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Resolutions report card for one IT consultant

Chip Camden takes an honest look at how well he did or did not meet his 2009 consulting resolutions. His grades range from an A to an F.

 

It's that time of year again -- time to review my compliance with the resolutions that I made in a fit of good intentions in January, followed by repeating that mistake.

Here are my nine resolutions for 2009, along with grades for how well they held up or eroded throughout the year:

#1: Do more of the work that I want to and less of the work that I have to.

I spent a lot of time on projects that interested me, which included learning more about Lisp and writing interpreters for Regular Expressions, but I didn't turn any of those activities into money-making propositions. My for-pay work continues to be interesting, but I'll make a point in the coming year of bringing more variety into that realm.

Grade: I give myself a B for lack of progress.

#2: Spend evenings and weekends face to face with my family instead of my monitors.

Does it count if they're not the same monitors as last year? No, I guess not. I have continued to avoid working late into the evening, but I worked even more weekends in 2009 than in 2008.

Grade: For backsliding, I get an F. Let's see if I can do better next year.

#3: Make more money than last year.

My projected gross revenue for 2009 is almost 11% higher than the total for 2008, in spite of the sour economy (or perhaps, because of it). That's without raising any of my existing clients' rates -- I just took on more new work, naturally, at a higher rate.

Grade: I give myself an A here. Now that we appear to be heading into a recovery, I'll raise some of my fees again in 2010 to see if I can increase gross revenue yet again.

#4: Do something for each of my clients that makes them say, "Wow, I'm glad we hired that guy."

I can think of several specific examples of this in 2009, but I can also think of one or two times when my clients probably wondered why they needed to pay so much for the end result. I'll have to work harder in 2010 to eliminate those occurrences.

Grade: B.

#5: Don't put up with clients who stretch the terms of their agreement.

I continued to hold the fort on this one, and I brought more clients into stricter compliance with my contract. I can only think of one example of a really bad late payment (if they're reading this, they know who they are), but we had a good conversation about it, and they haven't strayed since.

Grade: A-, because I should have prevented that one case by correctly setting expectations up front.

#6: Make sure that my good clients know that they're appreciated.

Dang, I haven't sent out any holiday cards yet!

Grade: I'll have to repeat a C here.

#7: Kill the procrastination monkey.

Well, he's not dead yet, but he's barely clinging to life by his prehensile tail. Part of what helped was item #1 above -- more interesting work is more motivating. I've also come to realize that it's okay to take a little time to get started, as long as you do get started. Sometimes motioning through a few unrelated rituals such as cleaning out the inbox, reading feeds, or even solving a Sudoku can prepare your mind for serious work. You just have to enforce a strict limit on those rituals.

Grade: B, because I can definitely still improve.

#8: Stop thrashing my mental swap space.

I've consciously tried to avoid context-switching, but I've observed that I have very little control over interruptions from clients, friends, and especially family. Unfortunately, unless you're a geek, you can't really understand the geek need to focus nor how a single interruption can completely shatter that focus. When I try to explain this to my family, they think I'm just being a self-important jerk.

Grade: D. Help, anyone?

#9: Act on more ideas.

Probably less than 50% of my blue-sky ideas in 2009 made it to implementation and that's not necessarily a bad thing (some products are better to kill in the planning stages). From the projects that were implemented, I learned all over again just how much work it takes to see an idea through to fruition. I still think I could get more of my ideas completed.

Grade: B. Assuming all of these resolutions are evenly weighted, my average grade is a B-, which is off just a bit from last year's B. But perhaps I'm just being harder on myself this year, which brings me to my one new resolution for 2010: give myself a break. I'm only human, after all. It's good to push myself, but if I consistently set the bar too high, then it's easy to get depressed about never meeting my expectations. Every once in a while, I need to do something completely nonproductive -- and not feel guilty about.

Are you happy with how you handled yourself in 2009? What will you do differently in 2010?

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About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

23 comments
sfpeters
sfpeters

Really spot-on, enjoyed it. Unfortunately it's all too true. How to improve on it is the challenge!

philr
philr

Our office is full of people with noise cancelling headphones playing music... I wonder why? Very good point.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Perhaps if interrupting me were a lot more difficult, they'd give up.

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

Lighting your Hip Pocket the cost of the devices to make it harder to attract your attention. I can guarantee that it will have no effect on the number of times that you get asked [b]Well while you are here can you look at this for me?[/b] Save your money and just put up with the interruptions. ;) Col

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I could wish for such politeness. The introduction afforded to my interruptions is more along the lines of: CHIP!!!! Then when I rush to the scene, prepared for CPR, binding a tourniquet, or battling an intruder, I find that the reason for this urgency was "look what a piss-poor job that contractor did on this wall" (three years ago)

santeewelding
santeewelding

"I need to do something completely nonproductive -- and not feel guilty about it." That is part of the answer I will refer to a friend who asks why I left making my thoughts, and the communication of those thoughts, the business of my life. You do indeed, Chip, have a serious problem. Attend carefully to it. One day when you are old you may wake to wonder, "Where have I been?"

