It’s funny how taking a week off work can feel so much longer.
This was the first full-on vacation I’ve taken since May. I never checked my work email, Slack, or Zoom. I even unplugged from my non-work projects. (Being under the weather for a few of those days certainly helped with the disconnect.)
That unplugging gave me time to reflect. Now, as I reboot my routine for 2017, I have a set of resolutions (or themes, or goals…) on my mind for this new year.
One overarching lesson from last year is that my attempts at radical change or taking on big projects fall flat. What does work, and what worked repeatedly in 2016, was breaking down big ambitions into smaller tasks.
Throughout last year I found that completing something once a day, or once a week, could add up to something much bigger. And it’s so much easier than trying to conquer something big all at once.
I realize how obvious that sounds.
We’ve all heard it before. I’m not telling you anything new. But if you seriously stop and consider what you’re doing every day…
What does it add up to?
Does it contribute to something bigger?
Or is it just keeping you from something important?
Get rid of the cruft. Work on the big stuff in smaller chunks.
Anyway… here’s what I want to do this year:
1. Take better care of myself.
I hit the gym semi-regularly over the past year, which was good, but I’ve neglected other aspects of my health. My eating habits have been particularly bad. Too much snacking.
So, how will I change my eating habits in 2017? By replacing the bad, easy things with good things that are nearly as easy to do.
First to go: Replacing refined carbs with fruits and veggies. Bread and peanut butter is out. (PB&J’s are a huge weak point for me.)
We purchased a heavy-duty blender to crank out smoothies, which have been great for curbing my snacking.
Cardio is another weak point for me at the moment. Cycling was my thing for a long time while I lived and worked downtown. It played an important role in helping me lose weight a few summers ago, and it was my main method of transportation. (Other benefits included less money spent on transit, plus it was the fastest way to navigate downtown traffic.)
Cycling isn’t as convenient when you’re working remotely and living in the suburbs. Sure, there are plenty of trails here in Scarborough, but it’s an activity rather than a utility. I have to go out of my way to hit those trails, rather than using them as I go about my daily routine.
How will I get more cardio on a regular basis? The plan is to put a spin bike in my office so I don’t have to go out to get a ride in. I’ll just hop on and go.
2. Attend more meetups and events.
I love working remotely. The flexibility is great. When I need to work without distractions, I just close Outlook and Slack.
The downside of working remotely is the lack of relationships and human contact. This is especially true now that I live out in Scarborough and spend more time at home.
Meetups were how I built my personal network when I first moved to Toronto in 2010. But over the last two years I’ve attended fewer and fewer. I’m starting to feel isolated.
In 2017 I want to attend more meetups and more events on a regular basis, getting myself out of the house to meet different people and learn new things.
Starting up WPToronto East in September of last year was a good first step. It forces me to attend at least one meetup once a month. But I need to do more than that.
How will I force myself to attend more meetups in 2017? By using them as a resource for supporting my other goals of the year. Meetups are handy for that. They put you in contact with other people who are working on, or interested, in the same things.
3. Create something new every day.
Writing, music, podcasts, photography, illustrations, paintings. Whatever. It’s creating for the sake of creating; to learn something new; to try something different.
I picked up a new Intuos tablet after Christmas. It’s permanently plugged into my workstation at home, sitting right next to my mouse. My hope is that the convenience of having it always at the ready will encourage me to pump out at least a daily doodle through 2017.
I also upgraded my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I wanted access to Premiere for basic video editing, Audition for experimenting with podcasts, and Illustrator for vector drawings. Hopefully I’ll be able to tie the whole suite into my creative ambitions for 2017.
How will I create something new every day? Having the tools at my disposal may not be enough, so I’m going to set aside a limited amount of time each day — part of my regular routine — to bang out something creative.
Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
So, by restricting myself to a limited amount of daily time, I’ll hopefully focus less on perfection and more on execution. In other words, just getting it done.
4. Improve my web development skillz.
It feels like my skillset is stuck a decade in the past. I haven’t gone far beyond HTML, CSS, and jQuery. My knowledge of other languages, libraries, and frameworks is superficial. (Lookin’ at you, PHP and JS.)
Ideally, in a few months, I’ll reach a point where I can bang together some useful apps without stressing about it. (Or, you know, at least build something cool.)
How will I expand my skillset? By setting time aside each week to read and follow tutorials without distraction.
I gave myself a head start over the holidays by jumping into React for Beginners. It was a lot to take on all at once, but it got me back into a distraction-free learning mode that I haven’t felt in a very long time.
5. Tinker with hardware.
I’d like to do more with my hands and tinker with some hardware. Nothing elaborate here, mostly just experimenting with Arduino and similar small-scale tech.
What inspired this?
Back in July I attended an in-class driver education program as part of my 2016 goal to get my license. One of the other folks in my group was a bright university student who had just started toying with home automation.
It wasn’t anything much — just opening his blinds at a set time every morning — but it was a start. So, how’d he do it? By buying cheap hardware online and following some tutorials. His nonchalant “I wanted to do it, so I did” attitude inspired me.
