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2017: Annual Review

As per 2016 Annual Review, these were the things I mentioned I was working toward:

  1. Playing catch up professionally
  2. Serious hobbies
  3. Continuous improvement

I believe I did well in those three points!

What went well in 2017?

Solid morning/nightly ritual: Both My Morning and Nightly rituals are very solid and allow me to live a more focused life. I no longer need reminders and checklists to stay on top on what habits I want to build in those two very important moments of the day.

Meditation: As I blogged over a year and a half ago, meditation is finally paying off. It is the single most important thing I do every morning. I’m currently in my longest meditation streak ever, and it shows no signs it’ll be broken!

Journaling: I’ve finished my first Five Minute Journal (which covers 6 months of my life) and started a new one immediately after. This has been a great tool for me to continue practicing gratitude every day, as well as taking two moments in the day (morning/evening) to slow the hell down and reflect upon my day.

Blogging
: as in 2016, I wanted to make this blog more active in 2017 (in terms of number of posts I create), and I achieved that; I’ve published 59 posts (against 23 in the previous year)! Many of these posts have helped clients and co-workers, and have also helped myself putting together presentations and training courses.

Learning other languages: in 2015 I used Duolingo quite a bit to learn more Spanish. After a hiatus, I picked it back up in 2016, and redid the entire Spanish course. When I was done with that, I then picked up Italian, which I’m very close to finishing. I’m also on my longest Duolingo streak ever: 144 days! That means, at a very minimum, I learn a little bit of something new every single day. And another cool bit of information: I’m learning these languages in Duolingo as an English speaker (in case you don’t know, English is NOT my primary language)!

SportBike Track Riding: this is a serious hobby I hinted as one of the things I was working toward. I rode at the track an average of at least once a month, improved a LOT as a rider, and am doing everything in a very methodical way, while having TONS of fun doing it. I document a lot of this on my dedicated YouTube and Instagram channels.

ImprovingU: One of the awesome things we have at Improving is called ImprovingU, which consists of internal presentations and training courses that employees can attend to in order to improve in a number of areas. Besides attending to many of these trainings, I’ve personally delivered three talks in what we call Tech Fridays, and also taught two other lengthy training courses.

Involvement at Improving: Improving also has a cool program for employees who want to get more involved (doing presentations, participating in user groups, volunteering, etc.). People who get involved get points based on the type of activity. I’ve stayed consistently among the top Improvers in this program. While I don’t engage in these activities solely for the points, it’s a good metric for me to see that I’m always trying to both get better and help others do the same.

Put out some new music: Making music is another hobby I take seriously. While I haven’t put out as much music as I’d like, I did get to publish two songs.

The first one was a cover as a tribute to my top favorite singer/lyricist of all time, who passed away in December:

The second one is a new original song, once again written for my beloved wife:

What didn’t go so well?

Periods without excercising: most of my excersizing last year came from going rollerblading at the park. However, that only worked while we’re on Daylight Saving Time (DST), since it gives me a good window between getting back home from work and getting too dark. Once DST ends, though, that’s no longer an option, and not engaging into another type of activity during that period has made me go too long without some good excersizing, causing me to put on some weight and also feel somewhat crappy.

What am I working toward?

In no particular order, these are the things I want to improve on in 2018:

Way to exercise outside of DST: I’m looking for alternatives so I can excercise when it’s too dark outside for me to go rollerblading. Right now, I’m trying a mix of trampoline, jumprope, weightlifting, pull-ups, push-ups. I’m evaluating how that works for me and making adjustments as I go, until I find a good flow.

More consistent way to work on music: I definitely want to put more music out this year. In order for that to happen, I will set aside at least one or two hours every week

Beyond the Track: I’m enjoying so much my track riding hobby that I’m starting a new Special Interest group, as I feel a strong need to share everything I’ve learned so far, and also learn more from more experienced riders. The first meeting is happening on January 17 (two weeks prior to this year’s track day season starts), and I plan on holding these meetings every month.

