by Prateek Phoenix
Here’s How You, as a Developer, Can Achieve 100% of Your Yearly Goals
A New Year always brings with it a couple of recurring events. There’s the New Year’s Eve where people party hard get wasted. We all know we’ve pulled off a couple of #YOLO and #LiveLikeTheresNoTomorrow here and there on social media. ?
Then there’s New Year’s day which is all about making resolutions and saying how this time around we are going to cross the finish line no matter what.
And then there’s the reality check a couple of days or weeks later where you quit on those resolutions and sit there feeling like garbage.
This is nothing new, I myself have “been there, done that” ?
Truth is, resolutions as a theoretical concept seems like a pretty easy thing to adopt. You make a to-do list of everything you want to do and start crossing it off, one by one, starting day one. But when it comes to executing our resolutions, it’s a whole different story. Most of us including myself, set ourselves to fail. What we set out to achieve as resolution, 9 out of 10 times is an unrealistic target.
Once the rhythm becomes monotonous, it drives away the interest in pursuing it.
This is what had been happening with me ever since I started making resolutions. And I am sure everyone can relate to this experience — starting the year off with a goal, then striving towards it for a couple of weeks and then getting bored to death, to the point that we quit.
A couple of weeks into 2017 the usual pattern started repeating. I was gonna quit on my goal and it was not even February. After well over a decade of failing to execute my goals (surprise surprise), I decided to shake things up a little bit last year.
Here’s a list of things I did to make sure I was not burdening myself with unrealistic targets. I managed to end the year with with a good bunch of things checked off from this list.
This guide is not for a specific group of people, it doesn’t matter if you are a developer, designer or a liberal arts student. It’s a general list of things which will help you come out a more well-rounded person at the end of the year.
Step 1: Quit making resolutions
Accept it, they never work (at least for most of us). And when we fail on executing them consistently for 365 days, it makes us feel terrible.
Instead here’s a better, more “do-able” approach. Instead of setting up one goal for the entire year, set up multiple milestones for a year. They can be weekly monthly or quarterly targets.
Having smaller, isolated and more focused targets tend to work much better, than trying to move one monolithic goal into each month.
Our brain works in weird ways. 10 checked boxes look more rewarding to us at the end of each month than one or two at the end of the year.
Reward yourself every time you achieve one small target. Don’t stress on not being able to check off each task — it’s ok to miss a couple of them. But this approach always makes sure you are achieving more than skipping
Also make sure you carry a small notebook with your targets written down. No, DO NOT use an app for that. Carry an actual physical notebook and a pen/pencil. Draft your targets each week/day/month and check them off once done. You won’t get the same satisfaction on an app.
Every checked box matters. Let that sweet sweet dopamine flow.
Step 2: Commit to something publicly
This one’s new for me as well. I have noticed that committing to something publicly adds a good amount of pressure to push you to deliver. Being a great developer always means you are aware and up to date on the new things in the community. And there is no better way of doing that than gaining first hand experience.
Writing code a couple of hours each day helps keep your skills sharp. In the little time that I did it last year, I found that I was coming up with better ways of writing what I had already written before. Trimming down the fat from an old project has an extremely satisfying feel to it.
I have committed to 3 rounds of the #100DaysOfCode challenge, for the sheer love of it. It’ll also help me gain muscle memory and the ability to make new things as quickly as possible.
Having committed to this publicly (twice now) is definitely gonna make sure that I don’t even think about quitting. Also it really helps if you can find a code buddy who’s committing to something similar. That way, you both can compete and at the same time can make sure you push each other in case you start slacking.
Step 3: Always Be Building (a habit)
The universal truth to learning something and then excelling at it is doing it repeatedly. I have experienced this on many occasions. This is why I suggest having a personal project to work on at all times. It not only serves as a playground to try new things, but also helps you think how can your existing solution be improved. Once you get into the habit of building something all the time, it will soon turn into an addiction. I for once have built stuff, scrapped it off, built it using a better newer stack and scrapped it off again.
So come up with a product/idea you are truly psyched about. Contribute 2% to it everyday and repeat this 365 times. It doesn’t feel like a burden if what you are building excites you.
Side Note: Always make an attempt to visualize your progress using Scrum or something similar. You can use Trello or just a good old sheet of poster paper and some sticky tape with post-it notes. Remember “It’s all about that dopamine.”
Step 4: Read a Book (and then read 10 more!)
The human brain, however marvelous, is limited in its abilities. Every person is unique and everyone approaches life differently. The only way to have a diverse outlook on life and problems is by reading how others went around solving them. Books are really one of the only things that do not expire in value and let you truly expand your imagination and abilities. It’s like tapping into someone else’s brain and just soaking up all the knowledge.
Again, do make sure you grab a physical copy instead of the kindle version. There’s innate satisfaction in turning over the last page. (Sorry trees ? )
I finished reading 2 great books this year and I regret not reading more.
( something I am definitely gonna change this year )
Here are a few of the books that are in the mail as of now and the 2 that I managed to read in 2017:
- The Design Of Everyday Things: Don Norman (read)
- Lateral Thinking: Edward de Bono (read)
- Hooked: Nir Eyal
- Sprint: Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky
- Sapiens: Yuval Noah Harari
- The Lost City of the Monkey God: Douglas Preston
If you have read a book which you think changed your outlook, fiction or non-fiction, leave me a note, I will definitely try to grab a copy.
