Category Archives: review

Weekly review: Week ending January 23, 2015

I posted nine blog posts this week, relaxing that once-a-day bottleneck that I’ve been using for the past few years. Mainly, it’s because I want to talk about Emacs more than once a week while still keeping lots of variety so that I can talk about non-tech topics too. Daily readers: Is the volume unmanageable? How can I make this better for you?

On my consulting gig, I leveled up in terms of using Tableau. I think I’ve gotten the hang of dashboard actions now, and I’m more comfortable using calculated fields for attributes and aggregates. Whee!

This has been a good week for planning ahead and learning from others. The Quantified Self Toronto meetup on Monday got me thinking about an Epic Quest of Awesome, and that spun off a long, thoughtful conversation about questions. I’m looking forward to fleshing that out a bit more over the next few weeks.

Oh, and I finally applied for my passport, picked up my Cultural Access Pass, and took care of a number of other errands. Have day pass, will Get Stuff Done.

The Emacs microhabit I’m going to focus on this week is selecting multiple things in Helm, since that’s one of its key features. =)

Blog posts

  1. Weekly review: Week ending January 16, 2015
  2. Minimizing upward or downward skew in your sketchnotes
  3. Improving my evil plans for Emacs
  4. Breaking down the skill of outlining
  5. Developing Emacs micro-habits: Abbreviations and templates
  6. Move your goalposts to get around an inability to finish projects How redefining your projects can help you satisfy a novelty-seeking brain, and how you can deal with interests or experiments that don’t have clear ends
  7. Emacs Chat with Steve Purcell
  8. Visualizing the internal citation network of my blog
  9. Filling in the occupational blanks


  1. 2015.01.17 Evening tweaks – index card #routines
  2. 2015.01.17 My Evil Plans for Emacs are yielding results – index card #emacs #sharing
  3. 2015.01.17 Playing with the index card format – index card #drawing
  4. 2015.01.17 Thoughts from Sketchnote Hangout – colour – index card #color #drawing
  5. 2015.01.17 Weekend routines – index card #life #routines
  6. 2015.01.18 Digging into my thoughts about emptying one’s cup – #emacs #writing
  7. 2015.01.18 Emacs microhabit – Switching windows – index card #emacs #microhabit
  8. 2015.01.18 Journey to Emacs – Beginnings – index card #emacs #beginner
  9. 2015.01.18 Journey to Emacs – stages – index card #emacs
  10. 2015.01.18 Narratives – index card #storytelling #perspective
  11. 2015.01.18 The Sense of Style – index card #book #writing
  12. 2015.01.18 Thinking about evil-mode and Emacs – index card #emacs
  13. 2015.01.19 A good way to track writing revisions – index card #editing #tech
  14. 2015.01.19 Deeper outlines – index card #writing
  15. 2015.01.19 How can I get better at research – index card #learning
  16. 2015.01.19 Imagining an editing experiment – index card #delegation #writing #editing
  17. 2015.01.19 Improving my sharing – index card #writing #sharing
  18. 2015.01.19 Quantified Self Toronto – epic quests, kids, stopwatches, art projects
  19. 2015.01.20 Asking better questions – index card #asking
  20. 2015.01.20 Skill trees – asking questions – index card #skill
  21. 2015.01.20 Skill trees – web – index card #skill #coding
  22. 2015.01.20 Skill trees – writing – index card #skill
  23. 2015.01.20 What do I want from this quest list and skill tree visualization – index card
  24. 2015.01.21 Goal strategies – index card #popular-goals
  25. 2015.01.21 Playing with popular goals – Happiness – index card #popular-goals
  26. 2015.01.21 Popular goals – Fame – index card #popular-goals
  27. 2015.01.21 Popular goals – Health – index card #popular-goals
  28. 2015.01.21 Popular goals – Knowledge or experience – index card #popular-goals
  29. 2015.01.21 Popular goals – Meaning – index card #popular-goals
  30. 2015.01.21 Popular goals – Power – index card #popular-goals
  31. 2015.01.21 Popular goals – Wealth – index card #popular-goals
  32. 2015.01.21 Popular goals – tranquility, equanimity – index card #popular-goals
  33. 2015.01.21 What if I tried on common goals – index card #popular-goals
  34. 2015.01.22 Book – Leading the Life You Want – Friedman 2014 – index card #book
  35. 2015.01.22 Buffet of other goals – index card #goals
  36. 2015.01.22 Goals and skills – index card #goals
  37. 2015.01.22 Imagining a good quest or skill discussion – index card #goals #conversation
  38. 2015.01.22 Thesis projects for 2015 – ideas – index card #sharing #plans
  39. 2015.01.23 Book – Leaving a Trace – Alexandra Johnson – index card #writing #book
  40. 2015.01.23 Passport – mail or pickup – index card #decision
  41. 2015.01.23 Rough notes on goals and questions – for follow up – index card #rough #notes
  42. 2015.01.23 Tech upgrade triggers – index card #decision
  43. 2015.01.23 What would help me enjoy travel – index card

