“Your blog is so eclectic,” said someone recently. In one week, I can write about deep geekery, business, blogging, drawing, decision making, and cooking. I deliberately shuffle my posts around so that you get a variety of topics each week. (When I didn’t do this kind of planning, you sometimes got long stretches of geeky posts that went over everyone else’s heads…)
My blog has a lot of different topics because I have a lot of different interests. The only challenge with posting daily is making myself stick to it instead of publishing two or three posts because I get carried away. There’s always so much to learn and share, and if I don’t write about it, I tend to forget it.
I think it’s time to experiment with different ways to write. The variety is fine for other people with wide-ranging interests. The frequency is a little overwhelming, so I’ve started directing people to weekly and monthly updates. I’ve tried category feeds, but they’re still a little difficult to focus on if people just care about one or two topics.
Please help me plan a new blog that’s more focused on a set of topics. =) One that’s updated weekly, so it’s more manageable in terms of reading. One that’s written for readers first, instead of being mostly personal notes that might be useful for other people. I’m still going to update my personal blog (sachachua.com) with all these notes, but once a week, I want to post a focused, well-written, illustrated, “I spent 4-10 hours making something useful for you” post that saves you time or money.
I’m going to focus on general-interest topics so that I can write posts that might be useful for years and years to come. Tech-related posts can be difficult to keep current – people come across Emacs blog posts from 2008, and it can be hard to figure out what needs to be changed. General topics tend to be longer-lasting.
Here is where I need your help and feedback: What do you want to read about the most? There’s a poll in this blog post. If you don’t see it, please check it out at http://sachachua.com/blog/p/26117. If you give me your e-mail address (optional), I can invite you to check out the blog when it starts out. I’m going to brainstorm some headlines, fill in outlines, write posts, draw sketches, and get things going maybe a month or two in advance before I tell most people about it. Vote and tell me how to contact you, and you can help shape the way the blog evolves. =) Please fill in the poll by October 4, 2013 (next Friday)- I’d love to get things going quickly!
I know there are a lot of blogs like those out there. Here’s how I want to make a difference:
You can benefit from summarized insights from books and blog posts. I speed-read and have access to an amazing library, so I can grab ideas from books you don’t have the time to read, summarize them in neat one-page graphical notes, and help you learn faster.
Instead of generic advice, you can learn from stories and experiences. There are lots of platitudes out there: “Follow your passion.” “Spend less than you earn.” “Make something useful.” I don’t want to write generic run-of-the-mill link-building articles. I’ll tell you what it’s like to apply the advice to real life and what I learned along the way. I’ve got a lot of practice in thinking about what I’m thinking (including identifying and questioning assumptions), so I’d be happy to take you behind the scenes.
You can explore interesting perspectives with me as we combine different experiences. There’s plenty of advice on how to make better decisions, but that’s even more fun when you can bring Quantified Self-type tracking and metrics to measure the results. Writing is a useful tool for learning, and it gets even better when you can tweak the software you use. Learning complex topics can be difficult, but sketchnoting can make the ideas more approachable. I’m a geek, and that spills over into everything I do.
So that’s why I’m thinking of adding a topic-focused blog to the abundance of content already on the Internet. I’ll probably branch it out under the “LivingAnAwesomeLife.com” domain name – maybe in a subdirectory for ease of expansion later on.
Also, since it’s good to question one’s assumptions: Is there a better way to improve navigation and reduce overwhelming volume than a topic-focused blog? Have you come across other wide-ranging blogs that make it easy for you to focus on just the topics you want, while discovering “neighbouring” topics if you’re interested? What do those blogs do differently?
Got any additional thoughts? Feel free to share them in the comments!
I’m approaching the end of my second fiscal year. (Hooray!) I thought I’d review my decisions for reinvesting profits, plan ahead, and ask for feedback. Here’s how I reinvested some of my profits this year:
Tools and education:
I bought $289 worth of books, including pricey but useful books on drawing emotions and stick figures (Bikablo, from Neuland). I’ve made the most of them by reading, taking notes, and sharing what I’ve learned, so this was definitely worth it.
