The Year of Communication

The idea of a new year being a time to reflect and set goals always felt reasonable to me, though I had never set any personally. I think I had always (correctly) predicted the difficulty of sticking with a single resolution for the entire year, even past the honeymoon phase of the first couple of weeks of January.

Despite this, near the end of last decade, I decided to set a goal for myself — I wanted to start journaling on paper. Throughout my time learning how to become a functional human on this planet with actual responsibilities, I’ve gone through way too many different productivity and to-do apps in the quest to find one that “just works” (and have toyed on more than one occasion with the idea of just writing my own).

I had always avoided settling on a system that involved me writing on paper, since my penmanship is wanting in legibility, and I can type several times faster than I can write. However, the more I thought about it, the better idea it seemed to keep some physical planner with me, if only to provide me with a break from staring at screens all day long. Having a dedicated time before going to sleep to reflect on the day’s events would also prove cathartic.

Many people online have touted bullet journaling. The appeal of this system to me was that it was lightweight and was flexible for different styles of journaling. I thought: since I was never able to stick with any productivity apps in the past, maybe paper journaling was the secret? I went out and purchased a nice notebook and set up all my different journaling spreads, prepared to tackle the new year with my new bullet journal.

Fast-forward to this February, and I had already started to slip. Part of what I was trying to achieve with my journaling was writing something (even just a sentence) about each day, so I could flip through it at the end of the year to get an overview of how I spent my time. Like I feared, even something as simple as this became too much of a chore, and I would start missing days and struggle to catch up on the week.

I reflected on this failure to maintain my journal, and realized that the act of journaling itself wasn’t what motivated me to try it out (I have been managing to stay on top of things through a combination of calendars, flagged emails, and folders-as-to-do-items on my desktop). What I really wanted was an outlet to write more.

CGP Grey and Mike Hurley, two YouTubers & podcasters whom I follow, host the podcast Cortex, where they talk about their work system and how they stay productive. Something that they have been pushing for for a while now is the idea of yearly themes as an alternative to yearly resolutions. Grey actually published a video earlier this year outlining the case for a theme-based system.

Almost two months into the year, I have decided to retire the bullet journal and jump aboard the yearly themes train, with what I am calling the Year of Communication. It’s not that I think my communication skills aren’t up to snuff, but rather than I don’t do it enough.

I’m not sure why, but pretty early on in high school, my brain had made up its mind and decided that sharing thoughts online was something that I should avoid. Irrational, but that’s how I have existed for the majority of adulthood. Perhaps it was wanting to maintain a cleaner divide between my online persona and my real life, Now, though, I have to accept that having opinions that people might disagree with is okay, and just a side-effect of living in our (increasingly polarized, ugh) world.

Another part of my writing paralysis is due to all of the written content that I do consume. I spend the majority of my waking hours reading articles posted on Hacker News and the more tasteful sides of Reddit. Within these circles, it really feels like every engineer and their dog is able to pump out grandiose yet captivating technical articles.

Posting more means coming to terms with a few of things: firstly, that not every blog post needs to be a groundbreaking thesis, and that that’s actually okay. Random monthly status updates are perfectly fine things to publish on this blog (after all, what else is going to go here?). Also, Twitter and Reddit are not actually read-only services, and lurking gets boring after a while. Finally, I don’t have to adopt the stiff tone that I usually have when writing. It’s hard to break from carefully curating one’s identity, but it’s what got me into this silent pickle in the first place.

Consider this post my first foray into random posting in the last five years or so. All I can hope for is that this yearly theme sticks a lot better than any resolution.