2017: year in review

Another year complete and another year in review post (see also my reviews from 2015 and 2016). I’m publishing this much later than I would have liked, but better late than never.

The usual disclaimer: these reviews are written primarily for myself, so sorry if it’s a little self-indulgent!

What went well

Highlights

Here’s some of my highlights from 2017:

  • Went to my first Whisky Master Class at HTFW
  • Travelled to Swansea, Wales for a short break where we did some lovely coastal walks and discovered just how beautiful Rhossili Bay is
  • Saw Jack Whitehall, Jon Richardson and Russel Howard live
  • Rocked out at Download Festival (been on my bucket list for years)
  • Saw the classic FW14 drive round Silverstone at William’s 40th anniversary event (I’m a big Williams fan as I started watching F1 just as Damon Hill was fighting for the championship)
  • Attended Pattern’s Day in Brighton which was a great choice seeing as though it was my only conference of the year
  • Worked in Bournemouth for the best part of a week (would love to travel while working more)
  • I purchased a T300 RS GT Edition racing wheel and Playseat Challenge and played a load of racing games
  • I also purchased an iPad Pro 10.5″ and Apple Pencil and it’s a joy to use
  • Went on a tour at Cotswolds Distillery which is well worth visiting if you like gin or whisky
  • We had lunch at Man Behind the Curtain which was an amazing experience
  • Spent New Year’s in Edinburgh for Hogmanay (which mostly involved drinking and playing rook)
  • Ju (my wife) travelled to South Africa for 2 weeks to work with cheetahs (a dream of hers since she was young)

Mastermind retreat

The mastermind group I’m part of is still going strong (I’ve written about the benefits of mastermind groups). In October, we held our first mastermind retreat. We booked an Airbnb in Gloucestershire which served as a great place to work, plan, goal set, and chat about our businesses. I left the retreat feeling revitalised and with a greater clarity on my goals. I’m really excited about doing this again. I’d also love to do a solo retreat.

Gave my first public talk

In October, I gave my first public talk at SWM. The talk was called “How to run a freelance business without going crazy.” It was well received and I enjoyed the experience, despite being insanely nervous before hand. Shout out to my friend Dave Redfern for asking and encouraging me to speak.

I’d thought about public speaking for years but had always put it off when I was asked. This feels like a big weight off my shoulder. Its given me confidence that I can do public speaking.

Reading

I read 23 books in 2017, just missing out on my goal of 24. Most of the books I read I really enjoyed, and I’ll write up a post of my favourites. 24 books per year – 2 per month – feels about the right pacing for me at the moment, so I’ll stick to that goal for this year. I do want to make an effort to read more fiction though.

inline-block & Geek+Food

inline-block is a Slack community I started back in 2016. It’s now grown to over 230 folks. While it’s not crazy active (I like it that way), there is some really great discussion taking place. I also started a small meetup with my friend Dave Redfern called Geek+Food. The premise is super simple: every month we pick a new restaurant in Birmingham and then talk shop while eating good food (Birmingham has many great places to eat). It’s been fun.

Breaks from social media

Over the years, I’ve developed an addiction to Twitter. Launching Tweetbot with Alfred is muscle memory at this point. A slight lapse in and concentration and BAM: Twitter is in front of me before I know it. So, in December, I went completely dark on social media and avoided Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the month. It was easier than I expected and it felt great, like I’d kicked the addiction. I’m back on the socials now, but I don’t check-in nearly as often. I’ll be taking regular breaks from social media again this year. It has had a huge impact on my productivity, that’s for sure.

Productivity and organisation

I felt more organised and in-control for most of 2017 than I had in previous years. I made a few small changes which made a big impact last year:

Weekly reviews. I had tried to do weekly reviews in the past, but I never really stuck to them. Last year I made it a goal to perform a weekly review every week. Often this takes place on a Sunday, but occasionally on a Friday or a Monday. It’s something I look forward to: get a coffee, sit down with my laptop (or iPad), and spend 30 minutes reviewing and going through things for the following week. I’ll write more about my weekly reviews, but suffice to say it has really helped me focus on what’s important and stay on top of the little things that often fall through the cracks or build up over time.

Introduced Sanebox for email. I’ve always been pretty good at email in the sense that I respond quickly and follow “inbox zero”. But it was taking up too much time. Around April time, I introduced Sanebox and it has been a game-changer. Sanebox works by learning which emails you’d like to appear in the inbox and which emails should be sent to a folder to review later. I use the SaneBox digest feature to go through my emails in the evening, while all the important stuff is sent straight to my inbox. It’s really reduced the amount of time I spend dealing with email.

