2016 Focus: End Of Year Review

At the beginning of 2016 I wrote about my focus for the year. I’ve posted a few updates throughout the year but want to take some time now to do a final review.

2016 Goal: Write 50 Blog Posts

2016-goal-writing

Self Grade: 10/10

I was able to, thanks to a heroic effort in December, meet my goal of writing 50 blog posts.

Here is a chart I found interesting. Blog posts per week vs miles run per week. While I got most of my running in during the first half of the year, I did the bulk of my blog posting towards the end.

Though I hit the target number, this isn’t an ideal way to do it. Part of my reason for setting goals like this is to set a habit that I view as positive. I believed that if I focused on writing posts for a year, I would get used to the process and continue doing it for years. The best way to do that is likely to have some regularity to it, rather than a huge spike at the end to hit the total number. Because of that rush to the finish, I am somewhat burned out.

To avoid that in the future, what I might do is explore setting up cutoff points so the target is evenly dispersed and I can not make up for past misses. If I had broken last year’s goal up to one post per week – I would have hit 29 of 52. Perhaps I would give it some flexibility though by breaking it up by month of quarter – that way I would have some room to absorb busy periods or particularly difficult to write posts.

Finally, incase you missed any (or don’t believe I wrote 50) – here they all are:

  1. 2016 Focus: Goal, Theme, Challenge & Exemplar
  2. Experiment: Family Feedback
  3. Health: Finding My Limits
  4. Setting Goals – How I decided on 2:37 for My Marathon Target
  5. Increasing Our Standard of Living
  6. Benjamin Franklin Types of Things
  7. Is Clinton Support A Gender Issue?
  8. How Are You Liking Seattle?
  9. COR 40L Waterproof Dry Bag Backpack
  10. The Bike Counter
  11. In America Today
  12. Thoughts Before My Marathon Debut
  13. Race Report: Jack & Jill Marathon
  14. Two Steps
  15. 2016 Focus: Mid Year Update
  16. Product Management & Collective Action Problems
  17. Passing My Athletic Peak
  18. Measuring Maturity Development
  19. Roots and Fruit
  20. Thinking Of Our Possessions Less
  21. Response: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans
  22. Achieving Goals
  23. How We Use Time: Consuming, Processing & Producing
  24. Parenting Is An Exercise In Discovering Gratitude
  25. How We Use Time: Investing, Enjoying and Giving
  26. Should We Work?
  27. Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon – Training Plan
  28. The Chief Bottle Washer
  29. Running a “Marathon”
  30. Planning A Goal
  31. S.T.O.K.E.D. – Six Minimalism Tips
  32. To The New York City Marathon
  33. What Makes A Great Rivalry?
  34. How Could This Happen?
  35. Water
  36. How The Kroleski Family Does Toys – Our Rotation Process
  37. Getting Rid of A Collection
  38. Vaccines
  39. Measuring My Health
  40. Adding Efficiency Through Business, Government and People
  41. Team Loyalty In Sports
  42. Problems and Profits
  43. Yearly Focus – v1.4 Release Notes
  44. Chapters
  45. Today We Worship Our God(s)
  46. Steps I’m Taking To Get Sick Less
  47. Three Day Per Week Marathon Training Plan
  48. Race Report: New York City Marathon 2016
  49. The Day I Didn’t Run
  50. 2016 Focus: End of Year Review

2016 Theme: Health

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/pz1hGy

Self Grade: 6/10

I wrote three blog posts about health this year – one about why it was important to me, one about how I quantified it and one about steps I was taking to improve an aspect of it. All of those are the culmination of a good bit of thinking on the topic.

I would have scored myself higher had I read more on the topic from external authors. I was really synthesizing more than pulling in new information and I think I should be doing more than that for my yearly theme.

 2016 Challenge: Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon

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Self Grade: Failure OR 9/10

My fastest marathon this year was 2:42:23, which was ~5.5 minutes short of my goal. So using a binary scale I would have to mark this a failure.

I’m ecstatic with the results of this year though. The reason I do these yearly focus challenges is to get myself to focus on something. I believe that by doing less, I can do those things better and achieve results that are exponentially greater than the sum of what I could achieve by splitting my focus.

