2018 Retrospective

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Each year, I set aside an hour or two to reflect back on the previous year and look forward to everything I want to accomplish over the upcoming year. I’ve been doing this since 2015, and it’s been a helpful exercise to focus my energy heading into the new year.

This year has been pretty crazy. We had our first son; we spent several months off as a family on paternity/maternity leave; and I changed roles at Automattic. It was a fun ride!

A few Saturdays ago, over tacos and a delicious IPA, I took some time to reflect back over 2018 and set up an action plan for 2019.

(Previously: 2015, 2016, and 2017)

What did I do right? What am I proud of?

I spent some quality time with family.

2018 was largely dedicated to family. Thanks to Automattic, I was able to spend five months off with our son when he was born. Nothing really prepares you for the birth of your first kid. It was an absolute whirlwind, but I’m grateful that I had the time to be with him those first few months.

My wife and I traveled to Chicago and Florida to show our boy off to family, attend weddings, and visit with loved ones. We had many long, sleepless nights, but an equal number of awesome laughs and date lunches just the same.

I refocused and narrowed my efforts.

After three years and over $30,000 raised, I stepped down from Drink for Pink. I said “no” to freelance writing and didn’t apply for any speaking gigs or attend conferences/networking events. I only traveled for our company meetup and a leadership training. I didn’t write blog posts or newsletters. I didn’t work on any code projects.

In many ways, my output dropped considerably compared to previous years, but I’m completely okay with that. I wanted to spend the year focused on something else – family.

I maintained two habits I value highly.

Those two habits would be working out and reading.

I still managed to get in over 270+ workouts in 2018. I was exhausted during many of those workouts and the intensity was definitely dialed back, but I got them in. I walked 50 miles with 20 lbs on my back, which was an experience.

I ended up finishing 38 books, many of which were audiobooks that I listened to while rocking our son to sleep at night. Some of my favorites were Why We Get Fat, 12 Rules for Life, Factfulness, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.

What are my biggest opportunities for growth?

I did a lot of thinking in 2018 about values and priorities. I guess having a kid will cause a lot of reflection. I ended up with a short mental list of values that I hold close with specifics around how I define those values.

  1. Family/Friends – My main responsibility is to provide materially and emotionally for my family. I’ll prioritize my family over all else and seek to spend quality time with them and create adventures.
  2. Integrity – There’s a lot wrapped up in this word. I treat everyone I meet with respect and follow through on promises. I build value and make a positive dent in the world through helping others and looking for meaning in my work. I recognize the value in treating others fairly over the long haul.
  3. Growth – I’ll constantly challenge myself to grow across all avenues – as a dad and husband, in my career, and in my health. I’ll evaluate new opportunities by the growth opportunity they provide and continuously push myself to seek out new challenges.

I would say my biggest opportunities for growth in 2019 center around focusing on those core values and continuing to say no to everything else.

My natural tendency is to want to do all the things. Success in the new year looks like focused effort around a narrow list of things that matter.

How can I tackle these opportunities for growth?

There are a lot of ways I can grow in my focus on the three values mentioned above. Here’s a short list:

  • Set clearer intentions at the start of each month and week. Build in time for reflection.
  • Schedule date nights and vacations ahead of time.
  • Unplug for two full weeks during the year. Spend more time generally offline and in face-to-face conversations with people.
  • Create time boundaries around work and stick to them.
  • Continue to read – across many genres – as a cornerstone habit.

Those are more general focus areas than set goals. I’m not incredibly concerned on setting definitive checkboxes I can hit at the end of the year; I’m more interested in setting general themes I can use to evaluate decisions.

I’ll write more in the upcoming months about how I’m thinking about these various values and tracking progress.

For now, that’s my take on 2018. Now, it’s your turn.

Regardless of whether you share it or not, I would encourage you to write your own personal retrospective. If you’re looking for instruction, Nate Green wrote a how-to post of sorts here.

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