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

There is a great Brad Paisley called "Time Well Wasted" (which is also the name of the album that song is on). The song talks about this point. I believe that the key to happiness and contentment is finding balance in life. Obviously, we have to work and make money. We can't pay our bills with smiles and rainbows. On the flip side, how much of our income is spent on wasteful things like hi-tech toys that we get bored with or eating out when we could just as simply make something at home.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

It's hard to believe that we're almost in 2010. What resolutions, if any, will you be making this year?

jck
jck

A) Get my business more steady B) Do more networking C) Get that app finished so I can try and sell it. I get a D for last year. I made little progress toward becoming totally independent from working for others...which is my ultimate goal. Working for someone else sucks. I need to remedy that.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

A goal like (C) requires you to set aside some time for it. I imagine that's difficult when working for someone else.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

It doesn't make any sense, but then again neither do they -- so it works. :D

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

It;s not possible to actually happen. Particularly when the [b]Wife[/b] which is actually an acronym of [b]Annoying the Hell out of you to get their way[/b] takes the side of the kid in question. For the sake of a quite life it's easier to just put up with it, believe me. ;) Col

jck
jck

Reminds me of when my oldest sister moved back home for a few years and went back to college. When she wasn't in classes, she was in her room with a book learning, a stick of crackers, and beer. And if you made too much noise (and you weren't mom or dad), you were bothering her "studying". BTW, I will never let my children move back in after they move out and tell me when I can and can't make noise in my own home. It will be my house, my rules, my office hours, and if they don't like people being up by 8am, tough cookies. If they don't like it, they can find another domicile to inhabit. But, I won't be bossed in the home I paid for and built. See, Col. That makes you a saint toward your kids. I'd be a much bigger pain in the arse to them. :^0

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

But you need to remember as after the event it's way too late. :^0 OH and if this helps things don't get better they start out [b]Badly[/b] and get [b]Worse.[/b] When the son turned 34 he moved back home but brought his wife with him and they are still sleeping on the Sofa's in the lounge 2.5 years latter. They refuse to even consider going into a bedroom that has been allocated to them as they don't want to [b]Cramp[/b] their computers which are in there. :0 He's not too bad as he starts work at 07.15 but she is terrible and sleeps all day so we have to tip toe around not to wake her up. I'm still trying to figure out a way to kill both of them and not go to jail for murder though as time goes on the Jail is looking better all of the time. ;) Col

jck
jck

I did it once: my sister. I had to take care of her, due to my parents insistence that I had the least to do and that it was my duty as her brother. I regret having helped her, since she is a real b1+ch. But, the best thing in my world came out of it: my niece, who I adore more than anything. :) BTW, I plan on someday getting married and having kids and being tortured, Col. Thanks for the warning :^0

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I keep hearing of them and also people talk of Holidays but I have no idea what they mean. The last time I had any Time Off work was in 1976 just before the daughter was born. Event hen I had to walk [b]SWMBO[/b] all over town on the Wednesday before I returned to work to get the quack to stick her in the Meatworks and induce her. Spending time with a heavily pregnant female defiantly has to be experienced to be believed. Needless to say that didn't ever happen again. ;) Col

jck
jck

for personal vacation was February 2006. the last two times i had a week or more not working, i took 2 weeks off in between jobs last time to work on my house and organize stuff. and then the last one, i was in the hospital for 10 days and had back surgery. i don't get many vacations. i end up using vacation time throughout the year to deal with home/personal/family issues. that's life though. And if I started a computer shop, what I'd do is schedule vacations about 3-6 months ahead and tell my customers "If you have any doubts about your machine, get it in here and we'll do a quick check." Pop it on the bench, stick in a CD, let some diags run while you do other business, and when it stops show them if anything is wrong. If I had some staff that could run the shop, then a 2 week vacation wouldn't be out of the question. I could always be in touch if an emergency happened. Anyways, I'd make sure the client knew I'd be out of pocket one way or another. And if needed, I'd set up alternative support for them with another vendor I knew did quality work so they wouldn't be left in the cold.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Well, I'll admit that I took a lot more vacations when I was working for the man. The last time I took off two weeks in a row was back in 1997. Since then, I've never taken off more than a week, and even then the recovery is a bitch.

jck
jck

As it is with not only being the sole money earner, but my own handyman and what not...I don't get a lot of spare time. To be honest, I wish I had just a little computer shop with a robust enough clientele that I could support and provide for as a business. I don't need to be bleeding through my orifices in business. Just a good enough stream that I can keep bills paid, food on my table, a roof over my head, and get to take a vacation once a year. I haven't had a vacation in almost 4 years now. And, I get frowned upon for having taken time off to do things I couldn't manage during weekends or after hours. I like the idea of having the flexibility to set schedule and meet it and still have the freedom to pick up and leave for a week by just not making any appointments and letting the client know I will be out of pocket and who they can call in an emergency in the unlikely situation that one happens. God, I am starting to slobber now wanting my own business. Argh.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

Around this time every year, I sit down and set out some personal, financial and career based goals. Probably my two biggest career goals is to take on a new class (to teach) and to learn more about our Telecom since it is part of my new job.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

If only it didn't take so much time and pay so little.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I agree that as far as a full time job, it doesn't pay well but as far as a part time job, it is very cool. Plus as a part timer, you don't worry about all the political B.S. that occurs.

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