A 2021 Report Card and 12 Challenges for 2022

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Happy New Year! Yesterday marked precisely one year since my first post on this blog. Admittedly, I haven’t written many posts since then, per se (exactly 2). But the site, like myself, has developed a lot. Here’s a brief post-mortem of last year’s resolutions, and a set of new and informed goals for 2022.

2021 Grades

1. Put half my income each month in a savings account. ❌ **Fail**. I was pretty good for a while. I was making a good bit of money from coaching debate and managed to spend very little of it. Then I moved to campus and pulverized all of my earnings and then some. It happened twice, actually—I grossly outspent my targets in both the spring and fall semesters. The first problem was **poor accountability**. I didn't track my finances very closely, updating my expense sheet only once every two weeks or so. That made small, everyday purchases seem insignificant—a snack from Yogurt Park or a Gig rental couldn't hurt that much, can they? Yes they can, and they added up very quickly. With [Mint](https://mint.intuit.com/), I track my purchases automatically; I still don't check the app enough though, so I'll schedule in weekly reminders to review finances. A subtler issue was short-sightedness. Instead of just buying a scooter upfront, I spent hundreds of dollars on Gigs and Lyft Bikes, sometimes paying fines and surcharges. I picked up the tab too often, even knowing that people wouldn't Venmo me back (and that I would be too lazy to track them down). I alse ate out too much (Costco is king!) and didn't price-shop enough. Who knew that you could get so much free furniture off Facebook?
2. Find a meaningful summer internship; start recruiting in March for the fall. ✅ **Pass**. With flying colors! I had a really tough recruiting season until and though January. I got a lucky break in February when I got my offer to work at Amazon during the summer. Shortly after, I started recruiting again with much more success (as an "incoming AWS intern"). One lesson is that in a true numbers game, I ought to put more trust in the Law of Large Numbers. I *knew* most internship applications wouldn't get a response, but the anticipation alone made me more stressful than I should've been. At the same time, the experienced confirmed one of my deep beliefs: *winners win*. Achievements quickly open doors to more opportunities, so the advantage to moving fast and working hard scales non-linearly.
3. Blog twice a month about my readings, projects, and thoughts. ✅ **Pass**. Or partly so. I blogged during *most* months (I slacked during Fall 2021). But the volume surely makes up for this. I posted over 50 times this year, with readings, projects, and very occasional writings. I'm fairly happy with the improvements in writing quality as well, which I suppose is the point. The big lesson here was the importance of intrinsic enjoyment. It's *so* hard to motivate yourself to write on schedule, especially when your site hardly gets any views. In the beginning, the sheer excitement of a new site propelled me for about a month. Then, coming to campus, I felt much more swamped with work and let blogging sink in my priorities list. Nevertheless, assigning a literal deadline in my calendar helped maintain the production schedule. I did this especially with book reviews, which I tried to roll out on a weekly basis. Speaking of which...
4. Read three books each month, exploring new subjects. ✅ **Pass**. I reviewed 39 new books, which is a little over 3 books a month. All of them were nonfiction. Some of my favorite books were in biology and public policy. But, by far, my favorite breed of books is decision science and behavioral economics. Nothing gives me more seratonin than reading about Homo Sapien's struggles to fit into Homo Economicus' shoes. Big takeaway: I *am* a reader. And you are too! Give regular reading a try.
5. Spend thirty minutes a day talking to family. ❌ **Fail**. A particularly devastating failure. I sometimes went two weeks without calling my parents. I think I do focus on myself and my own projects a bit too much, often at the expense of those closest to me. It doesn't help that I'm impatient and easily annoyed, making it hard to appreciate everything that my parents do for me. I suppose it's availability bias at work: I'm notice the small, pesky comments; I don't notice the labor and love that goes into sending a child to college. I can start by calling my parents more frequently. I don't want to make it an "assignment," so perhaps a better strategy is to call them in my downtime: maybe when I'm cooking, or going for a stroll. Tying the calls to pleasurable activities could be good positive reinforcement. **Temptation bundling**!
6. Practice gratitude in my morning meditations. ✅ **Pass**? This is not a S.M.A.R.T. goal. I superficially pass because I usually sneak in a passing thought about gratitude when I meditate. But I don't always meditate. And when I do, I don't always do it well. A broader problem is my lack of a morning routine. On an average Monday morning, I'll drift from the bed to the bathroom and "take it from there." If meditation was just step 3 of a everyday routine, my success rate would be much higher. The lesson is that surrounding habits are important, so perhaps I should look at habits in baskets. A meta-lesson is that my goals need to be actually measureable and close off loopholes.
7. Stop biting my goddamn nails. ❌ **Fail**. My nails are still stubs. I have no excuse. I did get close though. For about two weeks, I fully stopped biting my nails. The impetus was a trip to the nail salon, where kind ladies manicured my disgusting fingers and painted Cal blue & gold on the nails. With pretty nails, it felt sacrilegious (and tasted disgusting) to bite my nails, so I stopped. The problem was that once the polish began to fall, I didn't know what to do with my long nails. I hadn't owned nail clippers in years, so once finals season hit, I relapsed into my old, tried-and-true strategy for mowing down long nails. I needed more forethought about how to maintain a new habit.
8. Sleep on a consistent schedule, deviating at most once a week. ❌ **Fail**. My records show that I did not do this very well. Social events, midterms, a good book—nearly anything would throw me off. And, a single disruption would persist over several days, consistent with Professor Walker's point in [*Why We Sleep*](../_books/2021-06-16-why-we-sleep.md): breaking a sleep schedule has deleterious effects that often aren't felt until the second or third day. And so, the key, it seems, is resilience. If some disruptions are inevitable, how will I ensure that I recover the next day?
9. Abandon Coke. ❌ **Fail**. But fuck you, January Peter. I love my coke. Diet Coke is fairly healthy and a requisite sugar-craving-quencher. I'm never abandoning Coke!
10. Bench 225 for 10 reps. ❌ **Fail**. I got very close. 225 for 8 reps with no warmup; I'm convinced I had 10 in me. Stay hard!