New language on Duolingo: when I’m done with all the Italian lessons, continue my long streak, possibly by still practicing Italian for a few more weeks, than reviewing Spanish, and finally starting on another language (maybe French or German).

Public classes: as I mentioned in the “what went well” section, I’ve created some internal courses to be taught at Improving. I’m seriously considering also teaching it to others who might be interested.

Myself through the eyes of others

My previous annual reviews have solely been done my me. It’s me revewing my goals, plans, results. I want to start adding this section now, given the following quote that showed up one of the days on my Five Minute Journal:

“Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others.” – Ellen DeGeneres

So I decided to reach out to someone impacted by my goals, plans, actions, inactions, to see how I did in 2017. Here’s a summary of I heard regarding things I did well:

  • “You’ve become a better rider” (my wife enjoys 2-up riding as my passenger, so getting better at it is a big thing)
  • “You’ve made a new song for me!” (already mentioned it previously)
  • “You got better professionaly.” (those close to me see and appreciate how I develop as a professional)
  • “You took us to visit some places we really enjoyed.”
  • “You been so patient with so many things and you have shown a great ability to forgive.”
  • “You’ve kept our shared life stable, while still moving forward, even through the toughest times.”

I was very happy to hear those things. Even happier when I saw what I wrote on one of the first pages of my first Five Minute Journal before 2017 started:

In case you can’t understand my handwriting (I can’t blame you!): “To stay calm and level-headed through mood shifting turmoils. Staying on a stable routine due to that.”.

Followed by:

“I feel strong-willed towards the things I really want and believe. I’m dedicated to my family. I feel I can make a difference in the life of others.”

 

Honestly, I didn’t remember writing those words, but I definitely meant it and lived by it, and the results showed up, both stated by myself and a loved one. This has been a good validation that if I know what I want and what I am (or want to be), if I set goals, make plans, take actions, review it constantly, stick to small actions that don’t look much on a day-to-day basis but that add up tremendously, good results tend to happen.

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Are you doing it?

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Bruce Lee

That’s one of the quotes that inspire me. I read it again today and thought it was worth writing about it. As I started to write, I though, “hey, this feels familiar… I think I’ve already written something similar to that before!”. Yes, I did: Stop Thinking About It and Just Do It!

While I didn’t have Bruce Lee’s quote in mind when I wrote that other blog post, the main idea is the same. A year and a half has passed since that post. As I ponder over it, as well as today’s quote, I realize I’ve been following a “think less, do more” approach.

For example: one of my goals back then was to post more often to this blog. In the last 18 months I’ve posted about 54 times, which averages 3 posts/month. That’s a heck of a lot better than in previous years when I had periods of two years without any post.

Another thing I wanted to do was to start taking my sportbike to the race track, which I have been doing quite often. In order stay focused and motivated, I also started a YouTube channel to document and share my progress: 3-Lap Rider

There are other things that have come out as a resut of this mindset. I think it’s great to look back and see the results of changes I’ve tried, taking the time to see if the change has worked out or not, whether it needs adjustments, whether it stimulates other changes to be tried out, etc.

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Quotes That Inspire Me

For the last one year or two I’ve been keeping track of interesting quotes I find that somehow either inspire me or make me think. I have a “Quotes” note in Evernote where I keep them all.

The quotes I collect usually come from the following resources:

Momentum: As part of the rituals I have when I get to work, the first time I open a new tab in the browser I take a couple of seconds to contemplate the great inspirational photo that Momentum shows me, as well as to read the quote of the day and ponder on it;

Tim Ferriss’ 5-Bullet Friday: Tim’s weekly blog post includes a “quote I’ve been pondering on” section;

5-Minute Journal: As part of my Morning Ritual I update my 5-Minute Journal. It includes a great quote each day.

Intelligent Tuesday: Another weekly blog post that includes a good quote worth pondering (these are the makes of 5-Minute Journal).

I’ll start picking random quotes I’ve been noting down and use them as inspiration for blog posts. Let’s see how that’s gonna go.

