Juan Villela

Quality

yearly-theme

Every year, the guys over at Cortex come up with a theme that sets an overarching idea guiding their decisions. There has been the "Year of Less" and "Year of Positivity" since 2017. Some people have begun to follow along with their own yearly themes, like Quinn Rose with her "Year of Quality".

That got me thinking of some recent changes I've made lately. There's only so much one can consume and there's a vast amount of good content out there. I typically have an extensive backlog of podcasts, videos, shows, articles, and audiobooks I'd like to get through. And although I do enjoy all these things and go through them eventually, I can't recall what most of them were about or if I gained anything valuable from them. Now, I don't want to be a snob about it, but I do value my time and I can do much better. And that was my thinking when I began cutting back on the media I consumed. I slowly started doing this a few months ago and this is what I've done so far and what I plan to do next.

The Cleanse

First and foremost, the majority of the stuff I see or listen to tends to be science or tech related. There's no "I want to better myself" motive behind it, I just genuinely find it fascinating and enjoyable. But there's a lot of the same simply explained in different ways. So I figured I'd classify the content based on impact; whether the content makes an impressing to the point that I'd go back to it or even wrote down some of it. Here's how I went about it with each category.

Podcasts

My player of choice is Overcast. And although Overcast doesn't have a starred/favorites list, it's relatively easy to view your stars on the episodes list. This was the easiest way to go about figuring out which shows make a regular impact. There are 3 main genres I listen to: Comedy, Science, and Tech. Comedy is only 3 shows and Tech about the same. I mean Tech podcasts are a dime a dozen and tend to cover practically the same topics. So I kept those that talked about more niche and specific topics. And though Science had a ton of different shows, I was about to use the same strategy as with Tech and slim down the playlists. To give you an idea of what I mean, Tech has shows like Pragmatic and ATP, while Science has Twenty Thousand Hertz and Big Picture Science. These are very well developed shows that focus on putting out quality long-form episodes. They have interesting discussions and I tend to jot down ideas I come up with from listening to them. So yeah, an impact.

There's also Development, which is sorta like tech where many of the shows cover the same topics, but it's also a little harder because there aren't that many that cover very specific topics. So I went with 3 great ones. One covers general front-end stuff, the other has more JavaScript related topics, and the last does a deep dive on the history of the Computer Science and the people that made it what it is now. It's called Command Line Heros and you should check it out if you're into that sort of stuff.

Videos

Almost all of the videos/shows I view are from either YouTube of Netflix. There are one or two shows I might have to "rent" elsewhere to watch it, but that's rare. This doesn't take into account movies, as we go to the theaters quite often and buy copies of the ones we like to rewatch frequently. So it's mostly shows.

There are exactly 9 shows we watch in my household. It used to be much more but we stopped them for one (or both) of two reasons. Either it required paying a subscription for just that show. Game of Thrones is always the exception, but for the most part, no show is worth $15 a month. I guess that's why piracy is going up. Or the plot just got boring. There's a lot of quality TV now and there's no need to waste it on stuff that just OK. So cleaning house here was quite easy, to be honest.

With YouTube, it's a little different. There's a lot of great creators I enjoy and love their work, but there's simply too much. So I opted for using the same approach as with podcasts. So I looked at my watch history on each subscription, my bookmarked videos, and considered the quality of the content in their respective genres. With that, about 30 subscriptions become less than 20.

Articles

I still use RSS and will continue to support it until it really dies, which I doubt (and hope) it ever will. But there's still a backlog of 46 articles I haven't even seen, plus about 10 in my Reading List half read. With this, it was a little harder than I thought. Many of the blogs I follow I've done so for years. But they post very infrequently if not hardly at all. So those I let go. Then there's those that always have interesting content, but if I'm honest with myself, the title is what caught my attention I have no idea if I'll ever get to them so I just have to let it go. And lastly, there are the dozens of webcomics I follow which never miss. But, I followed the podcast approach. How often do I bookmark them, but also, how often do I share them? So almost 30 became 9. And just like that, my feeds were slimmed down to only quality blogs that I never miss and always want to read from start to finish. And some great comics.

