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My 2023 Year in Review

I’ve written a “year in review” post for the last thirteen years. I highly recommend you try it. It’s a time capsule that lets you reflect on the past year, appreciate parts of it that were great, and develop a plan for the next year. You can view any of the past 13 years’ posts here: 2010,  2011,  2012,  2013,  2014,  2015,  2016,  2017,  20182019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

We fixed Marilyns moms record player that’s as old as us and listened to it a bunch this year.

2023 might just be my favorite year so far. When I reflected on this year that came as a surprise to me. We didn’t travel much this year, I didn’t have any massive professional success, and our family stayed the same – we even kept most of our plants alive all year 😅.

My top themes of the year were Hardcover, physical therapy, and having fun with friends.

It was a year of little enjoyments.

On the personal health side, I started going to the gym 6 months after my ACL surgery. I turned in my calloused CrossFit hands for a more low-key Planet Fitness membership and a Peloton. I’ve enjoyed walking to the gym, listening to audiobooks while I work out, and being on my own schedule. I went on a few hikes, but most of my exercise was relaxed – much easier than the multi-day hikes of years past.

Rather than spreading myself thin with too many projects, I spent most of my time this year working on Hardcover. This involved a MAJOR revamp from Next.js 12 -> 13 14, a redesign of over a dozen pages and an update from client-side rendering to server-side. We launched on ProductHunt, released a 2023 Year in Books and grew from 1,300 members to over 5,000! I’m continuing to love working on this project and it’s getting close to being profitable.

Marilyn and I developed a few new routines that we’ve fully embraced. Coffee and breakfast and bed together, Thursday date-days out (often using MoviePass) and takeout Friday nights. When sitting down to program I discovered a love for tea, and embraced warming myself up with it while thinking through various problems.

This year had a few down notes well. In August Marilyn caught COVID after a trip to Florida (which seems pretty on brand for the state). We quarantined in separate rooms, watched movies together remotely and played a bunch of Mario Kart until she was better. Fortunately I didn’t catch it. We adopted a dog only to have to return him to the shelter the next day after an awful allergic reaction. We went to urgent care once for an injury. Most of the rest of the stress from this year was self-imposed anxiety from trying to do too much, or negative reactions online to things I’ve built (which is rare, fortunately).

The news this year focused on a few stories on repeat. Trump’s trials, Twitter’s fall and Israel’s war with Palestine. I can’t wait to see him in jail, for evey one leave Twitter and peace & sovereignty for Palestine.

My 2023 Month By Month

I started doing a monthly breakdown last year and loved being able to look back and see what I thought was most important each month.

January: We started the year in Orlando visiting family then flew home for Video Games Live. We watched (and became obsessed with) RRR. We volunteered at the Sundance Film Festival where I saw another 21 movies and shorts – The Eight Mountains being my favorite.

February: The Hardcover iOS App was approved in the App store (after about 5 tries 😭). I published a few posts on this blog, and learned a bunch about AI Art which I used to generate a Valentines day gift for Marilyn. Signed up for Planet Fitness and started going to the gym for the first time since before COVID lockdown.

March: Went to a fun crawfish boil at a friend of ours place, went to Las Vegas to see Six (the broadway show), checked out Area 51/Omegamart and ate all the things. Played some Ragnarok Online for the first time in years which was nostalgic.

April: I track my happiness and everyday in April was a 7 (out of 9 max) or higher. Started a guys board game group. Marilyn and I went on a historic house tour of a local mansion. Saw Spirited Away live. Watched Love is Blind on Netflix and John Wick 4, finished playing It Takes Two, saw Evanescence and Muse with friends, had a friends birthday in an escape room, and played group rock band. It quite a social month.

May: Got a shiny new monitor, started updating Hardcover to Next.js 13, implemented a whole new search using Algolia (which would later be redone in Typesense). Went for my first hike since ACL surgery (Ensign peak shown above). We took a trip to Boulder, CO for my 41st birthday where we went on some hikes, ate & drank all around and explored MeowWolf Denver (2 MeowWolf’s in one year!).

