New Year’s Goals 2018 Edition

Welcome to 2018. Surprisingly, I had a backlog of blog posts ready, so my New Year’s Goals are the second (not the first) of the year. Like many others, I put together a list of goals for the new year. However, I differentiate my system from Resolutions (with their high failure rate) by calling them Goals. It might seem like that wouldn’t count for much, and frankly, you would be right.

Overall, I was pleased with how last year’s goals went, so I did Alex Vermeer’s 8760 Hours again to evaluate the current state of my life and what my ideal life looks like. I compared those two lives and created several goals for the new year to move towards that ideal life.

Before diving into new goals, let’s review how my 2017 New Year’s Goals went.

Old 2017 Goals

1. Establish a morning and evening routine.

My first post of the year was the long explanation of progress on this goal. In short, I’m very happy with my new routines. Although I think I handle individual tasks well, I have difficulty maintaining motivation on regular, long-term tasks. For those, I needed routines. Amongst other daily tasks, I read the news and books more consistently, and I even start running three times a week right after waking up.

2. Be more present.

I came up with this goal because I tend to focus on the future and don’t “stop to smell the roses.” I called out two specific behaviors to fix: looking at the ground while I’m walking and not making eye contact.

I didn’t make much progress on this goal. I think it was a poorly designed goal because I never figured out how to determine if I had succeeded or not. In my morning routines, I am now regularly meditating and am developing better mindfulness. It is related to this doesn’t but doesn’t exactly fit, so this was a failure.

3. Learn web design.

I did it. At the beginning of the year, I was embarrassed by the design of my personal projects. I finished the year by updating this blog and writing about it. I came up with a process to design a website: figure out the purpose and concept, research similar sites, sketch out several options, and then build it.

I’m proud of the current designs for my blog, Spawning Tool, and foodmarks. However, I also learned that design is not just about final result: it’s about the motivation. A website can look good and be easy to use, but that can happen by accident. The design process I went through is about discovering problems and validating a particular solution.

4. Publish a one-shot RPG adventure.

Done. I published “Spies Like You” and also wrote about that process. I set this goal to play more D&D and also learn a many related skills. At the beginning of the year, I was DMing once a month with a group online. Now, I still have that group, I DM an in-person game roughly every other week, and have been attending Adventurer’s League at a local game shop. Along the way, I drew maps using GIMP, read more fiction, and spent many bike commutes practicing voices and sounding crazy to passing pedestrians.

New 2018 Goals

1. Draw well.

With my 2017 goal of “Learn Web Design,” I hoped to develop my artistic ability. However, having finished that goal, design feels less creative than I thought it would be. Perhaps design was never what I thought it was. Maybe just learning how to do it took the magic out of it.

Since I was trying to develop my artistic style with my design process, I did a few other artsy projects. The main project was working through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain over the past few months. I’m roughly half way through the book and maybe 8 exercises through. I still draw like I did in elementary school, and I want to do better than that.

“Draw well” isn’t quantifiable, but I think I will know when I’m happy with it. Although I have been breaking up my goals year-by-year, drawing is a continuation of my design goal, and I hope to finish the book before the end of the year. If I’m happy with my drawing, I may move onto other goals. If I’m not, I will keep going until I’m happy with it.

2. Work through the cookbook Plenty.

Despite being my most consistent hobby out of survival, cooking has never been included in my New Year’s Goals before. I learn gradually through websites, cookbooks, and podcasts, but mostly through culinary failures. However, I want to be more deliberate in becoming a better chef.

We have a shelf of cookbooks that I love but don’t use enough. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty is all vegetarian, and for both diet and sustainability reasons, I want to reduce my meat consumption. I also don’t know much about this cuisine and style, so I hope I enjoy learning and eating it.

3. Submit an iOS app to the App Store.

Having worked as a web developer for my entire career, I am pretty comfortable building web apps. I also really enjoy using desktop browsers. However, the world is now mobile, and I haven’t kept up. I had a brief stint with Instagram but otherwise avoided mobile games and social media apps.

Even if I don’t understand how “young people” use their phones today, I should at least understand how to build them as a professional skill. It’s still building apps, but it’s new technology and new patterns, and I’m excited to learn that.

4. Study a book.

In other news, I read 32 books last year. I’m glad I set a bedtime routine to crank through more of my reading list. In reviewing the books I read in 2017, I noticed that I hadn’t read the types of books I had imagined. Specifically, I imagined myself reading more classics and science.

I can fix that by reading more, but an annual Reading Challenge of X books encourages breadth and not depth in reading. I do want exposure to a variety of knowledge in books, but I also want to dive deep into meaningful texts.

Many people find this depth in reading through religious texts such as the New Testament or the Bhagavad Gita. Since I’m not religious, I will try to find a meaningful, secular text to dive into.

