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The first three weeks of January are behind us and I’m writing an article on New Year’s Resolutions. Have I gone crazy? (No, I’ve always been crazy.)

Seriously though, this is the best time to make a New Year’s Resolution. Don’t take it from me, let Bill Murray tell you:

”I find that resolutions are best made a couple of weeks later. I think that there’s a lot of stress, panic, and tension around New Year’s, like you feel you have to make a resolution now. I would say resolving to make a resolution is the most important thing.”

Like they say to quarterbacks, the first step to success is prevent the pass rush from forcing you into a mistake. Making a resolution for the sake of having a resolution is a recipe for failure. It’s like waking up one day and saying, “I’d like to make 2 million dollars today.” We’d all like that, but it just isn’t going to happen.

Aside from Bill Murray's thoughts, this is around the time that people give up on their resolutions. This is really when most people need that extra drive to focus on their resolutions.

However, before we get to that, the very idea of a “resolution” can be looked at as a bad start. New Year’s Resolutions have a notoriously low success rate (around 8%). With that poor success rate comes low expectations. You might as well say, “I hope to lose weight.”

Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

I think the problem is that most resolutions focus on the destination without necessarily putting together a plan. It’s great to know where you want to go, but it’s useless you know how you are going to get there.

So how can we get there?

I’d like to say that I’ve got the perfect proven formula to give you, but I don’t. This isn’t like my Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom where I can almost 100% guarantee you success if you follow the very simple steps.

However, since perfect is the enemy of good we won’t let perfect get in our way.

Here are the seven steps, I’m going to try to succeed in my New Year’s Resolution this year:

  1. Think of your resolution as a goal

    A resolution and a goal is really the same thing, right?

    Now take your goal and make it SMART with these goal-setting tips. We aren’t going to be looking to “be rich” this year. That isn’t specific. We aren’t going to look to make “2 million dollars tomorrow”, because that’s not attainable. We could look to make an extra $15,000 this year as that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant (you’d like an extra $15,000, right?), and Time-bound.

    Now that I have a good goal, I can move forward.

  2. Break Your Goal Down

    That $15,000 comes out to be $1250 a month… or roughly $40 a day. I like to think of the $40/day as it doesn’t seem like much. However, for the purpose of this exercise, I’m going to set-up monthly checkpoints, “Did I make an extra $1250 this past month?” If the answer is no, I’ve got to work harder, smarter, or differently.

  3. Create Some Kind of Plan

    How might one make an extra $1250? Last September, I started dog sitting. When I have a dog staying overnight, I can make $30. That seems to almost get me there, but there are a lot of days that I have no business. I estimate that I’ll make between $4000-5000 in dog sitting this year.

    What am I going to use to cover the shortage? I’m hoping to write a relatively short ebook that I can sell for $9.99. I’m not sure if I can sell a thousand of them, but I’ll never know until try.

  4. Baby Steps: Start Small and Keep Improving

    When I started sitting dogs, I was far from an expert. I was good with my own dog, but I didn’t have a lot of experience with other breeds. I forgot what it was like to have puppy in the house. My own dog knows where to go to the bathroom… and the visiting dog does not.

    The fastest way for me to learn was by doing. It was slow at first. I had no reviews and I could understand why people might not want to book with me. However, dogs (and reviews) started trickling in. By New Year’s, I had to turn away business. In December, I made $718, which is a significant portion of my $1250 goal.

  5. Have Purpose: It Has to be Meaningful

    If your resolution doesn't mean anything to you, it's going to be hard to keep. It's great to have a goal to make $15,000 more a year, but what are you doing it for?

    For example, I want to be able to put more in my kids college savings so that they can go to any school they want to. It means a lot to me.

    If it was money for the sake of having more digits in a checking account, it would be a different story. I wouldn't be as willing to work hard to get it done.

  6. Use Cues and Rules

    There's a great book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. I highly recommend reading it. One of the many ideas that I found useful in the book is called having cues.

    He describes how cues, routines, and rewards work here. The idea is to figure out what (the cue) is leading to a negative routine, and what the reward is. Boredom may lead one to eat a pint of ice cream with the reward being the great taste. If you can eliminate the cue (boredom), you can break that cycle.

