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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