What do I want to learn in 2012?

Want to help me with anything on this list? Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] . What can I help you learn? I'm sure I'll learn tons along the way, too!



  • Self-tracking / personal informatics: Learn with Quantified Awesome
    • [ ] Android development
      • Goal: custom Android app for tracking and reporting, so that I can keep an eye on my goals and collect/analyze more data
      • Estimate: 80 hours
    • [ ] Goal tracking
      • Goal: Visual way to keep track of how much I work each week, how much I sleep, how much time I spend on focused learning, etc.; also, customizable questions to help me change my behaviour
      • Estimate: 16 hours
    • [ ] Visualization
      • [ ] Time
        • Goal: Overall view of how I spent my time in a month or in a year, so that I can shift my time patterns
        • Estimate: 16 hours
      • [ ] Goals
        • Goal: See goal tracking
        • Estimate: 16 hours
      • [ ] Use
        • Goal: Identify things worth spending money or time on based on past use and satisfaction
        • Estimate: 16 hours
    • [ ] Behavioural change
      • Goal: Get better and better at life by structuring each month as an experiment
      • Estimate: 48 hours
    • [ ] Applying automated testing to life
      • Goal: Stop more things from falling through the cracks by developing automated tests (ex: checking balances, etc.)
      • Estimate: 16 hours
    • [ ] Accommodating other people's patterns
      • Goal: Build systems that other people can use so that I can help them and so that I can learn from how they live
      • Estimate: 80 hours
  • Tools: Learn by doing
    • [ ] Take advantage of improvements in Emacs and Org-mode
      • Goal: Make the most of the tools I use
      • Estimate: 16 hours
    • [ ] Learn how to make the most of Org-mode outlines - maybe use this for knowledge representation?
      • Goal: Get to know Emacs Org Mode thoroughly so that I can use it to organize and publish what I know
      • Estimate: 8 hours
    • [ ] Other tools that can take advantage of extra CPU and memory
      • Goal: Find apps or packages that can help me work even more effectively
      • Estimate: 26 hours
    • [ ] Org and synchronization between multiple computers
      • Goal: Get this sorted out so that I don't accidentally lose any information
      • Estimate: 4 hours
    • [ ] [#C] Web service integration
      • Goal: Interact with Quantified Awesome from Emacs so that I can meld Org and QA
      • Estimate: 16 hours
  • Writing: Learn by doing and reading
    • [ ] Writing about life and things I'm learning
      • Goal: Write notes and pointers to memories so that I can remember and share stories
      • Current: 0.9 hours a day
      • Estimate: 80 hours, part of discretionary buffer time as well
    • [ ] Writing family stories
      • Goal: Help capture and share some of our family stories
      • Estimate: 40 hours
    • [ ] Organizing stories
      • Goal: Build a system for collaboratively working on and organizing stories
      • Estimate: 40 hours
    • [ ] Organizing notes
      • Goal: Make it easy for me (and possibly other people) to browse my notes by topic or explore a knowledge map
      • Estimate: 40 hours
    • [ ] Putting together an e-book that will be useful to at least one other person
      • Goal: Learn how to package information so that I can scale up
      • Estimate: 80 hours
  • Visual: Learn by doing and by being inspired by other people
    Lowered priority on this to make space for other interests; should see if I can find someone else to do the IBM comic series
    • [ ] Drawing with more colours
    • [ ] Illustrating life, tips
    • [ ] Taking, organizing, and sharing more pictures
  • Delegation / elimination: Learn by doing
    Lowered priority on this to make space for other interests; may still look into delegating, but am okay with taking longer to accomplish my plans (maturation is handy!)
    • [ ] Delegating some chores?
    • [ ] Simplifying stuff and routines


Not estimated because this is part of social time

  • [ ] Planning and decision-making: Learn by making decisions
  • [ ] Cultivating relationships with family: Learn by reaching out
  • [ ] Cultivating connections online: Learn by reaching out
  • [ ] Making time for friends: Learn by reaching out
  • [ ] Local tech events: Learn by finding out about events and attending them
  • Shared interests
    • [ ] Once-a-month cooking: Learn by doing
    • [ ] Dealing with community-supported agriculture: Learn by doing
    • [ ] Tutoring: Learn by doing and reading


