Category Archives: yearly

Life as a 33-year-old

The first half of this year was like winding up a spring, and the second half was about letting it loose; pulling inwards and preparing, then A-'s birth in February and an explosion of learning and activity. 2016-08-10a Life as a 33-year-old -- index card #yearly #review 2016-08-12b Delta between 32 and 33 -- index card #yearly #review This time last year, I was heading into the second trimester of pregnancy. As nausea and vomiting receded, I regained a little energy. I helped W- tile the laundry corner and the bathroom in the basement. I sewed diaper covers and wet bags from PUL, and serged flats from thrift store flannel sheets. I filled the freezer with lasagna and lumpia. When fatigue returned, I retreated into hermit mode: long walks, lots of video gaming, and generally luxuriating in the quiet and the autonomy. I got a lot of practice in saying no and going with what I felt comfortable with, and I found out that I liked it. =) I used some of that time to sort out my tech, too. After finding out that Krita had all of the sketching features I needed, I switched back to Linux and started tweaking my setup. I won the Toronto Public Library hackathon with a tool for visualizing library search results on a map. I wrote little scripts to stalk videos at the library, check grocery flyers, visualize data, and automate other things. Also, John Wiegley asked me to start summarizing Emacs community updates, so I put together Emacs News: a filtered, categorized list of links from Planet Emacsen, Reddit, and other sources. That and consulting have been handy ways to keep a toe in the technical waters. Consulting-wise, I turned over most of my tasks, and the team's doing way better than I could have with my much fuzzier brain. I'm still working on migrating some old code into a few add-ons for them, but fortunately they're super-accommodating in terms of time, and other people take care of the bits that require more attention or coordination. I'm so glad I experimented with making my life more flexible in terms of time and energy. My time stats show that childcare now takes up ~34% of my time these days, or 57 hours a week. I still manage to get a little more than eight and a half hours of sleep, but it's a bit more broken up and less under my control. Still, I don't feel exhausted or too stretched out. Discretionary time is down to about 2 hours a day (which is still pretty good!), although that's mostly just after she goes to bed, so that affects what I can do. I've been using it for keeping my journal up to date, and doing a little writing or coding when I can. I do a few hours of consulting a week, too. Anyway, lots of things are on hold. Past Sacha decided this was an excellent use of time, and I agree. It's worthwhile and temporary. =) Thanks to A-, I've been learning more about health and public resources. She was born with left-eye microphthalmia, with no vision in that eye, and she has adapted well to the prosthesis that will help her skull grow symmetrically. She also has a ventricular septal defect (a hole between two parts of her heart). It's not quite large enough to clearly need surgery, but not small enough to rule surgery out, so we'll just have to wait and see. Abnormal results from her liver ultrasound turned out to be a benign hemangioma instead of cancer (whew!), so that's one concern off our list for now (although I think we'll need to monitor it with an annual ultrasound). W- started parental leave in June, and that's been wonderful for both the big medical things as well as the little moments and memories. What's the difference between 32 and 33 for me? There's A-, of course, and the host of changes that accompany her. I've got a deeper appreciation for W-, and for various things (libraries! health care! the Internet! people!). I've had a lot of practice in equanimity and Stoic philosophy. I've seen lots of preparation paying off, and I have new plans to put into place. I'm learning a lot, and I'm looking forward to even more.

