2020 annual review

Written on December 27, 2020

2020 sheesh…am I right?

To say that this year didn’t rock everyone’s lives would be an understatement.

It definitely impacted my life in many ways–some positive and some not so positive.

This is the first time I’m doing an annual review. The reason why I wanted to do it is mainly 2020 felt in many ways aimless. I think the natural flow of life for 2020 was to hurry and get to the end of the year so that we can start anew in 2021.

But before I do, I wanted to pause and remember the positive things in 2020 and be mindful of where 2021 is heading.

This essay is composed in two parts:

  • A section on what went well
  • A section on what didn’t go well

This format was inspired by Chris Guillbeau’s annual review.

What went well?

  • Took an old project and made it into a project for my kids

    A couple of years back I illustrated a bunch of food items and shared them on Instagram. When the lockdown from the pandemic came around, I decided to turn my illustrations into coloring pages for my kids to enjoy and learn Korean. Surprisingly I found coloring them to be relaxing as well.

    I eventually created enough pages and put them together to make an e-coloring book.

  • Met pretty regularly with a group of guys who work on side projects

    Pre-COVID, I had been meeting pretty consistently with a couple of guys – John and Shaun – to talk about and work on side projects together. While the focus was side projects, the group turned more into a time to support each other in life.

    We had gone through seasons of work, life and side projects together and it has been nice to have that support in many ways.

    This year the group was expanded to also include Nathan and Dan.

    It’s been neat to learn about the different projects we’re all interested in and helping with our mixed talents in achieving our side project goals.

  • Joined a tiny, writing club

    A Twitter friend of mine reached out one day out of the blue and asked if I wanted to join him and another Twitter friend of his on this thing called a word raft. I initially told him no, because life felt chaotic with three kids and the pandemic.

    But I eventually joined and it has turned out to be quite the delight.

    Shime, Nick and I have been rafting together for six months where we’ve published consistently every single week.

    I’ve always wanted to write more consistently and I’d say joining word raft was the single best decision in contributing to my consistency.

    Recently we have welcomed a couple of new writers into the word raft–Haikal and Pieter–I’m quite excited to continue to deepen our writing and collaborate with such brilliant writers.

  • Started using tools that’s helped me get more productive

    Prior to this year, I had been a cheap-skate when it came to tooling. But I decided to change that. With a more demanding job this year, I finally said I wanted to invest in good tools that would help me save time and energy in the things I wanted to achieve.

    As I result, I have bought more software than I have in a long time and I have been happy with what each tool brings to my productivity.

    The tools that’s made the most impact–Things, Nova, Toolbox Pro, Transmit, Tempo and Reeder.

    If you’re ever hesitant about buying software, I’d say just go for it. Especially if the software has been around for a while. There’s a reason for their longevity. They provide a ton of value for customers in which they serve.

    I have been someone who has been hesitant about buying expensive software – especially as a programmer. But I’m learning that supporting other developers feels great and the tools that they make improves my life in ways than not having access to their tools.

  • Bought a Herman Miller Embody chair which has improved my posture and back pain

    For a very long time I have had issue with my posture and back. There was a period in my life a few years ago where standing and brushing my teeth would cause my back to get thrown out of place.

    For this reason and from a little nudging from my wife, I bought a Herman Miller Embody chair.

    I have to say, this chair has done wonders to my back. I no longer have posture issues like I had before. My back also doesn’t easily get thrown out of place. An added bonus that I wasn’t aware of until I used the chair for a few weeks was I also felt I had more energy at the end of a work day.

    Previous to the Embody I felt exhausted from sitting and working for 8 hours. But after the Embody, I feel more energized after work.

    If you’re in the market for a Herman Miller chair of any kind, I highly recommend finding a local reseller. I was able to save hundreds of dollars by going through my local one.

  • Paid down debt

    This year was the light at the end of the tunnel for many sources of debt for my family. This was true pre-COVID where some student debts were going to be paid off as well as our car payments by the end of the year.

    Due to the immobility of COVID and the privilege of having a stable job, my family and I were able to pay off some debts quicker.

    This has been a great feeling as the weight of debt has been no stranger to my family for a very long time.

    Financially we feel leaner and excited for what being closer to debt free may look like one day.

  • Worked on mental health and self care

    I can’t say this was all that great as some of the issues were residue that carried over from previous years, but this was the year I finally took some intentional steps to address some of the mental health and self care issues that I had.

    I started putting into place regular rituals that included journaling, time blocking and intentional conversations with friends and family about my health.

    I also sought medical help to address some of the physical issues that also triggered my anxiety. I’m in a better place and I want to continue to be in a better place in the years to come.

  • Spent more time being with the family

    With schools closed and many places we visited pre-COVID with our family like museums, the mall or even playgrounds. My family and I have spent more time together. This has led to vegetable gardening in the spring, spending more time with our neighbors and teaching our kids board games such as Settlers of Catan for kids and chess.

What did not go well?

  • Allowed stress to take over a little too often

    While I took steps to address mental health and worked on self care more this year, it was because I let my stress and anxiety get to me for too long.

    Stress and anxiety has never been foreign to me, but physical symptoms were definitely new to me. I started experiencing chest pains which would lead to more anxiety because I was worried about my health.

    As you can imagine it was a bad cycle.

    I really wish I took the time to get help sooner instead of letting the stress go on for so long.

  • Was hard to focus and finish side projects

    Motivation and focus was hard for me as far as side projects went this year. I had ideas, but often I found them stuck in my mind.

    While I didn’t finish side projects, I do feel it was necessary to just be happy with not doing anything but relaxing and lounging. I attribute not working on side projects resulting in a better handle on my stress and mental wellbeing.

  • Sleeping schedule is all over the place

    It seems this has affected others as well. But my wife and I found that it is really hard to get in a healthy schedule for sleep. Not saying our sleeping schedule was great pre-COVID, but it seems with COVID it has perpetuated our bad sleeping schedule even more.

    I know this is an area I want to try to focus on getting into a better habit in the new year.

  • Was more present with family but still absent

    While my family and I were present a lot more. I have to admit I wasn’t always there. It seemed my mind was drawn elsewhere many times throughout the year. Be it due to COVID, elections or just FOMO from conversations on Twitter, I found myself to be absent with my family.

    I knew when I was absent and instead of fixing it in the moment I found myself giving into the absence. This is an area I want to be more mindful of in the new year.

Here’s to taking all the lessons from the good and the bad from 2020 and hoping for a better 2021!

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