Monthly Challenges 2011

In this post I decided to do monthly challenges this year.

This page is where I can keep track of my progress and add details for myself.  You can also click “challenge” in our tag cloud in the right sidebar.

This page will change throughout the year, whether I complete a goal or decide to do a different one instead.

The challenges:

Jan.: Figure out list — complete!

Feb.: Steampunk (click the steampunk tag to see more steamy posts throughout the blog’s archives!)

Goal: 3 steampunk novels read and reviews written for blog

Outcome:  This was a bit ambitious, especially considering the shortness of February.  But, watch for the second and third book reviews coming up in early March!  I did write 3 reviews and read at least 3 books.  So, mostly success.

I didn’t have a special blog-related writing goal this month, but I did have my normal all-the-time write for 30 minutes goal.  This month I wanted to see if I could write 30 minutes per day for 6 days a week.

In February I was at or above my goal of 30 minutes on 70.83% of designated writing days.  This is above where I was last year in February, which was more like 63%.

As you can see, I had a little bit of binging in my February writing, but it’s not entirely my fault.  Some of that mid- to late-month action was due to a grant that was largely under someone else’s control.  I also had too many days of not writing at all; gotta fix that.  I now have a good baseline to work from for my August writing goal.

In this post we reflect on the end of February and the beginning of March.

March: inbox zero at work

To do this, I will:

  • start the month by throwing everything in the inbox into a “to do NOW” folder
  • continue to keep the inbox empty each day, while progressively emptying the to do folder, with the goal of having it totally empty by the end of the month.  I will therefore have gotten a lot of tasks done that come to me by email!

Update, day 2:  I may have to ditch this goal.  It is so overwhelming.  I’ll try to hang in there a bit longer.  At least I have reduced my amount of pending email, which is progress.

Update, day 8: Halp!  Too much email!

Update, day 16: Some progress, but also lots of new mail.  Lots and lots.  Like, I mean, a LOT.

Update, day 28: Epic fail.

In this post, I reflect on failure.

April: Floss at least 4 times per week every week

(and possibly time-tracking) — I discovered this makes me resentful, and I am trying to have a successful month after a rough March.  So we’ll stick with something that seems more immediately beneficial.

Outcome:  a decent, if uninspiring, showing.  I still hate flossing, but I did it.  Every-other-day schedule, mostly.  Will May be more interesting?  Stay tuned!

May:  Clean and organize my house FOR REAL

This includes but is not limited to:

  • closets & drawers — cull clothes
  • kitchen table
  • articles in my files and everywhere else
  • boxes o’ crap — done as far as I can tell
  • mop floors — as done as they’re gonna get
  • sweep floors — as done as they’re gonna get
  • untangle the vacuum cleaner brush (OMG grossest job evar)
  • vacuum things  (bedroom, office, living room)  — Finally done in July
  • call to get blinds fixed  — Finally done (in July)
  • de-horrify the Home Office Of Doom  — Done in July-ish
  • clean bathroom  — as done as it’s gonna get
  • borrow or rent steam cleaner for carpet  — put off until next month — decided not to care
  • trip to Goodwill to get rid of stuff — 3 done
  • order credit reports

I will cross off tasks as they are done… watch me go!

Update after week 1: these aren’t finished but a lot of them are in progress!  My house is a mess but it’s a mid-organization mess.  Earlier I had to vacuum up some spiders WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.  How many spiders does one small place need?  Also, I have invited some people over for Wednesday, which will force me to clean some.

Update after week 2: inviting people over totally worked, yo.  But there’s only so many times that can be done.  I hope to continue progressing next week!  I forgot I’m going out of town in week 4, so next week I really gotta kick it into gear.

Outcome:  eventual success.

June: Eat less junk, more veggies

To do this, I will:

  • sign up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) half-share before May 1— done!
    • Goal: eat or prep & freeze all the veggies of one batch before the next one arrives
  • plan menus and use my cookbooks (figure out more things to do with veggies that can be eaten quickly, or frozen)
  • eat salad
  • freeze healthy meals for quick eating later
  • keep in a supply of pre-made, easy to eat protein, such as hard boiled eggs, diced cooked chicken, etc.
    • Some cooked, diced chicken in freezer now…

Later, June 21:  Last night, I made a pesto thing.  It had:  2 kinds of basil, mint, some frozen peas that I thawed, salt and pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, chives (including a flower), a garlic ramp, and regular garlic.  I think that’s it, unless I forgot something.  Later I stirred some grated parmesan and romano cheeses into it.  It’s pretty good.  I put some in the freezer and another big blob of it in the frig to go on pasta.  I also got eggs to make a frittata or omelette thingy out of all the greens I’ve gotten from the CSA.  And I’m firing up the mojito machine for the rest of the mint (note: not an actual machine).  Turnips are over, scallions are in.  Nom nom nom.

Outcome:  Success.  It went well and I am continuing with this throughout the whole rest of the summer.  Veggies veggies and more veggies!  They are getting delicious now that the greens are over.  This is going well!  I continue to make & freeze food for later, including pesto-thingies, smoothie-thingies, lunches.  Lotsa garbanzos on the protein front.  Also, frozen, easy-to-make fake meat.  Ham for sandwiches.  They’re giving me lots of allium things, too.  Nom nom.  Eggplant!  Cucumbers!  Carrots!  Cabbage and beans and basil oh my.

