What Held You Back This Year?

I did fairly well with the goals I set for myself in December of last year. This year, I read 32 books (33 as soon as I finish up The Thank You Economy) and wrote first drafts of 12 short stories.

I submitted one of my stories to a speculative fiction magazine earlier this week, and I’ve already received a rejection. That sounds worse than it is - as a fiction writer, being rejected for publication is part of the process. Luckily, I’ve got a thick skin, and a spreadsheet stuffed full of possible publications for my work. On to the next one!

I’ve met a ton of smart, interesting people this year, and I’ve grown as a digital marketer and as a writer.

Jessica and I are doing well, and communicating better than ever. Actually owning a home together has definitely improved our TEAMWORK POWERS.

But I want to be better. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about things I struggled with, or knowledge I wish I had, or skills I wish were sharper. Here’s a quick list of what I’ll be focusing on improving in 2016.

Hard Skills

The most obvious gap in my skill set is a better working knowledge of SQL. I understand the basics, but I haven’t had much opportunity to get my hands dirty, messing around with a giant database, and running queries to pull out the information I need. I’ve done similar things in the past, crafting a query using Ruby, but I’d love to understand SQL better.

On a similar note, I want to work on my understanding of calling and implementing APIs. Every time I sit down to program, I remember how much I like programming. I plan to make programming (for fun and for profit) more of a priority next year.

What hard skills would have made your life easier this year?

Soft Skills

My natural enthusiasm is one of the things I like most about myself, and this year I’ve noticed I’ve been a lot more interested in what my friends and loved ones are working on than I have been in years previous. It’s something I didn’t plan for, but it’s made my relationships with people more rewarding.

Now that I’m aware of it, I want to emphasize this. Not in some calculated way to pry into my friends’ lives, but in a genuine, interested way. I want to know what the people I care about are interested in.

I’m bad at correspondence. If I don’t email someone back right away, there’s a solid chance I’ll forget and never get around to it. Months will pass and I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, suddenly aware “Oh shit, I forgot to reply to Ted that one time.” I’ve got a recurring task in Trello to help with this, and I’ve made some progress, but it’s still A Problem.

What about your own soft skills?

Systems

I like systems. Systems help me get things done, and meet larger goals. What systems do you use? How could you improve your systems?

I’m pleased with my system for writing fiction. It’s easy to bang out 750 words a day, every day, when I’m writing something new. But my editing system needs some work. It’s a bit harder to say “Edit 750 words”, and time seems like a more natural constraint. It’s not all bad news, however. I’ve made some progress with editing my work in the last three months or so. Still! It could always be improved.

I need to improve my blogging system. I’ve got a long-lived Trello card for creating a content plan for 2016. I haven’t posted since October because frankly I ran out of ideas, and the 20 or 30 half-written posts I’ve got hanging around in Evernote didn’t seem worth polishing.

No, for real. Here’s a taste of ideas I have, simmering somewhere in my brain:

Blog post ideas in Evernote

But I’d rather be writing something than avoiding blogging out of fear of writing the wrong thing, so I’ll start with a spreadsheet and work it out from there. As you may recall, I’m a huge fan of spreadsheets.

Personal Growth

A recurring theme I try to work on is to be more flexible. I gravitate toward structure - spreadsheets (OBVIOUSLY) and lists, schedules, plans, and systems. It’s a good way to make sure I’m accomplishing things, but I tend to lean too heavily on a schedule, which makes me too rigid. I’m too prone to say “no,” and I want to say “yes” more often.

I want to stop putting off hard or irritating tasks for later. Another bad habit I have is discounting new ideas as “Not for me” or “I don’t think I’d be into that” without giving it a shot. I want to be more involved with the people I care about. I want to get out of the house more.

It’s a good time to plan for the next year. I’ve already started working on next year’s reading list, and I’ve got a brand new Google Sheet for things I want to accomplish in the coming year.

What about you? What are your plans for 2016?

Also, comments are now a thing. Got an idea for how I could improve, given the things I want to focus on? Leave me a note. Or just tell me about what you’re excited about - seriously, I want to know.

I'm Tyler, and I blog about marketing, programming, writing, and things I'm working on.

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