2019: The Year Of Growth

2019: The Year Of Growth

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2018 is over. With it, comes a new year and new goals.

Prior to this year, I’d set some random New Year’s Resolution without thinking much of it. 2019 is different though. I’ve thought out, planned, and set the actions I need to do rather than just have goals. I’m not sure I’ve really grown much in terms of productivity, knowledge, and focus — I haven’t put the pedal to the metal for quite some while. 2019 will change all that.

Here are the 6 categories I’ve planned to see growth in myself for 2019:

  • Programming/Web Dev
  • Physical Goals
  • Money
  • Side Project
  • Organization/Decluttering
  • Cooking

Each category doesn’t take much time on its own, and some are just a bi-weekly thing.

How Will I Track All This?

I’ve created an Excel Spreadsheet that tracks all these categories and goals. I’ve put it inside another Excel sheet I use daily, so that’ll reduce the friction of me having to go and open that sheet. Yep, even though it’s a pretty small friction, it’s still friction!

I plan on having weekly meetings with myself on Friday evening to see what I’ve been doing right and wrong. I’ll give myself a percentage based letter grade.

Here is what the master page of the spreadsheet looks like. I purposely wrote the first column after each category as Actions. Goals are where the finish line hopefully is, but they aren’t what you should focus on. If you don’t have actionable plans, but only a goal, you won’t get there.

You should focus on the tiny steps you take each day or week to get there. The columns after are the actual goals I hope to reach. If I don’t reach them, then I’ll have to adjust my actions.

Here’s an example of the Exercise tab. Since this was the only one that required tracking multiple days per week, I set it up to be color-coded so I could see that I did 6 exercises per week. I use the letters as a scheduler (C/H/L), and color in the days when I actually do them. If I know which gym classes I’ll attend on which dates, it makes it easier to actually go to them. If I make plans with friends to go rock climbing or to the gym, the odds I’d show up are much higher.   

Below are all the categories of actions and goals I’ve set. I wrote them down in detail so I could flesh out the reasons I chose them, what my actions will be, and how I’ll make it easy on myself to do them.

Programming/Web Dev


I’ve been meaning to learn D3.js all year for 2018, but I’ve been putting it off. I think it’d be fun to create data visualizations and would put my CS degree and the stats classes I took in college to good use.

Measurement: At least 1 data visualization per month


Hiring a web dev is expensive, and since I’m not a giant company with unlimited funds, I need to learn how to do this myself for the blog and my side project #2.  Plus, I think an interactive blog is a great way to stand out.

Measurement: Slated for Q3 and Q4, one interactive blog post per quarter


Side project #2 requires dealing with a lot of e-commerce data, which we’ll hopefully have up and running by mid-year, so once that is done, I’d like to learn Keras so we can best utilize that data.

Measurement: Slated for Q4. This one is hard to measure, so I’d settle for writing two blog posts about datasets using something I learned from Keras. I can use D3.js to visualize the findings.

Physical Goals

I need to build a habit of physical exercise young because I know the older I get, the more resistance and less time I’ll have to cement a new habit.

Rock Climbing

I took up rock climbing in the second half of 2018 and really like it. It seems everyone there works in tech or finance. I guess we all really like a quantitative measurement of how well we’re doing and improving, haha. Currently, I can climb some V3 boulders, 5.10a toprope, and 5.9 on lead. I enjoy watching RockentryGeek Climber, and Mani the Monkey for tips on how to improve my climbing.

Goals: V5 boulders, 5.11a toprope, 5.10c lead

Measurement: Go rock climbing 2x per week


Over the past year, I’ve learned that there is a limited amount of willpower you have each day and that it’s best to minimize your willpower.

I could get on the treadmill or elliptical, but showing up to a cardio class is easy, and makes me stay there for the entire hour because it’s awkward to leave before it’s done, and pumps me up because everyone else is working hard too. There are gym classes every day in my apartment complex, and that’s worth it to me because then I don’t have to use much willpower at all, other than showing up for the class. Once I’m there, I’m locked in! Even a half-hearted me doing cardio for 1 hour is better than no cardio at all! Peer pressure at its finest.

Classpass is offering a free month-long trial for the new year. You get in-person classes at a wide variety of gyms and studios and also access to live streams of classes.

Measurement: Go to a cardio class 2x per week


I recognize that lifting and barre are very separate things, but one builds muscle and the other tones so I just put them in the same category. I mostly put them both here because for weeks I don’t do barre, I’d just do an extra lifting session.

