2022 in review
Posted on: 3 January 2023
This past year has been a good one for me. A few hastily-made goals for the year turned into this very blog; a project conceived out of not a lot else. I’ve steadily chipped away at the functionality for this site over the past 12 months, using the On The Side Slack community for motivation along the way.
I’d been journalling and collecting stats since March 2021, and I’d been mulling over ways to get some of the data I was collecting online and public. That was the other half of my new personal site: the feed. Lots more from that later, but firstly…
How did last year’s goals go?
Original post: https://samdking.co.uk/blog/2022-goals/.
This was an unquantifiable goal, but one I feel I started to embrace towards the end of the year. I found my stride and managed to wheedle reading more into a daily habit to enjoy and unwind, rather than a chore. Mostly non-fiction, I hope to add some more fictional light-reading into the habit for 2023. This year I read 10 books compared to 5 in 2021.
I will continue to work through this list, although I have a feeling I’ll be publishing a 2023 reading list too (or perhaps extending the original), of all the book recommendations I’ve accumulated this year.
In all honesty, this one produced a lot of anxiety for a lot of the year. I read the Total Immersion book cover to cover, and completed the video course on Udemy. But it wasn’t till the autumn when I finally got the push to book my first swimming session at the local pool. I didn’t die. I felt, ironically, like a fish out of water, but I made it.
I’ve done one further session since and have pathetically and somewhat predictably lost a bit of drive due to lack of improvement. I know it takes more than 2 hours to get good at something new, I just have to stick at it. And in 2023 I will continue this habit, hopefully at least fortnightly.
I had lofty goals for this, but finding the motivation for tangible, physical projects like this is my blind spot. I did, however, get a cat flap fitted and we did replace our old boiler. Sadly not with a heat pump (a survey returned the news half of our pipework would have to be replaced to facilitate), but I’ve made my peace with that.
The office declutter happened in some regard; I moved it. My old office is now a playroom for the kids and spare room for guests. My new office is upstairs and thus quieter. The move facilitated a declutter of sorts, but decoration per-se has been slow-going.
Lighting improvement has been halted by my often-crippling decision paralysis when it comes to things like this. Still needed, still low on the priority list. A fanciful project for the future. I am however, currently pursuing a key light for my desk setup. The natural light in my new office isn’t great, meaning videos calls are pretty bad quality. I’d like to remedy this with a proper video light. Perhaps motivating me to finally get in front of the camera in 2023 and starting recording some coding screencasts.
My Personal Life
Nothing changed too drastically in 2022. My daughter Alba turned one, and Brandon, three; so it's been a challenging year on the growth front. My wife Charlotte returned to work at the end of the year following maternity leave. Trips have been at a premium, but highlights include a solo trip to France for my sister's wedding, a family trip to Yorkshire for my brother-in-law's wedding, and 5 Summer days in a cottage in Kent.
Work has remained pretty constant for me. I lead the launch of a new Rails site for our corporate partners, co-developed an integration with a new courier, and began work on an internal tool for batch packing in the warehouse using Rails 7 & Hotwire. I've also rather gleefully been sunsetting and removing large parts of our old codebase this year, in preparation for a significant upgrade of some our systems in 2023. I have moved home offices from downstairs to up, but other than that, my home setup remained the same.
My weekly stats
This feature came on leaps and bounds this year. Although it’s still very dry visually, the structure is there and the metrics on display are really enlightening for me. You can find out my thought process building this in my post Bringing your Notion database to life with Eleventy.
I like the delineation of weeks, and the process for publishing each week is low effort. I particularly enjoy the visual representation of time through the year, and being able to keep track of my fitness & entertainment habits at a glance.
Integrations with Google Sheets, Letterboxd, Spotify and TV Maze has allowed me to pull in data from all the various APIs to produce rich feeds based on my recorded data. Spin-offs from the feed page include Books, Films, TV, Podcasts & Fitness. My plan for 2023 is to see where else I can take this concept. And the beauty of data collection is these pages will naturally grow for as long as I continue logging my stats in the services I use.
Podcasts & TV 📺
I’ve watched a lot less TV this year than last. 80 hours total, down from 123 in the ~9 recorded months of 2021. Highlights mostly include shows watched in the first half of the year: After Life (season 3), State of the Union (season 1) and Stranger Things (season 4).
