2019 End of Year Review

If you’re looking for my 2020 New Year’s Resolutions, you can find them here.

Without looking at my goals, I want to say that qualitatively 2019 has been a decent year. I spent time in 6 countries (including my brief stays in the US), made a few new good friends whose stories I hope to follow around the world, learned enough Spanish to feel generally comfortable in Mexico, and made significant progress on a few projects. I’m feeling like I’ve finally got a good handle on balancing my nomadic lifestyle with productivity.

Considering my goals, I feel like I did as much as I could have (while remaining relatively sane) but still came up short on a few things. In particular, I completely fell off the cart on reading this year. Additionally, I worked on ~4 different projects this year, but it’s hard to say how many of them I finished. (One of them is a long-term, ongoing engagement with a client, another is a startup where we’re still searching for product market fit, but do have users playing with it.) Optimistically, I could say that out of 4 projects I finished 2.95, where the partial finished project is a client contract that is mostly complete but has a couple small things left, and the unfinished project is, once again, Serenity, the productivity tool I’ve been wanting to create. (The irony here is not lost on me.)

One of the bigger themes this year was habits. The idea was that any goal tied to a permanent lifestyle change really needs to be built into my life in some habitual way. I think that this was directionally correct. However, I struggled to internalize all of the habits that I wanted to solidify this year.

A few of the important ones have stuck well. For example, I do have a pretty solid habit around studying flashcards in Anki, which has powered learning Chinese and Spanish both to pretty reasonable levels considering the time investment. I also feel the habit of 6 hours a day of work has been ingrained in me deeply, leaving me feeling antsy if I’m not on track to accomplish it (for better or for worse). I’ve also generally been pretty good about exercise.

However, I don’t think any single habit has had a 100% success rate, and some have had close to 0%. For example, I haven’t been great about reaching inbox zero everyday, and I always seem to forget to take a little bit of time at the end of my day to plan for the next day. Reading has also suffered a lot this year, which pains me greatly to see since in the past reading has been an important engine for growth and inspiration.

So what happened this year? And what lessons can I take into 2020?

Language Studies

The biggest thing that comes to mind is that my language studies are taking a huge amount of emotional bandwidth as well as just sheer time. I’ve likely spent 2+ hours per day studying, and this mixed with work and exercise often seems to produce days where I don’t feel like I have much time available for anything else. I’m a little concerned that language studies are consuming too much of my time… though it should be noted that there have been places/times when I’ve felt like getting everything done was easy.

I think it’s necessary to examine a few things:

  1. If I didn’t have to spend time on language studies, how would I spend the time?
  2. What was common about situations where I felt like it was easy to get everything done vs situations where I felt like it was hard to get everything done?
  3. How can I make my language studying process more efficient overall so that I feel like getting it done is easy more often, regardless of the situation?
  4. How can I lower the long-term cost of maintaining languages?

How would I spend language time if I had it back?

If I didn’t have to spend time on language studies, I think I would probably spend more time working on average. I’d probably be able to comfortably increase my daily work hours from 6 to 6.5 or 7. Though I think I get a reasonable amount done in 6 hours, I have sometimes felt like devoting more time to work would speed up the process of becoming financially independent and building a stable business.

I’d also probably have more time to read on average. Right now I feel like I’m barely reading. I have some occasional spurts, but this hasn’t been very consistent this year. According to Goodreads, I only read 16 books this year, which is the lowest so far in recent years and trending further down from 2018’s 18 books read. To be fair, I do a lot of my reading through Audible while in transit or multitasking, so it may not be realistic to expect that time would be gained for that sans language studies. Reading actual books on Kindle is still not a real habit for me.

I’d likely feel like I have more time on average to hang out with people or optionally go on dates. I’ve learned that friendships and a healthy sense of community are important to my well-being, especially while on the road, so I shouldn’t discount this. On the dating front, I might also feel like I have enough bandwidth to push myself in this realm, and start learning to approach and talk to women I might want to go on dates with.

