December 30, 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, I’ve taken some time to reflect. I’m aware of this self-brag blogging cliché, but I’ve done this before and find some value from it. So without further ado, here’s just some of the highs-and-lows from this year.

  • 55 Books read
  • 26 Games played
  • 64 Podcast recorded
  • 3 Talks given
  • ~2600 Total tweets
  • 37 Blogs posted
  • 3 Side projects
  • 852 Total livestream viewers on Twitch
  • 24 Days closing all three rings on Apple Watch
  • 0km Run
  • 60m Swam
  • 116km On bike

I tried to set “SMART” goals this year. I like measurable goals but quantifying your life is a lot of work. This year I had a big goal of doing a sprint triathlon by the time I turn 40. I still have time to train for that I suppose and it’s something I’d like to pursue, but in the spirit of accountability, I completely failed on the running and swimming portions of this goal.

It’s embarrassing to fail on basic-ass exercise but putting on my growth mindset hat, there’s opportunity here. I also put my failed Twitch stream on there. I hope to pick that up again, doing more code in the future, but I can’t really just livestream client projects. It’s possible livestreaming isn’t compatible with my life right now.

On media consumption

I set a goal of 20 books last year. I didn’t ever think I’d end up picking up ~55 different books. It’s a weird but good mix of sci-fi, graphic novels, business books, a Japanese detective story from 1925, and a lot more. It’s all logged on my bookshelf if you’re interested.

My theme for reading this year was “Be Better at Business” and I consumed ~20 business and management books. I didn’t earn an ad hoc MBA, but I definitely feel more conversational in that domain now. Most importantly, I have firmer opinions now that aren’t just reactions to bad situations.

If I’m honest, I think I picked up too many books. It was great and it relatively easy to smash through an audiobook a week on my morning walks, but I plan to be a bit more casual going forward. I’m getting back in to graphic novels and podcasts again too.

For video games, I passed my goal of 19 games. As I talked about on Aside Quest’s 2019 GOTY episode, I played a lot of smaller games this year that I tracked on GG App. Next year I’d like to probably play fewer games but with bigger stories in 2020. I’m coming to terms with the fact that video games are hard to prioritize in my life.

The blogging lifestyle

I had a good clip on blogging this year with ~37 posts. Consistency was very low however, usually a small batch of posts each month. A consistent cadence would be more ideal. Weeknotes was supposed to address that issue but I only did 9 out of 52 weeks. Maybe quarterlies work better for digests.

I think too I get hung up on having blogging streaks and then dip into a micro-burnout. I sometimes wonder though if the best thing I could do for the ol’ blog is hire an editor or sign up for Grammarly. Is there an incremental improvement I could make that would improve the blog 10x? Open to suggestions.

Behind the scenes, I took all my drafts and put them in a kanban on Notion. This is maybe overkill but there are currently 91 drafts in various states. My trusty _drafts/ folder felt unmanageable and a kanban with various completion states feels much more apropos. I can also share drafts a little bit easier with Notion.

I’ve also initiated some process rules that require all new ideas to at least have an outline with three bullet points otherwise they face being moved to the deadpool. This is already helping with prioritization, writing, and moving articles closer towards completion. The act of dragging an article to the deadpool stings a bit and encourages me to at least write an outline for my idea.

On the RSS front, I had to burn down my 2000+ unread feeds a few times but I love that RSS exists and I can go to it on my terms, not be washed up in the busyness of Twitter. Perhaps I don’t need to enter the hell rectangle as much next year. In fact, I’ve installed the Screentime extension to lock myself out. I would be chuffed to see that “Total Tweets” stat cut in half.

Work-life imbalance

Work-wise it was a good fiscal year with a few twists and turns. It could have been all the business books I read, but I had quite a few personal breakthroughs about the kind of work I like. I even got to write about my self-discovery a bit on CSS-Tricks which was a career milestone for me even though I host a podcast each week with Chris Coyier. As it turns out, there’s a type of programming I enjoy more than others. And there are projects and parts of projects I enjoy and am more high functioning in than others. The simple act of taking a step back and asking myself “Do I like this?” and figuring out why and why not works wonders for me.

I’m also learning a lot about the kind of people I like to work with. In Good to Great, Jim Collins calls it “getting the right people on the bus”. It’s a blessed feeling to work with people I like and trust. The downside of discovering what you like is that it often comes at the cost of experiencing a toxic situation you did not like. Without going into too many details, this was certainly the case for me. It’s a bit shocking to be learning so much about myself this late in life, but better late than never I suppose.

As good as learning is, I certainly overworked myself this year. It was emotionally draining but more so the physical repercussions of overworking hit full force. My back went out and it took ~12 weeks of physical therapy to undo the pain and only now am I starting the journey toward health. Looking at my stat board, it easy to see I failed in the health and wellness category this year.

Heading into 2020…

My back going out for four months was probably my defining moment of 2019. I definitely don’t want to repeat that experience. I need to devote most of my mental energy towards stretching, exercise, and food. Unlocking that part of my life will let me accomplish more going forward.

On the work front, Paravel has a few plans hatching but my first quarter of business is mapped out and should be delightful and filled with the kind of people and work I like.

This is a tangent, but I’ve noticed myself being extremely bothered by suboptimal UX lately. Whether it’s the noodle restaurant that let me fail ungracefully and splatter sauce over my shirt before offering silverware or how my cat headbutts me every morning and takes away my agency… I feel like a dulled sense of User Advocacy has been reawakened and hope it can be channeled into work and not just angst towards teenagers.

I’ll be speaking at An Event Apart Seattle in May. There’s maybe a couple other conferences up in the air, but that’s all that’s confirmed at this point. I’ll also be attending VueConf US here in Austin in March. It’s been awhile since I’ve attended a conference without speaking and I’m excited to not have that responsibility.

Outside of work, I’ll be doing Shop Talk and Aside Quest. I have two toy apps in progress that may be available to playtest soon (written in Vue, natch! 😉). I’ll probably release them on subdomains like I did with Prompts. I’ve got a pile of project ideas in Notion: a book, apps, games, open source projects, a YouTube channel, and the stuff I already maintain that need some love as well. I think my ultimate goal is to get ten of these ideas “out there” in some form to see if they stick.

In 2020, I will be building my new shedquarters in the backyard! My office rental experiment this summer confirmed our feeling that working out of our home is complimentary to the lifestyle we want. I think the external office building will be just the right amount of work-and-home separation. It’s very exciting and I will post some updates but any significant investment is anxiety-inducing for me.

Resolutions? I want to head into 2020 being a bit more open and less objective based. Part of that is I don’t know what productivity looks like without a fully-functioning body and another part is that I don’t want to just be a slave to the hustle. I want to get lost in some tangents without having the guilt to keep moving forward.

That said, I think I can still probably pluck a handful of “measurable” goals for this year without crushing my own spirit.

Goal Progress
Couch-to-5K 0/5km
Swim 750m 0/750m
Release 5 side projects 0/5
Cook 10 things I’ve never cooked before 1/10
Hit diamond in Overwatch 2734/3000