2015 - Lessons Learned

Posted on — | 8 min read

I saw a couple of posts about what people did in 2015 (this and this) that inspired me to write my own. While both posts go in good detail about what they accomplished, my post kind of does the opposite. Mine is more about me reflecting on what I had planned to do, what I did and what I didn’t do, and lessons learned during that. And new year is a good time to look back on how the past one year went; how productive/lazy you were, how committed/easy going you were.

At the start of the year, I wrote down some goals for myself. I called it goals instead of resolutions (like I used to before) to make it sound serious (after all the goal-setting we do at our workplace). And to be honest it worked, to an extent. Couple of goals, I really crushed it and I’m happy about it, but few others, meh. Most importantly when I look at the whole of 2015 I’m surprised to see how I functioned. I was keeping myself busy for the most part doing something and learning something, but now I don’t have much to show for all that. So I want to write down the lessons I learned for each goal that I had set and think about how I can improve what I’m doing well and also work on my shortcomings.

Lessons Learned

Let’s start with what went well.

  • Workout (a.k.a Project Lose-The-Tummy): I’m lazy. Physical activities wise, fitness wise, I’m really lazy. I go on few hikes in the summer, but that’s it. I just stay indoors rest of the time glued to my laptop. I’ve been this way for few years now and I’ve acquired enough fat around my waist. For the first 5 months after setting this goal, I didn’t do anything. One day when I looked at myself in the mirror, I said “Shit! I should do something about it”. And I started running one mile, thrice a week. After that I slowly started running more and more. Then I started going to the gym in my apartment 5 days a week. Been doing it for close to 6 months now. I won’t say I’m in perfect shape. But I can see the difference. Also from the time I started going to the gym, my eating habits have improved. So that’s a happy byproduct of a good habit.

  • Read more books (Goodreads reading challenge): I never used to read books, and I know that’s a bad thing. One must read as many books as possible. The knowledge we get from them is immense. Also, I wanted to have hobbies that don’t involve a screen. So I picked up a Kindle Paperwhite, but that screen doesn’t count :) Goodreads has this reading challenge that you can take up and track your progress. You can also see what your friends have set their reading challenges as and what they’re reading to get some nice recommendations. Anyway, I took the Goodreads reading challenge and set a goal for myself to read 10 books this year. I read 12, which is good. I plan to read more in 2016. I’ll take up that challenge again.

Here are the books I read:

I guess that’s it for what went well. Here’s stuff that didn’t go well.

  • Make an Android app every 3 months: There’s so much going on in Android app development that it’s quite hard to catch up. My goal was to learn different design patterns, libraries, architectures and get to a comfortable state where I could develop apps with ease. Why I said 3 months is because I felt that would be enough time for me to learn some patterns/architectures, spend time in design and make a stable app while managing hectic work schedules and on call, instead of something that was hacked over a weekend just to make things work. I also wanted to learn a bit of UI design to not only make the apps scalable, maintainable and robust, but also beautiful. I tried making 3 Android phone apps and 1 Android wear app and I took 2 of them close to completion, but never completed. Where I went wrong is I spent too much time in design and wanted to get everything perfect the first time. Also, when I was halfway through the development I would come across blog posts about the right way of designing your app, or the best suited pattern and I would get lost in reading more about these patterns. After reading them I’d be in a dilemma if I should continue what I was doing that or redo the whole thing.

    Here’s what I learnt from all this. If you’re making an app as a side project, go ahead with it and finish it. Completion is more important than quality, at least for beginners. Moreover, you can call the shitty version as v1. Then you can add all sorts of improvements later on and make it nice, but at the end of the day every bit of it would be a good learning experience. It may not be the best app, but you get to learn so much about how not to do stuff. Also, if you complete the app you’ll have some level of satisfaction as compared to how you feel when you just stop working on your side project for a while and it dies out. Things you do well and don’t do well both make for a good blog post. So, that’s a good way to keep your blog updated too.

  • Play Guitar: I didn’t know how to quantify this goal or measure it, so I made it a little vague. This is less of a goal and more like a hobby. This is the second hobby that doesn’t involve a screen. I started playing the guitar regularly on weekends for the first 2-3 months and then I just got busy with work and on call. An hour or two per week shouldn’t be hard enough to allocate and practice. I’m going to work on this in 2016 and come up with a more solid plan to follow a course, read up some theory, etc.

  • Blog every week: I did terribly on this. I made two blog posts in 2015 and that’s it. It should have been a weekly thing where I talk about what I did the previous week or some random stuff I’m interested in. But for some reason, I was way too lazy to update my blog. Even though I was sometimes working on my side project and learning new things. I should just keep it more updated in 2016.

Conclusion

Each of my goals and how I did against them taught me more about myself and how I handle things. To me, at least now, it boils down to these 3 things.

Discipline. If there’s one thing that’s present in the goals that went well and absent in the ones that didn’t go well, it’s discipline. Because discipline trumps motivation. Motivation is temporary; it’s like a spark, it comes and goes. You can’t keep waiting to get motivated in order to start working on something. Discipline on the other hand is more permanent. It’s something that you religiously follow, something you’re accountable to. If I have a discipline that I must blog every week, come what may, then I will make most of my week eventful to make that happen. This helps in both blog-writing and also working on my side projects. I’d get better at both coding and writing. :) Same goes with side projects. Some days you’re exhausted after work and you don’t have the energy to work on your side project. That’s a good time to refactor your code or read some blogs about best practices, new libraries/frameworks, whatever. In order to become an expert at something, you need to work on it every day and keep practicing what you’re doing. You cannot become an expert over night.

Finish what you start. Always finish what you start. A goal left midway is more disappointing than not doing it at all because you start feeling that you had the capability to finish it had you put in a little more effort, but you just didn’t do it. It may turn out to be a shitty app, or a shitty blog post. Only if you finish what you start, you’ll know where you went wrong and what can be improved. Nobody gets it right the first time and you don’t have to get it right the first time. Learning is important. Learning is beautiful.

Review your goals often. Never be lazy. Do something. Anything. Anything productive. It’s okay to chill out sometimes, but otherwise, it’s important to keep learning and making the best use of your time. Reviewing your goals on a timely basis helps you to stay on track and get shit done. Sometimes you may end up in a state where you feel like you’re doing something pretty much every day, but not really getting anywhere. By making your goals measurable and reviewing them regularly, you know exactly how far away you are from your goal and you can work towards it.