Without language studies I’d probably be able to prioritize exercise more. Right now my priorities are roughly work, language studies, and exercise in that order, mostly because I worry about running out of time and energy by the end of the day to finish my language studies. If I weren’t worried about time, exercise would likely become a top priority because I would know I can do it without sacrificing time for work.

If I weren’t learning languages, I’d likely end up spending the time learning something else. For example, something I’ve wanted to do for awhile now is read more academic papers, both in fields that I studied in school (e.g. AI, machine learning, computer systems, and computer security) and in fields that interest me. I have this idea that each year I’d try to really take the time to understand why the work of each Nobel prize winner is really so groundbreaking. Unfortunately, due to time constraints I don’t think I’m realistically going to start doing any of this anytime soon…

Situations where fitting everything in felt easy

In Taiwan, there were days that were easy and days that were hard. On the days that were easy:

  • I didn’t have to exercise.
    • I was on a workout schedule that had me exercising roughly 4 times a week, and the extra hour or two earned back from not exercising always made me feel like there was abundant time to do everything.
  • I didn’t have social commitments.
    • I could easily spend the entire day working on various things at my own pace and not worry about having to finish something later when I’d have less energy to do it.

I remember feeling like getting everything done was pretty easy while I was in Colombia. I think this came down to:

  • Feeling like my community needs were easily filled by the 3 friends traveling with me
    • The time we’d spend together was also typically pretty predictable around lunch and sometimes dinner, and then occasional days off to explore, leaving me plenty of time to do my own thing
  • Eating out was super cheap, saving me time and energy on cooking for myself day-to-day
  • Everything I needed and cared about was really close to where I was living
  • Crossfit was taking care of most of my exercise needs very efficiently since workouts would take ~an hour but still felt like an excellent workout
  • The mental load for studying languages actually decreased significantly because I went from studying Chinese flashcards (relatively time consuming, since I was also practicing hand-written Chinese characters) to Spanish, which is similar to French and English

Situations where fitting everything in felt hard

In Taiwan, I also sometimes struggled. I think I’d mostly attribute this to:

  • High mental load from Chinese. Handwriting cards, especially full-sentence handwriting cards, take a long time per card.

There were still some situations where I felt a little overwhelmed even in Colombia:

  • Primarily when I discovered that I had a deficit of nearly 2000 Chinese flashcards due to an error in my review settings…
    • This deficit has continued consistently through the end of the year, and I never resolved it, mostly because of how long it would have taken for me to do so (probably a good two days of dedicated studying, at least)

In Mexico, I sometimes felt like it was a struggle to fit everything in. I think this was because:

  • There were a few occasions in Mexico where I started using video games and other entertainment as a multitasking vehicle to motivate myself to do my flashcards. I ended up paying more attention to the entertainment than the flashcards, resulting in inefficient studying
    • e.g. I can often do flashcards while watching a TV show, and I was experimenting with playing certain low mental bandwidth simulation games
  • I had a girlfriend in Mexico City, and I’m realizing that I actually don’t have a lot of practice with maintaining my routines while also spending time with a significant other
    • This was challenging, and often a source of stress… towards the end of my stay in Mexico I decided to de-prioritize exercise and language studies to make time to spend with her, so I clearly still haven’t figured this out
  • My weekends were a lot busier in Mexico City, as a result of having so many things to see, do, and eat there, and having a girlfriend I wanted to spend time with
    • This meant I didn’t do a lot of things I might otherwise do on weekends like reading, writing, and exercising

How can I make language studies more efficient?

I’m not totally comfortable giving up on language, though… yes, some of this is sunk cost, but I actually do want to become fluent in a number of languages, and I think putting this aside would be a mistake. So the challenge is really more: how do I make my language studies more efficient?