Next steps: My laptop should be good for another year or two, so I have no major upgrades planned there. I may invest more into courses. These tend to be bigger commitments, but I think the experience might be worthwhile. I can test this by seeing if I can improve my retention in free or low-cost courses (Coursera, Udacity) before going on to more expensive courses. Gotta build up those study habits! If I find that I’m hitting the limits of what I want to learn in group classes and I’m already making the most of the Q&A or mentoring that courses tend to offer, then I can look into getting a one-on-one coach.
Connecting with people:
The biggest chunk here was flying to London for the Emacs Conference, which was a great way to connect with people, create resources, and develop skills.
I also signed up for HackLab ($51.75 a month) as a way to connect with other geeks and have a place to work at when I’m downtown.
I attended networking events ($170.45). AndroidTO was less useful than I expected because I hadn’t actually been developing stuff then, although it was good sketchnoting practice. The Third Tuesdays Toronto events were definitely worth it for me. Rotman events were okay.
I met four people for lunches/dinners and had lots of tea with others, talking about mentoring or business opportunities.
Next steps: I want to focus on virtual connections, because there are lots of interesting people out there. This means ramping up my scheduling, inviting people to reach out, and reaching out myself (possibly appreciating people with gift certificates or donations to charity)
I greatly increased my delegation budget compared to last year. I subcontracted $1,333.34 of my work and delegated an additional $2,030.30.
Hiring a virtual assistant to help with scheduling really helped me get past the hassles of booking people. Worth it.
Hiring a transcriber for my podcasts and presentations worked out well, too.
Hiring a local consultant to help me brainstorm was okay, but not amazing. It was a helpful nudge to work on my marketing, though.
Hiring another on-shore consultant to give me feedback on my website and e-books was also okay but not amazing. It was great for pushing me to add more hand-drawn elements to my website, though.
Hiring a developer to work on Rails prototypes gave me a leg up on dealing with various APIs, although I ended up not pursuing the projects.
Next steps: Virtual assistance gives me a low-cost way to experiment with and learn more about delegation. In addition to ODesk, I should experiment with Fiverr, Guru, and other sites.
I made $90 in e-book sales in FY 2013, which absolutely delights me. It’s a tiny fraction of what I make in consulting or even sketchnoting or speaking, but it’s a start. I’ve been moving towards a Pay What You Want model so that everyone can get access to the resources and people can show their appreciation by funding future experiments. My experiment-related savings take care of my living expenses, so everything goes to Making Stuff. I want to focus on making more things.
For this coming year, I’m planning to focus on consulting until it winds down. I’m also going to ramp up creating content: blog posts, drawings, articles, e-books, courses, and more. I often get requests to sketchnote events or other people’s content, and I’d like to refer those to other people instead of handling them myself. That way, I can help other people grow, and I can make myself learn more about creating my own content.
Ideally, by September 2014, I’ll have:
a separate topic-focused weekly blog with evergreen posts and useful, well-formatted, illustrated articles
several e-resources for that blog
a mailing list that I’ve learned how to use
and possibly a course that includes tips, worksheets, checklists, animations, and video
I might keep a "Wanted" list on my site so that I can funnel other requests to it, like people looking for sketchnoters. That way, instead of simply telling people no, I can help them a little further along the way and help other people grow their businesses too.
Here’s my plan for getting there:
Brainstorm headlines and article ideas to help me choose which topics I want to start a weekly topic-focused blog around.
Get feedback on which topics people would like to read about first. Start collecting e-mail addresses for launch.
"Bank" 4-8 good articles (write two months ahead). Invite early readers.
Publicize it a bit more widely once I’ve gotten into the rhythm of publishing on the blog and I know that the rate is sustainable.
Plan an outline for a brief e-book and gear my articles towards that.