    Leo Babauta, author of The Power of Less suggests that you create rules instead of goals or resolutions. This is like creating positive cue.

    I've used this to implement a flossing routine in the morning. I wake up and the first thing I do is floss before brushing my teeth. (here's why that order is important.) It might seem silly to floss before I eat, but my eating routine is tied to planning my day routine and dental hygiene gets forgotten. This way, I at least get some flossing in and that's an improvement.

    This change is a baby step that I can grow on. Once flossing becomes a habit, I can work on changing the time to after meals.

  7. "Don't Break the Chain"

    I was reminded of this idea by Jim Wang of Wallet Hacks. He relates a story of how Jerry Seinfeld stuck with his habit of writing everyday:

    To help develop this habit of writing, [Seinfeld] would write an X in a calendar if he wrote that day. Over time, he’d develop this chain of X’s in his calendar and he’d be motivated to write just so he wouldn’t 'break the chain.' The phrase 'don’t break the chain' refers to this idea. It’s worked out pretty well for Seinfeld.

    This builds on the idea of cues/rules above by adding visualization into the picture. As you start to see the success of the Xs building their way across the calendar it becomes motivating to simply create more Xs. A simple rule could be, "Each day I need to get an 'X' on the calendar. What do I need to do to earn my 'X'."

    For Jerry, it was writing. For you, it may be eating two healthy snacks. For my goal of making $15,000 more a year, it would be doing something that brings in an extra $40 a day.

Further reading:

This post involves:

Be Better Now

... and focuses on:

Summary: The smallest details in your life can snowball. Fix the broken windows before they get out of control. (Tweet This!)

I have broken windows everywhere. They are on my kitchen counters, in my car, even in my bed.

They aren't real broken windows, but these metaphorical broken windows:

"The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening."

Imagine all the stuff about crime in that above paragraph doesn't exist. What you'd have left is small amounts of disorder leads to bigger and bigger disorder.

Broken Windows

On my kitchen counter one glass left out of the dishwasher invites more glasses to be left out. One paper receipt left in the car invites more. Before long, there is serious disorder and mess.

I rarely make my bed. For the first 35 years of my life, I simply didn't the point. Now I'm starting to see it as a broken window that leads to mess in the rest of my bedroom.

I wondered if anyone else felt the same way. I searched the web to find out why people make their bed. One of the top answers I saw came from Gretchen Rubin relating this courtesy of a Navy Seal:

"If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better."

What really knocked my socks off is the afterwards when she states that "an unmade bed is a broken window." And then my socks were thrown around the room when I read she had an article about broken windows, which makes the same point I wanted to make with this article. It is a great feeling when someone you recognize as an expert validates your opinion.

The smallest seemingly insignificant details in your life can snowball. Don't let them. Fix the broken windows before they get out of control.

Further Reading/Viewing:

I first read about the Broken Windows theory in Malcolm Gladwell's critically acclaimed, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

And just for a little fun, here's one of my favorite commercials from childhood which happens to be about broken windows:

Don't read too much into the religious nature of the commercial. It would be many more years before I knew who Latter Day Saints or the Mormons were. I simply thought it was a very cool message about doing the right thing, even when it isn't the easy thing.

This post involves:

Be Better Now

... and focuses on:

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Summary: Here's what's going on at Be Better Now including the next charity update and Posts of the Month

Each month, I give readers a sneak peak of some of the details that goes on behind the scenes at Be Better Now.

My life at the end of March is typically chaos... and this last month was no different.

There was an annual pharmacy convention (my wife's a large part of it) which is a week of travel. In the past, I would go with my wife and there would be little done (when am I going to get another chance to see the San Diego Zoo). In the future, I'll probably stay home with the kids (though an argument could be made they'd want to go to the zoo too). Either way, there's not going to be much work done.

In addition, I have a birthday at the end of March. Birthdays should be wonderful things, but they aren't when you are already a week behind. Finally, there's the looming April 15th tax deadline. As much work as I do in February, and it's dozens of hours, there's always more in March to do.

