What Stayed the Same for Me in 2023

Sam Spurlin
6 min readJan 4, 2024
Image by Midjourney

All glory is in the new. Every January there are countless words written about what people are going to do differently. What about everything you deliberately (or not so deliberately) decide to keep the same? I think consistency and looking at what has remained constant over the past year can be even more enlightening.

Software & Hardware

Like most years, I went through a multi-month phase where I used almost all default apps across each category where there is one. That meant using Apple’s Podcasts, Notes, Music, Mail, Calendar, Safari, Keychain, Pages, and Reminders apps as my productivity stack for well over a month (probably closer to two). And like every other time I’ve done this experiment, I ultimately ended back with a bunch of my tried and true third party apps that are a better fit for how I like to work and what I want out of my tools.

Specifically, that meant Fantastical, Things, Ulysses, Bear, Spotify, Superhuman, 1Password, CARROT Weather, Day One and Overcast were all frequently and (mostly) happily used just like they have been for many years at this point. Some of these have been in my toolbox over a decade and are so deeply embedded in my muscle memory they feel like a natural extension of my very being.

Other mainstays include Magnet, Rocket Emoji, Audio Hijack, Backblaze, Unread, Flighty, Due, Mela, Strava, and TrainingPeaks. All have been in use for many years and do their jobs well.

On the work front, not much has changed in The Ready’s productivity stack as I still find myself using Slack, Google Docs, Zoom, Trello, Loom, Notion, Mural/Miro, and Pitch pretty continuously to get my day job done.

The centerpiece of my computing hardware remains unchanged, a M1 MacBook Air (2020) that I have plugged into a 27” HP monitor (2019) and an old Magic Mouse (unknown) + Magic Keyboard with Touch ID (2022) combo. My desk headphones are AirPods Max (2020) and my walking around headphones continue to be AirPods Pro (2019, re-purchased in 2023). My desk remains a Fully Jarvis sit/stand desk (2015) and my chair is a well-loved Herman Miller Aeron (2015). My two original full-size HomePods (2018) are still chugging away and their little brothers, a pair of HomePod Minis (2020) are still around and doing their thing.

My Nintendo Switch (2017) continues to be the least portable portable gaming system I’ve owned (I swear, my hands must be anti-Switch shaped). My TV remains some random TCL (2018).

PowerBeats headphones (2021) are my go-to training headphones. My Garmin Forerunner watch (2021) and Edge bicycle head unit (2021) both continue doing their respective jobs in the triathlon training realm. My mystery year Trek Madone Craigslist bike (bought used in 2021) continues to be my only training and racing bike and my Wahoo Kickr Snap (2022) continues to let me avoid riding outside in the winter.

In the kitchen, my KitchenAid stand mixer (2020) is a tank and used at least weekly to make bread, the Arc water carbonator (2020) gets a continuous workout, and my Fellow water kettle (2020) and grinder (2022) are the mainstays of my morning coffee routine.

Life & Work

I continue training for triathlons, as I have since the summer of 2021. 2023 marked my second full year working with a coach and consistently training throughout the year. I completed two races, one of which was the half-Ironman distance I’ve had my eye on since I originally started training. I cycled 2,236 miles (down from 2,542 miles in 2022), ran 528 miles (up from 472 miles), and swam 95,350 yards (down from 97,558 yards) across the whole year of racing and training. For the second year in a row I participated in a training camp on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with my coach and some of the other athletes he coaches. This remains almost the only time I train with other people. 99% of my training time is spent alone.

I still read quite a bit. In 2023 I finished 61 books and 21,751 pages (up from 44 books and 18,159 pages in 2022 but down from 22,123 pages in 2021). I re-read three books; How to Do Nothing by Jenny O’Dell, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

I continue to watch only a little bit of TV (eight seasons spread across eight shows) and movies (13, four of which were re-watches). While I don’t watch much scripted TV, I do continue to watch most Detroit Red Wings games on TV. In a given season I’ll probably miss fewer than 10 games (out of 82).

Sampson Boat Co, That Triathlon Life, and Lionel Sanders remain the handful of YouTube channels I consistently watch.

Most of the podcasts in my roster have remained unchanged, with the following being shows I tend to listen to every episode of and have been in rotation for many years (some, over a decade): Cortex, 32 Thoughts, Accidental Tech Podcast, AppStories, Connected, Dithering, My Brother, My Brother, and Me, Philosophize This!, Reconcilable Differences, Robot or Not?, Roderick on the Line, Sharp China with Bill Bishop, Sharp Tech with Ben Thompson, Stratechery, That Triathlon Life Podcast, Under the Radar, and Upgrade.

I continue to aim to go to bed around 10:00 PM and wake up around 6:00 AM on most days. My morning routine has remained unchanged with coffee (AeroPress or pour over) and miscellaneous mess-around-on-my-phone time until 6:30, reading a book until 7:00, making and eating breakfast until 7:30, and generally starting my work day around 7:30. I’ve fully embraced my early lunch tendency and generally eat lunch between 11 and 11:30 most days. I try to finish work by 4:00 PM so I can workout before it gets too late and all motivation leaves my body. Sometimes I’ll do an early afternoon workout and work until 6:00 PM instead.

I continue to try to be the last person on the airplane (unless I can be one of the first) and I continue to view the ability to travel for my work as a privilege.

I continue to mostly embrace minimalism as an aesthetic, principle, and quasi-hobby.

I continue to make dinner most nights (while Emily is in charge of clean up). There’s probably about 10 dishes I regularly make for us, but I haven’t learned a new staple to include in the rotation in a while. Our default dinner continues to be “dope salads” (lettuce, miscellaneous veggies, roasted sweet potato, and some sort of protein, usually roasted chicken). My default breakfast is oatmeal with blueberries and too much brown sugar and butter to really consider it particularly healthy. I continue to lean on DoorDash more than I should when I’m feeling unmotivated to cook.

I continue to be the family Chief Logistics Officer. I’m in charge of groceries, other household supplies, general maintenance, and all travel logistics. I enjoy this role.

I continue to write sporadically, at best, with only three issues of The Deliberate published in 2023 and only one article published on SamSpurlin.com. My brother, Max, and I continue to record our podcast, Fields of Work, with seven episodes published in 2023.

I still work at The Ready and split my time between various internal initiatives and leading client projects. I continue to think that what we’re trying to do is exciting and that I’m well-suited to do the type of work I do. I continue to feel grateful (almost) every day about this.

I’m still married (2021) to my best friend and the best person I know, Emily. We still live in Arlington, Virginia in the same apartment we moved into together in December 2017. We continue to take a summer vacation on Cape Cod every year so we can visit Emily’s parents. We get back to Michigan to visit my family at least once a year, too.

I continue to think about the intersection of attention, personal development, organization design, and philosophy a whole lot. I continue to struggle with walking the balance between wanting to see myself grow and being okay with who and how I am. I think I’m getting better at it.

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