Secret GardenAs one year ends another begins. What better time to look back on the year that has just finished and look forward to the year that has just started?

The monthly reviews I do have been very helpful but as they only cover a period of a month there are some goals that are just not appropriate. So I decided that I would take some time to review how I got on in 2010 and set out some targets for 2011.

First things first though:

Happy New Year.
I hope 2011 brings you good health and an abundance of happiness.

Just to be clear I have based my approach on that of Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review. If it works for him then it should definitely help me…

2010 Review

I spent some time recently looking back at what I achieved in 2010. Looking at the bad as well as the good in the hopes that will make me step into 2011 a little bit more enlightened.

What Went Well?

I recently came across a note I wrote to myself a while ago reminding myself to seriously think about quitting my job in 2011 if I still wan’t happy. I used to love my job. Somewhere along the way I stopped enjoying what I was doing and I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t carry on forever if the spark didn’t come back.

This is something that went very well. I quit my 9–5 job and finished at the end of July 2010. I was then lucky enough to be offered some contracting work from the same company, doing pretty much only the parts of the job I did enjoy. This was the perfect solution and I now have that spark back. I am really enjoying getting stuck into development again and I feel a lot more productive as well. The other bonus is that I get to set my own hours, of course I have a schedule to try and stick to though.

The inevitable drop in income has forced my wife and I to make a few sacrifices but nothing too drastic. This has a silver lining though as it has forced my to create a detailed budget and start tracking our spending which has given my the idea for my first major project!

The family holiday to Cornwall was amazing this year. Shirley and I rented a house for a week and we get her daughters and their families to come along, including all 4 of my grandchildren. My brother and his family joined us this year and it worked out great, wandering down to the town and/or the beach and all sitting round the massive dining table for evening meals. It gives everyone a base to go off and do their own things as well so we don’t spend the whole week in each others pockets.

My wife and I spent our anniversary in Rome this year. Somewhere I have always wanted to go but never got around to…

I am also proud of the fact that I have successfully posted something to this blog every single week without fail. Some of the posts may have been slightly late but the important thing is that I didn’t give up and I am still going!

One last thing that I am very pleased with is the amount of quality time I have had with both my wife and the grandkids. In the past I have sometimes felt that there are so many jobs that I should be doing that my mind is at least partially on something else. This stops you from being really there and reduces the quality of the time. Partly due to my new found freedom and partly down to me Getting Things Done, I now feel on top of my list of tasks and I can switch off and really spend time with people…

What Did Not Go Well

As I mentioned above I have been creating budgets to help Shirley and myself keep in control of our spending. I started off tracking certain areas of the budget in detail only to find that it’s always the other parts of the budget that slip out of control that month! The only way for me to keep on top of things is to try and keep track of everything at the same time which tends to be a bit more time consuming that I had hoped. This is another benefit in creating the application I keep talking about though…

I haven’t really created any significant income apart from the contracting work for my old company. If that dries up, for whatever reason, then I would be in a pretty awkward spot for a while! I have done some website design on the side, I am even working on a website for someone right now, so that could be an area I could move into to keep the money flowing if necessary…

Even though I have reduced how much time I have been working for my old company I haven’t really been utilising the extra time properly. I think this is partly due to the novelty of being my own boss but it is something I need to address. I really need to create something that I can call mine and try and make some money from…

2011 Goals

The simple task of coming up with the list of categories took me a while. I kept adding items and then I went through and merged some together and removed any that I didn’t have any real urge to do things in that area. I ended up with 7 categories which is perfect as it’s my favourite number. This list can form the basis of future reviews though so I can pretty much skip that step next time.

If you are going to give it a go then it is best to tailor this list to suit your personal circumstances. Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  • Friends & Family
  • Business
  • Health & Fitness
  • Self Improvement
  • Finances
  • Photography
  • Travel

The idea is to list 3–5 goals for each of these categories. Now I’m not going to list every single goal here as some of them are a bit too specific, for example:

Visit my friend Gary and his Family in the first half of the year.

This is actually on my list but there are others so I am going to merge some items together and even remove some of the specifics but you should get the idea. Most of the items are just as I wrote them down though.

Friends & Family

  • Visit various Friends and Family.
  • Spend more quality time with Family.


  • Create at least 3 saleable products, of some kind, this year.
  • Target my website(s). Focus my blog for example and make it clearer what my message is all about.
  • Get 1000 people interested in what I have to say on a regular basis. Whether that be my blog or somewhere like Facebook or Twitter.
  • Spend at least an hour, every weekday, on my business even if I am doing work for someone else that day.

