For all of 2020, I’m trying something different. Every month I’m setting a theme. As part of that theme, I’m also setting goals and habits to help it along the way. These themes aren’t limited to the month either – each theme is for the year but in addition to everything else added before it.
For January, my theme was focus. This included working on one intentional thing at a time, taking a month off of social media (mostly), and trying to pay attention to where my time went. Rather than recapping that month here, I added an update to the bottom of my January post that goes into detail on how it went and what I’m doing differently going forward.
Here’s a recap of the themes for this year, including the new one for February: Finish (this will be more interesting later when there are many more themes!)
- January: Focus
- February: Finish
For February 2020, my theme is to finish. I also call this “closing the loop” – putting a bow on something so I can stop thinking about it and move on. When something is unfinished, I tend to worry, overthink and let it live rent-free in my head. This month’s theme is about helping those thoughts move out and find a new forever home.
Over the years I’ve developed two habits which at somewhat at odds with each other:
- I start a lot of projects
- I finish what I start… eventually.
The second one was a huge asset to me in my career! It drove me to do whatever I said I was going to do. Rarely (if ever?) would I miss a deadline without significant notice to renegotiate agreements and dates with lots of time. Unfortunately, I have trouble letting projects go. I don’t mind failing at things, but I often keep forcing myself to push forward on a project when I should really just let it go.
Renegotiating with myself is another story – especially when I’m constantly picking up new things for fun. In the past year, I’ve noticed a growing tendency that I want to snip in the bud now: leaving things unfinished.
The more you say you’re going to do something and then don’t do it, the more you get used to breaking promises. That’s true with other people, but even more important with yourself!
The Four Agreements is a great book on this topic. It focuses on 4 very simple topics that are easy to describe, but tough to fully internalize. The 4 agreements are:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word.
- Don’t Take Anything Personally.
- Don’t Make Assumptions.
- Always Do Your Best.
I do my best to live by these four mantras. Since I left my job, the first one on this list has been a little… interesting. With more time I set more outlandish goals (hike every mountain in Utah! Read 1,000 books [not really]).
The first one is the focus of this month – specifically the word I say to myself. When I say I’m going to do something I should do it, 100%. That’s the entire focus of this.
There’s a fine line between goals and agreements. Goals you hope to do, agreements you’re committed to fulfilling. It’s great to have many goals, I have more than 101 myself. I personally get into trouble when too many of these move from the “goal” category to the “agreement” category.
It’s still OK to change my mind with new information. There’s nothing wrong with giving up on something! The idea isn’t to handcuff myself to things that can’t be changed. It’s more to prevent these from piling up to the ceiling to the point where they’re suffocating me while I’m doing nothing to clear them out. In a lot of ways, this means focusing on getting rid of my alligators before I get any more kittens.
Just like with January, this doesn’t mean I’ll “finish” everything during this month (that’d be amazing though). This month is more of a mindset shift to where if given the option of starting something new or completing something, I try to wrap something up.
What Am I Hoping To Finish?
The Minafi Investor Bootcamp. It’s off to a great start so far! It’s soft-launched now with the first 3 courses done. I’ve worked some on course 4, but there’s a lot of work to do. The more I work on this series, the more I think it’s exactly what I want to make for helping people learn how to invest. I just need to finish it. Between some things going on in early February, recording from those things (more on that later) and spending the last week of the month in Florida (friends wedding + Disney!), time this month will be limited. I can still finish parts of this. (Note: You can join the boot camp now for the lowest price it’ll ever be).
Games I’m playing. This is more of a fun one. I want to finish (or give up on) as many games as I can that I’ve started before starting new ones. I’m in the middle of Red Dead Redemption 2, Death Stranding and Dead Cells (why are all my games based around death lately?). This one is more about giving myself permission to play these and not feel like I’m skipping out on other responsibilities. Finishing these is its own fun goal!
Graphic novel series. I recently starting getting more into graphic novels. I’ve loved the ones I’ve started so far. Monstress is my favorite recently, with Maus and Watchmen as quick(er) reads checked out. The downside is that once I realized my library had graphic novels I went a little crazy. I checked out way too many things at one time – including the beginnings of a half-dozen series. So, now I’m dropping some that I haven’t started, with the intention of completing the series I’m interested in first.