  • Rails: Learn with Quantified Awesome
    • Goal: I want to learn more about Rails because I want to get better at building systems to support the way I want to live, and because I enjoy using it.
    • [ ] Rails 3.1: I want to take advantage of new features while building Quantified Awesome
      • Goal: Use Quantified Awesome to answer my questions about how I spend my time, what I use, and how I want to grow
      • Estimate: 80 hours
    • [ ] Mongo and other data stores
      • Goal: Work with data that does not easily fit SQL data models
      • Estimate: 20 hours
    • [ ] APIs: I want to integrate my web apps with lots of other tools, and allow for integration
      • Goal: Add a native Android app and an Emacs interface; possibly integrate Twitter, my blog, and other websites for more data / questions
      • Estimate: 80 hours
    • [ ] Performance tuning: I want to make sure my systems can handle the requests I want it to.
      Not estimated because this is part of work
    • [ ] Security testing: I want to be more confident in the applications I build.
      Not estimated because this is part of work
  • Testing
    • [ ] 100% test coverage: Learn with Quantified Awesome, work projects
      • Goal: Get used to building more slowly and reliably
      • Estimate: 40 hours; rest included in development
    • [ ] Selenium and other front-end tests: Learn with work projects
      Not estimated because this is part of work
    • [ ] Behaviour-driven development: Learn with work projects, Quantified Awesome
      • Goal: Learn how to express behaviour clearly and concisely so that I can specify my own apps
      • Estimate: 8 hours; rest included in development
  • Launching
    • [ ] Testing ideas: Learn with Quantified Awesome
      • Goal: Test ideas and see which ones might be useful to people; build networks
      • Estimate: 40 hours
    • [ ] Launching with minimal or no defects: Learn with work projects
      Not estimated because this is part of work
    • [ ] Launching personal projects: Learn with Quantified Awesome
      • Goal: Make life better for at least one other person
      • Estimate: 80 hours
  • Drupal
    Not estimated because this is part of work
    • [ ] Installation profiles and code packaging: Learn with work projects
    • [ ] Testing: Learn with work projects
    • [ ] Drupal 7: Learn with work projects
  • Front-end and web design
    • [ ] More JQuery + AJAX for richer interactions?: Learn with work projects
      Not estimated because this is part of work
    • [ ] CSS and frameworks: Learn with work projects
      Not estimated because this is part of work
    • [ ] Basic information architecture: Learn with Quantified Awesome
      • Goal: Figure out a mobile and web interface that fits the way I (and maybe other people) live
      • Estimate: 40 hours
  • Projects
    Not estimated because this is part of work
    • [ ] Agile development: I want to get better at planning and executing agile projects
    • [ ] Documentation: I want to take better notes so that I can support projects more effectively


Not estimated because this is part of work

  • [ ] Determining needs: Learn with work engagements
  • [ ] Social analytics: Learn with work engagements

Time budget

It's easy to map out things I want to learn. The real question is: what am I going to make time to learn?

How much time can I play with? What is my cognitive surplus? Looking at my time records over the past seven weeks, I get an average of 3.5 hours of discretionary time per weekday and 7 hours of discretionary time per weekend day. I can simplify that to an average of 4.5 hours per day, which comes out to 1642 hours for 2012 (not including vacations, which include more discretionary time).

Over the seven weeks I'm looking at, around 40% of discretionary time was used for social activities. Let's say that 30% is available for focused personal interests and learning, leaving 30% as a buffer for breaks and other things. That gives me around 500 hours of focused learning. I want to do more than 1,000. Hmm.