I’d just like to preface this by saying that women who lift don’t get bulky, they seem to get curvier. I think it is because we just don’t have as much testosterone. I say this because I never wanted to lift because I didn’t want to get bulky. Maybe you’re a woman and thought the same. Don’t let those thoughts stop you!

Also, if you believe assets can produce passive income, then muscles are passive calorie burners (pound for pound, they burn more calories than fat).

Here are my personal PRs:

  • Bench – 60 pounds
  • Deadlift – 90 pounds
  • Squat – 80 pounds

When I started I couldn’t even lift the bar (45 pounds) when benching. I had to lift two 15 pound dumbbells instead, so I call that a huge improvement. You have to start somewhere. If you go to the gym and can’t lift the bar, don’t worry. Just do an easier exercise until you can. Just starting puts you miles ahead of anyone else.

I don’t know what the goals are here, so I’m just going to commit to exercising via the below measurement.

Measurement: Lifting – 3 sets for each of the three core exercises. Go to barre and lifting class twice per week in total.

Money Goals

FI so I can visit beautiful places like this across the world
FI so I can visit beautiful places like this across the world

This year, I realized how silly it was to track net worth with the markets plummeting at the end of the year. Instead, I’ll focus on actual dollars I’m planning on saving in 2019. Goals:

Max out Solo 401k + 401k combined

20 percent of after-tax income in Taxable brokerage accounts. M1 Finance is a free roboadvisor if you’re looking to get started investing in your brokerage accounts.

Since the blog is doing well income-wise, by my calculations I’ll be able to max out the maximum allowable for the Solo 401k and 401k.

HSA – Unfortunately, there is no insurance option that allows me to open an HSA, so this won’t be possible.

Backdoor Roth/Mega Backdoor Roth – I think that since I’ll be maxing out my Solo 401k and 401k I won’t be able to use these but I’m unsure. I’ll have to ask an accountant, but if I can, I should be able to max out both and divert some of the 20 percent after-tax income here.

In 2017, I kind of understood what FIRE meant, but my personality with anything is to take things a little far. So in 2018, I cut out all possible expenses and even stopped spending money on categories that were important to me. I bought furniture from a consignment store and told myself I’d DIY a fix.

I’ve since checked out Wayfair and found their pieces to be nice and pretty reasonable. They have free delivery and some pieces look like they belong in a model home but are close to Ikea prices (maybe 30-50% increase). As much as I want to be a DIY person, I’d probably just mess it up. For some things in life, it’s just easier to pay for. When I moved here, I got literally everything from Ikea, so I want some nicer pieces now that I’m a little more ahead financially in life.

In 2018, I also didn’t buy cool kitchen gadgets that I was super excited to try out (fryer, sous vide machine, fancier food processor, air fryer). If we’re thinking long-term, those items could save me a ton versus buying restaurant food for takeout whenever I craved karaage or fried calamari.

I think my love of saving and value is ingrained in me, so I don’t think I’m going to go crazy with my spending. I’ll still take a look at my spending at the end of the month in Personal Capital, but won’t guilt myself over it from day to day.

On the journey to FI, it should be to get your budget in order with savings first, then learn new skills to get a higher salary, and then spending a bit of spare time on side hustles if you’d like. I get a lot of questions on how to get a six-figure salary, and if you’re looking for a corporate six-figure salary that doesn’t have really bad gatekeeping, the answer would have to be programming/web dev/etc.

Learn some basics, go to code school for less than a year, and watch your salary skyrocket. Another benefit to these jobs is that even start-ups and tech companies are welcoming remote workers. If you’re ok with moving, making six-figures while moving to an LCOL location will decrease your financial independence timeline by a ton.

Side Project Goals

Birds Of A FIRE

This blog has been an incredible side project. A friend made the comment that if we’re going by the fact that blogging is passive at a certain point, then going by the 4 percent rule, I’ve reached FI. It’s a funny way of looking at it, and not one I totally agree with because I’d suspect maintenance would be needed at 5-10 hours per week, but it’s a pretty interesting way of thinking.

As your blog grows, so does its DA. If your blog posts are already ranking, more links to your site increase your DA, which snowballs into more pageviews, conversions, etc.

Just look at the case studies of Mr. Money Mustache, Mad Fientist, Root Of Good, etc. who barely post once per month and still make at least a few thousand. Once you have enough passive traffic via Pinterest, your email list, SEO, FB ads, etc, and you’ve written enough content that you can create a lengthy email sequence of posts your email subscriber hasn’t read yet, then it’s quite a nice chill income stream.

