2019: year in review

Last year, I started my review with this:

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.

It’s true: these reviews are a great way to reflect on the year and they help remind you how much you’ve accomplished. I nearly didn’t write a review this year. 2019 was a mixed bag and it didn’t feel like there was much to share. But as this is my fifth annual review (see 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018), I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t publish this.

So, with that said, here was my 2019.

What went well

Completed the house extension. Boy does it feel good to write those words! We started planning the house extension in late 2017 and it has taken up a good amount of our time and energy since then. We’ve added an additional bedroom, doubled the size of an existing bedroom, increased the size of our bathroom, and added a utility room and a garage. It was stressful at times – it often felt like a new problem would present itself daily – but my wife and I worked through each issue together and that has made us closer. It’s the biggest thing we’ve worked on and accomplished together.

Home office improvements. As part of the house extension, my home office got an upgrade. My old office was in a small bedroom which wasn’t even big enough to fit a double bed. The new office is much more spacious. I’ve added additional storage and my favourite new addition: a reading chair. It’s great being able to move from my desk and sit in comfort with my iPad to plan the day, read or just think. I’m looking forward to improving the office further in the coming year.

My current desk setup
My favourite new additional to the office: a reading chair

5 years of self-employment. November marked my 5th anniversary of self-employment. It can’t believe it has been that long. This year has been kind to my business – I’m on track to have my best financial year yet and have signed up new clients that I’m excited to work with. I’m still transitioning from freelancer to consultant, and that has been both challenging and rewarding.

Health & diet. My wife and I switched to a pescatarian diet in November 2017. Throughout the past year, we’ve gradually eaten less fish and dairy and most of the meals we eat are vegan. I’m not sure we’ll ever go completely vegan, but my energy levels have improved and my weight has stabilised from eating a mostly plant-based diet. The Apple Watch continues to play a big role in keeping me active. I try to close my activity rings most days and in November I got my first Perfect Month badge. I’ve also been using Pedometer++ for step counting and managed to complete 10 out of 12 monthly challenges.

Reading. While I only read 16 books in the past year, the amount of books I read outside my usual comfort zone was higher (mostly thanks to the book club I participate in). Books like The Lessons of History, Educated and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years are not books I would have picked to read, but I learnt a lot from them and enjoyed them greatly.

A few other things that I’ve enjoyed or accomplished in 2019

  • I jumped out of a plane for the first time and I can’t wait to do it again. The adrenaline rush is like nothing else I’ve experienced.
  • I started meditating regularly again using the Waking Up app (the 50 day introductory course is incredible, I couldn’t recommend it more highly).
  • I started using the Theme System Journal to track my habits and keep focused during the day (I’ll be writing about this soon).
  • I’ve continued cutting down on my social media usage after deleting my Facebook account in 2018. I’ve only tweeted a handful of times and I finally deleted Instagram in November. It feels great.
  • I went to watch the Allam British Open Squash Championships in Hull. One of the games we saw just so happened to be the game of the season.
  • We had our first vegetarian tasting menu at Carters of Moseley to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It was superb.
  • I upgraded to the iPhone 11 Pro. I’m so pleased with both the camera and battery performance. I’m taking more photos as a result.
  • I travelled to Amsterdam to work with the guys at modmore. It’s a beautiful city and I can’t wait to return so I can explore more of it.
  • We also travelled to Barcelona to celebrate New Years with our good friends Stu and Chloe. The inside of the Sagrada Família was a highlight.
  • And a shout out to my mastermind group for their help and support. It has been amazing to watch and learn from them.

What went badly

Overworking. The house extension was tough. We spent much of our spare time in the first half of the year painting and decorating. As the house extension was nearing completion, I promised myself I’d dedicate all of my energy to my business once it was done. And I did that, but at a cost. I spent too many days and weekends working long hours. It wasn’t all that bad: I rebuilt my emergency savings fund and produced a lot of good work. But it’s not something I want to continue. Getting my work/life balance right is going to be a primary focus for 2020.

Over consumption. Despite cutting back on social media, I still felt I over consumed on media this year… news, politics and too many podcasts. I’m a podcast junky: I fill every spare moment with sound from my AirPods. I can’t remember the last time I took a walk without headphones in. I recognise that I need to change, so 2020 is the year that I allow more silence into my life.

Writing habit. This one is simple: I didn’t prioritise or make time for writing this year. I have started redesigning my blog ready for more writing and publishing. Of all my goals for the coming year, I want “writing” to be in my “what went well” section of my 2020 review.

Relationships. It’s hard to share this one as it’s so personal, but I’ve not invested enough time or effort in my family and friendships this year. Nor have I invested enough in my own marriage. I was distracted by other things, when really relationships are the most important thing I have. I know I can do better.

How I did against my 2019 goals

Complete the house extension. Done. We’re really happy with how this has gone. Score: A

Systems for my business. I’m in a better place with systems than I was this time last year, but there’s still more to do. Score: C

Reading. I only read 2 fiction books (6 was my target). And while I only read 16 books total, the quality and diversity of books I read this year was better than previous years. Score: C

Writing. Ugh. Score: F

Continue with our pescatarian diet, tweaking and finding new healthy recipes. I only stumbled and eat meat once (when I was stuck in Amsterdam airport for 24 hours due to a cancelled flight). We’ve found a bunch of new recipes we like and I enjoy cooking more than ever. Score: B

Improve the quality of my sleep with a better shutdown ritual in the evening. I never got a shutdown ritual to stick, but I have been tracking my sleep and have been going to bed at a consistent time. Score: C

Close the activity rings daily on my Apple Watch. Pretty good year for this, got my first perfect month and closed my activity rings on more days than not. Score: B

Start my daily meditation practice again. I’m not meditating every day, but in the last few months in particular I have been meditating most days. Score: C

Continue playing squash 2-3 times per week. It has been a great year for my squash playing and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. Score: A

Things I’m thinking about for 2020

Setting a yearly theme. I’m a long-time Cortex listener. A recurring topic on the show is yearly themes. Myke explains:

Instead of resolutions, we set an overall idea of how we would like to approach each year or season. This becomes almost like a guiding principle for our work and/or personal lives for that period.

I’m been thinking about my 2020 theme for a while and I’ve decided it’ll be The Year of Calm. Last year was frantic, my calendar was full and I had little down time. I want to change that. I’ll be sharing more about this soon.

Less contract work. In the past year, I’ve done a reasonable amount of contracting for local web development agencies. I’m in the process of shifting my business to focus more on my own clients and projects.

Blogging on my personal website. At the end of December, I spent a week redesigning this site. The feeling of having a new website makes me excited about writing again.

Build and release a product. I’ve been discussing some ideas with a friend. All that is left is the hard part: building and shipping it.

Fitness and health. I want to kit my garage out with some basic gym equipment, making it easier to do a morning workout. I’m also planning to do more hiking and cycling with the goal of increasing my base level of fitness. I’d like to reach my ideal body weight of 70kg (currently 75kg).

Environmental impact. The climate emergency we’re in is one of my biggest concerns. The recent scenes in Australia are heartbreaking. We’ve been taking small steps over the past few years, such as reducing single-use plastics, but I’d like to take that more seriously.

That’s all from me. Happy new decade!