For starters, I could reduce the number of cards I study per day… if I cut the new cards in half to 30, then I’d likely not have to study more than 150 cards per day in my active language. I’m still going to end up with 50-100 review per inactive language per day, however. I think all-told, this could bring me down to an hour of language studies a day, if I’m focused. I’m not a huge fan of this, though. 60 new cards a day is a reasonable number in order actually learn a new language at a decently fast pace. With 60 cards a day, I learn ~30 new words each day. In a month of daily studying, this means 900 words in a new language. It takes ~10,000 words to reach a native-level vocabulary in a language… so even at this rate it would take almost a year to memorize that much vocabulary. If anything, I actually need to find a way to bring this number up without killing myself, not down, since I’m probably at 5000 words in Spanish, 3000 words in French, 3000 words in Chinese, and 100 words in Japanese…

Part of what’s slowing me down on language studies is that I tend to couple this activity with something time wasting that actually steals my focus and attention away from the cards. This certainly slows me down, though it makes the process a little more pleasurable (so I don’t feel like it’s a total slog). There might also be a longer-term effect where I remember certain cards less well since I wasn’t paying total attention… not sure. This would be hard to measure.

I could break my overall language studies into two or three 30-45 minute super focused sessions each day. Or even three to four 20 minute sessions. These sessions might be short enough that I won’t feel like I need to do something time wasting during them, and the learning process won’t feel like such a slog.

I think “feeling behind” has a very real psychological effect on the study process. I’ve been more than 1000 cards behind on Chinese since I left Taiwan earlier this year. (This was due to an error in understanding how many cards I’d need to review per day to keep up with the number of cards I was adding a day. At the time I was doing 60/200 when I needed to be doing 60/300.) Clearing these reviews and getting this back to a place where everything feels manageable could help before I start studying new cards again. I think it’s worth investing a few days to a week to just get this under control so I don’t lose the habit. I’m not sure this is going to happen during the holidays, but it could be acceptable to spend the first week of the New Year doing this.

How can I decrease long-term maintenance for languages?

One additional concern I have about my current language studies approach is whether or not I’ll really be able to retain language knowledge after a long period of not actively studying (but perhaps constantly reviewing) a language. While I was in Colombia and Mexico learning Spanish, for example, I felt like my French disappeared. Some of this is likely that French and Spanish are similar enough to confuse the mind… but part of me also wonders if this is an early indication that my review methods aren’t keeping language in my head long-term.

I think I could potentially increase the “memorability” of my flashcards to help with this–this would mean making sure that as many of my cards have images and audio recordings as possible. The idea here is that a multimedia experience is more likely to lead to the card “sticking” in my brain long-term.

I also think that much of the long-term maintenance for languages needs to start shifting away from Anki flashcards and more towards consumption and use of languages in their natural contexts. This means more conversations with people, more TV and movies in a language, more books, etc. 

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a way to do this while also keeping time costs down… one cool idea I had that I may need to experiment more with is writing in my journal every day, then translating one paragraph of my entry into every language I’m maintaining. This helps me to keep “producing” the language, so I don’t forget how to think in each language. (Pro tip: you can also get native language corrections using a service like Lang8.)

I can also turn typical entertainment modes into chances to re-expose myself to languages. For example, it’s not so hard to change the language of a TV show I’m watching to a different language and then turn on English subtitles, or to change the language of a video game. Methods like this can help me to continue consuming a language so that common constructions and vocabulary stay top of mind.


Somewhat related to my language studies, but probably relevant to my entire goalset is the concept of burnout.

I was browsing on Reddit the other day in the subreddit about Anki, the popular spaced repetition flashcard system that I use, and came across a post referencing the concept of “burnout.” This was the first time it occurred to me that burnout might be an applicable concept in anything other than just my career and my work-life balance. (We, of course, talk a lot about burnout in Silicon Valley, where, particularly in start-ups, it can be common to overwork people until they “burn out” like bulbs.)

Looking back on the year, I now realize that a lot of the times I felt overwhelmed by everything I had to do I was likely experiencing some form of burnout on one or multiple habits. Burnout is dangerous because it leaves me feeling tired and constantly stressed, ultimately lowering my overall productivity. Worse, it’s sometimes hard to detect burnout when I’m in it–when I’m there I don’t really feel like I have the space to step back and reflect on why things are so stressful.