Reach out and find guest posting opportunities once the blog is more established.
To make the blog different and useful, I plan to illustrate the ideas with one-page cheat sheets / references. This will also make a handy collection.
With that in mind, what are some ways I can reinvest some of my profits in order to make things better, and which ways make more sense than others? These are ordered in terms of how useful I think they will be, with the best ones on top. I’d love your feedback and suggestions!
Find a system administrator who can help me review my config and backup plans, and who can answer questions from time to time. As someone said, good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement. I can learn things on my own, but it’s probably really good to take advantage of other people’s hard-won experience too. That way, I have a solid platform to grow on.
Go through a course like the ones offered at Platform University, CopyBlogger, or ProBlogger. I can get multiple levels of value out of this. First, there’s the lessons themselves. Even if I know most of the basics because I’ve been blogging for more than ten years, it will be good to deliberately go through them. I can turn them into blog posts about my experiences applying those tips. I can turn them into sketchnotes and references. Along the way, I’ll also learn about the structure of courses and communities – what I like or don’t like, and what other people seem to respond to.
Sign up for a good mailing list service, possibly with an autoresponder or digital delivery mechanism. This will give me more control than simply using FeedBurner to give people e-mail updates.
Sign up for survey tools so that I can get better feedback. Provide giveaways or incentives for survey completion.
Experiment with richer media: presentations, animations, podcasts, video. Buy tools and hardware. Possibly delegate editing. Podcasts and screencasts might be a good way to work myself up to doing webinars regularly.
Pay for a web conferencing service, and set up regular web conferences or webinars. Monthly webinars might justify paying for a premium service so that I’m not constrained by Google Hangout or AnyMeeting’s limitations. I can also use this to interview people. Any recommendations for a cross-platform webinar service that allows all participants to chat with each other?
Work with a reputable SEO company to avoid penalties for duplicate content and to learn more about doing keyword research. Sometimes little tweaks make things more findable or discoverable.
Invest in better web planning and design, maybe for the topic-focused blog. I might start off with a basic template, fill it in with content, add some resources, and then go for a more professional design when the topic and audience for the blog has firmed up a little. That way, I can get feedback from people too.
Buy premium plugins, scripts, or themes to make navigating the blog or content easier. A responsive theme and a good gallery can make a lot of difference.
Buy books, read them, and give them away. That way, I’m not limited to the library’s selection. The library has lots of books and it could take forever for me to get through the backlog, but learning from and sharing tips from newly-published books may create more value for readers. Plus, if I set aside a budget for shipping (which is expensive in Canada!), I can give lightly-read copies away. I’ve had publishers send me copies of books to review, so maybe I can ramp that up also.
Hire someone to format e-resources. They can help develop the template, lay things out nicely, and make sure it fits in well with the blog.
Learn how to work with article writers or pay for excellent guest posts. I have the time to write and I enjoy writing, but I’m curious about the perspectives that other people might bring.
Worst-case scenario: They write the first draft, and I end up rewriting it extensively because I have a better idea of what I don’t want.
Best-case scenario: I give them a topic to write about, they come up with insights or research I might not have come across myself, and then I can personalize it with more stories or experiences.
Work with copywriters and editors and get better at writing.
Hire a coach to help me learn more about planning posts, creating resources or courses, building a community, and so on.
Buy domain names and learn how to set up landing pages.
Do you have any suggestions on where you think I should invest more money, business-wise? Are there things on my blog where a little money can have high impact? Please share your comments below, or e-mail me at [email protected]!
Here’s what I’m learning about being clear about your goals and analyzing how your actions match up with them. I’ve been thinking about my goals for blogging because I want to get better. I have time to learn things, and I can learn more effectively if I learn deliberately. It might work for you too!
1. Clarify your goals
It’s good to know what your goals are and how the different approaches serve those goals so that you can choose the ones that are the most effective. You can also look at each approach to see how you can improve it.
