This post has taken longer to generate than every previous goals post I think. It’s not the amount of time writing, I have no idea how long it’ll take, since I’m just starting now. No, I’ve spent quite a bit of time doing some serious evaluation of how I’m going to handle goals this year and what I want to focus on. Also, I sort of started on some things in January that slowed me down in general. Let’s get into that.

2017 so far and Initial thoughts

I’m looking at last year’s post as I write this, and I hope I don’t end up with the same situation. Last year I built out some goals and had a pretty good feel for a schedule and then it all started to change. I suppose that’s unavoidable, the day to day is going to change over the course of the year. The thing I want to have goals for is to make sure that I keep focusing on the direction I want to go. It’s not so much about getting to the specific milestone as it is about direction, motivation, and energy.

Each year I keep refining how I come up with the goals. In some ways, some of them are unlikely to change. Things like fitness don’t really change from year to year. Lose weight, get in better shape, etc. I suppose once I get near an ideal weight it could change, but that takes time. Other things change pretty dramatically.

One of the things I’ve noticed and been told is that I have far too much I’m trying to do at once. On the one hand, I think some of that comes from people who are generally lazy and don’t want to see someone else succeed. You see this a lot across all ages. The whole crabs pulling each other down effect. However, I’ve also heard from people who are more successful than me – who don’t feel like they’re losing anything if I do well – that I have too many things I’m trying to do at once. I’ve found this to be generally true.

Each year, I seem to whittle down further and further so I just decided to try to get as few goals as possible this year. And then to make them big. Like BIG big.

Actually what I did was spend some time in each of the major categories and thought about what exactly I wanted the results here to be in 5 and 10 years. It really put some things into perspective. Mostly that I’ve been thinking too short term, and that leads to my goals being just extensions of what I can do instead of trying to reach to achieve something.

I broke it into a few categories, similar to last year. Though since I wanted to pull from the other side (longer than a year), I got it down to a very small set of categories:

  • Heath and Fitness
  • Japanese Language
  • Work and Career
  • Hobbies, etc

This isn’t a huge decrease from last year’s category list, but a couple of important things moved around. First, I’m being less coy about what is and isn’t work and career related. Last year I had the ideas of “Community and Networking”, “Skills and Certifications”, and “Income” which sort of bridged between actual work stuff and what I’m now calling hobbies. The other thing that’s important is that I’m officially relegating writing to a hobby. It’s a hobby I’m going to take seriously, but it’s a hobby.

I also spent a lot of time kind of ruminating on my focus regarding hobbies. I’ve tried to take too many of them seriously, spreading out my effort. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple hobbies, but I certainly won’t have time to have more than one that I take seriously. The others I had been looking at were getting good at drawing or painting (something I haven’t taken seriously since maybe my second year of college), and getting deep into music production (which I’ve always wanted to do, but never spent the time).

I settled on writing again. I’ve been losing confidence since I haven’t made any measurable progress in the last couple of years, so this year my main goal there will be establishing momentum. Unfortunately, I think that writing for the club I’m part of has actually taken away some of the momentum I had. Barrel. Crabs.

I’m not going to post my 5 and 10 year goals for now, since they were more of a brainstorm than a real definitive list, but I think I have a better idea of what I’m doing.

As always, these are subject to change as circumstances change, though I expect to need fewer changes this time.

2017 Goals

Health and Fitness
1. Lose 80 pounds

I’m tempted to increase this since I actually gained weight last year, but no. Physics is a bitch and all that. I have some pretty decent plans, and I’ve already gotten myself more or less off of soda and mostly off of fast food in January, so it shouldn’t be a giant change to eat healthier. I’m starting out the year (well, not counting January) with a 15 week plan/challenge that has 2 week stints that I designed. After that, I’ll evaluate where I am and make changes as necessary. The key thing is that changes should be lifestyle changes instead of something dumb like trying to manage calories while still eating mostly fast food. There are no other main fitness goals this year. The weight loss is what matters, anything else is just support.

Japanese Language

2. Take and PASS the N4.

I didn’t pass the N4 in 2016. I’m not upset about it, there wasn’t really that much more I could have done given everything else about the year. However, I should have no trouble passing this year as long as I keep my efforts up. Technically, I can’t know if I’ve passed or not until the end of January 2018, but I’ll know. I’m not studying to take the test this year, I’m studying to pass it. I actually want to get so that I’m tempted to take the N3, and who knows, I might try to leapfrog the N3 and go to the N2 in 2018. That’s how well prepared I will be by the end of this year.

3. Learn 2200 Kanji meanings

This is part of that leapfrogging I’m talking about. I want to learn all the official Kanji this year. Not necessarily completely learn them – since that’s basically a giant vocabulary ask. No, just learn the meanings. Then, when I get to them in the vocab in my JLPT study, they’ll be much, MUCH easier. I bought Heisig’s “Remembering The Kanji” and I’m going to go through that in the order of the book using its method. Technically this could be a supporting goal instead of a main goal, but seriously. Learning all the Kanji shouldn’t be relegated to a support goal.

Work and Career

4. Four new certifications

Most of the things I want to do to advance my career this year aren’t exactly measurable or quantifiable. I wouldn’t want to risk posting any kind of confidential information anyway. I need to do some real thinking about what I want to accomplish at work this year as well, but this is something I can measure. This averages out to one certification per quarter. At this point I’m going to lead off with either the AWS developer one or the Salesforce Platform Developer one. This goal is pretty uninspiring, but I think having these things makes for more valuable professional development and skills. While work is right now my #1 area I’d like to develop further, this is the only published goal it gets this year.

Hobbies

5. Publish 5 books on Amazon

That’s absurd, right? Well, maybe. I’m planning on having two different pseudonyms – my “main” one which I put my more crafted work under, and another one that I use to just put things out. I won’t spend any time or effort marketing or otherwise on the other one, nor will it link to my main one or my name in any obvious way. The point is going to be just to get some stuff out there. To gain momentum. So I do a couple of books that don’t have any professional editing where I make my own cover, etc. These don’t need to be my favorite ideas or very good at all really. Once I’ve got the second one out, I can start getting a “real” one going. I expect that the real ones will take enough lead-up time they might not go out this year, depending on how long they are or whatever. That’s fine. I wouldn’t even feel bad if I put out five bad books this year. The point here isn’t to make money – it’s to put something out that’s finished.

SUPPORT GOALS (Instead of pushing farther this year, I’m trying smaller goals that I can check off while moving towards the bigger annual or even 5 – 10 year goals)

S1. Have 15000 Twitter followers

S2. Bike 100 miles in under 7 hours

S3. Complete Genki I & II

S4. Complete 3 more Japanese textbooks

S5. Get 5 or fewer answers wrong on a N4 practice exam

S6. Win NaNoWriMo

S7. Create and use a four week writing challenge

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I’m not even sure a bonus/support section makes sense this year. Maybe I say “I can add things to the support goals every quarter” or something. I’m not sure, I’m making it up as I go.
This post feels really short compared to last year. I’m trying to be much more focused so that I can be effective in areas that are important. Maybe this won’t work out at all, who knows? But I think that the focus will help. I figure I have 6 hours per day on average, including weekends, for things that aren’t work. Stuff like certifications are non-work-hours work. So, being realistic, there just isn’t time to do things like split my effort between writing and blogging. I might still do some blogging, but it’s not a focus. Similarly  I might mess with other hobbies, but they won’t be the focus. That’s my keyword this year. Focus.

I might do some quarterly goals and such later, though I’ve had the best results just scribbling down monthly -> weekly -> daily plans based on my goals and that’s far too detailed to post here.

At the very least, I’ll try to give quarterly updates assuming nothing significant changes.

2017 will be a good year.

Hey. I normally just do these notes for myself in Evernote, but I might as well post it.

Disclaimer: Personal, unedited post. For me. Read if you like, but you might get frustrated.

I am actually writing this in Evernote and planning on copying it over. If there’s anything too personal or sensitive, I’ll probably just pull it out before I post it. But honestly, I’m not too concerned.

Since I’m not planning on getting a goals post together until at least the end of the month or early February, I wanted to fill the gap with something. If I don’t, I’ll just end up wasting the time. I don’t like rushing the goals at the beginning of the year, since it takes time to really settle on what I want to do and how it’s going to affect me. Plus, trying to come up with good goals around a bunch of holidays has historically led to me making pretty misguided mistakes. So yeah.

Because of all that, this isn’t gonig to be a goals post. Just a planning post. Some of this might extend beyond January, some might not.

Using January

I like to use January to do things I normally wouldn’t prioritize. Trying out new hobbies, making big changes in lifestyle, and so on. Basically anything that takes longer than a couple of days to implement.

The one thing I’m usually pretty limited on in January is discretionary spending. Christmas spending, year end bills, and beginning of the year bills (like real estate taxes) kind of make me a little wary of unloading on some new idea or hobby.

Right, so, let’s get started.

The month is already creeping along at a surprisingly fast rate.