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (40.9h – 24%)
    • Earn (9.3h – 22% of Business)
      • Deposit cheque
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (18.2h – 44% of Business)
      • Drawing (7.1h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (1.8h)
      • Fix cucumber for travis
      • Look into recently uploaded images
    • Connect (13.3h – 32% of Business)
      • Go to Quantified Self Toronto meetup
      • Post Quantified Self notes
      • Check out Sketchnote Hangout
      • Check out #lrnbook
  • Relationships (3.7h – 2%)
    • Call pharmacy
  • Discretionary – Productive (21.0h – 12%)
    • Emacs (5.9h – 3% of all)
      • Have Emacs Chat with Steve Purcell
      • Move my text-scale-increase binding
      • Check out speed-type
      • Figure out how to make pivot tables in Org
      • Figure out how to define abbreviations in Org Mode
      • Revise transcript for Steve Purcell
      • Look at Yasnippet doc TODOs
      • Try out Tern
    • Apply for passport – State “WAITING” from “STARTED” [2015-01-16 Fri 15:51]
    • Redeposit into TFSA
    • Invest in bonds in TFSA
    • Analyze index cards so far
    • Make Epic Quest of Awesome sheet
    • Pick up cultural access pass from Front and Parliament
    • Reflect on asking questions
    • Apply for passport
    • Type in goals
    • Brainstorm ideas for final project
    • Start git directory for drafts
    • Writing (8.1h)
  • Discretionary – Play (6.6h – 3%)
  • Personal routines (22.8h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (14.7h – 8%)
  • Sleep (58.3h – 34% – average of 8.3 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending January 16, 2015

This was a good week for writing code: little utilities to help me manage my sketches and Evernote entries, some code for my consulting client, and so forth.

The Emacs microhabit I focused on was switching windows. I found that C-u C-u with ace-window (which I’ve bound to C-x o) is handy for deleting windows, and binding a windmove-type keymap to the yy keychord is useful for switching windows with my cursor keys.

Next week, I’ve got an Emacs Chat with Steve Purcell. Looking forward to it!

