Weekly review: Week ending January 8, 2016

We hosted W-‘s family for dinner last Saturday, and we’ve been making great progress through the leftovers. Lots of vegetables this time around, yay!

Lots of reflection this week: my annual review, planning and other decisions, and things I’m learning about life. I’m looking forward to exploring those thoughts in a bit more detail.

More decluttering around the house, which is nice. A bit of sewing, too. Lots of napping, lots of reading… It’s nice to be able to take it easy. =)

2016-01-09b Week ending 2016-01-08 -- index card #journal #weekly output


Blog posts

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (16.0h – 9%)
    • Earn (6.9h – 42% of Business)
      • ☑ Prepare invoice
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (6.4h – 39% of Business)
      • Drawing (5.3h)
      • Paperwork (0.5h)
    • Connect (2.8h – 17% of Business)
  • Relationships (22.6h – 13%)
    • ☑ Cook
    • ☑ Try window covering
    • ☐ Pick up clothes, give lasagna
  • Discretionary – Productive (16.8h – 9%)
    • Emacs (0.8h – 0% of all)
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☐ Announce Hangout
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Sewing (7.6h)
    • Writing (6.6h)
    • ☐ Reconsider TFSA investments – move to bonds?
  • Discretionary – Play (10.9h – 6%)
  • Personal routines (25.4h – 15%)
  • Unpaid work (7.2h – 4%)
  • Sleep (68.9h – 41% – average of 9.8 per day)

2016-01-04 Emacs News

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, Youtube, the Emacs commit log, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

What do I want from my review process?

I’ve just finished reviewing 2015. I reread my blog posts, reviewed my photos, analyzed my time, and wrapped it up in a summary that surprised my recency-biased brain. It turned out to have been a pretty good year, even though I had felt a little bit lost and frazzled at times.

It got me thinking about what I want from my daily/weekly/monthly/yearly review process. What would I like to tweak for next time?

2016-01-02e What do I want from my yearly review -- index card #writing #review

This year, my index cards turned out to be an convenient graphical way to roll up everyday notes into larger and larger chunks. I even have some code to make it easier to create montages of lower-level sketches (for example, the daily sketches when I’m doing a weekly review) and include them as a layer in my drawing program so that I can choose the highlights for redrawing. Some days, I didn’t have much to draw. Other days, I overflowed with things I wanted to remember. Being able to quickly jot a few keywords or make a quick card kept me rolling even when my mind was too fuzzy to write a blog post, so that worked out wonderfully.

I think next year will be pretty similar. With that in mind, I’d like to get better at using my reviews to:

  • See the connections that aren’t obvious: Sometimes a thought weaves its way in and out of my mind over a long period of time, or sometimes several ideas are fascinating when juxtaposed. My working memory tends to be more limited when I’m fuzzy-brained, so it’s hard to see those connections. If I reread a bunch of posts in quick succession or I shuffle my index cards somewhat randomly, though, that can help me see those links. This tends to kick in for the monthly and yearly reviews. It might be interesting to see if I can get this working longer-term, too.
  • Use data to adjust for biases: I notice I have a strong recency bias when I’m fuzzy-brained. Recent experiences colour my perception and make certain things easier or harder to remember. Both analyzing data and reviewing archives can help me counteract that bias and get a better view of what happened. In general, I’ve tended to underestimate progress and be pleasantly surprised during review. I wonder if that means I tend to pessimistically evaluate day-by-day progress, and if tweaking that would result in a positive effect on motivation and momentum.
  • Get a sense of progress and direction: This is good for celebrating progress and catching drift. I tend to not have fixed goals as much as general directions, so drift could be a little harder to notice. It’s still interesting to play spot-the-differences with my past selves, though.
  • Summarize chunks for easier review: I don’t need to remember all the details from each day. It’s nice to have memory hooks for the highlights, though. Reviewing and chunking periods of time helps me make sense of longer and longer periods. I wonder if it makes sense for me to do quarters or seasons as a step in between months and years…
  • Remember and follow up on ideas, decisions; consider what’s coming up: Sometimes the review reminds me of something I want to follow up on, a decision I want to revisit, or an idea I’d like to try. I could get better at this by explicitly calling out things to revisit and scheduling reminders for myself. That’s one of those tips for managing oneself, after all.
  • Revisit and archive memories: I’m not particularly sentimental, and there are few memories that I deliberately revisit outside the context of a conversational reference. That might be something worth playing with, though – maybe as a way to understand life more, maybe as a source of ideas for future experiments, and maybe something that can eventually become another source of happiness or satisfaction? Hmm.
  • Capture a snapshot of life at this moment: Related to archiving memories: sometimes it’s helpful to capture the everyday, ordinary things, since that can be unexpectedly interesting when looking back.
  • Place things in larger contexts: I don’t do nearly enough of this, I think: seeing things in a larger context, with a longer-term perspective. I occasionally check things against 5- or 10-year periods, and sometimes against expected lifespan, but there isn’t that sense of deep understanding yet, and it’s still mostly limited to my own scope. I do some wider reflections from time to time, borrowing the Stoic practice of remembering that things are transitory and insignificant. I think a larger perspective will probably develop over time; might be a wisdom thing.

