Progress over perfection: a goal-setting update

I’m in two minds as I start this post. According the the hand-written, makeshift blog post calendar I made for last month and hung on the bedroom wall, this is supposed to be a post recapping my progress against the goals I set for the month of May.

Before I even open that link I know I’ll be lucky to hit more than a couple of the 12-odd tasks I set for myself. And a big part of me wants now to lie; to tell you I did read the books and I did do the exercise and I did tick the boxes, even though I know in my gut in my head in my hours spent on Instagram that none of that is true.


Cute photo for Instagram. Felix and I in Maubisse last weekend. 

That part of me is defensive; defiant. “It doesn’t matter if I haven’t done everything; it’s the intention that counts,” it says. Set lofty goals so any progress towards them is achievement in itself.

But the other part of me is a little less lenient; a little more critical.

“However you spin it to yourself you still haven’t finished the list,” it says. “You made those goals because you wanted to do those things, not because you wanted to teach yourself a nice lesson about being gentle with yourself.”

I went to bed with a tea and a book before 10pm last night; that’s where I can find kindness; not in a to-do list that I’ve made to get me closer to where I want to be.


Across six categories I set an ambitious list of 24 things I wanted to achieve by the month’s end. Here’s how it went.

Admin goals

  1. Sort out ING bank card
  2. Organise Australian SIM
  3. Book Bali flights
  4. List car for sale

Achieved: 2 of 4


Dili skyline, 7am, iPhone camera.

I’ve finally fixed a problem with my Australian phone number and listed my Dili car for sale. I’ve made the bank card task enormous in my head (and my cash salary allows me to ignore it), and the friends we were meeting in Bali have now decided to come to Timor, so I didn’t need to book flights.

A promising start!

Health goals

  1. Revive sourdough starter
  2. Weekly yoga
  3. Start going to circuit
  4. Revive Monday cooking

Achieved: 2 of 4


We’ve made vegetarian lasagne, sweet potato gnocchi, and Korean pancakes. Read about that night’s drama here.

The sourdough starter remains patiently waiting and circuit is to me still a pipedream. But Felix and I have this month cooked three times (only skipping one week, where we were invited to dinner at the house of a friend we’ve previously invited to Monday night cooking). The week we cooked sweet potato gnocchi and repurposed the remaining dough for burger patties was a highlight.

Work goals

  1. Send five pitches
  2. Take profile-writing course
  3. Organise for Laura to teach me manual camera settings
  4. Earlier starts

Achieved: 1 of 4

IMG_1526[1]Cute work picture at my new job! By Sarah Wiles. 

We could call this two of four, if cancelling is permitted: Laura and I have successfully made and bailed on a plan to practise cameras together three times. I totally forgot the profile-writing course, whoops, and was so busy writing the commissions I received from the 12 (!) pitches I sent.

Creative goals

  1. Make a zine
  2. Read five books
  3. Ask for resin supplies
  4. One more guitar chord

Achieved: 1 of 4


I think I spent more time performatively Instagramming my books this month than I did actually reading.

I forgot the zine, read three of five books, failed to put my postage order in, and only scraped through with the chord on a technicality: Felix taught me a ukelele chord yesterday.

Writing goals

  1. Blog three times weekly
  2. Revive journal
  3. Short story entry
  4. Update portfolio

Achieved: 0 of 4

Despite setting a lofty goal mid-month to blog daily until June, I didn’t quite make it. And my slower pace at the start of the month had me producing 11 posts total in May – just under the 15 thrice-weekly required of me. Any other writing beside what I was doing for work fell completely by the wayside.

Environment goals

  1. Host swap meet
  2. Spend big money on good clothes
  3. Plant basil
  4. No plastic bags

Achieved: 1 of 4


Stuff for the swap! Scuse the foot.

I hosted the swap meet! And chose the clothes to buy but didn’t have enough money in my account for the transaction (see above re bank card problem). I started storing my bote, hand-woven Timorese basket, in my car, so I could reduce the number of plastic bags I was taking home, but I did over-fill the bote a few times and have to take some heavier items in bags.

Overall, that’s a total of seven of 24.

Writing this out reveals to me the flaw with this method, and perhaps explains the tension between my thoughts: most of my goals were objective, final, and outcome-focused. I failed at my plastic bag goal because I did take home plastic bags, even though I made a small and deliberate shift to my behaviour by carrying my bote to the shops. Three weekly blogs means I have to sit down and write something, even if I don’t have anything to say.

How can I continue this month to work towards what I want to achieve without being hardline or overly permissive?


Felix carrying his bote in the supermarket a few weeks back. These cost like, $2. 

I have no easy answer to that question. I return to what I closed that May goals post with, and a reminder to myself while I did knock off just seven things, I wouldn’t have done half of that without the goals as guide. Circling ever closer to where I want to be.

Said out loud to set an intention and because I’m not currently doing any of these things, except the reading and pitching: so even if I fail I’ve succeeded.

New goals coming for a new month. I turned the calendar over last night.



2 responses to “Progress over perfection: a goal-setting update”

  1. […] had mixed results with both the list and the work: May was my busiest work month on record, with a new job […]


  2. […] The time I fucked up Korean pancakes. The time I fucked up a reading list. The time I fucked up a list of goals. The time I fucked up a driving lesson. The time I fucked up a work meeting. The time I fucked up […]


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