The unexamined life is not worth living –Socrates

Reflecting back on 2022, I experienced a lot, both outside and inside:

  1. I changed my job from quant 💰 at BNP to software engineer 🖥️ at Google.

  2. I moved from New York 🗽 to Seattle 🗻.

  3. I met many awesome friends from climbing, working and friends.

  4. I bought my first car 🚗 and it really changed my way of living.

  5. I switched from omnivore 🍖 to Veggan 🥦 (Vegan + Egg). Today is my 117 days since my last meat bite and I felt very good to see a lower footprint and a contribution to animal protection.

  6. I become a husband, legally. 😀

  7. I traveled with my wife together to San Jose, San Francisco, Yosemite and Vancouver.

  8. I start consistently doing meditation 🧘 in the morning and I have meditated for around 38.6 hours.

  9. I start consistently reading books 📚. I have read and summarized 38 books since the beginning of this year and here is my goodreads profile.

  10. I wrote an open-source program 🧑‍💻 to get US visa appointment slots and successfully got my visa stamped in Canada.

  11. I got a Kaggle competition gold medal 🏅 on February and wrote a post to summarize our methods.

  12. I started reading papers seriously and upgraded my note-taking system by following Molecular Notes and Building a Second Brain. I can’t wait to see it scale up 😀

  13. I almost stopped using social media, like WeChat and Instagram. I freed myself for more time to enjoy what was truly worth my attention.

  14. I changed from doing rock climbing crazily into injury recovery mode. I became more patient and a long-term viewer from this one. But before the injury, I got my first single arm open hand 20mm 5s hang (that’s something probably only climbers can understand 😅)

Overall I felt proud and happy about these changes. I felt more controlled about myself and motivated every day to enjoy my life. As failure needs reflection to be avoided in the future, success needs it as well to keep the momentum. I would say the following 3 habits/methods really helped me to become the person I wanna be.

1 Reading

开卷有益 (Reading enriches the mind) —— 《与子俨等疏》

I intentionally set the 1 hour before bedtime as my reading hour, it helps me wind down for the day and step into a different world by following the books. I like reading non-fiction books since I enjoy learning new knowledge from them. I agree with this post regarding how to read a nonfiction book and I kept extracting the wisdom from books into my life. Luckily, my wife also enjoys reading books and it is really nice time to read books together in a relaxed mode. I listed a few books that helped me in different fields.

2 Tracking & Scoring

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. —Nathaniel Branden

I started tracking how I spent my week since January 1st and it helps me reflect upon how I was doing last week and figure out the plan for next week. It redirects my focus and tracks me to see how far I am away from mastery (10,000 hours). I listed a few identities as my goals (according to The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and another column named “wasted time” to track how I spend my week. Those goals can remind me of what kind of person I wanna be in the long run. The “wasted time” is usually some meaningless screen time watching youtube videos or short videos, they are sometimes really disturbing. I want to maximize my time on goal and minimize the “wasted time”.

To be specific, we have 24 hours per day, excluding 8 hours of sleep and 3 hours of necessary activities (eating, dressing up and etc), we are left with 13 hours. For a week, we will have 13 * 7 = 91 hours. It is not much. If we deduct working hours (7 * 5), it only left us with 56 hours and we need to use that time to spend with our family, personal hobbies, and some wild dreams ⭐. Here is a decomposition of my time.

Even though I tried to record the time I spend on each goal, sometimes it is still hard to track since I might just do some misc stuff like commuting or daydreaming 🤣. I am glad to see a high ratio of “Work / Research Engineer”, “Professional Climber” and “Spouse, Friends, Son”. They are part of my core identity. Note there that I listed “Spouse, Friends, Son” as part of my time tracking because they are important, never less than “Work / Research Engineer”. Having them here kept me balanced and my goal is not solely about being a great research engineer but to be happy (I agree with the meaning of life mentioned in Happiness).

I used clockify to track my time blocks every day and used google Sheets to record my weekly data. It is part of my weekly reflection routine and helped me stay on track.

Since October, after reading Triggers, I started using a scoring method mentioned to do daily reflection. They are self-evaluations regarding questions like “Did I do my best to …” (eg prioritize, meditate, sit in good posture and etc). Compared with other evaluations, this kind of question reminds me that I have control over my behavior and I shouldn’t blame anyone else if a certain desire is unmet. I will report the scores every day to my wife to make them accountable. (Thank you, my wife, you are a great listener!)

The score here is an average of several items during the day. Some days are good, and some are bad. Some habits are hard to get rid of or acquire while some don’t take that long. Doing daily reflection also helps me stay on track with my goal and progression. I normally will feel proud if I can score 90+ and feel a bit frustrated if it is lower than 80. This scoring method can also help me find the pattern and reflect upon when my willpower is the weakest. For example, I found myself easily getting hooked on excessive phone usage after dinner, so I learned to keep my phone away before dinner. If some items consistently score high after several weeks, then I have a strong belief that it becomes my habit and can be removed from my daily reflection score system.

3 Triggering good habits and avoiding bad ones

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. — Aristotle

I used to be got distracted by social media and short videos a lot and they are habits I want to get rid of. I even tested myself that “I will only watch one clip of a short video” then I opened the app, and after 1 hour, I realized that I can’t stop. Our willpower is limited and we need some help to deal with various distractions in our modern world.

That’s why I decided to follow the methods mentioned in Atomic Habits and make the bad habits hard to do. I went crazy: I hid all my friends’ moments on WeChat so whenever I opened the friend circle, there is no new feeds. I put my phone somewhere hard to reach, so I don’t need to worry about myself using it when my willpower is low. By using this method, my screen time went down quite a lot and allowed me more time to do the things I love/need to do.

I also tried to make the good habits easy or fun to do. For example, for meditation, I bought a Digital Finger Counter so my daily meditation becomes easier to follow. Seeing the counter also makes the time more visible and helps me make progress over time.


Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years. — Bill Gates

I am lucky to have the chance to fully experience 2022 and find my happiness level higher than before.

The road to happiness is blocked by our ignorance and lack of knowledge. We are often told what to do, and what is expected, and born with the constraint of our culture. I used this post as a reflection and a wish to help you find something useful, to enable your possibility of less suffering and more happiness.

Coping from what Robert said: “Writing about personal productivity always feels somewhat self-indulgent; it inevitably comes down to ‘this is how I do things – you should do it too!’.” That’s not my intention and what I suggested here is only a reference or I should say something that works for me. I hope it can help you but it may not 😃

Time is limited. Attention is also limited. To do something great requires persistence and consistency. Luckily, we still have time and when we can focus our attention on those truly important things, they will come, eventually 😉