2023 Year in review — Work and personal

Raif Shareef
5 min readJan 1, 2024
Random Lake in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This was a strange year. For most of the year, I was mostly unemployed and on a healing journey.

I see how this year might not look so good on my resume’s job experience section. Looking back, I needed this downtime and it has done a lot of good to take care of my health, explore ideas experiment with curiosity, and catch up on my sleep.

I got to spend more time with family, catch up with friends, cook good food, Annoy my cats (or the other way around), and travel more than usual. Will share random photos from my phone gallery in no particular order.

During the ups and downs, here are my takeaways and intentions for 2024.

Sunrising over Malé city, Maldives

For 2024

I felt time was moving too fast in 2023. It felt like trying to catch up in a fictitious (only in my mind) race. I was trying to go in too many directions and not getting anywhere.

Man fishing against wave

This year, I want to be more intentional with how I spend my time, I want to slow down and just be.

Work

Finding direction at Morib Beach, Malaysia

tldr

Finding purpose
Identity
Side Projects
Back to studying
Freelancing

It was easy to seek purpose in work. I thought I wanted to continue being in a product manager role. I’m not sure anymore. I remember having an identity crisis about this. Seeking purpose and finding my own identity gets carried on to 2024. Last week I came across Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker, I’m going to implement this, and let's see where we are in 12 months.

Mockup shot of Memo Mind web app

This year, I got around to creating a web app on my own. It was a flashcard app launched during Nights and Weekends S4 by Buildspace. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. Building products as an indiehacker is hard and I pushed myself to the point of burning out and I have not worked on this since. Another project I worked on was building a Marketing Co-pilot which turned into a silly quiz and a mini-book about personality types and marketing. I felt like I was trying to bite off more than I could chew, trying to freelance, indie hack projects, job hunt, write, do case studies, etc...

Oreo being a tape Junkie

My lack of technical knowledge was frustrating. For this reason, I decided to start studying computer science with CS50 and focus on this and around this time I started with freelance work as well. Dipped my toes into a completely new industry as a freelancer; doing marketing + design for clients in the travel space.

I got myself a sole proprietorship registered — which I have not officially launched, but the plan was to start a micro agency. However, holding this off until I finish studying and have some case studies from my current freelance work.

I am enjoying learning programming more than I thought. I don’t want to just design but be able to build as well.

Personal

Chai / Coffee with friends

tldr

irl meetups
journal daily
get adequate sleep
journey to healing
cook own meals
WHM & cold showers

This year I (kinda) got out of my cocoon and comfort zone of staying in. Visited home after 2 years of being away, and met with friends and family.

For almost half of this year, I have been consistently practicing different journaling routines. This has improved my sleep (my insomnia got bad..) and decluttered my mind. I mostly journal on the ‘day one’ app, but also keep work-related entries on Obsidian.

Gratitude journaling in particular has made a world of difference to my mood.

Weekend Retreat at Krabi

‘Mental health’ has become a hot topic — I’ve come to learn we cannot separate the mind from the body. Chronic health issues have roots in lifestyle and childhood traumas. Reading the book ‘The Myth of Normal by Daniel Maté and Gabor Maté’ will be one of the best things I will remember about this year.

When I was at my lowest, I tried to seek professional help but I discovered this app called ‘Being’ for mental health — they created mini therapies for me based on the discomforts I had. I heard back from the appointment request for a psychologist a month later but by then I was already hooked on this app and the mini-therapies were super helpful. There is still a load to work on, but this got me out of a very dark place.

Don’t forget to vote for Bizkit

Being home, I had the time and energy to cook my meals. I’m at a point where I prefer cooking at home over ordering in and eating out. In August 2022, I read ‘Fit for Life Book by Marilyn Diamond’ and this has changed my eating habits for good and lose some extra fat with minimal effort. The practices and habits have more or less carried all through 2023. It can only get better in 2024. Time to start a cooking IG handle?

Another practice that has helped me is the Wim Hof Method. In 2021, I came across this method and started only breathing practices. It wasn’t until 2022, I got into cold showers and I’m proud to say all my 2023 showers were ice cold! Perhaps, in 2024 I’d take the plunge into an ice bath. Time will tell.

Compared to the beginning of the year, or heck even the last decade, I’m in a much better place and I’m getting the hang of getting my chronic health issues under control without medication.

Flying back home

I didn’t have a great start, but it got better.

Closing book of 2023 doing alright.

Happy New Year.

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Raif Shareef

Writes about product management and marketing. Always curious. Find me @ www.raifshareef.com