Blog posts

Link round-up


  1. 2015.01.10 Favourite meals – index card #cooking
  2. 2015.01.10 How did schools of philosophy work in ancient Greece and Rome – index card #independence #philosophy
  3. 2015.01.10 Lessons from ancient Rome – index card #philosophy
  4. 2015.01.10 More about philosophers – index card #independence
  5. 2015.01.10 The idea of the Minimum Viable Post – index card #writing #blogging
  6. 2015.01.10 What is the goal of my tracking – index card #quantified
  7. 2015.01.10 What questions do I want to explore with data – index card #quantified
  8. 2015.01.10 Writing into the future – index card #writing #blogging
  9. 2015.01.11 Current state and future states – index card #writing
  10. 2015.01.11 Learning from what I like about books – index card #writing
  11. 2015.01.11 Making better use of Evernote – index card #evernote
  12. 2015.01.11 Neko sleeping – index card #cat
  13. 2015.01.11 Snacks we can make – index card #cooking
  14. 2015.01.11 What makes a good other-focused post – index card #writing
  15. 2015.01.12 Considering ideas for QS mini-guide – index card #quantified #planning
  16. 2015.01.12 Emacs microhabit – window management – index card #emacs
  17. 2015.01.12 How I stopped looking for answers – index card #reading
  18. 2015.01.12 More thoughts about QS mini-guide – index card #quantified #planning
  19. 2015.01.12 Quantified Self and small steps – index card #quantified
  20. 2015.01.12 Reverse outlining – index card #writing #organization #outlining
  21. 2015.01.12 Structure for QS mini-guide on small steps – index card #quantified
  22. 2015.01.12 Undirected questions versus directed questions – index card #writing
  23. 2015.01.12 Weekly reviews – index card #writing
  24. 2015.01.12 What am I learning about – index card #plans
  25. 2015.01.12 What will this QS guide look and feel like – index card #quantified #planning
  26. 2015.01.12 When is Emacs a good fit – index card #emacs #beginner
  27. 2015.01.13 Emacs and the beginner’s mind – index card #emacs #beginner
  28. 2015.01.13 Evaluating posts written for others – index card #writing #questions #blogging
  29. 2015.01.13 Hacklab – index card #connecting
  30. 2015.01.13 How can I do morning index cards more effectively – index card #drawing
  31. 2015.01.13 In terms of Emacs, where can I help – index card #emacs
  32. 2015.01.13 Layout studies for QS mini-guide – index card #study
  33. 2015.01.13 Other Emacs mindset tips – index card #emacs #beginner
  34. 2015.01.13 Using Node as a scripting tool – index card #javascript #nodejs #coding #scripting
  35. 2015.01.13 Visual studies for QS mini-guide – index card #study
  36. 2015.01.13 What’s getting in my way when it comes to reverse outlining – index card #outlining #writing #obstacle
  37. 2015.01.14 Breaking down excuses – index card #excuses #breakdown
  38. 2015.01.14 Filling in the occupational blanks – index card #experiment #occupation
  39. 2015.01.14 How to keep your drink safe from cats – index card #life #cats
  40. 2015.01.14 Projecting my trajectory – index card #writing #sharing #pipeline
  41. 2015.01.14 Projecting my writing trajectory – index card #writing
  42. 2015.01.14 Setting constraints for my writing chunks – index card #writing #constraints
  43. 2015.01.14 Understanding different types of inspiration – index card #inspiration #breakdown
  44. 2015.01.14 What does it mean when something takes too much time – index card #excuses #breakdown
  45. 2015.01.15 Helping people me more selective about email questions – index card #teaching #email
  46. 2015.01.15 How to Read and Why – Harold Bloom – index card #book #raw #reading
  47. 2015.01.15 Imagining coding amazingly – index card #wildsuccess #coding
  48. 2015.01.15 Imagining packaging amazingly – index card #packaging #wildsuccess
  49. 2015.01.15 Imagining working out loud amazingly – #wildsuccess #sharing #writing
  50. 2015.01.15 Imagining writing amazingly – index card #writing #wildsuccess
  51. 2015.01.15 Planning a bibliography Org file – index card #emacs #org #reading
  52. 2015.01.15 Slowing down e-mail – index card #email #connecting #pace
  53. 2015.01.15 Think Better – Tim Hurson – index card #book #raw #thinking #creativity
  54. 2015.01.15 What if I required people to pay it forward – #workingoutloud #sharing #teaching
  55. 2015.01.15 Writing on Both Sides of Your Brain – Henriette Anne Klauser – index card #book #raw
  56. 2015.01.16 How can I improve my experience of e-mail – index card #email #kaizen
  57. 2015.01.16 How much time does it take – index card #response #question
  58. 2015.01.16 Morning routines – index card #life #routines
  59. 2015.01.16 Reflecting on reflecting with index cards – index card #thinking #drawing
  60. 2015.01.16 Thinking about why I don’t meditate – index card #reason #meditation