Diet and Food Changes

I’ve already started in on this, and it’s probably the biggest thing I want to do this month. Changing my diet isn’t so hard, but it almost always leads to being more tired than usual which wasn’t really an option in the ramp up to the JLPT. I’m trying to get completely off of soda, then dramatically reducing caffeine. So the plan right now is:

  1. Replace soda with coffee (for caffeine) and water (for something to drink during the day)
    1. Start with the first 1/2 of the work day
    2. Move to the entire work day
    3. Remove soda entirely (except for meals out at most)
  2. Replace coffee with tea
    1. Start with fist 1/2 of the work day
    2. Move to the entire work day
    3. Remove caffeine entirely (except for meals out at most)

Pretty straight forward. I’ve already started replacing the morning soda with coffee + water. I think I’m going to try to switching to coffee + water throughout the work day either this week or next. That is to say, I’m going to try to switch this week. I’ve already started to run into the effects of the caffeine withdrawal and diet changes even though I’m trying to do this a bit at a time to avoid it. I’ve been losing focus towards the end of the day, sleeping more, getting headaches, that sort of thing. I think the headaches might get worse before they get better.

I have a large number of specific ideas on how I want to change what I eat, but it basically boils down to the following:

  • Stop eating fast food
  • Reduce and eventually eliminate significantly “processed” foods.
    • That is to say, things like frozen pizza, packaged deli foods, etc
  • Eat more squash, cucumbers, and things in that family of plant
  • Reduce refined sugar as much as possible
  • Eat locally and organically as much as realistically possible

I mean, the general idea is “Eat local food that is either raw or cook it myself.” The reason I haven’t been doing that is laziness. I haven’t even liked the stuff I’ve been eating, so eating more fresh foods is better. I’m not a huge “organic” nut, so I don’t really care about it that much, except for things like grains if possible.

But yeah. I might do a more complete post on this stuff later. I did a big thing in Evernote and have some specific stuff I want to do – including projects. I’m looking at what it’ll take to grow some of my own vegetables inside my house. Things like unusual varieties of tomato. Though I’m a little concerned about that, since it could end up getting my house raided since it’d look like a grow operation. We’ll see on that. I’m going to start small and hopefully I’ll be able to move into a greenhouse or something before I get myself raided because they suspect I’m growing the type of plant I’m not supposed to.

The other thing I’m planning on doing is incorporate intermittent fasting, 1 and 2 day fasting, and eventually longer fasting. I’ve already added in 2 potential 1-2 day fasts into my main weekly schedule. I want to make sure I do both at least one day and each are potentially two days. I’m going to have to mess around with that to determine if 4/7 days a week is too much and how it effects my energy levels. For IF, I’m just planning on the 16/8 schedule to keep my meals during the day. These are just tools. I’ll adjust things as they make sense.

Cleaning

Not much to say about this. Things got away from me starting in November or so. I didn’t really clean up much and clutter just built up. I’ve already started on general cleaning, but some of the bigger tasks are still on the list.

  • Clean up all the clutter and get things put away across the entire house
  • Dust everything that needs dusting
  • Vacuum everything that can be vacuumed
  • Spot clean anything on the floor that needs it
  • Go through the closet
    • Pack up everything that I want to keep but don’t wear
    • Get rid of as much as I can
    • Nothing should be in a closet or drawer that I haven’t worn in the last year unless it’s dress clothing.

New Hobbies

I’ve been wanting to learn how to create and produce music. I bought the cheap version of Ableton Live and have messed around with it some, but the main issue I have is time. Music has always been something I’m passionate about, but I haven’t really had a place to express it for a number of years. I know this can become a giant money sink and I’m willing to drop some money on it as I go.

However, I need to seed my confidence in it and see if it’s something I want to put real time into. I have to put together a more detailed plan later, but I think the general path will look similar to this:

  1. Follow along with a “create a full song” tutorial
  2. Do another one
  3. “Trace” a simpler song that I like

That’s probably more than I’m going to get done in January. To clarify #3 above, “tracing” would basically be trying to analyze and copy a song that I like. It doesn’t have to be identical, but very similar. It’s like tracing early in the drawing process – you don’t do it to produce your own work, you do it to learn how someone else made theirs. I’m not sure how useful that’ll be, but honestly I think that there are only so many patterns and such out there, so I won’t be wasting my time learning some of them.

Doing those three will teach me the interface and some of the basics of the process. I think once I get past that point I’ll need to decide if I make it a bigger part of my year or not.

That’s probably it for trying out new hobbies.

Work

I want to spend some of my free time gaining some traction at work. The project I’m on has been giving me some trouble, and I need to be an expert on what I’m working on. I’m not going to go into detail here, since work stuff, but I’m not going to feel bad about spending a fair amount of outside-of-work-hours time working to establish a good base to work off of for the rest of the year.

Planning

Obviously I’m spending more time planning and considering the goals for the year as I go through the month. Getting ready to ramp up for 2017 and hammer out whatever major goals I have for the year. I have a few ideas cooking, but I like to ruminate on them during the month to see if they make sense. It’s easy to plan out a process for achieving something and honestly I could get it done right away if I wanted to. But there’s only so much time I can spend on things, so I want to make sure that I’m happy with the results when I get to the end of the year. So it comes down to settling on what.

On goals planning – I had far too many unrelated goals last year. This year I want to get myself down to a much more focused direction. I had 11 major goals last year. I accomplished like 2 or 3 of them, depending on how you count it. Next years goals should be BIG but few. I mean some of those 10x style goals. But I can give you a preview I think. There will likely be 1 – 2 goals in each of the following categories:

  • Health & Fitness
  • Japanese Study / JLPT
  • Work – potentially. I’m not sure if it makes sense to put these in my formal goals document or do my work goals as a separate thing. Maybe “professional development” would be a better way to phrase this.
  • Writing & possibly Music Production

And that’s about it I think. Music Production might become a non-goal level thing still this year, but we’ll see. Depends on how it goes during the month. I’m still trying to make some decisions on that. Same with writing. At most that means 8 goals, and to be honest I think I can probably get it down to 6 or 5. We’ll see.

I had been planning on doing a more detailed week-by-week breakdown on this post. It’s been taking me far too long to get this written – I’m on day three of working on this. Any breakdowns will have to be just in my Evernote notebook for myself, sorry about that. I can’t spend any longer on this post.

Expect a goals post in a few weeks.

It took me a couple of days to get going on this again this year. I think that might be a recurring thing year to year. I did manage to keep up on updating this blog with my goals updates better than I did in 2015. The quarterly (or so) updates seem like the thing. I took my foot off the gas on blogging this year for better or worse and so far I’m not sure what my plan is in that regard for 2017.

Warning: This is another personal, rambling, and generally unedited post. These posts are more for me than for the public. Feel free to skip this.

Yeah, I know most of this blog has ended up being personal. Oh well. These things happen.

Opening Thoughts

I’m trying to follow a similar structure to last year, which used a similar structure to the year before. Hopefully there’s some consistency here. Rereading 2015’s post it’s hard to believe that I just started at my current job in 2015. 2016 ran a lot faster than 2014 or 2015 did, probably because it was more consistent. I went the entire year without changing jobs or having empty points in the year. That’s the nice thing about full time employment vs. contacting I suppose. I’m not unhappy with how that job is going. I moved over into development – which took longer than it really should have – but I’m there now and that’s that.

I also ended up making an anime/manga club with another guy this year. We started it in September. It doesn’t take up a huge amount of my time, since we only meet twice a month, but it definitely takes up more time. Since I don’t do a huge amount of social stuff I don’t see this as a problem.

As goals go, this year didn’t go great. I made some progress on a handful of things, but honestly I was pulling myself in too many directions at the same time. There’s only so much time in the week. Let me lay out how I could go a week with barely any progress on goals (we’ll go Monday – Sunday). Monday I have a hard time getting going in the morning, so I work until like 6 or 7PM to make up for it. Then I have supper and do any errands I need to getting me to 8 or 9PM. I study Japanese for an hour or two, getting me to probably 10 or 11PM. Then I read for an hour or two getting me to where I should be going to sleep. But I want to get more done, so I usually stay up until probably 1 or 2 to get some progress done. Then I sleep for 6 hours at most. Repeat until Friday. Friday I tend not to get anything done in the evening then end up sleeping off most of the day on Saturday to catch up. This leaves maybe 4 or 5 hours during Saturday and probably about half of Sunday to get anything done. I’m not sure exactly what I can do to correct this. Rely more on stimulants? Try to sleep more during the week so I don’t lose Saturday? I’m not sure. It’s something I need to think about.

Anyway, I suppose it’s time to look at the “Final Update” for my goals this year.

2016 Goals Final Update

1. Lose 80 pounds
RESULT: FAIL. While I made some progress at the beginning of the year, that progress stalled out in the middle and reversed at the end. Clearly I need to make and stick to some more major lifestyle changes. Because what I’m doing when I go into default “no thinking” mode is causing damage. While I’d love to go on keto – since it works – the last time I did that I ended up getting a gout flareup. I’m trying not to talk about plans here though. The issue was a combination of fast food and pizza. Lazy food. Honestly, even in the middle of the year I recognized I didn’t even like eating this stuff but it was easy and fast and got me out of the house during the work day. That was the hardest part about cooking and eating at home – I didn’t get that breather from leaving the house for a bit.