How will I start tinkering? By copying that university student. I’ll get my hands on cheap hardware and follow tutorials.
6. See more of North America.
I haven’t traveled much. Most of my travel experience has happened since joining GoDaddy, with trips to our offices in California and Arizona plus a smattering of WordCamps on the east coast.
I’d like to do more travel in 2017. North America has so much to see. I’d like to see more of it this year.
How will I see more of North America in 2017? By planning ahead and starting small. I have my eye on attending WordCamps (and similar events) closer to home. My hope is that by mixing a bit of business and pleasure I’ll be able to see more of our continent in small bites throughout the year.
7. Small road trips around Ontario.
Ontario is a beautiful province and I’m very proud to call it my home. I grew up in central Ontario’s cottage country and spent a few years out in Kingston during college.
Unfortunately, if you don’t drive, you’re not going to see much of what Ontario has to offer.
Now folks are generally surprised when they find out that I never learned to drive when I was a teenager. The TL;DR is that I didn’t have the means or justification for it. Transit was underwhelming but tolerable and taxis were fine in a pinch.
Moving to Toronto in 2010 made driving even less attractive. I was a single guy living downtown. I didn’t need a car. But as the years ticked by I started realizing what a hindrance it was not not be able to drive.
So one of my biggest goals for 2016 was to get my drivers license. It would be a first step towards getting on the road by the end of my 20’s. (Spoiler: I turn 29 in a couple of months.)
How’s it going? Well, I got my G1 in February of last year. In July I signed up for driving lessons at Canadian Tire and attended a week-long, in-class training program (mentioned above). In-car lessons started in August and continued in small spurts until October.
My nerves got the better of me during the road test in late December. I made a couple of stupid mistakes and failed. It was an embarrassing and disappointing and frustrating moment. But I’ve since booked another one for late January.
So if I fail again, I’ll book another test. And another. And another. I’ll keep on booking and trying until I nail it. If everything works out I’ll have my license (and my wheels) by the spring.
8. Spend more time with family.
My family is up in cottage country, and while I’m happy that GO Transit runs up there it’s far from an ideal travel arrangement. A 1.5 hour drive becomes a 2-3 hour trip. Then you’re stuck in a town where you’re relying on lackluster public transit, or pricey cabs, or family members to shuttle you around.
Not exactly enticing, is it?
Being able to drive — and having a car — means having the freedom to quickly get up there for a day. There doesn’t need to be any “travel plans” or “schedule”. You just go up and pop in. And that convenience makes it easier (and more likely) for these little jaunts to happen.
How will I spend more time with family? It’s largely dependent on how goal #7 goes. First comes the road test. Then the license. Then the insurance. Then the car. But once that’s taken care of? I can block off a couple of days on the calendar each month and then just go.
9. Read less fluff and read more books.
Most of my reading in 2016 consisted of email newsletters, blog posts, online articles, and so on. I didn’t unplug much at all through the year, so I just kept managing the chaos of Recommended Reads, skimming everything as it came through my inbox.
Taking a mini-break over the holidays gave me an opportunity to look back and reevaluate what I was reading.
My verdict is that there was too much noise. It was an unending downpour of opinionated outrage, regurgitated “advice”, and thin content that wasn’t worth clicking on in the first place.
So, in 2017, I’m aiming to be pickier about what I read online and I’ll spend more time with books – biographies, sci-fi & fantasy novels in particular.
How will I change my reading habits? By cutting back on my email subscriptions and reading two books a month. The inspiration comes from a tweet made by a colleague of mine:
— Shawn Pfunder (@pfunder) January 1, 2017
Now I’m going to assume Shawn meant “read 24 books in 2017” and not “write 24 books in 2017” (though I’m sure he could pull both off).
10. Write a book.
Back when I was in college, I had an instructor suggest that I try writing a book. The suggestion came about after a creative writing assignment. At the time, I thought it was a neat idea, but I never gave it much serious thought beyond that.
Why not change that for 2017?
I don’t know what type of book it will be — both non-fiction and fiction have their appeals — but I do know that NaNoWriMo happens in November and that’s certainly something to work towards.
How will I write a book in 2017? I mentioned it at the start of this post. Get rid of the cruft. Work on the big stuff in smaller chunks.
I can’t think of a “stuff” that’s much bigger than writing a book.
NaNoWriMo is in November. The rest of the year will be filled with research and planning, then November hits and 50,000+ words need to be written in a month.
So there you have it.
Ten resolutions/goals/ambitions for 2017. More will inevitably come up as the year progresses but I’ll try my hardest to map them back to one of these. (Financial fitness, for example, can tie into “taking better care of myself”.)
For more personal ambitions in 2017, I suggest taking a peek at the search results on WordPress.com. There’s an active community of bloggers over there, and the absence of “blogging for the sake of marketing” is a nice change.
Photo credit: Mari Helin-Tuominen via Unsplash