Recaps 2021

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You can find a list of my goals for 2021 here.

First recap as of 22.03.2021

So because it’s already quite a bit into the new year and I’ve already got some progress to report, let’s just do the first recap while we’re at it, shall we?

Career & Work

In January we managed to get a notary appointment and founded the legal structure for the startup (you should check us out). Actually, that was just in time for signing the first important contract, because in March we already launched our first product. I’m very proud with how it turned out and the customer and users seem to love it as well, so this alone grants a big win in this category already! Other possible customers (i.e. other city administrations) are already getting in touch over the positive press we’ve received, so our other ambitious goals are slowly coming into reach as well.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve put loads of work into one big software project, and I had forgotten how much fun delving deeply into code actually is! I also feel like university, especially the mathematics courses, gave me some great problem-solving skills I haven’t had access to before, so that felt amazing too. The project required us to design some quite complex algorithms in order to predict certain things and we managed to invent some sophisticated techniques to do so.
I’d never have imagined that with only two developers and such ever-changing challenges and uncertainties, it’d be possible to develop such a big product in only 8 weeks time. And we didn’t even work full-time.

We’re currently still busy with hiring ourselves though, so no wages yet :(

The academic part of this category is in progress as well; I’m currently working my way into the topics of my Bachelor thesis, which will be about “Cross-lingual, language-independent phoneme alignment” and allows me to apply some fascinating concepts in a new way.

For excellent universities without exorbitant tuition fees, ETH, TUM and KIT came to my mind, so in parallel, I’m busy preparing applications. In February, I aced the TOEFL test (winner of the redundant acronym award 2021), which is a requirement for both ETH and TUM. I’m glad I decided to only practice the Speaking and Writing parts early on, which saved me quite some time. It feels like the standards are crushingly high, especially for ETH, but let’s try and see how things will work out.

I feel like having an ever-increasing output and lately I began to wonder what might be possible if I can continue this autonomous lifestyle for some years…

However, while juggling 8-10 hours of development per day, handling the business part of the startup, working on my Bachelor thesis, completing my last exam in the bachelor’s degree program and also a double-dose Spanish course, preparing for the TOEFL test and writing an essay for one of the university applications, there wasn’t much time to cool off, so I think I’ll have to shift down a gear or two in the long term.

But all in all, this category was a huge success this far! 5/5.

Health & Fitness

Motivation and discipline were at an all time high in January, so I managed to actually get my exercise every single day. I was outside, doing Calisthenics (which I’ve only recently discovered and believe to be insanely more fun than working out in a gym) three times per week. On my days off, I was doing some HICT right after getting up in the morning, which helped start the day feeling energetic. I was also doing my stretching like a good boy, which made me feel noticeably better; especially after spending a long day sitting at my desk! However, I’m still sitting at my desk for big parts of my days, and my back let’s me notice…

I made considerable progress towards my career as a circus artist; I’ve started learning handstands and muscle ups, and eventually figured out both. Also, I started learning how to do a backflip, although I’m not doing it without a spotter just yet, out of consideration for my neck. It was quite scary at first, but pretty fun once you get the hang of it. Another bonus is that people look funny while you practice on a mattress in the park. After my first few single muscle ups, I decided it might be a good idea to try to do a second one right after. I didn’t really believe in myself, but my friend Fernando was whooping so hardly that I just did five in a row.
Lesson: Try the impossible more often, it might just work out!

Sadly, the habit of doing HICT on days off broke down a few weeks ago. I kept up doing Calisthenics, but I think I should start that again as well. Somehow, I just don’t seem to think so right after waking up in the mornings…

During the first months of the year, I actually started tracking my food intake, which helped tremendously with getting an accurate view on my nutrition. Doing that, I managed to lose about 0.5kg per week, which I wouldn’t really have thought possible this easily before. I’ve also reduced my sugar intake and limited it to the evenings, which helped avoiding midday downtime. Also, lots of new recipes and a revived passion for cooking with fresh ingredients!