After some reflection, I came up with this list of goals for my blog:
Learn more effectively by thinking through complexity or explaining what I’m learning
Explore assumptions and possibilities; become more aware of them myself, and help other people see them
Improve core skills through practice: making decisions, explaining ideas, organizing thoughts, etc.
Save myself and other people time spent re-solving the same problems or learning the same things
Build a long-term archive that I can use to remember what I’m learning and see differences over time
Learn from other people through questions, comments, and conversations
Your list of goals will probably look different. Many people have goals such as building a business by promoting their products or services, educating clients or readers, keeping family members up to date, working through difficult issues by writing anonymously, and so on. Take a moment to think about and prioritize your goals.
If you’re having problems expressing your goals, you can also take a look at your recent blog posts and ask yourself, “Why did I write this?” What results did you want to get? What purpose did it serve? One blog post might work towards several different goals.
2. Analyze the ways you approach those goals
Different actions support different goals to different extents. Think about the different types of blog posts you write. Score them against each of your goals on a scale of 1 to 5, where a score of 5 means that type of post helps a specific goal a lot, while 1 means it does very little or even nothing for that particular goal.
Here are some of the types of posts I share and how they line up with the goals I listed above:
Goal 1: Learn
Goal 2: Explore
Goal 3: Improve
Goal 4: Save time
Goal 5: Build
Goal 6: Learn from others
T1: Draw original stuff
T2: Draw book reviews and events
T3: Think out loud
T4: Share tech tips, troubleshooting notes, or code
T5: Review longer spans of time (yearly, decisions)
T6: Write tips that few other people can cover
T7: Write tips that other people can also cover
T8: Review recent posts (weekly, monthly)
Sorting the table by the total score makes it easy to see which approaches you value more. If some goals are much more important to you than others, you can also weight those goals in your calculations. For example, if building a long-term archive was twice as important to me, I could double that column when calculating the total score.
Anyway, this ranking makes it clearer why I feel good about original drawings and sketchnotes, and why I skew towards decision reviews and “thinking through things”-type posts even if they don’t feel focused enough on saving other people time. Most of the blogging advice tends to focus on writing tips, but they don’t motivate me as much.
How about you? Do your post types match up with your goals? Are there clear winners that you should focus on? You can write lower-value posts from time to time because they address different needs. For example, I post weekly reviews because they’re useful to me even if they’re less useful for others.
3. Adjust your priorities based on feedback
Of course, since these values are subjective, it helps to adjust them based on your website analytics or feedback from your readers. For example, if you think a type of post saves people a lot of time, you’ll probably see a lot of visits or comments on it. If you have Google Analytics, you can export the Content – Site Content – All Pages table to a spreadsheet, classify the top X links, and then see what types of posts people spend their time on. For example, I analyzed the top 500 pages visited in July 2013, classified each by type, calculated average views and time per page, and sorted it by average views to get a sense of which posts tend to be more popular.
Number of pages
Number of views
Average page views per page
Average minutes per page view
Average bounce rate
T1: draw original
T4: share tech
T2: draw book / event
T3: think out loud
T5: review long / decision
T6: write tip (few)
T7: write tip (many)
My sketchnotes are more popular by far. My technical notes are surprisingly durable over time, even though you’d expect them to be superseded by bugfixes, technical changes, better documentation, and so on. Posts as old as 2004 still turn up. Because people still get a lot of value from my old tech posts, I adjusted the “Save time” rating for tech tips from my original value of 3 to 4. (I had started with a lower value because I figured that not a lot of people would probably have run into the same issues I did, but it turns out that time makes up for audience size and the long tail works.) As I expected, tips that few other people have written about get more pageviews than tips that more people have written about, although I’m surprised that people tend to spend more time on the common tips. My “thinking out loud” posts are more popular than I expected. Also, people tend to click on my weekly reviews if I add a brief description to the title, so that’s something.
