Frequent readers know that I’m “big” on goal-setting annually, ripping off the New Year’s resolutions bandwagon timeline to do my own version of symbolic timelines, goal-setting and progress reporting. Bullet journals, self-help techniques, the Seinfeld method — I read about them all when I see a new tool. Radical incrementalism is my motto, and I’m willing to steal from any technique that might give me even a 1% improvement in my efficiency.
My overall system is aligned with the fundamental precepts of any good planning system:
A. Know where you’re going;
B. Plan how to get there;
C. Set milestones or markers for yourself along the way;
D. Monitor your progress; and,
E. Regularly restart the process to ensure the original destination is still your true goal.
And just for fun? Remind myself that the destination is not always as important as the journey. Singular focus is great, but just like in video games, side quests are fun too.
So let’s see how I did for the year.
1. I survived
Good news, I extended my streak to 52 years for the number of years I’ve managed to survive on this planet. I’d like to say I “lived”, but as I wrote about earlier (What I tell myself about 2020), it is more like “existing” than thriving and growing.
But it was a tough year, and I survived relatively intact. Financially, emotionally, physically, mentally. All were challenges, all were met. Not all equally, not all “well met”, but met nevertheless. I, and my family, are doing okay. Could we be happier? Sure. Could we be healthier? Sure. Could we exercise more, invest better, learn more, adapt better? Sure.
But given the level of the challenge, I’m calling it an accomplishment to not simply curl up into a ball and not get out of bed. I’ve been THERE before, and oddly enough, despite the challenge, I didn’t really come that close to that stage this year. It was tough, I had other mental and emotional issues going on, but not paralysis.
2. I adapted to working from home
I’d love to say I took to WFH like a duck to water, but I didn’t. Andrea and I started off sharing an office, but that wasn’t working, and I eventually moved everything to the basement. I have a decent setup, but even workflows took a while to get “settled”. I love not commuting and to be candid, I never want to go back to working in an office. But I didn’t really feel like I hit my stride until September when I took on the charitable campaign as my “surge capacity” file in my team, mostly relying on me to be the “surge”. Between regular files and the “extra” files, I accomplished a lot. Some in teams, some alone, all of it “pensionable time” as they say, but I mean productive time. In short, at certain times in the fall, I totally rocked being able to WFH.
I’d like to say I managed the work/life balance better for helping Jacob, but that’s a work in progress. We did have lunch together every day, something that wouldn’t be possible without home-based work and school.
I still want to retire in 5 years, but if I’m still able to WFH then, I’m not as against extending by a year or two, if it helps our finances and I have interesting work. I like my new files, made a small change in job responsibilities in the fall, and I feel like I’m on a good trajectory.
3. Purging and reorganizing
With the lockdowns, I started working on reorganizing a ton of stuff in the house. While I’ve stalled in the last month, I’m probably 75%-80% of the way there. I’m feeling less motivated to finish, but it will get done. It’s taking me way longer than I hoped, but I’ll get there. Hopefully by the end of January. I’ll write about it when I get there.
4. Astro outreach
I had an outreach session set for March 14th before the world shut down, but in the meantime, I’ve done some writing on my blog, outreach online to newbies both generally and with some people directly, and I even did two direct in-person sessions before deciding it was just not distanced enough. More risk than I was comfortable with continuing. Probably not “bad”, but not worth the risk.
5. Website redesign
I undertook a massive redesign of the back-end of my website way back in January / February. WordPress had moved to a new “block” design interface, and I had been resisting making the change-over. Ultimately, I decided the longer I held out against the inevitable change in tide, the more difficult it would be to adjust later, so I bit the bullet and did a deep dive. I had a long list of things to do, and if I was going to “fix” things, I figured that I might as well fix them all. Given the volume of content, this is probably the last time I can make changes to individual layouts myself. If I decide to do something like that in the future, I’ll probably have to pay someone who has better tools and workflows to do it efficiently.
Back in September, I summarized the changes (PolyWogg 5.0 – Ten significant updates to my site) and declared to myself that I was now at version 5.0 of my website. As mentioned, I switched my site from the classic WordPress editor over to using blocks. It was a massive undertaking to do that, some 1300 potential posts and pages to convert, but I bit the bullet and did it. I also improved the look and feel of my site (featured images, signature blocks, a calendar / date out to the left, more mobile friendly, limiting the use of tables, etc.) and figured out a way to better handle book reviews, movie reviews, humour and quotes. I also improved things on the back-end for myself (updated the admin menu, figured out auto-posting to social media, namely FaceBook and Twitter using Buffer again).