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (37.0h – 21%)
    • Earn (7.1h – 19% of Business)
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (20.2h – 54% of Business)
      • Drawing (10.1h)
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (1.9h)
        • Change sketchnotes to Dropbox
      • Paperwork (0.2h)
      • Upload image to Flickr using node
      • Make a cal-heatmap of my Flickr
      • Simplify Gemfile in order to improve Travis CI performance for Quantified Awesome
      • Parse XML from Evernote and extract all the journal entries
      • Fix cucumber for travis
    • Connect (9.7h – 26% of Business)
      • Talk to journalist about Quantified Self
      • Send resources to journalist
      • Photograph for Star
      • Go to Quantified Self Toronto meetup
      • Check out Sketchnote Hangout
      • Brainstorm ideas for final project in learning course
      • Check out #lrnbook
  • Relationships (1.6h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (21.8h – 13%)
    • Emacs (1.6h – 0% of all)
      • Set up next Emacs Hangout and announce on mailing list
      • Make sure Emacs Chat is set up on iTunes
      • Set up schedule
      • Update EmacsWiki:Yasnippet
      • Blog about most recent Emacs Hangout
      • [#A] Create Emacs Chat event on Google+ for chat with Steve Purcell
      • Get node to store Org links, oooh
      • Finish Avdi’s transcript
      • Revise transcript for Magnar Sveen
      • Research tidbits for Emacs Chat
      • Clean up uDemy formatting for Emacs Basics
      • Have Emacs Chat with Steve Purcell
      • Contribute to Yasnippet docs
      • Try out Tern
    • Writing (11.2h)
      • Outline mini-guide for QS small steps
      • Revise writing post to include images
    • Ask two guarantors for passport
    • Dip into Learning How to Learn course
      • Complete quiz 3
    • Pick up my lunch
    • Redeposit into TFSA
    • Review dangling sketches and posts
    • Start bibliography Org file
    • Apply for passport
    • Invest in bonds in TFSA
  • Discretionary – Play (4.7h – 2%)
  • Personal routines (25.4h – 15%)
  • Unpaid work (15.0h – 8%)
  • Sleep (62.5h – 37% – average of 8.9 per day)

Weekly review: Week ending January 9, 2015

This was the first week back from vacation. It had a good balance of writing (2 days), coding (2 days), and consulting (1 day). I wrote a couple of long posts that you’ll see over the next few weeks. I fixed some bugs on Quantified Awesome, and I used the Flickr API to remove duplicates and link photos with my blog posts. Fun!

I started a new habit of drawing my thoughts on at least five index cards each day. It’s a good way to get my brain going in the morning. After scanning them, I split them by topic into piles on my desk. It’s an easy way to see where my thoughts are building up so that I can pull them together into blog posts.

I filed some tax-related paperwork, too: my second T4, and my first T5. I’m looking forward to finding out whether I’ve figured this all out correctly once the other tax slips come in.

Also, it was J-‘s birthday, so we had sushi and cheesecake. Yay!

