Category Archives: yearly

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

Previous reviews:

Monthly reviews

Year in review: 2013

I was half-tempted not to write this. Many people are coming out with their annual reviews and the usual flood of New Years Resolutions – why add another? I do another yearly review around my birthday anyway, which is a milestone that makes more sense to me. Someday I’ll figure out whether it makes sense to do multiple yearly reviews or just keep one, but in the meantime, I might as well. =) Besides, it’s easier to make a summary while you still remember.

Click on the image for a larger version:

2014-01-01 2013 in review

At the beginning of the year, I focused on consulting and sketchnoting. It was a lot of fun sketching different events. Then I experimented with focusing on my own content. That turned out to be lots of fun, so I shifted towards doing more of that while keeping consulting. Our month-long trip to the Philippines was a lot of fun too. It was great to spend all that time with family and friends.

By the numbers:

image

Hmm… My routines don’t change much, aside from the swapping between business and discretionary time. That’s great! It means I can plan for roughly 8.5 – 9 hours of sleep a night and roughly 10 – 10.5 hours of time each day that I can use for business or discretionary activities, or almost 72 hours a week. Somehow it balances out almost perfectly evenly over the long run.

The most popular blog posts I published in 2013 were almost all related to Emacs, except for two visual posts and another tech post:

  1. How to Learn Emacs: A Hand-drawn One-pager for Beginners / A visual tutorial
  2. How to present using Org-mode in Emacs
  3. Emacs Conference 2013 Sketchnotes (also, PDF!)
  4. How to learn Emacs keyboard shortcuts (a visual tutorial for newbies)
  5. Emacs: How I organize my Org files
  6. Sketchnotes: Building my visual vocabulary
  7. Visual book review: The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast (Josh Kaufman)
  8. How I use Emacs Org Mode for my weekly reviews
  9. Disabling touch on Windows 8 on a Lenovo X220 tablet
  10. Emacs Chat: Carsten Dominik

Overall, there were 210k unique visitors over the year, and more than half a million page views… Boggle. Although the tech-related posts are the most popular on my blog, I like writing about a variety of topics, so I’m going to let my curiosity take us where it will.

If you’re curious, here’s last year’s summary:

I thought I’d focus on regular exercise, healthy eating, business growth, great relationships, and continued happiness. Yay to all of the above! And onward…

Next year, I want to work on a smooth transition for my consulting project, and do even more drawing and writing on my own. I’m looking forward to sharing tips, answering questions, and learning from other people. Google Helpouts, podcasts, online hangouts, blog comments, and e-mail will help me collect questions and come up with thoughts, and I’ll draw and write and record what I’m learning along the way. Here we go!

Year in review: 2012

I’d sketch this, but Adobe Illustrator CS6 keeps crashing on me and I’m tired of fighting with my computer today. Next time!

This year was about experiments. After building up my “opportunity fund,” I turned over my projects at IBM and left to start a 5-year experiment exploring what you can learn and build if you have the time and space to do so. I want to learn how to build businesses, and I want to share what I’m learning along the way.

Here’s how the year went!

January: Set things in motion for my next experiment by sending in my notice at IBM. Mapped out what I had learned. Started transitioning projects. Favourite post: Getting ready for my next experiment.

February: Made the leap! Set up a business mailbox, incorporated, and registered for HST. Favourite post: Thinking about how to experiment with business and what I might want to do

March: My first full month as a business owner! I immediately had consulting clients, which helped me hit the ground running. I drew a lot, too. (Monthly review) Favourite post: What I want from visual notetaking; imagining wild success

April: It was a lot of fun enjoying the benefits of a flexible schedule, paricularly in terms of biking. I also spent some time building my writing and drawing skills. (Monthly review)Favourite post: Why I’m temporarily unhireable

May: More client work than I expected! Sketched lots of presentations and events, too. Biked all month. Switched from community-supported agriculture to buying our own vegetables again. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Thinking about the next mini-experiment

June: Experimented with digital self-publishing by putting together a PDF of my favourite blog posts over the past ten years. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Experiment! Stories from My Twenties PDF

July: Lots of gardening and biking. Bought an Android tablet. Went strawberry-picking with the Hattoris! (Monthly review) Favourite post: Trusting myself with making time

August: Celebrated my 29th birthday! Bought a new phone, switched to a data plan. Hosted a get-together. Wrapped up consulting in preparation for a temporary break. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Thinking about what wild success at 29 looks like

September: Went to Palo Alto for the Quantified Self conference. Spent time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law. Went to Disneyland with them! (Monthly review) Favourite post: Weekly review: Week ending September 21, 2012

October: Back to consulting. September 30 was my fiscal year end, so I spent time figuring out my books and filing taxes. Lots and lots of sketchnotes from conferences, too. (Monthly review) Favourite post: Celebrating my fiscal year end; planning how to improve

November: Gave another presentation. Started helping out with Awesome Foundation Toronto. More sketchnotes from conferences and events! (Monthly review) Favourite post: Made my largest sketchnote ever! Painting the MaRS Lean Startup Day banner

December: Took another break from consulting in order to focus on building the business. Worked on laying the groundwork for marketing and sales. Came up with a name for my company: Experivis! Favourite post: Imagining sketchnotes as a business

PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR

I want to really dig into this idea of building conference/presentation sketchnotes as a business. It’s a good way to learn sales and marketing skills.

