Goals for the new year.
I haven’t written about goals since 2020. A lot has changed in the intervening two years so I’m not even going to attempt to draw a through line.
These are my goals that I want to work towards this year. I express the final outcome I want from the goal, the motivation of that outcome, the nitty gritty mechanistic tactical orientation to make it happen, what I’ll track, and how I’ll know if it’s working.
🔗 Regular Goal Follow Up
The core of this whole thing is to double down on GTD, but only for what matters. GTD for me has devolved into a mechanism to get to inbox zero (and only for email.) I’ll turn the dial down on that and turn the dial up on the actual review portion of GTD. I’ll have to spend more time tracking stuff I’m waiting on, doing next, etc, but my plan here is to ensure action on the other goals, rather than just coming up with goals and moving on.
Outcome: to arm goals so they aren’t just words.
Why: to be able to change more effectively.
Tactical: within GTD framework I already have set up, plan tasks daily (either for this day or the next) towards goals, weekly review what I’ve done and see if I need to change my plan, with a kind of goal oriented scorecard.
Track: am I following my system each day?
Success: measurable progress on all the rest of the stuff below.
🔗 Time Spending Heuristic
When I have something I want to do I will often work on the easy thing by default. This is typical. Instead of doing some woodworking I might read a woodworking book. Reading books is great but I’ll reserve that for when I can’t do actual woodworking.
There’s an irony here where when I’m low energy my instinct is to do tasks that require low energy, but those tasks actually reduce my energy. Consider video games, social media, or other lounging tasks. These are fine, but they end up putting me in a vicious cycle. I need to treat my energy as an output, not an input, and thus other factors should be how I choose what I do.
Outcome: do the big stuff first, rather than the easy cheap things.
Why: to improve the ability to achieve goals.
Tactical: track time spent on easy tasks like youtube or reading. Time spent on these should be less (maybe aim for 80⁄20?) than the actual tasks on a daily or maybe weekly basis.
Track: youtube minutes per day, reading minutes per day, “active” minutes per day.
Success: ratio of YT+reading to “active” is 1:4 or less. Progress being made on stuff below.
🔗 Reduce Time Wasters like Email
Because my GTD task has been so hijacked by email I have to take action. For a while the way I’ve managed email is that I have two folders, Inbox and Randos. The former is where stuff from real contacts goes. The latter is everything else. The latter has ended up with spam, recruiters, mailing lists, etc. I don’t like having lots of inboxes to check since those end up being a loop I end up in (checking various email inboxes, then social media, then slack, then email inboxes again, forever) I think I’ll:
- basically never check the recruiter spam folder
- only check the mailing list folder when I want to take a break
- inbox is always pretty small and well tended since it only has real people in it
- try to create filters for randos each time something ends up there
Outcome: waste less time on low importance email.
Why: time is fleeting and precious, recovering some lets me do more of what I actually love.
Tactical: initially my expectation is to add a new filter for each email that shows up in randos, As time goes on I’ll reevaluate this and probably just start tracking how much time is spent in email. Side note: this is far worse for personal email than work email. For work email I’m much more disciplined and the problem space is more constrained.
Track: how many emails end up in randos and Inbox each day. How much time I spend dealing with randos and Inbox.
Success: inbox and randos take a few minutes a day to manage. If my weekly review ever involves more than 10 minutes of email something has gone wrong here.
🔗 Stop Early Morning Social Media
Social media primes my brain into low energy mode. I am fine with social media and find a lot of it useful and inspiring, but if I literally wake up and read twitter, mastodon, email, slack, and discord in bed, I will do that for a long time and be very low energy for hours. Instead, I” do at least one or two of my action items for the day before any social media.
Outcome: start the day by actually doing something I value.
Why: be more effective and happy.
Tactical: basically just don’t look at twitter, mastodon, (most) email, slack, or discord until probably about 10 or 11 in the morning. I am not super worried about total screen time as much as the priming effect it has on my day so I’ll leave it at that.
