 3 posts a month
After four years, it's harder to think of things to write about, but I still really enjoy doing my blog. I'm not trying to make money from it - just as well as there aren't that many readers!
Last year, my target was to post each week, so I'm taking it down a notch this year. If I have a busy week and don't get to post, I'll be relaxed about it.
Another thing I'm going to be relaxed about is the content. At times I may write about things that are interesting to me but perhaps less connected to FIRE. If that loses a few readers, I'll be OK with that.
Make a video
This has been on my targets before but I never got close to doing it. I don't know what or how to film, I don't know how to edit, and I suspect my laptop doesn't have the memory space, RAM or something else I don't understand to get it done. You get the picture - I have no idea what I'm doing on this one.
So my idea is to rope my daughter in to help - she doesn't know it yet, but I'm sure she'll agree. I think this might be the year that I get this target done.
Improve my hopeless French
To a level where I can understand and make myself understood
We have an apartment in the French Alps (a big mid-life crisis purchase, who says accountants are always sensible?!) and there are tons of things I love about being in France. But I don't feel settled because I don't speak French. We're in a ski resort where English is widely spoken so we easily get by most of the time, but there are times when my lack of French causes me to be embarrassed or stressed. If I could get my French to a reasonable conversational standard, I'm sure it would make a huge difference to my life in France.
Do things with our kids
We spend a lot of time in France, our daughter lives in Switzerland and our son is in the UK, so we don't see each other as often as we'd like. When we do, we don't tend to do much - I think it's "that easy to be lazy" trait that I have.
I'm not sure what the "things" are that we'll do, perhaps we'll go on hikes, bike rides, explore new places, but part of the fun can be figuring that out.
Travel - visit 4 new places
My ideas aren't cast in stone, but I'm thinking perhaps Edinburgh, York, somewhere in France and somewhere in Switzerland. With the Covid vaccine rollout starting to gather pace, these reasonably local targets ought to be achievable. Maybe we could do some of this in a campervan?
Go on a bikepacking trip
Almost two years ago, I bought a sleeping bag, a tent and some bike bags to put them in and headed off for an overnight bike trip to Lake Geneva. That was the one and only time I used the sleeping bag and tent. Sally and I also cycled from Lake Geneva to Nice on the Mediterranean Sea (using Booking.com rather than a tent and sleeping bag), and I cycled with a friend from Berlin to the Baltic Sea.
I'm targeting to do at least one, possibly more, trips this year. Hopefully Sally, and perhaps some friends, will join me.
Figure out my campervan plan
The idea I've had for a while is to buy a van and, with Sally's help, convert it into a camper. I wrote a post about it, my way of trying to commit to it, but that hasn't quite worked. I'm struggling with the logistics of where we could build it, where we can store it, whether a smaller van that could double as a daily driver would be better, should I wait until electric vehicles come to market? And that's before we even start wondering how the bathroom situation might work out, or not work out! Basically, I'm doing one of the things I do best, procrastinating.
For Christmas, my kids gave me a campervan coffee table book which has got me thinking again, which is why it's made my list of targets for this year.
Book our Aurora Borealis trip
This was one of my Christmas gifts to Sally and the kids - it's one of the few things that Sally has on her bucket list. Travel restrictions mean we can't do it this winter, so we'll have to wait until winter 2022. Our options include Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Russia, Greenland, Canada and Alaska - I'm leaning towards one of the Scandinavian countries. Getting the booking made will give us something concrete to look forward to.
Imagine a new adventure for Sally and me
I don't know what this could be, but I like the idea of having the topic out there for us to think about. It could be something big or something smaller. Some blue sky thinking to be done (darn, I thought I'd left the garbage corporate speak behind).
Sort out our photos
Sally takes a lot of photos, and many of them seem to be almost identical. There are about 7,200 of them. I want to delete the duplicates and others that we don't want, and index what's left. It's going to be a slow and painstaking job, and it's on my target list to try to get me to do it.
By the way, before we left Dubai I scanned all our old physical photos and threw out the paper originals. Sally wasn't in favour of that, but we hardly ever looked at the albums. Now they're stored digitally, I look at them much more frequently.
We have some cash, quite a lot, that should have been invested last June, but I held off because the markets seemed too high given the economic impacts of Coronavirus. Well, that's what I thought. Of course, since then, the markets have continued to rise and those investments that I would have bought have gone up by 8%🤦♂️. Why do I keep repeating this same mistake?
Are the markets overvalued? Is now the right or the wrong time to invest? Based on my track record, I clearly have no idea. I need to fix on a plan and execute it.
So these are the targets I'm setting myself for 2021. They're a mixture of things I want to do which includes some exciting and fun stuff, some chores I need to get done, and some hobby items. I don't care if they don't all meet every one of the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) criteria because I'm no longer part of a corporate where these rules matter.
For me, setting targets works, it gives me structure and a focus, maybe that bit of purpose that we often get confused about, and it stops me falling into laziness. Of course, the setting of targets is just one step, I also make sure to check in once a month to see how I'm doing.
That said, setting targets isn't for everyone. I asked Sally if she had some targets that she wanted to add, but she said she doesn't work that way. She feels comfortable with a more freestyle approach, doing what she wants as she goes along. At some point, she wants to take a trip on the Orient Express, visit Jersey and Guernsey and return to Australia. She also wants to see the Aurora Borealis, which is why I thought it was a good Christmas gift and why it's now on my target list - I guess that's what they call teamwork.