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Organizing my Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly

A few years ago I found this great YouTube video:
Evernote Tips: How to use Evernote to achieve your goals

I really like the approach presented there and thought I could adapt it to the way I was already organizing things. One part of the approach is to have a note titled “Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Yearly”. See below what that note looks like:

I have a shortcut to that note, as I’m constantly going back to it, often multiple times every day. Even though I have other calendars I need to use (Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, etc), I consider my note in Evernote as my single source of truth: everything that’s really important for me has to be in that note, as it makes very easy for me to see the immediate stuff as well as things that are expected to happen in the future.

Let’s see how that note is organized.

Things that happen every week

In that section I want to see things that happen every week on a specific day. For instance, I need to fill out timesheet on Friday, and I’d like to post to this blog every Tuesday.

Current month

Here I want to see the most important things in the current month. I try not to put to much info in the calendar itself. Instead, I create a separate note for each entry containing all the info I need about it, and then I add a link to that note to the calendar.

Months in the current year

Here I want to see all months in the current year, and things that are expected in those months. Notice that I’ll only put here things for which I know the month, but do not know the actual date (either because it could be any day within that month, or because I don’t really have the actual day yet). When I do have the date, then I move it to another specific place (more on it later).

Things in specific periods

Here’s where I put things I may want to remember in specific periods. For instance, I like doing a monthly review in the first couple of days in the following month. Or, I like remembering that December is a short, unusual month because of the holidays, and I use that information when I’m about to do planning for that month.

Entire current year, day by day

As soon as I know exactly the date for something expected to happen, I put it in this section. It makes very easy for me to see at a glance everything going on the entire year. When I’m planning for a month that’s about to start, I look here to see how the calendar needs to be populated. I also put here birthdays that I absolutely cannot forget.

Five years in the future

This is where I keep things expected for the next five years in the future. If I know the exact date, I’ll add that information, too. It can also be something like “passport expires on Month/Day. Look into getting new one 6 months earlier.”. If I don’t have a date, I’ll at least add a note so I’ll always have a reminder of something important that needs attention.

Beyond

If there’s something I know should happen beyond five years in the future (for instance, an important document that’ll expire and need renewing), then I list it under a Beyond section at the bottom of that note, including the year and note.

Review it often

As I mentioned earlier, I review this note at least once a day. Since I put everything really important in this note and review it often, I get peace of mind knowing I won’t forget these things.

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2016: Annual Review

As I did last year, here goes my 2016 Annual Review!

1. What went well in 2016?

Meditation: I’ve blogged about this last year. In summary, mindful meditation has been working well for me. It has helped me a lot through situations where I’d handle badly in the past.

Professional blog: I wanted to make this blog you’re reading more active (write more posts), and I’ve succeeded on it. In 2015 I had only posted twice, whereas in 2016 I posted 23 times.

Personal project related to my experiences living in the US: This was one of the things that didn’t go well in 2015. It almost slipped through the cracks again in 2016, but I finally got the ball rolling, and the Brazuca nos Uessei channel on YouTube was finally born! The first video came out late last year, but I’ve been posting new videos frequently ever since. I already have many videos recorded and am working on editing them.

Stop thinking about it and just do it: on my last year’s review I said I was working toward “less ideas, more action”. It’s very fulfilling following that approach and seeing a new project going from idea to production within 4 months. Even more so when the clients are still so happy almost a year later.

Back to doing presentations: I had been missing going out to speak at conferences, meeting old buddies, networking. It was great speaking again at Houston Tech Fest 2016. Even though I felt rusty and off-paced, I needed the action to get the ball rolling in this area.

Joining Improving: This was something that was bound to happen, and for me it was one of the highlights of last year.

Best for last… Relocating to the USA!: my yearly review last year mentioned a “Personal/Professional secret project” that didn’t go so well. This was it; my relocation back to the US. As I mentioned back then, I had done everything I could do, but the holdup wasn’t on my end. I’ve even set a Plan B in motion, and shortly after I did that, Plan A actually came through. Long story short, I’m permanently back to the USA.