Prioritization is important. I can focus on the things I want the most, then see how the rest of the year shakes out. Plans will change anyway, and estimates are flexible. My first few priorities for personal learning:

  • Android development, so that I can save time syncing and get more of the data I want
  • Goal tracking (handy for keeping the rest of my time in line)
  • Behavioural change (trying small experiments)

Another way to deal with the gap is to shift more time. Over those seven weeks, tidying took about 0.7 hours / day, and cooking took about that much time too. Let's say half of future tidying and all of future cooking is outsourceable at $20/hour. That's an additional 384 hours for a trade-off of $7,680 after tax, which is a large chunk of money. I think I'd rather save the money and let it compound for later use, especially if I time chores so that they take advantage of low energy. Besides, cooking is partly social time too.

I can use commuting time to learn more about Emacs, Org, and Rails, so that will help too. I can also use walking time to record life stories if I can figure out a workflow for dealing with audio or short notes.

Learning plans from 2010

What do I want to learn? There's a lot more than this, but it's a good starting map! I'll fill this out with notes along the way.

  • Work
    • Helping clients succeed and be happy
      • Why this matters: Our clients work on amazing things, and IBM has many talents and resoures. If IBM and I can support clients in making the kind of difference they want to make, we can all make the world better.
      • Ideal: I help clients envision the possible, troubleshoot problems, navigate IBM's capabilities, and work with IBM on making things happen.
      • Strengths I can build on
        • I'm great at connecting people, tools, and resources across the organization. This is something many clients and many IBMers have a hard time with. If I build on this strength, I can help more people learn how to do this well.
        • I'm also good at understanding the big picture and communicating it to other people. I can empathize with clients' objectives and communicate that big picture with people in IBM.
      • How I can grow
        • Find role models and mentors who exemplify this for clients or industries
        • Move from development or consulting into a client account supporting role
        • Map out my network and strategies for connecting
      • Notes
        • I want to work cross-brand instead of focusing on a particular brand
        • I would like to either focus on a specific client or a specific industry
        • I particularly like the public sector because of how they collaborate, but I'm happy to explore other industries as well
    • Connecting the dots
      • Why this matters: Being able to connect people with other people, tools, and resources not only saves a lot of time and effort, but it also starts all these great collaborations. People get inspired when they find out about other people working on similar things, and together, they build something better than they could make on their own.
      • Ideal: Not only am I a go-to person when people need to find other people or things, but I've pushed my knowledge into the network and helped build communities so that other people can find people, tools, and resources without relying on connectors like me.
      • Strengths I can build on: I can remember what or who to look for when the need arises. I love keeping track of a diverse network of people, and lots of people tell me about interesting things that are going on. I can forward requests to the right community or to connectors who have wide networks as well. I take notes and help publicize other people's work, helping them become even more findable. Even though I've only been working at IBM for two years, people often ask me for help in finding people or resources. Imagine what this will be like when I've got more experience!
      • How I can grow
        • Organize my feeds so that I can keep track of more information
        • Document and share more of my network knowledge
        • Help people learn how to do what I do
        • Map the organization
    • Contributing to Smarter Cities and a smarter planet
      • Why this matters: I believe in what we're doing at IBM and our ability to really help transform the way the world works. Our vision around Smarter Cities (and a smarter planet, in general) can touch many, many people's lives.
      • Ideal: I help organizations and jurisdictions around the world learn more about Smarter Cities and a smarter planet. I can refer them to relevant examples and success stories. I help people envision the future, develop roadmaps, and implement initiatives.
      • Strengths I can build on: Although I don't have a deep knowledge of this area yet, I do have many mentors and colleagues who are working on this, and I can learn from them and from the knowledgebases they're building. I'm also passionate about what we're all working towards.
      • How I can grow
        • Review all the Smarter Cities material that's out there
        • Shadow or participate in engagements
        • Bring together and summarize external examples
        • Learn from other IBMers as they work on engagements
    • Sharing what I'm learning and organizing the information so that people can learn more effectively
