RIP 2018, You Were Kind Of a Bust

Lesson learned – fail to set goals, and you only fail yourself. I think that was the biggest takeaway of 2018 for me.

Despite everything, I did achieve some things. I gave a talk at WordCamp Minneapolis-St. Paul focused on getting WordPress developers introduced to Composer. I worked on the first data migration project of my career. I participated in the WP-CLI overnight hack-a-thon, where I got to write my first-ever behavioral test in Behat. I got in the habit of regularly adding topics to our backend engineering scrum at WebDevStudios, so that we always had interesting and fruitful discussions. I went to a couple of PHP conferences and bonded with people in the community. I joined a group of board game designers, which sparked an interest in designing my own, which I did (I even got to play-test it a few times!).

These are things to feel good about, but they were driven by a smattering of whims and circumstances, rather than focus on a collection of goals. In 2018, I often let whatever was immediately in front of me dominate my attention, and I didn’t carve out time for intentional growth. In the few places I did set goals, I failed miserably, such as the 25 books I was supposedly going to read (I read about half of 3).

Back when I joined a full-blown team of designers and developers, I was introduced to SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Here’s a nice overview of what they’re about:

What I like most about this time of year is the opportunity to detox from the pressures of the day-to-day, and instead spend time with considering what it is I want out of my professional and personal life. I’ve largely avoided it for the past couple of years, and more and more, I’m starting to feel the repercussions. A fresh year is a good time to re-evaluate, to set some goals for myself, and figure out a plan for how I want to spend my time.

Goals for 2019

Here’s a list of the areas I intend to work on the upcoming year. It’s absolutely certain I’ll accumulate some of those unintended feel-good achievements in 2019, but I need to focus my attention on the things I want to accomplish in order to feel like I’ve made progress by the time December 31st rolls around again.

Professional Goals

In the past year and a half, I’ve noticed my skillset in certain areas of engineering slowly diminishing. In particular, I want to work to retain my knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, because as much as I love creating backend logic for applications, I’m hugely passionate about user experience, user interfaces, design, and the interactions between them. With my professional day-to-day involving my server-side engineering skills, I don’t get as many opportunities to practice these skills, so I need to set aside time to do them for myself. Some goals to help me achieve that include:

  • Revisiting my knowledge about Webpack and Gulp
  • Building a new theme for this website
  • Finishing my rewrite of my Scorekeeper app in React
  • Learning how to make custom Gutenberg blocks in WordPress

The “measurable” part of the above goals involves a deliverable: a new theme, a new app, a new block (or set of blocks). In fact, one way I might handle the Gutenberg piece is by reimplementing my Dudley patterns framework, which would give me a much better understanding on how blocks are created, and how to integrate the old with the new. The frontend tooling piece (Webpack/Gulp) is related, because I’ll need these tools in order to accomplish the other goals.

From a backend perspective, I’m looking to accomplish the following:

  • Learning to build a personal blog site using Craft
  • Creating a mechanism for automatically updating a Satis package server on git push
  • Creating a Docker container from scratch
  • Building custom tooling for WebDevStudios to support client project development (this is measurable, but it’s as much as I’ll get into it here)
  • Learning about CI tools, and integrating one into my personal workflow

Unrelated to computer skills (or not specifically to frontend/backend), on a professional level, I’m also looking forward to:

  • Publishing 12 web development-related blog posts
  • Applying to speak at an out-of-town WordPress conference
  • Applying to speak at a non-WordPress conference
  • Participating in WDS growth calls

Personal Goals

I’m still sorting this piece out, but there are a few things I want to achieve, and a few I want to get back into the habit of doing:

  • Reading 10 books
  • Finalizing the mechanics of my first board game design
  • Connecting with my local community by attending 12 meetups or conferences
  • Working away from home at least 1 day per month

It’s going to be difficult to achieve everything above. But, by writing it all out, I’m given not only something I can refer back to in order to check on my progress, but I can ask others to help hold me accountable for my own growth. I want to retain my hard-earned skills, grow into my career, help others along their paths, and make sure I’m a better person at this time next year than I am right now. Putting it all down in writing is that important first step.