If you look back at my #MonthlyRetrospective articles from 2018 you will see that every single one of them was broken down into the same sections:
- Hobby Programming
- Read a book
- Plan out my day
- Review my goals
- Conclusion / Set goals for the next month
In my December 2018 retrospective I finally realized how this rigid structure was forcing me to write about stuff I didn't want to and preventing me from writing about stuff that I did. In addition, my 2018 resolutions retrospective exposed that not only I did forget to write about my resolutions every month, but I had actually managed to convince myself that I was writing about them. By April all of my New Year's resolutions had become twisted in my brain simply because I did not refer back to the article I wrote at the start of the year.
I promised that in my first monthly retrospective of 2019 I would experiment to see if I could find a solution and that is exactly what I am going to do. But in order to find a solution we first need to locate the problem so let's look back at each of the sections of my monthly retrospectives and weigh them.
This section would routinely devolve into a rambling stream of consciousness for all the the things that I wanted to write about but could not fit into another section. The segues between some paragraphs in those introductions are cringe inducing. They read like I should be on Adderall. If there is one takeaway it is that I need to have an outlet to write about any topic that interested me that month.
I would say that this is the section which consistently had the best content of all my retrospectives. Sure, sometimes they were straightforward or bland but even those that were very detailed in what transpired from a health perspective. Go back to any month from last year and you have a pretty solid snapshot of where I was. The biggest problem I would say is that I did not act on this information as much as I should have. This section seemed to focus more on how I was failing rather than what I should do to improve. Going forward I should try to set concrete goals to fix what I am seeing rather than complain about it.
While my new job is seemingly rekindling my interest in programming on the side, I have absolutely no interest in writing about it on a monthly basis. In hindsight, forcing myself to do this was counter-productive. Maybe I'll enjoy programming this year, maybe I won't. But it is something that will occur naturally.
Read a book
This is an interesting section because while I throughly enjoy broadcasting what I am reading I am not usually interested in going into the details. A quick sentence about my feelings and a thumbs up or down are what this section usually contains every month. This feels like a sign that I need to have sections that are more dynamic in their content. Maybe I combine this together with the TV and films I watched that month? Or maybe some months the book is so interesting it can stand alone?
Easily one of the largest sections every month because I love playing games and don't plan to stop in 2019. One thing I have noticed with this section is that it routinely balloons out of control and I find myself having to edit it down. Maybe I should start taking notes with my iPad while I am playing and write standalone articles that could act as a proper review of a game. I could make this section be more like how I write about books where it is obvious what I played and if I enjoyed it or not, but if someone wants the meat and potatoes they can go read my full review.
Plan out my day:
This was a weird one. I did this because it was one of my 2018 resolutions so it made sense to try to write about it every month but it was so nebulous that it never really found its place. Some months I came up with some good ideas about organizing my time but mostly it was just empty calories.
Review my goals:
This obviously has to continue. If you don't measure the goals you set how can you tell if you're making progress?
Conclusion / Set goals for the next month
Definitely need to continue setting goals so I have stuff to work towards. However the "conclusion" part of this was very flimsy. Some months I wrote a lot when I was feeling particularly introspective and other months I literally wrote nothing and simply jumped into goal setting. Another sign that less concrete, more dynamic sections can allow me to write in-depth about what interests me that month.
So what can we take away from this? I think the solution is that I need to move towards retrospectives where the sections I write about are completely dynamic. While it is still likely that I will write about my health, the books I am reading, the games I am playing and my goals every month it should not be required and the format that I write about them should be free to change. If for some reason that month I took a break I should omit that section and not bat an eye. Retrospectives should represent what I did, not be a summary of what I wished I did.
The other issue I need to address is how do I not forget about my New Year's resolutions. The fix that I am going to experiment with this month is reviewing them exactly like I do my monthly goals. I have a fear that have two big lists like that may muddy up the article a bit but I am going to push forward and revisit it in February. The theme for this year should be that nothing is set in stone. Every month I should be completely confident experimenting with the format of these articles.
If you are still reading after all of my ramblings then mad props to you. I lost myself multiple times while writing it so I can't imagine how it will be perceived by someone reading it for the first time. I think the best thing to do at this point is to simply soldier on and dive right in to this new retrospective format.
The more things change the more things stay the same and health is still the most important thing to me.
In December I was injured, sick, sleep deprived and had two weeks off work which lead me to stop exercising and eat garbage. I promised myself that I would not repeat this in January but unfortunately I did not keep that promise.