I think going forward I need to be more careful to look out for burnout, especially where my language studies are concerned. To proactively head off burnout, I also likely need to rework some of my habits so that the focus becomes consistency rather than magnitude.

For example, if I tell myself to “read before bed every night” versus tell myself to “read two pages of a book before bed every night,” which of these feels more defined and accomplishable? Obviously the former is nebulous, and if I’m feeling particularly tired I may not feel like I have the energy to really devote to doing this. On the other hand, the latter sounds very easy, so I’m more likely to just do it even if I’m tired. At the end of the day, the goal is really just to force myself to create space for a habit, which the latter does. If I really sit down to read two pages each night, odds are I’m going to want to spend more time reading once I’m done with those two pages. Yet, it’s less mental load and pressure to know that if I only want to read a couple of pages, that’s OK, too.


The other obvious factor affecting my goals is constant travel. While I build up a new routine in each place I go, some habits live or die based on where I’m living. For example, much of my reading in a given year will come from audiobooks, which I normally listen to in transit from place-to-place, but in a country like Colombia where safety is dependent on awareness, I’m not always able to do this.

I think it’s therefore necessary for me to ask myself:

  1. What am I getting out of traveling right now?
  2. How would my life be better or worse if I decided to stop traveling?
  3. If I continue traveling, how can I mitigate the negative impact on my ability to pursue my goals?

What am I getting out of traveling right now?

I think each place I’ve lived in has given me an opportunity to be someone different. I’ve discovered lots of different expressions of myself through the lens of travel and learned more about what feels right, and what kinds of places foster that. In this sense, travel has been and continues to be a vehicle for self-discovery and growth.

Through immersion, travel provides me one of the most effective ways to accelerate my language studies. In turn, my language studies are an effective way to understand new cultures, which changes my perspective of the world, and of people. Mark Twain once wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” and my experience has certainly matched his. I think about things like poverty and opportunity differently from how I used to and I’ve become more tolerant of and interested in various cultures around the world. I look forward to how travel may continue to transform my perspective and personal philosophy.

To me, there’s also something gratifying about feeling like several places around the world are “home”. I think there’s a part of me that might go crazy with the monotonous routine of life stuck in one place–even if that were one place I really liked–so I find that my lifestyle continues to keep my life interesting and varied enough that I never feel bored or trapped anywhere. In a way, I think this also helps to keep me from getting complacent and forces me to take a fairly consistently active role in my life. Since leaving the States, I haven’t felt that creeping sense of “is this it?” or “damn, I’m too comfortable” that I used to have at my old job in Silicon Valley.

Being placed in a myriad of different, new situations trains me to get good at a few sets of problems sedentary people don’t normally have to deal with more than a couple of times in their lives. For example, I’ve gotten much better at establishing myself in a new place–making friends, finding outlets for hobbies, finding and attending events I might enjoy. I’m much more comfortable with uncertainty now than the average person, having dealt with lots of unexpected circumstances. I can be comfortable and productive almost anywhere, with just a few exceptions, and I know a lot more about what it takes for me to be comfortable and productive. If I ever do decide to stop traveling, I think all of these learnings will help me to feel more comfortable wherever I decide to settle, if I do decide to settle.

It is worth noting, however, that the more I see, the less it feels like there is left to see. Of course, the world is a big place, but it has been my experience that there are fewer and fewer novel experiences or dazzling sights to see as I cover more of the world. Once you’ve seen enough ruins, or enough cathedrals, for example, you start feeling like you’ve seen them all.

On the whole, though, I still feel like I’m getting a good amount out of traveling.

How would my life be better or worse if I decided to stop traveling?

