Posted on Sun 01 January 2017

2016 in review

Eggs and lavender

Following on from my 2015 review, here's a round-up of what I did this year, what I read and watched, and my goals for 2017.

Things I did in 2016

  • Published 48 posts on my blog
  • Wrote 88 articles for freelance clients
  • Finished up freelancing and accepted a part-time job offer for 2017
  • Launched 3 major Exist for iOS updates (as well as minor updates in-between) with Apple Health integration, location tracking, and additional Apple Health data
  • Spent a few weeks with an iOS mentor
  • Switched from iOS to Android with a new Pixel phone
  • Started posting videos to YouTube
  • Released Productive Habits, a four-week email course and eBook
  • Took an adult gymnastics class
  • Launched Field Trip, an online magazine about creative work and learning new skills
  • Launched The Monthly Review, a newsletter of personal reviews
  • Bought a bike and started cycling occasionally
  • Became a member of the Australian Sex Party
  • Sponsored a child through The Smith Family
  • Spoke out about a bill I supported and did everything I could to help it pass in the Victorian Legislative Council (it failed to pass due to a tied vote)
  • Found all my lost superannuation, rolled it over into one account, researched different funds and chose a new one with good returns

2016 goals

Though I set my goals at the start of 2016, I revisited them in August and created this updated list:

✖️ Double the income from Hello Code (from around $3000/month now to $6000/month)

The first goal was the most important one—to double the revenue Hello Code is making so I can work on it full-time alongside Josh. I barely made a dent in this goal, which is really disappointing. I think that came from a combination of letting other goals and projects take my focus, struggling with a lack of energy and motivation due to a general gloominess that my day job created in my life this year, and anxiety about the lack of stability in my day job that made it hard to focus on the long-term benefits of building up Hello Code's revenue vs. the short-term benefits of producing smaller products that could offset my day job income immediately. I'm attacking this goal again in 2017, which I'll talk about at the end of this post.

✔️ Pay off my tax debt

Thankfully I paid off my tax debt, so I'm back to being debt-free. I'm also more informed about handling income tax while I'm self-employed, so I shouldn't get any surprise $20k tax bills in the future.

✔️ Launch Field Trip

Although I did launch Field Trip early in the year, I haven't made much time to work on new articles. I enjoy writing these, but I've been so stressed about work and my income this year that I've pushed any free projects aside to focus on improving my financial situation.

✔️ Find a sport or exercise I enjoy

I did enjoy gymnastics, but I found that the "beginner" class I attended was for gymnastics beginners, not fitness beginners. I wasn't nearly fit enough to get the most out of the class, so I eventually stopped going and decided to focus on building my base-level of fitness and strength before returning.

I also bought a bike this year and got into cycling a bit more. It's harder to fit it in because I don't need to go anywhere I can cycle to, so I have to make plans to go out cycling just for the exercise, which takes a lot more motivation. When the weather's mild it's a lot of fun, though, and I hope to do this more next year.

✖️ Travel to Europe

Travelling to Europe was always a bonus goal which I didn't think I'd get to this year. I'm pushing this one into 2017 because I think it might be feasible to be booking a trip this time next year.

✔️ Launch four of my own products

I sort of launched four of my own products in 2016, so I've ticked off this goal. I launched Productive Habits, a four-week email course, and a few months later launched an eBook version of the course. I also launched Field Trip, which was a goal in itself but I've counted it against this one as well. And finally, I launched The Monthly Review, a free newsletter full of personal reviews every month.

Although this adds up to four products, the underlying goal here was to make some regular income from products to offset the need for income from my day job so I could either cut back on freelance work or build up a financial buffer to offset the instability of freelancing. I won't be freelancing in 2017 so I've lessened the instability of my day job anyway, but the product approach didn't work out at all, really. Without constant marketing efforts Productive Habits makes very little revenue, and the other two projects are free.

✔️ Send minimum 5 personal essay/magazine writing pitches

I hit my goal of sending out pitches for personal essays and feature articles. Unfortunately only one was accepted, and I decided to pull my submission when I saw the suggested edits which removed a lot of what I cared about in the draft I'd written. Since this kind of writing pays much less than content marketing I probably won't make the time to do more of this in 2017.

✖️ Complete minimum two units of uni

Although I really like being a student and learning, I had no good reason for going back to uni. I debated about five different degrees, and switched my enrolment at least three times before realising I was wasting my time and money. I went back partly because I wanted to have a degree. But mostly it was just because I wanted to offset the frustration, lack of progress, and lack of stability and structure in my life. Studying helped a little, but it wasn't a real solution, so I ended up not finishing any units this year and pulling my enrolment for next year.