June: Went to a Minor League Baseball game with friends, gave a talk about FIRE to a college, gave a talk about Hasura, had a crazy busy day where I went to a friends BBQ, went to a speed-friending event and saw a movie (Perfect Blue). Went to see Cake, Barenaked Ladies and Semisonic in concert and played a BUNCH of Final Fantasy XVI. And worked a bunch on Hardcover.

July: Started the month with a 2-night camping trip with friends that’s becoming a yearly occurrence. Introduced some friends to Ethiopian cuisine & Indian Jones (“he punches nazi’s, hates snakes and loses his hat” 😂). Continued working on Hardcover. Went on a week long vacation with friends to Lake Tahoe where we did a murder mystery game (with costumes above) and went through multiple bottles of champagne a day. 🍾🍊

August: Saw Smashing Pumpkins, gave Marilyn her birthday present (1st class tickets to South Korea!) and saw The Flaming Lips perform my favorite album in it’s entirety (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots). Launched the new Hardcover after almost 4 months of work – and no major bugs! Ended the month with Marilyn returning from her Florida trip with COVID.

September: Busy month! Marilyn recovered from COVID, and we adopted a dog for a night before returning him due to my allergies (we weren’t able to tell what breed he was). Went to FanX. Avenues Street Fair, Social Histomap project, switched from Imgix to Imaginary on Hardcover. Ended the month by launching Hardcover on ProductHunt for our highest signup count days yet!

October: Recovered from the launch, saw Lily Tomlinson live, went to urgent care for a bump to the head (we’re ok), went to Hoogle Zoo & a friends party in costume as Beetlejuise and Lydia and started playing Baulders Gate 3.

November: Fully embraced Date-Thursdays, compulsively worked on a project for a week before abandoning it, went to Dragonsteel – a huge Brandon Sanderson convention. Watched and loved Loki Season 2. And we got our record player back from the repairman after 14 months (!).

December: Went to see my wife’s artwork hung up in a art show. Underwent an allergy pin test and started planning for allergy shots (new dog, `24?). Went to a boozy brunch with friends, had game nights, released the Hardcover 2023 Year in Books, and launched the Hardcover Live podcast.

Yearly Favorites

Favorite Spot I Visited: Lake Tahoe was a lot of fun. I’m realizing I haven’t had enough trips with friends where we just hang out together, have fun and play a bunch of games while drinking mimosas far into the afternoon.

Favorite Meal: Susuru in Orlando! This was on January 1, 2023 too. Urban Hill in SLC for Marilyns Birthday and Flagstaff House in Boulder for mine were our most “upscale” tasty meals. The crawfish boil complete with crawfish sausage was delicious too. We had a bunch of tasty food in Vegas, but eating take out Dim Sum from the Venetian in our room stands out.

Favorite Video Game I played: You might expect me to say Baulders Gate 3, but honestly it was Final Fantasy XVI. I loved the storyline and was always left wanting more. I do enjoy the strategy of Baulders Gate 3 much more.

Favorite Board Game I played: Concept with friends in Tahoe was a blast. Wingspan was consistently fun. I’d like to play more Terraforming Mars. I don’t think I bought any new board games this year – which is saying something.

Favorite Concert: The Flaming Lips hands down. This is the second time we’ve seen them and both times it’s been incredible. They’re my favorite band to see live.

Favorite Live Event: Either seeing Six in Vegas or Lily Tomlinson. Or seeing Spirited Away live – that was incredible.

Favorite Hike: On the 1-year anniversary of my ACL surgery I went on a 9-mile hike that I’d previously been unable to finish due to icy conditions. That hike, Black Mountain, is visible from my bed. It’s nice to look out at the mountains and be able to say “I climbed that”.

Favorite Movies: RRR, Barbie, The Eight Mountains, Guardians 3 and The Artiface Girl were my new 5 ⭐ watches from this year.