Books

This was a little different. I don't read physical or ebooks; I really only listen to them. I got into Audible halfway through 2018 and I almost always reserve a few hours before bed to listen to them. I always finished one book before jumping to another. And I tend to pick my books carefully. So with this, it was mostly setting more time aside to listen. I found that cleaning and commuting are fantastic times to listen to booms. And I got my partner into it as well so I have an incentive to read more and share my thoughts. I guess if anything, I have to avoid adding a book to my wishlist just because the brief description from someone on a podcast sounded cool. I'll be more thorough in my vetting and only add stuff I know I'll really enjoy.

Social

This was by far the easiest. I have a close-knit group of friends and we're all antisocial nerds that never leave the house. So it works. Social media, well, I don't like sharing my personal life online so I don't do Facebook or Instagram. Also, I'm not about to start trusting Evil Corp after the year they've had. My Twitter feed is heavily filtered with Tweetbot and I've unfollowed a ton of people that only post to complain. Reddit is, well Reddit. And I follow a few subs there, but the ones I do are simply there for one purpose: release me of my stress. So I really only open the app when I feel I "need" it.

So Why the Cleanse?

I want to focus my time on other (better?) things this year. I don't know what exactly. I know I want to learn Nodejs and improve my Python. I also want to grow and improve as a developer. But I don't have set goals. Coming up with unrealistic goals that I could possibly never live up to is setting myself up for failure. I got into the development because I wanted to do a job I enjoyed. And I want to do the same with everything else. Forcing myself to accomplish a goal during a period time quickly becomes more about completing it rather than want I get out of it. So instead, I'm going to follow on Quinn's idea and set the theme for a Year of Quality. Cleaning out my media consumption began as simply a time management thing. There was too much, not enough time, and even less for other important stuff. But now, I consume only the best of each and have time to focus on other important stuff. I'm consuming less stuff, to do more of other stuff, because the other stuff, is more (stuffy?) important. Stuff.

Coding

I want to transition from what I do now (front-end development) to some more back-end stuff. Node is a big one and I'd also like to get into messing with databases. I've gotten to play around with some of this and make some Node apps that I use frequently on my daily workflow and have really enjoyed it. So I want to continue doing it. This also means I need to improve my JavaScript, which I've been working on more and more lately. And since it's the year of quality, the quality of my code should also improve.

Writing

Even though I suck at writing, I want to do it more. For me, it's not so much that I want to share my ideas, but rather getting the ideas out of my head. I often suffer from insomnia and it's mostly triggered by a restless mind. Writing things down gets all of that out of my head and helps me relax more. I used to keep a daily journal for that purpose alone, but that quickly started to feel like a chore. So I want to revive this blog and focus on writing some of the ideas and thoughts that really stick and get them out. And if someone finds them interesting, then awesome. I'd also like to write about some of the personal projects I have going on. I tend to leave things unfinished and making them public will likely force to finish them more often. Guilt tripping myself is very effective.

Family

My family consists of me and my partner. It's pretty great. We're thinking of adding a plant but we tried a few years ago and it died. We both work full time and spend all our free time together. But recently things have taken a bad turn. I enjoy what I do while my partner really doesn't. We've been talking about both doing development together for quite some time, so I think this is the year we should really make that happen. If there's anything remotely close to a goal for this year is getting my partner into development and working from home with me.

Commitment

When I first thought about doing this I was hesitant. I'm not particularly bad at commitment; I wouldn't have a job as a freelancer if I did. But I tend to lose interest in things over time. Like anyone I guess. Importance is relevant; what might be critical today can just as likely be nothing tomorrow. Priorities change, quickly. But that's precisely why I think a yearly theme will work. It's not meant to tie me into a set of tasks I need to accomplish within the year, but rather serve as a guide for my decision throughout. So here's hoping for a quality year...of quality.