Annual review, 2019

David Laing

Dear friends,

Happy New Near! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and that you’re feeling as optimistic as I am about the turn of the decade.

Over the past week, I wrote down all the activities, media, and ideas that defined my 2019 in my first annual review post. I also included some personal trajectories for 2020. A few highlights:

  • I did a fair bit of writing in 2019. This allowed me to make new friends, discover new interests, and deepen my understanding of many topics. I want to continue reaping all these benefits in 2020, so by the end of the year I’ll aim to publish at least 15,000 words on my blog and send 50 issues of this newsletter.

  • In 2019 I developed a love of chess, but it also became a bit of a distraction. I’ll continue playing casually in 2020, mostly with my mother, but I’m also picking up a brand new hobby: I’m going to learn the piano! I’ll share some videos with you as I progress.

  • In 2019 I boarded a grand total of 18 planes, mostly for work but also for pleasure. While I enjoyed my traveling and made lots of great memories, it was expensive and often tiring, not to mention bad for the environment. In 2020 I want to reduce my plane travel significantly and instead travel to places closer to home, especially with friends.

There’s plenty more in my full review, including the books I read, the music I loved, and the products and services that made my life better. Below, rather than sharing links from the past week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my review—the top 10 articles that I read in 2019, ranked by how much they affected my thinking or my behaviour. I hope you find them as stimulating as I did.

The top 10 articles I read in 2019

1. One-Touch to Inbox Zero: How I Spend 17 Minutes Per Day on Email

25 minutes | Tiago Forte | 2015

How and why to process your email inbox. Reading this article caused me to implement a set of systems that drove healthy feedback loops in many areas of my life.

>>> Read it

2. The tyranny of ideas

10 minutes | Nadia Eghbal | 2019

What if people don’t have ideas, but ideas have people?

>>> Read it

3. Theory of Constraints 101: Applying the Principles of Flow to Knowledge Work

7 minutes | Tiago Forte | 2016

To increase the throughput of a system, you need to increase the throughput at its tightest bottleneck.

>>> Read it

4. Status as a Service

2 hours | Eugene Wei | 2019

Social media companies make money off ads, but what they provide to users is an efficient means of acquiring social status.

>>> Read it

5. Deep Laziness

15 minutes | Sarah Perry | 2018

Find activities and behaviors that resonate with the core of your being, then elaborate on them to create still deeper resonance.

>>> Read it

6. Going Critical

30 minutes | Kevin Simler | 2019

An intuition pump for how networks thrive or die.

>>> Read it

7. Being basic as a virtue

10 minutes | Nadia Eghbal | 2019

A counterweight to the idea, which I’ve mostly bought into, that it’s good to relentlessly externalize your learning by writing online.

>>> Read it

8. always bet on text

4 minutes | graydon2 | 2014

It’s fine to focus your creative energy on text rather than other forms of media.

>>> Read it

9. What the success of rock climbing tells us about economic growth

8 minutes | John H. Cochrane | 2019

The first climb of El Capitan, in 1958, took 47 days; in 2017, Alex Honnold climbed it in three hours. This vast improvement is due not to better equipment or stronger muscles, but to increased knowledge—of climbing technique, and of El Capitan itself.

>>> Read it

10. Why books don’t work

30 minutes | Andy Matuschak | 2019

Reading informational non-fiction is an unreliable way to learn.

>>> Read it

No tweets this week, since the links section was extra long. I hope you have a fantastic first week of the year!

Until next week,


Did a friend forward this to you? Join 92 others and get it straight from the source: