Happy new year!

The new year is here, full of exciting possibilities. It’s that magical time when you contemplate if you wasted the entire year and make plans for the next one.

I’ve heard a few new year goals (or resolutions) till now:

“I’m going to get fit this year”

“I’m going to build a successful startup”

“I’m going to launch an amazing course”

I have never been into new year resolutions. I like having a general theme for my year, but not a target to chase.

My trouble with goals like the ones above is that they are binary. You have either achieved your goal or you haven’t. That’s kind of sad.

On any given day of the year, you have either already become fit or you haven’t.You have either met your goal or you haven’t.

The problem is you can’t just get fit in one day, you have to work on it for a long time. Same for launching a course or building a successful startup.

The implicit assumption behind any goal is this: “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy.” The problem with a goals-first mentality is that you’re continually putting happiness off until the next milestone.

— James Clear in Atomic Habits

The fun is in the journey not the destination. That’s cheesy but it’s true.

In fact, when you’re super focused on a specific goal, you’re restricting yourself to just one possible outcome.

Life rarely goes according to plan, don’t miss out on the cool things that happen along the way.

according to plan

The other problem I have with goals is that they are usually outward looking, not inward.

How do you even set goals for yourself? You look at other’s accomplishments and pick the ones you would like for yourself (intentionally or unintentionally)

“I’m going to launch an amazing course”

is actually

“I’m going to launch an amazing course just like Wes Bos”.

“I’m going to build a successful startup (just like spectrum.chat)

While there’s nothing wrong in getting inspired, such goals narrow your vision on the end result ignoring the work it takes to get there.

If you hate the process of making a good in-depth course (i do), you’ll not end up finishing it (i didn’t).


Goals are not completely useless of course, I do believe that without a goal you can’t score. There are ways to set smarter goals that do not suffer from the above drawbacks, one of them is literally called SMART.

For staring a new year though, I like to follow an entirely different method:

  1. List down all the things that made you feel happy or accomplished this year (15-20)

    It’s so easy to forget all the good things that happened in the year. The recent months feel leave a stronger taste (recency bias). Take some time and remind yourself.

  2. Put them into categories to see how you spent your time and energy

    They don’t have to be equal in quantity, you can categorize them any way you want.

  3. Ask yourself, do you want to keep the same ratio or try a different balance next year.

That’s it. Go do this exercise for yourself instead of reading mine.

Have a great new year!


Here’s mine:

(content warning: It’s been a long year 😅)

Sharing

Giving talks, teaching workshops, writing articles and making videos - I broadly categorize them as content or sharing knowledge.

  1. Spoke at 5 conferences

    Gave talks about building Design systems at Confront 🇸🇪 and Design Systems London 🇬🇧, Advanced React concepts at ReactFoo 🇮🇳 and building Design Systems with React at 🇬🇧 ReactFest

    You can watch the videos here if you’d like.

  2. Gave 6 meetup talks

    When I have something to share, I try to build a talk around it and present it at the React Bangalore meetup.

    This is how I explore ideas because it gives me a chance to summarize what I’ve learned into a 30 minute talk with examples. I can then chose the things I want to expand into a video or an article series like the one about React component APIs I’m writing.

  3. Conducted 5 workshops

    This was the first year I started conducting workshops, I created a new brand/website called Frontend Army for it. Workshops are a lot of prep work, but that smooths out the learning experience for students.

    The biggest win here was I made my first paycheck outside of my work salary. It wasn’t a huge amount by any standard, but we all have to start somewhere 🙂

  4. Launched a mini-course

    Towards the second half of the year, I shifted my focus to building an online course to reach more people.

    I starting work on a 12 part video course with exercises, which was too ambitious for a first attempt. I burned out midway through it and dropped it all together.

    To get some of my motivation back, I launched a mini course on React Hooks the week after they were announced! It took me 2 days to create and you can binge watch the entire course in about 35 minutes. This format was really satisfying to create, I might just stick to mini-courses.

  5. Published 25 videos on youtube

    I made a bunch of videos sharing what I learned at work (mostly about React). I had to go back and look at how many were there and I was surprised at the quantity!

  6. Started this newsletter (and actually stuck to it!)

    I have thought about writing regularly multiple times in the past but couldn’t get myself to do it.

    This newsletter provided the perfect structure to consistently practice it! This is post #23!

Personal

Relationships, travel, health. This has been a pretty good year.

  1. Got married to my girlfriend

    Big life event, it was a whole thing. I don’t have a lot to say here other than we’re pretty happy.