First let's talk about exercising. Even though I am still very sleep deprived (thanks for that Lacey) I was able to get myself up at 6am three times a week and go bouldering. Combine that with yoga on the weekends and you'd think that I was making solid progress. Unfortunately, every single other day I just kept hitting the snooze button to try to steal a few more precious minutes of sleep while my terror cat was distracted.
The other side of this coin is my diet which is still absolute garbage. Work has a plethora of treats at the ready which I have been devouring as well as purchasing large amounts of unhealthy snacks from the supermarket downstairs. Both my weight and body fat percentage have gone up as a result.
This section is coming off as extremely negative but I honestly shouldn't be too hard on myself. Getting up at 6am for bouldering is the hardest exercising I do and I did not falter. Adding some more yoga or weight training on off days in February should not be that difficult. Or even something simple as just going outside for a run.
The most egregious thing that I need to correct in February is my diet. ABSOLUTELY NO SUGARY TREATS! Full stop. Last month I said I wasn't going to lie to myself and make this promise well this month I have to. I am going cold turkey because the junk I am putting into my body is unacceptable.
Going to bed an hour earlier, exercising every day and cutting out sugar. These are not big asks in the grand scheme of things and will make a massive difference in my health.
Let us now talk about the elephant in the room, Lacey, the spawn of Satan. Joking aside she has actually been making terrific progress but it took a lot of patience and trips to two different specialists.
At the beginning of the month she saw a pet behavior psychologist who diagnosed her with PTSD and got us to use clicker training to try to break her concentration every time she was having an episode. This was followed up by a trip to an ophthalmologist who diagnosed Lacey with both glaucoma and herpes that required two different sets of eye drops to treat.
I am not going to lie. That second week in January was really hard. Lacey still wouldn't let us sleep and continued to run around the house constantly terrified of something. It is really hard to bond with a pet that seemingly hates you and does not want you around.
But then something miraculous happened over the next two weeks. Slowly but surely she stopped having incidents. She became more confident and explored the apartment. She engage with us more freely and even got to the point where she would sleep in bed with us. I even managed to pick her up and put her on my lap while we were watching a movie and she stayed there!
A checkup with the ophthalmologist showed Lacey was making the best possible progress we could have hoped for so things are really looking up. That said, she still doesn't sleep through the night and continues to enjoy waking us up. She also still needs to have surgery on her teeth which is going to happen in February but I am really optimistic for all of that. I cannot wait to see where she is in a month's time because I think she will be a much happier kitty.
It wouldn't be a monthly retrospective without some games and I apparently played a ton.
I finally beat the "World of Light" in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I actually got 100% in it which was incredibly frustrating at times but also very satisfying. The funny thing is that the second I beat it I put the game down and have not touched it since. I wanted to try to play some competitive online matches but I just couldn't take the leap and odds are that I will never play this game again.
I instead went back to the Legacy Ops in XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. I replayed them all on nightmare difficulty and they are still super fun. I probably don't want XCOM 3 to be comprised solely of missions like this but there is something about the the structure that is so addictive. It kinda makes me wanna go back and play a full game on Legend difficulty but there are just too many other games I want to play.
One of those was the Resident Evil 2 remake. I am not a huge fan of the old Resident Evil games. I can appreciate what they did by essentially spawning a new genre in survival horror but I am a complete wuss when it comes to scary games. The first game in the series I actually beat was Resident Evil 4 which was a drastic departure from its predecessors. Honestly, I probably would have let this game slide by if Elsie didn't say she wanted to watch me play it and I am glad she did.
Resident Evil 2 is a really solid remake of a 21 year old game. While some cruft from the past does remain, the vast majority of the changes made were for the better. This game is probably now one of the premier examples of how to remake a game to take advantage of modern ideals while keeping the soul of the original alive. I feel like I am blowing too much smoke up this game's ass because it definitely isn't for everybody. If you're not a fan of survival horror this game is not going to change your opinion. It's still scary, ammo is really scarce, the shooting isn't great. But the atmosphere, the graphics, the puzzles, the story, they were all really interesting to me. It took me just short of seven hours to beat Leon's campaign and I would say that for five of those I was having a lot of fun. The other two were somewhat frustrating because of gameplay relics from a bygone era but on the whole I had fun. So much fun that I am actually hoping to beat Claire's campaign in February.
