2019 was an uncomfortably comfortable year for me.
The end of 2018 was the end of my past relationship, and I spent all of 2019 single. Before that, the most recent calendar year where I wasn’t in a relationship was 2010. Most of the last decade I was dating people, but 2019 was a year of only being committed to myself.
I tried going on a lot of dating apps though. 2019 was the first year I paid for dating apps, and I went on dozens and dozens of dates. I’m glad I did it because it gave me some perspective, but it was largely a waste of time. The majority of people I met were some of the most uninteresting people I’ve met in my life, and it was very rare that I even wanted to go on a second date.
The people I found myself most attracted to in 2019 weren’t discovered electronically, but serendipitously. So far, I like it more that way.
2019 was the first year I was employed the entire year, and didn’t have some type of school to break up the time. As a result of this, it was the first year I made a notable amount of money, and I didn’t really need to think about saving or spending like I had needed to do until now. My biggest non-necessity expenses were travel, food,1 and clothes.
I traveled a lot in 2019. Domestically I spent time in Seattle, New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Tahoe, and Austin. Internationally, I went to Israel, India, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong.
I cooked a lot in 2019. I had two “Chef Ryah” events where I opened up reservations for a pop-up kitchen event. The first was very fusion, with roman gnocchi, omurice, and dessert french toast. The second was Italian, with traditional styled pizza, ravioli with poached egg inside, panna cotta, and lemon liquor. I made essentially everything from scratch. In 2018, I took a few cooking classes in Italy and Thailand. In 2019, I continued that with a few more classes in San Francisco, Indonesia, and Japan, as well as reading a lot of cook books.
I listened to more music in 2019 than I ever have. On Spotify (which isn’t even the only place I listen to music,) I had 51,065 minutes of music, up about 12% from last year’s Spotify usage. I also went to more live concerts than I ever have: this year I saw Childish Gambino, The 1975, Tyler the Creator, Anderson .Paak, Daniel Caesar, Lauv, FKJ, and Madeon, amongst a few others.
In 2019, I started going to therapy again, which I had previously stopped a few years back. I also had an executive coach at work, which to be frank has been better than the therapist, and has helped me be more reflective in certain areas of my life. The most notable realization has been that I enter what I now refer to as a “busy” mindset. In “busy” mode, I feel anxious because of all of the things I have to do and all of the goals I want to accomplish, so I end up multitasking and switching between tasks so much that I don’t make real progress in anything. I don’t think I’ve really fixed this problem, but the first step of solving it is being aware of it. I’ve learned to be less hard on myself, and accept that personal growth is like this poem by Portia Nelson.
Physically, I’ve started going to the gym semi-regularly, and have started seeing small results of my effort. My scale says my body fat is down 1.6% over the past few months. I’ve also had a surgery for my sleep apnea that has helped me tremendously. Sleep apnea has effected me for awhile, but now I have more restful sleep from correcting my deviated septum and cutting some tissue out from my nostrils to let more air through. Running feels a lot better post-surgery, and going for a run isn’t miserable like it used to be. Nose surgery wasn’t the only invasive procedure for the year: I’ve been wearing invisalign for the entirity of 2019. My smile now looks completely foreign to me. It’s nice though.
I suppose when writing this, it looks like my year was pretty long and eventful. I definitely did a lot of fun things, and I don’t regret doing them. But somehow, I don’t feel satisfied with how a lot of my time was spent in 2019. I did a lot to be comfortable, but I feel like my trajectory has slowed down and my goals have gotten fuzzier. I’ve felt restless for awhile now, and I think the root cause is simply not having spent the appropriate time to define my goals and direction. A lot of 2019 was not spent working towards anything. A lot of 2019 was also not really intentional; I had a lot of fun by accident, if you will.
I’m the type of person that likes having goals. I like pushing myself and trying to see how far I can reach. I feel at my best when I have dreams and I’m running towards them. I want to spend 2020 chasing that feeling again.
There were some goals I had wrote down for myself for 2019 that I didn’t hit. I spent the past few days reflecting on those goals, and reflecting on my feelings throughout the year. I read Wait But Why’s How to Pick a Career That Actually Fits You, (thanks for the recommendation, Selena) and re-read 100 Block Days (also by Wait But Why.) I looked through my entire calendar from 2019, some old chat logs with friends, and my todo lists. I thought about what I want out of life, and what is possible in the next 365 days.
Now 2020 is here, and I have some ideas of what I want to do to make it a year I am more proud of.
Get Off My Phone
I just got a new phone recently, so it’s hard to find data for what the entirety of 2019 looked like, but the last few months I’ve been on my phone an average of 3.5+ hours a day. That makes me really sad.
If I step back from life, I would tell you that some of my top values are being present in the moment and being laser focused on my goals. Despite that, I have found myself increasing distracted, and my phone is the #1 culprit. Between a million notifications and lots of apps with an infinite supply of recommended content, I’ve found myself sucked in.
I don’t have a specific metric around this. I’d like to say 30 minutes or less a day, although I recognize that a lot of my job and hobbies involve tools like email, slack, and todo lists that are on my phone. I think instead maybe I’ll try tracking how much uninterrupted work time I start having. I want to stop picking up my phone because I heard it buzz while I’m in the middle of doing something. My phone should always be able to wait.
Read 20+ Books
Reading 30 minutes every day is 10,950 minutes of reading a year. If I were to read a page a minute, and if the average book I read is 400 pages, I should be able to read a bit more than 27 books at this pace.
While I know that I won’t be able to read every day, I think if I mostly stick to this plan, I should be able to read a lot more. I hate feeling like since I’ve left school that I’ve stagnated in learning new things. Hopefully I will be able to read and learn a lot this year.
