2021: Year of Calm

January 01, 2021


After 2 years of The Year of Order, I’m focusing on a year of calm.

Recap of Themes from 2019 and 2020

At the end of 2018, I started renovating the house I was living in, and I started fostering my son. There was a lot of chaos and change in my life. I also switched from Android to iPhone and I had no idea what apps to use. On Android, I had been reducing the number of apps. I had left Facebook, I stopped using most Google apps, and most apps in general. That left me feeling disorganized.

On Cortex 62: Yearly Themes, Grey talked about how 2017 was supposed the be the “Year of Redirection,” but it turned out to be a year of chaos, so 2018 would the the “Year of Order.” And on Cortex 79: 2019 Yearly Themes Grey talked about how the Year of Order didn’t go as hoped, so he choose the Year of [Re]order for 2019.

After hearing about Grey’s Year(s) of Order, I decided to join Grey in the Year of Order in 2019. So on my new iPhone, I decided that if an app would help me be more organized and productive, I would buy it, regardless of price. I learned as much as I could from websites like Macstories and The Sweet Setup about the best apps and what makes a good iOS app. I ended up spending a lot of money on apps and subscriptions, but I learned about a lot of great iOS apps and I felt like I had established a lot of order.

At the end of 2019, I had accomplished a lot but felt like I needed to keep going, so I continued the Year of Order for 2020. With the quarantine, my theme fit perfectly and I had plenty of time to continue to refine what apps I was using and my schedule. I also bought a new house that has room for two extra rooms for offices for my wife and me to work from home.

Year of Calm

2020 actually brought a lot of calm and connection for our family since we spent almost the whole year together at home and we didn’t have any social obligations. Going into 2021, I want to take what I learned and continue to refine it.

I’ve listed out 10 areas here with some specifics underneath them, but these are just some ideas of what the Year of Calm could look like. This isn’t a checklist and this isn’t an exhaustive list.

  • Calm productivity
    • Calm routines
    • Reduce social obligations
    • Block scheduling
    • Don’t overcommit
    • Don’t change jobs or positions
  • Calm technology
    • Calm inbox
    • Automate processes
    • Don’t use more technology than necessary
    • Contextual computing
    • Be indistractable
    • Reaccess which apps I’m using, paying for, and which apps we’re using as a couple/family
  • Calm habits
    • Reduce friction
    • Tiny habits
  • Calm finances
    • Budget a month in advance
    • Spend less than we make
    • Stay out of debt
    • Don’t buy more real estate
  • Calm reading
    • Only read what I’m interested in
    • Surgical reading
  • Calm health
    • Meditation
    • Going for walks
    • Running
    • Weight lifting at home
    • Yoga
  • Calm food
    • Calm meal planning
    • Calm grocery shopping
    • Calm cooking
  • Calm home
    • Decorate
    • Reduce clutter
    • Reset the space
  • Calm relationships
    • A few deep relationships
  • Calm spirituality
    • Reading the Bible regularly
    • Praying


Surgical Reading

I came across this idea called Surgical Reading. The basic idea is that you get as many books as you’re interested in, but you cull through them quickly to glean the most important information and you don’t read the entire book unless you’re really interested.

Contextual Computing

I heard about Contextual Computing from David Sparks on Mac Power Users, Automators, and Focused, which I think of using automation to open apps to exactly where you need to be to avoid distractions. He talks a bit about it in his post called Linking and Contextual Computing.

Resetting the Space

I read about this in James Clear’s article, How to Make Your Future Habits Easy, which is an excerpt from his book, Atomic Habits. The idea is to make sure that each space in your house serves its purpose well and is conducive to your good habits. Resetting the space means returning it to its original state so that it’s ready the next time you need to use the space. I also found this article, which explains the concept well: The Key To My Organized Life.

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Written by Adam Garrett-Harris, a podcaster and software engineer in Utah. You should follow him on Twitter