Limitations: This only looks at single-page views in a single month. Also, I picked July because I started drafting this post in August.
Anecdotally speaking, I get a lot of comments and links to my sketchnotes. I’m also delighted by the conversations that occasionally grow out of the “thinking out loud” posts, and how sometimes people will share even better solutions when I post my technical notes.
4. Identify ways to improve each approach
Now that you’ve looked at what makes each type of post different, you can focus on how to improve each type by building on its strengths or compensating for its weaknesses. Here’s what I’m planning for the kinds of posts I write:
Draw original stuff: It takes me 2-4 hours to make one of these. I like making technical notes (ex: Emacs), sketchnote tutorials (to help people draw more), and other drawings related to life and planning. I’m getting used to drawing them with less up-front planning. Even though I end up moving things around, I think it’s useful to just get started. Drawing involves a trade-off because images are not as searchable as text. I can fix that by including the text, but it’s a little awkward and it takes more time. Still, people like the drawings a lot, and I like them too.
Draw book reviews and events: I go to fewer events these days, but I’m reading a lot more books. It takes me two hours to read a typical business book in depth, drawing notes along the way. I tend to draw book reviews only when I’ve already gotten a sense that a book is worth reading in depth. One way to increase my frequency is to draw book notes based on the skimmed parts of books that I’m not reading deeply – perhaps breaking out just the chapter or idea that resonates with me, and using that to illustrate a blog post reflecting on it. I can also work on getting more high-quality books into my pipeline, or practise by drawing more books with fewer value judgments.
Think out loud: I can improve the “Save time” score by stashing the notes in my outline, adding observations, until I’ve fleshed it out enough for preliminary findings and advice. It means that the output will be more concise in its reasoning and I’ll have to do more learning on my own instead of opening up the conversation early, but then the posts will be useful for other people as well as for me. Mr. Money Mustache is a good example of a blog that mixes personal stories and useful observations. The main thing that was holding me back from doing this before was losing track of my drafts, but my outline is a good step.
For example, this post started as a rough outline, thinking out loud about what kinds of posts I wanted to write. Now I’m going back and filling it in with other information that might be useful for people. If it ends up too long, I might have to trim it. We’ll get there!
Share tech tips, troubleshooting notes, or code: The limiting factor here is that I’m not working on any professional projects that I can write about, so I’m forced to run into and resolve fewer issues. I can replace that with working on my own projects or on open source projects, or helping people with questions. I often tweak or work on things related to Emacs, WordPress, or data visualization, so there’s that. If I set aside time and find a good source of small bugs so that I can ease my way into a habit of contributing to open source again, then that will also help me with my life goal to keep my technical skills sharp.
Review longer spans of time: I can increase the frequency of decision reviews by scheduling them so that I don’t lose track of items. Because I manage my outline in Org Mode, that should be relatively easy to do. I can also bootstrap this by reviewing last year and last decade’s monthly reviews (if available), or the blog posts if not.
Write tips that few other people can cover: There are lots of information gaps to fill. Sometimes it’s because people don’t have the time, inclination, or confidence to write about something. Sometimes it’s because I have a useful combination of skills or I can bring a different perspective. If I can’t find information, that’s a good reason to write it.
Write tips that other people can also cover: The world doesn’t really need another “how to find the time to blog” tutorial. If I can filter through search results for a good one and make it more findable, that beats writing one from scratch–unless I can add something special or relate different types of advice to each other.
Review recent posts (weekly, monthly): These are low-value in the short term (mostly lists of links, plus the nudge to do my weekly planning process), but I’ve found them to be surprisingly useful over the years. They also help keep my large blog archive manageable. That’s why I keep posting them. I’ve started using the weekly and monthly reviews to give people less-frequent subscription options (daily can be a little overwhelming), so that’s helpful too.
One way I can increase the value of the weekly reviews is to add more quick notes to them. For example, in my most recent weekly review, I included an annotated list of links I clipped and books/movies I liked from this week’s haul. I think it will provide additional value, and it’s a good way for me to review them as well.
