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A Personal Retrospective for 2018 and a Goal for 2019

January 9, 2019

16 min read

#A Personal Retrospective

I read a post by Jason Lengstorf about doing a personal retrospective of his 2018 yearly goals recently. The general idea is to answer three main questions about your previous year and the upcoming year.

  • What went well?
  • What didn't go well?
  • What will we change going forward?

It seems like a good way to reflect on the year in relation to my personal goals. To make this comparison, you first need to revisit the goals you had for the previous year.

#What went well?

#What were last yearโ€™s goals?

I didn't set yearly goals for 2018. Instead, I planned a sort of personal roadmap where I aimed to accomplish certain tasks for every quarter of the year. Additionally, I hadn't set a long term goal or "north star".

Looking back, the tasks I planned on achieving revolved around the following main topics:

#๐Ÿ’ผ Growing my professional network

I've only been working in the software development industry for 2 years and still have a lot to learn. The most common piece of advice I receive from more established developers is to grow my professional network by attending developer events, speaking at Meetups, and blogging.

In 2018:

#๐Ÿ˜ƒ Making friendships and becoming established in Portland, OR

I relocated to Portland, OR from Morgantown, WV two years ago to take my first job out of school. This is the first place I've lived for more than a summer where I need to take a cross-country flight to visit my childhood friends. With this move, I discovered the challenge of becoming integrated in a new community.

In 2018:

  • I met a group of friends at Global Game Jam and hang out with them regularly now.
  • I started volunteering with PIGSquad and made a lot of great new friends!
  • I began attending local Meetups like Donut.js that focused on community and not just technology.

#๐Ÿ“š Learning new skills

The web is constantly changing and every day brings cool new tools and technologies. In order to keep pace with these changes, I set several goals to read books, take courses, and use new techs.

In 2018:

  • I practiced writing with my recently published blog.
  • I started reading again, and almost none of these books were technical. I've been finding books on "soft skills" much more useful lately. Some examples are:
  • I started listening to a lot of technical podcasts like Syntax.fm to keep up to date with new technologies.

#๐Ÿšข Shipping projects, sustainably

At the end of 2017 I was dissatisfied with the amount of unfinished projects I had laying around. On top of this, I ended up spending a large chunk of my year feeling burned out from pushing too hard. In 2018, I resolved to FINISH more projects but never force myself to work on personal projects when I wasn't feeling it.

In 2018:

The clause "sustainably" was important to me this year, so I wanted to highlight a few things I did this year that weren't work.

#๐Ÿ“ˆ Learn how to be successful outside of traditional employment

I'm very impressed with people who have the ability to support themselves outside of hourly employment. Throughout the year, I resolved to experiment to try and find skills I can leverage to make supplemental income.

In 2018:

  • I started listening to the Startups For the Rest of Us podcast. A podcast about the world of bootstrapping startups from nothing.
  • I started following @sehurlburt, @GreyAlien and @patio11 on Twitter. All are great entrepreneurs who frequently share fascinating tips.
  • I showed my first finished game, Unstable, at a conference called the Portland Retro Gaming Expo.
  • I made $7.44 from ads on my game, Unstable! Its a terrible return on investment, but its money that didn't come from an employer.

#๐Ÿ› ๏ธ New Tools and Techniques

I also started using a few new tools and techniques in 2018 that struck me as particularly effective.

  • I started using Mint to monitor my personal finances to help estimate my monthly spending.
  • I have started taking a ton of notes to get things off my mind and out my brain. I recently read a post about "how to have great ideas" that illustrates the effect I've felt after starting the practice: how disconnected ideas and random thoughts marinate over time before they coalesce into something real.
  • I planned my year out with quarterly goals on a personal roadmap on Trello.
  • I used a progression of digital note-taking tools: Evernote โ†’ iPhone Notes app โ†’ Notion.

#What didnโ€™t go well?

#๐Ÿ—๏ธ Too many unfinished projects

I still had too many half finished projects at the end of this year. While I did finally finish several more projects this year than last year, I left many more unfinished.

I attempted too many game jams in the hopes they would force me to complete projects. I attempted almost one game jam/challenge per month on top of working on my other projects. Of these jams, I only finished a playable game I was happy with a third of the time. In some aspects this was good because it allowed me to iterate through many ideas that didn't work out. On the other hand, I didn't have enough time to see each of these ideas through long enough to see where they might succeed.

