Review of 2010 / Plans for 2011

A few years ago on BBC2 in the UK there was a programme called Dave Gorman's Important Astrology Experiment. I don't know if you watched it but the concept behind the series was that Dave would follow exactly what was recommended for his star sign in a selection of horoscopes, and then see how that affected his happiness. For measuring happiness he used the triad of Love, Health and Wealth. happiness-triad.jpg

It was a funny series, but the reason I mention it is that I've always thought that using the happiness triad is a really good tool for life planning. If you think about it, most new year's resolutions will fall into one of the three boxes.

I thought I'd share a few of my plans for 2011 and also look back at how 2010 measured against my own happiness triad.

Review of 2010

I'll start with last year. For Love, that's got to be a big positive because me and Rach finally tied the knot. Lauren makes me happy every day. All is well in the Haines household on the Love front.

As for Health, that's been a mixed bag. I had no real health problems last year, with the exception of a few warning signs that it was time to slow down. I managed to lose a few pounds before the wedding, and then proceeded with much fervour to put them straight back on again during the month I had off work for the wedding and honeymoon, and 3 weeks for xmas.

The warning signs were mainly due to too much drinking. I don't drink a fraction of what I did when I was in the Navy. Maybe that's the problem? In the Navy drinking was pretty much mandatory so my tolerance to it was much greater than it is today. In 2010, I didn't drink that often, but when I did it tended to be binge drinking. I had some really good nights out which involved drinking far more than is good for you, and on a few occasions i started to develop numbness on one side of my face after a drinking session, or during, which isn't a good thing. A kind of Bell's Palsy apparently, according to a nurse friend of ours.

So on the health front it was a mixed bag.

Finally there's Wealth. I look at wealth in two ways - financial wealth and wealth of knowledge.

Financial wealth was going quiet well for most of the year. I've managed to maintain my 4-day a week job while steadily, but not greatly, growing the IPChitChat business. Although I still don't draw a salary from IPChitChat we did make a few payouts for ourselves during 2010 as a return on investment. This meant we were in a lucky position that Rachelle was able to give up her job and come and work from home for the business.

All was going well with the finances up until the wedding. As much as you plan and budget, it always ends up costing more than you originally planned. And so it proved. Even though it was a relatively cheap wedding by comparison to the standard these days, we've still left ourselves with quite a bit of debt which I'll probably be paying off for the next 2 years! This means that coming into January Rach has started looking for a part-time job again just to help us through this sticky patch. It's funny how there seems to be an inverse relationship between love and wealth when it comes to getting married!

In terms of wealth of knowledge, I feel that this is where I made the most gain in 2010. I was very lucky to travel quite a bit during 2010 and travel does indeed broaden the mind, even if I did spend most of it in bars! Similarly, I maintain an interest in lots of different subjects and read extensively. I don't know about you but I find as get older my thirst for knowledge increases exponentially. Importantly I learnt an enormous amount that will contribute to growing my business.

On the business side of things I may look back at 2010 as a year of procrastination. There was no real major achievement but like I said, I did learn a lot. It's amazing how much you learn by doing the wrong things. I spent far too much time during 2010 just trying to get things to work, rather than concentrating on the big picture. I don't know how many hours I lost messing about with technical things that really should be left to someone who knows what they're doing. I've learnt that lesson. At the same time, those hours spent learning the technical side of business will help me in the future. I'll explain more when I discuss plans for 2011 below.

So all in all not a bad year. Am I happier at the beginning of 2011 then I was in January 2010? I'd say yes, I am.

Plans for 2011

If we look at the Love side of the happiness triad, well I'm married now so I suppose it's just downhill from here! Just kidding. The emphasis for 2011 needs to be on life-balance. It's very easy to just get obsessed with work and forget that there's other people in my life. Even though I have a job and a separate business, I need to be conscious of the fact that i need to put some time aside as family time. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as the saying goes.

Health, now that's a continuing battle. I know I've probably said this the last 10 years in a row, but this is the year when I get really fit and healthy. Honest.

Wealth. I spent most of 2010 having my finances under control. My credit card balances were 0 because i paid the balance off in full each month. That was until the wedding. 2011 is going to be a frugal year. I've already made a concerted effort to reduce expenses. The next goal is to increase income, and the way I'm going to do that is through the business.

I've now launched netcloudsecurity.com which will hopefully contribute something, but that's more out of a response to events. The problem with providing services, of any kind, is that the amount of $ output you get from it is entirely dependant upon the number of hours you put into it. The ultimate goal is surely to create passive income, where you create something that continues to generate revenue without further work from yourself.

In the next few weeks I'll be launching another website, which will be my main focus of attention for the 2011. This website draws on my experience as a PCI QSA and will hopefully be something that will help many businesses and individuals.

They key business lesson that I've learnt from 2010 that I will apply to this year is that I definitely need to focus on the core activities that generate revenue. As I've said, far too much time was spent in 2010 troubleshooting technical problems and learning new technical skills. For example, I spent many a hour last year building my new PCI site using the Drupal Content Management System (CMS). Drupal is a fantastic CRM and in the right hands, can do everything you want it to. To save a bit of money and due to budgetary constraints, I decided to build the entire site myself. Whilst I got the majority of it built I spent hours if not days messing about trying to get some of the basics working, such as displaying my content correctly in RSS feeds.

Last week I finally gave up on Drupal and the new website will be shortly launching in Wordpress. The Wordpress CRM is great for getting sites up and running very quickly. It perhaps doesn't offer all of the features that Drupal does but who cares, it's content that's important. I realise that now.

For IPChitChat we had some great success with outsourcing, and we're now at the point where if we want anything doing technically with the website we'll simply outsource it. We've finally found some developers on Elance.com that we're really happy with and trust. The developers we chose are a company in Vietnam. We placed a number of projects on Elance with them last year and because they're a) extremely affordable, b) professional, and c) quick to respond, we'll be using them for the majority of our technical work in 2011.

You may think that you are saving money by doing it yourself but you're really not. I now follow my own advice that I've spouted many times before - you need to put a price on your time. If it takes you 2 weeks to do a job that an external developer can do in 2 days, is it really saving money to do it yourself?

As an example, we had 3 jobs that we asked our developers to do last week. They did the entire work in 2 days for a total cost of $175. It would have taken me a week at least. A week of my time is worth far more than $175.

I said previously that all the lost time in 2010 doing technical work was not entirely mis-spent. This is because having a certain level of knowledge really helps when you outsource work to others. For instance, If I decide to build any new sites in Drupal and outsource the work, I'm confident that I'll be able to draw up detailed specifications for the work, and be able to properly vet what gets delivered. There's also lots of small technical jobs that I'll be able to do quickly myself without having to outsource it.

In summary, for 2011, the goal is to maintain the Love score, but improve on Health and Wealth.