2. Bike 100 miles in under 7 hours
RESULT: FAIL. I got back on a training schedule in Q3, but then lost momentum again in Q4. The main issue I ran into here is that the bike breaks regularly and some of the bolts are stripping. I need to stop sometimes every 20 minutes and tighten the bolts and screws even after changing them and adding loctite. I did manage to get the bike’s odometer over 1000 miles, so that’s cool. I’m going to see if I can replace the bigger bolt so there are fewer things in the way. The second problem is time. If I can find a way to double-up the tasks so it’s not a big time drain I think it’d be easier to keep at it. However, generally after an hour or so I’m not really able to think that hard. Anyway, didn’t do well on this, but it’s not really surprising since I lost focus on health as the year went on.

3. Study for and take the N4
RESULT: SUCCESS. I don’t have the results yet which is why I don’t put the results in this goal. However, I really wanted to pass. I don’t feel very confident in that. It was hard. I need to spend way more time on grammar. On a positive note this year a couple of important things happened. First, Kanji isn’t hard anymore. I’m not sure why or how to explain it but it’s not hard at all to learn Kanji anymore compared to how it used to be. Second, I truly believe that I’ve learned more Japanese in the last year than I had in my entire life prior. Fluency is the real goal here, with the JLPT just being a step ladder to get there and prove my competence. If I ended up failing, I’ll retake the N4. If I somehow passed we’ll see. Taking the N3 in 2017 might be too much too quickly. Either way I really need to focus on grammar.

4. Get a new technical certifications
RESULT: FAIL. I have no real excuse for how hard I fell on this one. TWO TIMES I was just about ready to take that AWS one. The 3x per year limit scared me off early on, and an “all in” focus on Japanese stopped me later in the year. Then picking up a Salesforce certification after that would have been pretty easy, getting me to the initial version of this goal. I’m actually kind of irked at myself for not following through with this one, since I really did almost all the work necessary. Gah. Oh well.

5. Write 30 posts on Not Final Code
RESULT: 6/30 – FAIL. Lost momentum on this early in the year. I put together a kickass post in the middle of the year, but then lost momentum again. I really do make the posts too ambitious. This drained a lot of time off of other tasks as well. This is all part of the “too many writing tasks” issue I had this year. If I’m going to do regular technical blogging, I need to find a more efficient process.

6. Win NaNoWriMo
RESULT: FAIL. Keeping on with my “every other year” record with NaNo I didn’t make it this year. NaNo would have taken about 30 hours of writing or so in addition to time spent going to write-ins and stuff like that. I was getting incredibly nervous about the upcoming JLPT. So I pulled the ripcord and decided not to do NaNo. The time I got back wasn’t really that big of a deal, it was the decreased stress from not having that one more thing to think about. I actually liked the story outline I’d come up with too. Sorry NaNo, next year.

7. Publish 3 novellas on Amazon
RESULT: FAIL. Too much writing. Not enough focus. I was really hoping 2016 would be the start of me getting some writing out there. Perfectionism is part of the problem here too. At least, for next year, I have some ideas about how to combat perfectionism (more than one pseudonym).

8. Review 2 technical books
RESULT: FAIL. This died with the blogging. Reviewing a technical book takes a lot of effort. I still like the idea of it, but it needs to be a part of regular blogging.

9. Have 500 Twitter followers across accounts
RESULT: SUCCESS 1321/500 (as of 1/4/17). This was far too easy. I got my main @MattEkenstedt account over this with about 2 months of minor effort. Maybe less.

10. Be mentored by 3 people more successful than me
RESULT: SUCCESS? Depending on how you measure this I was either successful or only made progress. Early in the year I had a phone call with Brian Brushwood where he basically told me I needed to focus better (and he was right – I should have focused in more than I did). That was the only actual “mentoring” call I had with anyone. However, I’ve had discussions with people more successful than me in a less formal way. So you could argue that those count. Either way, I’m calling this one a success, and it’s something I think I should try to incorporate more into my life if I can.

11. Make money from 2 more sources
RESULT: FAIL. I sort of bailed on this one as the year went on and my priorities changed. Honestly, switching to a dev job at work sort of killed my main motivation here. That’s not a bad thing, just a priority change.

12. Make $5000 in side income
RESULT: FAIL. See above. Basically this one depended on doing some side-contracting. When I was in support that might have made sense. When I’m in dev, it’s too dangerous and probably a conflict of interest. So I moved on. If I’m going to make side income it shouldn’t have anything to do with my job.

Bonus Goals

I actually accomplished one this year:
3. Have 1000 twitter followers across accounts. – My main Twitter accounts has 1321 followers as of 1/4/17.

2016 Events and Accomplishments

January – February – Did my first Twitter surge. Had a mentoring call with BB. Started Not Final Code.
March – Went to an Anime Party in NYC.
April – I can’t remember anything about April. Must have been uneventful.
May – Saw BABYMETAL at Northern Invasion (also: Korn, Disturbed, Rob Zombie, Shinedown, POD, and others).
July – Started working in Product Development.
June – August – Basically lost months from the outside-work-productivity sense. Some of that was work focus, some was just bad time management.
September – November – Just JLPT study mostly.
December – Took the JLPT N4.

Final Thoughts

This post might make 2016 look like a bad year, but it really wasn’t. I got a lot accomplished and made some good moves in my career and I’m generally happy with the direction of the year. These goals posts probably make things look dire. I’m not super happy with how much I accomplished on the side though that’s because motivations change over the year. I’ve heard some good arguments that you should have “systems and not goals” but I’ve also heard similar advice that goals should be “unattainably high” so that you get further than you would otherwise. I think I prefer that. Looking at the goals I had this year, none of them were really that big so they weren’t that motivating. Flying past my twitter follower count early in the year made it sort of boring.

Based on how 2016 went I need to spend some time taking a hard look at my writing. It always seemed to be the first thing cut and I didn’t produce much “shippable” writing. Do I double down and push through next year, or should I just straight up abandon it? I’m not sure. I love writing and building and telling stories, but to turn it into a business would take all my free time. To publish without turning it into a business just makes it an expensive hobby in time and money.

Hopefully I can turn out a 2017 goals post before the end of January. That first one will be basically a draft. A second goals post in February will be the real one. I need to stare at them for a while to really settle on them. I have been thinking about 2017 stuff here and there, and honestly I’m not sure where I want to focus. I do think at least one or two goals should be related to my job or career development. Also, I should keep a shorter list of goals with more direct focus.

Time to move on to 2017. This one is going to be huge.

Yep, missed the Q3 summary. That’s not really surprising since I really lost momentum not too long after the last update. I sort of don’t want to do this update because of that, but since I’m more on the ball now it would feel disingenuous to pass on it.

Oh, also, since this is a personal organization post, it’s for my own record keeping. It will be meandering, too detailed, and unedited. Read at your own peril.

Quarter 2 & 3 Summary

I didn’t do great. I barely did anything. Well, that’s not true. I got back on the wagon for September. But yeah, did bad. I’m not even sure why for some of it. I know that the vacation really put a hiccup in things, since I lost momentum on practically everything. I know some of the time was lost to being too busy/tired but honestly that’s just an excuse. I spent some time getting back up to par on electronics and I’ve spent some time teaching my nephew about how to build electronic stuff. I can’t remember exactly what slowed me down between April and the vacation though.

Oh well, can’t change the past.

When I reevaluated things for September I cut some things that aren’t really important anymore. And honestly, it just reinforced the fact that I need to have fewer goals on the major list. I think next year I should try to slim it down to 5 goals if I can next time. But they should be big goals. I can do the other things as bonus goals or whatever. Anyway, on to the point-by-point analysis.

Q2 & 3 Detail Breakdown

 

I’m just going to do the stuff I actually accomplished or made progress on, since I had a bad couple of quarters.

Bike 100 miles – Progress – I got back to training on this at the end of Q3.

Japanese Study – Progress – I’ve been going through the JLPT N4 Memrise deck along with some other decks. I missed a few weeks, but not too much. I’m actually already more prepared in vocab for the N4 than I was for the N5 when I took it. Though I’m not as prepared in some other areas as I was when I took the N5. All in all though, I’m happy with the consistency and progress I’ve made when practicing.

NFC Posts – Progress – I only did 1 post, but it’s something

Twitter – Stretch goal complete – I have over 1000 followers across accounts, and almost 1000 just on my main account. I need to make this goal bigger next year. Far too easy.

Quarter 4 Plans – The End of the Year

Alright, I’m going to spend a little more time here. I spent some time prioritizing and planning, but I’m still going to try to get as much done as I can for most of them.

I have a pretty good idea for my areas of focus for the rest of the year. I’m much more restricted on what I can get done due to calendar restraints than I was earlier in the year, so I really should have made an effort back in May – August to get some of these done. I’m basically going to have three TOP priorities for the rest of the year: Fitness, Japanese study, and NaNoWriMo. I’m having a hard time writing this in narrative, so bullet lists here we go. I have a more detailed list, but I’m keeping that to my day to day plans. Not really worth publishing. Here’s where my focus will be:

October Focus

  1. Fitness
    1. Super strict diet control
    2. Training towards biking 100 miles
    3. Regular biking
  2. Japanese Study
    1. Finish “learning” the JLPT N4 deck (1244 cards)
    2. Keep review queue for JLPT N4 deck under 500 cards
    3. Start practicing grammar and listening
  3. Writing
    1. Prep for NaNo
    2. Finish Novella 1 draft 1
  4. Take the AWS Exam (if I can fit in the schedule)

November Focus

  1. Fitness
    1. Diet control as possible
    2. Do 100 mile attempt
    3. Regular biking
  2. Japanese Study
    1. Keep cramming the JLPT N4 deck
    2. Do the JLPT practice test (and unofficial tests)
    3. Cram in every way possible, since the N4 is right away in December
  3. Writing
    1. Win NaNo (try to finish in 10 – 15 days)
    2. (Probably no writing after NaNo, since JLPT coming up)

December Focus

  1. Fitness
    1. Diet control as possible
    2. Regular biking
    3. Start lifting again
  2. Writing
    1. Novella 1 should be ready for post-production
    2. More Novellas should be prepped
    3. Possibly pound out some quick and dirty novellas to publish under another pseudonym
  3. Wrap up
    1. Use December to try to finish any remaining goals or generally progress as much as possible.