As I’m sure I’ve noted before, traveling does have its advantages and disadvantages. A few of the key disadvantages are:

  • Close relationships can be harder to develop and maintain
    • This is especially true for romantic relationships
  • Some hobbies and activities can be very hard to maintain from place-to-place
  • Important long-term habits and routines can be harder to establish

If I were to stop traveling, it would be nice to build a strong, consistent sense of community around myself in one place–”putting down roots” as they say. I’ve learned much from my travels about how to do this more effectively. The flip side of this, of course, is that instead of community in one place, my travels have me building community in several places. Though each community is potentially shallower than one consistent community, it does help to contribute to the sense of “home wherever I go.”

My lifestyle also has a strange effect on romantic relationships. Firstly, of course it can be difficult to find someone who is open to the possibility that the relationship may only last a few months. But secondly, if I do find someone open to it, the knowledge that there is only so much time we have to spend together actually changes the dynamic of the relationship. For example, knowing that I only had 3 months with my girlfriend in Mexico made it feel way more selfish to say “actually, I can’t hang out today, I really need to work.” On average, I think this effect probably means I’m more likely to sacrifice time for my personal goals in favor of maintaining and strengthening the relationship. Additionally, the time limit can affect the depth of the relationship either positively or negatively–a partner might keep me at arms length knowing that I’m going to leave, or a partner might decide to pull me closer for the time we do have, leading to either a shallower or much deeper relationship in the same period of time as a normal relationship. On the whole, I haven’t decided if this is a good thing or a bad thing, though I think I feel slightly negatively about it.

If I stopped traveling, I’d have the opportunity to pursue a little more depth in certain hobbies and activities I enjoy. I’d love, for example, to have more consistent opportunities to sail, to rock climb with some of my old buddies, to dance salsa, or to train for triathlons again. There are also some things I can’t really cook without equipment that won’t fit into my suitcase (I miss my standmixer and my blowtorch T_T!!). The tradeoff here, though, is that I’ve had wonderful opportunities to experience new hobbies and activities everywhere I go! I was never so into salsa before learning to dance for 3 months in Colombia. And some of these things do end up being skills I get to take with me from place to place (e.g. Taiwan actually has a pretty large salsa scene!)

I also wouldn’t mind having a more stable environment to pursue some of my goals and establish good habits. On the other hand, travel is a unique outlet for many of my goals, including my desire to learn languages, my desire to confront uncertainty, my desire to expand my perspective and refine my philosophies. Heck, travel is even a good vehicle for working on my own businesses given that my runway abroad is easily doubled or tripled compared to what it might be in the States.

It’s hard to say one way or the other is strictly better. Both clearly have their advantages and disadvantages… and speaking wholistically, I think the advantages of traveling currently outweigh the disadvantages.

How can I mitigate the negative side effects of travel?

I actually feel like there isn’t a whole lot I can do here. The places I pick do sometimes affect my routine, so an argument might be made for being more careful about where I go and only choosing places that I think will support my habits and routines well, but… it’s often hard to tell in advance if a new place is going to be a good environment or not. Since part of the point of travel is to go to experience new places, it would a bit contradictory to declare that I’m only going to places I already know where the environment was good.

I can, however, choose to spend some of my time in those places. For example, I’m back in Taipei, Taiwan right now and I know this is a good place for me and my routines. I won’t be spending the whole year here, but a good few months can still go a long way.

Beyond choosing a place, I can try to make sure my life is set up in each place to best fit my needs. Judging by some of the analysis in the sections about my needs for well-being are:

  • A nice, private room to myself that’s insulated from sound so I can sleep has plenty of light so I can wake up
  • A good gym or other good exercise outlets very close to where I’m living
  • A sense of community and friends to hang out with
  • Cheap (relative to my standard of living) and healthy places to eat most meals so I don’t have to worry about cooking OR easy, low-effort meals to cook during the week

Otherwise, I think I likely just need more practice following a good routine under more situations. Similar to how I was on the learning curve in 2018 for how to balance my business with travel, perhaps I’m still on the learning curve for habits and routines. I think I may find 2020 will be a better year for many things without my putting in much extra active effort, but if I had to guess I have the most room for improvement in balancing flexibility with the rigidity of habits. For example, a rigid routine can make it hard to meet social commitments. If I have to be in bed by 10 every night to wake up at a certain time, I can’t hang out with friends on a Friday night. If I’m strictly on a diet all the time, it’s also difficult to meet friends for meals. I still have a lot to learn about how to effectively balance my social needs with my personal growth needs, especially in the context of romantic relationships.