“Get better” is a vague goal. If you can identify the specific goals you would like to work toward, different ways to move towards those goals, and specific actions you can take to improve those approaches, you’ll have a lot of flexibility in terms of growing. You’ll find it easier to recognize or create opportunities to grow, and you can track your progress along the way. You might also be able to identify counter-productive approaches and replace them with ones that move towards more of your goals. Good luck and have fun!
Marty Pauschke was interested in sketchnoting/drawing as a way of planning your own life. I find drawing to be really useful in making sense of my life and planning ahead, because it allows me to see the bigger picture. Here are some types of diagrams and visual metaphors that I use. I’d love to see yours!
Life as a journey
You can think of life as a journey. Imagine what the destination looks like, and think about the milestones you’d like to see along the way. You can draw obstacles and think about ways around them. This is great for celebrating your progress so far and seeing what’s next.
Here’s another way to look at it: as a target that you’re reaching with an arrow. Sometimes it helps to think about the goal first, then work backwards: what needs to happen in order for you to reach your goal? What needs to happen for that to happen? Continue until you get to actions you can take today.
Of course, life isn’t a simple journey – it’s full of decisions. Sometimes it helps to think about what some different possible outcomes are, and what you like or dislike about each one. Then you can figure out what you’re leaning towards.
If you’re looking at multiple decisions, a simple diagram might be easier to make and read. You can see the branching-off points and think about what information you need in order to make the best decisions at each stage.
Timelines are good for remembering because you end up filling in the blanks.
I like making spiral timelines because they give me different amounts of space for things that are more important to me (ex: more recent memories). Spirals can go the other way, too – zeroing in on a goal.
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
The SWOT analysis is used a lot in management schools and in consulting, and it’s useful for personal growth as well. I like focusing on my strengths and finding workarounds for my weaknesses.
Pre-mortem and post-mortem analyses
Speaking of weaknesses, I like doing pre-mortems – anticipating ways something could go wrong. Gravestones are a nice touch. Example: Experiment pre-mortem
These are just some of the ways I use drawing to help me remember and plan. How do you draw your life?
Noorul asked, "How do you generally begin your day and how does it span? Do you plan for each hour or do you plan a task across many days/weeks?"
I have three kinds of days:
Weekends are reserved for spending time with W- or friends, helping out around the house, cooking, and getting ready for the next week. I take an hour for my weekly review, and I often have more time to write or read, but I don’t count on it – people get first dibs.
Consulting days – Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually, although I’m planning to take all of August off. I wake up, have breakfast, get ready, bike, work from about 10 to 5 (earlier or later, depending on attention and need), bike back, and then go to a meetup or spend the rest of the day at home.
Discretionary days – Wide-open and wonderful, these are the days when I follow my interests freely: writing, coding, drawing, learning… Sometimes I punctuate them with meetings—I’m practising talking to people.
I briefly experimented with planning my life in detail before, assigning tasks to specific days or even blocking off hours in my calendar. I wanted to make sure that important tasks didn’t fall off my radar and that I didn’t overcommit my day. It didn’t really work for me – I kept moving things around depending on how I felt.
What works for me now? Minimizing commitments, thinking in terms of weeks, making decisions moment by moment, and always having good things to choose from (it helps to keep track of good ideas). Not wasting energy in beating myself up about what I haven’t done; instead, I celebrate the things I do.
Here’s what my decision process looks like when I ask myself, "What do I want to do right now?" It’s roughly in terms of priorities, although I might pick something lower on the list if that’s what I really want, and I save chores for downtime.
Does W- need my help with any projects?
Have I promised anything urgent to anyone?
Are there chores to be done?
Is the kitchen clean?
Is there laundry to be done?
Does the garden need watering?
Do the litter boxes need to be cleared?
Do things need to be tidied a little?
Have I gotten a bit of exercise?