Home office improvements

In February, we redecorated both bedrooms – one of which is my office. The main new addition to the office is a standing desk from Ikea which has been fantastic. I usually stand in the morning and sit in the afternoon. My office space feels great and I love working here (which isn’t always a great thing when my commute is 10 steps).

What went badly

One of the benefits of writing yearly reviews is that it allows you to look back and spot patterns or trends. There’s a few reoccurring things in the “what went badly” list in particular that I want to address this year.

Writing

I sent out 4 newsletters and published 12 blog posts in 2017. I didn’t write anywhere near as much as I’d like to. About halfway through the year I stopped getting up early which disrupted my morning routine and completely wiped out my writing time. One of my priorities for 2018 is to get back into my morning routine.

Working from home

This is another recurring theme from my yearly reviews. Although I enjoy working from home and the solitude that comes with it, spending too much time at home alone can quickly drive you crazy. And to make matters worse, we had to say goodbye to our dog midway through the year which made working from home feel even more isolating.

So the goal is the same as in 2015: more coffee shops, more co-working spaces, more changes of scenery. Possibly even a hot desk, if I can find a suitable place.

Health and diet

I put on a little weight steadily over the year. Nothing major, but not heading in the direction I want to go. I did play plenty of squash throughout the year and my general level of fitness increased, but I want to shed a few pounds this year.

Didn’t launch a product

I really wanted to build and a ship a product but that didn’t materialise. No excuses really, I just didn’t do it. Yes, I was busy with client work but I could have carved out a month for building something if I had wanted to.

Travel

Although I did visit Edinburgh, Swansea, and plenty of places in England, I didn’t travel as much I wanted to this year. I didn’t go abroad and that’s something I’d like to fix this year. We’d also love to be more spontaneous and just go away for a weekend when we feel like it (we’re meticulous planners and so travel is always planned well in advance).

Learning

This isn’t something I expected to include on my list as I consider myself an avid learner. I’m always reading non-fiction books or blog posts about self-improvement or something I don’t know much about. One of the problems of being a freelancer is that you often work alone and don’t get chance to learn from others around you. And I didn’t really schedule the time to learn new things. There’s plenty of web-based things I want to get a better handle on such as CSS Grid Layout.

 

How I did against my 2017 goals:

Launch first product. Nope, that didn’t happen last year but it’s still something I’m working towards.
Write to my mailing list every two weeks. This didn’t happen, but I did restart my newsletter in a new monthly format towards the end of the year.
Publish 12 book notes. I read 23 books but only published book notes for 3 of them.
Save 4 months salary. Done. I started saving more last year.
One movie night per week. We did okay at this. It started off well, we then started missing date nights in the summer, but then picked up throughout winter.

Things I’m thinking about for 2018

Normally I’d set my goals for the year, but these days I prefer to set quarterly goals (which I wrote about in a recent post). The problem with setting yearly goals is that things often change. By working in 12 week blocks, you can change course more frequently if you need to.

So with that said, these aren’t goals per se, but just things I’m thinking about for 2018:

Website growth

Harry Roberts, on his website reaching 10 years of age:

“Having this website changed and shaped my career. If you don’t have a blog, I urge you, start working on one this weekend. Your own blog, with your own content, at your own domain. It might just change your life.”

It’s a sentiment I agree with. This website is my base. It attracts new clients. If I wanted to get a job, I can use this website as a portfolio. If I want to sell a product, my website is where I’ll do it. So investing in my website is a thing that will be useful for years to come.

Business growth

You may have noticed that “business” was neither in my good or bad list this year. It could have been in either. It was good in that it was my most profitable year to date and I was busy for most of it, but it was bad because I haven’t been building real assets. The problem I face with my business right now is that if I take some time off, or if I’m ill, then the business makes no money. This is why I want to explore building and selling products.

More writing

I want to get back into the groove of publishing regularly. I plan on continuing to send out a monthly newsletter, along with 2 or so posts per month.

Social media fasting

I don’t want to go whole hog and give up social media. I enjoy it and get a lot of value from it. But I also recognise the downsides: the huge amount of time it can take up, the distraction it creates and the occasional negativity that can come from it. This year I want to keep my social media usage in-check. That means giving it up for a week or a month at a time now and then, and monitoring my overall activity.

More travelling and photography

This year I’d really like to get back into my hobby of photography. And it’s a good excuse to travel more. I’d love to visit the Lake District this year and we have a few other trips planned.

Weekly gratitude journalling

I’ve tried journalling in different forms and it’s never really stuck. However, gratitude journalling is something I enjoy. So, each week, I plan to write down a couple of things that were awesome, exciting, or that I was grateful for. Every year passes by so quickly and life becomes a blur. It can be hard to remember what happened. Hopefully this gratitude journal is a small step in fixing that, and should make next year’s review easier!

That’s it from me. I hope you have a great 2018.

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