Monday, January 20, 2014

Iterating on the Product of Me

Just as we develop products iteratively, I'd like to think I'm iterating on myself as well. I'm my own product, and I want this product to be as good as possible. I have a vision of what the Product of Me should be. Every year, I make a plan of how to get the Product to where I want it to be. But just as entrepreneurs have to learn how to set goals for their products, so do we as people trying to improve ourselves. Knowing how to set the right goals is not always obvious and sometimes we do it wrong. So I decided to analyze my previous New Years Resolutions. Was I setting the correct plan to build the Product of Me?

In the first iteration (NYR for 2011), I had a long trailing list of "to-do"s. 
They were things I wanted to achieve, sometimes very ill-defined (eg. read more books), sometimes specific (get my license). They were really more in a bucket-list format than in a resolution format. I fulfilled 18/30 of them. Many were "postponed" or "lowered priority". Priorities change during the year. So does adherence to resolutions. Many of those I fulfilled were quite vague (make a difference in someone's life, for eg.). Some were concrete goals with no deadlines (learn a classical piano piece).

The next year (NYR for 2012) I had a list of 32 items, classified into different sections. It seemed that at the beginning of the year I had very high musical ambitions for 2012, but with time my interests shifted. I only managed to fulfill 14 of the resolutions. Many were still concrete goals with ill-defined objectives. There were also redundant resolutions like graduating. I mean... Obviously I would graduate. That was almost a freebie resolution to cross out the next year.

By iteration 3 (NYR for 2013), I realized that long lists are unrealistic. In 2012, I came to the conclusion that multi-tasking is, in fact, impossible, and that focus is key to excellence. Therefore, I learned that you have to pick your battles. So I thought maybe a shorter resolution list might be a good idea. I kept it to 10 resolutions. Some were very specific (go to 5 open mics) and some still a bit vague (improve xyz skills). I fullfilled 7 of them. There were also less redundant resolutions like "graduate from CS".

Now in my 4th year of NYRs, I realized that I rarely thought about my resolutions throughout the year. The ones I accomplished over the years were mainly a result of me being a functional human being and doing what I like. I didn't consciously put a lot of effort into it. Some things just worked out and others didn't. So I'm going to try a more specific approach to resolutions this year. Instead of just listing the goals, I will list the specific prescribed steps [that would lead me to the goal hopefully].
  1. 5-10 min exercise every evening (pushups) [get fit]
  2. 1h workout twice a week [get fit]
  3. 5-10 min writing every Thursday, Sunday [improve writing skills]
  4. 10-30 min reading the many books I bought 5 days a week [read those books on my shelf]
  5. 2h learning new stuff on Saturday or Wednesday [find time to learn new skills]
  6. 1h learning a new language on Tuesday [learn a new language]
  7. Spend < $10/day on average on weekdays [save money]
  8. Spend < $100 on average on weekends including groceries [save money]
  9. 1 song or song idea per month quota [write 12 songs]
  10. 1h relaxation every Sunday [reduce stress on body]
  11. Wake up at 7h30 am on weekdays and 9am on weekends [improve sleeping pattern]
  12. Sleep before 1am on weekdays and before 2 on weekends [improve sleeping pattern]
  13. Do my taxes early. Ugh. [misc]
  14. Get away from Rogers. FINALLY. [misc]
  15. Go rock-climbing again until I get over acrophobia [overcome a fear]
My hope is that, by being this specific, I can actually fit these into my schedule and have a more realistic expectation for the year to start with. Also, I hope that these will give me a mental benchmark to frequently assess whether I'm deviating from the plan. We'll see how that went in a year!