Conclusion

While I’ll probably end up missing most of my goals this year out of slacking off for a good third of it, I think I’ll be able to have a pretty good overall amount of progress by the end of 2016 as long as I don’t give up now. I’m getting more and more stressed about JLPT, since this is the first time I really really want to pass the thing. If I don’t pass this year, I’m going to take it again next year until I manage to pass. Then I move on to the next level. I’ve kept up the practice, but I am still a self-study, so it’s incredibly hard to keep at it and know if I’m making the right kind of progress. I sort of feel like if I don’t manage to pass this time, I’ll have a hard time maintaining momentum for next year. Oh well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Aside from that, if I can end this year smaller than I started it, I’ll take it as a not complete failure, though obviously I’d have liked to get further. Also, I wish I’d focused more on finishing the things I’m writing.

I might do a post on the JLPT before or after I take it, but otherwise this is probably the last “goals” post before the summary at the end of the year. Next year I’ll have fewer goals I think, but bigger ones. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’ll probably be a weight loss goal, a JLPT goal (let’s hope it’s N3), a writing goal, a Twitter/social impact goal, and maybe something else. Five seems like a good number. I don’t really have time to think about it until after I get that N4 taken though…

Time to get back at it.

I’m a bit over a week late on this, but on the “quarter” scale that’s fine, right?

Standard warning: personal post, lots of annoying details, lots of meandering, lots of parentheticals. I tend to write these things kind of freeform. You’ve been warned.

Quarter 1 Summary

All in all, I’m moderately happy with how Q1 went. March ended up kind of a wash, since I had trips to (prepare for then) go on followed by a longer-than-expected recovery time. I’m not complaining about that, it just cut into my productive time since I’m not used to scheduling productive non-work time in around and during trips. Hopefully I can get better at that.

I didn’t end up hitting all the things I wanted to hit on the Q1 breakdown, but as always I ended up over-scheduling. Even without hitting all of the numbers on the list, I can still hit all the goals by the end of the year no problem, I just need to get going again. Momentum is important, and not on my side at the moment.

Q1 Detail Breakdown

Lose 40 pounds – Progress – I lost about 15. I actually lost more but March was a bad month. This is a momentum game, and I’m not feeling too bad. Winter is the hardest to keep from gaining weight, and I managed to lose some, so I expect more progress as the year continues.

Get a certification – Missed – This might have happened if I hadn’t suddenly scheduled two trips in March. I did quite a bit of prep work for the AWS Developer cert, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet because 1) I’ll probably have to take at least a half-day to take the test, and 2) I can only attempt it 3x per calendar year. I had been planning on taking/failing once just to gauge the test, but after seeing that restriction I decided to pile on more study.

Write 6 posts here – Complete, Outdated – If I’m reading my CMS right, I’ve published exactly 6 posts for this blog between 1/1 and 4/1. However, this main goal changed, and technically doesn’t matter anymore. Oh well.

Write 10 nfc posts – Progress 5/10 – Missing March is what broke me here. I’ve had plenty of ideas too. Just need to keep at it. Consistency is what matters.

Rewrite NaNoWriMo 2015 story – Missed, Outdated – I’m going another direction now, so this one doesn’t matter.

Get 200 Twitch followers – Missed, Outdated – For the purposes of goal tracking, I have 116 followers on Twitch right now. However, since Twitch stuff is a MAJOR time sink, I’ve kind of tabled it for now.

Get 250 Twitter followers – Complete – 529 followers as of now.

Have 1 mentor – Complete – Only a 1 call session, but that’s enough. He said I could call him back whenever. Not going to list names here, but someone I consider much more successful and I wouldn’t have expected to be able to contact directly.

Publishing company setup – Missed – Names are hard, legal stuff is hard too. The real “due” date for this is once I start publishing.

Novella series plan – Progress – I have a general idea, and a few pieces that I like. Just needs a bit more work before I’d call this part “done.” And no, it’s not perfectionism talking. I didn’t like the first pass enough, so I’ve been working on a second pass.

Write (draft) a novella – Missed – Didn’t get the plan done, didn’t get the Novella drafted.

Annual Goal Updates

I’m just going to list the ones with progress, I might do something more complete after Q2.

1. Lose 80 pounds – 15/80 so about 19% of the way there

5. Write 30 posts on Not Final Code – 5/30 -> 1/6 -> 16.67% done

9. Have 500 Twitter followers across accounts – 529/500 -> DONE

10. Be mentored by 3 people more successful than me – 1/3 -> 33%

Quarter 2 Focus

I managed to actually complete a goal last quarter, so that’s good. What should my focus be for Quarter 2?

I think that question starts with “What was a focus for Quarter 1 that I can put on the back burner?” Blogging took some time, but not a huge amount. Twitch streaming took quite a bit more time. The nice thing about doing the coding streams was that they kept me sharp. I’m not going to remove those as a possibility in the future, but as of right now they’re off the list. I also spent probably 2 – 4 hours per day doing Twitter stuff in February and March. I can cut that way back since I’ve hit my goal follower count.

I guess the thing I need to determine is what I want or need to get done this quarter. I know that I need to start focusing on Japanese study to have any chance at all at passing the N4 in December. I’ve done a little preliminary work gathering some resources, but it’s time to start studying in earnest. I want to write at least 2 posts per month on NFC this quarter. Preferably 3 or 4, though weekly might be too much of a time commitment if I want to keep the posts relatively high quality.

Getting the novella stuff up and running is a huge thing. I’d been planning on hopefully having my first novella ready to go in June or early July, having done all the editing and legal work by then. I’m not sure that’s still possible, but I want to at least have the bottleneck be editing and not writing. So I want to have at least one novella written this quarter. Preferably two – one having gone through all the editing I can manage and waiting on a professional (at worst), and one being drafted.

One more mentor would be good, though I’m not sure who right now. I know that I need to do a little more preparatory work before I talk to the next person.

The only real open question I have right now is whether I start the push on the 100 miles of biking again. Preparing for that like I did last year just chews up weekends like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, the longest I did was 60 some miles at once, and that took something between 3 and 4 hours if I remember correctly – I have it written down but not in front of me – and that sort of kills the rest of the day too. So I’d have to ramp back up to those kinds of distances on weekends – probably at least 3 weeks – then I’d have to do some kind of additional training over the week. You know what? I’ll put it on the list to start digging into in May. Maybe I can find some way of studying Japanese while biking long distances. Kill two birds with one stone.

Quarter 2 Goals breakdown

  1. Lose another 30 pounds – 45 pounds total
  2. Bike 100 miles in under 7 hours.
  3. Japanese study:
    1. Finish the Genki I textbook
    2. Finish 4 chapters of Genki II
    3. Translate 2 months of [email protected] Times
    4. Begin N4 Kanji study (know at least 50 more well, and know the N5 Kanji inside and out)
    5. Finish Japanese in Mangaland volume 2
  4. Make attempt at a certification
  5. Write 8 NFC posts
  6. Draft 2 Novellas
  7. Plan 4 Novellas (including the nearly done one)
  8. Set up legal publishing entity
  9. Have another mentor
  10. Find an editor

Conclusion

Deep list, probably too much. Work is ramping up too, so some or all of this could be pushed back as things come up (work comes first – bills gotta be paid). Of the things on my list, the priorities go Weight loss -> Japanese -> Novellas -> Biking -> Blogging -> everything else

Alright, Q1 wasn’t too bad, but could have been better. Let’s see how Quarter 2 goes. I have the possibility of crossing off another item from the main goal list, and I’m ramping up to start knocking stuff off the list left and right.

I’ll update this again in July for a Q2 summary / Q3 setup, unless something comes up in the meantime to change things or whatever.

What? It’s barely been over a month and the goals are changing?

Last year I was actually more successful than this blog seemed to imply. That’s because I didn’t keep things up to date. I’m glad I started out with something last month since it got and kept me going, but I wasn’t really inspired all that much. Might have to do a blog post in inspiration later (note: it’s not necessary, but you shouldn’t ignore it). I’ve kind of redirected my focus a bit based on changes in the landscape and things I’ve learned and whatnot, so let’s go.

Focus of changes

The first focus is to bring the list of goals down in number (but not ambition). I knew when I wrote them that there were too many. Too much energy focused too broadly ends up benefiting nothing, really. So, bring down the raw number of goals, and focus the direction of the goals.

Simple enough.