Switching gears now to board games, I finally beat Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and did not enjoy it. The first three or four months were really cool where the gameplay was constantly changing and I was intrigued at where the story was going. But the later half devolved into an uninspired slog that I just wanted to end. The same "new" game mechanic was used for four straight months and then the final month seemed like you absolutely had to fail once in order to succeed which is just such a stupid mechanic. If I could I would go back in time and tell myself not to play this game because it was not worth the probably 35+ hours I put into it. I would have much rather had spend 2018 playing the other board game I started this month.
Gloomhaven is a stellar board game. It is basically Dungeons & Dragons without the role playing. You pick a character, pick some skills, build out a scenario board and navigate your miniatures through it. I am playing with Elsie and Jarques and we are tearing things up. We managed to beat the first four scenarios without failing once which completely shocked me. I built a 40% failure rate into the campaign so we are way ahead of the pace to complete my New Year's resolution.
Playing Gloomhaven honestly makes me want to try to start my own pen-and-paper role-playing game. If I could find a couple more friends I could easily do Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Cyberpunk 2020, Rifts, etc.
TV, Films, Anime, YouTube, etc
I watched a stupid amount of digital media this month. No wonder I didn't work on any side projects. I apparently spend all of my time playing video games or staring at my TV.
Since I watched so much I am just going to list them from most to least interesting with a quick sentence or two describing why.
- The Meru documentary tells the story of three climbers attempting the first ascent of a specific route of the Meru Peak mountain in the Himalayas. Everyone must watch this.
- The Fyre Fraud documentary by Hulu is the greatest example of schadenfreude. Watching stupid millenials get conned out of their money will never get old.
- Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a competing Fyre Festival documentary that focuses on the parties that were damaged by the fraudulent organizers. You come away from this documentary feeling bad about the lives that were destroyed rather than laughing at the idiots who chose to partake in it.
- One-Punch Man is an amazing anime. You would think a story about a guy who can defeat his enemies with a single punch would be one dimensional but the depth of all the characters, both heroes and enemies, is insane.
- Watched How to Train your Dragon 1 & 2 in preparation for the third film coming out in February. I am a fan of Norse mythology and dragons so I was hooked.
- Brooklyn 99 returned with season six and it is as funny as ever.
- The January Basho happened and as always Jason had amazing coverage on his YouTube channel. This was one of the more exciting bashos in recent memory and had all sorts of twists you didn't see coming.
- Valve finally released their True Sight documentary on The International 2018 Grand Finals.
- I stumbled upon a new YouTube channel called OverSimplified. My favourite video is a oversimplified explanation of World War 2.
- The Corridor Crew flew some drones which sparked an idea for one of my February goals.
- The Chongqing Major was the second major of the Dota Pro Circuit and Team Secret finally managed to come out on top! I cannot wait for TI9 in August.
- Netflix's interactive film Bandersnatch was actually quite boring in my eyes. There was really no satisfying endings and the story itself was very shallow. You can see how having to film so many different paths required them to simplify the shooting which compromised the story.
- Godzilla: The Planet Eater is one of the worst anime films ever made. No one should ever be subjected to it.
Read a book
I finished reading Count Zero on January 15th and immediately moved onto the third and final book in the Sprawl trilogy, Mona Lisa Overdrive. So far I am not that impressed with either of them. They aren't bad by any means but they are somewhat forgettable. The author spends a lot of time going into minute details about things that don't matter and after a certain point I find myself jumping ahead paragraphs because I am getting bored. The core world is still very interesting to me but what the characters are doing is very hit and miss.
I hope to finish Mona Lisa Overdive early in February and then move on to Ken Kocienda's Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs. I am looking forward to expanding my horizons and reading a book about events that actually happened.
Review Monthly Goals
✅ Publish retrospective on 2018 resolutions.
✅ Publish 2019 resolutions.
🙅🏻♂️ Exercise every day.
There were a couple of days where I was too tired and hit the snooze button. I blame Lacey.
🙅🏻♂️ No purchasing sugary or carb heavy treats.
I lost count as to how many cupcakes I bought.
✅ No ordering take out. All of my food should come from the market.
Amazingly I held back on using Uber Eats. This may have been my greatest achievement this month.
🙅🏻♂️ Lower body fat percentage.
I actually went up.
✅ Improve posture.
I used my Upright GO 11 days in January. I am not sure what effect it is having but I am at least making an effort.
✅ Read Count Zero.
Finished on January 15th.
🙅🏻♂️ Read Cyberpunk 2020.
