I've thoroughly enjoyed my time off these past few weeks. The weeks leading up to the break were stressful and I was starting to get burned out (especially knowing how close I was to a 2-week break).
In the last few years, I've either not taken much time off around the holidays or I've spent my time off thinking about work. This time around, I threw myself into vacation mode.
I'm excited to get back to work and re-learn what exactly it is I do at work!
As a follow up to my previous post, I want to set some boundaries for the rest of my year.
Be curious & continue learning
One thing I admire about a lot of the engineering leaders I work with is that they are all very curious people. In conversations they spend more time asking questions than answering them. They help guide people to the right answers by challenging their thinking and letting them find the answers from within, and I love that.
I want to leverage this kind of curiosity to better understand the people I work with and what they're trying to accomplish. It is much easier for me to pre-emptively answer a question that I think is coming than it is to sit and wait for it to be asked.
Along the lines of staying curious and learning, I want to be more disciplined about my learning. I'm not really good at sitting down and making my way through a technical book or an online course. I usually make it through about 20 minutes and then find myself wandering the apartment looking for literally anything else to do.
I have a library of technical books and access to some of the greatest courses in the world, and I plan on making use of them; I just have to be creative about how it's done. In the past, I had the mentality that you had to pick up a book or a course and start at the beginning and continue until it's done.
This year, I'm giving myself permission to do a la carte learning. I want to find topics that I find interesting and explore them in short bursts. This past year I read books about human/animal interactions, the power grid, and leadership. I usually get my reading done at the gym while listening to audiobooks; but I actually did keep a book near my bed throughout most of the year. I didn't finish a ton of books that way, but I was still reading.
There's more to life than tech
Throughout 2020 I'd experienced burnout in a few areas in my life. The most notable being politics. In 2019 and 2020 I was listening to many political podcasts; trying to keep up with the day-to-day of the political world. Shortly after the start of 2021 I completely dropped political podcasts. I started listening to business & technology podcasts like Sway and Pivot from Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway.
They covered politics very lightly but focused heavily on business and technology. However, this still presented a problem. I'd start each day working (for a tech company) and I'd go on a walk (listening to podcasts about tech companies) and meet friends for dinner (who work at tech companies). Plus, I'd spend all day on Twitter with people who are tweeting about tech.
I love my job and I find the industry fascinating, but there's more to life than tech. I have been very intentional about finding ways to immerse myself in the rest of the world. One of my favorite personal hobbies is cooking and I've also started recently reading articles from the New Yorker. Even if they're writing about technology, the stories feel more grounded in the human experience with technology than the business behind it.
I want to continue to explore some of these other outlets and fill my personal time with different outlets. One interest that has creeped up in the latter half of the year has been collecting pottery and learning more about how it's made.
Monitor my attention budget
One of the things I realized in therapy this year was how much of my attention I'm giving to things that really don't matter. I see these people online who post how they've made it through dozens of books or have these really amazing hobbies and I think: "Where do they find the time???".
Turns out, they don't have Twitter.
I made the decision when I got a new phone this year to uninstall the Facebook app from my phone. Facebook Messenger is still the primary way I communicate with friends, but I already spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram and I end up getting really frustrated reading Facebook.
I still have the app on my iPad and every now and then I'll pick it up and scroll through or post some pictures of meals I'd just made.
In 2022 I want to be more cognizant of where I'm spending my attention budget. Namely, I want to spend it in places that are educational, inspirational, and calming. Doom scrolling helps me feel more "aware" of the problems in the world, but it doesn't fill me with any energy to do anything about it. It feels paralyzing.
Become a homeowner
Someone I follow on Twitter recently posed the question: "what personal hopes do you have for the coming year?"
That's basically it. I grew up with divorced parents and spent most of my childhood in a handful of houses filled with family, friends, and food. I'd say about 99% of my family lives within 75 miles of where I live right now. I grew up spending Christmas eve at my great-grandma's house with second and third cousins.
My grandma had a house close by and always had an extra room for someone who needed it. We'd fill that house on holidays or even just sunny days to get everyone together for a nice meal or a barbeque.
When I think about having a house, I dream about having a big kitchen that allows me to create the same environment my grandparents and great-grandparents did.
This is really my #1 priority for the coming year.