Blog posts


  1. 2015.01.03 Making better use of basement – index card
  2. 2015.01.03 Making better use of kitchen – index card
  3. 2015.01.03 Making better use of phone – index card
  4. 2015.01.03 Sketched Book – So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love – Cal NewportBlogged
  5. 2015.01.03 Social – index card
  6. 2015.01.03 Social bookmarking – index card
  7. 2015.01.03 Why Emacs – index card
  8. 2015.01.04 Automating text – index card
  9. 2015.01.04 Rhythm for learning – index card
  10. 2015.01.04 Thinking in terms of an exchange of time – index card
  11. 2015.01.04 What kind of difference do I want to make, and for whom – index card
  12. 2015.01.05 A reflection on diminishing returns versus compounding growth – index card
  13. 2015.01.05 Developing my imagination and initiative – index cardBlogged
  14. 2015.01.05 Different ideas about mastery – index card
  15. 2015.01.05 Figuring out the technical details of this idea or visual archive I want – index card
  16. 2015.01.05 How can I get better at summary posts – index card
  17. 2015.01.05 Managing my idea pipeline – index cardBlogged
  18. 2015.01.05 Quick idea studies – index cardBlogged
  19. 2015.01.05 Seeing opportunities for abbreviations and text automation – index card
  20. 2015.01.05 Surprise experiment, self-directed life – index card
  21. 2015.01.05 Thinking about my archive – index cardBlogged
  22. 2015.01.05 What can I learn from artists about learning – index cardBlogged
  23. 2015.01.05 Why studies for drawing or writing thoughts – index cardBlogged
  24. 2015.01.06 Abbrevations – index card
  25. 2015.01.06 Competence and mastery – index card
  26. 2015.01.06 Figuring out information flow – index card
  27. 2015.01.06 Is this enough for me – index card
  28. 2015.01.06 Phrases – index card
  29. 2015.01.06 Planning my safety nets – index card
  30. 2015.01.06 Safe, a little better, comfortable – index card
  31. 2015.01.07 Code insertion – index card
  32. 2015.01.07 Mapping the connections in my blog – index card
  33. 2015.01.07 Real Work – index card
  34. 2015.01.07 Sketched Book – The Progress Principle – Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work – Teresa Amabile, Steven Kramer
  35. 2015.01.07 Templates – index card
  36. 2015.01.07 Text transformation as part of expansion – index card
  37. 2015.01.08 How to use what you read – index card
  38. 2015.01.08 Imagining Emacs hangouts – index card
  39. 2015.01.08 Imagining coaching or guiding others – index card
  40. 2015.01.08 Learning as an event – index card
  41. 2015.01.08 Team-building activities – index card
  42. 2015.01.09 Cross-pollination of ideas – index card
  43. 2015.01.09 Take notes while you read books – index card
  44. 2015.01.09 Time is greater than money – index card
  45. 2015.01.09 What am I learning more about, and how can people help – index card
  46. 2015.01.09 What do I do on my non-consulting days – index card

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (36.8h – 21%)
    • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Revise transcript for Magnar Sveen
    • Earn (6.7h – 18% of Business)
      • Prepare invoice
    • Build (24.4h – 66% of Business)
      • Drawing (10.3h)
        • Organize my sketches for 2014
        • Post The Obstacle Is The Way to blog
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (1.8h)
      • Paperwork (5.8h)
        • File T5 for 2014
        • File T4 for 2014
      • Parse XML from Evernote and extract all the journal entries
      • Remove duplicates from Flickr list
      • Fix csa_foods
      • AJAXify clothing log
      • Fix the menu on small screens
      • Change error message since I don’t get notified about stuff
      • Clear up Documents/Documents confusion
      • Re-cross-reference blog posts with Flickr. What’s a nice, sustainable way of doing this?
    • Connect (5.7h – 15% of Business)
      • Talk to journalist about Quantified Self
      • Find contact information and timezone
  • Relationships (7.7h – 4%)
    • Check protocol and copy dates
  • Discretionary – Productive (26.4h – 15%)
    • Emacs (1.3h – 0% of all)
      • Revise transcript for Thomas Kjeldahl Nilsson
      • Blog about most recent Emacs Hangout
      • Developing Emacs micro-habits: Text automation
    • Get passport pictures
    • Scan passport
    • Apply for passport
    • Pick up my lunch
    • Writing (16.8h)
      • Smooth out image workflow for writing
  • Discretionary – Play (9.7h – 5%)
  • Personal routines (20.7h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (8.4h – 5%)
  • Sleep (58.2h – 34% – average of 8.3 per day)

Monthly review: December 2014

I wrote that in December, I planned to:

  • Continue helping my consulting client with prototyping and analytics: I updated our Tableau reports, and I’ve been turning over more prototyping to the new developer. Yay!
  • Dive into Emacs improvement: Didn’t get to do as much of this as I liked, but I was happy to see that @rubikitch has started a daily Emacs tip series. It’s in Japanese, but Google Translate will get you most of the way there.
  • Help out with family projects: This is mostly what our vacation’s been like. Awesome!
  • Do a calendar-year annual review: Yup, done. Although I really should put this in January’s plan anyway, since I like waiting for the numbers from Quantified Awesome…

I’m mostly normal again in terms of sleep and energy, but I’d like to get back into exercise.