Enough kvetching (and enough Yiddish). Now you know why there haven't been many articles in March.

What's New at Be Better Now?

Usually, I have a few site enhancements to share. This month, I have nothing.

Why even mention it? I want to guilt myself into getting some enhancements for next month.

Overall, I'm happy with the look and feel of the website. I'd rather focus on increasing traffic. Which brings us to:

Be Better Now Traffic

I wrote a guest post over at Personal Income. It was a quick guide on how to become a millionaire.

Last month, Be Better Now had 346 visits for 568 page views according to Sitemeter. That's a drop off from February. However, the guest post on Personal Income came on March 31st, and brought 85 people on April 1st. People kept coming after that. So despite not publishing a post in April, traffic is already almost half-way to the February high.

Charity Update

Each month, Be Better Now gives money to charity. Last month, I gave money to the APhA foundation.

The amount that I donate is based on traffic to this website on a formula. That formula would have resulted in a 70 cent donation due to the small traffic. Instead of donating 70 cents, I donate $25 and they go back on the list for when traffic is more meaningful.

Next Month's Charity is...

Jimmy Fund

Baseball season is here. As a fan of Boston sports, my attention is on the Red Sox. If there is one charity people associate with the Red Sox, it is The Jimmy Fund. The Jimmy Fund is well-known in the Boston area, but for those of you who might not know of it here's a description from their "About Us" page:

"The Jimmy Fund solely supports Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, raising funds for adult and pediatric cancer care and research to improve the chances of survival for cancer patients around the world."

It seems the focus is on the pediatric cancer and if there's one thing I can get behind, it's helping kids with cancer.

In Case You Missed It...

Of course all the articles on Be Better Now are awesome. Some are just a little more awesome than others. For that reason I thought I'd use this space to highlight a few of the articles that you might have missed last month. And since I didn't I publish that many articles, it's going to be a short list:

As always, I am flying by the seat of my pants with this. Your feedback in the comments below is always tremendously appreciated.

This post involves:

Be Better Now, Monthly Goals, Monthly Review

... and focuses on:

Every month, I set and review goals that I set for myself. At beginning of the year, I explained how I'm setting goals in 2015. The biggest focus was on setting goals on a monthly basis rather than have new years resolutions.

As I explained in the Monthly Review for February, it was a short month, not just in terms of calendar days. Things got started a little slow due to my hometown Patriots winning the Super Bowl and the aftermath of that. It was also a very busy month with feet and feet of snow that canceled our child card leaving me the duties of my day job, caring for children, and shoveling feet of snow.

That combination isn't conducive to getting any extra work done. It's hard to swim forward when the current is pushing you back with such tremendous force.

Nonetheless, it is important to keep oneself accountable so here are the <a href="goals I set for February.

I set two personal goals and one business goal for this website. Let's see how I did:

February 2015 Goals

Goals - Baby, Funny
  1. Personal 1: Lose 1% of body fat

    The Goal:

    "I averaged the last 7 days of January and had 20.81% fat according to my Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi smart scale. So the plan is to average 19.81% (or lower over the last 7 days of February). It's aggressive. February is a short month and I'm making the goal a week in."

    The results? They weren't good. They were terrible.

    I'm going to blame it on the Super Bowl hangover. My body fat went from that 20.81% average to a score of 23.9% by Feb 8th, 2015. I wish I had some explanation for why it continued to go up by such a massive rate in such a short time.

    I should give myself an "F", but I'm going to cut myself the slightest of slack only because I've steadily reduced my body fat percentage back to 20.6% as of March 12th.

    Grade D- (62)

  2. Personal 2: Track my Productivity Consistently

    As a review, I'm looking to quantify several aspects of my productivity with a spreadsheet. The format is still a work in progress. My commitment to using it isn't much better.

    I didn't give myself a very good goal last month. Here's what I wrote:

    Last month, I only tracked 9 of the 31 days. It's okay to miss a few days, but I need to make missing it the exception rather the rule. Once I build the habit to track it consistently, I can focus in on what areas I need to improve on.

