For each month of 2023, I’m choosing a single word to inspire action. I did a similar experiment throughout 2020. Having something to focus on helped focus my attention on improving in a single dimension over the course of the month. Even a word can inspire action, calm, comfort, and overall progress in a targeted direction.
Here’s a look at my themes for this year so far:
- January: Depth
- February: Garden
- March: Routine
- April: Passion
- May: Animation
- June: Working on Hardcover
- July: Working on Hardcover
- August: Working on Hardcover
- September: Refine
- October: Continue!
Reflect September Theme: Refine
I tried something different last month. With refine as my theme, I focused on my habits, and creating a schedule focused around my goals: refining finances, refining health, and refining focus.
Besides this theme, I spent a lot of time working on Hardcover. We launched on ProductHunt on September 30th in what I’d say was a successful marketing push. By the time the smoke cleared today (October 1st), over 200 people signed up.
Strangely enough, October will probably be a time to Refine on Hardcover: fix bugs, clean things up from the launch, and prepare for the next big feature.
When I wasn’t working on Hardcover, I spent a decent amount of time focused on these three areas:
This was a focus in my mind much more than in action. My ultimate goal lately has been to grow Hardcover into something that can pay my monthly expenses. If I can get to that point then tracking expenses, our withdrawal rate, and the 4% rule don’t matter.
- Track expenses: A-. I updated my finances sheet a few times. Everything is at least being fed through Tiller to a Google Sheet where I can easily see what I’m spending.
- Reduce Expenses: B-. I haven’t tracked this so I don’t think I can give myself an actual grade. There were a few times I thought about buying something and didn’t (when I would have before), so I’ll call this a B-.
- Make a Budget: F. This wasn’t in the cards for last month.
Of the three areas I focused, health was the one that worked the best. I think because it could be handled without much mental energy – it was just plain work. I used most of my mental energy on Hardcover and some personal things happening this month.
- Continue Exercising Consistently: A+. I planned to work out 5 days a week between 15 minutes and an hour. I ended up working out 45 minutes, twice a week Monday to Friday. The second workout is a 45-minute walk uphill outside. Outdoor walks were something my doctor recommended for better sleep, and it’s worked out.
- Improve Diet: A. I tracked every calorie I ate on Lose It! I felt fewer spikes in energy due to this. I ate around 2-2.3k calories a day but ate when I was hungry. Mostly it was a change to healthier options. I mostly cut out alcohol, only having 3 drinks out this month.
- Get Better Sleep: B. In August I had 2 green days, 8 yellow days, and 12 red days. For September that was up to 3/19/5. I’ve started to understand what
The result of this was my weight going down from 168.8 to 162.9 – a decline of 6 pounds. At my current height, I’ve ranged from about 128 lbs to 180 lbs (both in college somehow). When I was doing CrossFit 3x a week and able to do 30 pull-ups I was around 145 lbs. When I ran a marathon I was around 155.
Moving up from 3 workouts a week to 10 has felt like an explosion to my energy levels and concentration throughout the day. I saw a video about Hard 75 and it inspired me not to make an incremental step, but to shoot for 2 workouts a day. I landed on 2 a day on weekdays and taking the weekend off. That’s felt right and now I love weekends again. 😂
I don’t have a set weight in mind – just feeling stronger and healthier. I plan to continue everything I did in this area.
I wanted to be more productive this month. For that to work, I needed to be able to not mindlessly stare at screens quite so much. I can still mindlessly stare at them some, but not all the time.
- Limit Social Media Time: B+. The biggest help was cutting out TikTok. That alone gave me back a bunch of time. After that, I started reading in the morning.
- Develop a healthy morning routine: A. I’ve started doing two things in the morning: doing a 45-minute workout and reading at least 10 pages. If I can do those things then the day feels like it’s off to a great start.
I’m happy with this progress. For the last few months, I’ve been so exhausted at the end of the day mentally that I didn’t want to do much creative. While my wife was taking a watercolor class, I started taking a Svelte and D3.js class that’s been amazing so far. It’s inspired me to create something I’d been thinking of for a while: a social media version of The Histomap. I started prototyping it some in React before deciding to move it to Svelte.
Last month’s goals, together with specific tasks, were very helpful in sticking to them. I’m going to try that again this month since it worked so far. But instead of grouping by theme, I’m going to do start, stop, continue.
Start, Stop, Continue is an exercise I learned at Code School. It’s an exercise where you pick a subject. That could be a relationship, a project, a subject – anything. Then you list out a bunch of things you want to start doing in that relationship/project/subject. Then you list out a bunch of things to Stop, then Continue.
In the end, you have a very clear separation of what to build on, what to start from scratch, and what to get rid of.
As for a subject, I think routine would be a good one.
Routines I Want to Start
- Understand expenses – Start a routine of categorizing and understanding expenses 2x a month on the 5th and 20th (that way I don’t have to do it all at once).
- Evening routine – Start a new evening routine. Right now from when I get back from my evening walk until I go to bed, there’s nothing that I tend to do each night.
- Blogging routine – Start a routine that inspires me to blog more. I used to write for one hour five days a week. It was kind of crazy. I want to figure out some way to write more than I do now. This could be on Hardcover or here.
Routines I Want to Continue
- Morning Routine – Continue working out 5x a week and reading in the morning.
- Evening Walks – Continue going on 45-minute evening walks every weekday.
- Tracking Calories – Continue using LoseIt to track what I eat. It’s worked great so far, and I’ve gotten used to it.
Routines I Want to Stop
- Decluttered Spaces – Stop jamming more things into cluttered spaces in my life (our apartment’s storage unit, closet, clutter drawer).
- Social Media Mornings – Stop opening social media in the morning for any reason.
- Working on Weekends – Stop working on Hardcover at all on the weekends. It’s easy to stop working on projects, but it’s more difficult to not want to chime in when people have issues or there are conversations on social media.