  2. Moved into a new house I really like

    Now that I work remotely, I was able to move to a nicer part of the city. I’m writing this post from the couch in my home “studio”.

    Both me and my wife walk to work now. (She walks to her office, I walk to the coworking space or my favorite cafe). Removing commute from my life lets me be very intentional with my time.

  3. Visited 7 countries in Europe

    This has been on my bucket list for a while now. Some of these were with my wife and some were for conferences. I met old internet friends and made some new ones.

  4. Played football every week and started running

    Well, almost every week - when I wasn’t travelling. For me, football is an activity which requires a mix of creativity and precise execution. I get 0.1% better every week and seeing the improvement is really gratifying.

    In addition to that, I started running and covered 86 km!

  5. Realised I like dogs 🐶

    Cats are awesome, doggos are cool too.

Building

This is the interesting one. I really enjoy building things in fact, I would introduce myself as someone who builds silly things on the internet. But, I didn’t build a lot of things this year.

  1. Built a design system

    Building cosmos (the design system at Auth0) was a big part of the year. All my focus at work has been on building a good design system.

    It surprises me that it took us a year to build a few components, but the devil really is in the details. I’m really glad the way it’s shaping up and helping developers already. I can’t wait to scale it more products and teams.

  2. Started a sticker company!

    This was an interesting exercise in product and marketing. Nitish and I built the sticker company that we would want to order from.

    I’m not sure if we succeeded in doing that. The product/marketing part was a lot of fun, the logistics/shipping bit not so much. We talked about the initial process on it’s podcast.

    I learned a lot from this experience that deserves a post on it’s own.

  3. Built a voicemail app

    I wanted to build a way for folks to send us voice messages on the podcast. I couldn’t find an app that I liked so I scratched my own itch.

    When the podcast fizzled out, I kind of just let the app sit. I showed it to just 3-4 people. Here’s the app, I guess it still works.

  4. Built a few 1-day tools

    It’s funny I forgot about literally all of these even though I’m using some of them regularly.

    card-vibes - A React card component (library) which reacts to hover with good vibes. I know awesometalks.party uses it.

    nps-i - Interactive mode for nps (CLI tool). I use this everyday. If you use package-scripts, you’ll love this

    twitter-avatar - Hosted API to get twitter avatar for a username. I use this quite often in my code examples whenever I need an avatar.

    Toggle icons - MacOS toolbar app to show/hide icons. I’ve permanently hidden desktop icons now 🤷‍♀️

    twitter-timer - Chrome extension that tells me to get off twitter after 10 mins. Kitze predicted this won’t be effective for too long, he was right, it worked for a few weeks and then my brain built an immunity for it.

Learning

I didn’t learn any new piece of tech (graphQL has been on my list for a while now). Instead, I polished a lot of my knowledge this year.

  1. Learned how to build really good components/APIs

    Working on a design system is so much different than working on a product in the way that you are not writing a new component or feature every day. Instead, you’re polishing a small set of components for a better API, making them work in multiple scenarios, making them responsive and accessible, etc.

    Vertical depth instead of Horizontal breadth. This helped me really polish my React knowledge and grow my developer experience muscle.

  2. Got into the habit of writing

    As I mentioned before, I’ve always wanted to be better at writing. Now, I can think of a concept or an idea and explain it in simple words. Sounds silly, but this skill didn’t came easy to me 😅

    It still takes me a long time to write these posts, but I’m getting better.

  3. Learned how to podcast

    This was a skill I didn’t anticipate but I learned about the ins and outs of podcasting - from audio recording to distribution. I don’t have a podcast but maybe this will be useful in the future.

 

That was a lot! I ended the year in kind of a low spot and honestly forgot that it was a really happening year for me! Recency bias is real.

Here’s what the ratio looks like:

As you might have guessed, 2018 was the year of sharing knowledge.

split

Next year

I want to increase the time and energy spent in building category.

That would have to come from the sharing circle. I’ll continue to write articles and make videos, but I’m going to slow down on the workshops and conferences.

I’ll maybe try to take out some time to learn new tech as well, maybe.

split for 2019

Next step: Profit?

So my plan is to Build cool things?

That sounds like a lot like the kind of fluffy goals I warned you against. And you’re right, I wouldn’t call that a goal.

My written goals look different than that and will need some structure and habits to get me there. But that’s a post for another day.

Hope this was helpful on your journey

Sid

P.S. If you want to privately share your year review or want help setting goals for 2019, feel free to reply to this email 🙂


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