I’d give myself an overall C, for meeting 4/10 goals. Not too bad for a first stab. Here’s what I learned about good resolutions:

  1. S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. We know this already.
  2. Focus: Picking up multiple habits at the same time can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Focusing on one (or less than three) habit at a time is more likely to produce success.
  3. Adaptation: Reaching a goal requires constant learning. New problems will emerge, so time must be set aside to focus on how to improve habits.
  4. Planning for Humans: I need help! I’m a member of Homo Sapiens, not Homo Economicus. I need activities to be fun, rewarding, and/or easy. Technology and incentives are key tools for lasting change.

2022 Resolutions

This year’s tasks come in three flavors: doable, difficult, and deadly. I don’t expect to do succeed in everything, but maybe I can get the easy ones.

Doable

  1. Stand: Buy a standing desk and work standing up, whenever possible. I’ll start it right after getting to campus.
  2. Read for Cheap: Buy a Paperwhite Kindle and pirate books to read. With no marginal cost to a book, I should feel more empowered to ditch books I don’t like.
  3. Cold, hard meditation: Gain efficiency by meditating in the shower. Start with warm water. As the summer approaches, gradually make the water colder.
  4. Text 1st: If I have time to use my phone (e.g. at the gym), spend it texting others. Then browse news, interesting subreddits, etc.

Difficult

  1. Owl to Lark: When I move to campus, I want to take advantage of jet lag by sleeping early and waking up around 7:30-8AM. I want to maintain that wake-up time with a light-based alarm clock.
  2. Regular Running: It’s probably too hot to start in the summer. Perhaps the first week back on campus, before classes really kick off, is a good time. I want to jog a 10K in Berkeley by March, and a half-marathon by May. I’ll give myself a pass for not jogging during the summer—it’s too hot, so maybe treadmills at the gym will do.
  3. Gains: Go to the gym 4 days a week. bench 225 for 12, and stretch
  4. Clean: Keep my room and apartment tidy. Make cleanup the first thing I do in the morning.

Deadly

  1. Bye-bye Boba: Cut out all artificial sugar, especially sugary drinks and dessert. Diet drinks are fine. Water and teas are the best.
  2. Journaling: Write first thing in the morning. Could be about anything, but probably should include how I’m feeling.
  3. Social Eating: Eat out only when with friends. Try not to eat alone: call an old friend, or family.
  4. Saying No: Reject the unimportant stuff. For Fall 2022, clear out everything that takes less than 5 hours a week to do and replace it with meaningful projects and activities.

Wish me luck, friends!