I just had to come up with a direction to focus in. Well, here’s a high level summary of the focus changes:

  • Reduce the volume of effort spent on self-promotion for technical skills – This had been set up as kind of a sprint instead of a marathon. I like the core ideas I had here, and I think professional development is important, but I was assuming more than 1 article a week. The only way that’d happen is if they’re low quality or I spent literally all my time on it. Not worth it right now.
  • Return to the novella idea – I’ve queued this one up a couple of times now, but that’s just because I can see it working. I can imagine (almost) every moving piece, and see it paying off. There are a variety of reasons I’ve picked this route again, but a lot of it is that it lets me do something different than my job.
  • Free up time – I don’t want free time, but I need to empty up some time to return to the novella focus. Unfortunately, that means things that are big giant time sponges get cut completely.
  • Think a little more about money – I’m not aiming to be making stacks of cash this year, but I want to keep an eye there. Instead of focusing on building my public perception and such so much I want to work more on building (a) business(es). Reputation is great, but it’s not enough on its own.
  • Oh yeah, mobile development – This is only showing up as a bonus goal, since I don’t care that much, but I think it’d be fun to start building free mobile games w/ads. Might be something there, might not be worth the time.

Updated list

I’m not going to do a point by point discussion. Most of the reasoning for the remaining items was already explained, and I mentioned the general reasons for the removal of items above. Also, several numbers changed, and describing that seems like a waste. So here’s the list:

  1. Lose 80 pounds
  2. Bike (or stationary bike) 100 miles in under 7 hours
  3. Study for and take the JLPT N4
  4. Get a new technical certification
  5. Write 30 posts on Not Final Code
  6. Win NaNoWriMo
  7. Publish 3 novellas on Amazon, etc
  8. Review 2 technical books
  9. Have 500 Twitter follows across accounts
  10. Be mentored by 3 people more successful than me
  11. Make money from 2 more sources.
  12. Make $5000 in side income.

Bonus Goals:

  1. Lose 120 pounds
  2. Write 20 new posts on matthewekenstedt.com
  3. Have 1000 Twitter followers across accounts
  4. Make money from 4 more sources
  5. Make $10000 in side income
  6. Created a publishing company (entity or LLC)
  7. 60 posts on Not Final Code
  8. Review 5 technical books
  9. Self-publish a technical or non-fiction book
  10. Get 2 new technical certifications
  11. Completed the Genki I Textbook + Workbook
  12. Completed the Japanese in Mangaland Series and Kanji in Mangaland Series
  13. Completed 5 chapters of the Genki II Textbook + Workbook
  14. Release a mobile game

 

Q1 (remaining) Goals

Just a breakdown of the above, so I can focus a bit more on specifics each quarter. The struck out goals are from last month, but still kind of in play. Greyed out items are completely dead. I’ll update where I am in early April and have Q2 goals – some of them are done already.

  1. Lose 40 pounds
  2. Get a certification
  3. Write 6 posts here
  4. Write 10 nfc posts
  5. Write 20k words in new story
  6. Rewrite NaNoWriMo 2015 story
  7. Get 200 Twitch followers
  8. Get 250 Twitter followers
  9. Have 1 mentor
  10. Have a name and begin legal work to make a publishing company
  11. Write a novella series plan (each novella’s story + overall story in general)
  12. Write (draft) a novella

I’d already written a version of this post, but it looked too much like complaining. Instead, I’m going to try to do some good old self-analysis and see how I can handle this better in the future. Be warned, this post wanders quite a bit.

Where I’ve Been

I had made a pretty significant commitment to myself to stream a lot more this year. I can’t do the “stream every single day” that some people do, but I wanted to do at least twice a week. Preferably one coding stream during the week and one gaming stream on the weekend, assuming I’m at home and able to stream on the weekend.

I haven’t streamed for the last three weeks.

Trust me, it annoys me as much or more than anybody who wanted to watch my streams. I even had “stream gaming” on the list this weekend, and theoretically I could still pull it off later today, but I know I’m not going to.

Why haven’t I been streaming? I’ve been sick. Just sick enough to not be able to do a good stream. Normally when I get sick, it’ll be for maybe 3 days to at most a week and a half. Then I’m pretty much back to normal. This one has been just kind of a low level thing that’s stuck around for so long. Just enough to mess with my voice enough I don’t want to talk for extended periods. Even still, I probably would have streamed coding at least once or twice, had things not doubled down.

Consequences of Energy Drains

The short version: It’s hard to get things done. Obvious, right? Sure, though I think some of this can be handled with some countermeasures. Not all of it though. I’m using this post to analyze why exactly I’m getting so much less done while I’m sick, and what I can do about it.

Sleep

The first thing that happens when I start to get sick (and the entire time) is that I’m exhausted all the time. Normally, I rely on the fact that I only sleep maybe 5 hours a day, sometimes up to 7. That’s not an option when I’m getting sick. I know from experience that if I don’t sleep, I get dramatically worse and things take longer to get better. However, this time I’ve been dealing with insane levels of sleep being required. I’ve had several instances of sleeping over 12 hours to 14 hours. A couple of times I even slept 19 out of 24 hours. You can’t get much done when that’s happening.

Honestly, this is the one category where I don’t think there’s much I can do. I’ve been managing to stay awake and alert during work, but then within an hour or two I crash hard and sleep until 2 or 3 AM, might be up for an hour or two, then back to sleep until work starts. Not much time to get anything done there.

A possible plan is to not schedule myself any more than 10 hours of sleep a night. Meaning that even if I’m exhausted I do whatever I need to (caffeine, energy drinks, etc) to stay up until I’d get 10 hours of sleep. The only risk there is that I won’t get up in time for work.

Focus

Focus is usually one of my stronger points. Focus is probably the source of the speed at which I get things done. When I’m sick, it seems like my pool of focus is much shallower. I’m able to focus (more or less) through the entire work day, maybe not at the same level I can when I’m not sick, but pretty close. Then, the day ends, and I have a much harder time really focusing on something I need to do.

The solution to this is actually pretty simple. Normally I have some kind of background noise on. Podcasts, YouTube videos that might as well be podcasts, TV shows, etc. Things that I don’t give that much attention. However, I noticed that I basically can’t dual-task on this stuff while I’m sick. If I want to get work done, I need to just put on my headphones and listen to music and that’s it.

Projects as Barriers

Let me explain. Part of the reason I haven’t been streaming coding is because the thing I’ve been focused on getting done is something that isn’t very streaming-friendly. I’ve been mucking around with libraries I’ve never used before, trying to implement them, having esoteric issues, and so on. I’ve spent probably 10 – 15 hours on this one problem trying to get various libraries working over the past couple of weeks. Today, I finally decided to do it entirely manually (which isn’t a long-term solution, but is a good enough for now solution), and I got it done in an hour and a half. This piece of the project kept me from wanting to stream, since it was highest priority and I didn’t want to stream me just spinning my wheels.

The solution is to remove the barriers as fast as possible. What I should have done is to solve the problem I’m talking about manually FIRST, since I knew more or less what to do right away. Then, go and look into the other options in my free time if I wanted to. This just boils back to building out minimum solutions first. Get it working, don’t worry about how cool it is.

Distractions

This ties into “Focus” above, obviously. But it goes deeper than that. Distractions are a part of life, and we all have to learn how to manage them. However, I noticed I was getting myself into Finals Mode. I’m talking about that easily distracted mental state you get into when it’s finals time when you’re in college. You remember, right? Finals are coming up, and you keep finding excuses to clean your room, or you start trying to learn some new, completely unrelated skill, etc. For me, this was basically all of 2014 (See my post on not having goals).

I started looking at the idea of starting new coding projects. I had three or four kind of floating around in my head, and at least one of them I got very close to starting. If you’re a programmer, you understand the risk here. New projects mean that current projects become old projects and either never get done or don’t get updated like they should be. There’s nothing wrong with new projects on their own, but I definitely don’t have time without abandoning something I’m already doing. And I don’t want to abandon anything I’m already doing. The worst part: I actually have new projects scheduled to have been started this week. They’re just not programming projects.

I hesitate to “solve” this one. The fact is, that new project ideas are a kind of lifeblood to a creative developer. However, making new projects all the time is bad for a variety of reasons. Here’s how I think I should deal with this: First, any new idea should get written down into some trusted area. I’m not sure where this should be yet, I’ve used a number of places to record software ideas, but I think I’d lose some of my anxiety about starting if I had a central repository. Maybe a Trello board, maybe an Evernote notebook. I’m not sure where, but I’ll figure something out. Then, once I have the idea, I note whatever research I’ve done into there, copy links and stuff, and STOP RESEARCHING.

The time I lost this time was in research. Starting would have wasted more time and potentially been a serious time sink and distraction. Still, just writing down “maybe do X in JavaScript” into a note would be much more valuable in the future when I might actually do the project, than any research I do now. Development research gets stale very quickly. They key is to write down the idea, dump everything in my brain into the notes for that idea, and move on. A minimum of time is wasted, and I can look back when I have time.

Food

Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m not careful enough with what I eat when I’m drained like this. It’s a good thing I have that pizza ban, because I would have had so much pizza. Comfort foods and sweet things take the forefront. Those tend to be heavy foods with a lot of sugar. That causes an insulin spike, then I get tired (this is normal), so then I end up taking a nap or whatever. Just bad energy management.

Solution: Ignore what I have any cravings for, and just eat the right stuff. Ideally homemade food. Lots of water, less sugar, more vegetables. Simple stuff. Harder to keep at when I’m drained.

