In past years I set goals at the beginning of the year and then recapped my progress on them the following year (see my retrospectives from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). Unfortunately I posted my goals for 2014 but then never followed up (as I came to realize last week). As such I felt that this might be a good time to switch things up. Personally I found that my goals were either repeating themselves or becoming too formulaic. Instead I’ll be focusing more on writing about my past year’s accomplishments and share out a few things I’m interested in.
2015 was a big year. It was the first full year with our daughter Clara and first full year living in our new house. We also completed a number of home projects including a new patio (previous one starting to sink in places) and remodeled our master bath. Glad to have both of those behind us but already finding new things that need to be fixed / replaced for 2016. The joys of home ownership.
On the technology side I’ve been digging into Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and given a number of internal and external presentations on this topic. Additionally I’ve been following along the progression of PowerApps (read my Start Learning About PowerApps post here). SharePoint 2016 will be releasing in 2016 and I’ve been lucky to have access to early bits to put them through their paces. This is all part of my process to continue learning new things and also partially my natural desire to tinker with cool technology. Walt Disney put it best when he said “[w]hen you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”
One side interest of mine has always been personal productivity and ways to track it. Many systems exist such as Getting Things Done (which I’ve read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done a few years ago), Kanban, and more. Recently I’ve taken up using Trello as my personal (non-work) task tracking system. I like the concept of being able to create columns / lists for my daily tasks. I have a backlog and 2-4 days (columns) of lists. I move cards from my backlog to my daily column once they are completed. I can quickly and easily archive a daily list to keep things tidy but also see prior days for a quick retrospective. My target is to complete at least 2 tasks each day. It is a work in progress but so far after 2+ weeks it is working better than any prior system I’ve tried. See below for an example of my recent tasks.
Over the past 6+ years I’ve started getting back into reading pretty heavily. At first it started with audiobooks during the 30-45 min commute to various customers when I was a consultant with Sogeti. I listened to some excellent audiobooks including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Asimov Robot series, and more. I chose to get my audiobooks from the local library which while it had a number of excellent choices was still limited.
When I joined Microsoft I was traveling at least 2-5 times a month, usually driving or flying anywhere from 1-7 hours. At this point my reading started shifting more towards physical books. There is something about holding a physical book in your hands that resonates with me. Perhaps it harkens back to my grade school days and summers reading. Either way there are a number of used books stores and libraries that provide plenty of options.
A few of the recommendations from the last year or two:
- The Martian – Andy Weir
- Snow Crash – Neil Stephenson
- Foundation Series – Isaac Asimov
- Galactic Empire Series – Isaac Asimov
- Asimov On Numbers – Isaac Asimov
- Ready Player One: A Novel – Ernest Cline
- Zero Day – Mark Russinovich
- Trojan Horse – Mark Russinovich
- Rogue Code – Mark Russinovich
- Kill Decision – Daniel Suarez
During a summer vacation in 2009 (I distinctly remember the occasion) my oldest brother turned me on to a podcast called Stuff You Should Know. I had started listening to audiobooks not too long before this so I was getting used to audio content but wasn’t fully ingrained in it as a medium. Things changed after I started listening to this podcast. Josh and Chuck (after a brief stint with a different starting duo) mix a blend of information, entertainment, inside jokes, and levity to a huge variety of topics (they have amassed over 700 episodes). My wife also enjoys listening to them during car trips.
Over time I added other podcasts to during long drives, workouts, or relaxing at home. Some podcasts haven’t kept my interest and I’ve stopped listening but these current shows are a mix of entertainment and technology information.
Hopefully by reading this retrospective and sharing of interests you are inspired to reflect on your own past year. I find it invigorating and recharging looking back at the past year’s progress while looking forward to what can be accomplished the next year. If you have any recommendations on books, podcasts, or other technology feel free to share. Thanks for reading.
Note: Amazon links are referral links on my blog and go towards paying for hosting, domain registration, and writing this blog which is done on my own time.