Groundhog Day Resolutions - January 2021

January is here. Let's get straight into my Groundhog Day Resolutions for 2021.

Primary goals for January

1. Finalize my 2021 major goals

I have 6 goals planned out, but I'd like to add another few before finalizing the list. I figure even if I only achieve 60% of 10 goals, it'll still be better than I did in 2020.

2. Finalize my 2021 secondary goals

Normally I have around 15 goals for this list, but so far I only have 3. This year I'd like to bump it up to around 20.

3. Set up the 2021 hub page

I'm adding completion dates to my goals this year, but otherwise I'm sticking to the usual format.

4. Release Splodey Boats 2000

Adobe is completely dropping Flash this month, so it seemed appropriate to rebuild one of my Flash games. I'm entering FFSjam 2021 and rebuilding Splodey Boats for Windows and GNU/Linux.

I'll be tracking progress on the Splodey Boats update page.

Secondary goals for January

1. Run 70 miles

I had a marathon scheduled for March, but it was postponed to May. Training starts again this month and I'd like to start strong.


Groundhog Day Resolutions - 2020 Review

2020 sure was something. There's plenty to say about it, but I'm not the right person to do it. So instead I'll talk about my groundhog day goals.

Major Achievements

Ran a full marathon

I ran a half in 2019 and committed myself to a full in 2020. It didn't go quite how I'd imagined, but I ran the full distance.

Wrote for 30 days straight

My 30-day blog trial wasn't exactly exciting, but it was the first time I'd ever written every day for an extended period. Towards the end I was actually enjoying writing new posts.

Kept better notes

Early in the year I started using zetteldeft to keep notes. It's made my note-keeping experience much more enjoyable.

Stayed (relatively) healthy

I started regular bodyweight workouts in August - tracked with Emacs, naturally - and I ran a total of 600 miles. I don't feel like I'm much fitter than last year, but the numbers say I'm the fittest I've been in a long time. I'll take that.

Minor Milestones

In no particular order:

  • Published the first version of "Writing PHP with Emacs" (and 10 updates to it)
  • Planted some trees
  • Made some art (badly)
  • Got a nice letter from the people at Beeminder
  • Some of my old games ended up on AtariMania

Disappointments

There were two major goals I that I failed at. I really wanted to do a maniac week, but once lockdown measures started in March it didn't seem quite so appealing. I also failed to release a demo of The Game even though I made some good progress.

I'm also disappointed that I had to run my marathon alone. I scheduled a half for October, but that was also canceled. I don't really like the training part, but I do enjoy the actual event.

Given events of the year, it's hard to be too disappointed at things that didn't work out for me. I'm happy that I finished with my health and a stable income.

Stats!

Major Goals Achieved: 60%

Minor Goals Achieved: 60%

Primary goals set in my GHD posts:

Month Goals Set Goals Achieved Percentage
January 4 4 100%
February 4 4 100%
March 4 4 100%
April 3 1 33%
May 4 3 75%
June 4 3 75%
July 3 1 33%
August 3 2 67%
September 3 3 100%
October 3 2 67%
November 2 2 100%
December 3 3 100%

Secondary goals set in my GHD posts:

Month Goals Set Goals Achieved Percentage
January 1 0 0%
February 0 0 -
March 0 0 -
April 0 0 -
May 0 0 -
June 0 0 -
July 2 1 50%
August 2 0 0%
September 2 2 100%
October 0 0 -
November 0 0 -
December 0 0 -

Overall Monthly Stats

Totals Goals Set Goals Achieved Percentage
Primary 40 32 80%
Secondary 7 3 43%
EVERYTHING 47 35 74%

Summary and Looking Ahead

My yearly goals had a 60% success rate - down from 70% last year - but a couple of my secondary goals were basically filler because I left it so late to set them.

I also did much better on my primary monthly goals, but worse on my secondary goals. I didn't set many secondary goals and they were usually filler like "complete a secondary goal on my list". There is definitely room for improvement there.

My focus for 2021 is creation and contribution. I'll have more information on that in my 2021 kick-off post in a few days.


Groundhog Day Resolutions - December 2020

November's Primary Goals

1. Finish my 30 days of blogging trial

I wrote a summary of the experience, but the short version is that this was a big success for me.

2. Start planning my 2021 goals

I now have a list of goal ideas for next year. I don't have everything planned out, and I may come up with more goals between now and January, but I have a good idea of the major goals I want to achieve.

Primary Goals for December

1. Create plans for my 2021 major goals

The goals that I had most success with this year had clear plans (and were usually backed by Beeminder), so for 2021 I want to make sure my major goals have detailed plans.