Podcast listening has taken a huge leap, from 132 hours in 2021, to 364 in 2022. Owing largely to my increase in running and walking mileage. My top 5 shows by listening time were:
- The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett (2 days, 8 hours) - Steven has a way of engaging with his guests like no other. The calibre of guest is always of the highest order, covering a huge range of interesting topics and emotions.
- Deep Dive with Ali Abdaal (1 day, 21 hours) - I discovered Ali in his earlier days on YouTube, and really enjoyed his style and approach to productivity. He's a proper pro in the game now, and this podcast rarely disappoints. Can sometimes be a little self-indulgent, but with some amazing insights too.
- Hidden Brain (1 day, 7 hours) - Always a fascinating listen. Hidden Brain's production quality and consistency is excellent. The topics and experts provide intriguing and engrossing knowledge into the human psyche.
- Deep Questions with Cal Newport (1 day, 6 hours) - You have to be in the mood for Cal, but when you are, his knowledge and delivery is excellently on point. The episodes are always packed full of useful anecdotes for living a deeper life.
- The Tim Ferriss Show (1 day, 3 hours) - A classic of the genre. Quite often a guest I'm not familiar with, but almost always an opportunity to expand my mind. Tim is always at one with the guests and his relaxed style, whilst sometimes a little verbose, always comes across very personable.
Also a shoutout to some new shows I discovered in 2022, including Make Life Work by Si Jobling, Chats in the Cupboard by Andy Croll and Vaidehi Joshi, The Bootstrapped Founder by Arvid Kahl and Behind The Source by my good friend Mike Street.
Films & Books 📽
I watched 20 films in 2022, slightly less than 2021. Highlights include No Time To Die, The Humans, Boiling Point & Glass Onion. Whilst Charlotte and I don't dedicate as much time to watching films as we used to - and no longer have the freedom to frequent the cinema - I do still love the escape a good film offers.
I doubled my book total in 2022 from the previous year. I enjoyed most of what I read this year, focussing mainly on non-fiction. I want to continue the momentum to get through my 2022 Reading List (mostly non-fiction), but I'd like to read more novels for fun and relaxation in 2023.
My life, according to tags
Every time I log a journal entry, I tag it with a relevant topic. I've not done a lot with tag data on my website so far, nor analysed them much. However the tallies, variety and repetition of the tags reveal trends from one week to the next.
I think the tags sum up the various facets of my life pretty well, so I’m going to use them as a basis for the sub-headings below, to describe the key areas of my life in 2022:
This year has been a great year for running. I set myself a 1,000 km target at the start of the year, which would’ve been a 19% improvement over 2021. In the end, I managed to smash this target, finishing the year on 1,562 km (an 85% improvement).
Consistency has been the key this year, building in the habit of running at least 3 times a week. I’ve replaced evening runs with early afternoon runs for the most part, which I look forward to more. I've developed a regular running schedule of Wednesday, Friday, Sunday.
I hit a 5k PB in October, achieved at my old stomping ground, Preston Park. 20:49, hitting my target of running a sub-21 5k this year. I also scraped my goal of running my 50th Parkrun: achieved on the last day of the year in Clair Park, Haywards Heath.
I ran a 10k PB with a time of 42:52 in Hove, smashing my previous PB of 44:51. This race and achivement was particularly rewarding, and showed me what my body was capable of. Finally, I ran my first Half Marathon, in Brighton, in a time of 1:43:33, a time I hope to beat next year.
Running has been a lifeline this year for my mental health. A true, unadulterated escape from reality when I need it. Regular walking has also been a habit I’ve stuck at this year, averaging over 12,500 steps a day and totalling over 1,000km for the year.
Stepping up my running at the beginning of the year in preparation for Brighton Half Marathon seemed to negatively affect my football performance on Monday nights for a while. I definitely didn’t feel as spritely after a long Sunday run. But after a few months my body got used to it and the improvement in fitness helped my game. This roughly translated to results when splitting the year in half. The first half I won 9 of 22 games (41%) whereas the second half I won 12/20 (60%).
I tagged “fitness” 188 times when journalling in 2022; the third most of any tag (after my two children), and over 50% of the days for the year.
Fitness-wise, I’ve managed to remain injury-free in 2022, which takes some doing. Regular exercise has contributed hugely to this I think, as well as a well-worn and regimented nutrition plan pre and post exercise. I’ve had a few knocks at football, which is par for the course, but no muscle strains.