Track: when I start using social media, how much time I spend on social media, how I feel when I start, what I’ve gotten done before I start.
Success: one or two tasks done before I start, feel good before I start. Long term this should lead to more success in general.
🔗 Stop Staying up Really Late
Similar to social media, not getting a good night sleep really harms the following morning. I know from many years of experimentation that my highest energy time is in the morning, usually starting around 8, so messing up that time really messes up my day. There’s a symbiosis with some of my other plans here. Often I’ll stay up late watching YouTube. I’d rather read than watch YouTube, but I’d do something more productive than both, and that probably includes sleep.
Outcome: start the day having had a good nights sleep.
Why: when I don’t get a good nights sleep my morning is ruined. When my morning is ruined often my day is ruined.
Tactical: I need to experiment with this some. My initial easy option will be bedtime at 10:30pm including on weekends. Might ratchet it down later.
Track: what time I go to bed, if it’s after 10:30 track why, how I feel in the morning.
Success: in bed before 10:30 each day and feeling good in the morning.
🔗 Stop Plugging in So Much Around Kids
Sometimes my kids will be playing video games and screeching and being loud. I support kids being loud within a sensible timeframe, but it rankles. To deal with this I usually put in some noise cancelling earbuds. But inevitably one of the buys will ask me a question while I’m “plugged in,” and I will either not hear them or half hear them and end up more frustrated than if I’d just suffered the noise.
Outcome: be more patient with kids, especially when the thing annoying me is my own fault.
Why: my relationship with my kids matters way more than music, a podcast, an audiobook, or even just auditory comfort.
Tactical: instead of plugging in I’ll listen to external music. If that’s not an option I’ll do my best to just not be plugged in at all. Will reconsider over time how well this is working.
Track: duration plugged in around kids, count of getting annoyed.
Success: duration plugged in around kids approaches zero, count of getting annoyed approaches zero (ha.)
🔗 Use Mornings With Kids Intentionally
We have about an hour of time in the mornings between when I get up and we walk the boys to school. I usually make the boys breakfast and unload the dishwasher, but there’s still a pretty big half hour chunk in there often I’ll just read my phone or something.
Outcome: start off the day well by spending time wisely with kids in the morning.
Why: this feels silly to even write down, but we have some time that I think could set the tone for the day and we should take advantage of that.
Tactical: I got a few books I want to read with the boys. My initial plan is to do these each school morning.
Track: how often we read these books together, how often the kids express something that makes me think they are confused.
Success: we read each school morning, kids are confused less often (or maybe about less basic stuff.)
🔗 Write More
I think one of the main spaces for professional (and to some extent personal) development I have is to improve my writing. I am not sure how exactly I want to improve, but I think practice can and will help. Some vague ideas are:
- Aim for brevity (he says, 1500 words in…)
- Write to Entertain
Outcome: write more often and spend effort trying to write better.
Why: writing is one of the primary skills in my current role and almost surely all future roles.
Tactical: I will attempt to track word count written intentionally each day. This includes blog posts, documentation in our wiki, google docs, and emails. This will not include slack (though that might be easy to automate tracking.) I want to track things like jokes and anecdotes but I think I need to play with my style more before that makes sense. I’ll have a slot for it in my tracking and will
Track: Words written. Jokes per medium. Anecdotes per medium.
Success: This is big and hairy, because real success means improved performance of the company. There was a time in my life when I’d get messages sent to me thanking me for writing, I’d say this is my success metric but it’s too infrequent to consider success. I’ll consider this over time.
For a while I’ve been doing about three 5k a week, and then either HIIT or weightlifting once a week. I think this is good and want to continue, but my goal here is to bump up to exercising one more time a week, and replace one 5k with sprints. Speaking from experience, this is a really hard change to make. To do this I either need to exercise on the day I go to the office, or on a weekend day. With that in mind my initial goal will be to do this once a month. I’ll ramp that up over time.
Outcome: work out five times a week including jogging, sprinting, HIIT, and weightlifting.
