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2019 New Years’ Resolutions Review: One Month Projects

2019 New Years’ Resolutions Review: One Month Projects

Man with black hair in white dress lying down inside a red circular wall

Note: This is the first part of a two-part New Years’ Resolution series. I started out writing one long article, but once I hit ten pages in Google Docs, I was like … nah, it’s time to split things up. You can read the second part here.

I had a two-tier system in place for my 2019 resolutions:

  1. Work on a small, specific, self-contained project each month
  2. Have a set of large, ambiguous, big-picture goals that are meant to be worked on throughout the year

I knew myself enough at the beginning of 2019 to know that strict, set-in-stone plans weren’t compatible with my lifestyle — I wanted to give myself the freedom to adjust my goals and “course-correct” when needed. Thanks to this system, I accomplished about 80% of the resolutions I set. 

Here’s a look at how I completed my specific one month projects in 2019:

A project for each month … except the last three

I ended up doing a one month project for ten of the twelve months out of the year. Around the six-month mark, I noticed that all of my favorite one month projects were blog series, so starting in September, I decided to do a themed series every month in lieu of a specific project.

Sadly, my expectations for the themed series ended up being too high. I didn’t anticipate having such a hard time writing about certain things. Another month passed, and despite logging hours and hours in front of my computer, I still didn’t produce anything I thought was worthy of publishing. The monthly projects fizzled out from there.

Before I get into how I feel about my progress on the one month projects, here’s an overview of all the projects I did, and the things I learned from them:

January: The Best Kind of Escapism

[intro] [retro]

I traveled to the most exciting, beautiful, beachy parts of Florida and publishing one blog post a day about my experiences. This ended up being more like one post every other day. 

Pros: I created a set of pretty travel content and pushed myself to explore places that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Cons: The pressure of having something to publish every day made vacation end up not feeling like a vacation at all. I also lagged on other parts of blogging such as advertising, optimization, and networking. This unfortunately became a recurring theme throughout the year, where I’d constantly prioritize creating new content over promoting the stuff that was already there.

February: Fully Stacked

[intro] [retro]

I wrote a full-stack web app for a company.

Pros: I discovered a lot about myself and my working habits. I thought that it would be ideal for me to be alone for long stretches of the day in The Zone, but I found out that I’m actually lethargic as fuck if I’m feeling lonely or down. 

Cons: I had a very miserable time. I fought tooth and nail to get anything done. This is when I began to realize that I did not in fact enjoy building software as much as I thought I did.

March: Picture-Perfect Organization

[intro] [retro]

I organized all of my pictures into separate folders by dominant color. It was cool to see how many photos of each color I had, but I did not keep the system up. My camera roll needs to be sorted yet again!

Pros: I had a well-organized camera roll, up to a certain point.

Cons: This was time-consuming do manually, but I couldn’t trust a program to predict the dominant color of a photo post-edit. Also, I only sorted photos; I didn’t delete any of the duplicates.

April: A Coding Challenge A Day Keeps the Comfort Zone Away 

[intro] [retro]

I started doing coding challenges on Leetcode, and decided to write up articles for my tech blog for each question.

Pros: Writing out each step forced me to think about each problem in greater detail. Posting each solution on my site forced me to figure out how to format technical articles in an easily digestible way.

Cons: Some problems were harder to solve/explain than expected, so I didn’t publish as many articles as I wanted to.

May: True Prep

[intro] [retro]

I wanted to write a bunch of Pride-related articles for June, and decided to take May to plan out and write all of these articles.

Pros: I started thinking a lot about my gender identity and specific incidents that happened in the past. This led to some really good articles come June, even if I didn’t explicitly write too much down in May.

Cons: I did not write the articles I said I’d write.

June: Spilling the Gender Identi-Tea

[intro] [retro]

I wrote and published as many articles as possible about my gender identity and gender-related life events. This turned out to be my most well-received and favorite one month project so far.

