A Challenging Year
Following on from last year’s post, unfortunately, 2023 wasn’t the best year ever. It was pretty challenging. We had major work done to the house at the start of the year that was supposed to be up to 2 months living with the in-laws, which then turned into 6 months, a lot of frustration, and a lot of expense.
Plus the property market was so downright weird this year – a spring market that didn’t start until May when the rain actually stopped – a mental June, and then a wishy-washy few months until it got busier in October, before going quiet again.
But from challenge comes lessons and plenty to contemplate going into 2024.
More Consistent with My Blog Website
My blog site has actually been going for years. I’ve put posts up, I’ve taken posts down. I’ve stopped and started. I’ve set up different websites, and shortly taken them down never settling on a theme.
Everything just kind of fell into place this year posting on chrisjrichards.com. I’ve enjoyed curating and sharing the things that interest me, but have always felt a little ‘dirty’ posting on Facebook as if it’s attention seeking. Posting here feels right. It’s more like it’s here if you want to read it. It’s not coming up in people’s feeds, it’s just here.
Another thing that really helped was discovering Typora this year increased my writing levels exponentially. I find it such a great suite to write in – simple, straightforward, clean. The Focus Mode feature has made such a big difference for such a small feature. It feels comfortable dipping into a drafted post and editing it a paragraph at a time.
Going forward, I’ve got plenty of draft posts on the go that need to be finished and posted. Plus, it’s been years since I’ve had a website that showcases my photography properly, so I’ll make some galleries of my photos.
I finished reading 14 books this yea but I know I’ve actually read a lot more than that. My problem is, I start a book and then like a butterfly, I think “ooh, that book looks good” and I start reading another. Months down the line, I’ll have forgotten I was reading a particular book, and it builds from there. This is why I desperately want to sort books by progress on my Kindle – but Amazon just aren’t listening. With the half finished books taken into account, I’d say I’ve read an additional 15.
I had a bit of a reading renaissance towards the end of the year. A big push for 2024 is to finish or abandon all those half-read books and start with a clean slate. Rather than downloading my entire collection to the new Kindle, I’ve simply downloaded all the in-progress books that I need to finish. If I can keep focus, my count of finished books will be much better for 2024.
For Christmas I got treated to a new Paperwhite. The major draw for me was the adjustable colour temperature of the light, and having a chance to use it, I think the addition of the warm light is well worth the upgrade. The whole device is faster than my 2018 Kindle too. Navigating my collection, searching, turning pages, all feels a lot snappier and is a big quality-of-life improvement. I’m very much looking forward to my reading for 2024.
GTD & Productivity
GTD has become even more essential for daily life, but in 2023 I struggled to settle on the right system. I stopped hopping between MyLifeOrganized and Everdo (where development has slowed to a snail’s pace) and settled on a subscription to Nirvana about three-quarters of the way through the year.
I’m now using Nirvana which I like, but there are still improvements to be made and unfortunately the development cycle is also slow. I like the Android app much more than Everdo’s, and the desktop app is almost identical to Everdo. Plus there’s a web version if I’m ever on a different PC. As feature packed and customisable as MLO is, it’s way too complicated for my needs and setting up MLO to work for me gets in the way of actually working on tasks and projects. But if a better cross-platform solution presents itself, I will happily jump ship. I recently discovered Amazing Marvin, but on trying it out, found the learning curve way too steep at the moment. Maybe something to look at later on next year if I still feel dissatisfied with Nirvana.
I’m still trying to form a good GTD review habit though. It’s currently not a first thing of the day habit to check my todo list and it really needs to be. Certainly a habit to build in the new year.
A productivity game-changer in 2023 has been SparkMail. This incredible email app has allowed me to put much less on my todo list, and has kept my mind and my inbox much clearer both at work and at home.
Writing wise, I discovered Typora in August and haven’t looked back. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I would be writing this now if it hadn’t been for this great piece of software.
Social Media Detox
One of the funks I found myself in this year was habitually scrolling through social media in the mornings. I suppose I was looking for knowledge and inspiration, but all it really did was waste time and cause annoyance. Yes, I would occasionally find something useful, but the constant onslaught of information was like a DDOS attack on my mind, and the return on investment was near non-existent. I removed several social media apps from my phone and have been in a much more productive space since. More to come about this in future posts.
Managing My Music Collection
Good progress with my music collection this year. I’ve got a lot of music, but felt I don’t enjoy half of it as much as I could. I’ve really stripped back a lot of tracks from my music collection by brutally down-rating tracks and removing them from circulation. I’ve made space to enjoy the tracks I really want to hear rather than skipping, skipping, skipping tracks that aren’t really doing it for me. That combined with some smart playlists means I’m enjoying the stuff I’ve added recently, as well as hearing great tracks that I haven’t heard in a long time.
My photography hasn’t been great this year.