Practically speaking, that probably translates to:

  • Continue drawing daily/weekly/monthly index cards, possibly with more details and observations.
  • Consider drawing a quarterly round-up too: maybe the previous quarter + three monthly cards.
  • Organize my notes on decisions for review, including predicted consequences and reasons for choosing, and schedule reminders for them.
  • Write or draw memories, maybe organizing them by person/trigger, and reflect on them from time to time.
  • See if I can get better at explicitly linking small day-to-day steps with my bigger picture, and celebrating those small steps instead of waiting for the monthly or yearly review to make sense of them.


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

Monthly review: December 2015

I’m pretty comfortable with my Linux setup now. Krita has held up well in terms of drawing index cards on my tablet PC. I’ve set up a few brushes similar to the ones I used with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, and I have a script that makes it easier to import and scale a layer. Being on Linux has also allowed me to write a bunch of command-line tools that would’ve been more difficult to do under Windows, and I’ve been taking advantage of the automation possibilities.

It’s been a good month for Emacs-related things. I’ve been refining my workflow for collecting and organizing links for Emacs News. I also had a quickly-scheduled Emacs Chat with John Wiegley about life as the new maintainer of Emacs, and the Emacs Hangout went well despite the issues at the beginning.

The fabric I ordered from Fabric.com arrived in time for me to make gifts and send them off, and the package arrived in time for my family’s Christmas party during their vacation in California. I also sewed a few more clothes and accessories, organized my sewing materials, and turned some of my scraps into patchwork. I might actually be getting the hang of this.

Lots of cooking this month, whee! Baking season is in full swing. I’ve been making a pot of baked beans almost every weekend, and it’s become my standard breakfast.

I felt a little more tired than last month. I’ve been sleeping almost an hour more each day – almost ten hours a day, total. Ah well, such is life. It’s good to have the flexibility to sleep when I need to, and to be able to make the most of the other hours of the day when I can. I’ve been organizing my files, automating processes, and simplifying our life in preparation for even more fuzzy-brain times ahead, and I think this will pay off well.

2016-01-02b December 2015 -- index card #monthly #review output

Blog posts



Less energy and concentration this month, but I still managed to get a lot of things done. Lots of cooking and personal projects, less consulting.

(my/quantified-compare "2015-11-01" "2015-12-01" "2015-12-01" "2016-01-01" '("Business - Build" "Discretionary - Play" "Unpaid work" "Discretionary - Social" "Discretionary - Family" "Sleep" "Business - Connect" "Business - Earn" "Discretionary - Productive" "Personal"))

Weekly review: Week ending January 1, 2016

We’re hosting a get-together for W-‘s family today, so last week was all about tidying up, preparing food ahead of time, and getting things ready. W- has been on a home improvement kick, painting some of the walls and ceilings that were recently patched, updating the track lights that go down the basement stairs, and installing a set of track lights in the living room. For my part, I’ve been getting rid of stuff, organizing and updating inventories, and helping out with whatever I could. All this decluttering and rearranging prompted us to learn more about interior design. We watched the six-part Design Rules series from BBC on YouTube, and will probably look up a few more resources as we gradually reshape our living areas.

I’ve been thinking about ways to repurpose my sewing scraps. Cutting them into 4″x4″ squares and using them for patchwork seems like a good, frugal way to keep things under control. My first patchwork piece is a little on the visually busy side, but mabe that’s not a bad thing. Over the next few weeks, I’ll process the rest of my scraps, and then we’ll see what I can do with the pieces.

The end of the year is a good time for an annual review, so I’ll probably be focusing on that this week. I’m looking forward to making sense of last year and picking a few ideas to follow up on this year. I suspect the year turned out better than I sometimes think it did; distance, data, and my archive will help me get a better sense of that. We’ll see what comes out!

2016-01-02a Week ending 2016-01-01 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts


Focus areas and time review

  • Business (10.2h – 6%)
    • Earn (6.1h – 59% of Business)
      • ☐ Prepare invoice
      • ☐ Do monthly data dump
      • ☐ Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (3.0h – 29% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.0h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
      • ☑ Index card visualization
      • ☑ Learn Coffeescript
    • Connect (1.1h – 11% of Business)
  • Relationships (7.9h – 4%)
    • ☑ Research good practices
    • ☑ Copy recordings to phone
    • ☑ Move the heated cat bed into our bedroom
    • ☑ Revisit seats
    • ☑ Plan party for Jan 3
      • ☑ Move stuff out of the way
      • ☑ Make pumpkin pie
      • ☑ Defrost korma
      • ☑ Make banchan
  • Discretionary – Productive (16.3h – 9%)
    • Emacs (2.1h – 1% of all)
      • ☑ Insert and categorize link
      • ☑ Do another Emacs News review
      • ☑ See Org linked files in a Dired buffer
      • ☑ Write Emacs Lisp to help with quilt planning
      • ☐ Do another Emacs News review
    • Sewing (9.6h)
      • ☑ Lunch bag for J-
      • ☑ Sew quilt blocks
      • ☑ Cut 4×4 squares
    • Writing (3.0h)
    • ☑ Figure out other things I can read in my e-reader
    • ☑ Figure out other things I can read on my phone
    • ☑ Research NAS recommendations
    • ☑ Review the organization of my Org files
    • ☑ Organize old files
    • ☑ Review stuff in basement cabinets, update inventory, and get rid of more things
    • ☑ Type or copy song lyrics
  • Discretionary – Play (12.1h – 7%)
  • Personal routines (23.5h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (26.9h – 15%)
  • Sleep (71.1h – 42% – average of 10.2 per day)