    That's just terrible.

    I only tracked 8 days of the 28, which is about the same percentage as last month. I'm starting to realize that this goal is simply not working. I think I need to learn more about why I'm failing.

    My feeling is that there's something to the motivation/easiness curve in the video at Baby Steps: Start Small and Keep Improving. I currently don't have much motivation for quantifying my productivity. Though it is easy, I think that's why I'm failing to put aside the time for this.

    Grade F (55)

  3. Be Better Now: Write 3 Guest Posts for Other Blogs

    I was able to accomplish this. The guest posts haven't been published yet, but I hope they are soon.

    Grade A (95)

Taking all three things into account, my average score is a 70.6... barely a C-.

While that grade is certainly disappointing, I'm going to focus on the fact that progress was made. I got those guest posts done, which I wouldn't have if I didn't have the monthly goals. I think I learned why I'm failing to complete some of my goals.

I wish I had been more successful, but I'll take the baby steps to keep improving.

This post involves:

Be Better Now, Monthly Goals

... and focuses on:

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Summary: Here's what's going on at Be Better Now including the next charity update and Posts of the Month

Each month, I give readers a sneak peak at what goes on behind the scenes at Be Better Now. I've only done this once before, so your feedback in the comments below is always appreciated.

Overall February was a busy than expected month for me. We got about 17 feet of snow, which lead to our child care being canceled. When that happens, I suspend work to watch the kids and try to squeeze in time to shovel snow. February is a short month to begin with, so losing another 4 days really takes a toll.

What's New at Be Better Now

I've updated several articles that form a core foundation at Be Better Now. Many were small changes, but The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom got a solid makeover. I also made some changes to How To Save Money on Almost Anything!

The other big change is that after publishing more than 40 articles over almost every business day since launch, I'm taking one, sometimes two days off. With my current schedule, it is unreasonable for me to deliver the highest quality of writing five days a week, while updating older articles, and writing guest posts for other websites. It is biting off more than I can chew. For that reason, I'm looking at publishing three or four articles a week with the other days marked for other articles.

Traffic & Charity Update

Last month's charity was for the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. You can read about: why I picked that here.

Last month, Be Better Now had 587 visitors, a growth of 128%. Our mail list grew to 10 people and there are 7 RSS readers. These numbers are small. The money I donate to charity is a percentage of these and it would add up to $0.86 cents. However, I give at least $25 and I put the charity back in queue for when the traffic is better.

This website is new and I've given almost no promotion. It is almost like a garage sale in the middle of a desert. Traffic is going to understandably be small.

However, I expect traffic to continue to grow for some time. I built another website where I have 100,000 monthly visitors, 500 people on the mailing list and nearly a thousand RSS readers. Using the same charity formula on that website, I'd have donated $118.

Personally, I think this website is a lot better than that one, so I have high hopes it can do even more traffic.

Next Month's Charity is...

APhA Foundation

This month is the annual American Pharmacists Association (APhA) meeting. In high school and college I was a pharmacy technician. My wife is a pharmacist. The APhA Foundation is a highly-rated charity according to Charity Navigator. Thus they are a very worthy recipient of our support.

This month they are hoping to make people aware that they can sync their medications. Some people have different doctors with different medications and their refills are due at different times. The program at Align My Refills is designed to help people sync them up. This way consumers don't have to make many trips to the pharmacy. It also makes the pharmacists lives easier too. Win-win. I'll let their video explain it:

They also have a very cool infographic here.

For the most part, the charitable cause is to just make people aware of the service. However, we'll support the APhA Foundation with the monetary donation just like we do with all the charities we support.

In Case You Missed It...

Of course all the articles on Be Better Now are awesome. Some are just a little more awesome than others. For that reason I thought I'd use this space to highlight a few of the articles that you might have missed last month:

I'll let those articles be the final word on February 2015. Let's make March 2015 awesome!

This post involves:

Be Better Now, Charity, Monthly Review

... and focuses on:

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Summary: Summary: I set my goals for March 2015. Can I ramp up my exercise, learn the guitar, and double traffic to this website? We'll find out...

