2016 reflection; 2017 prospection — Matt Burman

2016 has been crazy. Easily the best year so far. I have learnt a tonne and the Christmas — New Year period is the best chance I’ll get to process what happened. There are so many questions to ask myself. Am I creating the future I want? Where are my efforts ineffective? Where am I slacking? What is working well?


Towards the end of this year I’ve been making an effort to be gratuitous. I’ve been doing this in my daily journals, but not publicly. At the start of this holiday I tried to pack those who inspire me into a tweet. 140 characters are not enough space. Let’s add some more people and go into more detail 😄

  • HackTheNorth organisers for funding my travel to Canada and for hosting HackTheNorth.
  • MLH for partially funding my trip to NYC and hosting MLH Prime.
  • MHacks organisers for partially funding my trip to Detroit and hosting MHacks.
  • Elon Musk — no goal can be that crazy when you live on the same planet as the guy who is moving civilisation to another planet whilst leading two other companies aimed at saving our current planet.
  • Bill and Melinda Gates — Don’t forget to give back. My view on charity is now that I should invest in myself with the goal to become philanthropic towards the end of my life like Bill and Melinda Gates. They would not have had such an amazing philanthropic impact without such wealth, skill and knowledge accumulation earlier in their lives. Empower myself to empower others.
  • Bernie Sanders — Towards the start of the year I was so addicted to listening to his rhetoric — it really resonated with me. His success with our generation is a message of hope for the future despite what happened in the US election.

2016 — The year of the starts, firsts and new experiences

I started a Hackathon society at The University of Sheffield and Hackathon. We ran two Hackathons for ~120 people. Looking back, it’s crazy to think we raised over £10000 and did so much in so little time.

I started my first ever job. I hadn’t even had work experience. I worked at OAK Research Group in January and over the Summer as their backend developer writing APIs in Node.js and MySQL. We published the apps for https://www.movemoresheffield.com/ and are working on a project for Public Health England. I will also be working a bit over January for them.

Many new travel experiences — I gained a lot of confidence. Just over a year ago I’d get anxious about just travelling around England on trains. After 15 flights this year, travelling (in the west) is now largely just fun. I want to push myself though — bring on Asia…

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2016 Swarm Checkins since June

Powerful things I learnt or realised this year

Compound interest

Once I have gained enough capital, I’m going to invest in an index fund. It’s actually crazy how much compounded investments grow. A few days ago, I did a back of the envelope calculation over dinner about a family member — resulting in them being £1.5M out of pocket. This is if they invested their cigarette costs in an index fund rather than blowing it on destroying their health. This is from putting in £10k per year over a 35 year timescale, assuming an average of 7% annual ROI.

For now, I’ve made an initial investment of £1.5k using a robo-investor (MoneyFarm — but considering Nutmeg) that spreads your investment across a portfolio automatically. I’ll keep adding as much as I can as I earn more from jobs, freelance/consulting clients, or other ventures…


I read quite a bit about journaling towards the end of this year after hearing benefits in several places. The first time was when chilling with my friend Nick in his crazy awesome San Francisco apartment when he was interning at Github.

He suggested I tried bullet journalling. I was being very stubborn — I like everything I create to be digital so it is searchable. Fast forward a few months - I’d read about the benefits of journaling in various places - so I eventually started doing daily journals in DayOne. I’ve slacked far too much when life gets ridiculously busy, but I try to follow a similar style to the 5 minute journal — once when I wake up, and once when I go to bed.

My template is basically the 5 minute journal with a few additions I’m experimenting with. I’ve also been experimenting with a weekly journal. I’ll try to keep this repo updated with the changes to my template. https://github.com/mattburman/journaling


Right at the start of the year when I was super stressed out about HackSheffield I tried an app called headspace. It was great but I eventually stopped using it because I didn’t manage to make it a habit. I only used it when I really felt like I needed it.

Fast forward, I was reading Pauline’s blog, and I remembered why meditation was so good for me. It’s easy to forget how much better it makes you feel until you realise you’re stressed out and not in control of yourself. I’ve been trying to use another app called Calm once daily. I definitely need to work on making this a habit.


I think this goes without saying — obviously exercise is super important for long-term health. I’ve been completely neglecting exercise. During my early teens, I played badminton for myself and for Derbyshire juniors around the country, training 10+ hours per week. I used to be super fit. Now I’m super unfit. I want to change that in 2017.

However, I’m not going to be training for sport this time. Nor will I focus on cardiovascular health like I did in my early teens. All-body strength is a new frontier for me. In fact, my body is disproportionate dating back to when I played badminton. Notably, pretty much all muscles in my right arm are stronger than the equivalent in their left, not that they’re that strong, yet 😆. In my early teens I would train my right arm as that was my racket arm — mainly my forearm. I’d use all sorts of things, like weighted rackets, powerballs, dumbbells, and some other weird homemade contraptions. The left arm was literally only used for balance.

I’m going to follow this regime for 2–3 months. Julian is a fellow hacker. It seems appropriate to learn how to hack my body efficiently skipping out all the bs bro-science that’s on the Internet. If anyone is reading this, you should ping me some time in March to ask whether I’ve stuck to my exercise regime ;).


To be honest, fuck resolutions. I don’t particularly mind if I “stick to something” as long as I’m in a better place. A resolution is a goal at a particular moment in time. Goals change. If they didn’t you’d be chasing the wrong dream forever. It’s good to set resolutions, but life can change and your goals should adapt with it.

That said, “resolutions” for 2017:

  • Focus on your health, you fool.
  • Keep travelling. Break out of the west — explore Asia.

Do let me know if you read this far — this style of Medium post is an experiment for me and I’d be interested to see if anyone found value in it. Thanks!

Written by

Software Engineer, CS Grad @sheffielduni, Founder @HackSheffield

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