2012: A Year of Projects

The year ends. 366 days. 527,040 minutes. (Leap-years always have the worst RENT.) As I thought about how I might measure this year, the word that came to mind was “projects”. My year entailed a large quantity and wide variety of projects, that I’d like to reflect on.

The Mind I’m Lost Inside – the album project

I’ve wanted to record an album for years. In fact, I even vowed in 2010 that I would, but it didn’t happen for a variety of reasons—mainly lack of commitment. Fall of 2011, I bought Seth Godin & Zig Ziglar’s Pick Four, a workbook for completing goals. When I bought it, I knew one of my goals would be to create an album. I didn’t know what the other three would be, but in mid-February I finally committed to them (album, mindfulness, startup, fitness) and starting working every day to reach them.

This was new for me, for music. Never before had I actively practised guitar daily. I also hadn’t seriously taken a second look at my songs to revise them. Over the course of the year, in addition to practising, I also got in touch with a bunch of people to help me, most notably Brixton Music, a studio in Kitchener. While I thought I was getting in touch early (March, for an album to be ready by the end of the year) it turned out there was no time to lose! Originally I had thought maybe I’d just do vocals and guitar because I wouldn’t have time to record other instruments. This seems like a silly idea in retrospect, because the arrangement process was really fun and the resulting sound has so much more depth.

I learned a lot from recording the album. One big thing was: when I put my mind to it, I have the stick-to-it-iveness necessary to get big projects done. While I would have asserted so beforehand, now I know so. I also learned that sometimes being naïve can be helpful: had I known how much effort (and money) it would take to make the album when I started, I probably would have been too scared, or at least too overwhelmed. It wasn’t just the total amount of time invested (approximately 300-400 hours) but the fact that I had to make progress nearly every day and then also sometimes for entire weekends.

It may take me awhile to make back all of the money I spent on studio time and production, but I’ve already made it back in experiential value.

thinkfree.ly – a startup project

In both Winter and Fall 2012, I lived in a residence startup incubator called VeloCity, and in January I teamed up with Scott Greenlay and Jinny Kim to work on a project called thinkfree.ly (this was my third Pick4 goal). Our goal was to create a web application to replace the whiteboard for ideation, wireframing, and layouts. We made a decent prototype that allows people to collaborate in real-time, kind of like a free-form and infinite version of Google Docs, and we were finalists in the VeloCity Venture Fund. At the end of term, though, we all had other jobs for the summer, in different locations, so the project went on temporary and then permanent hiatus.

I learned a bunch about front-end and back-end web development from this (jQuery and Node.js) as well as about JavaScript in general. I also got more accustomed to doing development in a small team (2). It was great to have an outlet for what I was learning about startups from living at VeloCity. However, at some point I realized that none of our team was really committed to making a company from our project and we mostly just wanted the software to exist so we could use it. There’s nothing wrong with this, inherently, but it was a great lesson in how people working on a project can have goals that are different than the official goal of the project, and also (although not in this case) different from each other. This speaks to the need for honest, open, and frequent communication among members of a team.

Bienvenue à Ma Vie – a relationship project

One of the reasons I chose to measure 2012 in projects is that my romantic relationship this summer was considered to be a project by myself and my partner. This model was new to me, but felt right: I don’t believe in soul mates, but rather I prefer the idea of working together with someone to make something beautiful; to make your lives more beautiful.

I learned a bunch of French from this relationship with a francophone. I also learned a bit about English. More importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I realized partway through the relationship that I was just going along with it but didn’t really want to be in it. I was in denial: I kept trying to convince myself that the relationship had merits—which it did—but that didn’t change the fact that it didn’t feel right. I grew as a person when I finally owned up to this, and then later this year I had the chance to stop a similar situation from occurring, and did so. I didn’t handle it perfectly, but I’m making progress.

FileKicker – a passive income project

With thinkfree.ly inactive in May, I decided that I wanted to focus my efforts on Android development, specifically for the purpose of making passive income. Initially, this was going to be making an app for the game Rejection Therapy but there were issues with this and I ended up pursuing an update to FileKicker instead. I made FileKicker back in 2010 to test Kik Messenger’s API, but in the year since it had grown to 10,000 daily uses, and so I thought I’d monetize it.

Unfortunately, and frankly quite embarrassingly, this still isn’t done. [Edit: now it is!] I expect to have it done this week, though I’ve been saying that for months now (in some cases this wasn’t quite my fault). One of the most frustrating parts of this is that I’ve missed out on probably several hundred dollars of advertising revenue over these months of not releasing the update. This makes me feel like maybe I should have made a bet with a friend that I’d get it launched by X date or pay them $100. This would take advantage of Loss Aversion Bias and also would have prevented me from just pushing it back by a day or a week, every day, for months. (Did you know that “procrastinate” literally means “put off until tomorrow”? If you’re an overachiever, try “perendinate”, which means “put off until the day after tomorrow”.)

Honestly, while that works for something like an essay (I actually did this summer for a scholarship essay, figuring $100 was a reasonable downpayment on a $1500 scholarship) it really doesn’t work for software development, for two reasons. 1: Once you’ve done the research, writing an essay is fairly straightforward and just takes time, unlike software development where many hitches can emerge (as they did). 2: A rough draft can be edited for grammar and flow and end up as a decent paper, but debugging a piece of software is not nearly as simple as copyediting. So I learned a lot about the software development process and the utter impossibility of estimating how long something will take.

Journalling – a personal project

In fall 2011 I started journalling every night, but eventually this started wreaking havoc on my social life because it took up so much time, so I stopped. I missed it though, so shortly before commencing Pick Four I took a new approach: I signed up for a web service called iDoneThis which emails me every day to ask what I did that day. So far, I’ve responded to nearly every one, often going weeks straight. I learned that (like any other habit) it’s easiest to write in a nightly journal when it’s part of a routine. This means that on the days when you break from your routine—either because things have gone horribly wrong or because you’re engaging in intentional chaos like travelling or visiting strangers—you’re less likely to write in your journal. For most habits, this is an easy trade-off to make, but it’s frustrating for me because it means that some of my most interesting days aren’t captured in my journal.

At first, I responded to the iDT emails just with a list of “dones”, but as time went on I started adding more and more reflection to them. In general, this wasn’t a bad thing, but like before it started to substantially drain my time. Finally, during a termly (each 4 months) reflection, I decided to revamp my nightly journals so that rather than just rambling or being like “today was a good day, but not as productive as I’d hoped” (most days) I would simply answer a random question chosen from a short list, write a TIL, and state what I’ve done towards each goal. More on this in a future post about journalling. By shortening the journal, I found it a lot easier to get to bed at a reasonable hour, although sometimes I can’t resist reflecting a bit. I’m sure my journal will evolve further over 2013, but I’m proud to say that it’s now fairly stable.

So there’s 2012: A Year of Projects. There are other, smaller projects, but this article is long enough already!

2013: A Year of Text

When thinking about 2013, I realized that one thing that I hope/anticipate is that it will involve a lot more reading and writing than past years. I have a plan to read a book every week. I’ve also joined the Actionable Book Club, which will involve writing an actionable summary of a book every month. I’m planning to post to this blog more often as well. (I hereby officially commit to at least twice per month.) I’ll also be learning to speed-read and active-read, and hopefully writing more songs now that my musical efforts aren’t so much focused on polishing and producing the songs I’ve already written. Words words words!

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About Malcolm

Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Complice, a system for achieving your important goals.

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