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Grzegorz Ziemonski
Grzegorz Ziemonski

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3 Tips for a Better New Year

Hello there!

New year's here and we're all ready to change our lives for at least {you.age}-th^1 time, so who wouldn't like a bunch of productivity tips?

I mean, they probably won't change much anyway, but doesn't it feel good to read something like this when you're still pumped and naive motivated?

Enough introduction, we should all probably be working right now instead of reading this (or writing in my case).

1. Acknowledge the Enemy

Whatever you set out to do this year, regardless of whether it's loosing kilograms, learning a language, writing a book, or really anything else, you're going to have to fight this little voice in your head that's trying to ruin everything:

Hey! Don't start today! Monday seems like a better day to start new things... Or better yet, first day of next month! Oh, I mean first working day of next month, of course.

Yeah, that's a good start, so how about we do a little break today and make up for it tomorrow?

No? No breaks? Hey, let's face it. Nobody's going to want to read this book/use this project/{you.desired_outcome}.

Oh, come on. It's going so well, how about you leave the hard part for a while and research some marketing stuff now? I mean, you are going to have to take care of it some time...

Oh noes! This little obstacle breaks everything! You're doomed! You're never going to work around this. It's over. Good game, thanks, bye.

You get the point. Whether it "is" laziness, reason, self-doubt, fear, or whatever else, resistance is there to fight you and stop you from what you want to achieve.

Be ready to fight^2 , to keep going regardless of what this voice is telling you. At the same time, be ready to fail one day and get back to work the next (or next week, or next month).

2. Assure Sustainability

This may come out a little ironic, but just after telling you to fight this little voice that tries to convince you to do less, I'm going to encourage (some of) you to actually do less.

As we consistently keep "playing" below our own expectations and guilt piles up, it's very easy to come up with a great change plan that's, unfortunately, completely unsustainable.

So, before you (start to) burn yourself out with all the plans and resolutions, ask yourself a simple question:

Is this the amount of effort^3 that I'd be willing to put in for the next 5, 10, 20 years?

I mean, what we are (or should be) after is a lifelong positive change, not a temporary burst of greatness followed by a "same as before" rest of the year (or life!).

If you're still unconvinced, let's do some bad, unreliable math:

  1. A great plan of improving 2% every day that we stick to for 20 days and burn out gives us... 1.02 ^ 20 = 1.4859... ... a roughly 50% improvement, which followed by a prolonged period of stagnation actually amounts to far less than that.
  2. A half-great plan of improving 1% every day that we stick to for an entire year gives us... 1.01 ^ 365 = 37.7834... ... a stunning over 3700% improvement, which we continue to build on, because it's so easy.^4

Think about it. Maybe it's better to come up with an easy plan that continues to yield positive effects rather than any other plan that we struggle to stick to.

3. Experiment, experiment, experiment...

If you're as close-minded as I sometimes tend to be, you might find yourself searching for the perfect idea/vision/understanding of code, life, yourself, and many more. You might seek to grasp this perfect picture, this ideal that you should be heading towards before you make any "hasty" decisions.

If the sentence above at least partially describes you, then I've got some bad news. There's a likelihood that you're going to die before you reach your final destination or, in a slightly better case, you'll think that you found the ideal just to realize you were wrong.

But hey, there's an alternative approach that the tip header above already spoiled: experiment!

If you have an, however imperfect, improvement idea, "just"^5 go for it and see where it takes you.

If you have a bunch of ideas, but don't know which one to follow, try a few of them and pick one that you like best.

If you don't have time to try a few, follow your gut and pick one.

Stay open-minded. We rarely have all the information we might need to make a fully-informed decision and so be it. If anything, it makes our lives more interesting!

And for {you.deity}'s sake, don't sweat it. Unless you're working on a space mission, it's probably not going to matter much if it fails.^6 Aaand you're probably going to fail much less than you might expect.

Final Words

I have no idea why a post that was initially meant to be a bunch of coding productivity tips turned into this new-year-self-help thing, but here it is. I hope you didn't hate it and it'll be great if at least one person finds it valuable. The coding tips will have to wait for another strike of inspiration.

Have a great new year!

^1 Yes, you're this old now!
^2 Also, read some of Steven Pressfield's books, they're very good and they paint a pretty good picture of what resistance is and how we can fight it.
^3 It's funny that just when I was writing this words, I got a big strike from resistance saying that this is a DEV community, not a bunch of self-help maniacs, and you will all either ignore or hate this post.
^4 Who doesn't love bad, unreliable math?!
^5 I put "just" in quotes, because things are always easier said than done. So a "just do it" for me, might be an "overcome a big dragon for you" and I'm trying to respect that.
^6 Well, as long as nobody dies, failure of a space mission isn't that bad either.

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