(Note: I was inspired to set this goal by several posts from the Art of Manliness, which I highly recommend to the currently manly, aspiring manly, and manliness ambivalent).

Bonus: my 2018 non-goals

There’s a semi-famous story of Warren Buffett’s prioritization strategy. First, write down your top 25 goals. Next, circle the top 5. Those all go on your list. The other 20 should be avoided at all costs.

In doing 8760 Hours, I had many other ideas of things I want to do. They all sounded awesome to me, but knowing that I shouldn’t spread myself too thin, these are some of my 2018 non-goals until I manage to finish off some of the others.

  1. Work with blockchain technology. The media and therefore the public has been in a flurry about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies recently. The underlying technology has promise, and I only have a surface understanding of it. It would be exciting to dive deep, but until I knock down  my other technical goal, this has to wait.
  2. Write fiction. After having written a one-shot adventure, I became interested in doing more storytelling. Being a writer and being a DM are very different, and I would like to do more writing. However, I haven’t completed my drawing goal yet, so it has to wait.
  3. Learn Chinese. I still regret that I’m only fluent in one language. I have a bit of Cantonese vocabulary practice in my routine, but I would need to dedicate a lot more time and energy to becoming fluent. It just isn’t a top priority yet, so I won’t invest more effort there.

Happy New Year, and good luck on your goals as well!

Routines, Running, and Getting Things Done

I love organization and task management tools. Whether it’s a one-off task like returning library books or a recurring task like calling my parents, I know I can’t remember everything that I need to do. I need systems to remember for me, and I’m always improving those systems (with blog posts to prove it). Continue reading “Routines, Running, and Getting Things Done”

I Updated my Blog!

When I set my 2017 goal of “Learn Web Design,” I wanted to do something creative. Because I spend all day building websites designed by others, I could learn more about how those designs came together and explore my artistic side. Earlier this year, I already redesigned at Spawning Tool and foodmarks. My last design project of the year is my last major website: this blog. Continue reading “I Updated my Blog!”

“Spies Like You” is published!

I’m excited to announce that I have achieved #4 of my 2017 New Year’s Goals: I published a one-shot RPG adventure called “Spies Like You” earlier this month. Although it was self-published, six people (with only one self-proclaimed shill) have purchased it so far, so with a grand total of $1.94, I am officially a professional writer.

Thank you WordArt for at least one graphic.

Continue reading ““Spies Like You” is published!”

Discovering My Web Design Mistakes

Although it is already February, I have just started my 2017 goal of learning web design. Since I prefer to learn through doing, I decided to start with my primary side project, Spawning Tool, to develop my skills. On Spawning Tool, StarCraft players can browse replays and guides submitted by other players to find strategies to try out in their own games. I have had a lingering concern about the home page content but couldn’t figure out what needed to change. Since that is the landing page for most visitors, it was a good place to start my design journey.

I asked my coworker Alex, a designer, how to learn web design, and he recommended that I look at other websites and pick out what design elements I like and don’t like. Following his advice, I picked out three sites similar to Spawning Tool in some way and compared their home pages.

Continue reading “Discovering My Web Design Mistakes”

New Year’s Goals 2017 Edition

It’s 2017, and it’s a time for new beginnings. In fact, it’s a time for new beginnings to new beginnings because this year, I have graduated my “New Year’s Hopes” to “New Year’s Goals”. For years, I have written up a mishmash of aspirations. This year, I will write up a mishmash of aspirations that I have a loose plan to complete.

Actually, I ended up taking my annual goals quite seriously this year. After reflecting upon this past year, I saw the wonderful things happen that I didn’t plan for. I also saw the missing things that I wish I would have done. And in the end, life happened. That’s a situation I am familiar with. It’s the same situation as going to the grocery store without a shopping list. It’s the same situation as having an only growing list of movies to watch. It’s the same situation as Dota 2 mid-game where your team wanders around until you randomly run into the enemy and just end up fighting.

This is what happens when you haven’t established any priorities and therefore have no plan on making anything happen. Sometimes it turns out well because serendipity is wonderful and should never be lost. But it’s also really nice to have a vision and work towards it.

Because I enjoy systematizing thinking, I ended up doing Alex Vermeer’s 8,760 Hours. It’s a process for breaking down your entire life into different aspects to analyze how things are going (a “snapshot”), where you would like to be (your “ideal you”), and what short-term goals will get you there. Continue reading “New Year’s Goals 2017 Edition”

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.

New Year’s Hopes: 2016 Edition

Despite this not being my first blog post of the year, I have not forgotten about New Year’s Hopes. As a reminder, New Year’s Hopes are like Resolutions, except with less of the false sense of confidence. Before diving into this year’s, let’s review last year’s hopes.

