2021 Q3-Q4 Review & Planning
At the heart of modern statistical physics is the idea of renormalization. Zoom out from the microscopic scale to the coarse, macroscopic scale, and you will have to swap out one description of the system for another1. Water molecules bouncing around like Newton's billiards become the smooth waves of Navier Stokes—the random, jagged tracks of gas particles average out to stable pressures on pistons.
So for distance, so for duration. The unpredictable trajectories of Lorenzian chaos smooths out to predictable probability flows on long timescales. A random walker's path may never be predicted, but the average distance covered from the starting point scales, on average, with the unwavering square root of the time passed.
Is the fundamental idea behind personal effectiveness really any different? Day-to-day actions rack up to weeks well spent or squandered. Weeks beget months then quarters, years, decades. The fundamental challenge is to organize one's actions in a way consistent across all these timescales so that both the long-term effect and immediate experience tend towards pleasure and presence of mind.
The primary weapon in the effectiveness arsenal is the review & planning—whether a quick daily recap, an in-depth weekly review à la GTD, the every-four-weeks-or-so sprint retrospective and planning (if you're working in a team), a quarterly check-in, or yearly megasession. This is the key intersection point between different timescales, the moment in which you mediate between the lazy daily self and the ambitious centaguanarian self.
So with this lengthy introduction, let me start the third quarter review and fourth quarter planning of 2021.
First, a recap of my 2021 Goals and Halfway Report.
1 book a week. Read through the books of Twain, Orwell, and the Stoics. Read ≥5 non-English books.
I ended up upping my goal to read 100 books this year and am well on-track—in fact, five books ahead of schedule (at 79).1 My taste for the Stoics was mostly saturated by March (with only a few discourses by Epictetus outstanding). Meantime, I devoured every book by Orwell I had not yet read (not counting all of his essays, which I hadn't originally intended to include here).2
I am now working through the rest of Twain though I may have been a little overambitious here—this guy is a prodigious freak. In addition to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Twain wrote eight novels, a dozen short story collections, a half dozen essay bundles, 11 non-fiction books, an autobiography, and yet more. My lesson for next year is to do a bit more research before so boldly laying claim to another's bibliography.
Outside of English, I read Max Havelaar in Dutch, the second installment of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and the Three-Body Problem3 in French along with La Peste by Camus. To close off the year I think I will have Pinocchio in the Italian.
You may have noticed that I like to binge authors. In addition to the above planned binges, I got through most of Robert Greene's books4, David Sedaris's essay collections, and just today finished my last of the Sherlock Holmes series. 100% retention is not quite my goal otherwise I would likely space these reading out more. Instead, I'm looking to gorge myself on a particular author's voice or world view until I get nauseous. It feels more intimate that way (even though physically it more closely resembles the one-night stand). Also, author-specific binges are a great way to index your memories. 16-17? You mean Dostoevsky. 19? Oh yes, the year of Vonnegut. David Foster Wallace? Oh you mean second half of 21. And so on.
Publish 1 article a week. 1 newsletter every two weeks. Do a bit of promotion.
This is where I have most fallen behind. In order to reach 52 articles for the year, I now have to average just about two a week. That said, I did maintain my writing practice in other ways I haven't ended up counting to my total—notably, assignments for my last classes at uni and my masters project.
I also dropped the newsletter during much of the year and only recently started it up again. So here, let me reavow my intention: I will publish 52 articles this year, keep a consistent biweekly newsletter, and promote on LinkedIn on the offweek between newsletter postings.
Actually implement GTD and go all the way. Do a weekly review & planning, quarterly reviews, and yearly reviews.
This is going well. I have a six-week streak of successful weekly reviews (my best yet), and I feel that I am past the implementation hump.
One major goal for the rest of this year is to go back to markdown-based planning. I began using Obsidian for both note-taking and planning, then decided that Notion was a better option for the planning (since it would be easier to collaborate with the rest of my team).
The problem is that Notion is too slow for me—not just in terms of indexing but in having to manually click things. So I'm going to head back to my Obsidian vault and try to integrate Logseq for task management.
Reach B2 with Italian. Reach B1 with German.
I started the year off strong, but over the past two and a half months have neglected my spaced-repetition practice and, in turn, my B1-ish Italian and fledgling German. It is just a little too easy to break good habits when you change your life drastically (e.g., move to the US).
So my goal for the rest of the year is to simply get back on track. That means no more overdue cards in my General, Italian, and French decks. Starting this week, I'm aiming to add 100 words of German a week, which will total a very reasonable 1,400 over the remaining 14 weeks. With my Germanic basis in Dutch, a B1 level of understanding should be well within reach.
🫀 Exercise & Injury
At my last update, I was finally incorporating more cardio. That worked for a while but I have found that over the last two weeks it has been a bit of a dip. I think the problem has been that I need to set clearer targets. In that spirit, I am aiming to average 5,000 steps, at least three seven-minute work outs, and a 30-minute mobility workout every day over the rest of the year.
In terms of injury, the second half of the year has been treating me well. I found a second-hand Aeron desk chair—the gold standard of ergonometry, and it has been great so far. Combined with more good old fashioned movement & breaks, I am having the time of my life.
This requires a more in-depth, separate treatment, and I trust you will remain patient until that time.
All in all, I have been making good progress on my goals. I am now ahead in some areas, behind in others, but I trust that, by the end year, I will have completed most of my goals—at least the ones I still find relevant. I am already looking forward to next batch.
- 📕 Reading: At least 21 more books; The Discourses by Epictetus, 10 more books by Twain, 2 by Robert Green, and Pinocchio.
- ✍️ Writing: 29 more articles. Finish up at least two of the series I have started.
- 📊 Organization: Migrate from Notion to Logseq.
- 🗣 Language-learning: 1,500 words in German.
- 🫀 Exercise & Injury: Average three 7-minute workouts, 5,000 steps, 30 minutes of mobility a day.
Simplifying here. A critical system is interesting precisely because its description is the same at every scale. Also, many systems admit more than two or even a continuum of solutions. ↩ ↩2
I recommend Down and Out in Paris and London or The Road to Wigan Pier after Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Actually, scratch that, I recommend his essays before going on to his other novels and non-fiction works. ↩
My philosophy is that if it's already translated you might as well use it for practice. ↩
Let me add the two remaining books to my reading goallist for this year. ↩