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

Life as a 31-year-old

I used to host get-togethers as a way of thanking friends, catching up with folks, and seeing what interesting conversations come out of mixing people together. I was always stressed out right up to when people started arriving and mingling, though. It turns out that it's totally all right to celebrate one's birthday however you want. For W- and me, quiet days at home win out over noisy celebrations. =) Besides, I'm still in hermit mode these days. I like looking back at the past year. I'm always surprised by the things that managed to fit in a single year. Was that memory really that recent? Has it really been that long since that other memory? Here are a few of those highlights for me: 2015-08-11b Life as a 31-year-old -- index card #review #yearly
  • Business
    • Helping my client through a major upgrade
    • Enjoying an intense and wonderful sprint of prototyping for a high-profile event
    • Having fun at an internal hackathon
    • Improving my skills: Javascript, SQL (SQL Server and PostgreSQL), Tableau
    • Filing quick method HST on my own
    • Managing my own health plan
  • Connecting
    • Hacklab's move from Kensington Market to Queen Street West - kitting out the kitchen so that it's a pleasure to cook in, and spending hours cooking at open houses
    • Spending more time at Hacklab
    • Talking about talking
    • Becoming closer to friends and talking about deeper topics
    • Figuring out the space I need, too
  • Hobbies and interests
    • Picking up sewing again
    • Combining sewing with laser cutting, whee: post
    • Reading lots of science fiction
    • Reflecting on philosophy, leisure, applying Stoicism, and so on
    • Digging into coding and visualizations, especially for my future self
    • Helping the Emacs community through hangouts and posts
  • Family and life
    • Working on projects around the house and other things
    • Reaching personal milestones (10 years in Canada, among other things)
    • Becoming a Canadian citizen (no longer worrying about getting stuck on the wrong side of a border!)
    • Making my peace with fuzzy brain and other things
There's been a lot of wrapping things up this year, closing long-running open loops. It feels good to reap the benefits of things planned and started by long-ago selves. I wonder what I can prepare for my future self. I think philosophy and reading will be handy, and maybe the skills and tools I build. Who knows, maybe sewing will be useful too. We'll see! Last year, I wrote that when I do my "Life as a 31-year-old" review, I'd like to be able to say that:
  • I have excellent health-related habits: I enjoyed the biking while it lasted. For now, this is temporarily limited to walking. Oh well!
  • Our home life is wonderful: So much for yummy food, but yay for projects, decluttering, simple lives, great relationships, and so on.
  • I helped my consulting client make successful transitions: Yup!
  • I’ve broadened my business a little bit more. I've made it smaller, actually, but I'm happy with the outcome and with my reasons for doing so.
Here are some other differences:
  • Compared to 30-year-old me, I've been both a lot more social (November to April or so) and a lot less social (these past few months). Hermit mode is surprisingly comfortable.
  • I've dialed consulting back to one day a week, although I've also worked more intensely when needed. My current life is very relaxed and laid-back.
  • Enough of a stock market downturn to make it onto my radar. Still not panicking, though, which is a good sign. Seems to be recovering. I'm in it for the long haul, anyway.
  • I really like this practice of drawing digital index cards to record my day and build up thoughts. They're more granular and manageable than the 8.5x11" sheets I used to draw.
  • I used to draw with more colours. I've been mostly black-and-white these days, but I think I'll get back to colours when I start feeling more playful about thinking.
  • I learned how to play first-person shooter games. They're actually quite fun. W- and I have been playing Borderlands 2.
  • I'm more comfortable with fuzziness and uncertainty and experimentation (yay philosophy), which could be good for growing older and taking on more challenges. Life so far is already enough, and anything more than this is a bonus. I wonder: what's beyond getting things done?
  • I've gotten to the point of being able to wear something I made every day, if I want to. I don't always do so, but I like having the option. It was surprisingly easy and a good opportunity to geek out more. =)
A snapshot of everyday life, so that I can remember what it was like at this time: I'm home most of the time, although sometimes I go for a walk to the supermarket or the library. It's a little frustrating feeling fuzzy or bleah, but at the same time, it's good philosophy practice. It's hard to write, but if I keep collecting fragments of thoughts, I know they'll add up. Voluntary discomfort, momentary annoyances, and all that. With any luck, I'll probably shift out of hermit mode sometime over the next few weeks. In the meantime, W- and I play Borderlands 2 in the evening. It's fun coordinating our attacks and swapping loot. The blueberries and the strawberries in our garden have been extra-yummy this summer. Yay! The drip irrigation system that W- and I put in has been paying off, too. The garden's a lot more lively now than it was last year. I have no idea what next year will be like, but I look forward to handling it with equanimity. If you're curious, here are some other yearly reviews I've written (both birthday-related and calendar-related). It's fun having an archive. =)