My favourite stuff from 2016

Theatre and events

This year I spent big bucks on good seats at musicals and football, and didn't go to as many small-time cheap shows as I've done in previous years.

Matilda

If I could afford it I would have seen this show again. It was really great, despite seeing it surrounded by kids who talked, moved around, and rustled wrappers throughout most of the show. I don't think it's a show for kids at all—they were bored because it's not designed to entertain < 10 year-old children. But lesson learned: if a show could be seen as a children's/family show, don't see it at a matinee!

AFL: Geelong v. North Melbourne

I didn't see much football this year, since my dad moved interstate and he used to be my buddy for Geelong games. I was really glad I went to this game, though. My sister, niece, and nephew came to Melbourne to go with me and we had great seats—about three rows back. After obsessively watching up to five games of AFL every weekend all season, it was surreal to see the players up close. The game was great, and we had a lot of fun.

Louis Theroux

I'm a huge fan of Louis, and really enjoyed hearing about his process for interviewing and his thoughts on what makes for a great interview.

Heide

For my birthday Josh took me to the Heide Museum of Modern Art. I really enjoyed the tour we did of Charles Blackman's work. I couldn't find an image of it anywhere, but one of my favourite paintings of Blackman's was a big one of a face in semi-darkness. Our tour guide suggested this might be a representation of Blackman as his wife saw him, since she was losing her eyesight. The grounds of Heide were also really nice, with lots of history wrapped up in what we see there now, and art sprinkled throughout the huge grounds. I'd definitely go back in the future.

Singin in the Rain

I saw Singin in the Rain twice when I was in London—it was that good. I absolutely loved it. It was just as fun in Melbourne. It's a funny, silly, exuberant musical and I'm glad I had the chance to see it again.

Tripod

I haven't seen as many festival shows in the past couple of years, as I got a bit frustrated with how hit-and-miss they tend to be. But I'm really glad I made the effort to see this one. It was at The Famous Spiegeltent in Melbourne, and was really funny. I'm not a long-time Tripod fan, but musical comedy is my favourite kind of comedy, so they didn't have to try too hard to get me on-side.

Books

I struggle a lot to find books I really love. I give up on probably a third of the books I start reading. I'm very hard to please, which makes me sad, because I want to read more but with so much trouble finding books I love I end up having to force myself to read because it's not much fun. These are the books I read this year that made an impression on me.

Room

The movie was so good I read the book, and loved it.

Come as You Are

Highly recommended. Not an easy read, but an enlightening one. If you think you know anything about how sex works, you should probably read this.

So Good They Can't Ignore You

Really enjoyed the lessons from this short book. It made me rethink my attitude to my work.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

One of the few novels I really enjoyed this year. The last chunk wasn't as interesting, but overall it was still worth reading.

City of Thieves

A story that really stuck with me. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

This book really made me think about death and how we respond to it as a society. It gave me a lot more to think about than I'd expected, but also had some laughs and crazy antics along the way.

Bringing Home the Birkin

Not as serious as Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, but a similar type of book in that it had crazy antics and fun, but a serious, introspective ending. This one's far more heavy on the fun and antics, though. One of very few books I couldn't put down this year.

The Unlikely Disciple

I'm really into immersion journalism books (or whatever you like to call them—sometimes stunt journalism is the best term). This one was really fascinating, because it hit home so much for me. It's about a guy who's going to school at Brown University (one of the most liberal schools in the U.S., it seems) and spends a semester at an evangelical Christian Uni. It's fascinating in a horrifying way a lot of the time.

TV

Orange is the New Black

The first half of this year's season was a bit slow, and I worried the show had lost me, but the last two or three episodes were some of the best yet. Those episodes included the perfect mix of real, serious issues that I care about, and drama that made me want to binge on the show all day long. I can't wait for the next season.

Alone

I generally don't like reality shows but I was surprised by how engaging this one was. Part of that is probably due to the lack of producers and film crew during the shooting. The show starts with ten participants sent to a remote part of the world, each in a different, random part of the area. The participants have to survive on their own, with nobody to talk to or help them and they have to set up cameras to film everything they do. The last person standing wins half a million dollars. It's not as tacky as overly-produced shows like MasterChef, and includes lots of interesting facts about surviving in the wild. Watching the participants solve problems like how to find food or build a better shelter is fascinating, but the psychological aspects of their experience are just as good.

The Night Of

This short series did a really good job of showing how simply being accused of a crime can completely mess up your life.