Between the reorg, and new blogging this year, I have 416 refreshed or new posts since January 1st last year. Overall, I’ve increased the volume on the site to 1487 posts + 160 pages, for a total of 1,588,374 words. Yep, 1.6M words in total. I find that number staggering, personally. Particularly as I don’t “blog” just to post, I post when I have something to say to myself, others, etc. I know people who blog just to have new content, that’s not me. I also haven’t done much in the way of guest blogs (two from my wife about her hobbies). The rest? All me.
I also did a deep dive on a coding conflict that lots of people with more expertise than me had said “couldn’t be done” easily. And I found a solution. Mostly because I thought outside the box. I was pretty happy with myself for that one. Oddly enough, I’m also doing a bit of support for a couple of new areas (WordPress, the gallery tool I use) for people who are struggling to make it do what they want.
And I added some basic Trivia to the site, while also doing substantial additions on photo gallery management, even if it doesn’t necessarily show on the front end.
6. New writing
Early in the year, I started working on an update to my HR Guide, and while I’m happy with the direction it’s going, I didn’t make a lot of progress. The original plan was that Andrea would serve as my first reader/editor, but it was becoming challenging for timing, layout, etc. to do it in digestible chunks so I think I’m back to just me again. I had hoped multiple times to get it finished by the end of the year, but other life events tended to intervene when I was working on it, and it’s not like there is any formal deadline.
I’ve also been a bit slowed by a weird echo of an earlier decision. I reorganized the website, and I solved one problem that also created several others that I didn’t foresee. In the old layout, a bunch of stuff was spread across posts (not pages) and there were different versions of the posts. The end result was that people trying to get to an individual “page” often went to an old version, rather than the current version, and to a post rather than a page. But there were comments on those posts that I didn’t want to lose even though I wanted them to go to the current page. I ended up merging it all into one big page, along with migrating the comments, but I’m not completely happy with the result. There’s too much content for one long page. And I do see it as chapters that break out nicely. I’ll talk more about this in my plans for the new year, but I’ll likely update the layout to something completely different, partly related to my next item.
Just as I have my HR Guide, a “PolyWogg Guide”, I started a “PolyWogg Guide to Astronomy” too. And when I retire, there will be more PolyWogg Guides as well. Since I know that I’m going to do them, it is getting a bit onerous to keep it all in one website structure. Again, I’ll talk more about this later, but the expanded writing is driving me to make a change regarding my website, and I have a simple solution that doesn’t require a lot of work but DOES look like a significant change. I considered something way more radical, but instead, I can go more simply in a different direction.
I added lots of other new writing this year including book reviews, movie reviews (finally getting them back on the site), music reviews (some new stuff), recipes (mostly reformatted as opposed to new), and television reviews (a new layout on seasonal reviews gives me more options for the future).
I even started some astro writing that is more historical than current, and shared it in our local Centre’s monthly publication.
But probably the biggest contribution on writing was tied to “making choices”. I wrote almost 100 “Today I choose” posts to remind myself that I still have choices each day that affect my outlook on life, even if the big ones like staying home or going out are already made for me by COVID.
7. Building projects
That title sounds more ambitious than what it was. I don’t mean sheds or houses, just legos and kits. We did some Lego this year (the large Millennium Falcon), some wooden dinosaurs, a few other crafts here and there. I’m hoping to do more in the new year, and I even have a new crafting area for some of it. I also have a few projects I want to do in astronomy-related crafting so we’ll see how those turn out.
We collectively tried a few new recipes throughout the year, including buying a new bread maker and making some new loaves. I need to get into that more in the new year.
9. Dental health
This one is a bit weird to take credit for, I suppose. I had been needing to see the dentist before the lockdown, and when it hit, I figured I would likely end up waiting it out. I needed a full cleaning, plus checking on potential cavities, etc. But I need sedation for it anyway, so waiting was easy enough to do. However, when my root canal happened, and the choice of timing was made for me, I piggybacked on it to make sure I got a cleaning in too.
10. Efforts to socialize
For Christmas, I got Jacob and Andrea lots of things for us to “do” as a family (as did they for me), so internal socializing is covered. Over the last nine months, we managed to go to the cottage and did socially distanced things with Andrea’s parents and our friends Paul and Mary Ellen. I had coffee with my friend Sanden, freezing my butt off in a parking lot, and another coffee in warmer weather on a patio with my friend Roula.
But I think the biggest thing I’ve done is organize some online trivia games for friends. It’s a fair amount of work to keep it interesting and fun, and I might do a “kids night” sometime, but for now it’s mainly adults. If people keep showing up, I’ll keep doing it. Admittedly, it’s not “super social” for me, as I’m the host. It’s more for Andrea, Jacob and the people who show up that week, but I do get a chance to chat before and after with people.
Oh, and I kept the reading challenge going for the year, which has a social component to it, albeit fairly passively.
And that’s my list. It’s not super impressive, but I did manage to keep making progress on some things that are important to me. I hope your year was satisfying in some way too.