Conclusion

I dunno. It all really boils down to what I can apply when I’m in the poor mental state from being drained like this. It’s like having a film over my brain, I can’t shake off that mild exhaustion. I think, as long as I apply some of the above solutions, I might be able to get more done while I’m sick even though I’ll probably be tired and unmotivated through it.

No point in dwelling on the past though. I’ve pulled out whatever lessons I think I can, and I’ll try to use them in the future. Today is the only day I can change, so time to keep at it.

This is kind of a follow-up post from the 2016 Goals post. In it, I talked about how this year when I was planning, I came up with mostly things that weren’t really goals, but more of directions or habits to form. Now, I ended up actually scraping some measurable goals out of that list, but I still wanted to write up something to go into more detail.

Again, fair warning, this is a mostly personal post, so it may not be interesting or have a very good flow to it. Read on at your own peril.

Direction

The direction I want to head should be pretty obvious based on the goals post, but I’ll go through them more clearly now.

Hustle and Efficacy

Easily the most important part of everything. I’ve wasted months and years not doing some of the things I’ve wanted to get done. I used to hustle more, back in high school and early on in college. Then I got kind of lazy as I got working. The daily grind wore me down. Lately I’ve been trying to get that hustle back, and it feels foreign. It feels like doing things through a haze. I don’t like that at all. Bit by bit I’m getting back into it, though. I can tell, somewhat from the reactions of the people around me. I’m getting those odd looks I used to get when I would work on things harder and longer than anybody else.

The second half of the hustle is efficacy. I’m not talking about efficiency. No, I’ve spent a lot of time on efficiency, and honestly it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. I’ll take someone who will push hard and get something done in a few days over someone who can get it done in a day but is obsessed by efficiency. No, efficacy is more about capacity to get something done. Efficacy is more important and comes before efficiency. For example, let’s talk about the goal I have about getting Twitch followers. Well, if I’m most concerned about efficiency, I’d just buy them. Pay some service or something and bam, goal is met. No, I’m more concerned with finding the capacity and methods for getting those followers. Higher value followers who are more likely to come back. The list goes on.

So, the short version of this is that I want to keep driving towards my goals as hard as possible, and using effective methods. Simple enough.

Consistency

Consistency has been a problem of mine in recent years. I’m not talking about dropping projects. My YouTube channel, for example. Being more consistent there might have helped, but I was jumping into an oversaturated market where you basically have to have the right connections or be incredibly lucky. It wasn’t worth the time I was investing. In fact, it was one of the things that kind of led me off track.

No, I mean keeping at things while I’m working on them. I mean when I do something every day, actually doing it every day. I mean keeping to a schedule. The only things that should pull things off the schedule are extenuating circumstances and things like being sick.

It doesn’t seem like I need to elaborate too much here. This is a major thing I want to focus on, but the concept is simple.

Health

I want to make physical health a bigger focus this year. Last year I focused pretty hard on my health for maybe 2 months, and not sequentially. If I put in the time and maybe just build slowly instead of going hard and fast, I’ll be able to keep at it and see more long term results. I have something like a plan for this, as you’ll see below, but it just boils down to keeping at it. And not letting things boil out of control.

The second half of this is the mental side. Not ‘mental health’ in the traditional sense. I mean basically two things: keeping myself as sharp as possible, and keeping control over my emotions. They’re both pretty much just training. One is continuing to try new things, read, and study. The other is to keep from letting myself get riled up at things. This is, of course, going to be especially hard (and especially important) since it’s an election year. Election propaganda is designed to get you riled up, and that doesn’t accomplish anything. Being upset just leads to poor decisions and wasted time.

Social Contact

This is sort of a new one for me. I haven’t really made a point to drive towards this before, but I think it’s becoming important. I’ve worked from home for a number of years now, and basically every important thing that’s happened to me has been a result of doing more social things. My current job, for example, I got from meeting a guy (now a friend) at a bar completely randomly. Unfortunately, that place has closed down, and I don’t really have a place to go anymore.

There are three major points to this. First, I want to engage on social media more often. Right now, I’m pretty decent about talking to people one on one when I have them on steam or something, though usually I end up letting them contact me first. The purpose of engaging more is two-fold. First, I’m more likely to meet people who could turn into friends, business associates, or even well thought acquaintances. Second, the more I engage, the more people see me. Some, probably most of what I want to achieve requires me to have more contacts and better known. Either advancing in business or if I spin off into something entrepreneurial at some point require knowing people and being known by people.

But going after just popularity is shallow and people see right through it. I don’t want to see people as just numbers or a scorecard or something, I want to genuinely care about people, even if I can only do it for the extent of one or two tweets. That’s why my goals look the way they do, and why I have a lot of focus on engagement over numbers. At least once the numbers get big enough to be considered “invested.” People often ignore replies and retweets from accounts that look too small to matter, since they assume the person has a relatively new account and they’re just trolling. So, unfortunately, a score card at first (low value followers like businesses and ‘social media experts’ who auto follow back), then engagement.

As for meat space? Well, I’m going to try to find some places to be more social. Maybe a bar (though I’ve looked, most nearby aren’t really the right environment), maybe some kind of interest-based meetup or club. I’m not sure on what exactly, but I’ll find something. I have a writing club that I go to occasionally. I’ll make a point of going to that more regularly.

Habits

First things first. The list I’m going to put down below is way too big for habit forming. It’s more of a pool to work out of.

The old idea is that it takes 30 days or so to form a habit. Also it takes about the same amount of time to break one. The other conventional wisdom is that you should really only work on one habit at a time. Working on more than one divides your effort or willpower too much. I think that makes sense, so I’m planning on only focusing on one or two at a time. Probably just one, but some of these are harder than others, so we’ll see.

There’s a lot of overlap here too, so categories get challenging.

Hustle

End goal: Increase what I get done by 100% and the importance and results by 10x.

  1. Act first – Don’t spend any time in distracting actions like gaming, messing around on reddit, etc until I have my list for the day complete.
    • Even more, try to achieve that extra 20%
  2. Sleep – I have a bad habit of poor sleep management. I usually fool myself into thinking that I’m doing things at night (like writing this post, for example) and being effective. However, I’m not. Not getting consistent and regular sleep leaves me tired during the week and getting less done over all. Even when I get enough done, I end up doing lower quality work.
  3. Forego weekends – Due to #2, I tend to sleep off weekends and I’m super ineffective. Also sports and social stuff. And games. Maybe, MAYBE I can get a single day off if I’ve been super effective the whole week.

Consistency

End goal: same as hustle. Also, being more consistent with the tasks I do (seems redundant to mention this).

  1. Have a calendar – Keep a calendar including the things I’m supposed to do every single day. Calendaring is something I used to do and I was much MUCH more effective back then. I want to maintain a google calendar style calendar, something I can hand off to someone else to manage once it makes sense. Every minute of every day should be scheduled, except perhaps details at work, since work varies.
  2. Have a morning routine – My mornings are completely dependent on when I get up. Sometimes I don’t even go to bed at a reasonable time, so I end up not really having a morning. This should be pretty simple to pull off once I have a consistent sleep schedule. The point of a morning routine will be (aside from normal hygiene things) finding and executing on whatever set of things help me to be the most effective during the day. I have an idea of what to do here, but I need to fix some other things first.
  3. Regular journaling and logging – There’s real value in pounding out a couple pages of thoughts right away in the morning. I’ve done it before. So I want to do that again. Basically priming the brain pump. The second half of this is the daily and weekly planning, ending each with a log of what I got done that day. Right now I don’t have the data necessary to track down what things I need to change. I expect the reviews to change over time as I get this figured out. The key is that neither the morning nor evening parts should take very long. Quick data logging is useful. Spending too much time is a waste.

Health

  1. Removing unhealthy foods – I like bad food. I like good food too, but bad food is too easy. This one I want to start out just taking out the worst stuff one by one, then I can move towards just more home cooked food, and less pre-prepared food.
    1. Remove all pizza permanently. I have a bad weakness for pizza, and it makes me feel terrible since I hit it way too hard.
    2. Remove fried foods in general. Cheese curds, fries, etc. Some of these can come back in moderation when I get a handle on things. Maybe. Maybe not.
    3. Find the next weakness and remove it. Probably fast food of any kind.
    4. Etc
  2. Remove soda – I probably have an addiction to soda. Addictions are weaknesses, and frankly I should be drinking more water anyway.
  3. Remove caffeine – Again, this seems like a good move in the long term. Should help out with the sleep schedule and so on as well. The one exception I’ll leave here is tea. Tea is very low caffeine, and unless it starts to feel like an addiction later, I think that tea is fine.
  4. Exercise every day – Even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. Something, every day. No matter what.
  5. Mindset control exercises – I mean, you could call it meditation, but that has too much of a spiritual aspect. It’s not just that either, it’s also keeping a control on my emotions in the moment. Full on stoicism isn’t my goal here, just to keep the destructive emotions under my own control.

Social

  1. Daily social media engagement – Not as a marketing tool, but as a relationship generating tool. Maybe marketing sometimes too, but not as a focus. The second part of this is that I don’t want to waste time here either. Just like the exercise, at least daily contact. Doesn’t need to be randoms, can just be friends or acquaintances.

Not sure I have other social ones, specifically right now.