2. Release version 0.6 of Writing PHP with Emacs

I have notes and rough outlines for the remaining content, but that's no use unless I actually publish it. Version 0.6 will contain the first few entries in the "recipes" section, and I want to have it published by the end of 2020.

3. Publish my GHD 2020 summary

2020 could have gone better, but I'd like to publish my summary/breakdown post by the end of the year.

There are only a few weeks left in the year, so there isn't much time to get things finished. At this point I think it's better to spend time planning next year instead of trying to rush through my 2020 goals.


30 days of blogging summary

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I did it.

Every year I say I'm going to blog more and I never do. This was the kick up the butt that got me going.

Here's a table with some numbers in it:

Total word count 13,118
Unique visitors 6,626

I wrote more words in 30 days than in the entirety of 2019. Daily traffic increased by around 10%, although I don't sell ads so visitor counts are mostly for vanity.

The three most popular articles were:

  1. Writing a Leanpub book with Emacs
  2. My nineties development setup
  3. Eight years of Beeminder

All three of these got picked up by different places: my Leanpub post ended up on irreal.org (which spread it to other places), the post about my dev setup got retweeted by some large Atari accounts, and my post about Beeminder was retweeted by the official Beeminder account.

Getting linked to by other places was a nice surprise, but there were some other effects that I never expected:

  • I got some stickers and a wonderful hand-written note from the team at Beeminder.
  • Two very, very old "games" that I wrote for the Atari ST ended up on AtariMania (Shining Online and Sonic's Adventure).
  • Stranger still, petsasjim1 on YouTube posted some gameplay videos of both games.

Seeing somebody demoing games I wrote when I was a teenager was not something I ever expected. I can't say I enjoyed watching - it's a bit like someone critiquing art I drew in primary school - but it has given me the motivation to make something that's actually worth playing.

Thoughts on the experience

  • At the start I would write articles the day before they were due to be published, but as time went on this slipped. A few got published quite late in the evening on the day they were due.
  • Writing a day in advance was more relaxing, and I could afford to throw out a few ideas before settling on what was published.
  • Having a Beeminder goal to bill me when I miss a post without mercy worked really well. I don't think this goal would have been as effective if I'd configured it to include a week off when I derail.
  • The longer my posting streak went on, the more I was motivated to keep it going.
  • Giving myself a deadline encouraged me to publish some articles that I probably would have left otherwise.
  • I'm not 100% happy with everything that I wrote. Some posts were a little scrappy and would have benefited from an extra day or two of time.
  • Keeping notes in an easily accessible place came in handy when I needed some inspiration.
  • Posting links on Twitter generated some interest, but I don't like just linking to my own content. I think to really get more out of the platform I'd need to put time into building an audience and sharing shorter bits of content throughout the day/week.
  • Articles about my workflow were much more popular than my introspective writing (which I expected).

Overall I enjoyed the experiment. Regular writing was quite enjoyable - if challenging at times - and now that it's over I want to make some changes to my blogging routine. I don't plan on publishing every day, but a few times a week might be the sweet spot for me.


Finding fun in forty-eight hours

Ten years ago I entered my first game jam. I made my first ever Flash game, "Monster Mash", which involved running around a small RPG map and smashing into enemies. It wasn't particularly good, but it was playable. The whole game was created and released in under 48 hours.

Since then I've entered a number of game jams. Some went well (Splodey Boats) and some did not (Ludum Dare #27). I also tried One Game a Month for a few years; although they didn't go quite as well as weekend jams, I was still able to release a couple of fun games.

How many games have I made recently outside of game jams? Zero.

I've written plenty of boilerplate code, and I have prototypes in various stages of completion, but I haven't released anything playable in years.

The great thing about game jams is that they force me to focus on just a few things. If I have to find fun in a short space of time, I have to make decisions quickly. They might not always be the best decisions, but they stop me from getting distracted in all the side-alleys of development. Parkinson's law tends to attack most projects I work on, but when time is limited I have to throw out everything that doesn't contribute to making a playable game.

Would these games be better with extra time to polish? Of course they would! But the important part is they're actually done and playable. In the eyes of the universe, a game I work on for years and never release is exactly the same as something I never created at all.

I've written about a lot of different subjects during my 30 days of blogging trial, but one thread seems to keep coming up: there are lots of things I want to do, but I'm not very good at making the time to actually do them.

Forcing myself to create something in a short space of time seems to be the most effective way to get things done. I don't think it would be sustainable on a regular basis, but regular(ish) jams may be the best way to get some of these projects out of my brain and into reality.

I'm still thinking about how this would work for different kinds of projects, but I think next year's GHD goals will look a little different.