Time to Set Goals

Well look at that, it's March already. I'm looking forward to not losing whole days to shoveling. In related news, I am hoping to score a bargain on an end of season snow blower.

Let's waste no further time and get right to the goals:

Personal 1: Work out 7 Times

Over the last two years, working out has been one of my biggest failings. I simply don't get to the gym and do either the amount of running or the amount of weight training I should be.

What do I do for exercise? I walk my dog, Jake. We've gone on some epic walks. Walking is good exercise, but I need to step up the intensity.

Towards the end of February, I took a few minutes in one day to do sets of push-ups. I didn't get too far, before I realized what happens when you don't use muscles in awhile. This:

So the goal this month is to ramp up the physical activity. I'm going to take baby steps and aim for 7 workouts... less than once for every four days.

Personal 2: Re-"learn" the guitar

I broke out my guitar for the first time in more than 10 years. My wife didn't know what to make of it, because she'd never seen me play. I'm sure she never expected me to pick it up either.

So why did I pick it up? My oldest son is about as musically gifted as a 2-year old can be. If he's interested in the guitar, I want to be able to help him with it.

Yes, age 2 is far too young for any kind of meaningful teaching. However, my expertise in guitar comes solely from a 10-class introduction that I took place more a long, long time ago. I'm no Joe Perry.

In March, I'd like to be good with four basic cords. As a stretch goal, I'd like to be able to play the beginning of Weezer's Undone (Sweater Song)... which was the best I could do in my training class.

Be Better Now: Double traffic

March will be the third month of Be Better Now. In February, I was able to more than double the traffic of the first month. Next week, I'll go into the gory details with the monthly review.

Doubling traffic (growing 100%) is easy when you are just starting out. It becomes a lot more difficult once you get bigger.

It's far too early for me to run into the Wheat and the Chessboard Problem, so I'm optimistic that I can double traffic. That will be the benchmark for at least the next couple of months.

Please check back in the first week of April to see how I did. Better yet, why not join me and set some goals for yourself for the month?

This post involves:

Monthly Goals

... and focuses on:

,


Summary: Here's what's going on at Be Better Now including the next charity update and Posts of the Month (Tweet This!)

Each month, I thought I'd give readers a sneak peak of some of the details that goes on behind the scenes at Be Better Now. As this is the first report, I expect it to be a bit of a litmus test. Your feedback in the comments below is always appreciated.

(Usually the report will be earlier in the month. This one is almost the latest it can be because the 2nd Friday of the month falls on the 13th.)

What's New at Be Better Now

Because the website is so new, there's a lot of room for improvement. I wasn't keeping track of every improvement, because it hadn't occurred to me to write about them until just now.

Over the last month, there were a couple of major changes. I learned now to make nice rounded corners in HTML that should work in most any browser. So now you get nice blue bubbles in the section and article summaries as you can see here. It replaces a bright yellow box that had a dotted blue square border. Small changes make a big difference.

The bubble box redesign continued through to the search button, some tip boxes (such as the one here), and even the heading on the right column.

I've also added social bookmarking icons in the top right of the site. They've told me that they are lonely, so please play with them if you have the time.

I added related articles to the bottom of every article. I'm hoping that another article will catch your eye and you'll stay virtually trapped here forever enjoy learning something new.

I've still got a list of things that I'd like to do about a mile long. I've got to balance that with creating great articles that you'll love. However, I feel good knowing that the website is approximately 217% better than it was a month ago.

Be Better Now Traffic

In future months, the traffic report will (hopefully) be much more exciting. In January, I launched this site with almost no promotion and it looks like it.

I'm sure that sounds crazy. Why put all this work into it and not promote it?

Be Better Now wasn't where I wanted it to be for a big public launch. I want people to see a quality product that they love coming back to everyday. Be Better Now still isn't there. I'm not sure if it truly ever gets there. I think it is just an ongoing journey of improvement that I need to appreciate.

If you are reading this, consider yourself as one of the lucky few who knew Be Better Now "way back when." For January, Be Better Now had 257 visits for 407 page views according to Sitemeter.

