2019 - Year In Review

6 minutes reading time

What went well this year?

Meditation. I continue to meditate daily. I rarely look at my streak, but I have found now that the unbroken streak keeps me motivated and acts as a sort of natural reminder. In the latter part of the year, I’ve spent time with Sam Harris’ Waking Up app, which I’ve found to be interesting and is leading me to other practices. In particular I plan to spend more time practicing Metta (Loving Kindness) as I have found that to be very uplifting. Sam’s work is leading me into a deeper discovery of self.

Reading. I have made more of a habit of reading daily, generally for around an hour across the day. As a result, I’ve read more, in both volume and intentionality. I started using mind maps as an alternative way of taking book notes which I’ve found to be very useful alongside a reading app called Leio to jot notes and capture quotes as well as tracking progress. I set a goal to read 40 books which I achieved. I did notice that aiming for a particular number impacted on my choice of book and meant I was keen to move on to the next book more quickly. I’ve felt that I haven’t taken enough action on the ideas that I’ve read. In 2020 I am deliberately going to avoid setting a number to see how that changes things with the intention of re-reading books I’ve already read, taking new notes and allowing for time to write up book notes and periods for reflecting and recall. Additionally, I want to ensure that I take action to implement at least one piece of advice into my life from each book (assuming it’s worthy and appropriate to my goals or values).

Journaling. I have maintained a daily journal most days, trying out a few different practices throughout the months. I am now beginning to reap the benefits to look back and see patterns where I still need to improve.

Stoicism. I’ve continued to study most days, making my way through a combination of Meditations and Daily Stoic and took part in Stoic week again. We have a daily family practice of reading quotes at breakfast and inevitably many Stoic quotes and discussions come up which helps me to solidify my own thoughts and they are also beginning to embrace the principles too.

Business. 2019 was a banner year for the business, posting our best revenue by a mile. After a slow start to the year, we won some large contracts and took on several new clients.

Cooking. I learned to cook better using the lessons from 4 Hour Chef, culminating in a dinner party for friends.

Social media and digital consumption I have never been a big user of social media. I have a Facebook account grudgingly because it’s used as the primary method of communication for a few groups I am part of, but I used Twitter extensively. At the outset of 2019, my Twitter use was dwindling, so I decided to delete the app from my devices. I didn’t miss it at all. Further, having read Make Time and Digital Minimalism, I was inspired to be even more intentional about my digital consumption habits. When I was on holiday, I took the time to clean up my phone and make it a less distracting device. It now looks like this, with the few necessary helpful and uplifting apps in the dock and the rest relegated to following pages so that it provides a natural defence against spontaneous consumption.

Distraction-free iPhone

Holidays. We didn’t do anything too extravagant this year, but we had a a charming week staying next to the Severn Valley Railway line, which was surprisingly relaxing hearing and seeing the steam trains chugging back and forth all week. Earlier in the year we went to Wales and did quite a bit of walking with the kids, including reaching the summit of Snowdon.

What could have gone better?

Writing. My writing habit started well but dropped off a cliff around June, and I didn’t manage to recover it in the latter half of the year. I want to blame motivation and lack of ideas, but in reality, I simply failed to give it the time it needed. I plan to rekindle this for 2020 as I’ve received several emails from people asking for advice or thanking me, which provides motivation to continue.

Health & Fitness. I’m still leaving this in this category because I’m still not meeting my targets. However, I am making steady progress and have maintained a pretty good consistent routine to work out.

I started the year well, having rewarded myself at the end of 2018 with an Apple Watch, I set about getting a perfect month award, achieving it in March. I got myself into a good daily walking habit, which meant, as one byproduct, I got to spend a bit more time together walking with the kids to school. Unfortunately, I let this slip in the middle and, to a lesser extent, latter parts of the year.

I continued to use kettlebells as my primary method of training. With the help of our trainer, I have “rearchitected” my swing technique; while by no means perfect, I’m generating far more power, more efficiently than previously. In looking back to when I started, it helps to show how far I’ve come even if I haven’t met my ambitious targets. In 2015 my goal was 25 reps with a 24kg kettlebell. Today, I “warm up” with 30-40 reps of a 32kg bell, and at a recent benchmarking session I comfortably did several sets of 5 reps with a 48kg kettlebell and several sets of 3 reps of snatches with a 24kg kettlebell. I can also do multiple military presses at 24kg. But I didn’t reach my goal of pressing a 28kg kettlebell (well I’ve managed it once, but I’ve not repeated it).

I didn’t really improve my diet all that much. While I’ve definitely got stronger and my physique is generally improving, my waistline has crept up a little.

Sleep. I still struggle to sleep as well as I’d like, but it is improved a bit. The biggest problem, which impacts on other areas, is allowing my bedtimes to creep later. It’s led to me failing to get up as early, especially when my sleep has been poor. It’s directly contributed to my lack of writing this year.

Finance. While we have started to rebuild our savings and rainy day fund after the house renovations, I made no progress in preparing financially for retirement.

What am I working towards?

This year I have decided to have a word for the year: INTENTIONAL.

I will be intentional in everything I do. It’s something that I have said before and failed to really live up to. I have continued to let others guide my activities far more than I should have allowed. As Greg McKeown said: if you don’t prioritise your life then someone else will. I have also wasted a lot of time on activities that I should have never started, nor even considered. Or worse, spent time with no actual reason or clear outcome. To improve on previous years and help me act with intention each day I have written the following directives and printed them out to keep in front me. As I have learned through the Full Focus Planner, if you don’t keep things visible and top of mind, it’s too easy to forget, and you will fall back to bad habits.

My Directives

  • As you start this task, pause and ask:
    • Is it necessary?
    • Is it the best use of my time?
    • Does it move me toward or away from my stated goals and values?
    • Should I be doing this now or even at all?
    • Can I delegate it to someone else for better results?
  • If I’m tired and I need a break. Take an actual break! Commit to the break entirely and set a time limit to then come back refreshed. DO NOT start on half-hearted or unimportant tasks that will turn into timesinks and prevent the important from being done.

  • Commit to an activity wholeheartedly

  • Intentionality in everything

Part of that intention is to spend it with my family. We have decided our theme for the year is adventure. We want to get out in nature more, do more walking, adventurous activities like climbing, and visit amazing places.

I’m recommitting to my fitness goals, with a long term intention of achieving the SFG Kettlebell level 1 certification. Additionally, as a family, we want to make a more concerted effort to improve our diet, with less reliance on meat from both a health and planetary concern. From a personal perspective, I want to reduce my overall body fat percentage by a significant amount.

Where Next?

Want to see how I compared to previous years? You can read all my annual reviews here.


Got any questions or comments? Drop me a message on Twitter (@elaptics).