Old 2015 Hopes

1. Get more sleep.

Technically, this went well. Julie and I managed to adjust our sleep schedule back about a half-hour to get from 7 hours of sleep to 7 1/2 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I think that 7 1/2 hours of sleep is still not enough. I think it’s telling that I thought that a good goal for 2016 would be to get more sleep and had totally forgotten that it was a 2015 goal.

As such, this goes in as an unofficial 2016 hope to get more sleep, where more sleep is defined as 8 hours. To get there, I think I need to start getting ready for bed at 10PM and have lights out at 11PM. One suggestion I read somewhere was to do a mini turndown service to start the shutdown process. Maybe I will try that.

2. Spend my time better.

Reflecting on this goal, I have no idea if I was successful with this or not. Unfortunately, it seems very difficult to quantify, but again, I had come to a similar type of goal for 2016 without remembering that I had done this one. That probably means that I did not satisfy this goal. Unlike the previous goal, however, I will not repeat it because i don’t know how I would know if I had accomplished it.

3. Put together a digital family tree.

Surprisingly, this mostly happened. The main obstacle was putting together the application to store all of the data, and I actually managed to do that. The trick now is just to get the data in, and assuming I built it well, that shouldn’t be too tricky. I will have to make an Asana task for myself to do that, but I am ready.

New 2016 Hopes

1. Watch more TV.

It’s an unusual goal, and I admittedly am being sensational with the title. My real goal here is to watch less twitch.tv. I had initially started watching gaming streams to follow professional StarCraft, but I have been falling out of the eSports scene, and twitch just became a distraction while in-between more significant events and a procrastination tool. Since I am mainly interested in the games rather than the community aspect of twitch, I just wasn’t getting much value out of it.

On the flip side, I am notoriously bad at watching TV and have taken far too long to watch too little. There are many reasons, but I think a primary one is that I feel that the right way to watch is to dedicate time to fully watch episodes without multi-tasking. Realistically, I just can’t watch all of the TV I want to in that fashion, and there is a lot of TV I am probably willing to watch while distracted. Examples include Reboot, Archer, and Star Trek: Enterprise.

So my hope is to watch less twitch and watch more TV.

2. Sunset some of my commitments and projects.

I (egotistically) think I am pretty good about following through on a lot of tasks and commitments. I have multiple active side projects (as listed on my website) and partake in many hobbies (often with friends). Most people tend to seek advice about how to complete projects, but I tend to have more issues figuring out how to finish up with ongoing responsibilities and move on when they have become more of a burden than benefit to myself.

I think the issue goes down to a core belief that the best things in life like friendships or skills should be permanent, lifelong commitments. As noble as that sounds, however, some things are meant to be fleeting through different stages of life. I think I need to be more realistic when things aren’t working out and not feeling guilty about letting down those who might be impacted.

All of this is, of course, coming from the guy who just picked up the tuba again after about 8 years and is trying to revive his blog. To do those things, however, I need to make time, so I hope I can deliver on this goal.

3. Express gratitude on a daily basis.

I don’t have a reference at the moment, but according to science, one happiness-creating habit is showing gratitude regularly. The most common method is to write down a few things you are grateful for every night before going to sleep, but I think that expressing gratitude to someone else or keeping it in mind through regular life all broadly fall into the category. Regardless of the efficacy, it just seems like a good idea for being more conscientious and maintaining perspective in my life, especially given how lucky I have been.

This is a minor digression, but having not grown up in a religious household, my family never said grace before meals. As such, the practice never meant much to me before, but in the lens of this hope, saying grace seems like a great way of regularly expressing gratitude. I hope to be able to do something similar, if without the religious connotations.

New Year’s Hopes: 2015 Edition

Welcome to 2015. Let’s avoid the cliches and get to the hopes. If you haven’t read previous ones, hopes are like New Year’s resolutions except named less strongly despite a similar intent. So, let’s review last year’s hopes.

Old 2014 Hopes

1. Make something creative and physical.

Julie and I did wall art! Well, we haven’t quite gotten it onto a wall, but I used acrylic paints on a small canvas to recreate an image of a roundabout. I figured I would start easy with something less organic. It wasn’t great, and it was only once, but we did it. I can’t really take full credit for this one because Julie, not the hope, was the driving force, but it was done. Continue reading “New Year’s Hopes: 2015 Edition”

New Year’s Hopes: 2014 Edition

Happy New Year everyone. I will continue my annual tradition of New Year Hopes, which are like New Year’s resolutions, except that they’re called something different because I was trying to be different when I started them. And now, it’s a tradition, so I’m stuck with it.

First, let’s review last year’s hopes. Continue reading “New Year’s Hopes: 2014 Edition”