I will not bore you with my entire “year in review.”
Instead, I’ve decided to share with you some things I believe I’ve done right this year. I like this exercise because it forces me to acknowledge and focus for a few minutes on my good moves when I tend only to review my blunders.
Managing my time
This area had a significant impact on my overall happiness. Managing your time better is a key to unlocking peace of mind, better health, and contentment.
I’d say that it should be the starting point for anyone looking to improve their life. Designing your schedule helps you find time for what matters.
In February this year, I was blessed with a second child. As was the case for my daughter four years ago, I had decided to be home to witness his first year. While challenging for many reasons, it’s an extraordinary feeling to see a newborn grow into a real person at such a fast pace.
I have been fortunate to work from home this year and enjoy these precious moments.
Our family is a close one. We enjoy spending as much time as possible together; this year definitely reflected that.
We also got to spend quality vacation time in France with my parents. We rented a cottage for a week in some sort of nature park. It was delightful for everybody and allowed me to recharge while spending time with my loved ones. Here are some takeaways: find a vacation satisfying for every family member. Meet your folks in a neutral environment for maximum enjoyment. It’s better to take less vacation but higher quality.
My current typical week is exactly how I want it to be. It’s flexible within a rigid structure. Or the other way around. And it’s been more productive than ever.
What does that mean?
For starters, I’ve been good at time-blocking in my calendar. Every Monday, I spend some time to plan the week. This planning time is scheduled in my to-do list as a recurring task (my to-do list is at the core of my system; more about it later.)
For every workday, I usually allocate two 4-hour time blocks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. These time blocks are for deep work, and I try to enforce it (though I sometimes struggle to keep focus for the entirety of the block.)
These two blocks are usually a theme more than a task.
For instance, it could be 9 am - 1 pm: Ourfather.today, 2 pm - 6 pm: Icebreaker.church
Outside of the scheduled time blocks, I can work on other things whenever I feel like it. But if at least one time block has gone well, my day is very productive, and everything else is extra!
This organization is flexible because I treat these time blocks as guidelines. Feeling like working out longer this morning instead of working on a product? No problem, I just do it.
This flexibility plays a significant role in making my work schedule successful this year.
Going back to building
This year marked my return to the workbench after three years of mainly focusing on business aspects (marketing, fundraising, sales, management, etc.).
And it feels SO GOOD.
Designing and building products is what I love doing the most. That’s why I like calling myself a digital artisan. Over the past six months, I’ve released many web apps, an iOS app, two booklets, and many blog posts.
My GitHub commit graph is finally getting green again! I’m happier when inventing, designing, building, and shipping products.
I’ve worked out consistently throughout the year. I ran at least 10k once a week (often more during vacations) and lifted weights once or twice a week.
Swinging the kettlebell makes my body more defined, and my general strength is also better than last year.
I’ve also done some interval running early this year, which helped me raise my vo2max. However, said metric dropped at the end of the year, probably because I’m currently running on snow or ice, which increases the heart rate (low traction) and decreases the pace.
My diet has been pretty good, focusing on food that makes me feel good without being so strict that I couldn’t enjoy the same meal as my family regularly.
I stretched 5 to 7 times a week, usually for 30 minutes before bed. I feel more flexible, and my body aches less than it used to.
On the mental health front, I’ve been journaling on and off this year. I tend to easily get back into the habit when I need it. When I don’t, it’s easy to relay at the bottom of the priority list. Something I’ve done well is to keep a “year log” where I write a bullet point or two per day. I didn’t do it every day (there was a big hole shortly after the birth of my son), but I still had many entries this year. Keeping that sort of journal is easy and allows one to understand better how the year was spent. Since I use Obsidian (see the part on my system below) and tag people in this log, I can see what I’ve done with them during the year! Good memories.
I got baptized in 2019 after a long journey into philosophy.
This year was transformative for me. Experiencing some (mild) asceticism during Lent and Advent allowed me to grow closer to the Lord. I was consistent in my prayer time. I am also grateful for the growing number of Christian friends who guide me.