Pros: “In real life, I know absolutely no trans people who view gender expression the way I do. Even the people who are supportive of me don’t really Get It, and that can be kind of a downer when I’m having doubts about the validity of my gender identity,” I wrote in my May 2019 project retrospective. June’s project changed all of that — I connected with tons of people who not only Got It, but felt the exact same way as I did about gender. I also helped a lot of previously dubious people Get It, which was really cool!

Cons: I lost a few friends after coming out.

July: Anything Goes

[intro] [retro]

I published written pieces without a real agenda. 

Pros: I had an excuse to publish “Your Special Occasion,” a very gay story that had been sitting in my Google Drive for far too long.

Cons: I didn’t post much else.

August: Going Dark

[intro] [retro]

I took an extended break from my online presence. I deleted Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat from my phone, and didn’t write any new articles.

Pros: There was no pressure to think about my “online brand.”

Cons: I did not completely “go dark” — I lurked on my favorite influencer’s Instagram without signing into my own. I also spent a lot of time on Reddit, which I still think counts as social media of some sort. It feels a bit like I cheated on this one.

September/October: Metamorphosis (honorary mention)

[Sept intro] [ Oct intro] [pivot]

I started writing a series about my post-graduation existential crisis, where I learned to adapt and thrive in a world shaped by Trumpian politics and late-stage capitalism. This was the hardest thing I’ve had to write to date.

Pros: I produced what I think is my best writing so far.

Cons: I overthought absolutely everything, almost got myself into another existential crisis, and became a total Debbie Downer. All of the articles took way longer to write than expected.

How I felt about the one month projects

I think that one month projects are great. My inner commitaphobe likes the thought of trying something new with no strings attached; my inner drill sergeant likes how the strict time limit forces me to be disciplined. I personally feel bad that I didn’t follow through to the very end — even though I got eighty percent of the way there, it doesn’t feel very good to leave things unfinished.

Overall insights from the one month projects

It’s really interesting to track all of the projects, my progress with them, and the attitude I had towards completing each one. Actions speak louder than words, after all. No matter what I wrote, what I actually ended up doing spoke volumes about which goals I liked to chase, and how I preferred spending my time. 

Here are some things I discovered:

• I like learning about how code works and/or how a program is put together, but I don’t have much interest in building working software just for the sake of it. Writing out articles on my Leetcode problem-solving process and writing a web app took the same amount of effort and were equally frustrating, but I really enjoyed writing the Leetcode articles, whereas writing the web app felt like a month-long slog up San Francisco’s most brutal hills. [1]

• I think I like quantity over quality, but at the end of the day, I would rather turn something in late than sacrifice the quality. This is why so much of my articles end up coming out late. I will spend hours thinking about wording; I’ll sit there and edit a photo until it looks just right. I know that “done is better than perfect,” but I have yet to truly internalize it. I wonder, too, if it’s necessary to be done rather than perfect when it comes to this site. It’s not like I’m running a business here — why do I so often act as though I am?

• I still overestimate what I can do and expect far too much from myself. 

Conclusion

Normally, I’d be giving myself a lot of shit for the projects I chose to do in 2019. They’re so scattered; it’s clear from each one that I had no overarching goal or strategy. When I was making my 2019 resolutions, however, I stated that this year was “about discovery, connection, and openness to new experiences.” I also wrote that “because I know that my direction and priorities will change along with my experiences this year, I’m not even going to try to determine what my one month projects are going to be ahead of time.”

In light of these intentions, I think it’s perfectly fine that I had a bunch of scattered goals. I would have liked to complete a project for each month, but I’m happy with the projects that I did complete.

I will be doing one month projects again in 2020, but they will be pre-planned and will all be related to blogging. It’s clear from this year that blogging-related projects are something I’m actually into, and make me feel good to complete. ♚

Notes

[1] Discovering that I like learning about code rather than coding really helped me make the career switch from a software engineer to a technical writer, so I’m actually very glad that I had this realization.

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© 2019 by Marty Noel Chenyao. All rights reserved.

@fake.and.basic | marty@fakeandbasic.com

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