Read the top 100 Science Fiction Books. This has been a long-time goal of mine. In the last year, I read a bunch of books (130!), but very few went back to this goal. I want to mix these in more between new books. I have about 40 more to go including quite a few classics (Frankenstein, The Princess Bride, The Time Machine, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). If you’re interested in picking a book from the entire list of 100 books, there is a really neat flowchart to help you find books you might enjoy. (My personal favorite on the list is Hyperion).
Wrapping up a few other Minafi Projects. I have about ~4 small projects in the works that I want to wrap up. These are minor programming projects for components that I can add to existing posts, or use in the Minafi Investor Bootcamp. Small things like being able to see the details about an index fund (graph of performance, price, change, etc), show a comparison of fees over time between two funds, and a few others. These aren’t major projects, but I enjoy these small components that help communicate an idea better than words alone.
Complete a time-consuming thing. Keeping this vague for now. Something is taking up ~40hrs of my time each week that I’m looking forward to getting back. I miss reading in bed with coffee in the mornings!
Finish volunteering at Sundance! The Sundance Film Festival is an 11-day celebration of film that takes place every year at the end of January and the beginning of February in Park City, UT, Sundance, UT (hence the name) and in Salt Lake City, UT. I’m volunteering 32 hours this year while seeing as many movies as I can (9 so far). Add to that ~40 hours of things during the day and it’s made for a very hectic last week of the month.
Complete uncluttering projects. There are a few tasks on my Todoist todo list that have been lingering for a few years. Things like organizing digital photos, selling a few things around the house I no longer use and a few other digital or physical projects.
Unsubscribe, Unfollow & Declutter. Besides finishing projects in process, I’m hoping to regain a bit of time that’s used to “keep up” with things. I try to aggressively unsubscribe and remove time-consuming things that take up my time. A long time ago I disabled all notifications on my phone (outside of texts and calls that need immediate attention). This is a focus on looking for other things to cut. I’m not planning to exit social media altogether, but as I mentioned in my Focus post update, I’m now only allowing access at night after dinner (or when needed to finish a post I’m working on).
How Will I Do This?
Don’t start new things in the same medium. Don’t start a new video game until finishing the current one. Don’t pick up a new book until you’ve finished the current one. Don’t start a new TV show until you’ve finished the current one. Easy right? I tend to give suckered into novelty – a desire for something new and shiny. This is a reminder to limit the new things I bring in my life without finishing (or replacing) the existing one.
Curate my bookshelf! Return books to the library I won’t read, clear out my bookshelf to only have what I’m set to read next. Have the next audiobook I’m going to listen to lined up and mindfully chosen (as opposed to just listening to whatever is available).
Have fun. Everything here is on this list because it’s something I want to do for fun! Lately (as in during the past few years) I’ve let myself pick up a bunch of time-wasting habits – social media, for one. Last month was about getting back that focus I lost, and this month is continuing that reeducation to have fun. Like a lot of people, I used to be able to play video games every waking hour. I want to be able to get into the flow for games again.
Set dedicated work time. Let’s face it, some of these things will require sitting down and doing actual work. There will be times when I won’t want to work, when I feel blocked, when I don’t know what to do, and times that I don’t feel the energy to work. I tried an experiment in January that I want to continue: set MWF afternoons as “focused” time. This comes out to less than 10 hours a week, so it’s hardly an inconvenience (cue Screen Rant Pitch Meeting). I’m also setting TR as “have fun” time where I don’t work on Minafi or other productive projects at all. This combination has felt right, and still gives me enough time to make progress while not feeling overwhelmed. I’ll occasionally work at other times, but I want to set those hours up for the hard work that I might not otherwise pick up.
What about you? Do you feel like you finish what you start? Do you have any advice for others (including me) that might be having trouble finishing projects? Or maybe has a habit of taking on more than they should? Let me know in the comments.
End of Month Update!
Now that the month is over (or almost over – it’s February 28th as I write this), it’s time to reflect on this theme is see how it went.
There was one unexpected result that this month’s theme helped out with: prioritization. Whenever I was looking for something to do, something to work on, projects to implement, books, shows or anything – I was able to use this “finish” theme to help decide which action to take.
For example, instead of working on a new programming project, I finished some of the ones I already started.
Instead of jumping into new TV shows or books, I finished the ones I started.