Of course, if you’re trying to run a million dollar blog on 5-10 hours of work I’d be suspect if this is possible for everyone (unless maybe you’re MMM or MSOS), but I don’t see why a 5-10k/month blog couldn’t be on mostly autopilot once you set it all up.

In late 2020, I really hope to be traveling the world while blogging — I’ve always wanted to tour the world, and it’s definitely better to do it while young. Making the same amount of money from my blog as from my actual job would let me not feel like I was making a choice between money and dreams. As someone who came to this country when she was young and didn’t speak any English, I really feel like it is a disservice to all the work my parents have done to raise me to quit my job without a firm backup plan.

Things I don’t have to pay for if I work from home and other Pros:

  • Time (5 hours commuting each week to work!)
  • More time, as my FT job hours are roughly 1.5+ normal FT jobs
  • Subway/bike pass
  • Dry cleaning
  • De-stressing from work (which is at least a few hours per week)
  • Lunch is cheaper at restaurants than dinner for the exact same thing
  • Fewer people when I run errands
  • FEIE tax deduction (100k tax-free! Minus self-employment tax) if I travel the world, plus housing deduction
  • Working/traveling other countries is cheaper than NYC

Things I do have to pay for/Cons:

  • Health Insurance (though maybe I can get an HSA?)
  • Random free work meals
  • Random free work events (goodbye box seats!)
  • Home office (but tax deductible?)


  • 2x Blog Posts per week
  • Blog Income > Job Income by Mid-2019
  • 12-Week Year Schedule met

Side Project #2

Whereas the blog doesn’t have any physical products, the second side project is an e-commerce site.

This one has been in the making for close to three years. Never give up on your dreams. Sometimes you just need a little bit of extra experience and skill to launch it.

In the past year, I’ve learned a lot of the skills necessary to run side project #2 and am grateful things came up so it got delayed because I feel like we’re in a better place now that we know the basics and have pivoted a little.

This time though, we’ll have to actually launch, even if it doesn’t do well. The initial startup capital is only a few thousand, and we’re ok with losing that. We’re young, have great skillsets and even if this doesn’t work out, we have backup plans.

This site should also be easier to run than Birds of a FIRE because we’ll have two people working on it with different skillsets. We’ll be able to leverage the best skills of the both of us, and putting two people together builds products faster than 2 people separately.

Measurement: Spend 10 hours a week on SP#2. Write 1 blog post per week for it to reach 25,000 organic page views by the end of the year. Achieve $10k in revenue/mo.


A minimalist dream. Though there are a lot of windows there…

I’ve never been the best with organization, but now I start each morning with an affirmation so I can begin changing my mindset about that.

I’ve always loved random cute stuff, but I’ve realized in the 3 years I’ve lived in NYC, I hadn’t really used them. They just sat in the closet.

Also, I have a ton of clothes. I’ve donated a few bags to the Salvation Army each year and haven’t bought anything this year, but there still seems to be an excess! One trick I’ve used is to hang all the clothes hangers backward and then hang the hanger the other way when I wear it. That’ll tell me if I’ve worn a clothing item in the past year.

In 2019, I’ll be purchasing a dresser as well, since stuffing my closet of clothes makes me less likely to venture into it and pick out clothing. I also really like the Marie Kondo dresser organization hack where you make all your t-shirts vertical instead of horizontal so you can see which it is.

Firebear got a paper shredder, which makes shredding all my old papers fun.

Measurement: Prune 15 percent of the closet. Get rid of everything knick-knacks that aren’t used for decoration or have utility. I also plan to digitize important documents to Dropbox.

Spend 1 hour decluttering every Saturday.

Cooking Goals

I’ve wanted to be a good cook for a while. Home cooked meals just feel so much heartier at times.

At the same time, I also love restaurant food. So I’m going to combine the best of both.

Every 2 weeks, I’ll cook or bake a new recipe. A lot of recipes are similar, so I think just learning one recipe every two weeks will make a big difference. For example, I started baking chicken thighs a couple of weeks ago. It takes me 10 seconds to put the chicken into the fridge from the freezer to defrost in the morning, then another 2 minutes to slap some spices on those drumsticks, put some aluminum foil beneath them, bake them, and baste them with oil halfway through for some good old crispy skin.

I’ve loved meal planning for a while, but freshly cooked food tastes better in some cases: meat, crispy food, spongey-food for desserts, etc. Plenty of food tastes better with meal planning and letting sit for a while: soups, cheesy food, fudge, etc. I’m excited to take the Gordon Ramsey 2 part Masterclass so I can learn the basics.