Detailed Review

Here’s a more detailed review of my goals this year:

  • Running my own business
    • Launch 4-6 (more ideally, 8-12) different projects this year. These don’t all have to be of the same magnitude or significance, but they should all have some monetization plan from the beginning. Learn to scope projects well, learn not to be afraid of throwing something over the fence before it’s perfect, and really get the process down to a science.
      • I got to 2.95 here with 2 client projects and a business of my own.
      • I think I’ve underestimated how much time a single project would likely take to earnestly see through. I’ve wanted to be careful about terminating projects too early just to hit these numbers, which suggests to me that something is off about this metric.
    • Limit consulting work to only what’s necessary to a) maintain the business so it remains a viable fallback strategy and b) pay my annual living budget plus some money to invest in retirement. (~$30k)
      • I made significantly more than $30k this year in consulting (though we’ll have to see after taxes…), but I’m going to give myself full credit here because I actually turned down a consulting project this year that could have paid $15-30k on its own. It was scary for me saying no because I felt worried that opportunities like this would never come up again, but I had another project of my own that was just spinning up that I would have had to put on hold to take the consulting work.
  • Reach conversational fluency in Chinese
    • Spend at least 3 months in Chinese-speaking countries. Push to have a natural language conversation every day.
      • Spent 4 months in Taiwan!
      • My Chinese still has a lot of holes, but I can speak reasonably, and understand enough to make conversation with Chinese speakers I meet elsewhere in the world
      • I gave a presentation to high school kids in Chinese!
  • Reach conversation fluency in Spanish
    • Spend at least 3 months in Spanish-speaking countries. Push to have a natural language conversation every day.
      • Spent 3 months in Medellin, Colombia followed by 3 months in Mexico City, Mexico
      • My Spanish has reached a reasonable level, probably B1 approaching B2 with some deficiencies in my ability to communicate myself fluently
      • I’d guess my Spanish is about as good, maybe better than my French was last year
        • I should note, however, that the process of learning Spanish has left me feeling like my French has disappeared…
  • Travel
    • Meet new people and have new adventures wherever I go. Don’t get so singularly focused on running a business that I become a shut-in.
      • Some highlights:
        • Hiking through Taroko Gorge in Taiwan with a buddy from home
        • Observing the Lunar New Year celebrations for the Year of the Pig in Taipei
        • Befriending the chef of my favorite restaurant in Medellin, Colombia
        • Observing Day of the Dead and Mexican Independence Day in Mexico City
        • Road tripping to Oaxaca City from Mexico City with my then girlfriend and two friends
  • Mindfulness
    • Meditate for at least 20 minutes every day.
      • I’ve just plainly fallen off the cart on this. Interestingly, though, I’ve also had very few moments this year where I felt strongly like I needed this to help me deal with what I was going through.
  • Reading
    • Read or listen to 52 books
      • I read 16 books this year. Highlights included:
        • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
        • The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin
        • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
        • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
  • Learn to start conversations with women I’m attracted to
    • Start a conversation with at least one woman I’d like to talk to each week
      • I started out doing this a bit while I was in Thailand and Taiwan, but quickly lost it… I think if I’m going to tackle this I’m going to need something more structured to help light the way
      • I did have some romantic experiences this year, so perhaps that should count for something here, but admittedly none of those women triggered the deep-seated fear that this goal was meant to address.