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 quantifiedawesome.com 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! Previous reviews:

Turning 31

What a year! Life just keeps getting better and better.
2013-09-26 Goals for 31 #plans #year

2013-09-26 Goals for 31 #plans #year

I like looking forward by looking back: imagining myself in the future and seeing what changed. Last August, I wrote: "When I look back at this year on the eve of turning 31, I’d like to say…" So here's how all that worked out.
I’ve learned and shared a lot. This next year will probably be a year of intense learning in terms of life and work and Making Things Happen. As tempting as it always is to go full speed ahead, I think the result will be even better if I slow down and take notes along the way.
I slowed down in terms of work, scaling back my consulting hours to about two days a week and using the freed-up time for reading, cooking, spending time with family, and working on other projects/experiments like Emacs and sketchnoting. That worked out really well.
I’ve gotten very good at making decisions under lots of uncertainty. The outcomes might not always be good, but at least the processes will be well-reasoned and I’ll have notes to help me (and other people) learn more.
I'm comfortable taking on bigger and bigger challenges. I'm comfortable with research and can generally find some background information quickly. I have fun sketching out different scenarios and finding my way. This is working nicely too.
I’ve expanded my freedom and abilities in this 5-year experiment. I’ve focused on building up skills, knowledge, and relationships out of curiosity (“What if?” “How can we make this better?”) instead of fear (“Will I be able to hit the ground running if I decide to go back to the workforce?”). I find creative ways to deal with constraints, and those ideas help others. Writing, drawing, and coding continue to be a large part of my life.
I added a few useful business-related skills and improved a number of my existing skills. Yay! This is definitely fun, and I'm looking forward to figuring out what the next year will bring.
I’ve gotten better at asking questions. This is tough, because I tend to want to dig into things myself, Google+books+experiments give me so much information, and advice can get a little weird if you don’t take it. Maybe if I start asking people questions through this blog, I might elicit interesting perspectives or encourage people to teach something (especially if they don’t have blogs of their own).
Philosophy turned out to be a good addition to the things I'm learning and thinking about. By immersing myself in the conversations of book authors throughout the ages, I can learn from all these very smart people who have thought about things. =)
I live a simple and frugal life. Lifestyle inflation is the enemy. If I can keep my wants and needs the same–-or even reduce them–-then that helps us be even more free.
My base expenses were actually a little bit lower than they were the previous year. Neat! The stock market has been doing pretty well (aside from the current dip), and I've been saving most of the income from consulting too. I'm going to figure out dividends next year, so then I'll be able to move more money from savings into investments. Where did the year go?
August 2013 Lots of drawing, making sketchnote lessons
September Emacs, writing, sketchnotes, learning tips
October More drawing, reflecting on my experiment
November Google Helpouts, Emacs chats
December Trip to the Philippines!
January Lots of learning tips
February Writing about blogging; making that no-excuses guide to blogging
March Frugal Fire podcast experiment
April More Emacs Chats and Frugal Fire podcasts; Raspberry Pi
May Even more Emacs Chats
June Read Lisp, Tweak Emacs
July Philosophy
So, how am I different from the person I was last year?
  • I'm healthier. I like these new exercise habits (running to build up endurance, the Hacker's Diet exercise ladder for very gradually building up strength). We've been eating even better too.
  • I did a lot of cool front-end work on my consulting engagement. I picked up new skill: Jive app/add-on development. Improved existing skills, too: Javascript, analytics, etc.
  • I spent a lot less time working, networking, and socializing (reduced by 263, 333, and 324 hours respectively!), and more time working on Emacs, gardening, reading, and sleeping. I spent about as much time writing as I did last year. I shifted most of my socialization to Hacklab, since I like the way it fits me.
  • I had good experiments with self-publishing. I published my 2013 collection of sketchnotes, a no-excuses guide to blogging and a beginner's guide to learning Emacs Lisp. I checked out Createspace for making a print version of my sketchnotes collection, and that actually worked out nicely. I did the Emacs Lisp guide as an e-mail course, too.
  • I drew more. I thought I drew less, but actually, my time records and my files say that I drew a lot more. It just didn't feel that way because I've been writing so many text-based blog posts lately. (Hah! Recency bias.)
  • I learned more about podcasting by doing short series of shows with live sketchnotes, followed up with transcripts (Emacs Chats, Helpers Help Out, Frugal Fire Show). I might not get into it long-term, but it was interesting to try out.
  • I'm more comfortable with talking to people and helping them online. I experimented with the Google Helpouts platform, helping people learn more about note-taking, learning, building on introvert strengths, and Emacs. That worked out well (tons of 5-star reviews!), although I scaled my availability down so that I could focus on other things.
  • I'm more comfortable with philosophy, and with the humanities in general. I've been reading a lot lately, and I find philosophy to be useful and interesting. I'm getting better at not worrying about things and at writing about what I'm thinking. Yay!
  • I'm more involved in family life. I spend more time on family-related things, and I've been helping W- more too.
  • I've learned a little more about gardening. Watering regularly makes a difference, but I'm still constrained by environmental factors.
Next year, I'll turn 32. (Nice round number!) When I do my annual review then, what would I like to be able to say about life as a 31-year-old?
  • I have excellent health-related habits I have the strength, flexibility, and endurance to do what I want to do.
  • Our home life is wonderful. We enjoy yummy food, good projects, a tidy house, simple lives, great relationships, and other things.
  • I helped my consulting client make successful transitions. Upgrades, training, time away… I did my work well, and they're in a great position to continue doing awesome things in the future.
  • I've broadened my business a little bit more. I might go deeper into writing/drawing/publishing, or I might look into product development. This reduces the risk of being classified as a personal services business, and it may lead to other interesting skills and opportunities. In terms of development, I like web-based stuff more than mobile, so maybe I'll focus on that.
Life is good. Looking forward to seeing how this year turns out!

