Reflections on the last year and planning 2023

Reflections on the last year and planning 2023
Dragon writing code in the style of Francis Bacon (stable diffusion)

It's now 2023. In February 2022 I left my job to work on my own projects and do a bit of travelling. I have done that much. I have not yet made any money from my own projects. I also have not properly launched them. The two projects I worked on last year were a study tool for the internet, and a CBT therapy app for therapists to use with their clients. I did launch which was an interesting project involving customising on DigitalOcean. I also joined a cool startup with a great product but went back to doing my own stuff after 2 months there. 2022 was entirely unplanned, uncertain and also full of mistakes both professionally and personally. And yet it has been my best year to date.

Intentionally unintentional

When leaving my job in February I had the idea that I would be intentionally unintentional, so whatever grabbed my interest at the time I would go ahead and work on, if I wasn't feeling it I would stop (I was lucky to have some money saved up to this was an option).

So by broadening the search space I would hopefully  stumble on something that I really enjoyed and wanted to work on long term. This felt immediately satisfying like constantly scratching an itch, "oh this would be a cool thing to make" and I would just spin up a project and work on it without thinking about where it would long term. That was a relief because up until then I would work on things always with an eye to the future. Can I make money from this, will this be a company, could I look to raise a bit of money? This felt great for awhile but as I was travelling a bit and doing other stuff the progress on my projects was slow and I didn't feel like I was "doing" anything.

All of this came to a head when i was sitting in a coffee shop in London after having a great day seeing the sights and I felt absolutely miserable. I thought to myself whats going on here, I have all this freedom, I can work on whatever I want which has been always what I've wanted. Why do I feel like theres a big hole in my stomach. I knew it had to do with a lack of structure and direction in where I was going with my life. So I decided I would create a structure around my work and have a daily routine, gym followed by work in town on whatever project I felt like working on.

Meaning derived from action, not the other way around.

I rented a little desk space in Camden street Dublin above a €2 euro shop and got to work. After doing this for a few months working on I felt much better, the routine around gym->work was working I felt good about things. I was still uncertain about the future but at least I was moving in a direction that was challenging and felt worthwhile.

What I released around this time is that a sense of meaning in derived from my actions not the other way around. In previous years I would think about what I cared about and what I thought would be a good future. And then I would figure out what I had to do to get there. In other words my actions were derived from what I believed to be meaningful. But a sense of meaning doesn't really last if you are in anyway nihilistic. Zooming out to the bigger picture what you believe to be meaningful can always become grey, flat and empty. So this approach is not sustainable for me. That much becomes clear when looking at my employment history over the last 5 years, jumping around different jobs and side projects, always throwing my hands up in the air "well this isn't it!".

Lessons learned from last year

So I have resolved to be a lot more structured and disciplined in my work this year. Knowing that any feelings of boredom and disinterest are not really something to pay attention to.

The things i've learnt from last year:

  • Daily structure is very important for well-being and sense of progress.
  • I should pick smaller projects and release more.
  • I need to start focusing on making money or else i'll just keep building features and not do any marketing.
  • Marketing can be writing about what you're doing (tutorials, tips etc).

Because I wasn't under any pressure to make money I found myself just adding more features and improving  the things I was working on (Tigum and the CBT therapist service) without ever properly launching them. This year that will be different. I am going to launch CBT app as a white label service for clinics to use with their clients this month, I also have a clinic using it already so thats a good start. Next month I will focus on releasing Tigum finally after working on it on and off for 4 years 👀.

After that I will be realising one project per month with the caveat that if any of them start to make a bit of money I will focus my efforts on that. While doing this I will be tweeting about what I worked on each day, and doing a weekly post about progress on the current project, or a how-to blog post based off of code I've written that week.

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Thanks for reading!