Concluding stuff

So it’s a pool. Not necessarily a “I want to get this done this year” or anything. These are just a list to start with, as these things can change over time.

So what do I start with? Well, I’ve already started with: remove pizza.

At the same time I want to sort out my sleep schedule. Those seem like the best starting points. After that, we’ll see. I may or may not post updates on this. It’s not as easily tracked as goals, but the results should be visible to at least myself, and likely to most of the people around me.

So, I took the JLPT N5 last year, which was one my goals. I don’t know if I passed or not yet, but I’m going to guess probably not. I don’t feel bad about it though, since the point was to take it.

This is not a guide for everyone

I learned a lot about my own abilities, and about what kinds of things I should be studying. This blog post is my own meandering about how I’m going to study for this next test. It’s not for people dropping by to find out how they should study. I can’t answer that, you need to find your own best methods.

What went wrong

The number 1 thing I messed up on when studying for the N5 was not taking the vocabulary seriously enough. I ended up knowing a lot of vocabulary I didn’t strictly need, and ended up cramming the stuff that was on the test. I didn’t give myself enough time for Vocabulary.
I overestimated the difficulty of the Kanji. Truth is, once I got going and started to learn how to learn Kanji, they got easier. The reason this was a mistake is that it affected the rest of my studying. I assumed my ability for Kanji was a good barometer of my general ability. Nope.

Things that were hard

  1. Stamina – things that shouldn’t have been hard were harder since I wasn’t used to going that hard for that long at once. I’ll need to train up so 3 or 4 hours IN JAPANESE the ENTIRE TIME isn’t too bad.
  2. Listening – You get one go at hearing and understanding the dialog. I need to practice this more directly, with some kind of listening practice or practice questions. I was missing things because I was trying to translate them and getting behind.
  3. Similar-looking Kanji, or incorrectly written Kanji – I’ll need to study writing the Kanji much more. I got complacent on that.
  4. Kanji I “don’t need to know yet” – Knowing all the Kanji for all the vocab would be ideal. Though the more the better.

Mistakes I made in studying for the N5:

  • Not consistent enough across the year.
  • Too much time spent on general study, not enough on test prep like specific vocab. I knew a lot I didn’t need to at the cost of things I did need to know.
  • I didn’t put much effort at all into listening practice.
  • I didn’t train my translation speed enough.

General schedule

January

Taking a break. I’m using this time to get things in line and focus on other things while I have the longest time until the next test.

February – June

General Study

General study is still important, since the end goal is literacy, not just passing the tests. So here’s the plan.
  • Finish Genki I
    • I’m 7 chapters in (4 remain), and I should pretty easily finish Genki I. I probably should have finished it last year, but oh well.
    • Each chapter takes me about 6 – 10 hours to dig through as completely as possible, a chapter could take two weeks along with other study methods.
  • Genki II
    • The goal there was to get another 5 chapters in, but we’ll see. It really depends on how long things take.
  • Other Workbooks
    • I have Japanese in Mangaland and Kanji in Mangaland. They’re not the best resources in the world, but repetition is the key to mastery, so I might as well.
    • I’m already on volume 2 of Japanese in Mangaland. I don’t have a particularly detailed plan for going through this yet, but I’ll sort stuff out. I’m thinking 1 – 2 lessons a week, depending on how intense the study is that week. This would be in addition to Genki I, which will be the focus.
  • Translating
    • [email protected] times
      • I’ve been getting these for a while. The plan right now is to translate every story, then compare with their translation.
      • I have no idea how long this will take, since there will be a LOT of words and such I don’t know
      • I’ll also plan on pulling out notecards of words, phrases, and so on that seem like I should know or are otherwise interesting.
      • This comes after all the study resources.
    • Imported Manga
      • If I have time and energy, import some relatively simple manga and do my own scanslations (but don’t distribute it, since that’s illegal).
      • If it’s something with an official English translation, I could compare

May – November

N4 Kanji Study

Study time is going to start ramping up in May, since I’ll be adding on Kanji study specifically for the N4.
  • Anki and Memrise seem to be the best way for me to learn. I had pretty good success with memrise, so I might even start there this time.
  • The goal is to have the entire deck memorized backwards and forwards by some time in October.
  • Should be able to draw and recognize every Kanji
  • Review the entire deck every week from mid-October until the test.

July – November

N4 Vocabulary

Use Anki and Memrise to learn the vocabulary. Also, preferably, I’d like to know all the Kanji for the vocabulary, though that’s not as important. The goal is to be able to go between Japanese and English without having to think too hard. It should be instinctive.

N4 Grammar

Use Anki and Memrise to get some of the basics, but using flash cards for grammar wasn’t very effective for me.
So, I want to find some resources like textbooks or workbooks or something I can use to practice grammar much more and get this stuff down. I’ll figure this out when I get closer to July.

Listening

I want to make a point of practicing listening. I’m not sure what resources exist here, but I should be able to find some. Preferably focused on the N4 level content in this case. I’m even considering getting some kind of live tutoring online or in person if I can find some for a reasonable price.

September

Don’t forget to register for the exam.

October – November

I want to be at least 90% there by the end of October, since NaNoWriMo is in November, and based on last year it seems like it’ll take about half of my free time that month. Kanji and Vocab should be more or less done in October, and November should be primarily reviews and practice tests.

Practice exams

  • Find unofficial online tests to take, and evaluate positions once a month, starting in July.
  • Should be hitting 80 – 90% consistently by October
  • After NaNo, take the official practice N4 exam
    • Do it again every week, to get the habit down

Another personal post. Ignore if you like, just best to do this stuff publicly since it’s more likely to happen then.

I wasn’t in a hurry to get to this after the year started for a few reasons. The main one is that things go a little crazy around all the holidays, and it takes a while for things to settle down again. I think things have settled, and it’s been kind of itching to get this written up and wrapped up.

2016 so far

It’s been an alright year, for how short it’s been. I think I might actually have some kind of schedule worked out that feels good. Something where I’m simultaneously getting stuff done that I wanted to get done and actually doing some of the more community oriented goals I have.

I feel bad that I basically neglected this blog in 2015. There were a number of reasons that happened, but they mostly boil down into needing to look for more work taking priority over basically anything else. It was short-term thinking that’s not my normal state, and I’m sort of ashamed looking back on it. At the same time, I did end up getting a job that’s more interesting than what I’ve done before in some ways, and with a path to move up for a while before things have to get messy again.

This year’s goals look a lot like last year’s goals. I’m basically in the same spot that I was last year at this time, though much more secure. I’m looking long-term again, and some things have become obvious. The main one is that if I am going to blog technical stuff, I should do it on a technical blog. Start something new, do it there. Keep the non-technical stuff here. Random one-off technical posts are fine, but they don’t really serve a bigger purpose.

I planned out my goals this year using a different method than previous years to try to see if I ended up in a different spot. I did, but it won’t look like that here. Basically, I ended up with a laundry list of habits to develop and what I call ‘directions’ to move in. Those aren’t goals, though they can be used to determine some goals. I can smell another blog post coming about some of those, or possibly even a few about the various topics.

I’m working on my Japanese study schedule post already though, so that’ll be next.

The short version of this year is: Less fiction, more technical writing. More investments in the future and community, and less looking for quick payoffs or money.

I did put some money goals in there too though, because why not?

Oh yeah, and I won’t have so many exercise goals this year either. Annual lifting benchmarks and such really don’t make sense at the level I’m at right now. It’s better for me to just keep progressing and keep at it.

On Challenge

Different people are motivated by different things. As a general rule, I tend to over schedule myself by about 20% per week. This does two things:

  1. Things that don’t matter end up falling by the side, undone
  2. I get significantly more done

Those are both important. Think back to high school or college. How many times did you or someone you know just start cleaning their apartment or something when they were supposed to be studying for the tests. It’s just an easy way to distract yourself by feeling productive. You’re getting things done instead of getting done what you need to get done.

The key with my scheduling is that I keep focus on the important things. Sometimes I clear the week, usually I end up with around 20% not done. Sometimes that 20% that’s left is also important enough to actually get done, just not as urgent. Then it goes on the next week’s list. Simple system, really.

The other major advantage (hinted at by #2 above) is that I when I get ahead of schedule for some reason – like an estimate was wrong or something fell through to give me more time, etc – I’m able to move on to the next thing immediately since I know precisely what the next thing is. Otherwise it’s far FAR too easy to just go “Well, I’m done, so I’ll just mess around” even if it’s unconscious.

There’s the rambling link to my goals. My goals are big, probably too big. Bigger than are really reasonable, especially together. I make a point of only writing goals that are measurable, defined, and actually possible. And looking at the list I’ve started on, and the thoughts I’ve had regarding all of them, I think it’s clearly possible for me to achieve all but maybe 2 or 3 of them without much more than 2 or 3 regular weekly schedules over the year.

The bonus goals are dramatically harder, mostly just there to keep myself pushing if I achieve some success in one or another category.

Basic Categories

  • Health & Fitness
  • Writing
    • Fiction
    • Non-Fiction
    • Blogging
  • Community & Networking
  • Skills & Certifications
  • Income

Last Note before we get into the goals

If things change dramatically again (job situation, family situation, etc), I’ll try to update with a new set of goals this time. These aren’t set in stone, since a year is a long time.

