2016 #yearinreview // 2017 New Year's Resolutions

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Naysayers may scoff all they like, or pontificate about arbitrary and meaningless dates, but, for me, January 1st will always be a perfect day for reviewing the events of the preceding year and planning what will happen over the next twelve months.

Leaving aside the litany of terribleness that stained the broader world canvas of 2016, my personal year went reasonably well. At work, I joined a different, brand new team, which is always fun to play a part in moulding, and attended the Design It; Build It conference in Edinburgh (it was also my first time in the Scottish capital, and I wrote a short piece on my first impressions). In May, our team travelled to Reykjavik in Iceland as part of a 'dogfooding' initiative within Booking.com; as well as gathering notes to help improve our product and sampling the occasionally odd cuisine on offer, it was also a perfect opportunity to visit the EVE Monument and pass by the offices of EVE creators, CCP Games.

Following the DIBI Conference, I became involved in the nascent UX For Change project with my old Digital Web compatriot, Nick Finck. As Technical Lead, it's been an opportunity to stretch my backend development muscles while also picking up some new technologies (Vagrant, Vue.js and JWT, in this case). Hopefully you'll hear more about the project early in the new year.

On the personal front, I completed work on the first draft of a novel on the last day of June. A daily writing regimen of 1,000 words on almost every day of those first six months of the year saw me also complete over twenty short stories (and publish one on Medium) as well as seventeen posts on this blog, including one that went on to garner over 65,000 views when it was reposted to Medium.

Sadly, without the end goal of a novel's final lines, and after two weeks in the Italian sun, my productivity slipped pretty dramatically in the latter half of the year. I've been slowly working on editing the book, but I miss the satisfaction of daily creativity. Looking back at last year's resolutions, the writing was the only thing that really suffered:

  • Exercise daily had been on my NYR list for a couple of years, and for the most part I didn't do too badly in 2016. Where I tend to skip days is when life gets in the way early enough to mess with my routine. Grade: B
  • Less social media, fewer video games was an acknowledgement that something had to make way for the time I wanted to spend writing. I've been using the Block site Chrome extension to train my brain to ignore the siren call of social media during working hours (even at weekends) and it's been pretty successful, although I can still wind up spending far too much time on Reddit. Grade: B
  • Read more. I published last year's reading list yesterday, and 25 isn't a bad tally considering the last one took me over three months to get through. Grade: B+

2017 Resolutions

And so onto this year. Given the above, it should come as no surprise that I'm resurrecting last year's main ambition, which is to:

  • Write 1,000 words per day, every day.

I know it's possible now, I just need to master the combination of determination and prioritisation. Writing daily is the only way I'll ever get better, though.

Semi-related, if not a little in opposition to my vow to lay off social media, is to:

  • Share more.

There was a story floating around a few weeks ago about how simply consuming social media, rather than actively contributing to it, could lead to lower self-esteem and depression (actually I forget the exact claim, and I can't seem to hit on the right combination of keywords to dredge up the article again). Anyway, too often I succumb to the "why would anyone care what I think?" brand of internal propaganda, which combined with a preference for Twitter and its 140-character roadblock over Facebook, means I self-censor far more than I perhaps should. I think I'd be happier if I put more of myself out there, so to speak, and not just for the validating Likes. So, I'm going to experiment with more social engagement. You're welcome to unfollow me if it gets too much.

Finally, a work-related resolution:

  • Be more awesome at work.

My internet friend, Meri Williams, published an article on Preparing to Be Badass Next Year on the 24ways advent site, and it chimed with a general feeling that I'd been allowing my personal development to slip as we moved into the closing months of the year. It's vague, and needs more thought, but I've always believed that most problems can be solved by thinking about them hard enough.

So, that's a year of being engagingly creative and awesome. Sounds easy.

Matthew Pennell

Designer, developer, writer, runner, gamer, devil's advocate, INTP. Senior designer for Booking.com. Founder, Refresh Cambridge.
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