Hitting Reboot For 2016

Wil Wheaton recently wrote a post about rebooting his life, which got me thinking about steps I could take to try and improve my life as well. The new year is also fast approaching so it’s pretty much perfect timing on my part to start reassessing where I am and what I want in the foreseeable future.

Truth be told, currently I’m pretty happy where I am. I’ve got a good job that sees me interacting with students and colleagues every day rather than being trapped at a desk for hours on end; I’m happily married to a wonderful woman that constantly surprises me with her kindness and generosity; I’m living in a country that has a low crime rate and a high regard for the concept of community. These are all things that make me glad to get up every morning and head off to work and I wouldn’t exchange any one of them for all the money in the world.

So with all that out the way, what are the things I want to do to try and ‘reboot’ my life?

  1. Exercise more
  2. Read more
  3. Study more
  4. Spend less
  5. Be more organized

Exercise more

Since moving to Japan more than 4 years ago my exercise routine has become rather… infrequent. A combination of longer working hours and much colder weather than back home in South Africa has seen me resorting to the odd session on an exercise bicycle or jumping around in front of my TV at the behest of a virtual trainer in Wii Fit U. Neither of those are enough to make me feel as though I’ve actually accomplished anything.

Spring and summer do at least afford me the opportunity to head outside and get back into a walking and jogging routine but I need to find some way to stretch that time out to cover more of the year. I’ve either got to look at braving sub zero temperatures when I get home after along day of teaching or I’ve got to join a local gym. The former option is probably more sensible as the gym membership fees in Japan are ridiculously high, even when compared to South Africa. I’ll take some time during the upcoming winter break over Christmas to look at winter running techniques and what sort of clothing I’ll need to layer up in if I’m to go running in the snow and ice that covers the roads here from December until February.

Read more

While the cold weather means running outside is terrible it also means that I have lots of time to spend reading indoors. Unfortunately most of that time I’m either watching YouTube, Netflix or gaming instead of reading. Growing up I was a voracious reader and I used to read through books in a matter of days. Nowadays 2 or 3 books are good for almost a year’s worth of reading and looking at my Goodreads profile does not make me proud of the progress I’ve made this year. I need to spend the cold nights under my kotatsu reading and journeying to other worlds and experiencing the adventures of characters as they wind their way through the pages of novels.

One way I want to try and achieve this goal is to try and work my way through a Terry Pratchett novel every month by spending 30 minutes to an hour after school every day reading when I get home or taking the time to unwind before bed by reading a few pages. The trick here is to try and make this a habit so that it becomes something that I do as a daily routine, that way it will be much easier to do and feel like less of an obligation.

Study more

By this I mean studying Japanese more. Every since I came back from my Canada honeymoon I’ve just had no motivation to study Japanese on a daily basis anymore. I’ve been busy at school as well so I haven’t had the chance to keep up to date with my kanji reviews on WaniKani and at last count I have to somehow work my way through 1,111 kanji reviews before I can even think about starting on any new kanji. When your study backlog gets that high then the last thing you feel like doing is trying to set aside two to three hours to sit in front of your PC looking at more than a thousand kanji.

Improving my Japanese level to N2 level is something that is of the utmost importance though for my future in Japanese as well as my family’s well-being. Most companies here in Japan look for N2 level Japanese from any foreigners that apply for work so if I’m not at that level I’ll be restricting myself to low level ALT teaching positions or grueling English school jobs that are more about trying to get the school as many new students as possible rather than actually teaching them anything.

So with that in mind I want to try and get back into the habit of working through kanji and grammar and putting what I learn into daily use so that slowly but surely I’ll be able to get more fluent over the coming months. It’s going to be a lot of work but it will pay off handsomely in the future if I’m willing to make a few sacrifices to my free time from now on.

Spend less

With the added responsibilities of a family and the looming end of my JET contract in site it’s also time for me to get serious about my finances. I need to try and make sure that I’m putting aside some money every month so that I don’t have to worry about living from paycheck to paycheck as well as covering any emergencies that might happen unexpectedly.

A lot of the work I’ll be doing in this area is to actually sit down and write down all my expenses. I’ve found that it’s far easier for me to visualize my spending that way and to see just where I need to cut back or take a closer look at.

Be more organized

2015 has been the year where I’ve realized that I need to try and be more organized. I’ve been worrying constantly that my lesson planning hasn’t been as good as it could be due to me not writing down all the activities and assignments I’ve done with my classes so that I can avoid repeating activities or using the same few activities which will become boring for my students.

My thinking here is to try and make full use of a planner / schedule to write out my plans for the week, activities I’m thinking of planning and ideas for my upcoming lessons as well. The more time I take to plan ahead and keep records of what I’ve done, the more prepared I’ll be when it comes to teaching which can only be a good thing for both me and my students.

And ever onward

So in a nutshell that’s my plan for the upcoming year, small changes which should lead to bigger improvements in my life and help me be healthier, happier and better in everything I do.

Of course it’s going to take a lot of effort on my part to make happen, which is why the changes I make are going to start of small in order to get me into a habit which should make it easier to improve faster and faster. Hopefully when I report back in a few months time I’ll be able to do a pretty positive post!

  • With regards to getting a handle on your finances, the best thing I ever did was start up some Google Doc spreadsheets and record each and every till slip that went through our wallets. That way I’ve got an exact view of our finances, meaning I’m much better equipped at saying yay or nay to spending decisions. (Example, it immediately highlighted the fact that Chantelle needed to get a real job and not just bake for a living! Man, children are expensive…)

    • Terrance

      Shot for the tip Craig!

  • Ryan Andre Lotter

    I don’t track each till slip but I also use a google doc spreadsheet to track my live financial position. And review my credit card statement every few days (actually pretty much each day). With each month, I have a set amount I need to retain in my account at the end of the month after debit orders and a surplus number I don’t want to move from, which allows me to see how much money I can still spend for the month….and try to spend less than that

    • Terrance

      That sounds like a pretty good system you’ve got going there!

      At the moment I enter all my receipt into a spreadsheet and do a monthly budget but at some point I’m going to have to start bringing the two together and make a running total of expenses on a weekly / monthly / yearly basis so that I can see what I need to cut back on.