books by Robert Couse-Baker

I’m a planner by nature, but my transformative plans arise spontaneously from long, Internet free cross-country flights. My contrarian nature keeps me from participating in the end-of-year retrospecting and New Year’s resolving that dominates the Internet during the first week of January.

You can blame it on the ubiquity of in-flight WiFi (thanks Boingo!), but this year I’m making an exception to my rule. I don’t have a “2014 Year in Review” to share (try to hide your disappointment), but I did make a plan for a better, more deliberate, 2015.

First I selected some themes for the year. Then I set a concrete goal for each theme that I can track and turn into monthly, weekly and daily plans.

My first theme for 2015 is ABC, Always Be Creating. I’m using this as a mantra and working in an ABC reminder before I plan each day’s activities. Living up to this mantra will steer me towards higher value creative tasks rather than information consumption and administrivia. A higher-value task I want to do more of is thinking and writing.

Always Be Creating — Publish 24 Things

I enjoy writing, and though I wrote a book some years ago, and have some articles published here and there, I’ve never developed a consistent writing habit. To improve as a writer I need to practice more.

I tend to get caught up in the “where” of writing. I’ve never had a blog presence I’m happy with, so rather than writing, I end up futzing with blog software and styling.

This year I’m committing to writing 24 things. That’s 2 per month on average. I’m just going to write them and have confidence I’ll find the right place to publish them afterward. To instill this confidence in my primitive lizard brain, I brainstormed locations I can publish to when I’m done writing:

  • Medium — It didn’t use to exist. Now it does. It’s easy. It’s beautiful.
  • —It’s a blog of mine. It’s stale right now, but not for long.
  • Monkey Opus — Another blog of mine. It’s on Tumblr right now. I want to move it. But I’ll write instead. No futzing with software!
  • Commodore Free & Amiga Future— I want to do some retro-computing writing.
  • Product / Company Blogs — I have a busy professional life. This provides me lots of writing venues.

My second mantra for 2015 is JFS, Just F*ing Ship. This is not original, in fact it’s the name of one of the books I read in 2014. It wasn’t a good book, but it’s an important mantra, especially for me. I have a history of building projects and not shipping them. In 2012 I built Idea Ferret, and though I use it myself, I never shipped it. In 2013 I built It’s finished, but I never shipped it. In 2015 I don’t want to spend months working on things that don’t ship.

Just F*ing Ship — Ship 6 Projects/Products

I started two projects in 2014 that are close to shipping, and clj-json-ld. That gets me off to a great start, I need to ship four more projects or products (outside of products for my day job) in 2015. I have a pair of related long term projects I started in 2013, Falklandsophile and Falkland CMS, that I want to ship this year. These are large projects that will take a lot of work, so I plan on shipping them towards the end of the year.

  2. clj-json-ld
  3. ???
  4. ???
  5. Falkland CMS
  6. Falklandsophile

I have some interesting candidates for projects 3 and 4, but I’m not locking them in so I can focus on shipping the current project. I won’t be tempted to start work on the next project if I don’t know what that next project is. With a little process discipline, I can stay focused on the current project until it ships.

If I’m going to succeed in shipping 6 projects, I’ll need to always be creating, but I can’t realistically spend every waking moment of 2015 creating . We all consume as well. We consume a lot. But not all information consumption is equal. My third theme for 2015 is RAC, Read Amazing Content. I’m an avid long form reader, and I want to keep that up 2015.

Read Amazing Content — Read 32 Books

Empirically I know I read 32 books a year. I know this because I keep a reading log in Trello and it tells me I read exactly 32 books in 2012, 2013 and 2014. How did I manage such exacting consistency? Apparently it’s just my natural reading rhythm. When I checked my log at the end of 2013 I was surprised to learn I’d read exactly the same number of books as in 2012. Midway through December of 2014 I noticed I’d only read 29 books. I had 3 books in progress, but none of them was close to being finished.

Even though I hadn’t really planned to read 32 books again, it was depressing to think I’d finish the year reading less than the prior two years so I pushed myself hard to finish those final 3 books in 2014. I let my wife know about my observation that morphed into a goal, and then spent most of New Year’s Eve with my head buried in books. I finished the 32nd book with just a few hours to spare.

On New Year’s Day I culled my stack of “to be read” books from an unmanageable and stale 200 to just 64. I shed over 130 books I bought to read but will never get to, and deliberately kept 2 years worth of books at my historic pace of 32 books a year. There’s no chance those are the exact 64 books I’ll read next since I’m always bringing in new books, and the freshest new arrivals tend to catch my eye when I’m scanning the shelf for what to read next, but I still found the exercise worthwhile.

It may be the end-of-year cram session I used to get to 32 books in 2014 that has my reading momentum up, but the fact that there’s an end in sight to my mountain of unread books has also been invigorating. It’s 11 days into 2015 and I’ve read 3 more books. If I can sustain anything close to this pace I’ll more than double my usual 32 books this year.

My final focus is LBT, Learn By Teaching. I wasn’t purposely shooting for such cliched themes, but learn by teaching is another old chestnut that is critical for my plans this year. I love learning, I love teaching, and like many people, I learn best by teaching others. I’m an effective communicator of complex topics after I learn them, and there’s no fooling a student, they know when you’re stretching beyond your level of knowledge. Making arrangements to teach others also provides a useful deadline.

Learn By Teaching — Give 4 talks in 2015

I have a talk scheduled in January at the Triangle Clojure Users’ Group, and I want to do 3 more, one talk a quarter at a conference or user group. I’ll most likely present talks on 2 more technical topics and one non-technical topic.

Four Mantras — Four Goals

It’s an ambitious plan for 2015, but it’s achievable. My book reading goal just reflects what I’m naturally inclined to do anyway. Shipping 6 projects is more achievable in 2015 since I’m starting with 2 projects that are almost complete. I have a talk queued up for January giving me 11 months to do three more. Publish two things a month? It’s the 11th of January and so far I’m on track. I just published this.

Sean Johnson (@snootymonkey) - software developer, passionate autodidact, philosopher, ferret caretaker, and maker of 3rd person self-descriptive lists.

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