Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Regular Reviews and Tracking

One habit I now have that I wish I had started much, much earlier in life would be conducting regular, periodic reviews.

These reviews are a sort of written introspection of the time period in question, the target audience being future me.

I’m reminded of the important of this because I had been going through old files the last few months and I really enjoy reading through some older entries and basically traipsing through younger me’s mind. It’s kind of a time machine in a way. And it helps me by providing a sort of foundation for my thinking, so I understand how my thinking has (or has not) evolved through the years, what mistakes I’m still prone to, or which ones I’ve overcome, and so on.

I’ve been trying to start this habit on and off again since basically the early 2000s. This blog is part of that effort, as you can see by the archives. (Although, not everything can be logged publicly in a blog.) I really only managed to get into a regular discipline of reviews starting around 2017 though.

My current regular reviews/tracking systems:

  • daily tracker. This is a custom system I built for myself basically just to log things on a day-to-day basis, with categorization, search and summary metrics and graphs. Most useful for expense and tracking what I eat. This tracker is the reason I have a pretty good idea of where my money is going. (I’m sure there are OTS systems that can do this, building your own isn’t necessary)
  • weekly reviews. For things I’ve done throughout the week, any big expenses, etc. Helps me remember when I did things. I used to do this privately, via text files, but last year mostly moved it to regular weekly blog posts called weeknotes. Having the weekly reviews on the blog gave me a regular public cadence. Most of the things I log in weekly reviews are ok to be public anyway; any private stuff stays in the daily tracker
  • monthly finance checks. This is the review habit I’ve had the longest, but it’s also evolved a lot along the way. Basically I just go through all my bank accounts and credit cards and billing statements, make sure all transactions for the month check out/are legit, check if there are loans/investments I need to follow up on, make sure all bills are paid, and get a snapshot of what my current financial status is. I can cross check the deltas with the numbers from the daily tracker, to make sure there’s not any money I’m losing unnecessarily.
  • yearly reviews. These are on the blog as yearnotes. There are entire years of my early career that seem like a blur - I have very little idea what I was up to in those years. I don’t want to lose that kind of time again.

In addition to all of that, I’ve recently also resumed doing 750words, mainly because the old export files from that service were among the old files I was going through.

All of this might seem overmuch for most people, but I find it works for me. It helps me with my thinking, helps me manage my anxiety, and having the past to scroll through is certainly better than doomscrolling all the time. (There is probably some danger of becoming too obsessed with the past, but I think it’s worth it as long as you’re aware of the risk.) The past informs the future.


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@roytang I used to have a twice-in-a-decade deconstruct-reconstruct of my standing thought processes and systems. Haven’t done it in a while
@switchfollows I’ve been meaning to do something like that, but I mine aren’t something I’ve really concretely/formally defined ever (though I guess the blog does some of that work for me). I feel like a lot of my thought processes are straightforward and obvious, but maybe that’s just my POV
@roytang It’s when it seems straightforward and obvious that I feel like resetting. To be fair, being at school helps me do that thrice yearly