Life-wise, I’m looking forward to making exercise part of my routines, and to spending more time with W-. The biggest thing I have to learn, I think, is to keep moving forward even though the temptation is to get stuck in limbo; to somehow have a multiplicity of plans layered onto different possibilities, and to keep myself fueled and excited by them.

2011 in review

2011-12-14: Oops! Forgot to make sure the linked image was the original size. Fixed! Also, added a PDF link for people who aren’t on Slideshare.

Just posted my yearly review for 2011. You can browse through the annotated pages on Slideshare. You can also download the PDF from Slideshare or from my site. View it in full screen mode for the most fun. (Mom, if you want to print this, you’ll need 182 sheets of legal-size paper…)

2011 – sachachua.com

View more presentations from Sacha Chua

In case the embed doesn’t work or you don’t want to go through the entire thing, you can still see this year as a sketch (click on it for a larger version):

2011-review

Want to go further back in time? Check out my other yearly reviews!

Yearly review: 2010

What a year for major life changes!

image imageMy cat Neko and I officially moved to Canada this year when I got my permanent residency in January. After wrestling my unhappy and rather pointy cat into the soft-shell carrier, I stowed her under the seat in front of me. Not a single meow or yowl  out of her during the long flight, although there was a moment in airport security when I had a cat on my head.

imageNeko seems to to be getting along quite fine. She has discovered all the warm spots in the house, and has claimed the top cat position at home even though Luke and Leia are both twice her size.

imageMe, I think I’ve figured out the secret to dealing with winter, too. Flannel pajamas, soft and warm sheets, plenty of thermals, and the renaming of winter to "baking season".   Good thing we biked a lot during the warm months.

I got a promotion and a new manager at work. I’m doing a lot of Drupal development again, which is tons of fun. I’m starting to get the hang of this, I think. There are topics that I feel comfortable being "the expert" on in workshops, although really it’s more like doing the background research and being ready to brainstorm and ask questions.

J-’s in grade 7. The alternative school she’s going to now is interesting because the subjects are integrated, so she’s learning about, say, world hunger in mathematics and geography and all her other subjects. She’s hitting that growth spurt, too. Her feet are bigger than mine, and she’ll grow into them soon enough.

image We picked up and deepened a few interests, too. We all learned woodworking this year, building our own Adirondack chairs. (Yes, even J- built one, with our help!) I’m still amazed that I can have a chair that actually fits me, as most lounge chairs are a bit too long.
The chairs were a great vantage point for viewing our garden, which has  imageyielded lots of ampalaya (bitter melon) for pinakbet, plenty of herbs for pasta sauce, and peas and cherry tomatoes for snacking. We’re looking forward to growing even more fruits, vegetables and herbs in next year’s garden! 

image W- and I got married in Toronto City Hall. To keep things sane and introvert-friendly, we celebrated with just family and a few practically-family friends. Everyone flew in, and it was fantastic having family gathered around the kitchen table. The poor photographer was probably intimidated by all these people with better cameras and tons of photography
experience, but he survived. Tita Gay was a force of nature, practically bringing along a wedding in a suitcase. She surprised us with bubbles and image wedding favours. She and my sister Kathy catered the whole thing, and they conspired with Ching and John to spring a wedding
cake on us. We ate pretty much constantly during the week my family spent in Canada, and really good food too. We just finished the very last lumpia from our stash from Tita Gay and are looking forward to making more.

image Inspired by how my mom and dad built these great friendships over time and distance, we’ve been working on being more social: giving home-made kitchen gifts, writing Christmas cards and letters (hi!), and going to and organizing get-togethers. It’s surprisingly fun! We’re looking forward to learning more about building relationships over time.

What a year!

imageimage 2011 promises to be amazing. We’re looking forward to celebrating Kathy and John’s wedding in the Netherlands and the Philippines. We’re also looking  forward to learning more about woodworking and getting even more out of our garden. Me, I can’t wait to do more writing, drawing, and programming, and I’m excited about opportunities to develop my communication and consulting skills.

Please help us with our project of building relationships. =) How was your year? What are you looking forward to in the next one? What are your stories? You can find our past yearly updates at http://sachachua.com/blog/category/yearly . Looking forward to hearing from you!


Updates from last year:

In last year’s learning plan, I said that my key priorities were:

  1. Share as much as I can at work and in life. I want to share as much as possible so that other people can build on that foundation. At work, this means creating enablement material, blogging, organizing the shared content, and helping communities and individuals.
  2. Learn more about drawing, animation, and video. I want to get even better at thinking things through and communicating what I’m learning. The better I get at sharing, the more I can help people learn.
  3. Continue living an awesome life! I can’t wait to explore the experiment opportunities that are sure to come up. I’m looking forward to further building my relationships with W- and J-, family, friends, communities, and the world, too. And I’m definitely looking forward to bringing my cat to Canada as I complete the permanent residency process. I miss her! =)

Although I didn’t get as much into animation and video as I hoped to, I’ve had fun learning about everything else, and I think I’ll continue to focus on writing, drawing, sharing, and connecting in 2011. =)


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