Instead of trying to do entirely new projects here on Minafi (and I have a long list of them in Notion), I focused on the ones I started.
Just this one mindset shift to work on things I’ve already started was absolutely huge. I felt like I was chipping away at unresolved things all month and clearing my head for a time in the future when I’ll start more new things.
Clearing out unfinished projects had another surprising result: it caused a flood of new ideas for things to work on next! After I’d finish some small projects, like for example the fees chart on the Minafi Investor Bootcamp join page, I’d get an idea for something new and better. These are ideas I would never have had otherwise.
There were some things I finished and others that I made continuing progress on. A few of them include:
Jury Dury. I completing my 5-weeks of jury duty. After a year off work, getting up and spending 8-hours a day doing something for over a month was a shock to my system. I’m going to skip writing more about jury duty for now (besides my Twitter thread about it), but I might revisit it later.
Sundance. Finishing a crazy week of volunteering at Sundance & seeing a bunch (13) movies. Between jury duty, 32 hours volunteering and trying to enjoy the festival, it was a week with very little sleep.
Minafi Projects. I expected to spend a lot of the month working on The Minafi Investor Bootcamp, but that wasn’t how things turned out. Instead, I wrapped up 3 interactive components I’ve been working on (which will be showcased soon!) and also moved the WordPress installation of Minafi from WP Engine ($30/mo) to Dreamhost (free, since Mrs. Minafi already has some sites there!). All of these things had been on my list for a while, so it’s felt amazing to check them off.
Books. I shifted my approach this month and focused on only reading books that fell into two camps: ones on NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi books of all time (reading all of them is a goal of mine) or continuations of series I’ve already started and want to finish. Sometimes this meant that I immediately returned books to the library that didn’t meet these requirements – but that’s OK! They’ll still be there later. Same approach for TV shows. My favorites of the month included some graphic novels (Monstress and Saga) the latest in the Renegades series, and The Complete Maus.
Uncluttering. This ended up being a big one this month. I’ve been using LetGo and eBay to offload things I no longer use. Living in an apartment has increased the importance of clearing things out more often.
Digital Clutter. Cleaning up digital clutter has been more time-consuming than I expected. I have a handful of hard drives I use for local backups, a RAID array I use for my main backups and a selectively synced Dropbox for anything I wouldn’t want to lose if our apartment went up in flames. That sounds good on paper, but when it gets off track it’s no fun to get it back on the rails. I strongly stand by the idea that you should always have 2 local copies and one remote copy of anything you want to keep around.
Also on the digital clutter front, I’ve been cleaning out Google Drive, Notion and Bear and trying to set exactly how I use all three of these. For me it’s something like this:
- Bear App – This is my general note-taking app. I use it for any scratch I need to write and review later. I delete everything after that, so ideally there are no notes here except those unprocessed ones.
- Google Drive – I’ve been using this for so long it has every job application (and resignation letter) I’ve ever sent right next to Minafi files for current projects. I’m still figuring this one out, but at least now it’s well organized.
- Notion – I absolutely love Notion. It’s my reference for everything nowadays. I’m moving to the idea that if I have a personal question about something I should know, the answer should be in notion. Add to that project organization, ideas, brainstorming and some journaling.
What Didn’t Work?
Two things didn’t work out so well this month. For one, I didn’t end up playing any video games. I’m OK with that though because I made it up for it with a LOT of board gaming. Mrs. Minafi and I picked up Wingspan and it’s our new addiction – and is a great 2-player game too!
The one thing that absolutely didn’t work was trying to set dedicated focus time this month. I think that was overly ambitious considering everything else going on. Between a week of jury duty, a week traveling to Orlando, Valentine’s day, our 14th anniversary (yay!) and some travel recuperation it was a more packed month than I anticipated.
I should know by now that when traveling, or going through some major schedule changes (jury duty), I shouldn’t throw myself immediately into something if I don’t have to. Time to relax and to transition is key!
This meant I felt like I was doing a lot of “closing the loop”. I was resolving thoughts and actions to their completion which freed up mental space for new things.
This month’s theme has had more of an impact on me than I expected – and not in the way I expected. The momentum from finishing things builds up and makes me want to finish MORE things. I’ll be continuing this theme for a while until it feels right to start taking on new projects. For now I’m more excited than ever to just keep working on things I’ve already started.