In my seemingly eternal quest to “rid my life of clutter,” I’ve come across a list of goals I prepared as part of a personal development exercise I did in 2005:

What I would like to be, do or have in the next five years

  • Assume no obstacles between the present and anything desired for accomplishment
  • Include endeavours abandoned in the past
  • Let the imagination run wild
  • Go for quantity over quality

I figure that it might be intriguing to go over those goals now to see how well I’ve spent my last seven-ish years, and consider how my goals as of now may differ.


To rid my life of all clutter

Pending, unsurprisingly.  Not sure that I’ve made any net progress on this one at all, despite it probably being the most prominent goal for me even today.

A dark-coloured latest-model Ford Fairmont Ghia

Achieved in January 2009.

Not a dark-coloured latest-model Ford Fairmont Ghia.

Although thanks to ever-rising fuel costs, the realisation that “dark” in summer means “oven,” and some experience driving smaller cars and realising that they’re not so bad, this want morphed into “a lighter-coloured latest-model Toyota Yaris hatch.”

To move out of home into my own house

Achieved in June 2007.

As far as renting a unit is considered moving into “my own house,” anyway.  Three places later, I can’t help but wonder if I’d still be at this first one if it had been possible to stay there.

To completely rid myself of debt

Pending.  Achievable by mid 2014.

Prepared using GnuCash, a free and excellent accounting program.

These goals were written in 2005.  Looking at my finances now, I can’t see all that much “debt” back then—I suspect I’m forgetting about some loans I had with my parents.  At any rate, whatever “debt” it was later sky-rocketed to over $50,000.  Sadly (and scarily), besides the car there’s not a whole lot to show for it either.

Last year I started tracking my money much more carefully.  This enabled me to work out how much it actually costs to live, to become a lot less frivolous with cash and to really…well…get enlightened.  I’ll probably write about this “journey” at some point in the future.

Of course once I fully get myself out of debt, after a short fanfare period I’ll probably have to worry about it all over again with a house loan of some sort.

To drive a train

Sort of achieved since November 2010.

Not actually me, but that's the experience nonetheless. Picture source: Tramway Nice Côte d’Azur

Since declaring this goal I have become a tram driver, and I’m still loving almost every minute of it.  I’ve been told that it’s remarkably similar to driving a train except for sharing space with cars and people, just to keep things really exciting.  It’s remarkably dissimilar to driving a bus despite many people seeming to have that general belief.  (Buses, for one thing, are much better at stopping.)

A Segway

Rejected (or “pending” if we change the goal a bit).

Turns out that they’re not only prohibitively expensive, but actually illegal in Australia for now by being too slow and “exposed” for the roads, and too fast and heavy for footpaths—in other words, an expensive backyard toy.

A company in Melboune does offer guided 90-minute rentals though (and lunch!!), so the riding experience is still achievable.

To meet Enya

Achieved in March 2001.

On that basis, I’m not sure why I even listed this as a goal in 2005.  Perhaps I wanted something more substantial than a CD signing?

To become more outgoing

Achieved/rejected.

In the “don’t be a total introvert” sense, since stating this goal I’ve gone to uni, made friends, taught classes, run lectures, provided technical support to students and staff, enforced rules in computer labs, run work presentations and handled many customer service scenarios effectively and without “fear,” for lack of a better term.  I seem to have this one covered.

I’ve also since realised that I’m quite happy with life as it is, and my friends as they are.  I have no desire to go out looking for more friends, so “becoming more outgoing” in that sense is not desired.

To get reacquainted with old friends

Pending.

Sadly, I have hard enough a time keeping in touch with my current friends.

To learn to play the guitar

Pending/rejected.

Never got around to even starting with this, and not too sure that I want to any more.

To learn to play the piano competently

Pending/rejected.

Ditto here, although I’m slightly less disinterested in finding time to continue with this one at a later date.

A notebook computer

Achieved in March 2011.

Purchased purely to give me something to do on work breaks and when stuck at a tram terminus for extended periods of time, such as on late shifts.

Before starting this job, I was in front of a computer all the time for work and hence had no real reason or desire to buy one.  I’ve found that the notebook has become my primary computer now though, with the desktop being hooked up to the TV and only really used for watching movies.

A handheld computer/PDA

Achieved in May 2008 with the purchase of an HTC Touch Cruise Windows-based smartphone.

At a later point, I came to my senses and purchased an HTC Magic: the first phone I’ve ever owned that hasn’t annoyed me with its lack of customisability.

Had new software not become too cumbersome for the phone’s processor I would still be using it happily, but such is life.  The HTC Desire has served me well since that point though.

To learn to program Windows software using C or C++ and the Windows API

Rejected.

Not long after starting uni, I moved over to Linux for everything.  I was then required to learn how to use C.  I was then almost required to learn how to use C++ until, because my plate was overloaded, I had to drop that course.  (I wish I hadn’t had to.)

Since moving to Linux though, I’ve had very little interest in any form of interaction with Windows let alone programming for it.  However, there are still times when I wish I could disassemble and understand existing Windows software—mostly proprietary stuff like the software component of the VisionDrive VD-7000W—for the sake of not still having to rely on Windows for a hundredth of my computing time.

To program working, useful Windows software via Delphi

Rejected for similar reasons.

A nice watch

Achieved in 2006 thanks to Jess and Andrew.

An air ioniser

Achieved in January 2006 thanks to a Danoz Direct TV ad.  (I shudder to think about how much I may have saved by going to eBay instead.)

To be well-respected in my job, and recognised as a hard worker

If you’re privy to my three-and-a-half-year stint in the fast food industry so many years ago, it probably comes as no surprise that I actually considered this a goal.

