2017 #yearinreview // 2018 #newyearsresolutions

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Welp, here we are again.

I'm not 100% sure how many years I've been doing this—I nuked my old blog a couple of years ago—but archive.org seems to suggest that since at least 2007 (with a few omissions) I have been posting a set of New Year resolutions on this site, along with a look back at what last year was like. So, in the spirit of change, let's do exactly the same thing this year...

My 2017 followed the same pattern as most years: lots of work, with a conference to provide a bit of a break and a holiday in the summer when the kids are not at school. This year, both the conference (UX Cambridge, a short walk from where I work) and the holiday (Edinburgh, for a rainy week in July) were at a smaller scale than previous years; this was somewhat balanced by working on larger scale projects at work, where I moved to a new area of the business where significant changes are afoot. It's challenging and pushing me outside my comfort zone, which everyone will tell you is a good thing yet somehow never feels like it when it's happening to you.

Fitness-wise, I gave up on daily exercise since it seemed to make zero difference to my health. Instead, I doubled down on running, going out twice a week (Sunday and Wednesday) throughout the year, barring illness or injury, with the result that I feel fitter than I have in a while.

When I look back at last year's resolutions, though, it's hard not to feel that I could have done much, much better:

  • Write 1,000 words per day was something that I had managed to stick to throughout much of 2016, and I entered 2017 feeling optimistic about maintaining the habit. That optimism lasted until the first week of February, by which time depression over missed targets had set in; a month later, in early March, I threw out my second completed novel, frustrated by poor character development, and started on a third; and then, in June, five years after deciding to focus on developing my writing, I called a complete halt. Anything that was making me that miserable and stressed, I reasoned, was clearly not the right path to take. The second half of the year, then, was mostly a creative wash-out. Grade: F
  • I said I wanted to share more. I admired those who could post paragraphs of insight on Facebook, while I barely managed a weak Twitter gag once a week. Yet I uploaded a scant two Instagram posts per month in 2017, and wrote only two actual blog posts (not counting the Dec 31/Jan 1 round-ups), both way back in January. Grade: F
  • Finally, be more awesome at work was such a vague aim that it's hardly surprising that I'm struggling to identify any indicators that might signal success or failure. I don't feel particularly awesome, though. Grade: F

So, in summary, a complete failure. There was a popular Twitter thread doing the rounds a while back that discussed the difficulty of producing creative work while the world spirals the drain, and I can certainly attest to the depressing effects of encountering the latest terrible Trump/Brexit/terrorist outrage every time I open Twitter or Facebook. It does tend to make whatever you might be doing seem terribly pointless.

2018 resolutions

With that said, it's pretty hard to pin down a handful of resolutions for the coming year. At work, I'm noodling with an idea for a conference talk, although I'm still not sure of the direction to take. And, in my spare time, I find myself open again to the idea of writing as well as coding side projects, but I don't particularly want to commit to any specific outcome or regime.

I think the one thing I definitely want to try to do this year is:

  • Cut down on depressing social media.

I tend to check Twitter first thing in the morning and in the evening, when it's generally an unmitigated stream of bad news (either from the overnight US, or the daytime UK). While I value being informed, it's a mostly passive consumption of events that I have zero power to influence, with the result that it's sometimes hard to stay positive.

Of course, I'll need to replace those periods of consumption with something else—perhaps more deliberate use of Medium or Blinkist, or some other source of uplifting or informative content. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below.

Matthew Pennell

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