In terms of setting focus, this was a monumental success.

At the beginning of the year I had never raced a marathon and it had been close to a decade since I was in good running shape – since I would have called myself a runner. I wasn’t completely sure I could get into this kind of shape again – that I could train like this – that I could avoid injury.

I am proud to call myself a runner again. I succeeded in focusing on it this year. I ran three marathons total, Jack & Jill, Big Sur & New York City – finishing in 1st place, 37th place (top 1.5%) and in the top 4% respectively. I ran a 4th of July 10k in my wife’s home town and won that as well. I also locked up KOMs (the fastest time) on a couple of Strava segments in my area. In total I ran 1,627 miles – straight through the midsoles of five pairs of shoes.

Here is a picture of all the shoes I wore through the year and the medals I got. Funny that the medal for winning Jack & Jill is smaller than the participant medal. The 4th of July race didn’t have a participant medal, only one for winning my age group.

I also had one of my most exciting running incidents when during a late night run I was attacked by an owl. I was actually on the local news as: ‘Greg Kroleski Attacked by Owl While Jogging’. Success.

All of this and I would still call my time commitment ‘manageable’. I ran or cross trained on 183 days total, exactly 50% of 365. Across those days I spent a total of 214 hours running. When you add in time for getting dressed, showering, stretching, etc. I would say my average amount of time invested per day was ~1 hour. That seems like the high end of the reasonable range for a yearly challenge.

All in all, this was a model year for me in terms of setting focus without overdoing it. I am going to be doing some thinking about how I can repeat this in future years.

2016 Exemplar: Benjamin Franklin

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Self Grade: 4/10

The original intent of the exemplar category was to learn more about what made that person tick and then implement a few of their practices. My focus was really split across the items this year and so this was the item that got the least attention.

I am about 100 pages away from finishing the lengthy Walter Isaacson biography and feel that I have a pretty good sense for who Ben was. The thing I did not get to do much of was implement his practices. If I had more time, that is where I would have spent it.

2016 Focus: Mid Year Update

With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. Now that the year is half way through (maybe a bit more) I want to check in on how things are going.

2016 Focus

At a macro level I am doing ok so far, probably as well as I will do. I have realized that I spread myself a bit too thin with these items this year though. Introducing a new one certainly exacerbated that. Having four items of focus is simply too many. Some of them have overlap, such as running & health – but others take me in a completely different direction.

One of the things I’ve learned and will change for my focus next year is to have the theme be a central item that the goal, challenge & exemplar all tie back to.

For example if health were my theme, my challenge should have been related – perhaps scoring something on a health test. The goal could have been something similar but continual, like averaging 7 hours of sleep per night. Finally the exemplar should have been someone who has made health a priority for them.

That will change in 2017, for now here is my 2016 update.

2016 Goal: Write 50 Blog Posts

2016-goal-writing

I have published 14 blog posts so far of the 30 I should have. In order to hit my goal I need to write about two per week through the end of the year.

Despite that not looking like much progress, I have 37 drafts in my queue at various stages of completed, 17 more than the 20 I started the year with. If I sit down with two per week and focus on finishing them, publishing 50 is still possible by the end of the year.

2016 Theme: Health

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/pz1hGy
Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/pz1hGy

I have scratched the surface here.

Along with writing one blog post, it has been a topic that frequently raised to the forefront of my mind. I would like to get more words written down about this as writing really helps me think through things.

In addition I recently ordered one of the Great Courses on the topic of health myths. That has been interesting to listen to while driving and should fuel some additional though.

 2016 Challenge: Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon

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After training for seven months I raced my first marathon and finished in a time of 2:42:23. Still a few minutes away from the goal, but within throwing distance.

I am deciding now how to best give myself one more shot at succeeding.

2016 Exemplar: Benjamin Franklin

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Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/6d8EGN

I’ve done the least with this item so far. Although I have a clear plan of some things I can attempt, those have been the lowest on my priority. I don’t know that I will attempt much more here other than finish reading his biography, which I am about a quarter of the way through.