2. What didn’t go so well?

Project I had to drop: early last year I was working on a side project that I though had potential (I still do). However, a good friend who was working with me on it faced personal problems and couldn’t continue, while I had so much going on with my relocation to the US that I just had to put that one project aside. I’m fine with it, though, because I did learn things while I worked on it, and maybe one day I can go back to it.

3. What am I working toward?

Playing catch up professionaly: in the last 5 years or so I’ve been focused on delivering the projects I was working on, and didn’t spend much time on keeping up with what was going on out there, as far as technologies are concerned. That was great, don’t get me wrong; delivering working software AND seeing the businesses grow on top of it, for me, is WAY more fulfilling then staying up to date with bleeding-edge technologies that may just die within a version or two. That said, I do want to spend more time this year revisiting some things I should know more, while learning new things that have been proven solid options.

Serious Hobbies: I have a couple of hobbies that I take seriously, and I’m making sure I put time and effort into them this year.

Continous Improvement: I am making an effort to improve both both as a person as well as a professional on a daily basis. Some days are harder than the others, but I’m surrounding myself with an environment that keeps me on track.

Conclusion

The year of 2016 was great. Obviously, there were ups and downs. However, for years I’ve been keeping a lot of things I’m grateful for, and my 2016 list looks great and inspires me to an even better year.

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My brain does work better later in the day after all

I’ve been playing Lumosity’s brain games daily for several months now. I’ve read about people swearing by it, so I decided to try it myself.

For many months, my morning routine included meditation, and then the brain games. I thought that’d be when my brain would perform at its best: early in the morning, before reading emails or anything like that, and right after meditating. Well, I was wrong.

There was one week where I had time to meditate in the morning, but didn’t have time for the brain games, so I was doing them later in the day, around 9pm or so. I thought my scores that week would drop noticibly, given I was very busy working all day and would be tired in the evening. That’s not what happened: all my scores went up that week, despite the fact that I was feeling very tired!

I then decided to change my brain games time to my evenings, and my scores have been consistently better than when I was doing it early in the morning.

I’ve been experimenting with finding the best time of the day for me to perform certain tasks. I’ve always had this feeling that my brain works much better from mid afternoon into the evening, so it seems these brain games are confirming that.

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Meditation is finally paying off

I feel like meditation is finally paying off for me!

I remember I was a kid (maybe 10 years old or so) when I first tried any sort of meditation. No idea what motivated me to do so at the time. Maybe it’s because I was into watching martial arts movies and saw the characters meditating?

I used to close the doors and windows to keep my bedroom dark, put on Vangelis’ Alpha song (my brother had a small LP that had that song), sat on the floor, and went like “ommmmmmmm” for a while. Go figure.

A little over year ago I heard of Headspace’s app for guided meditation and decided to give it a go. I tried their free 10-day program, enjoyed it, and ended up getting the yearly subscription.

As of today, I have had 243 medication sessions, totalling 44 hours, averaging 11 minutes per session. I first started doing 10-minute daily sessions, and only about two months ago I’ve increased it to 15-minute sessions.

It’s definitely not easy sitting through those sessions trying not to get distracted by everything going on in my head. For a long time I kept asking myself whether that thing was actually working, since I couldn’t tell difference. But I decided to insist on it.

Now I think it’s finally paying off!

I’ve been noticing how smoothly I’m handling some stressful situations, such as cases where in the past I’d lose my temper and end up regretting how I handled it.

I’ve also been noticing that I’m detecting my distractions a lot quicker and more frequently and bringing my mind back to whatever it is that I need to be focused on.

Many times those distractions come in the shape of thoughts that bring me down, and most of the times those are things either sitting in the past (which I cannot change) or future (which I may or may not be able to change). I’m noticing I’m doing a lot better at recognizing those thoughts and letting them go as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Overall, I’m feeling happier and more focused, which are things I had been really in need of, and I believe meditation is one of the things helping me with that.

Due to my consistency following my daily sessions, Headspace has been giving me vouchers that I can give out to people who would like to try their app for one month for free. Let me know if you’d like to get one voucher.

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