I want my work life and my faith to meet at some point in the future, and I’m glad to report that this year saw the first fruits of that desire. In total, I spent probably three months or so working on Christian-related apps, from Ascent, to Jesus Prayer .today, Hail Mary .today, or Icebreakers .church.
Other work stuff
This summer, I shipped my first iOS app called Ascent. I went from idea to shipped in less than two months. What I did right: I set a clear scope from the start and a clear time budget and stuck to it!
A long, long, long time ago, my dad built a piece of software to help people share their life stories. I made myself the promise that, one day, I would rebuild it using modern technology. The tremendous leap in the Artificial Intelligence field pushed me to do it. It took me a few months of work, but I released MosaicBox in beta before Christmas. The paint still isn’t completely dry, but I aim to launch in early January! This product took a bit longer than expected to ship, but I was still pretty good at respecting the time budget.
I did some consulting, but much less than the previous year. I don’t hate consulting, but this is not what I want to do these days. I had opportunities to accept more work, but I didn’t. It was the right decision, at least for this year.
My funded company is running calmly. There was no growth this year, but it still has customers. We pondered closing it at the end of last year; keeping it alive was the correct decision.
I like writing, and, as I mentioned, I’ve been consistent with blogging, and it shows! My blog domain name has an authority (think Google score) that isn’t to be ashamed of. Though I haven’t managed to grow the newsletter that goes with it that much, the blog drives some reasonably good traffic every month.I’ve also grown my following on X to over 2200 followers, mainly by openly sharing my work. My design posts, in particular, seem to have attracted new followers.
I wrote two booklets one on AI for office workers and one about productivity. The latter has been selling quite well, considering the little promotion I’ve done for it. It’s a no-fluff book in an original format and presents some real ideas to improve productivity using a to-do list.
This leads us to the next section about my system.
A few words about the system
I rely heavily on three simple tools to achieve so many meaningful things while preserving the so-called work/life balance.
The first is Todoist. I’ve been a customer for years, and I love it. I use it to store tasks that require my attention at a later point (emails, invoices to send, invoices to pay), keep track of subscriptions, and help me grow my relationships. I use it for both my work and personal life.
The second is Fantastical. I don’t love it, but it works with my different calendars (iCloud, Fastmail, Google Cal). It also integrates with Todoist nicely. I don’t recommend it as I do Todoist because it just feels too expensive and outdated. It frustrates me several times a week, and I only keep it because I can’t find anything better yet. I might go back to using Apple Calendar in 2024.
The third is Obsidian. I’ve also been a customer for years, using it for anything writing. I usually have a weekly log file, which I use to store ideas and random thoughts, and even write blog posts like this one. At the end of the week, I usually move things of value to more permanent files.
Growing my network
Pfff. Network sounds like a bad word, but I can’t think of a better one as I’m typing this. I’m sitting in my living room, close to the wood stove. Pretty chill!
This year, I created many new friendships and relationships and developed the ones I already had. The system I mentioned helped immensely by reminding me to keep in touch. I diligently maintained this part of the system and reached out to people when the time came.
I joined and formed a few groups/communities and had many one-on-one calls. I also added some “casual advisors” to my circle of friends: people I trust and talk to regularly about business, faith, and the rest.
Here’s something you might find weird, but here goes. This year, I started collecting praises.
Whenever someone complimented my work, I screenshotted the praise and kept it in a folder. I haven’t looked back, but simply seeing this wall of praises makes me feel good when I inevitably feel like my work isn’t good enough.
It also made it tangible how much people like my design work! Though I’ve been praised for it for years, I’ve always forgotten the praises the moment I heard them. Having them stored somewhere lights my desire to show my work more openly.
Don’t get fooled by this post; not everything went according to plan.
But many important things went well.
Staying in good shape, being in control of my work schedule, and spending a lot of time on what I want to do with my life are privileges I don’t take for granted. I intend to do everything I can to stay on track in 2024.