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My 2019 Annual Review

Here we are. 2019 has passed, and we are readying ourselves to enter 2020! Before we turn the page and start a new chapter, I’d like to share my Annual Review with you.

I conduct my Annual Review at the end of each year. The process reminds me to look back on the previous twelve months, celebrate my victories and evaluate my failures. Inspired by James Clear, I have decided to share this year’s review for the first time. I hope it will make me more accountable, and maybe you will also find value in my stories.

My 2019 Annual Review will answer three questions.

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What am I working toward?

Let’s dive in!

1. What went well this year?

Moved House: I’ve had this goal for a few years, and in October, after almost a year of searching, this became a reality. I’m happy with the environment this new place provides and am looking forward to the coming years there.

Reading: I rediscovered my love for reading this year. I reached my goal of reading 26 books, but more importantly, reading has become a regular habit again. The books I read this year were more varied than in previous years, and I found interest in areas I didn’t expect. Here are a few of my favourite books of 2019:

Writing: In July of this year, I started writing again regularly. I set myself the target to write daily on this blog and managed to stick to this schedule for two months without missing a post. Writing highlights for 2019 include:

  • 44 new articles published.
  • 17,199 words written on this blog.
  • 542 new readers.

The main driver for my writing this year was to try to build a regular practice to refine ideas, clarify thoughts and understand myself and the world around me better. My experience demonstrated this worked well for me, and although I fell out of the writing habit later as the year came to a close, I still regard this experiment as a success. 

In 2020 I want to return to writing regularly and would like to see my work on this blog reach a wider audience.

Travel: Exploring the world continues to be one of my top priorities. While I didn’t visit as many new countries as I did in 2018, I was still fortunate enough to visit some amazing places and have some fantastic experiences.

In 2019 I visited eight countries (2 new): France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, Namibia, Croatia, Romania, Norway.

My travel was very varied this year. At the start of the year, I visited the same country three times in three months (France) to snowboard with friends. Throughout the year I did several shorter trips for work and the year ended with my most adventurous trip yet, driving 3000 miles around Namibia. I hope to follow a similar pattern in 2020, prioritising one big adventure over lots of short trips.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Creating Products: This was a failure, no matter how you slice it. While I did spend time this year helping companies develop their product strategies and rethinking how they sell their existing capabilities, I didn’t create anything new. 

Through 2019, I dreamed up more than ten new product concepts but didn’t manage to carve out the time to test or explore them further. In 2020 I would like to change this and launch something new. 

Workouts: Exercise is a core part of my life. Some years ago now, I was an athlete, kayaking for Great Britain, and I’ve been training on and off for the last 15 years. That said this year was my least consistent yet. 

In 2019, I exercised 84 times for an average of 7 workouts per month and 1.6 per week. I was significantly behind my target of 3 workouts a week, mainly because I didn’t form a good routine and relied on moments of motivation to drive my training. 

Workouts per month in 2019:

  • January – 11
  • February – 6
  • March – 1
  • April – 3
  • May – 10
  • June – 12
  • July – 11
  • August – 7
  • September – 8
  • October – 6
  • November – 6
  • December – 3

In 2020 I hope to return to consistent, regular exercise as I did when I was an athlete (albeit with less volume!) I’m aiming for 156 total workouts (an average of 12 per month). I’d also like to include more mobility work to increase my physical longevity.

Habit formation: I started 2019 intending to build more structure into my life and remove some of the bad habits I’d picked up in the previous years. I had some success, but couldn’t maintain some of the positive changes, especially when I broke the streak through going on holiday or some other change in the environment.

In those brief moments, when I managed to maintain the structure, I realised it brought significant value to my life. In 2020 I want to focus on the process of habit building to give myself a better chance of making changes stick.

Mental Health: In the last quarter of 2019 I began to struggle with depression. I’ve had down periods before, but this time felt different. This time I couldn’t shake it off after a few days, it lasted months, and just when I thought it was over, it would raise it’s head once more. 

My inability to overcome this was only made more difficult by the challenges I had acknowledging my situation and talking about it. I still struggle to admit I’ve had depression and talk openly about the experience, but I suspect acknowledging it here is a step towards resolving this. 

As I write, I am in a much better place than a few months ago. However, I’m aware I have reached this place more by luck than judgement. In 2020 I want to explore ways to better care for my mental health and discover ways new ways to rebound from down moments. 

3. What did I learn this year?

Focus on the fundamentals: There were times this year where I got a bit lost. In those moments I found myself searching for tactics or techniques to try to short cut my way to clarity and direction. In hindsight, I think I was lost because I had abandoned some of the fundamental building blocks that supported everything else.

I’ve found that the latest trends or cutting edge tactics are overrated. Focus on the fundamentals and develop essential habits that deliver a great return. For me, these include:

  • sleep consistently each day
  • workout regularly, don’t skip sessions
  • read every day
  • drink more water, start the day fully by re-hydrating
  • make space for daily practices that support your development
  • practice continuous improvement through regular reflection.

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems: I am quite an achievement-focused person. When I feel like I am achieving my goals, it’s energising. When I’m not, it can feel debilitating. This year, I recognised the negative effect of being goal-orientated but not having suitable systems in place to achieve the goals you set.

I’ve found that to achieve my goals I need to become more process-oriented and to focus on the system rather than the goal itself. This was a significant mindset shift for me and one I’m still wrestling with, but I believe that focusing on the system will be a great enabler in 2020.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for this year’s Annual Review. As always, thanks for reading. I hope you have a great start to 2020!