Goals for 2017
December 30, 2016
It’s only a few days until 2017, & I’ve been thinking about what I’d
like to achieve in 2017. I’ve been mulling over
from the famous
And I started asking, “What are the important problems of your
field?” And after a week or so, “What important problems are you
working on?” And after some more time I came in one day and said,
“If what you are doing is not important, and if you don’t
think it is going to lead to something important, why are you at
Bell Labs working on it?”
In the fall, Dave McCall stopped me in the hall and said, “Hamming,
that remark of yours got underneath my skin. I thought about it all
summer, i.e. what were the important problems in my field. I haven’t
changed my research,” he says, “but I think it was well worthwhile.”
And I said, “Thank you Dave,” and went on. I noticed a couple of
months later he was made the head of the department. I noticed the
other day he was a Member of the National Academy of Engineering. I
noticed he has succeeded. I have never heard the names of any of the
other fellows at that table mentioned in science and scientific
circles. They were unable to ask themselves, “What are the important
problems in my field?”
So what are my ‘fields’, in life? In alphabetical order:
- animal husbandry (chickens, dogs)
- family (husband, father, brother, son, son-in-law)
- finance (household)
- hacking (open source projects, hardware hacking)
- health (stress levels, enjoyment, flow, physical health)
- homeowner (maintaining a lovely environment for me & my family)
- music (recorder)
- profession (people manager, developer, recruiter)
That’s quite a lot to have going on at one time. I figured I’d narrow
down the ‘most important problem’, or in most cases ‘greatest
opportunity for improvement’ in each area. They wound up being (again
in alphabetical order):
- I’ve never been entirely on top of animal ‘maintenance’, as I’ve
dropped the ball on this a few times in the past. Regular, reliable
worming, flea treatment, etc. etc. I’d like to have an Animal
Calendar in 2017, that contains all the routine stuff that needs to
- In my family life, I’ve tried to multi-task - mixing projects, work,
and being emotionally present. I’d like that to stop; to put in
place clear separations between work and play in 2017.
- Finance: this is an easy one. By the end of 2017, I’d like to have
saved 10% of our total income.
- When hacking, I’ve been all over the place, trying to learn a
bazillion new things and focusing on none of them inadequately. The
most important open source system I use on a daily (hourly?) basis
is Emacs. In 2017, I’d like to become an Emacs contributor.
- Health is a tricky one; there are a couple of niggly issues (clicky
knees, sore Achilles tendon) that I’m working on but the most
important things are fat & fitness. By the end of 2017, I’d like to
have reduced my weight down to a stable 84kg, and improved my
strength and fitness to a point where a watered-down
SFAS routine is
(un)comfortable, as opposed to gruelling.
- I’ve been letting the maintenance of our house & garden slip in the
last 12 months. In 2017, I’d like to establish a routine where I
spend at least 2 hours per weekend, every weekend, on garden and
house maintenance. This will be from a prioritised list, budget
- Motorcycling is easier. In the next few years I’d like to progress
to a litre bike for track use, so in 2017 I’ll focus my attention on
one bike. In 2017, I’d like to have cleaned up and sold the Mito,
and spent some of the money enhancing my SV650 (cleaned brakes and
new braided lines, in particular). I’d also like to have the SV650
on a regular home maintenance schedule for cleaning, chain, etc.
- Music is another easy one. In 2017, I’d like to pass a Grade 4 alto
- Profession: the number one priority for my employer, right now, is
recruitment. It’s also an easy one to measure, so in 2017, I’d like
to have referred at least six people to Cogent who subsequently
Most of those goals incorporate their own measures, except for family
life. I’ll have to rely on frequent feedback from my wife and the
children, as well as regular reflection, to know whether I’m hitting
From time to time, fields will collide, and I’ll be forced to
prioritise them. Here’s the priority I’ve decided on, in descending
- animal husbandry
As with everything else, I’ll organise the above
using org-mode. I have a rough routine in mind
- Wake at 0530; check personal email; dress; prep for work.
- Wake children at 0630; prep for childcare.
- Return from work around 1800; prep for dinner and family play.
- Family play until around 1930; children to bed w/ stories.
- Time with my wife until around 2030.
- Project work until around 23:00.
- Bed around 23:30.
… where “project work” will often be “an evening with my wife, or
other friends and family”, and occasionally be “catching up on sleep”
This gives me two and a half hours a night for working on the above
goals (except for professional goals; those are worked on during
Mostly I’ll work ad-hoc (based on convenience, motivation and external
dependencies) but Tuesdays and Thursdays will be spent in part on
Weekends will be much more ad-hoc, based around family activities.
But I plan to:
- Sleep in until at least 08:00 both days.
- Do all my week’s work prep on Sunday afternoon or evening: iron
shirts, sort clothes, polish shoes, pack bags, etc.
I plan to work out using a modified (watered down!) version of the
SFAS selection training routine. Specifically: only two days per week
(Tuesdays, Thursdays), and no running or forced marches.
I’ll be setting up my old weight bench outside, for easier work with
To achieve my weight loss goals quickly and easily, I plan to fast
three out of seven days as per the 5:2 diet. Fast days will be
Monday, Wednesday and Friday - with Friday being dropped if necessary
for family dinners etc. Also, there’ll be no fasting on days when I’m
feeling unwell, or particularly tired.
Once my weight is to where I want it to be, I’ll reduce the number of
fasting days per week for maintenance.