At any rate, this goal is probably achieved.  At my current workplace I’m known as someone who works hard and takes initiative, and most of my colleagues seem to like and respect me for it.

To lose unnecessary body fat and tone up

Pending.

I forget how much I weighed in 2005, but I certainly weighed less for a long time afterwards—if anything, I was chronically underweight for years.  The sedentary nature of my jobs are finally catching up though, and generally getting more exercise is probably quite important.

To finish my more valued music compositions

Rejected/pending.

For many years I’d “unwind” by playing around on the keyboard or in music composition software on the computer.  Occasionally I’d start to get somewhere with something I’d been working on.  In one case, there were even lyrics.  Unfortunately though, I’d never get far past the minute mark.

I’ve barely touched the keyboard in years now.  I don’t know whether or not I’d like to find time to get back into this.

To experience a professional music composition studio

Rejected.  This is probably mostly a thing of the past now anyway, with the advent of computers and everything.

To take more high-quality photos

Pending/rejected.

During my aforementioned fast food industry stint I had plenty of free time to roam around and take photos.  I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed pulling good photos off when I somehow fluked it.  I’d still like to get back into this, but I don’t know if I’d have the time now.

To learn to use Photoshop

Rejected in the strict sense.  Probably still rejected if generalised to “learn to use image manipulation software like Photoshop.”

As I write this, Photoshop costs US$699 and does not appear to be supported on Linux.  As someone who doesn’t actually need to use Photoshop for any non-personal reason, why on earth would I not instead invest my time in a free equivalent which seems just as powerful?

I’d probably only have the drive to do this if I were taking photos more regularly though.  And even then, perhaps not.

To try a truffle

Rejected.  I suspect I was starting to scrape the barrel with this one.  I believe the allure at the time was in its “delicacy” status, and because it sells for thousands of dollars per kilo.  I’d probably try it if it were offered to me, but I don’t think I’d go and seek it out now.

A video capture/TV tuner card for the computer

Rejected with similar suspicion.  I wasn’t a huge TV fan back then, and I’m certainly not now.

A new desk chair

Achieved, I guess.  I did spend a lot of time on a swivel chair that was older than me and, if I recall correctly, actually had Telecom stickers on it.  It also made a loud bang when you got up off it after sitting on it for a while, which made late-night computing difficult at best.  Eventually it got replaced though.

A USB keyring drive

Achieved in April 2009 when given one for work purposes.

Had I not been given one, I probably still wouldn’t have one.  The Internet has always served me well enough for moving files around—and especially for keeping things in sync across computers.

A portable MP3 player and FM transmitter

Achieved/rejected.

The phone is a portable MP3 player.  I wanted the FM transmitter to play MP3s in the car, but these days cars come with that ability anyway.  And the portable MP3 player idea doesn’t amaze me now either—probably because I spend a good part of my working week “dodging” people with them who walk out in front of my tram, and repeating announcements one-on-one to people with them who didn’t hear things when everyone else did.

An LCD computer monitor

Achieved in 2006.  A weird goal, perhaps, but achieved nonetheless.

To master computer networking

Rejected/achieved.

What I meant by this goal at the time, I believe, was “to understand computer networking well enough to get computers talking to each other without debilitating pain.”

Whether through my Computer Science degree or technology generally improving over the years to make the whole ordeal less painless, the goal in this sense is realised.  I neither consider myself a computer networking master, nor aspire to become one any more.


Analysis

At the age of 20, I set 30 goals which all seemed designed to serve one or more higher purposes:

  1. to get me on my own two feet, and on the way to independence
  2. to become a more functional, more likeable, “better” person, with the necessary skills to do well in life
  3. to nurture my interests (which at the time were primarily photography, music, computers, gadgets and rail vehicles)
  4. to improve general life “convenience”
  5. to make me feel that I can see things to completion

Of those 30 goals:

  • I consider 15 goals achieved.
  • I consider 14 goals abandoned.
  • I consider 10 goals pending.

Given that I set these goals for myself and then totally forgot about it—essentially “roaming blindly” all these years—15 out of 30 achieved goals doesn’t seem too bad at all.

And seven years later, I don’t think I’ve really changed all that much.  To this day almost anything I do when I’m not at work or asleep contributes to at least one of the higher purposes I’ve listed above.  It’s therefore no surprise to me that I consider 10 of those 30 goals to be pending even now.

One thing is definitely different now though: I have a lot less spare time than I did as a 20-year-old.  And I’m feeling it.

While some goals I consider now outright abandoned, I included others in that tally more reluctantly (and in some cases also included them in the “pending” tally, which is why the numbers don’t add up).

I think I expect that the enjoyment I would get out of completing those goals would be outweighed by the anxiety I’d feel by not spending my time doing something more “productive,” or conducive to achieving more “important” goals.  In essence, I guess I suffer from “time poverty” now.

The future

If I were to repeat this goal-gathering exercise now (and I probably ought to), I’d re-list some of the goals I declared in 2005.  I’d also add a few new goals to nurture my newer interests, which have unsurprisingly realigned over the last seven years.

Probably one of the highest-priority goals though would be to tackle this feeling of time poverty.  I’ve successfully learnt how to budget a finite resource like money.  Time is an even more finite resource and I see no reason why it, too, can’t be “budgeted.”

Of course, one can’t effectively budget a resource unless they have specific concerns for which to budget it.  And that’s where the remaining goals would come into play.

In the meantime though, I guess I can continue to enjoy being too “time-poor” to get rid of all this damn clutter around me.