What I'm Doing in 2012

Dentist Wolf Meme

I’m really glad the new year is here. For the longest time I thought new year’s resolutions were a bit silly, and I never participated in them. The past few years, however, I’ve completely changed my opinion. Maybe I’m getting older, but the thought of starting a new year makes me feel happy and optimistic about things to come. A clean slate! Let’s do this!

Last year I focused on accomplishing goals. I wanted to visit San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and a slew of other things. Some of my goals were specific enough that I accomplished them, while some were way too vague and didn’t materialize.

This year is going to be all about habits for me. Instead of focusing on doing specific things, I’m going to be focusing on building habits into my daily routine. Over the past year I’ve come to really appreciate habit building. Instead of focusing on the outcome (e.g. your goals), you focus on the process.

I’ve found that building habits is my personal niche. It makes me feel productive, while keeping me relaxed. When I’m working on building habits I’m not constantly stressed about results, or burdened with the possibility of failure–instead, I just feel relaxed, confident, and happy. What makes this work for me is that while building habits I simply tell myself “Randall, just write for 30 minutes a day. If you can do that everyday, you’ll become a better writer in no time. Don’t worry about writing X amount of blog posts per week, or exercising X amount of minutes each day–just have fun with it, and make the most of each day.”

Currently I’m using HabitForge to track my habits. I’ve been using them for just about a year now, with great success. The way HabitForge works is you tell them what habit you want to build, and each day they email you (for 21 days in a row), asking if you did your habit (yes or no). Once you complete your habit 21 days in a row, HabitForge considers your habit “done”, by which time you should be so used to performing your habit day after day, that it is second nature. If you fail to complete your habit any day during the 21 day entry period, your cycle resets to day 1, and you have to complete another 21 days of your habit in a row.

What I like about the HabitForge system is that it works for me. It works really well. I find that once I start working on developing a habit, I don’t want that 21-day counter to reset, so I try really hard to make sure I do my habit each day. After trying really hard for 15 days or so, it becomes much easier to do. For me, I just sort of do them on autopilot after that point.

Just yesterday I finished establishing my writing habit. It was a great success. Since I started, I’ve written for at least 30 minutes every day. This has made a big impact on me already. I feel much more confident in my writing, and I’m enjoying the process of writing much more than before. If I continue on this path, by January 1st, 2013 I’ll have written for at least 182.5 hours. That’s a lot!

Another thing I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy about building habits is that they don’t let you fool yourself into achieving false goals. For instance, if I say I want to lose 30lbs–I could easily lose 30lbs by running everyday, eating a very low amount of calories, and generally pushing myself to lose the weight quickly; all for the sake of reaching my goal.

What if, instead of saying “I want to lose X lbs”, I say “I want to eat only animal meats and vegetables”? If that were the case, I’d be building a healthy habit while losing weight as a side-effect; focusing more on the lifestyle change than the outcome.

With all that said, here are a few of the habits I’ve got in mind for this year. These are subject to change, but I plan on writing posts here on my blog detailing each habit I build through the year.

  • Spend at least 30 minutes per day working on open source code.
  • Spend at least one hour per day reading.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes per day (take a walk, do CrossFit, ride a bike–something).
  • Eat less than 30 carbs per day. This is a tricky one to maintain long term, but I’ve read quite a lot about it the past year (and done it for 3 months in a row), to great success.
  • Work on a business project of my own for at least 30 minutes per day.
  • Tidy up my apartment for 15 minutes per day.

There are also other habits I’d like to build for the long term. Stuff like going on dates with my wife a certain amount of times per month, reviewing my personal and professional progress every month, etc. Certain things like that are easily overlooked as time passes, but are things that I’d like to ensure I do so that I can make necessary adjustments to myself when necessary.

Other than the above, in more general terms, there are a lot of other things I’d like to do this year.

Over the past year I got a lot better at programming Python and Django, and this year I intend to break out of the intermediate level and enter the expert level. It’s very hard for me to gauge my progress in this area as it is entirely subjective, and the field of programming itself contains limitless information that is impossible for any one person to learn. To combat this, I plan to continue building software using these technologies, learning new techniques, and tools as I go.

Another thing I’d like to do this year is slowly improve my text editing skills with Vim. While I’ve been using Vim for a long time, I still consider myself a beginner. After watching people like Gary Bernhardt use Vim, not only do I feel like a complete n00b, but I’m also intensely driven to become better. My initial plan for tackling my Vim demons is to watch through every single episode of vimcasts. Since it’s hard to remember the Vim shortcuts right away, I’d like to watch an episode once a week, and specifically practice the video topic that week to commit the topic to memory.

I’d also like to write a book this year. I started working on a book, Learn Asterisk the Fun Way, earlier last year–but haven’t made nearly as much progress as I would have liked. This year I’d like to really commit to the project, and see it through to completion. Publishing a book has always been a dream of mine, and something that would make me really proud of myself.

Here’s to a having a great, happy, relaxed, and interesting 2012.