I’m still not meditating daily again, but I’ve noticed that not going overboard and planning a minimum of 5 minutes, instead of 15, helps with sticking to the habit.

This category is working out quite fine, but there’s still room for improvement for sure! 4/5.

Education & Skill Development

Note: I’ve put the university stuff under the category Career & Work.

I’m currently at 11 books this year, so I think I’m one ahead of my schedule. I like what I’m reading, but I’d like to schedule some longer times for doing so, e.g. in the evenings or even a whole undisturbed Sunday, as I did sometimes during 2020. I’ve also learned to love a short coffee break for reading right after lunch.

I started creating Anki cards for the textbooks I’m reading (on biology, category theory and functional programming). Sadly, I rarely find the extra time and focus to spend on those textbooks lately. I’ve started, but I’m not really advancing quickly anymore.

I’ve finished the double-dose Spanish course doing pretty well and should now be at level A2. I hope I’ll be able to start another one in the next semester.

This year, I’ve learned a lot about Rationality already, which I consider to be some kind of meta-skill when it comes to education and learning other (cognitive) skills. I did so mostly through reading the Sequences and by listening to HPMOR. But theory alone is only one part of the equation; working my way through the Hammertime exercises helped with actually applying some techniques to my life and joining a local group helps with commitment and is also a great way to exchange about and discuss all those new information and experiences.

Still room to improve, but I think I’m not lagging behind. 4/5.

Productivity & Organization

Having the freedom to design your days as you like is great. There’s just one thing that’s terrible: The missing pressure to get up quickly in the mornings. That’s something I still oftentimes struggle with when I have no appointments or meetings scheduled for my mornings.

I used to wake up at 5AM for some time in 2019, but sadly these times are over… While I somehow managed to get out of bed pretty quickly during the first few weeks of the year, I’ve been slacking ever since. Don’t get me wrong, my days have been packed, so I most often ended up working until late at night, but this didn’t make waking up early any easier and turned my whole situation into some kind of vicious cycle.

I think it’s about time I put some more thought into how I could actually reach this goal sustainably.

Social media kept distracting me for hours a day, so I ended up deleting my Instagram account and also removed the YouTube app from my phone. Let’s see for how long I can stay clean.

Scheduling my tasks has been going pretty well this far. I always line out my day in the morning, or even in the previous evening and blocking bigger slots of time for continuous deep work is something that definitely worked out great. Prioritizing also massively helps to increase productivity. Another secret tip: Yoda Timers. I might be able to further advance on this front though.

I also noticed that for focusing, in-ear headphones, yerba maté, bright lights, no sugar and exercise in the morning are what helps best, at least for me.

All in all, a 3/5.

Social Life & Relationships

Meeting new and interesting people isn’t especially easy during a global pandemic. However, I’ve sticked to my online discussion group meetings (currently that’s one on Rationality and one on political literature) and working out outdoors. These are both cool ways to do something useful and meet new (and interesting!) people along the way. I’ve certainly met some inspiring personalities this far.

I hope there will be more real life opportunities during the remainder of the year. 2/5.

Adventure & Creativity

Because we experiment too little, we’re getting stuck in local optima. How likely is it that your current choices for activities and habits are optimal?

For trying many new things this year, I’ve implemented a new section into the monthly page of my bullet journal, called Experiments. I’m aiming at trying some new habits and activities every month and this far, it’s been amazing!

Until now, I’ve

Some of those led to huge successes. And all by simply trying something new, they weren’t even hard to do. You have to experiment more.

Last year, COVID completely wrecked almost all my travel goals, so this year I’m not holding my hopes too high. Nonetheless, I’ve already talked to some friends in order to hopefully do some spontaneous trips in summer, if the situation gets any better by then.

I think this area is missing some truly exciting stuff; 2/5.

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© Niklas Bühler, 2021 RSS / Contact me