2016 Focus: Goal, Theme, Challenge & Exemplar

With the start of a new year, I take the time to set my focus for the coming year. I’ve enjoyed this activity as it has slowly evolved over the past four years. It helps me strive to complete things that I think are important or interesting but more importantly it give me focus by allowing me to say ‘no’ to other things.

Categories

Here are definitions for the four categories of efforts I undertake.

Goal – Something I want to accomplish that is measurable and relatively continual. e.g. exercise X times per week or decrease sugar consumption by X percent. These are often habits I want to build into my life an my hope is that by doing it for a year, it will stick.

Theme – A central topic for the year – something I can spend time thinking about and take a few concrete efforts towards. e.g. living in community or freedom. These are often abstract ideas that are hard to measure but important to spend time focusing on.

Challenge – Something I want to conquer. Crossing an item off my bucket list. e.g. climb Mr. Everest or learn to tight rope walk. These are binary, I either complete them or I don’t.

Exemplar – (new for 2016) A person that exemplifies something I value and who I want to model habits, process or ideas from. I will spend time learning a bit more about what made them tick and try to put a few of their ideas into practice. e.g. Steve Jobs or Teddy Roosevelt

2016 Focuses

2016 Goal: Write 50 Blog Posts

2016-goal-writing

I’ve written over 100 blog posts over the last 5 years. Mostly as a way of documenting things I’m thinking about for my own purposes, but sometimes to share them.

I enjoy writing on a public blog because it holds me to a higher standard. I realize people might read it and so I put more effort into it than I would a journal. Sometimes people do actually read it and I always enjoy the conversation that follows. Whether they agree or disagree – I learn something more through the conversation.

This year I got a bit of a taste of success. Of my 15 substantial blog posts, one went viral and racked up over 100k reads – also getting republished on qz.com. I really liked that experience and got a ton of positive feedback.

I’m going to lean into that and practice this skill a bit more in 2016. Along with exploring more topics, I will likely focus some on the craft of writing, learning more about how I can hone my voice and effectively communicate to a large audience through writing.

One post a week should be prove a manageable though challenging volume – the good news is I already have 20 drafts in various stages. Look for more posts on topics like; minimalism, heath (my theme of the year), parenting, product management, running and inevitably some politics (see who my Exemplar is below)

2016 Theme: Health

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/pz1hGy
Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/pz1hGy

Heath is an abstract concept to me. I think I can spot its opposite when I see it, but I don’t know that I have a firm definition for its presence.

I already feel heath is an important thing to have, but I want to spend this year defining exactly what it is, how I measure it and what I can do to ensure it is with me for as long as possible.

I hope that in doing more research I will learn about new facets of heath and begin to synthesize them with what I already know. That will allow me to create a more unified perspective that I can begin putting into practice.

2016 Challenge: Run a Sub 2:37 Marathon

2016-challenge-marathon

Running is probably the thing I am best at from a percentile point of view. I’ve been doing it competitively for over 20 years, have a body well designed for it and have the mental toughness to train and race at a high level.

Because of that, I am really pushing the bar this year. I usually like to strive for being in the top 5-10% at an activity I put time into. Running a 2:37, however, would put me in the top 1% of marathon finishers (top 0.2-0.5% actually) and qualify me for the Boston Marathon with ~30 minutes to spare.

To do it, I will have to maintain an average pace of just under 6 minutes per mile for the whole 26.2 miles.

2016 Exemplar: Benjamin Franklin

2016-exemplar-benjamin-franklin
Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/6d8EGN

The idea for this new category actually came to me last week as I finished his autobiography. I kept coming across practices of his I wanted to borrow for my own life. This seemed like a great way to do that.

Ben was a lot of things, but the one that stands out to me most is his intentionality and drive. He continually pushed himself to be better. From what I can tell, not necessarily as a means of achieving anything, but as an end in itself.

Because of that he went from humble beginnings to a position of much influence. Shoot, he is literally the face on the largest currency amount of the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

This year I will be learning more about him and implementing a few of his practices and ideas. (Air baths here I come…)