I'm always both excited and worried about writing these posts, but it wouldn't be a good end of the year for me without getting it done.
2019 was a more 'quiet' year for me. After settling down in Prague in September last year, except for a few trips during the year, I mostly stayed here. The main goals were to have a peaceful time, maintain a productive routine, and finish a big update of my Timelines app. Now, most of these things didn't go nearly as planned, but at the same time - I'm grateful for the progress I did with all of them. I titled this blog post the year of introspection, because that's something I was spending a lot of energy and effort on behind the scenes (I explore this later in this article).
Let's split this post into multiple sections to give it some structure.
Working on my indie app
This year was the first time for me when I was able to dedicate 90% of my total working time to my own app - Timelines. All that while not burning through my savings. I'm super grateful for this, because this has been my goal pretty much since I started with apps those 10 years ago.
For this year, I had a goal of finishing a big update 2.0 and releasing it during summer - and while I did fail to do that (and the update is still not done), I'm glad that I got to work on exciting features, such as an interactive bar chart or ability to define time goals. And hey - I'm getting there, slowly but surely.
Also, I became more comfortable with going into directions that ultimately lead to nowhere, and then abandoning those as soon as I find that out. I had one such experience with building sync in my app - I learned quite late in the process that the framework I was going to use isn't actually going to work well enough for my use case. So I had to abandon it and start over. David taught me last year about the Sunk Cost Fallacy, and that helped me a lot.
Lastly, a huge help with keeping up my motivation was a secret iOS Mastermind group that I joined (was accepted to) early this year. We have weekly Google Hangouts, and it's a great experience to share our struggles, and also being able to learn from people who are much further in their indie endeavors than I am.
Daily routines and schedule
This was a hit or miss for me. There were periods where I felt like I have a good hold onto this, but then there were times when my sleep pattern was completely off, and that had huge negative effects on my productivity. But I'm glad I was able to keep my non-negotiable daily habits:
- meditation in the morning - to practice mindfulness and still my mind
- Five Minute Journal - for practicing gratitude
- free-from writing - to work through my thoughts and emotions
In terms of sleep, my longterm aim is to be consistently going to bed at around 10:20 PM and getting up before 7:00 AM. I had about three weeks this winter when I managed to mostly keep it up and it felt really good. This is something I definitely want to try prioritizing more in the next year.
I discovered a great book titled Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life. I loved the author's scientific approach and detailed descriptions how specific nutrients affect the specific parts of our digestive system and metabolism. What I also loved is the specific advice he gave about what to eat. If you are even just mildly interested in this topic, definitely give this book a try.
Based on this book, I have significantly changed what I eat on a regular basis, and I noticed substantial improvements in my mood and my overall ability to focus and keep attention.
Just to name a few, here are the things that I started consuming on a regular basis: kale, avocados, dark chocolate, blueberries, extra-virgin olive oil, Omega-3 supplements.
For the majority of the year, I kept having the problem of worrying that I'm not getting enough done. But I realized that there are legitimate excuses for it. In short, I have been trying to balance:
- having consistent (and enough of) sleep
- socializing, hanging out with friends
- working on my app, and trying to hit my daily and weekly goals there
- eating well - cooking regularly, and eating all the stuff I mentioned in the previous paragraph
- doing all the daily habits
- also going to some events from time to time
This has been a struggle of course, and I don't have any definitive solution to this (and maybe I'll never have one). While socializing has been eating into my productive time the most, I have to say that I'm very grateful for all the friends I met throughout this year, and have hung out with. Many of them through the coworking space where I work. Especially in the last few months of the year, the environment there was just so friendly and positive, and I genuinely appreciate that. We also started doing indoor climbing every Sunday, and I also can't omit the regular pull-up sessions at the coworking space which are a great opportunity to take a break and also do something good for our sedentary bodies.
On the personal side - trying to leave no stone unturned
This year, perhaps more than ever before, I tried to turn my attention inwards. I feel like I keep alluding to this in every blog post I write, but clearly, there is something in me that wants me to put this out there, so I'll try.
There was a friendship which fell through, and it really kind of made me feel devastated. And I kept asking myself: why did it end up like this? Why did I mess it up? And why did I get so hung up on it? It kind of stirred up some older wounds too, and I found myself pondering frequently just why is that. How did I get here? Through various techniques, I tried to dig deep into all the underlying problems, and have been trying to make sense of it all. This is one of the big reasons why I do my daily meditation and daily writing. But it wasn't until this year that I consciously decided to fully look myself in the mirror. Face the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Keep trying to find ways to see things more and more clearly, and don't shy away from admitting things and shortcomings to myself which would be so much easier to just ignore and sweep under the rug.
Also, in terms of what I want to accomplish in life and where I want to get: I realized that working through these emotional patterns and issues is absolutely necessary. My future literally depends on my ability to do this.
I strongly believe that facing the truth is an absolutely necessary step towards any meaningful long-lasting improvement. There is no other way. Things sometimes need to get worse before they can get better.
As for the techniques I tried to work on this: during the spring, I did regular therapy sessions for some time. While it did eventually fall through because we just didn't see eye-to-eye on certain approaches, she did help me in several ways. One of the big ones: opening my eyes to the fact that I see certain aspects of myself and the world in a distorted fashion. And consequently, realizing how a lot of people (me included) project both negative and positive characteristics on certain people around them, based on their subconscious biases and past experiences. This was a bitter pill to swallow, but accepting it was a huge help for further progress on this path of self-discovery.
I also read several interesting books about this topic. Two of them that I'd highly recommend:
- Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristina Neff. It has helped me treat myself in a more healthy and accepting way, and it helped me give myself a break from the frequent judgemental attitude that I used to have towards myself.
- On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy by Carl R. Rodges - he was way ahead of his time in his novel approach to therapy, and even though the book is from 1961, it is still relevant today. One quote that I loved from this book: "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."
One thing that has also been a major positive shift in my attitude: realizing that I'm not responsible for the happiness and actions of others. And also: realizing that I can't really change/save somebody who doesn't want it herself/himself. I can try, and I have been trying for a long time, but this year I finally decided to kind of put my hands off of it and let it be. I made the decision to start putting myself first, and am learning not to feel guilty about that.
But, contrary to how gloomy and serious this all might sound, I am really glad that towards the end of the year, I found myself in sort of a state of equanimity. Understanding how things get passed (often unknowingly and unintentionally) from generation to generation, and that when you look from a wide-enough context at a certain person, you find compassion for them, and you realize that you can't really blame them for certain negative outcomes of their behavior. Not to say that people are not responsible for their actions, but I believe it's way more nuanced than people often realize.
Most importantly, through all this, I managed to change the way I relate to myself as well, and I am happy to say that I see myself in a much better light than I did at the beginning of this year. But I'm fully aware that it's still just the beginning, there's a lot of work ahead of me on this front.
I hope that if there's anyone out there reading this and going through similar challenges, that this has been helpful to you.
Admitting all of these things publicly is either quite brave or ridiculously stupid, I can't tell right now. If I change my mind later, I might take this post down tomorrow :P.
To close this off - this has been an important year for me, and overall I'm really grateful for it. Now I need to go celebrate the New Year and the arrival of the new decade. 2020 will be huge! 🎉