A review of 2018 and some thoughts on 2019


Jason Collins


January 14, 2019

As a record largely for myself, below are some notes in review of 2018 and a few thoughts about 2019.

Writing: I started 2018 intending to post to this blog at least once a week, which I did. I set this objective as I had several long stretches in 2017 where I dropped the writing habit.

I write posts in batches and schedule in advance, so the weekly target did not require a weekly focus. However, at times I wrote shorter posts that I might not have otherwise written to make sure there was a sufficient pipeline. Traffic for the blog was similar to the previous year, with around 100,000 visitors, although unlike previous years there was no runaway post with tens of thousands of views. Three of the 10 most popular posts were written during the year.

In 2019, I am relaxing my intention to post on the blog every week (although that will largely still happen). I will prioritise writing on what I want to think about, rather than achieving a consistent flow of posts.

I wrote three articles for Behavioral Scientist during the year. I plan to increase my output for external forums such as Behavioural Scientist in 2019. My major rationale for blogging is that I think (and learn) about issues better when I write for public consumption, and forums outside of the blog escalate that learning experience.

I also had a paper published in Evolution & Human Behavior (largely written in 2017). For the immediate future, I plan to stop writing academic articles unless I come up with a cracker of an idea. Having another academic publication provides little career value, and the costs of the academic publication process outweigh the limited benefit that comes from the generally limited readership.

For some time I have had two book ideas that I would love to attack, but I did not progress in 2018. One traces back to my earlier interest and writings on the link between economics and evolutionary biology. The other is an attempt to distil the good from the bad in behavioural economics - a sceptical take if you like. Given what else is on my plate (particularly a new job), I’d need a strong external stimulus to progress these in 2019, but I wouldn’t rule out dabbling with one.

Reading: I read 79 books in 2018 (47 non-fiction, 32 fiction). I read fewer books than a typical year, largely due to having three children four and under. My non-fiction selection was less deliberate than I would have liked and included fewer classics than I planned. In 2019 I plan to read more classics and more books that directly relate to what I am doing or want to learn, and picking up fewer books on whim.

I’m not sure how many academic articles I read, but I read at least part of an article most days.

Focus: I felt the first half of 2018 was more focused and productive than the second. For various reasons, I got sucked into a few news cycles late in the year, with almost zero benefit. I continued to use most of the productivity hacks described in my post on how I focus (and live) - one of the most popular posts this year, and continue to struggle with the distraction of email.

I am meditating less than when I wrote that post (then daily), but still do meditate a couple of times a week for 10 to 20 minutes when I am able to get out for a walk at lunch. I use 10% Happier for this. I find meditation most useful as a way to refocus, as opposed to silencing or controlling the voices in my head.

Health: I continue to eat well (three parts Paleo, one part early agriculturalist), excepting the Christmas break where I relax all rules (I like to think of myself as a Hadza tribesman discovering a bunch of bee hives, although it’s more a case of me simply eating like the typical Australian for a week or two).

I surf at least once most weeks. My gym attendance waxed and waned based on various injuries (wrist, back), so my strength and fitness is below the average level of the last five years, although not by a great amount.

With all of the chaps generally sleeping through the night, I had the best year of sleep I have had in three years.

Work: I lined up a new role to start in late January this year. For almost three years I have been building the data science capability in my organisation, and have recruited a team that is largely technically stronger than me and can survive (thrive) without me. I’m shifting back into a behavioural science role (although similarly building a capability), which is closer to my interests and skillset. I’m also looking forward to shifting back into the private sector.

I plan to use the change in work environment to reset some work habits, including batching email and entering each day with a better plan on how I will tackle the most important (as opposed to the most urgent) tasks.

Life: Otherwise, I had few major life events. I bought my first house (settlement coming early this year). It meets the major goals of being five minutes walk from a surfable beach, next to a good school, and sufficient to cater to our needs for at least the next ten years.

Another event that had a large effect on me was an attempt to save a drowning swimmer while surfing at my local beach (some news on it here and here). It reinforced something that I broadly knew about myself - that I feel calm and focused in a crisis, but typically dwell heavily on it in the aftermath. My attention was shot for a couple of weeks after. It was also somewhat of a learning experience of how difficult a water rescue is and how different CPR is on a human compared to a training dummy. My thinking about this day has brought a lot of focus onto what I want to do this year.