Looking to 2024: Creation, Fun, and Thoughtfulness

Before I look to 2024, it would probably be best to do a quick look back on how I fared in my personal goals for 2023. My goals for last year were centered around two words: "presence" and "ease."

Presence was all about being in the moment, about trying to maintain presence of mind in my actual real life rather than being distracted in the mind or in my digital habits. I'd say that there was a good portion of the year where I did okay with that, but certainly towards the end of the year my habits (especially my digital habits) tended towards distraction and doomscrolling. One of my more practical goals at the beginning of 2024 will be to decrease my reliance on my phone for boredom and awkwardness and tend towards the analog/physical.

Ease was to try to pursue an approach to life that was less irritable when new or frustrating things happened. The goal was "ease" in life, not by avoiding hard things, but by changing my perspective. Again, I do think that I somewhat improved in this area, but as I'll mention below, I think there is more I can do here to make this a reality in my daily life.

For this year, the three words I want to focus on are creation, fun, and thoughtfulness.

I have chosen these words intentionally, as I believe they either relate to new practices I want to pursue or because they are extensions of last year's goals.

On Creation

By creation I mean the act of being creative. A large portion of my life (a minimum of ~40+ hours!) is spent in the digital world. I work as a data analyst in digital marketing, and my day is filled with code and data ephemera. While I pretty much like what I do, and the way that it provides for our family, the truth is that it's a job filled with tasks that are digitally slippery. In other words, it's often difficult to point back to my work and see how it is physically affecting the world. Again, I don't necessarily mind that, but I do think that humans are built to find productivity satisfaction from having a physical effect on the real world.

  1. The main way I'd like to practice creation is by woodworking. I'm hoping this is a year that I can spend building real things with my hands. A small list of things I'd like to build:
    • Workbench
    • Learn to make dovetail joints and mortise and tenon joints
    • pencil boxes (maybe for gifts)
    • whiskey cabinet (that's the "big one" that I think would be a reach)
  2. The act of creation doesn't have to be out of the digital world though -- I would also like to build a basic web app for our family. The basic idea is that I want this to be a "family wishlist" app. One where there is a family group that you join, each person's address and birthday is stored. Each person has an associated wishlist of items they want for an upcoming birthday or holiday. The main page of the app will show the birthdays upcoming in the next thirty days (or if it's within 30 days of Christmas, it will show a list for everyone). I'm confident that I'm capable of this, especially on the backend of things, but I have never built something with interconnected data tables so there will be some fun challenge there.

On Fun

Fun is an interesting one for me to write. It feels strange to say out loud, because I think the truth is I haven't considered fun to be an important part of my own life. And to be quite honest it feels quite silly to even say "I want to have more fun." But the truth is I think it's the best word for what I'm trying to pursue. Having fun this year is the most direct extension of last year's ease goal. Fun was borne of my realization that nearly everyone in our family has some struggle with anxiety. While we express it in different ways, at the core of this is some level of fear of new experiences, a nearly overwhelming desire for constant routine, and a general lack of trust that everything that needs to get done will get done.

I don't know that I have tangible goals related to this overarching theme or something that I can specifically point back and stay accountable to. The only thing that comes to mind related to fun is not looking at new things like they are a chore, and being willing to say "yes" more often, especially when it is a new experience or when it's my kids asking me to do something. I'll keep thinking about this one, but I'm hoping for a slow-burn attitude change for myself here.

On Thoughtfulness

Thoughtfulness is probably a general extension of the presence goal. Although I do think I had some personal, general improvements in this area, there are some parts of my life where I feel I am "just floating along." A good example of this is my faith. Again, this is another thing I'm writing about that gives me a general feeling of discomfort due to my long and checkered history with faith. 2023 was a good chance for me to step back from sort of brute forcing my faith after a couple of years of difficulty at LIDE, and another couple of years with some extended family estrangement revolving around matters of faith. Nevertheless, Christianity has left an indelible mark on my life -- one that is not easily ignored. And the truth is I find that I'm not interested in ignoring it. Jesus is compelling, and perhaps more than just that. Liturgies are beautiful and strange to our modern ears. Continuing to attend church at this time and place is, I think, still a subversive act.

But that's just one example of the things I think I'm not being thoughtful enough about. And I do think there are practical ways that I can be a more thoughtful person in 2024.

  1. About a month ago, Elaine, the girls, and I all started a Wednesday night family Bible study. We're currently doing a nine-week series on the basics of Chrsitianity from The Bible Project. I'd like to truly make sure this continues so we can have engaging faith conversations as a family.
  2. Reduce phone use by at least 1/2. My screen time on my phone has crept up to about 3 hours per day at the end of the year. Some of this is just being on vacation so it's understandable. But I would like this to be greatly reduced, especially as nearly all my working time is spent on a computer. Easiest and simplest way to do this (ugh) is to remove Chrome and other web browsers from my phone so I cannot scroll, then set a password so no apps can be easily downloaded without a serious amount of friction. I will need to find a new way to play Wordle and Connections though.
  3. Conversely, I need to responsibly use the time and attention that I'm attempting to save. And in the spirit of trying to reduce my digital usage and increase my attention towards things that I care about, I think I want to move to a general two notebook system:
    • In the first notebook, I think I'd like to use some version of the bullet journal, which I had good success with a few years ago. Bullet journaling (not the fancy-schmancy kind) is generally used for time management and productivity tracking. I don't want to get too sentimental with this, and really would like to use it as a true tracking tool, nothing more than that.
    • In the second, I'd like to have something like a commonplace book. This is just a way of keeping a notebook for quotes/thoughts/ideas that I care about, whether they come from me or somewhere else. This is, again, something that I think ought not to be sentimental, but just another tool in the repertoire for increasing contemplation, thoughtfulness, and my capacity for attention.
  4. Digitally, since I cannot really escape that world and I do not think is beneficial to completely leave it, I'd like to increase the amount of blog posts I write this year. Most simply, I'd like to write one blog post per week. For the sake of making this more than just a "post a link" situation, it should only count as a blog post if I write a full paragraph.

So, this year's words: creation, fun, and thoughtfulness. This year's practical goals:

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