Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pre-spring cleaning

Making New Year's resolutions always struck me as a bit silly. After all, why should the end of one year and the start of another be the time to examine one's life and plot out a course to change it for the better? Coming off anywhere from two to six weeks (depending on one's capacity for celebrating) of gatherings, gift-givings and gorging with friends and/or family, I imagine most people would look forward to January for a bit of quiet time.

For me, the holidays have come to mean progressively less and less. Working on holidays is just one of the ugly truths about being in newspapers (gotta have the next day's edition ready to deliver the next morning) and, with my family on the other side of the Pacific and co-workers who don't generally socialize outside of the office, such days usually pass like any other, save for maybe a nice dinner. The fact that it's always hot and humid here and the only question is how much rain we get probably doesn't help.

As such, I'm using the impending end of January as an opportunity to make a few changes around here -- and by "around here," I mean in my life. These changes are intended to help achieve three primary goals:
1) Get in better physical condition. I'm fat, balding and homely. While addressing the latter two would be expensive and not covered by my health insurance, I can certainly do something about the former.
2) Save some money. I actually do have some money saved up -- no mean feat for someone in this business. However, and perhaps a bit paradoxically, I consider the bump in pay accompanying my "promotion" as an ideal time to start cutting back on my spending. The reason why leads me nicely into....
3) Prepare for post-newspaper life. Specifically, I need to rediscover how to think, learn and spend like a college student. I'm out of practice in all three, the occasional online course notwithstanding, so I want to use this coming year for a gradual transition in that direction.

To make all that happen, I need an actionable plan -- that is, things I can actually do to help me progress toward those goals. Goals like "get in shape" and "save money" are just too vague. It took a good 20 or 30 minutes, but I think I have a plan that should get me going toward where I want to be. As well as everyday tasks, I also made a one-off to-do list.

One-off list
  • Find a cheaper apartment. This is important as the lease on my current apartment is up on February 5 or so. I'm paying $1,000 a month for a location that is no longer as convenient as it once was, so it's high time for a change. My preliminary research shows I can get a nice one- or two-bedroom place for about half that as long as it's outside the Golden Triangle (not to be confused with the Golden Corral).
  • Fix the leak in the living room AC unit. Because I'm tired of studying in the bedroom.
  • Transfer money to my bank account in Nebraska. It slipped my mind that since I'm going to be here longer than I initially thought, I need to send over some money to keep up payments on my life insurance policy and anything else that's being automatically deducted.
  • Mop the tile floors. They could use a bit of attention, especially if I'm moving out soon.
  • Get a haircut. I've clearly failed to get a real job, but I should still try to look the part.
  • Pull the trigger on my Japan trip. Yes, I was in New Zealand just last month, but like that trip, this one is as much business as pleasure. I need to see Temple University's Tokyo campus in person before deciding whether I want to go to school there, and while I'm in the neighborhood I can also visit a few acquaintances, see the cherry blossoms in full bloom and catch a sporting event or two. Even better, it looks like a couple airlines can get me there for $700 or so round-trip.
  • Invest in the learning process. My study of Japanese has always been fairly free-form. If I'm going to be serious about it and actually have a good platform from which to base my studies when I go back to school, though, I need to do more than just rely on a few books, podcasts and other free sites. I've picked out a couple sites -- TextFugu and iKnow -- where I'll have to pay a bit to get full access, but perhaps being invested financially will help keep me diligent in my studies.
These tasks are ones I expect to do more regularly and, through their execution, effect a change in my lifestyle. Since there are only so many hours in a day, I need to make lasting changes rather than do things piecemeal, as I have previously.
  • Study Japanese at least one hour each night. The plan is to begin with hiragana and katakana before adding vocabulary and working my way up to kanji. As a carrot, I'm also going to target taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December, although since one apparently needs 250 hours of study to pass the beginning level, I may already be too far behind the curve.
  • Ride the stationary bike at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes. Being the fat slob that I am, I can't afford to go overboard without risking burnout. Ideally I'll ride five days a week, and I can work my way up to 30 minutes at a stretch. From what I've read, intervals are the way to go to maximize spent calories and burned fat.
  • Bring dinner to work at least twice a week. This will help me both eat better and save money. The location of our rather inconvenient new Globe Towers means we order in more often than not, with some places more popular than others. Even if it's something simple like sandwiches and carrots or peanuts for snacking, it should save 100,000 to 150,000 rupiah per week.
  • Blog at least once a week. Because I know you folks can't get enough of me ... or, more likely, because I just need a consistent outlet to write. The Asean Basketball League is going again, so I might get a few bylines from that, but mostly it's going to be desk work for the next year.
Some changes need to happen if I'm going to do all that, keep my job and sleep occasionally. What little TV I watch will have to be cut -- though watching NHK could be valuable -- and my new favorite hobby of listening to podcasts will have to be cut way back. If I have to get a little obsessive to do this the right way, I'm prepared to do that.

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