Pictured above are folk singer Woody Guthrie’s new year resolutions for 1942. They’ve been making the rounds on the internet lately and I thought they’d make a great intro for this article.
Although written by a guy in a very different line of work for a bygone era, a lot of them are still applicable to today’s techie:
- Work more and better
- Work by a schedule
- Wash teeth if any
- Take bath
- Eat good: fruit, vegetables, milk
- Wear clean clothes – look good
…and so on.
Even “write a song a day” is applicable. Woody was a songwriter, and the best way to become good at it is experience. He certainly got his 10,000 hours in. If you write code, a good resolution to make would be write some code every day.
Although you can resolve to improve yourself any old day, arbitrary milestones like New Year’s Day are perfect times to take stock of yourself and how you can do better. We’re only a few days into 2012, so you shouldn’t feel as if you’ve missed the opportunity to make resolutions and stick to them. Besides, if you need some kind of arbitrary “marker date”, Chinese New Year’s only a couple of weeks away.
“It’s important for programmers to challenge themselves,” writes Matt Might. “Creative and technical stagnation is the only alternative.”
With this in mind, he’s put together a list of 12 month-size resolution, each one an “annually renewable technical or personal challenge. I’ll list the resolutions below; check out his article to see the full details about each one.
- Go analog.
- Stay healthy.
- Embrace the uncomfortable.
- Learn a new programming language.
- Learn more mathematics.
- Focus on security.
- Back up your data.
- Learn more theory.
- Engage the arts and humanities.
- Learn new software.
- Complete a personal project.
This one isn’t necessarily for techies, but as with Woody Guthrie’s resolutions, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how a photographer/yoga teacher’s resolutions can apply to you. Her “no-resolution resolutions” try to cast resolutions in a different light: just work at being happier, try to see your resolutions as dreams rather than chores, do things incrementally (“If you don’t feel like going for a run, just put on your shoes and see what happens”), practice and take refuge in yourself. All good advice.
GigaOm interviewed 12 tech leaders, asking each to state their big resolution for 2012. Among the resolutions are “Stay nervous” (Scott McNealy, formerly of Sun, now WayIn), “Open web FTW” (Matt Mullenweg, Wordpress/Automattic), “Be a better manager” (Dennis Crowley, Foursquare) and “Be the consumer-focused innovator” (Dan Hesse, Sprint’s CEO – good luck with that one, guy).
Of particular interest to me were Caterina Fake’s “Make technology more human” and Dave Morin’s “Whip myself – and Path – into fighting shape”.
This is .net magazine’s list; check out the article for the details behind each one.
- Choose better problems to solve.
- Stop stealing crap.
- Stop trying to save bad work.
- Stop being your own obstacle.
- Blame yourself first.
- Stay curious.
- Learn to make mistakes faster.
- Stop using your mom as an example of a stupid person.
- Learn to write.
- Get comfortable arguing.
I especially like the one about not using your mom as an example of the “dumb user”. I don’t know about your mom, but mine’s the chief of cardiology at a big hospital. As the article says: “Good design comes from empathy, not stereotyping”.
James Altucher is a constant source of good ideas and interesting ruminations. In this article, he talks about the one thing that will help you keep your resolutions: focus.
This idea is similar to the “small changes” idea put forth in an article I cited earlier (The No-Resolution Resolution): instead of trying to stick to a resolution, commit to starting a good habit at a time. This page features a little web app that emails you a daily or weekly remind of a habit you’re trying to build.
And finally, one from the EFF: using full-disk encryption on every computer you own. Most OSs now comes with full-disk encryption capability out of the box, and now’s a good time to start using it.