In January, I plan to:

  • Set up a rhythm of monthly Emacs hangouts and Emacs chats
  • Shift my finances around a bit so that I’m more relaxed
  • Sort out some small snags with consulting
  • Get the exercise ladder habit going again. Sure, I know it might get disrupted, but the important part is to keep starting.
  • Make little improvements around the house, so it doesn’t end up waiting for vacations

Blog posts


  1. 2014.12.01 Colouring inspiration guide – drawingBlogged
  2. 2014.12.01 The Inner Game of Work – W Timothy GallweyBlogged
  3. 2014.12.04 Sketchnote Army Interview – Sacha ChuaBlogged
  4. 2014.12.10 Sketched Book – The Stoic Art of Living – Inner Resilience and Outer Results – Tom MorrisBlogged
  5. 2014.12.11 What is good for me to do whenBlogged
  6. 2014.12.12 Sketched Book – Just Fucking Ship – Amy Hoy and Alex HillmanBlogged
  7. 2014.12.13 Sketched Book – Start With Why – Simon Sinek
  8. 2014.12.14 Sketched Book – Write Faster Write Better – David A FryxellBlogged
  9. 2014.12.25 Sketched Book – Take Charge of Your Talent – Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life – Don Maruska and Jay PerryBlogged
  10. 2014.12.31 Sketched Book – The Checklist Manifesto – How to Get Things Right – Atul GawandeBlogged

Review: Week ending January 2, 2015

This week was about making little improvements. We installed weather-stripping to stop the drafts under the exterior walls. We added more lights to the basement, including an undercabinet light at my desk. I organized the tangle of USB cables plugged into a hub behind my monitor, tucking them into a box with a few input and output holes so that there’s less visual clutter. I also set up my Cintiq 12WX again. Using it to draw book sketchnotes is more pleasant than using my tablet PC. I wrote some Emacs Lisp to help me with my monthly reviews, and some Javascript to add blog links to more than a hundred of my sketches. I set up a Tasker scene to help me track my time on with just two clicks. Fun!

I posted my annual review. I think my focus for 2015 is going to be on little improvements and micro-habits. Getting really good at that will likely have all sorts of benefits.

Next week, W- will be back at work, and I’ll probably spend Thursday consulting. The rest of the time, I’m looking forward to revising transcripts, sketching books, and planning my next series of 2-4 week experiments.

Blog posts


Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (12.6h – 7%)
    • Earn (2.4h – 19% of Business)
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (4.8h – 38% of Business)
      • Drawing (2.9h)
        • Sketchnote So Good They Can’t Ignore You
        • Sketchnote The Checklist Manifesto
      • Delegation (0.0h)
      • Packaging (0.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
        • File payroll return
      • Fix forgot password process
    • Connect (5.4h – 42% of Business)
  • Relationships (39.5h – 23%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (11.6h – 6%)
    • Emacs (2.1h – 1% of all)
      • Revise transcript for Magnar Sveen
      • Revise transcript for Thomas Kjeldahl Nilsson
      • Reach out to possible Emacs Chat people
    • Get Org Mode to talk to my Vagrant VM
    • Make something that updates my Flickr photo descriptions in bulk
    • Write Emacs Lisp code for monthly review
    • Get passport pictures
    • Apply for passport
    • Pick up cultural access pass from Front and Parliament
    • Writing (7.9h)
  • Discretionary – Play (12.3h – 7%)
  • Personal routines (23.4h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (8.8h – 5%)
  • Sleep (59.9h – 36% – average of 8.6 per day)

2014 in review

First, a list of posts I particularly want to remember from this year. If any of them sound interesting, feel free to check them out – I’d love to hear what you think.

Second, a snapshot of everyday life, so that I can remember what it was like at this time. My routines haven’t changed much since last year, except perhaps that I spend more time writing, cooking, and snuggling with W- and the cats. I try to drop by my consulting client on Thursdays, having successfully off-loaded most of my responsibilities to the team members I’ve trained. I go to Hacklab most Tuesdays to help cook a free vegan dinner for the open house; it’s enjoyable cooking practice, and sometimes I get interesting conversations out of it. W- has taken on a bigger role at work, but that still gives us plenty of time for family projects (we’re working on the basement at the moment). J- often has friends over to study and hang out, so we keep the house stocked with a variety of snacks.