#๐Ÿ’ป Stopped engaging with local tech community frequently

In the beginning of the year I gave my first tech talk to an audience of around 50 people. It was terrifying! According to friends in the audience, it went well! In my memory, is just a black hole where I forgot everything I said. Since then, I've put off applying to speak again.

I was also on a streak of attending Portland tech events & Meetups every week. As the year progressed, I stopped attending as many events. I think this was because I made friends and enjoy spending time with them. This is good news! The tradeoff is that I have stopped meeting as many new people as I used to.

After finishing Unstable I found myself without a project I had been working on for about 6 months. I was unsure what to do next, and haven't yet found another project that's grabbed me in the same way.

#โšฝ Stopped playing soccer

From Spring to Fall I was playing pick up soccer multiple times a week and found myself in the best shape I'd been in for years. As the weather started to get cold I injured my foot. I stopped playing for a while for my foot to heal and I haven't gone back to play since.

#๐Ÿ’ก Information Avoidance - postponed important phone calls

I've got a bad habit of avoiding phone calls when I'm afraid I'll get bad or uncomfortable news. For example, there's a dentist appointment I need to schedule but I'm worried I might find out I have a cavity.

I learned that this sounds a lot like the concept of information avoidance in economics.

"But people often avoid information that could help them to make better decisions if they think the information might be painful to receive. Bad teachers, for example, could benefit from feedback from students, but are much less likely to pore over teaching ratings than skilled teachers,"

This particular problem of mine is extra frustrating because I can look at it, recognize it's irrational, and then still have trouble fighting it.

#What will we change going forward?

#๐Ÿ† Establish a Bigโ„ข๏ธ long term goal

I'm hypothesizing that a lot of my issues this year come from a lack of sense of direction in my life. I've struggled to identify why I do anything or what I hope to amount to. Because of this lack of indirection I say yes to too many things in the hopes that one inspires me.

I don't think I'll correctly choose my long term goal in this first attempt, but I think its important to pick a target. With that in mind I'll choose a goal here, sit with it for a while and iterate on it as I go.

I want to become financially independent so that I can choose to do what I want without sacrificing my joy or freedom along the way.

I recognize its pretty vague and not terribly unique. Who doesn't want money and happiness? I'll pick a few more sub goals for the year that I hope will take me in this direction.

#๐Ÿ’ฐ Finances - Start figuring out how to become financially independent

  1. I want to become financially literate. I'll stop trying to avoid making mistakes with my spending and investment (by avoiding making decisions). Instead I'll make a financial plan and set goals. This plan should be flexible so that I can make mistakes and learn from them.

  2. I want to create a product that allows me to earn money outside of my full time employment. As long as I can only make money via spending time at work I'll always need to work. If I can create a successful product, theoretically the only limit to my earning is how many people I can convince to purchase it (which still requires a time investment doing sales, but baby steps).

#๐ŸŽฎ Personal Achievement - Do what makes me happy

  1. I want to publish another game. I love making things, and video games are the thing I know how to make best. I hope to make a game successful enough one day I only need to do what I love. For now, the creative fulfillment from creating them is more than enough.

  2. I want to continue spending quality time with my friends. A lot of my earlier goals will demand lots of hard work. I don't want to sacrifice the friendships I've made even if it means I'll build things at a slower pace.

  3. The Pacific Northwest is beautiful. I've always put off spending as much time as I want to outside. This year I'd like to visit not just the big touristy attractions, but really get to know my new home.

#๐Ÿ’ญ Change my mind

In addition to my yearly goals I want to try and make a few mindset changes in 2019.

  • I complain a lot. I've even been caught complaining about other people about complaining. I want to catch myself and think of 3 positive things that happened recently instead.

  • I need to learn to stop being afraid to make phone calls, talk to strangers, and deal with uncomfortable situations.

  • I need to learn to enjoy time being by myself without distracting myself with work.

#Following Through

I intend to apply the same Trello-based personal roadmap technique I used last year to help me reach these yearly goals.

It boils down to setting SMART goals to be accomplished in each quarter of the year. These goals last year ranged from "Read Make & Shine" to "Submit an application to show Unstable at the Retro Gaming Expo".

I revisit this board as I complete tasks or whenever I find myself feeling directionless. I find the Trello board helps give me a better idea of how much I can accomplish in a year.

Writing this retrospective helped me take the time and reflect on my year and to calibrate for 2019. If you've got goals you're shooting for this year, I'd recommend you take a stab at a personal retrospective as well.