Here’s an analysis of the habits:

  • Daily
    • Wake up early, and at the same time each day, without the snooze button
      • I still feel best when I wake up early, but I didn’t adhere to this.
      • Surprisingly, I found that this mattered less than I thought for actually getting everything done in a day, though the extra time in productivity in the morning does tend to leave me feeling less stressed.
    • Exercise
      • I was pretty good about this most places I went.
        • I was weightlifting in Taiwan
        • I did a mixture of Jiujitsu and CrossFit in Colombia
        • In Mexico I had a gym membership and was doing a mix of weightlifting and cross-functional training
      • I took a bunch of time off of exercise in Mexico after Thanksgiving…
    • Meditate
      • Barely did this. Haven’t been feeling urgent about the need, and am back in a place where it feels hard to fit 10-20 minutes of meditation into my day.
    • Complete my Anki reviews
      • Did pretty well on this. Sometimes had trouble on weekends, and occasionally had periods where I didn’t review, but would usually get back on
      • Currently on a longer hiatus which I’m hoping I’ll fix before I start working again in the new year
    • Review tomorrow’s action list and meetings at the end of the day
      • I think I did this a couple of times, but on the whole I failed to make this a regular habit
    • Reach inbox zero every day, but never do email first thing in the morning
      • I’m only saved on this one by having not reached inbox zero every day… but the days where I did, I think I typically did it first thing in the morning.
    • Log at least 6 hours of productive work
      • Not every day had 6 hours of productive work, but on the whole I think this habit has stuck and I had a decently productive year.
    • Read before bed
      • Don’t have a good reason for why this didn’t happen.
    • Get 8 hours of sleep every night
      • Haven’t been good about establishing the nightly routines that I need to do this.
  • Weekly
    • Reach out to family and friends
      • I was good about this for awhile, but fell off the cart in Mexico where my weekends were busy enough that I’d forget
    • At least one language exchange in all languages I’m actively studying
      • I don’t think I was super deliberate about this, but due to immersion this worked out OK anyway
    • Review next week’s action list and meetings at the end of the week
      • Did not do this at all.
    • Spend a few hours optimizing a process in my life or working on something important but not urgent
      • Hardly did this at all… this is something that I probably needed to build into my weekend.
  • Monthly
    • At least one language exchange in all languages I’m passively maintaining
      • I was horrible about this. My French is in shambles, though my Chinese is still OK. Worried I’m going to lose my Spanish.
    • Review my personal budget and finances, and re-strategize for the next month as necessary
  • Quarterly
    • Make sure my business finances are up-to-date
    • Self-review on progress toward annual goals
      • I actually didn’t even do a mid-year review this year :(. Don’t have a good excuse–I think at the time I felt behind on writing because I was trying to catch-up on blogging as well.
  • Annually
    • Review these goals and formulate new ones.


To wrap everything up, 2019 was a decent year–I learned a lot, saw a lot, and accomplished much even though I didn’t hit everything I had hoped to. I had some experiences with burnout that I’ll need to monitor for in 2020 to keep myself operating at peak efficiency.

I think I’m still getting enough out of traveling to continue in 2020, though I hope to take some of my learnings about what does and doesn’t work for me to start more proactively designing my environments in 2020, where possible.

I also intend to continue a similar goal set in 2020, though I think some adjustments are in order, particularly in the realm of language learning. I’m going to start by clearing out all of my existing flashcards from 2019 so I can start with a clean slate. Then I’m going to reduce the new flashcard threshold for a little while while I get used to studying in a few concentrated sessions each day (rather than multitasking with entertainment). I’ll have to see how this works, and will start to increase the new flashcard threshold slowly as I feel the process is sustainable.

On the whole, I’m going to rework some of my habits to create more of a feeling of space in my life, rather than a feeling of constant pressure. In practice, this means that rather than tell myself to “read every night before bed”, which is nebulous, I may tell myself to read just two pages of a book before bed. While two pages isn’t a lot, it’s enough to force myself to carve out time for the habit, and the odds are once I get started I’ll want to keep reading for a little while.

I think I can follow this approach with a lot of my habits in 2020, turning down the “difficulty” or magnitude in favor of promoting consistency. Of course, if after awhile I feel like I can handle more, I can always turn up the difficulty incrementally, but I think the goal is to always keep myself in a place where I feel like everything is manageable. Over time, I’m sure the threshold of what I think is manageable will also increase.

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