Illness-wise, similar to 2021, it’s been bumpy. With 2 children now at nursery, there is a veritable cocktail of illnesses that can be brought into the house and unfortunately all you can do is roll with it. In addition to this, fully-remote working has lowered my immune system. Reduced use of public transport and exposure to other people in the workplace have been contributing factors.
I contracted Covid at the end of May. I didn’t get it too badly, fortunately, but it did completely wipe my fitness levels for a good couple of weeks. And in performance terms, it took me months to get back to the levels I was at pre-Covid.
Despite ending the year on a relentless fortnight of snot, coughing and no taste or smell, I actually only logged 11 “sick” days in my journal, down from 12 in the partial year of 2021. I classify “sick” as days where I’ve had very little energy to do anything beyond keep myself and my children alive. So, lots of sniffly days around that where I was still able to work and perform basic tasks.
Overall I’d characterise the year as a strong year for physical health, but a weak one for mental health. Going from 1 child to 2 has very much taken its toll on me. I notched 152 days in my journal tagged to “health”, so it’s something i’m acutely aware of, and something I plan to focus more on in 2023.
Side Projects 👨💻
By far my biggest side project this year has been this site. Fundamentally I wanted somewhere easier to update to store my old blog posts, but secondly a place to kickstart a writing habit. I logged a total of 98 days working on side projects this year, and I’ve plugged away at the functionality for this site consistently all year.
My second side project is the API for mnf.davshoward.com - a stats site for our regular Monday Night football game I run with my friend Davs. The API (and original frontend for the site) is hosted at 5aside.samueldking.co.uk. I’ve not contributed much time to this in 2022; Github tells me 4 PRs were merged. Fortunately, this API ticks on quite happily with minimal maintenance. I have a few ideas for 2023 for this though.
I posted 14 times on my blog this year. I’m really happy with that. Often I'll get bogged down in the details and let perfection be the enemy of good when writing. I need to get better at this. I still have half a dozen ideas for posts I plan to get out in 2023 covering the various integrations I’ve done on this site.
I like that I now think of this blog as a relevant space to post anything that interests me. Technical posts will probably still make up the majority, but I have no qualms broadening the topic to any other facet of my personality and interests.
I have plans next year to migrate posts from my blog on sustainability to here, to fill in some large empty gaps in the archive. Once again reinforcing that this is not a strictly-themed blog, and above all bringing all my written content together in a single, active place.
I spent 43 days blogging in 2022.
I passed four years as a vegan this year. I couldn’t be happier. The year did end on a sour note though, with me losing my taste and smell for the final few weeks. Let me tell you, Christmas is not a fun time of year to not be able to enjoy the plethora of food available. There’s something deeply soul-destroying about not being able to taste and enjoy food.
One thing I've changed this year is I've stopped posting my food on Instagram. This wasn't a conscious change, I think I just grew out of the fun of doing it. Times change, and you only have finite energy to spend. I will probably still use it to promote vibrant, healthy, enjoyable vegan food, but much less frequently than I was a year ago.
Midway through the year I began to notice my dwindling personal time and mental capacity was being rather-too-greedily taken up by the somewhat relentless planning involved in food preparation for my family and I to eat. We seemed to be spending more on food and buying more often and haphazardly. Deciding what to cook after a day’s work was mental energy I could do with reclaiming if possible.
So I implemented a meal plan. A proper one. Like I’d always imagined I should. It was very simple, it just started off as a single note in Apple Notes. It eventually progressed to Notion (more on that below under “Productivity Systems”). The system worked well, and replaced many small shopping trips with a monster online delivery every two weeks. I did a decent job of planning, purchasing and scheduling the food we’d need to cook meals for the next 2 weeks. It was a huge weight off my mind.
Like any new habit, it started perfectly, revolutionising how I cooked and planned food. I had a neatly drawn-up whiteboard schedule and everything. As time progressed, standards dropped, the whiteboard habit fell away, lunches got more ad-hoc, but I’m pleased to say we’ve kept the fundamental structure: 2 weeks worth of dinners planned, with ingredients purchased fortnightly (with top-ups).
I tagged "food" 68 times in 2022.
A new tag after I noticed I quite often comment on the quality of it when I journal. Tagging those entries creates a sleep diary of sorts, for looking back on. I've read and listened to many resources this year eulogising the virtue of sleep; the importance of which I've no doubt of in my mind. But I still have a disconnect between good sleep habits and getting things done. I consistently struggle to get to bed at a reasonable time each night. This is exacerbated when I'm in a low mood and can't seem to peel myself away from doom-scrolling social media.
