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.
Altogether, it probably took me about 8 hours to do in total, though the time flew by while doing it. I ended up using mind mapping software for the first time, and I loved it. It worked so well for me. I love taking notes. Specifically, I love taking notes in outline form. The biggest problem with outlines, however, is that they’re strictly linear, and sometimes that just doesn’t work for disparate ideas. Mind maps fixed that.
Anyways, out of that exercise, I naturally came to 4 different goals that nicely addressed many aspects of my life. Before I get to those, however, let’s see how last year’s hopes went.
Old 2016 Hopes
1. Watch More TV.
I mostly got there. The subtext of the goal was to watch less Twitch, and I am watching a lot less Twitch these days. In fact, these days, my video game viewing is down to Purge for learning in preparation of our corporate Dota 2 league and PiG for an unannounced Spawning Tool project. Besides that, I have pretty much gotten that out of my system.
I finished Reboot. I then watched 1 1/2 seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation at the beginning of the year before I dropped that for no specific reason. I think podcasts have filled in those gaps as I have started listening to a few more podcasts and also stopped listening to podcasts when I clearly am not paying attention.
2. Sunset some of my commitments and projects.
This was a big success. Various lingering commitments wrapped up and all for different reasons. For one, I officially announced an end. For another, someone else found someone to take over my role without any prodding from me. For another, I just let it fade away guiltlessly and closed out my notes on it.
In fact, I ended up looking for things to do again part-way through the year as I had more time than I expected and wanted to contribute more. In retrospect, that was likely my first realization about my lack of high level priorities. I made this hope because my commitments didn’t fit my abstract goals. I didn’t know how to use my time afterwards because I didn’t have concrete goals. So now I’m making goals.
3. Express gratitude on a daily basis.
Partial success. I made a daily TODO and ended up completing it 2 of every 3 days. It was an easy way to spend a minute a day reflecting on what had happened and appreciating the good parts. I have an idea for how to make a habit of it going forward.
New 2017 Goals
1. Establish a morning and evening routine.
Looking broadly at my life, there are a lot of things I want to do. I want to read more. I want to exercise regularly. I want to get enough sleep. All of these were past hopes and remain ongoing goals.
To address those, I had daily TODO tasks to complete each one of these, but realistically, I was only completing them half of the time. Noticing that I needed to do them only sometimes triggered the behavior. What I really need more than a reminder is structure, and that is something that better routines can address.
Every day is different, and when I get into it, it can be hard to even consistently spend 10 minutes a day doing something. However, putting regular tasks at the beginning and end of my day seems much more feasible.
This is no secret. People have done it forever. I needed to try and fail to accomplish the same daily tasks without a routine to understand why it is so helpful.
2. Be more present.
I have 2 bad habits that I wish I could fix: bad eye contact and looking at the ground when I’m walking. Both are related to looking in the wrong places, but both speak to a general concern I have that I tend not to very present.
I spend time reflecting on the past and planning for the future that I should spend in the moment. I multi-task when I should mono-task. I want to focus more on now to dig into the current situation. I want to be a better listener and enjoy walking through nature or on a busy downtown block.
3. Learn web design.
Specifically, I want to be able to design a website from scratch that I’m not embarrassed of.
I have built various websites and put together cool functionality, but without someone else’s hand involved, they all look terrible and do not have well-thought experiences and flows. Since I make my living as a web developer, it seems like a naturally complementary skill. Most of my professional growth has been strictly technical, and it would be nice to step outside of my role and grow laterally.
I don’t intend on putting my designer colleagues out of a job, but hopefully I will get far enough to appreciate more of their brilliance. And also not embarrass myself.
4. Publish a one-shot RPG adventure.
I love games, and recently, I have been really getting into traditional pen-and-paper role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons. The combination of storytelling and social interaction is so much fun, and I want to dive deeper than just running my game and polishing an entire adventure.
I think this will be a hard project, which itself is good. Specifically, I see 2 really good parts to it. First, it means that I will have to learn and develop a lot of different skills that I can hide in my own games. I will have to learn to draw to come up with better maps. I will have to become a better writer and storyteller. I will have to read more books, play more video games, play in other DM’s games, and just expose myself to more good stories.
Second, I will just have to play a lot. I intend on playtesting the adventure heavily, and I am very excited about the idea of sitting down with every willing group of friends and strangers to play more RPGs. It gives me one more reason to randomly reach out to old friends* and do something creative. That just sounds like fun.
Happy New Year, and best luck of with your new year’s goals as well!
*Let me know if you would like to play! The offer is open to players of any past experience