I’m trying to balance freshly cooked meals with meal planned ones for a variety of textures, tastes, and pairings.

Measurement: Cook one new recipe every 2 weeks.

This is the first year I’ve planned out my year and tracked actions, and I’m pretty sure it’ll lead to a year of growth and productivity. How do you guys track your New Years Resolutions? Any tricks?

Author: Olivia

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10 thoughts on “2019: The Year Of Growth

  1. Man, these are some ambitious (but amazing) goals!

    I’m jealous that you building has cardio classes – that’s crazy convenient. Living in a big city has its perks.

    I’m also thinking about getting into climbing this year. The local climbing gym has weight areas and yoga classes, so a few added bonuses. Very basic question though: you always need to climb with a friend right? How’s that work if you just want to drop in?

    I’m turning my hangers backwards too – that’s such a great easy way to measure usage.

    I’ll be curious to hear what you think of Masterclass. There’s a few on there that I’ve been interested in, but haven’t yet pulled the trigger on. Im thinking about doing a similar cooking challenge though, where I focus on a specific cuisine type for a month and make as much of it as I can. Any specific food goals there?

    The programming goals involve some serious time. Don’t get too down if those end up taking a really long time at first, then get much faster. I’ve spent months creating things to lot to be able to create a second version in 20 minutes.

    Good luck with 2019!

    1. Some nice perks for sure!

      So if you’re bouldering, you don’t need a friend to belay you since it’s 15-20 feet off the ground and you’re not attached to a rope. The belayer is the person on the ground holding onto the other end of the rope. Our gym has a wall of autobelays (Maybe 15 ish routes). The autobelay does the work of a belayer for you. Clarification: the autobelay is only good for toprope, there is no equivalent for lead. Downsides are you can’t rest on the wall bc once you fall/let go of the autobelay you go all the way down. There are two levels of certifications for belaying, toprope and lead, so you’ll have to pass each one first. Our gym also has a system where if you want a partner you take a green tag, put it on your harness and write down your name if you came alone and want a belay partner.

      So many crazy talented people on there! For cooking I want to do that, but I just don’t think there’ll be enough time for it for me:(. Since you have much more free time, I think the best way to learn would be to go through Kenji’s food lab book to understand the science behind food (you can get all the info for free by reading his food lab posts on serious eats, but I just paid for the book), then go through the phaidon cuisine cookbooks (bonus, they double as really pretty cookbooks and have book sets on their site). For me, I’m just trying to recreate some restaurant favorites at home bc if I love them at a restaurant, I know I’ll keep eating it if I cook it at home. I think I’ll be a super good chef after I’m FI and have some more time!

      Once that template gets done for some things I’m going to be super excited :)!

  2. good call on developing a fitness habit while young. i just turned 50 last year and never let it lapse too far, thankfully, but it’s easier to maintain than to let it go and catch up. i’m lucky to have a work gym and you’re right about just showing up. once i get in there i just run 3 strong miles and stretch a little after and do a set of pull ups or dips. you just gotta show up, like many other things in life.

    cooking is a long journey and we save a ton by barely eating out except on vacations or very special occasions. it’s not the food cost of dining out but the wine as we like good stuff and i loathe the markup at restaurants. we’ve been sous viding for a few years now and love it, but only use it once every couple of weeks.

    our goals aren’t net worth related either but more like fully funding 2 roths and finding mrs. smidlap some agreeable part time work. FI gives you the nice option of saying no to stuff that doesn’t work for your life. decluttering is on the ongoing list too. happy new year and good luck.

    1. That’s awesome! You probably look way younger than 50!

      Oh, that’s a good point. The wine is pretty expensive — we don’t drink so we don’t experience this but the food is still a ton more expensive than cooking it at home (though fair, because of labor + rent, etc).

      Part-time work would be great! Seems decluttering is universal for us all! Minimalism is super in! Happy new year and good luck to you too Freddy!

  3. Really like that you have these fitness goals in mind. As someone who used to frequently hit the gym, once you create a routine to go 3-4 times a week you get into the habit of working out and that’s what your mindset wants to be.
    Also, I can say that you need to up your goals all the time in order to see results. For example, once you can deadlift 60 pounds with ease then you need to raise it 65 or maybe 70.
    From the success you had from this blog, I’m sure that you’ll be able to take that passion to your fitness goals too.

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