Do I want to work on my computer?
Do I have something to write about? What am I curious about?
Do I feel like coding?
Do I feel like drawing?
Do I want to draw my own things?
Do I want to work on a book review?
Are there books I want to read?
Do I have Japanese flashcards to review?
Is there e-mail I need to reply to?
Are there stories I want to read?
Do I want to reach out to anyone and brighten their day?
What else do I want to do?
I prioritize things based on happiness, relationships, energy, what I’ve been doing recently (momentum!), what I haven’t done recently, whatever else comes to mind…
E-mail and social networks are pretty far down my list. Sometimes I trawl my inbox for blog post ideas, and once in a while, I go through my inbox to reply to as much as I can. (I try to do this every week, although sometimes it stretches.) TV and movies are background activities, to be saved for sessions of laundry-folding or coding – almost always DVDs checked out of the library, so that we can watch with subtitles and rewinds. In the interstitial time between activities, I do flashcards or read blog posts on my phone.
Commitments go on my planner (Org Mode in Emacs, for flexibility); all the rest are unscheduled tasks that I can review by context or look up by project depending on what I’m interested in or drawn to. There are things that I plan to do that I don’t end up doing, but that’s because they get preempted by things that are more important to me.
So that’s the discretionary stuff. What about our routines?
I wake up at 8 or 9, snoozing if I feel sleepy. I use the bathroom, wash my mouth guard, let the cats drink from the faucet. Downstairs, I have our "standard breakfast": one fried egg with brown rice, sometimes even two eggs as a weekend luxury. I head upstairs to brush my teeth and dress up. Then I pack my lunch and whatever I need (if I’m going outside) or settle into working on my own projects on our kitchen table or at our standing desk. W- leaves for work, J- leaves for school. If I’m at home, I have a simple lunch (salad? home-made frozen food?), and then I move on to whatever I want to do next. J- comes home, W- comes home. We have dinner, and then it’s time for chores or exercise or a little more writing. I tidy up, shower, brush my teeth, and go to bed at roughly midnight, although sometimes I stay up later.
I’m lucky. We keep our lives simple so that we have time.
One of the habits I’ve formed through my blog is the practice of doing a weekly review. This is where I celebrate what I accomplished and get a heads-up on what’s next. I do this almost every Saturday, which turns out to be a great day for reflecting and preparing.
I also use the weekly review to make sure I spend time on things that I want to do. It’s easy to forget that in the endless ping-pong game of responding to other people’s requests, or to scatter your attention among lots of interests and not feel like you’re making progress in any particular one. Give yourself permission to work on something you want to do, and carve out space for it in your to-do list or calendar. I divide my to-do list into three categories: work, relationships, and life. The work category is easy to fill. Relationships take a little more thought, but other people make it easy by asking. Life, on the other hand—the skills I want to develop, the hobbies I want to explore—that requires me to step up and choose to do something instead of having my time filled by things that other people have chosen for me.
Lots of things are interesting, but I try to pick one or two things to focus on during each week. For example, I’ve been focusing on planting the garden and studying Japanese. I might explore other ideas during the week, but it’s good to make slow and steady progress in my focus areas.
I make that space by managing my commitments. It’s easy to get used to a hectic, time-starved status quo, and it’s gratifying as well—busy-ness helps you feel valued. For me, “normal life” includes time to breathe and time to play. I avoid being busy. When I notice I’m starting to make mistakes because my calendar is too full, I slow down and see what I can say no to.
I add “want-to”s to my to-do list instead of just keeping it to the “must-do”s, and I remove or change other tasks until things look like they’ll fit. It makes reviewing and planning more fun, and it gives me something to look forward to during the week.
Might be something that can help you establish that habit. =) Happy to hear your thoughts and to read your weekly reviews!
Raymond Zeitler The "Breaking things down" is an interesting test of how well the coder understands the problem and its solution. I'm thinking now about algorithm design... – Programming and creativity