2016 Goals

Health and Fitness

1. Lose 80 pounds

Again? Yeah, well I actually lost some last year, but the math that makes losing 80 pounds in a year possible (though challenging) remains true. That’s a little under 3 lbs/week on average, if you’re keeping track. I’ve already made some progress here, so I’m feeling good about this one.

2. Bike 100 miles in under 7 hours

This was a goal of mine last year, but I didn’t quite make it (got to about 70). I’m talking about a stationary bike as well, just since it’s much easier to manage. This isn’t bike 100 miles without stopping, but it’s making me average over 14 mph. I can take breaks, but not too many or for too long or I’ll go over 7 hours.

Skills and Certifications

3. Study for and take the JLPT N4

I took the N5 last year and learned a LOT about what I need to focus on more and how to generally study for the test. I doubt I passed the N5, but I feel good about passing the N4 this year. Why go up a level instead of just nailing the N5? I don’t want to waste the time, frankly. If I happen to fail the N4 this year, I might consider holding off on advancing to the N3. Once I get to the N3 level I’m going to make a point of passing before I advance every time. Much longer post on this stuff coming later.

4. Get 2 new technical certifications

I basically have my job because I got a certification. Some of them seem like they’re actually worth it. I have at least one in mind right now, and instead of listing that one specifically, I’ll just say that I’m going to try for two by the end of the year. That shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. I am going to make a point of only going after what seem like valuable certifications and not just obviously-money-making ones that just cost a lot and don’t mean anything.

Writing and Blogging

5. Write 20 new posts on this blog

Same number as last year, same logic as last year (1 post every other week or so). This would not include crossposts from the new technical blog. This blog, the one you’re reading now, is going to be more productivity and personal garbage than the other one.

6. Write 60 posts on new technical blog

I actually lowered this number from what I had been thinking of doing. The only reason I can be confident I can pound out that kind of content is that I know many of the posts won’t be huge and long and rambling like the technical posts I put here have been. Some percentage of them will just be the whole “If you get X error, here’s the solution I found” kind of posts. This is just over one post per week. I’d only need to post two posts per week once a month or so even if I get this thing launched at the beginning of February. So the goal here is really more for consistency than for volume. Frankly, I’d put this one as my 2nd most important goal this year, after the weight loss. This is one of my longer-term plans.

7. Write 100k words into a story posted on a public site

I’m not sure where to post this, but I want to get something going on one of those public sites like wattpad, fictionpress or something. Not necessarily a high quality, edited 100k words, but just something to keep putting stuff out there into the ether and getting that social pressure.

8. Win NaNoWriMo

50k words in November. I did it in 14 days in 2015, I can fit it in this year too, no problem.

9. Rewrite, edit, and self-publish (or submit) my NaNo 2015 book

I really liked the thing I wrote for NaNo 2015. It had a lot of flaws – as you’d expect from a NaNo book – and I probably started 3 chapters earlier than I should have. Or arguably I could start the story where I stopped and go from there. Lots of options there, but I want to actually finish this book and put it out there. This is different from the thing for goal #7. That’ll be new, this is more of the back end of book development.

10. Self-publish 1 technical or non-fiction book

Another book? Am I crazy? Maybe, but a book about a topic or set of libraries or something doesn’t seem like it’d actually be that hard. I want to try it out and see how I do. Being entirely honest, I’m not sure I’ll have time for this AND #7 AND #9 but we’ll see. They’re kind of each different things and it mostly comes down to time management. I actually started a book in 2015 that I abandoned once I got my current job. I won’t go back to that one, since it was basically an extended tutorial on a set of libraries, and those go out of date rapidly. It did give me the chops I needed to sketch out the right kind of outline and do it. I wouldn’t be starting from zero knowledge.

11. Review 5 technical books

This is kind of cheating a little, since I’d be doing these as blog posts for #6. I want to make a point of reviewing some technical books as part of my blog. The motivation here is two-fold. First, it makes my blog show up for those authors when they search their own name. Since they’re probably more successful than me or at least more influential in their circles, that could give me some pull. Second, the reviews will have Amazon referral links on them (properly disclosed of course), and depending on the volume of traffic I could make a couple of dollars. So this really works as a potential income source and networking opportunity. I’m probably only going to review books I like though, since otherwise that makes things messier. I don’t want to be a general reviews site, I just want to point out useful resources to my readers from time to time.

Social and Networking

12. Have 500 Twitch followers

This goal assumes I’m going to keep streaming on Twitch. I want to, since it’s fun. Why pick a number like 500? It’s basically either impossible or too easy, depending on the circumstances. About 2/3 of my followers I got in maybe 2 or 3 streams. The rest of the time I’d get anywhere from 0 (usually) to maybe 2 or 3 at most. Using those numbers and some idea of how much I think I can stream this year, I could probably make a safe estimate and pick a number like 200. Instead I’m betting on luck to an extent. Maybe I play some game and happen to get on a bandwagon. Maybe I get raided. Who knows. This one has more luck to it than I like, but having a number is a handy thing. Just so I have a reference point on progress when I come back, at the beginning of the year I think I had 98 followers.

13. Have 500 Twitter followers across accounts

Too easy, probably. I have a few accounts I’m using and unless something happens with twitter (there have been rumblings) I think I’ll end up with a pretty good number across accounts. This includes my technical accounts and such, and even with basically no content I’ve been getting a pretty decent stream of followers just from the auto-follows people do. I have some plans for social media, so I wanted to work in a goal. Might have a post later on the Twitter stuff, though I’ve gotten some ideas recently for helping out my following. We’ll see.

14. Mentored by 3 people more successful than me

I need to be around more successful people to become more successful myself. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it. Part of why I like my current job as much as I do is that a good percentage of the people I work with are (probably) smarter than me. That makes me smarter, over time. On a similar note, I want to get pulled up by people more successful than me. The reason I used the term ‘mentored’ instead of ‘befriend’ is because mentoring is a more professional thing. I could and might even pay for it if the right opportunity pops up. Restricting friendship to successful people or just trying to be friends with successful people because they’ve got that money still seems gross to me. Start with mentoring, if I end up with friends, great. If not, that’s fine too.

Income

15. Make money from 2 more sources

Honestly, these income ones are less important this year, since I’m in a longer-term cycle right now, but two sources of side-income seems reasonable. If I achieve every other non-income goal on this list, I’ll have at least two sources. The point is to build up streams little by little, since it adds up.

16. Make $3000 side income

I sort of doubt that the stuff I’ve outlined above would make me this money, so I’m leaning on luck here. I might also find some side opportunity this year. As long as I stay employed, I won’t feel too bad missing this one, but it’s good to try.

BONUS GOALS (Pushing harder on the above goals or extra details. The 20% above the 20%)

17. Lose 120 pounds

18. Write 30 new posts for this blog

19. Have 1000 Twitch followers

20. Have 1000 Twitter followers across accounts

21. Create a publishing company

22. 120 posts on  new technical blog

23. Review 10 technical books

24. Self-publish 3 technical or non-fiction books

25. Get 4 new technical certifications

26. Completed the Genki I Textbook + Workbook

27. Completed the Japanese in Mangaland and Kanji in Mangaland Series

28. Completed 5 chapters of the Genki II Textbook + Workbook

About the bonus goals

The bonus goals aren’t supposed to be all possible at the same time like the regular goals. A few are just details, but most of them are doubling down on one or another specific direction. I don’t ever want to end up where I’m not pushing hard.

2016 Quarter 1 Goals

The following should be completely by April 1, 2016

  • Lose 40 pounds
  • Have or scheduled to test for 1 certification
  • Written 6 posts on this blog
  • Written 10 posts on the new technical blog
  • Written 20k words on a story online somewhere
  • Rewritten and started editing on the NaNo 2015 book
  • Have 200 Twitch followers
  • Have 1 mentor or a solid lead on one
  • Have 250 Twitter followers

Final Thoughts

It was hard to come up with goals this year. On the one hand it felt like I was just repeating or extending what I wrote last year, after having completely abandoned that direction last year. On the other hand, I don’t suddenly think those were all bad ideas. They just ended up not working out at the time.

Are there too many this year? I don’t think so. The income ones aren’t really important and will only apply if I find an opportunity that will pay off this year. The NaNoWriMo one is basically free. The rest kind of work together into: Health & Fitness, community development, and skill development. There’s a huge amount of overlap between the goals, so while they might mostly be too big and hard, I don’t think there are too many.

I’m not sure this plan will survive the quarter. Last year’s didn’t. I still think that setting goals is important though. It helps me to organize my thoughts, set realistic expectations on what I can do in a year and prioritize what I think is important. This year my primary motivation is going to be community. The new blog will be a major focus, along with Twitch. Programming on Twitch Creative could be an interesting source for more community building. I started doing it just to hang out with my regulars while I was doing the coding I was going to do anyway. Now I have some more ideas for making it more interactive and interesting. Still, it seems like Twitch is controlled by a set of kingmakers. Sort of annoying. It might make sense to try to build a network of Twitch programming streamers. Hmm, that one have to go in the cooker for a while. There might be something there. We’ll see. I shouldn’t have ideas while I’m typing posts.

I’m going to try to make a point of doing quarterly updates to my goals progress. Then at least I can change them if my situation changes. It feels good to have this post done. I have at least two or three more kind of rattling around in my head, so I might post some more soon, but I don’t like to promise anything.