Favorite Shows: We watch so much there’s no way I can remember everything. A few that stand out: The Gilded Age S2, Lessons in Chemistry, Foundation S2, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds S2 (watched it twice!), The Bear S2, Star Trek Picard S3, The Last of Us S1, Silo S1, One Piece S1 (live action), Loki S2, Jury Duty, Bodies.

Favorite Podcasts: I mostly listened to audiobooks or one-off episodes this year. The few that came up multiple times were Search Engine and Syntax.

Favorite Books: Fourth Wing, Data Sketches, The Will of the Many, Court of Thornes and Roses, The Time Travelers Wife, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Paper Girls. (see all of them here)

Favorite new programming discovery: React server components, Next.js App Directory and react-instantsearch are all up there. I’m very excited about Svelte and a project to use it on next year. Setup a WordPress site using Advanced Custom Fields, which basically turns it into a CMS with whatever data you want to store in there.

Favorite Project: Hardcover! It feels like this year the quality of the code switched from “just-alright” to “this is actually good”. Combined with interface updates, an iOS and Android app and improved SEO it’s been making great progress.

Favorite Course or Education Experience: Better Data Visualizations with Svelte! After banging my head against a wall trying to use D3.js with React.js, I made the switch to Svelte. I’ve only created one thing with it (The Social Histomap), but it was a fun experience.

Noteworthy Changes this Year

I’ve started to realize how much a little bit of ceremony can help me focus on a task. Sitting down to work on a project, even one I usually enjoy, can sometimes be tough to get started on. Having a teapot with a tea light right there on my desk to refill for a few hours has helped me concentrate. Thats now become part of my routine, and something I look forward to when I switch to focused work.

In October I tried an experiment where I stayed off social media, didn’t drink any alcohol and didn’t consume any THC. With the abundance of free time I exercised a bunch – often a 45 minute walk + a high-intensity workout. I had some of the best sleep I’ve ever had this month and lost 8 pounds in 6 weeks. Sadly I didn’t end up feeling much happier overall. Easing back into some of those habits since has allowed me to enjoy them more in moderation. I’ve since been experimenting with weekends being less strict but trying to focus on keeping weekdays productive. I don’t know how long that’ll stick, but we’ll see.

When it comes to creating an exercise routine I’ve tried a lot of scheduled. Alternating days on/off, 2x a day, MTRF, 2 on/1 off – just to name a few. I’d love to say I’ve solved this and found what works, but I’m not there yet. I’ve realized how much little decisions impact others. If I stay on my phone after 11pm, I’m less likely to go the gym. I’m more likely to stay on my phone late if I had some THC that evening. I’m still trying to identify those cause and effect triggers and learn from them.

I’ve started reading more books in bed in the morning rather than browsing social media. It’s a lot easier to switch from reading to working than from social media to work. The less I can look at phone in the morning or late at night the better.

Having repeating events with friends is a great way to stay in contact. This could be having a scheduled game night, a repeating video call or an drinks out at night.

I felt organized for a lot of this year. This spans so many aspects of my life and positively influenced all of them. This includes having an organized apartment, a clean desk, optimized kitchen, and even an organized computer. The only thing not organized is my finances. 💸

How’d I Do On My 2023 Resolutions?

For my 40th birthday I set out a goal for the next decade of my life:

I want to make my 40s the best decade of my life (so far).

Personal Goal

This is the one theme I remember most. It’s been a guiding thought that influences everything else.

While I don’t always live up to this, I think it’s helped me grow in a few ways I wasn’t expecting. I do worry that by not defining “best”, I can scapegoat whatever I want into it. “Sure, I’ll sleep in and skip the gym – I’m living my best life!” 😅 I believe I’m honest with myself about this for the most part.

During my weekly planning sessions, I’ve picked out a few other themes I’m working on. Some of these I swap in and out. I’ve been focusing on these since I choose Routine as a monthly theme in March.