Didn't pick it up. It was one of my daily goals several times but starting a book as dense as Cyberpunk 2020 proved too daunting.
✅ Start a new video game.
Played a couple hours of The Witness but it did not grab me.
✅ Beat Pandemic Legacy: Season 1.
I finally finished this boring board game. It started out with so much promise but then completely floundered.
🙅🏻♂️ Ride Onewheel to work.
I had many opportunities to do this but I just couldn't work up the confidence.
✅ Use iPad at work for meetings.
I had a lot of 1-1's since this is a new job and taking quick notes by hand on my iPad really did help. Unless I know I need to reference Xcode in a meeting I always bring my iPad.
✅ Redraw some of the sketches from December in an attempt to improve them.
I redrew the cat and fish drawing and it actually turned out quite well.
Review New Year's Resolutions
1. Get my driver's license and go on a road trip
I did spend a bunch of time researching cars I may want to buy but nothing else. My driving test is scheduled in February so I just need a couple of refresher driving lessons and hopefully by this time next month I'll have my license.
2. Lose body fat
I actually went up.
3. Do 50 push-ups and 20 pull-ups
I managed to do 30 push-ups but only 4 pull-ups. I am going to need to do a lot more back exercises to have any hope in completing this resolution.
4. Find a side project or hobby
I didn't actually do anything this month except maybe decide that I want to build a drone in February. I spent a couple hours near the end of the month researching what I wanted to buy but didn't pull the trigger.
5. Read six different types of books
I finished Count Zero which is a science fiction book. I am going to finish its sequel, Mona Lisa Overdrive, (another science fiction) before I move onto Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs which I guess you would classify as non-fiction. Regardless it definitely isn't science fiction which would meant it will be my second type of book read.
6. Complete unique 24 scenarios in Gloomhaven
Elsie, Jarques and myself miraculously managed to complete four scenarios so we are well ahead of the pace.
7. Be proactive at work and take on tasks that increase my visibility
I was proactive and took on a task that no one really seemed to want to do but it probably won't raise my visibility. I am making sure I attend as many different gatherings of various groups that I can to see if I can maybe help organize or present at one of them. I am still trying to get my bearings around the office so I am not too worried about my progress on this resolution just yet.
8. Grade my mood multiple times a day
I did it every day since January 12th and so far the results aren't great. It isn't horrible though because apparently only three days were categorically "bad". Otherwise every day was "average" or "neutral" except for two which were "exciting". Both of those happened to be Saturday's so I am not sure what that says...
9. Run a half-marathon
I haven't done anything specific to train for this but long bouldering sessions and yoga is definitely keeping my cardio up. I honestly believe that if I had to run a half marathon in like a month I could easily do so. Hopefully I'll be able to run a 10K or two in February and get back into the swing of things.
- Greens every day for lunch. I am eating way too much protein and carbs.
- No sugary snacks! There is tons of fucking fruit everywhere. Take a extra minute or so to track down and wash some.
- No carb heavy meals from the supermarket. Either have Soylent, salads or chicken.
- Cook dinner at least once every weekend.
- Exercise every day.
- Run a 10K.
- Start lifting weights. Specifically target your back muscles.
- Build and fly a drone. I was thinking the AcroBee from NewBeeDrone.
- Read Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs.
- Read Cyberpunk 2020. No fucking excuses this time!
- Beat Claire's scenario in Resident Evil 2.
- Start a new video game. I am thinking either Crackdown 3 or picking something out of my Steam library.
- Schedule some driver's lessons and pass my driving exam. 🤞🏻
- File taxes. Yeah I am one of those guys who wants to get it done early.
- Redraw something else on my iPad. I wanna try to continue to improve this skill. Who knows where it could go.
- Consume less digital media. I don't know how to measure this but I to want ensure I at least look back on it next month.
I gotta say, I really don't like how this retrospective turned out. Going back and editing it was a real slog because I was just so all over the place. It feels as if I just shotgunned my consciousness on the screen as fast as humanly possible without any regard to how it would read as a whole. First you're inundated with random musings on how the retrospective could be structured, followed by five random sections and then three massive lists which read more like a Buzzfeed article. I'm just missing massive pictures and interstitial ads.
I easily put over eight hours into writing this draft and it feels like something a student slapped together the day before an assignment was due. The second I publish this article I am going to start my February retrospective draft and make a conscious effort to add to it throughout the month so I don't end up rushing it out again.#MonthlyRetrospective