2016 in Review
Minor updates made on 1/1/2017 to update final counts. As usual, I sat down to read 2014 in Review and 2015 in Review before starting this off. It amuses me how my perception of my resolutions change throughout the year. Last year my entry reads “focus better,” but what I remember from January onward is “trying to use routines to improve focus.”
This year, I wanted to see if removing some flexibility from my day would help me focus more on things that mattered. In the past, routines wouldn’t work for me because I’d give up when I couldn’t do all of them. This time, I let myself add/remove things based on what I actually did.
First, I created a morning routine. I read MyMorningRoutine for inspiration, and used Habit List to track a set of things I wanted to do each morning. In the end, only a couple of items stuck. Now, as soon as I get out of bed I brush my teeth, floss, weigh myself, and drink a glass of water. This routine is the first thing that’s gotten me to floss. It still doesn’t have a bunch of “classic” morning routine items: skipping tech, making smoothies, meditation, but at least it’s something. I also did a minor change to my evening. I reintroduced reading before falling asleep. I’d always read before sleeping growing up, but since Tom doesn’t my routine had gotten thrown off.
I also tried a few other things. In August, I wanted to wear more of my wardrobe. I wore a different dress every day for a month and took a photo. I also recently learned from the Should We Podcast that Erin McKean has a whole blog for this concept. I’d like to do more one-month experiments.
This is really part of routines, but I felt like it deserved it’s own section. Exercise became a foundation of my weekly rhythm, mostly to help cope with my more challenging job. This was funny to me — at HBS while everyone else used their one hour of free time on exercise, I spent mine glued to my couch.
I purposefully picked things that were uncomfortable for me — rock climbing because I am afraid of heights, and SoulCycle because my sense of rhythm is abysmal. I also decided to run the Cambridge half marathon, and I’m still a little surprised that I actually trained and ran it (and ran another three weeks later!) Between August and the end of the year I ran 166 miles.
As much as I still don’t identify as “an exerciser,” I ended up exercising 193 days so far in 2016, or about 53% of days. I used a spreadsheet to track this, but also verified independently (especially for the beginning of the year) based on automated sources — RunKeeper, BKB, Equinox, and SoulCycle. That’s probably the most of any year of my entire life.
I buried the lede on this one. A big part of why I invested so much time into routines (and exercise) was that in January, I officially stepped into the VP Product role at Lola. It’s been more demanding than my previous work. Last year, Lola was barely a footnote in my piece. This year, it’s been the bulk of the year. In May, we launched v1 of the product, and since then we’ve been iterating on new things.
VP of Product is more different than PM than I would have expected. The best part of the job is how deeply a VP of Product coordinates with other disciplines. As a PM I spent most of my time with design/engineering, and was a “liaison” to other roles. In the VP Product role, my time is more evenly distributed (that might also depend on the organization). Since I’m still in the thick of it, there’s a lot on my mind here, and lots of the things I could mention merit their own posts.
Travel & Events
Lola is a travel company, so to use the product (and because I like to travel!) I’ve done a pretty wide array of trips this year. My entire family went to — Bonaire and Belgium. Tom and I also went on a couple trips alone. We visited Western Massachusetts (and found our wedding venue) for Labor Day, and Montreal for Tom’s 30th birthday party. I also like to travel alone and got to do that when I went to Colorado.
I used events to help me refocus and frame things throughout the year. That started off in January with the SVB Trek, followed by Women in Product and Industry in late summer, and rounded the year out with Rev20 and the Flybridge Unsummit.
Flybridge, Speaking, HFID, Writing
Speaking of that last event, this year I took on a new role. I’m an advisor at Flybridge Capital. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the team and I’m looking forward to spending more time on this in 2017.
Linking back to the “routines” section, I committed to myself that I’d speak once per month this year (inspired by Mina). My favorite talk was the one I wrote when I visited Colorado, on how to learn in Product. There should be a video version up soon, but until then here’s the written format. I did pretty well overall at speaking once per month. I didn’t speak in September, October, or December — so I got 9/12, but there were months I spoke 3+ times. This was also the first year I was a guest on some podcasts.
Part of the reason I didn’t speak as much towards the end of the year was because I started working on a reboot of the Human Factors and Interface Design class at Olin College. I worked with Amon Millner to update the class to account for more modern technologies, and to focus specifically on connected experiences across devices.
With so much going on, I wrote less this year than I had in previous years. In 2014 I wrote 52+ pieces, 38 in 2015, and only 19 this year.
That said, I wrote a few things I’m really proud of. A few highlights:
- Learning in Product distills down a lot what I’ve learned and thought about for the last ten years.
- I was excited to do a guest post for Stratechery, one of my favorite publications, on crowdfunding (members only).
- I was happy to talk about career changes, specifically how and when to quit with First Round.
- Last, I was excited to share more of the origin story behind Lola.
During 2017, I want to write more frequently by sharing some less complete ideas.
This is my favorite part of doing a year in review! If it’s your favorite part to read, I also wrote about how to read a lot. I read a bit more than last year (155 vs. 144), but unlike previous years where I had a 50–50 split between fiction and nonfiction, this year I read nearly 2/3 fiction. I also read far more books by women than by men. All books here.
While I didn’t read as much nonfiction, I read a few particularly useful books. If you’re looking to understand what makes people successful, I’d highly recommend Grit (Duckworth) and Mindset (Dweck). I also found High Output Management (Grove) helped me think about how to grow technology companies.
Memoirs were also high on the list again. I continue to like to read sets of books in clusters. I read two climbing memoirs: Learning to Fly (Davis), and Alone on the Wall (Honnold). I also read another Scientology memoir to follow up on others from past years: Ruthless (Miscavige). To follow up on some of my reading about Detroit, I read Beer Money about the Stroh family breweries (Stroh). Breaking with the trend, I also included some biographies, of which I liked Notorious RBG (Carmon and Knizhnik) and American Heiress (Toobin).
One other note from this year was the shocking number of books with “Girl” in the title. It was 12 of the 151! Of those, I’d recommend: All the Missing Girls (Miranda), The Girls (Cline), the Girl with all the Gifts (Carey).
The other book that really stood out to me this year but didn’t fit into the above categories was Lily and the Octopus (Rowley).
I crammed a lot into this year. Next year, I have a list of things I want to do, but that’s (mostly) staying private for now. One big one is that we’ll be getting married! We planned a lot of the wedding and I got my dress this year, so that was a big accomplishment.
One last thing from this year: I finally got a 3072 in Threes! Hoping that 2017 will be the year I’ll get a 6044.