2018: year in review

The last few months of 2018 have been scrappy. I’ve been busy but not all that productive – mostly due to the fact that we’re having a house extension built – which has left me feeling a little flat about 2018.

One of the wonderful benefits of these annual reviews is that it encourages you to look back at the year as a whole. I was reminded that 2018 was actually a really good year.

This is my fourth annual review. I also posted reviews in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

What went well

Travel

One of my goals for 2018 was to travel more and boy did we do that!

We kicked off the new year in Edinburgh for Hogmanay with our good friends Stu and Chloe.

Ju and I in front of Edinburgh castle

Ju and I at Edinburgh Castle

In February, we travelled to Iceland which was a 30th birthday present from my wife. We went dog sledding (one of the best experiences of my life) and bathed in the geothermal spa’s while it was -5°. We got a faint glimpse of the northern lights, but we’re leaving this on our bucket list. What a beautiful country! We can’t wait to visit again.

Dog sledding in Iceland

Dog sledding in Iceland was one of the highlights of the year

Ju wrapped up warm with one of the running dogs

Ju with one of the running dogs

The colourful city of Reykjavik

The colourful city of Reykjavik

In May, we spent Ju’s 30th birthday exploring Singapore. We then spent a week in Borneo’s rainforests. It was an amazing experience to watch orangutans, but also saddening to see just how much rainforest has been replaced by palm tree plantations. We sunbathed on a beach with wild pigs and monkeys – not something we’ve done before!

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore (one of my favourite photos of the year)

Orangutans

Seeing orangutans up close and personal was another highlight of the year

Sunrise over the Kinabatangan river in Borneo

Sunrise over the Kinabatangan river in Borneo

Ju and I looking out over Mount Kinabalu

Then in September, we travelled to Italy to spend a few days in Rome. The weather was glorious and we walked over 60 miles in 5 days to explore as much of the city as we could on foot.

The Colosseum in Rome was even more impressive than I thought it would be

House extension

We’ve been mulling over whether to extend or move house for the past few years. Our goal for 2018 was to finally make that decision: do we extend or move?

After a lengthy process of having architect plans drawn up, getting planning permission, and securing the money we’d need, we finally kicked off the house extension project in August.

We were lucky to find builders whom we get on well with and trust. A project of this size is stressful enough as it is, so I couldn’t imagine the stress we’d be under if we had unreliable builders.

We’re hoping that the builders will be done in spring 2019, but we’ll need to finish decorating once they’re done. We expect to spend most of our weekends until the summer painting and decorating but we’ll eventually end up with a home that we’ve made our own. And I’m super excited about getting a bigger home office!

Our home in August 2018

Our home in August 2018

The house extension taking shape in December 2018

The house extension taking shape in December 2018

Finances

A big focus of mine during 2018 was my finances. We knew our living costs would increase with the house extension (larger mortgage payments), so I wanted to get my finances in order before then.

I read two personal finances books, The Simple Path to Wealth and Total Money Makeover, both of which I’d recommend. I paid off some personal debt (we’re both 100% debt free other than our mortgage), set up a personal pension and moved an old pension (more time consuming than you’d think), started saving for an emergency fund and set up a monthly household budget that we try to stick to each month.

I also read Profit First (highly recommended if you’re a business owner) and began implementing some of the principals in my business. I also cut down my business expenses, which seem to slowly accumulate over time if you don’t keep an eye on them.

Food and cooking

In October, Ju and I decided to go pescatarian. That’s no meat except fish, which we eat once or twice a week. It’s revitalised my interest and enjoyment in cooking. We’ve had to find new vegetarian recipes to cook and we now have around 10 excellent veggie recipes that we’re really happy with (all of them, in my mind, taste better than their meat counterparts).

This year I feel I’ve really got back into cooking and have made some of my best food. I can’t wait to cook for friends and family more this year.

Client work

I spent the whole year more-or-less fully booked, which is obviously a nice feeling when you’re self-employed. It also presented the problem of trying to tell potential prospects that you’re not available for 8 weeks. I worked on some really exciting projects with great clients (many of which, unfortunately, are under NDA).

Annual mastermind retreat

I attended my second mastermind retreat in October. This retreat was bigger and better than my previous retreat. 5 of us travelled to a beautiful Airbnb home in Sussex for a few days to discuss business. It’s something I really enjoy and get a lot of value from, so it’s something I plan to continue to do on an annual basis.