Charity Update

Each month, Be Better Now gives money to charity. In January, I chose to give to Best Buddies. Tom Brady's charity to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The amount that I donate is based on traffic to this website on a formula. Unfortunately that formula would have me donating roughly 30 cents to the charity. I had an idea that would happen so it gets $25 now, and put to the front of the line when traffic gets to a level where they can expect a $200 check.

The not-so-subtle message, I am sending here is: Tell people about this website so we can make some money for charity.

Next Month's Charity is...

Washington Parkinsons Russell Wilson

After giving money to support Tom Brady's Best Buddies charity last month, it seems only right give money to something that Russell Wilson supports, the Washington Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. If that seems a little random, Suzanna Eller, the President of Board of Directors, is an old friend of mine who I've kind of lost touch with.

So if I can give some money to worthy charity, connect with a friend, help a region with a tough loss, and show a little good sportsmanship... why not?

The only potential downside is that Suzanna has been extraordinary successful at everything she does. When I tell her about this, she'll probably send a flood of traffic taking down the site and my bank account. On the flipside, if traffic is once again too low to be significant, we'll do what we did with Brady's charity... send on the $25 and push it just under Brady for a future month when things pick up.

In Case You Missed It...

Of course all the articles on Be Better Now are awesome. Some are just a little more awesome than others. For that reason I thought I'd use this space to highlight a few of the articles that you might have missed last month:

With that, let's finally put January 2015 in the books. After all, it is already halfway through February!

This post involves:

Charity, Monthly Review

... and focuses on:

Summary: I set my goals for February 2015. Can I lose some body fat, track my productivity, and grow this website? We'll find out...

time to set goals illustration design over a white background

Most months, I'll be setting my goals before the month starts. I was a little preoccupied with my favorite team preparing to win the Super Bowl. Rather than rush with some crazy goals, I decided to push it back a week.

Let's waste no further time and get right to the goals.

  • Personal 1: Lose 1% of body fat

    Last month, I successfully lost 4 pounds. I've decided to take a cue from Intel's Tick-Tock method of improvement. For those who don't know, Intel's "tick" shrinks of the technology of their previous microarchitecture typically making it more efficient. Their "tock" is a switch to a new microarchitecture altogether.

    I'm not sure if last month's weight loss represents the "tick" or the "tock", but this month's goal lose 1% of body fat.

    I averaged the last 7 days of January and had 20.81% fat according to my Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi smart scale.

    So the plan is to average 19.81% (or lower over the last 7 days of February). It's aggressive. February is a short month and I'm making the goal a week in.

  • Personal 2: Track my Productivity Consistently

    In my article earlier this week, Gamification is Your Key to Self Improvement, I wrote about how I'm trying to roughly quantify different areas of my life that are important to me. I'm doing this almost exclusively with a subjective daily rating.

    Last month, I only tracked 9 of the 31 days. It's okay to miss a few days, but I need to make missing it the exception rather the rule. Once I build the habit to track it consistently, I can focus in on what areas I need to improve on.

  • Be Better Now: Write 3 Guest Posts for Other Blogs

    Lastly, I'm going to revisit my biggest failure of last month. I wanted to write 7 guest posts for other blogs. I ended writing half of one. Instead I made a number of improvements to the website under the hood.

    I'm going to re-roll with the same goal, but make it more manageable.

    "I could spend months creating the best blog in history, but if I don't let people know about it, what good is it? It's like the tree in the woods falling... it doesn't matter if it makes a sound if no one is there to hear it.

    To get the message out, I'll write 3 guest posts. It doesn't mean that the blogs are going to like them or publish them, but I will have them written. Hopefully if one website doesn't like what I've written or thinks this website stinks another will take it.

    It will take a 2-3 weeks for blog owners to get a feel for the content here, so in the best case scenario, I can see them accepting them and publishing them early [March]."

Please check back with me on March 6. We'll see how I did. Better yet, why not join me and set some goals for yourself for the month?

