I crushed it this year.
I don’t mean to sound arrogant or over the top. Day-to-day, I have the same anxieties, questions, insecurities and worries that anyone does.
But now that I have time to reflect on the past 12 months, and look forward to the 12 months ahead, I realised that 2017 was a fucking awesome year.
In the three main domains of life — health, wealth and relationships — I made massive strides. The day-to-day consistency of my actions really paid off, big time.
But, there were also some things I didn’t do so well, and some things I need to improve on.
I’ve split this review up into 3 sections 1:
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I working towards next year?
Let’s get into it.
1. What went well this year?
I started off by saying that I crushed it this year — so I have a bit to write in this section2.
Far and away the biggest life change this year was a change I’ve been waiting to make for a while.
I had planned to do this for a little while, and finally felt ready to do it, emotionally and financially. We had a week-long trip to New York booked for February 2017, and on top of the Rockefeller building, late at night, overlooking the beautiful cityscape, I pulled out the ring and asked Lucy to marry me. After a few tears, she said yes.
We’re getting married in summer 2018, and I’m so excited to start the next chapter of our relationship.
In 2017 I got in the best shape of my life. Here’s an update I posted on Instagram midway through the year:
Left is 3rd January; right is today, 23rd May. Progress pic with 4 months of (mostly) eating clean and crossfit 3-4x per week. Not pictured: improvement in max rep pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, increase in 1RM on back squat, deadlift, and OHP, and the fact that I can now do proper Olympic lifts as well. If crossfit is a cult, I’m happy to be a member. Thanks to everyone at @reebokcft as well! Awesome gym, loving life there. #crossfit #progresspic #progress #swole #crossfitlife #eatclean #eatcleantrainmean #northernswole #builtupnorth #intermittentfasting #paleo
And here’s another update from a couple of months later:
The secret was simple: consistency.
What made this consistency almost easy, and a whole lot of fun, was the fact that I finally found a workout program I love, that is a genuine joy for me to do every day.
My relationship with Exercise is a classic on-again/off-again relationship. We were high school sweethearts, almost inseparable from the ages of 16-18. Our relationship changed when I went to university — we saw each sporadically over the first few months, before we agreed to take a break for a little while. I wanted to experience all the things that university life had, and didn’t want to be tied down by Exercise. Over the next few years we saw each other a few times, although it was never quite the same as it used to be.
That all changed one day last year, when I saw Exercise across the street from me. She was wearing a new outfit. I was so intrigued by this, that I ran over to her, said hello, and asked her out on a date. Exercise said yes, and we really hit it off again. We’ve since re-ignited our love for each other, and been together ever since.
I still remember that outfit. Emblazoned across the front of her t-shirt, was one word.
For those of you that have never heard of it, Crossfit describes itself as constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity 3.
What that means is that you do a bunch of stuff — heavy weightlifting, running, kettlebells, handstands, pull-ups — fast and intensely.
The other key is that you do it in classes, with a bunch of other people — usually the same people over and over again — all spurring each other on to work harder and do better.
For me, it has essentially turned the old, lonely routine of “going to the gym” into an exciting team sport.
And I love it.
Not only am I leaner than I’ve been in a decade, but I am stronger and fitter than I have ever been. I’ve got new one-rep maxes in some big lifts:
- Back squat: 135kg
- Deadlift: 155kg
- Clean: 108kg
These aren’t huge numbers, but they’re solid, and I’m over the moon with them.
In 2017 I got a raise, a promotion, a bonus, and I helped our company to double its profits.
Pretty good, right?
Obviously I can’t take credit for all of the profit increase. It was a huge team effort from everyone involved, and I’m so happy to be working with such a great group of people. But these results are the harvest that we are reaping from seeds that we have been sowing since I joined the company in mid-2016. It’s incredibly gratifying to see the hard work paying off, both for the company, and personally.
(I can’t talk about exactly how we increased our profit so much, as some of it confidential — but remember the Peter Drucker adage: “what gets measured, gets managed.” Email me if you want the details — if there’s enough interest I might write an article about it and remove any proprietary information.)
I also made the step up to people management, with a team of two people under me. I have the good fortune that they’re both great people, hard workers, and open to any feedback or suggestions I have. That makes my life as a manager much easier.
