In February 2018 I planned the rest of my year by establishing a few value-driven goals and derived goals and projects from those goals. Now that the year's ended I evaluate how that went.
What Went Well?
I'm glad that I set those goals. The exercise challenged me to identify my personal values. I was also able to invent projects I had not previously considered which were aligned with those values.
The document was useful throughout the year. Having clearly documented goals allowed me to relate progress in personal projects directly toward those goals, and it felt good as I cleared tasks to know precisely what value I had provided myself. And when I cleared entire projects, I felt a real sense of accomplishment and knew exactly what to focus my attention on next.
I accomplished a lot this past year, so I'd like to just take a moment to pat myself on the back and share some highlights.
- I married my wonderful partner and we began building our community.
- I finally finished my undergrad degree after 9 long years. Eat it, Calc II!
- I went on my first full length bike tour from Lansing to Grand Rapids. This was an eye-opening experience.
- I made several meaningful open source software contributions to the Lansing Codes API project.
- I attended several Lansing-area software development Meetups and even helped revive the Java User Group as a JVM User Group.
- I got into the habit of reading nonfiction books over lunch.
What Needs Improvement?
When I wrote my goals I assigned to several second-level goals habits which I thought would help me accomplish those goals. I failed to establish nearly all of those habits. I had trouble selecting successful triggers for those habits and scheduling those habits.
Habits with calendar-based triggers were quickly ignored and eventually removed from my calendar entirely. I think the chief problem is that I hate to be interrupted, no matter how trivial my current activity. The calendar trigger is also too inflexible to work around times when I am legitimately engaged in more pressing matters. Perhaps using a different calendar application with more flexible snoozing options would have helped.
I immediately bit off more than I could chew and overfilled my calendar with commitments I couldn't keep. I knew it was untenable after the first week, but didn't try to pare down my commitments. It was only after I went back to school in the summer and lost all of my free time that I finally admitted to myself that I was in over my head and cleared my calendar. And after I graduated, I never got back to working on my habits at a reasonable pace.
I also fell out of the best habit I had developed in the previous year - my morning routine. In 2017 I would wake early at about 5am, mindlessly shuffle to the kitchen to cook breakfast, and then spend the 1-2 hours between breakfast and my morning commute doing something productive. This year I stopped eating breakfast. At first I enjoyed the fact that I had reclaimed 15-45 minutes of cooking and washing dishes. But I soon discovered that I could wake at 6am rather than 5am, or even as late as 7:30am and still get to work on time. This was the end of my productive mornings. Without the routine I would only wake early if I had something extremely exciting to work on, which is not at all sustainable. Now I wake at 7:30am every day.
Alignment of Goals and Projects
While many of my goals and related projects were good, I also established several projects which I was not enthusiastic about and which were never touched. I think they were fundamentally not aligned with goals or values I really had. For example, I tried to play more video games in order to improve my relationships with my friends. But most of the time I spent playing games was alone, and most of the time I spent with my friends we didn't play games. I also established one top-level goal, "Appreciate Art", which I discovered I just don't value that highly.
I planned a lot of projects and their tasks for my entire year all the way back in February. As a result I often found that by the time I got around to working on a project my estimate of the tasks involved was pretty far off. Tasks also cluttered up the document. I think these are signs that I overdid planning. I think I'd do well to plan individual tasks once I'm ready to focus on the project.
As I plan for 2019 I will separate the management of my goals, habits, and projects. Goals and habits will live in their own separate documents, and I expect to track projects and tasks in separate task management software. I'll probably seek new project management software with more flexible labelling, project structuring, and recurring tasks.
I'll also plan far fewer things. I'll scale back the number of goals I have and the number of habits I'll establish in order to keep them manageable and allow myself flexibility. I'll plan tasks only when I'm ready to take on my next project.
Finally, I'll get into the habit of retrospecting on my habits and projects on a regular basis. I'll tweak habits as necessary, and I'll re-evaluate whether projects need to be added, removed, or rescheduled.