Why: Feel better. Be healthier.
Tactical: My initial idea here is to try to go to the Y on days I’m at the office, since it’s right across the street. This will mean carving out some time in the middle of the day, bringing a change of clothes, deodorant, and soap. Not hard, just a requirement to allow it to work. If this doesn’t happen for whatever reason (I have tried this before and never once been able t make it happen) I will do something on the weekend.
Track: What exercise I did on a given day, if any. Blood pressure.
Success: Five per week once a month, initially, with an eye ramp up to every week. Blood pressure should be 120⁄80.
A little under a year ago I listened to a podcast and (affiliate link:) read a book that convinced me to change how I exercise and what I eat. It’s been tough but I’ve at least been trying (the gist: eat meat, eat salad, avoid starch, avoid bread, avoid sugar, avoid lots of fat.) One of the details that makes it tough is that my wife usually picks up groceries on Monday, which means the week is in full swing by the time my lunch stuff is restocked. I’m just gonna start picking up at least what I need for lunches on Saturdays and prepping most of the food (cooking the chicken and chopping the vegetables) so that when it’s time to eat it doesn’t take as long as normal. This diet also includes fasting once a week.
Outcome: eat within my diet for all lunches.
Why: For your health!
Tactical: This is pretty tactical out of the gate. By purchasing and prepping stuff on weekends it becomes pretty easy to follow. I may need to prep the actual meal in the morning or something since I often end up eating in a weird 30 minute block between meetings. We’ll see.
Track: Did I eat a meal within my diet on a given day? Did I snack beforehand and if so on something I’d consider unhealthy (notably: peanut butter, my weakness.) Am I bored of a given food (ugh raw broccoli) such that next week I need to swap something else in or prepare it differently? Track fast day. Track when I eat something that wasn’t in my diet. Track weight.
Success: ate my diet each day, for all meals. BP 120⁄80. Good cholesterol numbers. Comfortable weight.
I want to do some amount of woodworking every day. I mean that I want to actually cut wood, not just read about it. There’s a ton of woodworking I need to do just to do more woodworking, so I have very little reason to wait (aside from large scale projects needing wood, and wood needing to acclimate and dry out.)
Outcome: continue making progress in this cathartic and productive hobby.
Why: I used to program as a hobby and I just can’t anymore. Woodworking feels really good comparatively for my mental health, similar to exercise.
Tactical: Basically try to move cutting wood earlier and earlier in the day. My experience is that once I’ve cut wood I will cut more, but I often defer and delay till very (too) late.
Track: Track what time I cut wood. Track what exactly I did (cutting things to rough size, chopping a mortise, making a tenon, whatever.) Track how much time I spent at it.
Success: Cut wood every day.
At my current role (Senior Staff Software Engineer) my main output is either documentation and design, or mentoring and coaching. I already have a goal around writing. I think I’m pretty good at coaching (which is the communication of how to improve at some concrete task, like coding or debugging) so I want to focus on mentoring. I have done this a few times in my career and I’ve never felt very effective at it. Gotta improve!
Outcome: Regularly mentor one or two engineers within Zip (and maybe eventually outside of the company.)
Why: This is an investment in people and helping them grow. This pays dividends by those people being better engineers and employees.
Track: I don’t have a tactical section here, so I’m just going to track and introspect to see if this is working. Track how frequently I am doing a mentorship meeting. Track the goals and success of those goals.
Success: Am I mentoring one or two people? Are they meeting their goals?
I don’t have any goals about reading more. I don’t have any goals about new programming styles or languages. I don’t have any goals about video game backlogs.
Whew, this took a long time to write! I don’t think the actual writing is especially good, but I am pleased with the framework and interested to see how well it works. I mostly think quantifying things can have dramatically bad results because you end up only quantifying stuff that’s easy to measure, but I’m bearing that in mind and am intentionally engaging my executive insight to consider how things are going.Posted Mon, Jan 2, 2023
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