One thing I’ve really tried to improve this year is my capacity for deep work. Having read Cal Newport’s book of the same name, and reflecting on the things I’ve done that have had the most impact professionally, it was obvious I needed to increase my deep work output. To that end, I have:
- Removed all social media apps – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit – from my phone
- Turned off all phone notifications
- Implemented a master to-do list (just a simple google doc) which is the repository for all to-dos, follow-ups, and future project ideas
- Scheduled a daily review on my calendar for the last 15 minutes of each work day.
The cumulative effect of all these relatively small changes is huge. I no longer mindlessly waste time on my phone. I am no longer bombarded with distractions throughout the day. I no longer expend mental energy trying to remember to-dos or to follow up with someone, because all those actions are in one place. And on a daily basis, I’m reviewing, consolidating, and thinking about how the day went.
The gains have been huge. It now means that when I come into the office in the morning, I know what I’m going to be working on. I know that I won’t be distracted. And I’ve put in place barriers to my own impulses. So I concentrate, deeply, on the task at hand, and get it done.
I’m now happier, more productive, and actually spend less time at the office than before, while producing higher-quality work.
Definitely a win.
Lucy and I had a week in New York in February, which was phenomenal. Quite apart from the fact that we got engaged, it was one of the best weeks of my life. New York is a stunning, bustling, vibrant metropolis. I could almost feel the energy around us as we were walking down the streets. It’s probably my favourite city that I’ve ever visited, and I’ll definitely be returning.
I also went away for a fun weekend for the stag do of one of my closest friends, who got married in June. I won’t share many more details or pictures, but trust me, we had a blast.
Phew! That about sums up what went well. Now, onto the harder stuff.
2. What didn’t go so well this year?
Most of my struggles this year centered around making the step up to management.
Because you know what? Being a people manager is hard.
I’m lucky that I have two great employees, who are quite forgiving for a novice manager, but there are still plenty of mis-steps I made. Almost all of them boiled down to a lack of communication on my part:
- I wasn’t clear about what I wanted done, or why
- I didn’t communicate timescales or urgency properly
- I failed to acknowledge good work
- I got frustrated with interruptions, when I hadn’t made it clear that I would prefer not to be interrupted
These are all basic, rudimentary mistakes that hundreds of novice managers will have made before me, and they’re all correctable, but they were lessons I had to learn on my own.
Despite getting a raise and a bonus, I didn’t save as much money as I would have liked. Lucy and I are aiming to buy a house in the next 18-24 months, as well as get married. It goes without saying that both of these will require a good chunk of cash.
This is mainly a failure of process — I haven’t made saving automatic, and I don’t have a good regular review of my spending to check that I’m in line to reach my goals. That should be easy to rectify in 2018.
I have colleagues that I see every day, I have some fantastic friends from school and university that I see every 2-3 months or so, and I have a wonderful fiancée, but I don’t have a casual group of friends in the city that I can see every week or so. The closest is the regular group that I see at the gym — which is great — but I feel like I’m lacking a group of friends to go out for dinner and drinks with on a regular basis.
Although, given what I said above about saving money, maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I need to decide if I want to make this a priority or not — and if not, then stop worrying about it as a failure and just accept it as a choice.
3. What am I working towards next year?
For 2018, I have three main themes:
1. Make more money
I am getting married this year, and I want to be able to pay for our wedding without taking on significant debt. That means saving a lot of money — which is always easier to do if you’ve got more money coming in the door. I will continue to do great work at my day job, which will hopefully lead to income increases, and I’ll also look to take on some freelance clients this year. I’ll be focusing on freelance content and copywriting
2. Keep up the good work on my health and fitness
There’s not much I need to change here — my workout routine is solid, and my diet is in check. I just need to make sure I maintain the consistency, and don’t allow standards to slip now that I am close to where I want to be in terms of aesthetics. The next step after that is to maintain a low level of body fat while increasing my strength, cardio fitness, and flexibility.
3. Enjoy it!
With our upcoming wedding it’ll be easy for the year to fly past and be over before it’s even started. This is going to be a big year for me and Lucy, so I want to make sure we take some moments to stop and enjoy it while it’s all happening. Life is made up of all those little moments — let’s appreciate them.
Thank you for reading. Here’s to a wonderful 2018 for all of you.