      • Why this matters: It's amazing how much sharing can save people time, inspire people, and start great conversations. People really value the notes that I've shared through blog posts and presentations. I want to get even better at documenting, sharing, and organizing what I know, so that other people can build even better things on that foundation.
      • Ideal: Every day, I share as much as I can of what I've learned. In addition to chronological updates, people can explore what I'm sharing through an organized map that makes it easy to see the big picture. I am clear, concise, and coherent. I package knowledge in different forms to fit different needs: blog posts, wikis, presentations, videos, books. I inspire other people to share, too, and I help them learn how to do so effectively.
      • Strengths I can build on: Blogging has helped me learn how to write freely and quickly. I'm comfortable with giving energetic and engaging presentations, and I'm also good at preparing stand-alone presentations and videos. I'm comfortable building wikis. I'm good at searching my archives to find things I've already written. I love learning from people, books, and other sources. I make time to share what I know, and I have plenty of success stories that reinforce the value of that investment.
      • How I can grow
        • Map what I know and map what I want to learn, then organize my notes accordingly.
        • Read and learn from blogs and books by other people who are focused on sharing.
        • Edit and organize excerpts from my archive into a more coherent form, such as an e-book.
        • Explore a random information management system (like a "morgue file") to capture snippets of information for later processing.
        • Coach people on how to share and organize what they know.
    • Facilitating visions, discussions, and decisions
      • Why this matters: If we can figure out how to bring people together for more effective discussions both online and in real-life, we can tap the power in the diverse perspectives in a group.
      • Ideal: I can confidently and effectively set up, facilitate, and summarize different kinds of discussions: creating a vision, brainstorming and developing ideas, and deciding on priorities and actions.
      • Strengths I can build on: I can respond very positively to ideas and help think of further improvements. I'm good at organizing and facilitating virtual discussions involving hundreds of people. I type and read very quickly, so I can capture what people are sharing or quickly summarize a long virtual discussion. My background helps me bring perspectives that many people are interested in (Gen Y, social networks, etc.).
      • How I can grow
        • Learn from other consultants
        • Facilitate small workshop sessions
        • Explore other facilitation techniques
    • Inspiring and leading others, and helping others become more effective leaders
      • Why this matters: People can work much better when they're happier and when they can see their role in the big picture. Great management and great leadership make such a big difference in people's working lives.
      • Ideal: I inspire people though my energy and passion, and I help them discover or rediscover their own energy and passion, understand the big picture, and communicate that to other people. I help formal leaders learn how to use social networks to connect and inspire. I help informal leaders learn how to grow and share. Together, we figure out how organizations can be even better.
      • Strengths I can build on: I have a lot of energy, and I really love what we do and why we do it. I'm good at expressing that through blogs, presentations, and other media. I'm good at seeing the bright side of life. I'm good at figuring out my connection to the big picture, and at showing other people why their work matters. I'm consistently happy (can't help it; life is awesome!).
      • How I can grow
        • Explore leadership ideas with Rawn Shah, John Handy-Bosma, Sarah Siegel, and other IBMers thinking a lot about this topic
        • Continue to share my passion, energy, and happiness
        • Help explain the big picture or the bright side, particularly during challenging times
        • Express more appreciation publicly, to help people remember/see the good stuff
        • Coach people on how to share their energy/passion/vision as well
  • Life
    • Being happy
      • Why this matters: Happiness has lots of other good things in it. I care about happiness not because I want to be happy–I already am!–but because I want to stay happy, deepen my understanding of happiness, and share that understanding with other people.
      • Ideal: I figure out what works for me and what doesn't, and the difference between making myself miserable and growing by stepping outside my comfort zone. I share what I've learned and my processes for learning with other people. I help lots of other people grow happier.
      • Strengths I can build on: I'm very very happy. I have an awesome life. I'm an optimist (almost automatic now!). I enjoy reflection. I like sharing what I'm learning with other people.
      • How I can grow
        • Take on new challenges, like marriage and parenting, to figure out more about happiness with a richer and more complex life.