My second Lumix LX7 broke in January. Same issue as the one before it – the retractable lens gets stuck and produced an error. I investigated a new camera, but funds have been tight and I haven’t been able to afford it. So for most of the year I’ve mostly been shooting on my phone – less than ideal, but better than nothing. But for 2024 I want to make it a priority to at least get my LX7 repaired as soon as possible and take more serious photos.
On the plus side, I’ve become much more organised within Lightroom. I’ve devised an effective rating system. It allows me to quickly pull up really good family photos or landscapes, rather than trawling through retrospective folders. When importing new photos, I immediately go through them and reject and rate before moving them to the relevant folder. I had a clear out recently and managed to ditch around 3000 photos (15 gig of junk). It’s going to need another few passes to really get rid of the photos I no longer want or need, but it’s a great start.
Of course, another issue affecting my photography is my lack of…
I miss walking. With just two long walks behind me in 2023, it’s been severely lacking in my life.
I love to wander. It’s a grounding effect that also inspires. I love seeing new routes and pathways, spotting things on the way. There’s a sense of freedom in it and it gives me a chance for new photos, listening to music for long periods, or deep-diving into an audiobook.
There were several reasons I didn’t walk so much in 2023, but a lot of them were excuses. The weather didn’t help, but it’s not an excuse, and that proved so true when I went on a 5.8 mile group walk after boxing day in torrential rain.
Developing my wet-weather walking kit needs to be done for 2024. I’m not going to let rain hold me back.
I got so excited about the idea of intentional calendaring at the start of 2023. In essence, it’s the idea that you don’t just calendar stuff like birthdays, appointments, social events, and holidays; but also the little things so you’re never at a loss for what to do and claim more of your time to do things that matter.
However, a few months into 2023 it largely fell by the wayside. Maybe it seemed like something we’d do when life was normal, but just too much going on made me feel like we were in survival mode. I’m struggling to figure out how it will work in 2024 as my fiancé will be recovering from major back surgery and we’ve a busy two-year old to raise.
But perhaps the biggest thing with the intentional calendaring is that this year I just made excuses. I always found a reason in my head not to do something. For 2024, I need to decide what to do and make it happen.
Personal Knowledge Management
I’m still into by PKM but still feel I need to curate my notes more. This year has been spent mostly adding to them. Much like with my music collection and my photo collection, they need clearing out to the bare bones of the good stuff. I want my PKM to be like a treasury of good stuff, not an attic of the dusty and irrelevant.
I tweaked how I was sending book highlights to UpNote. Originally I waited until I’d finished the book before exporting them as a PDF. This system is flawed if I don’t finish a book. So I started emailing highlights as I highlighted them and adding them as separate notes in UpNote.
Perhaps in 2024 I can really get settled on a system.
I lost a load of weight this year and am now the lightest I’ve been in five years. It’s always nice when people see you and comment that you’ve lost weight, and there’s nothing like fitting back into the clothes you stowed away for when you lost weight.
12kg down since the start of the year through a combination of (somewhat unintentional) intermittent fasting, and being mindful of wheat intake. I like where I’m at now because I still eat the things I enjoy and it’s not restrictive like Paleo or Keto. As long as I’m mindful of what I’m eating, it’s all good.
However, as with many, the Christmas indulgence is always a bit of a spanner in the works, but I’m pretty confident I’ll get back to it with no major issues in January.
My journaling has been strong this year. I’ve settled on a basic daily template and have endeavoured to capture little events throughout the day in order to form a bullet list of things to serve as reminders of the day’s events for later reflection. I had a breakthrough too adding the @finish tag to many entries allowing me to easily find entries that I’ve created but need to add more to.
Reading the diaries of Thoreau, Kilvert and Alan Rickman this year inspired me as to how I write my own. My stumbling block is that whilst the early hours of the day are when I get the most quiet time to myself to write, journal entries feel like they’re done best at the closing of the day – the hours of sleep seem to take away some of the zesty freshness of memory. I need to see how feasible it is to journal in the evenings.
I sold two ink sketches this year and it inspired me to work on my art again. I want to work with pastel but with it being over a year since I finished a piece of art, the fear has returned again. It’s crazy because I know how to combat it and push past it, but the sitting down and doing it is so hard. Watch this space and my art website.
All this organisation and efficiency is no good if I’m running through life at 100mph. I’ve realised need to slow down a bit and have a bit more presence in life. I need to respond rather than react. I need to take time out when I need to take it. Often, even if my body stops, my mind is still racing. I’ve toyed with meditation many times over the years, but really think having it as a regular practice would be beneficial. Maybe 2024 will be the year I instil the habit?
2023 was a strange, challenging, and somewhat disappointing year, but improvements were made and lessons were learnt. 2024 is going to be a challenge too, but I feel better prepared to face it. Onwards and upwards. Happy new year!