This post involves:

Be Better Now, Monthly Goals

... and focuses on:


Summary: It's time to review January 2015's goals. Let's break it down and see what we can learn. (Tweet This!)

Every month, I set and review goals for myself. Last month, I explained how and why I was setting goals and the value of setting them on a monthly basis.

I set two personal goals and one business goal for this website. Let's see how I did:

January 2015 Goals

Goals - Baby, Funny
  1. Personal 1: Create a Rough System to Quantify and Track "Successful" Days

    I worked on a rough system to "grade" my days. I even improved it a few times. I'm not quite ready to share it, but I'm happy to describe it.

    As you might have guessed from my article earlier this week: Gamification is Your Key to Self Improvement.

    I have a spreadsheet with various categories (Health, Work, To-Do List, etc) which are broken down into activities (flossing, pushups, etc.). I then have a column for how many points each item is worth. For example, flossing is worth 200 points, pushups are worth 5 points. The points are arbitrary. I give more points to things that I think are more important so that I'll want to do them.

    I keep two running columns for each day... the short-term "to-do"/focus list and a general "feel" list. The general feel list is just a 1 to 10 subjective feeling for a few areas in my life. If I blew off the day to go sledding with the kids, I'm going to get a zero for work. On the other hand, I'll get an 8 or 9 for family. What I found is that I consistent scored almost the same amount of points every day. The only question is which categories the points were scored in.

    The biggest problem is that I only used the system 9 times the whole month. Of course that's 9 more times than I used it over the previous 2-3 years when I tried do something similar in the past. While it was far from perfect, simply setting the goal seemed to help. I went from tracking 0% of my days to 30% of my days.

    Grade C- (72)

  2. Personal 2: Lose 4 Pounds

    I started in at 175.5 pounds. According to my awesome Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, I can see that I averaged 171.2 pounds for the week of Jan. 25-31.

    I nailed it! I even had a 1/3rd of a pound to spare.

    How did I do it? I simply was more mindful of what I ate. I didn't starve myself or anything like that. I simply had the goal in the back of my mind the whole month. That allowed me to replace a few snacks with healthy alternatives. I worked in about a dozen NutriBullet shakes (consisting of Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, and whey protein, and water) throughout the month.

    I wonder what I could have done if I had done any significant exercising other than walking my dog and bumped up the shake to be more of a daily snack. Sounds like food for thought on February's goals.

    Grade A (95)

  3. Be Better Now: Write 7 Guest Posts for Other Blogs

    This didn't happen. Not even close. I wrote half of a single blog post. When I had spare time, I put it to work making the website look a lot better. I recently wrote up next week's full monthly review for January, and I was shocked at all the little things I was able to accomplish on the site.

    There were a lot of design fixes and adding related articles at the end that hopefully keep attention when I do try to attract attention with other blog posts.

    Even though I clearly didn't get what I originally set out done, I still got a lot of very important things done for the site. I'm going to give myself a bit of a break on the grade. While it was poor execution, I think it was more a misguided goal. I'll take a little credit for doing a successful pivot.

    Grade C- (72)

Taking all three things into account, my average score is a 79.6... which I'll round to an 80 to squeak out possibly the lowest B- grade in history.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what the grade is... it's about the fact that I made steady improvement on a number of these things. I improved the system that I use to track how productive my day was and I actually used it several times. I really did lose weight. I improved the look and feel of the website.

That's a lot of improvement that wouldn't have happened if I didn't set goals. That's success by any measure.

(In a future post, hopefully this weekend, I'll draw up the goals for February 2014.)

Image Credit: Barbara's HD Wallpapers

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Summary: Sometimes you can learn more from failure than from success. (Tweet This)

In 2009, I had a grand idea. I was going to take everything I learned about blogging over the previous three years and make a great site for the new year. I was going to show the world how to kick off a decade.

Success or Failure

The result: World 1, Brian 0. Give credit where credit is due.

It's January of 2015, and Be Better Now has relaunched for the second time. It's human nature to say, "this time it's different" even when it isn't different. So I thought it would be valuable to look back on what went wrong before. I might be able to learn from it and avoid the same pitfalls this time around.