Step 5: Adopt a Sustainable Lifestyle
With the internet in our pockets and services like Amazon available at the tap of a button, compulsive hoarding is a now a problem more than ever. We buy things we most likely do not need and in a very short span of time we regret that purchase. Try cutting that down.
Trust me when I say that it’s liberating to be content in only the bare necessities. I am not suggesting you to adopt a monk lifestyle.
Instead of making senseless purchases, make wise investments.
Don’t be stingy in investing in yourself. You want the latest and greatest computer on the market? Do you have the funds for it? Will it improve your workflow or cut down your time? Is there a significant improvement switching to the newer model?
If you answered yes to all these questions go ahead and make the purchase. Investing in yourself and your tools is never a bad choice unless you’re just randomly buying anything and everything that comes out. You’ll find that instead of making senseless purchases, if you invest in yourself or on your gear, it will start paying for itself in a very short time.
Step 6: Give back to the world a little bit
There’s a very good saying which goes something like: “leave the camping ground better than you found it.”
Amidst all the upsetting things that are going on in the world, you as an individual hold the power to spark a positive change and turn things around for the better for someone.
If you are reading this post, it means you have an internet connection and a smartphone/computer. You have a decent life. Giving away a few bucks a month will not really affect your life. There are people in the world right now who would kill for a dollar.
We are living in times where we don’t need much to affect someone’s life positively. Pick a charity or a cause you care about or can relate to and give away a few dollars each month. Most of them don’t have a minimum donation amount. So it really doesn’t matter if it’s $1 or $10. Try it out once — it really helps pacify the conscience.
Step 7: Start reading up on Blockchain
Blockchain is the technology which will shake up everything about our society in a couple of years. It doesn’t matter if you are an engineer, a doctor or a teacher.
It is going to be an essential part of the business sector, the education sector, medicine and just about everything.
Knowing how the technology works and what it’s applications are will really be in one’s best interests, considering the widespread adoption that’s underway.
One misconception I would like to clear right away is that Blockchain is not limited to Cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency is just a popular application of the Blockchain technology. The way things are with the crypto ecosystem isn’t what it started out to be. It was a means of solving a problem but instead it’s turned into a quick way of making or loosing some money.
This hype will fade away soon, making way for the real innovation to begin.
Investing in Cryptocurrencies is a different topic altogether and it’s totally your call on doing so or not. But I would highly recommend everyone to learn up about Blockchain and watch the space.
Step 8: Question everything
Let’s face it. I am not perfect neither are you. But you may have expertise in a domain which I barely know about. The only way in which we can progress as a society collectively, is when we throw our ego out of the window and ask questions about what we don’t understand. What’s the worst that would happen? Someone would say that’s a stupid question? Big deal!
Always keep this in mind and this is something I follow religiously —
It’s better to look stupid for 5 minutes than staying ignorant for life
Step 9: Live Dangerously
No don’t get that bungee cord out just yet!
I am talking about challenging yourself and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Try everything, just for the fun of it!
In the past year, I’ve tried and done stuff I wasn’t even sure I would ever do in my entire life. With some of those experience I’ve been able to pick up skills or techniques, that I have now applied to stuff I do on a day to day basis.
Remember, you do not have to be great at everything you take a shot at. Failure is good, it points out gaping holes in your skills for you to fill up. Embrace it instead of fearing it. Eventually you’ll get to a point where things start falling in place in one shot. It would honestly start feeling weird that you did it without failing.
Step 10: Don’t Settle For “Good Enough”
This may sound very cheesy, and for good reason it kinda is. Some of the most successful companies have been built, because the people who started it didn’t settle for the bare minimum or the “good enough”.
Develop a habit of caring about the little things in any job you take up. Let it take a little more than the usual time but give it your best.
Little things matter, and they set apart the great products from the “just fine” ones.
Don’t be afraid of being a junior on the team and taking a call for investing a little more time in the details. It shows you’re passionate about the project. And if you are convincing enough, almost all the time people will agree with you.
Step 11: Live (for real)
Lastly, make sure you live. Not for anyone else but yourself. I’ve learnt this in a painfully hard way. Always remember this,
You are, and will always be, the only person who’s lived with you the longest.
It is absolutely important that you realize that you matter the most to you. It’s nobody else’s job to care about your dreams, your aspirations. So might as well stop trying to impress or please others. You’ve just got a few decades in your hand.
It’s our quirks that makes us unique. If you see that you have to change yourself to be around people, avoid them! There are 7 billion people on this planet. It’s not as difficult as you may think it is to find someone who enjoys your quirks. Always be looking out for them and when you find them never let go!
The steps I’ve mentioned above are more or less the kind of things that most of us set out to achieve. This is the general layout of how I structured my year. And if it worked for a person like me, I’m counting on it working for most of you.
A very happy 2018 to everyone once again. ??
“May The Force Be With You ??”
(I know the quote is from Star Wars and Spock is in Star Trek… Thanks for letting me mess with your head ?)