I haven't done a "retrospective" kind of post in a quite a few years. I remember doing it yearly when I was doing tech blogging. I got the idea to do it when I saw Emma Wedekind's tweet asking about the "best thing that happened to you in 2019!". I thought deeply about it and there was truly a lot of great things that happened to me. I started a job my first development job this year, lived off of my own income for the first time ever, flew half way across the world to spend time with my best friend, etc. The list goes on.
🎄🎄🎄— Emma Bostian 🐞 (@EmmaBostian) December 19, 2019
Since it's the holiday season I want to give away a @ThePracticalDev gift card for $50 to their merch store!
If you're interested, leave a comment below telling me the best thing that happened to you in 2019! 👇
I'll pick the recipient tomorrow at 1pm CEST!
I thought about this for a few days and ended up with the idea to talk about the best things that I did in the past 12 months.
Curbing my social media usage
There's been quite a number of these what's changed in the past decade articles by popular new site and a lot of them reference the advent of smartphones and the connected world we live in. Social media in particular has got to be the thing that made this past decade for me. So, for this year I worked on changing my habits for using social media.
This is the first year that I have officially left Facebook. Leaving Facebook meaning that I no longer use it more than once a week. I have been experimenting leaving Facebook since late last year by periodically deactivating my account but that usually doesn't last long as I end up needing to contact someone that primarily uses Facebook messenger. Furthermore, Facebook is still an account that (almost) everyone universally has. So, I still keep it open for that reason of connecting with people.
Next is Instagram. I only started actively curbing my usage for this back in late September as I started noticing through my phone's app usage tracker that my daily usage was exceeding 3+ hours. What I did was to just remove the app from my home screen and put it inside on of my folders in the app drawer. That worked out surprisingly well and I made it to a week of not using Instagram and then slowly moved back into using it. I came back to Instagram much faster compared to with Facebook because it was my main source of messaging for some friends and naturally some people were wondering and texting me why wasn't I responding to their Instagram DMs.
Today, I have this compromise where I still use Instagram but I limit myself from clicking on Instagram Stories to only once a day. I realized that Stories are the main culprit of spending too much time on Instagram as each Story can lead to things like viewing someone's profile or looking into a hashtag. At the end of this mini-experiment to use Instagram less, I came to realize that being on Instagram for a few days a week is sufficient given the algorithm automatically cycles through / repeat posts from friends from prior days.
This is one instance where the Instagram algorithmic based feed makes sense.
Lastly has to be Twitter. I re-started using Twitter more actively earlier this year when I made the move away from Facebook. I needed a place where I can view the latests news or trending topics without all the fluff. Facebook did this pretty well in the past but then it started injecting a whole load of ads and posts from random Facebook groups that I wasn't interested in anymore.
Today, Twitter is the place where I post majority of my content on the internet. I also worked on diversifying my following list to extend beyond tech blogs and started exploring other Twitter people / communities. It's still a work in progress but, I'll write up an blog post sometime next year with a list of people that I enjoy following on Twitter. A little hint, @elonmusk is probably at the top of the list as his Twitter handle is both inspirational and meme worthy.
As a whole, my social media usage strategy is not full-proof. There is some space for improvement but I feel that this change I made was for the better. Not only am I more focused at work but I feel inclined to do other things than just seeing what other people are doing with their life (wink. wink. Instagram stories).
Investing in myself
The next best thing I did this year was to invest in myself. I have read a lot of advice that people give young people after graduation and a lot of advice is to save up / invest for retirement. But I found one article in particular which talked about investing in yourself first. So, that's what I did. I invested a decent amount of time figuring out how I can treat myself better.
I started with my health. I had to fundamentally change what I was eating. After years of eating on a budget during my years at ASU, I needed to break away from the instant noodle habits. The YouTube and Reddit community in particular helped drive my knowledge towards healthy eating habits. Would like to highlight Bobby from Flavcity, r/Frugal, r/1200isplenty and r/personalfinance as these communities have helped me understand good habits for eating healthy.
I have become somewhat of a food connoisseur when it comes to healthy foods. I started exclusively shopping at Whole Foods which in my opinion has the best selection of items. I'm amazed at how "clean" some of the ingredients of packaged items that are offered at Whole Foods. I think the biggest shift for me is change from buying packaged food to just buying raw ingredients. This has also re-ignited my interest for cooking, but in a different way. I spent some time re-learning some of the basic skills like sharpening my knife and played around with combinations on spices on various proteins.
From the countless hours of researching and youtube videos, I have found out that eating healthy / organic is not that much expensive. In relation, eating out is ultimately more expensive that buying organic produce and protein. Likewise, doing research on price differences between different items at Whole Foods of Costco per say has helped me to save a few bucks here and there.
Besides that, I also spent some money on buying a Nintendo Switch and a TV earlier this year so that I can have some entertainment in between work and life. It has proven to be a great investment.
Listening to podcasts / audiobooks
As far as I remembered, I never really got into listening to podcasts. But this year was different as I had a 20 minute commute to work and I quickly got bored of shuffling between my Spotify playlists. Also given the fact that Podcasts has been all the craze with YouTubers these days, it seems that all the creators have their own podcast.
I found myself repeating these podcasts while commuting and sometime during work when I am stuck with a programming problem. Some of my favorite podcasts are Bloomberg Businessweek, The Upgrade by Lifehacker, The Vergecast and Couples Therapy with Candice and Casey. I have a tendency to repeat certain podcast episodes so my small collection of 20 podcasts keeps me content. As for my Podcast player, I'm using Spotify as I already have the app on my phone / computer and all the podcasts that I am interested in is already there.
Another thing I started listening to recently is audio books. I have been listening to "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill recently and there are some chapters that I am still wrapping my head around. It is definitely a deep book to get into as a lot of the messages are simple but complex at the same time. Would definitely recommend you to check out the book for free as it is in public domain.
That's about it. These three things have changed how I act as a human being and helped me gained brownie points in this adult world. I'm looking forward to improving these methods and in the forthcoming weeks and months. Definitely branching out to do more things in the next year.