Other things that I’ve enjoyed or accomplished in 2018

  • I read 19 books
  • Started using Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner to plan out my days and weeks and found it incredibly useful
  • Started wearing contact lenses for the first time
  • Went to Adam’s for lunch to celebrate our 5 year anniversary (Adam’s is the best restaurant in Birmingham)
  • Drove a Subaru WRX STi, Porchshe Cayman, Nissan GTR and Lamborghini Aventador around a race track
  • Gave blood for the first time
  • Quit Facebook in May and haven’t looked back
  • Upgraded my work gear and picked up a new MacBook Pro 15” and Viewsonic 32” 4k monitor
  • Also purchased an Apple Watch Series 4, which has encouraged me to move more on a daily basis
  • Saw Steven Wilson live with my Dad (gig of the year for me)

What went badly

Writing

I only published 3 blog posts and sent 6 newsletters this year. That’s my lowest output in quite some time. I write best in the early hours of the morning, but I let my morning routine suffer and wasn’t waking up at my preferred time of 6am. There are lots of reasons for this, but suffice to say, it’s something I’ll be focusing on in 2019.

Lack of systems

I diligently tracked my time over the past year. I spent an awful lot of time and effort writing proposals and carrying out trivial admin tasks. I put this down to a lack of systems such as not having a solid proposal template I can use, or not outsourcing or automating admin tasks. In 2019, I plan to start optimising my business so that I can run it more efficiently.

Deep work

Especially in the later part of the year, I struggled to get a lot of deep work done. Part of that was due to the house extension and working from home while builders are around, but it was also due to letting distractions back into my life. Deep work (intense focus on the task at hand) is a muscle you need to build, and I let mine atrophy this year.

Weight loss

For the past few years, I’ve been trying to reach a target weight of 70kg (154 pounds). Over the past year, my weight has fluctuated very little, which I suppose is a good thing, but I’ve not lost any weight either. I’m currently 78kg (172 pounds). I’d be over the moon if I can hit my target by the summer, but it’s going to require a change of diet and exercise routine to get there.

How I did against my 2018 goals

In my previous year in review post, I wrote about a few things I was thinking about. Here’s how I got on:

Website growth. This didn’t happen. I did spend some time tweaking copy and the design, but I didn’t publish nearly enough to move the needle of any numbers.

Business growth. This was good and bad. I had my best year yet in terms of revenue, but I didn’t create any products to sell which I had intended.

More writing. Complete fail. This will stay on my list for 2019.

Social media fasting. Mostly a success. I deleted my Facebook account in May and have locked down my phone to 15 minutes social media time per day. It’s working well and I don’t feel social media is a major distraction at the moment.

More travelling and photography. Definitely a success. We travelled to 5 countries, I bought some new camera gear, and I took plenty of photos.

Weekly gratitude journaling. Success. This worked really well, even if I didn’t do it every single week. At the end of a week, I’d write down the things I was grateful for and things I’d accomplished during the week. Often I’d start by staring at a blank screen, assuming my week had been rubbish, but after a few minutes, I’d have a list of 5-10 things. Add that up over the year and that’s a lot of little moments to cherish that would have otherwise been forgotten. It’s a practice I’ll continue in 2019.

Things I’m thinking about for 2019

I know 2019 is going to be a very different year for us. We’re not going to travel nearly as much, and much of the year will be spent on the house.

Complete the house extension

The main goal will be to get the house extension complete so that we can start inviting friends and family over again. Most of our weekends in the early part of the year will be spent with a paintbrush in hand.

Systems for my business

I want to put more processes and systems in places to help my business run more efficiently. I’m also super excited about creating an awesome work environment in my new home office.

Reading

I read 19 books last year, down from 23 the previous year. All of the books I read were non-fiction. While I enjoy reading non-fiction books, I’ve missed reading fiction. This year I want to read at least 6 fiction books and I’d like to read a few more biographies too.

Fitness and health

I know looking after my body and mind is important for everything that I do. There are a few changes I’d like to make this year:

  • continue with our pescatarian diet, tweaking and finding new healthy recipes
  • improve the quality of my sleep with a better shutdown ritual in the evening
  • close the activity rings daily on my Apple Watch
  • start my daily meditation practice again
  • continue playing squash 2-3 times per week
  • get a new dog

Writing

Writing is something that features in every one of my year reviews because I know it’s something I should be doing. 2019 is the year where I get my writing habit back on track.

That’s all from me. Wishing you all the best for 2019.

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