July: write every day for 30 min., without fail

  • also see about wills, power of attorney, and all that noise.  Make a folder for use in case of my death or incapacity.

Outcome: Utter fail. I was so exhausted from moving that I would collapse in a chair, unable to form complete sentences, falling asleep sitting up, hours before my usual bedtime. oops. However! I still need to see about the legal stuff now that my partner has joined me here (YAY!). So perhaps I will do that stuff soon and cross it off later.

Aug.: get-a-handle-on-my-money month

To do this, I will:

  • go through all my TIAA-Cref paperwork, discard the outdated stuff, file the new stuff, and sign up for paperless statements
    1. at least it’s all in one place now, in the same box, even if most of the stuff isn’t opened and none is organized.  That’s progress, right?
    2. Take everything out, open envelopes.  Recycle envelopes and outdated inserts.  Tell TIAA-CREF my new address.  Put things in piles by organization (TIAA-Cref, Vanguard, etc.).  Then put the papers in each pile in order by date.
    3. Do stuff: possibly make appointment with the advisor guy.  Find out more about this annuity thing I have.
    4. Get form from HR to transfer my raise to retirement account.
  • track my spending all month, as suggested by Your Money or Your Life — DONE!
  • finally get rid of my lingering retirement accounts from 2 employers ago, which have like $87 total, and roll them into my current accounts.  Done!  Accidentally.  I found a check — they liquidated the account and cashed it out to me when they didn’t hear from me for a while.  I don’t mind the tax hit on $82 or whatever, because that was my original plan anyway.  Win.
  • find out WTF is up with my Vanguard accounts and fix my address with them.  And maybe move to TIAA-CREF.
  • call my credit card companies and ask them to stop sending me those checks
  • consider how much of my emergency fund I need to have liquid, and possibly invest some.  (Treasury bonds?)  — I opened a Roth IRA and maxed it out for 2011.  That’s all the thinking I can do right now.
  • only sort of related: back up, patch, and otherwise maintain *all* computers
    1. Lab computer main (back up, uninstall, install, patch)
    2. lab computer backup (uninstall, install, patch)
    3. office computer (back up, uninstall, install, patch, organize)
    4. home computer (back up, install, patch)

As of Aug. 1, I have started by making a shared googledoc with my partner.  It’s a spreadsheet where we can track all our household expenses (rent, cable, water, gas, power, etc.) as well as who paid what to whom.  This is very useful now that we are living together once more, and splitting expenses but not exactly evenly; there are formulae and everything.  Also I know where the YMOYL book is but mean to reread it.

Update, Aug. 2: I re-read important parts of the book and skimmed the rest.  Also I discussed finances with my partner a little bit.  Look at me go!

Outcome: Mostly a success!  I did a lot of work here and we’re continuing the budget spreadsheet.


  • Sell all individual stocks and sucky mutual funds (except the one).  Reinvest.  Chase IRA moved to Vanguard, reinvested in Target date 2050 fund.  Requested full control of American Century.
  • Check numbers to see if IRA possible this year. Yes:  Roth eligible.
  • Force Ing to let go.:  Forms are filled out, put in addressed envelope… waiting for the stock market to settle down a bit.  (This may take a year…)
  • Check out 457 plan.  Forms sent off.
  • Make the etrade margin account not a margin account!  Done.
  • Look into moving from etrade to vanguard.  Or just open new vanguard account:  Vanguard account opened. Decided to hold on to etrade a while longer.
  • Or just open new vanguard account.  
  • Call credit card companies and ask them to stop sending checks (good idea!):  Was waiting for CC company to send checks… they didn’t, so I haven’t called.  But if they do, I will be ready!
  • Figure out how much to deduct for dependent daycare account ~3500
  • Cash in last DDA for the year  Done.
  • Sign up for annual benefits (easier this year… there are fewer choices…) Done.

Sept.: Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night!

This includes but is not limited to:

  • avoid unplanned nap behaviours; sleep in few large chunks
  • Use commitment devices
  • manage hydration to reduce sleepiness
  • develop alternate methods of mood regulation / stress reduction besides sleep (sex!)
  • set realistic alarm times and then get out of bed immediately when alarm goes off
  • stay away from monitor a planned time before bedtime

Outcome:  I had big success!  Check me out and congratulate me.

Oct.:  write every day for 30 min., without fail

Outcome:  In this post and the comments I bewail my fate, which has to do with November as well.
Nov.:  take up some form of exercise, at least 30 min per day at least 3 times per week

  • fidget more.
  • take the stairs at work

In this post and the comments I bewail my fate, in the beginning of November.  I am trying some things but it is very time- and energy-consuming.  Argh!

Dec.: catch up on academic reading — all piles, books, etc.

Stay tuned!

sign up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) half-share before May 1

  • Goal: eat or prep & freeze all the veggies of one batch before the next one arrives

9 Responses to “Monthly Challenges 2011”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Rock on! This list is AWESOME.

  2. anandi Says:

    Are you going to do this again in 2012? I dig it.

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