Sundays are for Planning and Writing
As I alluded to above, I feel like one of my biggest personal weaknesses is coping with stress by entering a state of hyper-busyness, effectively being too anxious and scatterbrained to be effective at getting stuff done. I have existential crises near daily over whether I am spending my time wisely, and I worry so much that I spend my time doing nothing anyway. It’s become exhausting.
Part of this can be resolved by avoiding the situation. Instead of thinking about the long list of things to do each day, and feeling pressure in the moment to multi-task between multiple things, I should block out time for each task in advance. That way I remove the stressful question “what should I be doing right now” entirely. I just do the tasks that I’ve allocated for the day, and leave the prioritization for another time.
Because of how important of a problem this has become in my life, and because of how much more intentional I want to be with how I spend my time, I think it is worth it to be so strict with my schedule that I will dedicate every Sunday only to planning and writing.
Each Sunday, I will plan my week. Sundays are for thinking. And, like I’ve mentioned in a previous post of mine, I strongly believe that writing is thinking.
Some of the questions I hope to ask myself weekly:
- What is your creative focus for the week?
- What friend do I want to reserve time for catching up with this week?
- What do I need to get done this week? What would be nice to get done? What do I want to avoid doing this week?
- What went well last week, and how can I fix the things that didn’t make me happy?
By the end of every session, I hope to produce writings (some that I’ll release, some that I won’t) that will help me clarify my thoughts on some topics, and I hope that my calendar and todo lists clearly reflect what I want to do and when I want to do it throughout the week. I hope to timebox my life better, so I can focus on doing what I want to do. I’m tired of always stressing over “what should I be doing right now?”
Define my Creative Outlet for the Week
For January 2020, I’ve already signed up for a music production class. I also want to spend more time improving my cooking, and I want to pick up my DSLR and take more photos than I did in 2019. Back in 2018 I made a few short films, and I really enjoyed that process and would like to pick that hobby up again too.
I wish I had more right-brained, artistic pursuits in my life. I’m going to make more time for that in 2020, but I don’t think I’ll be successful if I try to do everything all at once. That’s a great way to put myself in “busy mindset anxiety mode.” I don’t want to feel like I have a million things to do and fail at all of them. At the same time, I don’t want to give up on many hobbies I enjoy.
So instead of giving up any specific hobby, I’ll just pick a hobby to focus on each week. I might have multiple weeks of the same hobby in a row, and that’s fine. But with this system, I don’t have to give anything up, while still removing the mental burden that I’ve been feeling of constantly having to think about what I should be spending my time on. Each Sunday I’ll pick an outlet, and each week I’ll just move directly into playing around with that artistic medium.
Create Stable Passive Income
As is probably abundantly clear from this reflection, I’m borderline obsessed with how I spend my time. The ultimate time sink, for myself and for most people, is unavoidable. The “work week.” I am conceptually opposed to the very idea of a 40-hour work-week, and I feel like it deeply hurts my ability to actually be productive.
However, to be from a 40-hour work-week means to have acquired a means of making money that doesn’t stem from a traditional job. And while there are forms of self-employment I will likely explore, they won’t really give me control of my time again unless they are passive income. That is, I don’t want to go from 40+ hours a week in an office job to 40+ hours a week locked into specific job, even if it’s something flexible like freelancing of gig economy work. I want passive income, where I invest energy in setting up something like an online store or write content that has ads, and then the profit I receive scales super-linearly to the additional time I put into the work.
I want to make money while I sleep. I don’t have to be a millionaire, but I want my time back.
Compound Interest Habits
As I’ve been thinking about specific tasks I want to pursue for 2020, my mind has come to divide all goals into two categories:
- there are specific things that I want to accomplish, and once I do them, it’s done
- there are things that are important to me that require constant, recurring effort, otherwise I receive none of the benefit
Let me give an example: focusing on getting fit in 2020 is really important to me, but if I want to accomplish that, I can’t put it off all month and then work out for 20 hours straight. In fact, that would probably lead to an injury. The only way to get value out of going to the gym is doing it effectively every day. Now I might skip a day here and there; that’s fine, as long as for the most part, it’s a recurring investment of my time. Going for a run 20 minutes every day compounds, and over time, I will see benefits. Reading 20 minutes a day will compound. Journaling every day will compound. These things cannot be put off. They are worthwhile tasks that need my attention every day.
I want to be better about identifying and prioritizing these types of habits in my life. I don’t want to wait until it’s “too late” and I’m unhealthy, or it’s “too late” and my learning plateaus. I want to be more cognizant of what actions compound over time, and work towards making my life better every day.
With these three things in particular: going to the gym, journaling, and reading (and maybe more to come) I mostly want to measure that I am doing the habits every day. I will definitely track the “metrics” for each as well to help guide myself along the way, but ultimately, I have some faith that these are endeavors where the results will come from the repetition. My goal is to the build the habit, not to see any particular result.
For non-compounding habits, I think it’s fine to not stress about making an exhaustive list right now. This is what my Sundays will be for; reflecting on what tasks are important and need to get done, and picking the right time in the week to do them.
This is a topic that has been on my mind for awhile; I think I might write more soon about prioritizing individual parts of one’s life, especially as it related to the recurring “compound interest” habits versus one time tasks.
Fika with Friends
I decided this thought deserved its own post, so I made one.
tldr — I feel that recently I’ve not had enough quality time and quality conversation with some of the people I value. In 2020, I want to focus a bit of time each week simply for slowing down and enjoying the company of others. If I’m not conscientious about it, I’m afraid it’s so easy to lose touch with those I love.
I’m happy I took the time to write this, and I’m excited for the year to come. I can’t wait to look back in 2021 and see how I did!
I don’t mean grocery or necessity food, I mean eating as a sport↩︎