Some memories from this year:

  • We took our cat Leia for a lion cut to deal with some of the mats in her fur. It was very amusing.
  • I started keeping a more deliberate private journal using Org Mode and Evernote. It’s a good complement to blog posts.
  • Mixed results in the garden, but we were pleasantly surprised by getting one zucchini, two bitter melons, and two winter melons out of it. We’ll keep trying.
  • I became a Canadian citizen! I’ve been remiss about actually applying for the passport, though. I’ll get that sorted out soon.

2014-12-25 2014 Review

Third, overall themes:

In 2013, I resolved to spend more time focusing on my own things instead of giving in to the pull of consulting. So in 2014, I collected more resources into e-books (and even one print book). I experimented with writing a four-part course. I took a Coursera class on analyzing data with R. I played around with Emacs and wrote blog posts for hours.

And yet my data tells me I actually spent more time working on other people’s projects. It went from 9% of my time in 2013 to 12% of my time in 2014, which works out to about six additional hours extra per week. This is coincidentally the same number of hours I reduced my socializing by, although a chunk of that can be explained by shifting socializing to Hacklab (which I track under Business – Connect).

The special project I did in September really changed the balance (27.5% of my time in that month!), as did the fact that I didn’t take any month-long breaks. Even hermit-mode November involved working from home 6% of the time (~10 hours a week).

It’s funny how perception doesn’t match data. Despite the extra time spent consulting, I felt a lot more self-directed this year – maybe because I produced more tangible stuff, and my tasks were more aligned with each other. But I’m drifting off course from becoming my own main client, and I want to adjust that heading in 2015.

Category 2014 % ~h/wk 2013 % ~h/wk change in h/wk
Business – Earn 12.4 21 9.1 15 6
Personal care 14.6 25 12.7 21 4
Discretionary – Productive 7.8 13 6.7 11 2
Sleep (~ 8.9h per day) 36.4 61 36.7 62 -1
Business – Connect 4.2 7 4.4 7 0
Business – Build 7.0 12 7.5 13 -1
Unpaid work (chores, etc.) 7.0 12 7.8 13 -1
Discretionary – Play 5.0 8 5.2 9 -1
Discretionary – Family 4.0 7 5.5 9 -2
Discretionary – Social 1.2 2 4.9 8 -6

Data collected using Quantified Awesome – compare 2014 and 2013

In terms of technical skills, I picked up more experience in:

  • Tableau: I learned how to take advantage of custom SQL and filter actions, and I became more comfortable with calculated fields, parameters, and filters.
  • Javascript: I got better at writing short Javascript functions and testing them. The new API for the social platform I work with on my consulting gig allowed me to build all sorts of nifty new tools. I’ve also been helping another developer pick up skills.
  • NodeJS and AngularJS: I built a prototype survey tool that also automated other things we wanted to do during a special event.
  • Rails 4: I finally upgraded to Rails 4.

Also, Emacs Chats and Emacs Hangouts have been awesomely fun and inspiring. Can’t wait to set up more of them!

In terms of writing, I got better at working with outlines as a way to organize my thoughts within each blog post. I’m still working on getting the hang of outlines to help me organize my thoughts across multiple blog-post-sized chunks, but the basic Emacs Lisp course was a good start. I also started building up an Emacs Org to EPUB/MOBI/PDF workflow for quick publishing and updating, so that I can can get more e-books up on Gumroad. Because I offer these resources on a free/pay-what-you-want basis, every time someone does buy it, I’m delighted to have that opportunity to connect.

My 2013 review included a number of themes:

  • Smooth consulting transitions: We’re on the way there, I think. I’ve been training one of the team members to cover the work I used to do, which is great.
  • More initiative-taking: Yes, especially in terms of professional development and publishing. I’m getting better at figuring out what I would like to learn and how to try things out.
  • Cardio and strength exercise habits: W- shared the Couch-to-5K program he picked up at work. We’d gotten all the way through it together (even though I covered much less distance than he did), but then I had to drop the habit because of other considerations. I’d also started the Exercise Ladder, but it got hit by the same restrictions. We’ll see how next year turns out! It’s good to know that I can do it and enjoy it, and I’m looking forward to starting even if I have to start from scratch.
  • Intentional interaction: I love spending time with W-. I’ve also been spending more time connecting with people in person at Hacklab open houses (at which folks are welcome to visit me, too, so it’s a great way to have low-commitment conversations). I feel great about my online conversations, too; there’s resonance there.On the flipside, I spent less time setting up get-togethers in person or treating people to lunch. I didn’t bother with a birthday party for the second year in a row; I realized I enjoy the peace and quiet.