Fresh Meat

I'm not sure why I liked this show so much. I wasn't super into it at first, but after about half a season I was really sucked in, and started watching it every day. It was one of those shows where I just enjoyed spending time with the characters, and those are all too rare.

Detectorists

I love how gentle this comedy is. It's fun, and funny, but at its own pace. I really came to enjoy the characters and the style of humour.

The Knick

I liked The Knick, but didn't love it... until the end. One of the reveals in the last episode has stayed with me and I'm torn over whether I wish there was another season or I like that it's up to me to wonder about how that reveal might have turned out down the line.

You're the Worst

One of my favourite comedies for years. I love that this show tackles tough, serious issues while still being funny and silly. And I love the writing. There's some excellent dialogue in every episode, and some of my favourite jokes ever. The Ben Folds episode is a standout, but the last episode included the funniest moment I've seen on TV all year. I haven't laughed that hard for ages.

The Crown

Not quite as enthralling as Borgen or House of Cards, but a drama along the same lines. Claire Foy is great, as is John Lithgow. I'm looking forward to Season 2 already.

Movies

Room

Such good acting by Brie Larson, and such a good story, but a bit scary for me at one point.

Blue is the Warmest Color

I wasn't too enthused about this movie right after watching it but I've thought about it a few times since, which is always a good sign that a film affected me.

The Lobster

This movie was really weird, but in all the right ways. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

Dear Zachary

Sad and scary and horrible and unbelievable. Definitely worth a watch.

A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman

I love documentaries and films about artists. This one explores the history of Aardman, the company behind Wallace & Gromit, Morph, Shaun the Sheep, and Chicken Run. It gave me more appreciation for the work they do, and respect for the animators sticking up for their values and not selling out when given the chance.

What Do Artists Do All Day?

This BBC documentary series is similar to A Grand Night In, in that it follows artists and shows us what their process is like. Some episodes were better than others, but in general I really enjoyed learning about what a day in the life of different artists looks like. It definitely made me daydream of living in a cottage somewhere in England and spending all day in a studio making stuff.

Audrie & Daisy

One of the most frustrating films I've ever seen, I think. Several stories of teen rape that pretty much all end up the same way: rapists getting away with it (and thinking they did nothing wrong in the first place) and rape victims attempting suicide. The lack of support, justice, and education around rape is horrifying.

The White Helmets

This documentary is short, but definitely affected me. It's a sad, frustrating look at the team who risk their lives daily to rescue those wounded by the fighting in Syria.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Taika Waititi is the best. Just as expected, this film was funny in just the way I like. I especially loved the funeral scene where Taika makes a cameo. Special mention also for What We Do in the Shadows, a mockumentary by Taika Waititi about vampires sharing a flat in New Zealand. Much funnier than I expected, and very enjoyable.

Plans for 2017

2016 has been a pretty bad year overall. It's been a horrible year for the world, and not much better for me personally. I struggled a lot with work due to a huge dent in my confidence from being fired for the first time in my life just before Christmas 2015. I also struggled with instability in my freelance work, with a handful of clients throughout the year suddenly dropping into radio silence and taking a (sometimes sizeable) chunk of my regular income with them. Freelancing has its pros and cons, but the extra hassle and lack of stability doesn't work for me right now. Hello Code is unstable and stressful enough.

In 2017 I'm starting a part-time gig with one company, which I'm really looking forward to. After easing into the role in December I'm already feeling better about my work—both how much I can get done and how much better my work is when I can focus on a single company and their audience rather than jumping from client to client.

Working regular hours every week will also (hopefully) help with making more progress on Hello Code. I can plan my work on Hello Code around my day job knowing those regular hours won't change, unlike freelance work where I could never contain it or trust it to be the same from week to week.

I'm also going to continue to focus on exercising regularly, because I haven't found a way to make this stick without getting boring yet, and I know exercise is important for both physical and mental health.

Goals

  1. Double Hello Code's revenue
  2. Find a regular volunteering opportunity
  3. Fill up my travel fund
  4. Release Larder for iOS
  5. Release an open-source project

Things I want to get better at

  1. Reducing waste
  2. Buying fewer physical items
  3. Being more social
  4. Wasting less time on social media
  5. Spending more time away from digital devices
  6. Eating less and drinking more water

Habits I want to build

  1. Drawing
  2. Working out
  3. Playing piano
  4. Cycling

P.S. I make some stuff you might like: Exist, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers.

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you purchase something via one of my product links, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). I only add affiliate links after writing a blog post, so the products I mention are truly what I want to write about.

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