2023 Themes

  • Routines I Want to Start
    • Understand expenses – D – Start a routine of categorizing and understanding expenses each month on the 5th of each month (or first weekday thereafter).
    • Evening routine – C – 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.
    • Creative routine – C – Start a routine that inspires me to create more. I used to write and program 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 – B – Continue working out 5x a week and reading in the morning.
    • Evening Walks – C+ – Continue going on 45-minute evening walks every weekday.
    • Tracking Calories – A- – 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 – A – Stop jamming more things into cluttered spaces in my life (our apartment’s storage unit, closet, clutter drawer).
    • Social Media Mornings – A – Stop opening social media in the morning for any reason.
    • Working on Weekends – A – 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.

Some of these I’ve done a better job of than others. In December I’ve allowed myself to mostly take a break with the idea that I’ll regroup in January.

What’s Next for 2024?

I have a feeling this next year is going to be an exciting one. There are already three big things I’m planning for:

Getting a dog! We’ve been talking about getting a dog a lot this year and we plan to add a new family member soon. I’m going to start taking allergy shots as well.

Traveling to South Korea! I’m very excited about this trip. As we’ve traveled more we’ve gotten better at not being as stressed out or over-planning. I think we’re reaching that sweet spot and can’t wait for this trip.

Hardcover is growing! I can’t guess when we’ll hit a turning point in growth, but I theorize that we’re going to reach profitability in 2024. Perhaps we might even make enough to start taking a salary! We’ll see.

I love to set goals for myself. This year I’ve mostly focused on routines, mindsets and structures for productivity – rather than specific goals. Things like “lose 10 lbs” don’t motivate me anywhere near as much as “be able to run a 10k in under an hour”.

I plan to continue on with my high level goal (“I want to make my 40s the best decade of my life (so far)“). Beyond that there are three areas of my life I’d like to improve on. How I do it is up to 2024 to figure out.

Make fitness fun – There have been times when I’ve looked forward to exercise. Those are the times when I make some of the best improvements to my health. I want to continue experimenting with different things with a goal of keeping this making this fun.

First goal: “be able to run a 10k in under an hour” 😂 I used to be able to before my ACL injury, and I’d like to get to that point again.

Balance consumption, creation and movement – Everything I’ve ever read about productivity mentions how you need downtime. Rather than trying to minimize it, I want to enjoy it! When I take a break after a productive day I feel amazing. When I spent an entire day reading Reddit without so much as a walk outside I don’t.

First goal: Don’t check social media before noon or after 11pm M-R, read a book/comic or watch a course in the morning, do something that’s fun after 5pm (if it’s productive, that’s a bonus – not a requirement).

Plan for fun – Sometime in 2023 between planning game nights, planning dates with my wife and even planning times to play games I realized that if I don’t plan for fun I’ll often just spend time on social media or something else mindless. Planning has helped me set aside time for one purpose – having fun.

First goal: Continue having weekly date days on Thursday and monthly game nights with friends. Add one more reoccurring get together with friends in January.

There will be more goals, themes, routines and topics – I have no doubt. These are the ones that are at the top of my mind right now.

That’s where I’ll leave it for now. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2024 brings!

Avatar for Adam Fortuna

Hey hey! 👋

I'm , a full-stack product developer in Salt Lake City, UT. I love enlivening experiences, visualizing data, and making playful websites.

Let's keep in touch 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

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Hey Adam, I just wanted to leave a comment to show my gratitude for Hardcover. I decided to record my readings but didn't want to use Goodreads. I'm really glad I had another option. I see that you're coming to Korea(where I live) this year. Hope you have a great time! :)
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Aw, thanks man! We're just getting ready to go to Korea in a few weeks and have started planning out what we want to do there! We're staying in Hongdae for 2 weeks and exploring out from there. Any tips or things that we shouldn't miss? Thanks for trying out Hardcover! It's been such a fun project. After blogging for a few years I realized the kind of project that I could enjoy more long-term was something that allowed a lot more time for problem solving and a lot less time for content creation. 😂