    I’ve been pulling myself in, focusing on a small core. Still, compared to last year, this year’s interactions feel more natural and more relaxed for me. Perhaps I’m more selfish and withdrawn than the ideal, but I’ll grow at my own pace. I’m probably going to stay similarly reserved in 2015 to give myself space to explore things, but I’ll reconsider this in 2016.

  • Simple living: Wow, Epictetus, dude. You do make it easier to separate what’s important and what’s just nice to have. Aristotle has a lot to say about the good life, and Seneca has something to say about the short life. Good stuff.This year, I let go of quite a few anxieties, attachments, previously-unexamined commitments, and desires. I am getting a little attached to flexibility, though, so that’s something I may want to experiment with.
  • More harvesting and sharing: That worked out well. I’m excited about writing bigger chunks with outlines and using my publishing workflow to package even more useful resources. This will be fun.

It’s been a good year for the stock market, although all of that is still paper gains for me since I haven’t sold any stocks and all my dividends are reinvested. We had some pretty large expenses (in line with our priorities, at least) that required me to dip into my savings. I issued my first dividends last year, so if things work out the way I expect them to at tax-time, planning should be smoother.

Here’s a more detailed time breakdown of some things I care about:

Activity 2014 % 2013 % Change in hours/year
Emacs 1.8 1.1 61
Drawing 2.6 2.2 35
Writing 3.2 3.0 18

Hmm. I didn’t spend that much more time, but it feels a little awesomer this year; the posts grew into more conversations with people, and I learned more from those. Maybe it’s that test-driven learning thing. What you learn becomes more real to you and more useful to others when you create something from it, so it can make sense to aim for creating something from the beginning.

I’m getting a little clearer about what I want to do with my writing, drawing, and Emacs-tweaking:

  • Learn more stuff myself: Because this is fun and it tickles my brain
  • Delight and inspire people with the cool stuff out there. (Selfish reason: I get to learn, too!)
  • Connect with people: something about resonance and swapping notes and casting a little light on different roads…

Experiment update: 2015 will be the fourth year of my five-year experiment. Boggle! When I thought about what five years looked like in 2012, it felt like such a big space – more than university, more than the time I spent at IBM.

  • The first year, I learned how to experiment with business models, hitting the ground running with consulting.
  • The second year, I focused on consulting and event sketchnoting.
  • The third year (2014), I scaled down consulting so that I could learn more about creating.

2014 was the year that people’s generosity showed me that I really like writing as a way of creating value. There were countless conversations and even the occasional purchase of free/pay-what-you-want (PWYW) resources. I liked waking up in the morning to a notification that someone had decided to express their appreciation and invest in me (and themselves!). I liked the responses to my thank-you notes, the questions and suggestions and ideas. It was more of a gentle thrum rather than the highs and lows of programming, but I liked it.

If my life can continue to fit within investments and savings and little streams of income, I’d like to keep doing this. It’s not going to be an extravagant life, but there’s room for what’s important. So the fourth year, 2015, will be a good opportunity to explore sharing further. Can I keep this going through the extra uncertainty we might be dealing with next year? Can I create and receive value with this commitment to openness instead of following the trend toward exclusive courses and premium content? Can I build resources that will save or improve 10-100 hours of people’s lives so that they’re willing to give me the equivalent of a few of their hours to make this even better?

In 2015, I’m looking forward to:

  • Improving my technical skills:
    • Getting even more deeply into Emacs and taking advantage of the many useful packages that are available
    • Writing shorter, better-tested code in Javascript and 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
  • Successfully taking on more uncertainty with even better safety nets and equanimity

It’ll be fun. =) Thanks for great year!

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