Reflection: Two years into my 5-year experiment

"Monotony collapses time; novelty expands it," writes Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein. It feels like more than two years since the start of my 5-year experiment with semi-retirement, which is what I jokingly called this adventure into a self-directed life. So far, amazing. This year, I focused less on consulting and event sketchnoting, and I focused more on creating my own content. More than 500 sketches and three mini-eBooks later, I feel happy about this decision, and I'm curious about where else it can lead. I've also been ramping up my delegation and systematization. Since I'm still doing a bit of consulting here and there, I think that these processes will help me get even better at making and sharing things even if my attention is divided--and that can come in handy later on. Let's see how it goes.
2014-02-16 Two years into my 5-year experiment #experiment #review

2014-02-16 Two years into my 5-year experiment #experiment #review

I'd done a pre-mortem of possibilities for failure back in 2012, but I don't think I wrote about the success criteria or vision. (That's odd!) Somewhat belated, but here it is. This experiment is shaping up to be about whether I've got what's needed for a good self-directed life. I think success for this experiment would be:
  • exploring uncommon questions and ideas
  • having a happy life at home
  • helping lots of people grow
  • having sold plans and a great foundation for next steps
2014-02-16 Goals and success criteria for my 5-year experiment #experiment #success

2014-02-16 Goals and success criteria for my 5-year experiment #experiment #success

So, how was this year different from last year? What might next year be like? What would wild success at the end be like?
2014-02-16 More detailed evaluation of 5-year experiment so far #experiment #review #evaluation

2014-02-16 More detailed evaluation of 5-year experiment so far #experiment #review #evaluation

The first year was about getting the hang of paperwork and consulting. This second year was about coming into my own. Next year will be a good year for growth and resilience, I think. If I can continue on that path, I think it'll be interesting.