Health & Fitness

  • Get my weight down to 17½ stone. (245 lbs, 111 kg)
  • Do at least 20 minutes of activity every day even if it’s just going for a walk around the block.
  • More strenuous activity at least twice a week. Running, cycling, physical labour etc.
  • Take up a new sport, or renew an old one…
  • Read at least 6 books, one every couple of months as I’m quite a slow reader, for fun and relaxation. As an example I have just finished I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett. I have loved every one of the Discworld books…

Self Improvement

  • Learn how to use Twitter properly and incorporate it into my day to day schedule.
  • Learn how to create a WordPress template and hopefully create new design for my blog!
  • Read at least 12 (e)books, one a month, to help me in some way. Areas to think about are Finances, Photography, Productivity, Software Development etc.
  • Find a complete development environment I am happy with for creating web applications and create at least one application by the end of the year.
  • Learn how to develop for the iPhone/iPad. This seems to be reliant on owning a Mac!


  • Sell all my read books that I have no intention of reading again. This will, hopefully, bring in some extra income but also has the benefit of decluttering.
  • Carrying on the decluttering theme I plan on clearing out the garage and the shelves in my office and selling as many things on eBay or Amazon as possible.
  • Ensure I make enough money, from my business or other miscellaneous sales, to cover all of the living expenses for my wife and I every month.
  • Ensure that our savings will grow to accommodate any plans for the following year. So if my wife and I decide we want to go to Australia next year, which is a possibility, then make sure we can save enough to make it happen!


  • Process my whole back catalog of digital photos. All of them!!
  • Scan in any slides and negatives that I do not yet have in digital format.
  • Create a side income from my photos. There are a lot of possible avenues to try here.
  • Photograph something off my my Bucket List.


  • Take a beach holiday to get some much needed sun and recharge the batteries.
  • Go away with the whole family. This year we are going to Wales.
  • Plan a family holiday for next year. Maybe time to try and get villa abroad somewhere for a change?
  • Organise our next big adventure. Got to be time for another big trip in the not too distant future…

Wow. This ended up being quite a task. I think it will be well worth the time and effort though as I have a much clearer picture of what I want to achieve this year.

Do you set any goals for the year ahead? What about looking back at the year just finished are there any moments that you are proud of or disappointed with?

Image: Pete O’Shea

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Look forward to your blog and as usual you put so much into it I think you have been doing great here’s to a new year a new start.

    Pete O'Shea

    Thanks gorgeous, it’s great to know that you are right behind me all the way…

Michael Ludgate

I’m interested to read you’re using credit, personally without a guaranteed salary, it’s just too much of a potential headache. I’ve learnt though pain, credit is only for stoozing. I’d take a lump out of the emergency fund (just to get it working now), something workable like 3/5k, place in a current account and use that instead of credit, replacing the money as you would pay off a credit card. No bills and much easier to track.

Good luck with selling items to generate revenue; I’ve looked at this before for both books and music, and found it wasn’t worth it. Too many people selling for 1p with maybe 50p to the pound excessive P&P charge. I’d recommend considering car boot sales, that way a higher price point of £1 or £2 is easily achieved while maintaining volume sales.

    Pete O'Shea

    Hi Michael,

    The credit card is mainly for the regular expenses like groceries and fuel. The theory is that the ½% cashback would make it worthwhile as we always pay the full amount off each month. Last month though the bill topped the funds available in the current account so had to dip into the emergency fund to cover it all. Nothing too drastic but did make me sit up and take note that I wasn’t tracking everything well enough! From this month I have the money tucked away as it is spent on the credit card ready for the bill to come in. That way we still get the cashback and also a little bit of interest for the money in the account waiting for the bill to come in. Not the ideal solution as it does take a bit of extra tracking but every penny counts…

    I know what you mean about selling stuff. I have had some success with some of my old uni books and blu-rays that I have watched and had no real intention of watching again. As for DVDs then they weren’t selling for much so sold a lot off to family and friends at £1 a pop. Nothing earth shattering but added a few quid in the pot. As for CDs then they don’t seem to be worth much at all. I have seen a few places I’m going to try and sell books though but until I have looked a bit deeper then I don’t know what to expect yet.

    The plan is to declutter as much as make money though so as long as I get some return then I am going to try and sell it online, otherwise I’ll try a car boot or something similar and then a charity shop as a last resort just to get rid…

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