If we are lucky, we can might be able to take things a step further and discover why some projects fail in general.

How To Fail

Take on Everything!

If you haven't noticed, Be Better Now's goal simple and well-defined: Be everything to everyone. That's not just a recipe for failure, it is a whole failure dish cooked and served.

Unfortunately the new goal is still to be mostly everything to everyone, but I'm focusing more on how life is synergistic and how improvement in one area of life can lead to others. Conversely, problems in one area in life can lead to problems in others.

Bite Off More than You Can Chew

I run the web servers, coded the design (except for the logo), and some of the customer features (such as the reading time and summary box at the beginning of the article) myself. That's why some of this site looks like it was developed in 2010 and some of it looks like it was designed in 2015.

I also write all the articles, find all the pictures, and run the social media accounts. Sometimes I tell myself I should be a little more lazy.

Not Block Off Time for the Project

I've spent the last seven years educating people about pyramid schemes pretending to be legitimate multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. Every MLM claims it is legitimate, but when you stack it up to the FTC's guidelines or this awesome primer on pyramid schemes, they all seem to fail. These pyramid schemes cause billions of dollars of financial harm every year.

I still feel it is important to help those people caught in the pyramid schemes, but I also want to help the 95%+ who are wise enough to avoid them in the first place.

I got a little off-track there. The point is that I have a lot of things I want to accomplish. I'm expecting that I'll learn how to be more productive with this website and accomplish more.

As Jack Johnson says in the video below, "Who's to say I can't do everything. Well I can try."

While on the topic... The song is the unofficial theme song of Be Better Now. And the Curious George movie is my favorite thing to watch with my kids.

It Wasn't the Right Time for Be Better Now

Three years ago, we got news that we'd be introducing our first baby into the family. Now we have two children. I've had my hands full with them the last few years. I'm parenting like Ralph Hinkley's flying, I seem to have no received the manual.

As I mentioned in How To Be Happy, one of the ingredients of happiness is meaning. For me, that's creating something great.

Schools teach our children so much. However, there are a lot of life skills that aren't taught. I was never offered a course on personal finance, productivity, or organization. There were some classes on health, but they didn't talk about the psychology of motivating yourself to get exercise. I'm hoping that years from now, I can show my kids this website, and say, "Here are some of the things I've learned in this life. Incorporate what you find useful in your own life and you'll be years ahead of where I was when I was your age."

... and of course they'll ignore me. That's why it is extra important that you find value in this website.

I Tried to be Perfect

Doubts Kill More Dreams than Failure Ever Will

Doubts Kill More Dreams than Failure Ever Will

Even today, it claws at me that the design of this website isn't where I want it to be. I want to add information in the design that tells you how much I appreciate you sharing the articles you like. It really means the world to me and I need to express that at the bottom of every post.

I want to be active on social media. I want to learn how to create awesome Pinterest boards and add pictures here that people will want to pin and share.

I want the first impression of this site to be, "Wow... I've never seen anything like this before!" I have a whole design for the home page that doesn't look like a typical blog.

There's a famous saying... Perfect is the enemy of good. That's never been more true of this website. I can spend a day learning how to get nice rounded corners on boxes, but in the end you are coming here for the articles. I need to focus on them and let the design evolve over time.

I hope your first impression of this site isn't as bad as I imagine it in my head.

What Makes This Time Different?

There are a few things that are different this time around.

  1. I still think that this website should do everything, but I realize I've got years, hopefully decades, to write. Self-improvement isn't going away any time soon.

  2. I'm still biting off more than I can chew, but I also have a huge head-start from my past missteps. I have hundreds of titles of articles that I intend to write. I have dozens of outlines written. I even have a few complete posts.

  3. It's the right time for Be Better Now. The kids are at the right age where they sleep at night. Plus, I only have 15-16 years before I send them off to college. Any more stops and I'll turn around and see that they're all grown up.

  4. I think a "launch and revise" plan is wiser than waiting until everything is perfect. To quote the great philosopher Malcolm Reynolds, "That's a long wait for a train don't come."

The time for failure is over.

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