Looking Back on my 2016 Milestones and Achievements

This past October, I went to my 5 year college reunion. I enjoyed catching up with many of my classmates, but I was surprised that I have been an adult for 5 years. The time truly went by too quickly, and without the regular progression from quarter to quarter, class year to class year, it’s easy to forget how much has happened.

Reflecting on 2016, it’s hard to remember how my life was different on December 31st, 2015, but were I to say that not very much happened, I know at least one person would be very disappointed with me. To appreciate the big accomplishments and wonderful things that happened, I thought hard and went through my calendar to journal out what happened over this past year. Here is a sampling of what I picked out:

  1. Julie and I got married! That was a fantastic party and a wonderful weekend to spend with the people most important to us.
  2. I joined the Foothill Symphonic Winds to play tuba. Most of what I forgot came back quickly, but really, what I appreciate is the feeling of being in a community with a shared purpose.
  3. At Zanbato, we changed a significant part of our technology while building a new product and flipping much of our engineering team. And it all went great.
  4. I replaced a flat tire and a broken light switch.
  5. I invited my neighbors over for a holiday cookie exchange. It was terrifying to meet people I hadn’t talked to for years, but it went great, and my neighbors are awesome.

There were 2 big themes that I noticed from the longer list.

First, most of the memorable moments involved other people. Spending time with friends, family, or even strangers seems valuable in itself regardless of what we were doing. I thought I would recognize more new skills, personal development, and completing goals. I’m glad for those things, but they didn’t quite make my list.

Second, there wasn’t much overlap with my Asana TODO list. Maybe it’s self-evident, but it seems odd that lists I review constantly to figure out how to spend my time didn’t pop out. Things like “reading the news everyday” or “watched 20 movies” just didn’t beat the singular events, planned or unplanned. The regularity, of course, makes each specific instance less significant, but I had hoped that those efforts had accumulated into a major achievement.

Over the past month, I came across two articles on Hacker News that made me think about where my TODO list fits into my life. The first was “Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News“: it criticized the value of “staying informed” and “being concerned”, which ran contrary to my post-election effort to diversify my new sources. The second was “Why time management is ruining our lives“: it pointed out the issues with the productivity industry, which made me rethink the diligence by which I maintain and use my personal TODO list.

Looking at my TODO list, I have roughly 3 different types of tasks and lists:

  1. Things that I need to do but would forget if I didn’t write it down e.g. “Call to reschedule my dentist appointment”
  2. Long-term goals broken up into consistent progress e.g. “Read a The Angry DM article every week”
  3. Tasks to live the life I want and be the person I want to be e.g. “Exercise everyday”

The first two types seem useful for organization. The last category is more troubling because I have effectively systematized my character and lifestyle into a TODO list. Not only does it seem like an odd way to live, it also requires constant review and introspection on whether those tasks are really what I want them to be.

For regular blog readers, you may be anticipating my New Year’s Hopes post. Usually, I think about my hopes as I’m writing them, but they have gotten wrapped up in reflecting on 2016. As I look back on this past year, I have also projected what I want this next year to be like. All of that should be aligned with my annual hopes as well as the TODO list that I use day-by-day.

I won’t spoil too much about my hopes in this blog post since that post is a ritual in itself. However, I hope it will be a more accurate representation of what I actually value in life rather than a smattering of goals. It would be too strong to call it my purpose, but maybe in a year, the big moments of 2017 will be less surprising to me.

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