        • Share more appreciation and reflection.
    • Practicing relentless improvement
      • Why this matters: Getting better and better at life means saving time, enjoying more benefits, deepening my appreciation of life, learning things I can share with other people, and having fun.
      • Ideal: I deliberately invest time in experimenting and reflecting on how I live, and I share notes about what I learn along the way.
      • Strengths I can build on: I'm good at thinking of experiments, particularly small steps I can take to try an idea out. I'm good at sharing what I'm learning through my blog. I'm good at setting aside money and time to make things happen.
      • How I can grow
        • Map out the ideas I'm working on and what I've learned so far.
        • Connect with other lifehackers.
        • Write and share more.
        • Build systems that make it easier for other people to experiment.
    • Preparing and enjoying good food
      • Why this matters: I'm going to eat every day for the rest of my life, so I might as well figure out how to enjoy healthy, yummy food. =) Bonus points if I can share those experiences with other people!
      • Ideal: I have a well-stocked kitchen, plenty of favourite recipes and experiments, awesome cooking and baking skills, and tons of stories.
      • Strengths I can build on: W- and I both enjoy cooking, and he's a great cook. I enjoy exploring recipes and comparing different kinds of ingredients. We have an eat-in kitchen with lots of counter space (and room for two cooks!). We have the time and energy to enjoy cooking and eating at home. We prepare almost all of our meals at home. We have a large outdoor cooling area during winter, and fresh herbs and vegetables from the garden during the rest of the time. ;) We have access to all sorts of ethnic ingredients because Toronto is multicultural. We can walk or bike to good supermarkets. We have a chest freezer and lots of food containers.
      • How I can grow
        • Keep accurate inventories of freezer contents
        • Develop a better groceries/meal plan system
        • Move towards cooking once every two weeks, or longer
        • Explore more recipes: desserts, breakfasts, make-ahead lunches…
    • Growing good food in my garden
      • Why this matters: It's so much fun to watch plants grow, to harvest your own fruits and vegetables, and to pick fresh herbs whenever you want. And the taste and variety are amazing, too! Growing food means we know what's in it, we can explore different kinds, we enjoy really fresh stuff, and we don't throw away as much produce.
      • Ideal: I have a large, productive garden that gives us what we want and takes little effort to maintain. There's plenty of sun for my fruits and vegetables, and some shade for our greens too. I may even get away with a calamansi tree. =D And someday, I'm going to grow asparagus!
      • Strengths I can build on: We have a decent-sized plot with some sun. W- and I built two raised beds. We have plenty of herbs already growing, and a cat-proof space for indoor plants as well. I can get lots of different kinds of seeds online and at stores. I can buy gardening supplies at stores within biking distance. We have lots of earthworms. We have two compost heaps. There are lots of gardeners in Toronto, and plenty of communities and blogs on the Internet.
      • How I can grow
        • Keep a gardening journal
        • Organize seeds by weeks
        • Set up another greenhouse
        • Experiment with starting more seeds
    • Sewing clothes, accessories and gifts
      • Why this matters: I often find shopping frustrating. Things don't fit well, or styles are too frilly, or stores don't have small, petite clothes in black or warm colours. I can't find organizers with the pockets I want. I'd rather make gifts than buy them. Making my clothes, accessories, and gifts is a great way to exercise my imagination and make something real.
      • Ideal: The clothes I make are comfortable, and they fit well. I keep myself organized by making pouches and bags for things. I give people home-made gifts.
      • Strengths I can build on: I enjoy experimenting, and practice has helped me develop my spatial skills too. I'm patient. I enjoy sewing and spending time at home. I've made space for a sewing machine and fabric. I'm close to a fabric store at work. I can bike to places that sell sewing supplies if needed.
      • How I can grow
        • Sew more!
        • Sew more!
        • Sew more!
    • Taking pictures that share memories
      • Why this matters: I like the way that photographs can trigger memories and stories. I want to take more of them. I also want to take better pictures that tell stories or share what I see.
      • Ideal: I always have a camera with me so that I can capture interesting moments. I notice intriguing visual patterns or metaphors. I organize, share, and archive my pictures.
      • Strengths I can build on: My family is into photography, and I can learn from them. W- enjoys photography, too. I have a small camera and a bigger camera with more power. We have a decent collection of lenses. I have a photo gallery on my site, and I can also organize and share pictures on other sites.
      • How I can grow
        • Practice taking a picture every day.
        • Practice really looking around and noticing contrast, colour, etc.