2015 in review

In 2014, I wrote that I was looking forward to:

  • Improving my technical skills:
    • Getting even more deeply into Emacs and taking advantage of the many useful packages that are available
      • 2015: Got a little more used to nifty packages such as Hydra. Also organized a number of Emacs Hangouts, and started publishing weekly Emacs News
    • Writing shorter, better-tested code in Javascript and Rails
      • 2015: Picked up Jasmine for Javascript testing, refactored lots of my code into smaller functions, and played around with more NodeJS. Haven’t done a lot with Rails.
  • Writing with even more resonance and helpfulness: digging deeper into the things I’m learning and sharing them with other people in ways that help and engage
    • 2015: Wrote a number of other-directed posts in the first half of the year, and then fell off a figurative cliff writing-wise. Mostly just focused on taking notes for myself these days.
  • Successfully taking on more uncertainty with even better safety nets and equanimity
    • 2015: Pretty much all about this!

2016-01-02c 2015 in review -- index card #yearly #review output

I remember being a lot sleepier and more fuzzy-brained this year than I’d ever been, and yet the year turned out pretty awesome. My long-term preparations have been paying off: the programming and data analysis skills I use for consulting, the paperwork-handling processes that support my business, the savings that cover expenses and reduce stress, the philosophical framework that supports equanimity, the 5-year experiment that gives me flexibility of time, space, and activity.

2015 was more challenging than 2014. Possibly as difficult as 2005/2006’s homesickness and transitions, although of a different kind – like the low of a cold, but longer and more severe. Even writing took a dive, as it was hard to concentrate and follow thoughts through. I’ve been getting better at weathering these times, I think. I have the space to take it easy. More video games this year, mostly ones that W- and I play together. More cooking, tidying, walking, and sleeping, too.

A lack of energy forced me to strip things down to their essentials and give myself permission to be selfish enough to minimize anything that drained me, even other people’s wants or needs. It was a little odd swinging from hanging out at Hacklab and having deep conversations with friends in the first half of the year to hermit mode (even from friends and family) in the second half of the year, but I’ve loved the quiet and freedom of this little world of ours. I might gradually reach out more someday, especially as I learn to push back when I need to, and as I slowly regain that appreciation for other people’s interestingness. In the meantime, W- has been wonderfully supportive, and it’s been great to have the slack from our earlier preparations.

Despite this pulling-inward, there was also plenty of expansion this year. In sewing, I broke past some kind of wall that frustrated me before. I think picking a simple pattern and repeating it has helped me turn sewing into a relaxing way to make things I like more than the things I could buy. I learned how to laser-cut fabric, which was a fun way of adding even more geekiness to our everyday life. I swapped out my wardrobe for home-made things, often from fabric from the thrift store.

In terms of technical skills, I’ve gotten deeper into Javascript, NodeJS, and Emacs Lisp. I participated in two hackathons. My team’s meeting visualization won third place at one hackathon, and my library search results visualization hack won at the other. I’ve also switched back to Linux as my main OS, keeping Windows around for Quickbooks and other business-related programs. It’s fun being able to script all sorts of stuff again. The Emacs conference in August was a lot of fun, and I’m glad people figured out an excellent way to support both in-person and virtual participation – not just attendees, but even impromptu presenters.

I’ve been doing 1 to 1.5 days a week of consulting, gradually moving more of my tasks to other people in the team. I think I’ve been able to let go of more of my anxiety about this 5-year experiment; things seem to be working out nicely, so I don’t feel as worried about working on some grand plan or getting externally-validated stuff done. Instead, I’ve been focusing on working my own things, getting things ready for the next stage with plenty of personal projects and DIY skills, taking it easy when I need to. (We tiled part of the basement floor ourselves!)

I figure that this fuzzy-brain state might be a new normal, so it makes sense to figure out how I can make the most of it instead of being frustrated by it. That’s why I’ve been working on simplifying life, streamlining routines, automating what I can, and making checklists or documenting processes for things I need to do by hand. On the plus side, my internal observer makes the fuzziness more manageable, and I’ve been making my peace with the idea of growing slowly outwards from a small life.

Speaking of small chunks, I developed the habit of drawing index cards almost every day. Well, I eventually switched over to digital equivalents of index cards, since that was a lot of paper. It turns out that an index card has roughly the information density I can deal with on my tablet PC’s screen without zooming in. In addition to drawing a daily journal, I occasionally explore thoughts and chunk them up into larger blog posts. Drawing-wise, I tend to settle into a very simple and spare style, although maybe I should pay more attention to colour and other niceties. Despite their simplicity, the index cards have been handy for remembering little things about each day and building up thoughts over time.

Here’s how the time worked out:

Category 2014 % 2015 % Diff h/wk Diff in h/wk
Discretionary – Play 4.9 9.4 4.5 15.8 7.5
Personal 14.6 16.6 2.0 27.9 3.3
Sleep 36.9 38.0 1.1 63.8 1.9
Discretionary – Productive 7.8 9.0 1.1 15.1 1.9
Unpaid work 7.0 7.7 0.7 12.9 1.2
Discretionary – Family 4.0 4.0 0.0 6.7 0.1
Discretionary – Social 1.2 0.8 -0.4 1.3 -0.6
Business – Build 7.0 5.7 -1.3 9.6 -2.2
Business – Connect 4.2 2.4 -1.8 4.0 -3.1
Business – Earn 12.4 6.5 -5.9 10.9 -9.9

A lot more video gaming, as I mentioned: getting through the fuzziest of times by playing on my own, and then settling down into a habit of 1-2 hours in the evening with W-. I’m a little surprised that sleep increased by only two hours a week. It felt like longer. Then again, an average of 9.1 hours a day is definitely up from the 8.3 hours of a few years back. More time on personal projects, more time on personal care, and a little more time on cooking and things like that.

2016-01-02f Life these days -- index card #life #routines

Financially, the stock markets have been pretty low, and my home country bias wasn’t particularly helpful. I’ve continued saving and investing, since that’s what you do when the stocks go on sale like this. My expenses were a smidge over my projected ones – mostly sewing, Hacklab, and a few miscellaneous expenses – but still manageable and well worth it. The experiment is on track and working well.

I have no idea what next year will be like, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the skills and processes we’ve been building up will pay off. I plan to do even less consulting, and to explore more DIY skills and more awesomeness around the house. I’d like to continue contributing to the Emacs community, and maybe keep my technical skills sharp with more automation and scripting too. I’d love to continue drawing those index cards and gradually get back into the swing of sharing more notes. We’ll see how things work out!

2015-12-28d Imagining 2016 -- index card #planning

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  • My 2015 Report Card