Without going into too much detail, I plan to finely target this as part of working on my mental health next year. I know going to bed early and consistently improves my wellbeing, so it's a no-brainer really, if you'll pardon the pun.
I tagged "sleep" 49 times in 2022.
Scarcely used tags
Side-business 🕴 was mentioned a mere 3 times. It’s not something I’ve been able to explore this year. But watch this space.
Investing 📈 has very much become a passive activity this year, with 5 tags. A combination of financially not being able to actively invest money and the doom and gloom of a bear market has left me somewhat indifferent about it this year.
Betting 💲 is dead and buried, with 0 mentions. My days of matched betting are behind me, but I’m still making steady use of my winnings, as they fund my Chelsea tickets.
Productivity 🧠 is a tricky one to identify and subsequently remember to tag. I tagged it 18 times, but as a tag it became a little too broad to use with any regularity. I’ll probably phase this one out.
Jobs 💼 - flirted with for a few intense weeks of the year, mentioned a not-insignificant 25 times. A prospect early in the year ultimately ended with disappointment, so I put this on the back-burner until I know more what I’m after.
In a lot of ways, 2022 was the year of productivity systems. I’ve levelled up with Notion. I set many new ones up; the majority I still use daily to great effect. Here are some of the highlights:
I wrote a whole blog post about this. Tracking my personal spending gave me some piece of mind and feeling of control, that in August I took on the loftier target of tracking our joint spending; a significantly bigger portion of our income. Whilst this does require more maintenance to track, it’s been invaluable at shining a light on our spending habits and planning for the future.
This one is proper nerdy. One thing I’ve noticed since working remotely is I’ve become more introverted. Social get-togethers seem to take more out of me and honestly, with 2 kids, and most of my friends having young children too, it does take a concerted effort to maintain relationships. The solution? A database, of course.
Over the course of a month, I went through my calendar for the past 2 years and copied the events into Notion and tagged the people I hung out with at those events. For people, I categorise relationship (spouse, family, family-in-law, friend, acquaintance), partner and wedding anniversary (I always forget these). I could definitely add Birthday too, but a separate Google calendar does a pretty good job of that already. Database entries are a great place to also jot down notes such as key dates in that person’s life, achievements, important conversations you’ve had.
For events, I store location, date, type (house, outdoor, event, pub, restaurant, etc.) and people. The power of relations and roll-ups in Notion mean I’m easily able to see when I last saw someone, what event that was, when I’m next seeing that person, and how many times I’ve seen them in total. You can also do cool things like calculate the connections a particular person has (by collating the people who attended the same events as them).
This has been both eye-opening, and a great trigger to send a Whatsapp message to a friend I haven’t spoken to in a few months.
At my last dental check-up, I realised I couldn’t tell my dentist how often I flossed. “Not enough” was my answer I think. He said ideally I’d be flossing daily, but even once a week is much better than never. Now, a week was more frequently than I’d flossed before with any regularity, but this seemed doable. So, shortly after leaving, I set myself up a new Notion database. 14 tickbox fields for the 7 days of the week morning and night, a field for flossing, and a label for the week.
This “check-in” keeps me accountable to my dental health regimen and gives me that reminder that I need to floss at the end of every week. Lockdown got me into a bad habit of forgetting to brush in the morning too, so this database sorted that right out. I’m now 16 weeks in.
I touched on this under the “Food” section. This is a work in progress and one I’m still tinkering with the format of. But it works pretty well for now. I’ve been logging my dinners each night in a “Food” database for as long as I’ve been journalling (it has 232 entries currently). I always had plans to do something with this data at some point.
Enter, the meal plan. I have two databases working in tandem for this. Plans, and Meals. Without wanting to get too into-the-reeds, "Meals" actually serves as a join table between Plans and my existing “Food” database. A 2-week period of eating is defined as a “Plan”, and a plan, generally, contains 14 Meals. Meals are allocated a day of the week and relate to a single “Food” entry.
The board view in Notion shows rows of meal plans, with columns of the days of the week, giving a pseudo calendar view for the week’s meals.
Goals for 2023
I had planned to include this, but as it got a little large, I think it deserves it’s in blog post like 2022 got. So, key your eyes peeled in the next few weeks for that.