Juan Villela

Focus

yearly-theme

New year, new theme? Ok. Last year’s theme was a success. Having the mindset of prioritizing quality over quantity allowed me to prioritize the things that mattered most. Every time I felt that my time was being wasted on something unnecessary, I’d do a quick reset and removed it from my life. Of course, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I found myself adding and deleting media (podcasts, YouTube, RSS) from my feeds every week for the first couple of months. But towards the end of winter, I thought I’d make a simple list with the media I enjoy and would actually pay attention to, and broke it down into categories. So with that list as my template, I made a big sweep around my devices. And every time I found something interesting I wanted to follow, I’d take a look at the list and decide if it was meaningful and/or useful. I still added and then deleted stuff the first couple weeks, but quickly began to make better decisions before adding stuff.

And while this has made a positive impact in my life, my time still feels somewhat wasted. It’s not that I spend 3 hours watching tv and forget about my responsibilities. But rather, the way I’m organizing my day isn’t making the most out of the time I have. So my theme for this year is Focus. Let me explain what this means a little better. I’ll break it into 3 categories.

Work

I work independently from home. And in this context, that means I spend most of my time at home alone. My only companion throughout the day is Siri on the Watch when it randomly responds to me while on the phone. After a few years working like this, I can confidently say I have no trouble concentrating and staying on track. However, the way I work isn’t all that efficient. I spend all of my time with headphones on listening to podcasts or occasionally watching some conference on the other monitor to my right. To most, this might sound awful and a productivity killer. But I’m actually quite good at writing code and listening to someone talk. But not as good as I’d like.

Although I managed to curate a great list of podcasts, YouTube subscriptions, and RSS feeds through the Year of Quality, it’s useless if I’m not giving them my full attention. And it’s not like I don’t have other time during the week to listen/see/read these things. It’s just a bad habit of mine to do it while working. And I’m not fully focused if my attention is spread across multiple things. Which means I’m not being as efficient as I could be. I don’t believe my work has been negatively affected by this, but I believe I could do more if all of my attention is towards the task at hand.

So in the Year of Focus, work will mean background music and singular focus on my coding.

Family

In 2018 I decided I needed to take my data hoarding a step further and start tracking every minute of every day. And so I did. Thanks to the wonderful Timelogger app, I was able to track everything I did. For this purpose, I opted for using multiple concurrent timers. Which meant I would track every minute I was with my partner, while also tracking when we were watching tv or doing chores around the house, for example.

Looking back at my 2019 metrics, Family was the most tracking category, clocking in at 3327 hours in the year. In contrast, Work came in third at 1145 hours. I see this as an absolute win! The main goal of going indie was to spend more time with the family. So looking at these numbers brings great joy.

With that said, a lot of the time spent with the family is watching TV or on our phones. We’re couch potatoes and that’s fine. It’s one of the things that brought us together. However, for the Year of Focus, I’d like to dedicate more time to us. At the beginning of 2019, we’d picked up a nice habit of going for a 30-minute walk every night without any phones. This gave us a chance to just take about anything personal without any distractions. But sadly that habit broke a little later because of work and other stuff. But I want us to start doing that again. Along with more personal and intimate activities. In other words, I want to focus on spending more quality time together and making better memories than just watching something on our days off.

Personal

The line between personal and work time has become quite blurred over the past year. Most of my free time is spent coding as well. Not that I’m complaining; all of that has been working on personal projects that I enjoy. But if I continue with this, I’ll eventually end up burning myself out. When that happens, I’ll start disliking my job. This can’t happen. I left a perfectly good job for this because I was miserable. Front-End development is something I enjoy quite a lot and I want to keep it that way. So I need to dedicate more time to do other things.

Something I want to do more of this year is reading and gaming. The former is what everyone says at the start of a new year, while the latter is something many are looking to cut back on. But for me, “read more” means sitting down to enjoy a book (audiobook). Not power read articles on my RSS feed or accumulate more unfinished books. I also want to game a little more. I have a huge backlog of iOS and Steam games I’ve bought and want to play, but never do. I need a little more time to relax that isn’t spending 4 hours on Reddit. I want to focus on relaxing more and enjoying my time off.

Changes

Now that I’ve outlined the things I’d like to focus on this year, I want to make some changes on how I keep track of my progress. During 2019, I used time tracking as the primary metric for the time was spent on a task. This year, I want to step things up and keep track of more than just my time. I want to keep a list of movies and shows seen, books read, places visited, and projects completed. I might also do this with podcasts, articles, and other internet media. But I already have a running list of bookmarked stuff I enjoyed that most; essentially a bookmarks database. At the end of each month, I’ll write a blog post detailing these things and my thoughts about them. I think this approach will give me a better sense of what time is being spent on this and that. It might not sound all that helpful for the purpose of staying focused, but this approach works well for me.

Final Thoughts

I am very excited about the Year of Focus. There’s a lot I have planned. And having successfully completed my first yearly theme in 2019, I feel a lot more confident about 2020. There are plenty more changes I’m doing this year, mostly centered on data collection. This data has helped me get a birds-eye view of my life in the past year. So I’m adding food and water intake, media consumption, and travel. Let the data hoarding commence!

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Hi, I’m Juan

A Freelance Front-End Developer, automation nerd, and astronomy enthusiast.

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