I am — as I write this — mid-way through my seven-week long (!) paternity leave. (As you might expect, there’s a lot of – very intense – travel, little baby included 😃 ).
Being in December, it’s time for …
— The Annual Review, Version 2020: Key Questions to Ask Yourself
— Year-End Travel Update – 8 New Countries
*The Annual Review (AR) ⛳️*
Every December, I take a week or so to review the year that’s about to end and plan for the one ahead.
I’ve been doing this for 10+ years now, and whatever “success” I have, I always trace it back to this time of thinking, introspection and strategizing.
(Chris introduced me to the AR. If you don’t know Chris, he’s absolutely awesome 😆.)
I like to do this while on a trip, ideally when I’m without internet for at least 3-4 days. During the AR, I:
— Go through a long list of questions
— Review notes and book highlights I made through the year
— Read even more books, hear audiobooks/podcasts
— Spar with my wife + (for the big things, also spar with friends when I’m back)
This year is special. The bases are solid. So it’s more about fine tuning the machine!
I’ll share my questions below, plus some of my personal observations for inspiration.
*The Key AR Questions*
I tackle the AR in two stages:
Part 1 – Looking Back / Taking Status of the Past Year
Part 2 – Looking Forward – Planning the New Year
*Part 1 – Questions to Look Back 🍖*
It helps to start with two broad questions:
— What Was Good in 2019?
— What Could’ve Been Better in 2019?
I open a notes app on my computer (I like Bear), and let it all go – I write down the stream of thought, the good and bad as I remember. (It helps, for these and all the other questions, to be ultra-specific!)
Then, I Ask…
– On Time – What have I been doing in 2019? How did I spend my time… at work, on personal projects, on learning?
+ Where does everything I’ve been doing fit in the “Productivity Pyramid”? (Remember, Busy != Productive. You need to spend your time on the actions at the top of the pyramid).
— On People – Who were the “5 People” of 2019? (Remember – You’re the average of the five people your spend the most time with.) Did I meet / reconnect with awesome people in 2019?
— On Family – Have I been a good husband – and, as of this year – Father 😱?
— On Money – How did I spend my money in 2019?
— On Purchases – What were good (and bad) purchases in 2019?
(Note – My best purchase of 2019 was to get prescription sunglasses. I can now “see” when I’m on the beach. Should’ve gotten this TEN years ago. Absolutely recommended!).
Once I’ve answered the above, I touch base on:
— Did I do what I set myself to do in the past AR? (For Reference – I’d a file with a long list of actions and projects I wanted to tackle in 2019. I go through the list, and check “Did. / Didn’t Do”, and add observations.)
— Do I’ve any open loops – big or small, heading into 2020? (I wrote extensively on this in the past).
Last, I go through:
— The 80/20 Analysis of My Life – What 20% of activities and projects I did, people I met, etc. produced the best experiences and emotions? What about the worst experiences and emotions?
*The Metrics of 2019*
I’ve, over the past few years, set up many systems and check-in points that follow through the year.
The Talent Stack – (I also wrote extensively about this a few years ago. The gist is: “The idea of the Talent Stack is that if you’re very good (yet not the best) at a unique or uncommon combination of 3-5 things that work well in conjunction with each other, you’re also highly likely of being successful.
Based on that, I:
— Make a Status of Each of My Own Stack – How did I develop in each area (e.g. business development, persuasion, etc.)?
— What Projects Did I Do in 2019? How did they help me improve my stacks?
— Looking Forward – Is this the right stack for 2020?
Lights & Regular Reviews – (I use Lights to track my habits, and do daily, weekly and monthly reviews to touch base with myself. It’s a bit of work to set everything up, but then I spend just a few minutes per day. WELL WORTH IT!)
— What were patterns in 2019? (Spoiler – I noticed that all my scores went down big time time and time again after trips – both short and long distance. I mean to write a deep-dive on that soon).
— Have I added positive habits, and removed negative ones in 2019?
— Do I ask the right questions in my daily, weekly and monthly reviews?
— Finances – What’s my FIRE Progress in 2019? (This on Financial Independence // How did my net worth evolve in the year).
— Health – How’s was my health – fitness, energy, especially – in 2019?
— Books & Courses — What books have I read in 2019? What courses did I start and complete?
— Travel – Where did I travel to in 2019? Did I enjoy my trips?
*Part 2 – Questions to Look Ahead 🥑*
It’s good, every year, to start with the most crazy, ambitious long-term thinking:
— The Ideal Lifestyle Exercise – I like to ask myself, if I had unlimited resources, how would my life look like? (Then, try to get a bit closer to that with every year…). But Also:
— In That Ideal Lifestyle … How would my day to day look like? How would “24 Hours in the Life” of “Ideal Lifestyle” Mario look like?
++ If You Need Help – Tim Ferriss’ Dreamlining Exercise is a good one to do to clarify this.
++ Ask Why! (And multiple times!) It’s important to ask yourself why you think you want what you say you want. (In many cases, what you want is a few “layers” deeper than what you think you want – for example, if you want to go to space (e.g. with Virgin Galactic), perhaps what you really want is to be able to boast towards other people that you’ve an exciting life, and the reason you want to do that is because you’re insecure, need validation, etc…
Then, you move back to the present, but keeping that long-term view clear in your mind:
— Does Your Talent Stack… (Literally, what you’re working on to become) … Align with your long term goals? (If not, you need to adjust one of the two).
— What Are Three Things … (broadly defined) That you would most like to add (and three to remove from) your life?
— If You’d 1K USD Extra per Month … To spend to increase your quality of life, what would you use the money for? What about if you had 2K? 5K? 10K?
— If You’d Only 4 Hours / Day … To do all the work you did in 2019 – for day job, side gig, etc., how would you pull it off? What if you only had two hours?
(Mario Sidenote — The last two questions are especially relevant to me moving into 2020. Babies, after all, take a lot of time and effort — and I want both to keep going with my plans, but at the same time also be a good, present father 😇).
*The Final Exercise*
Once I answer all the above questions (and more!), I spend some more time and design:
— The Final, Updated Talent Stack // The “Strategic” Angle
— The Projects I’ll Do in 2020 – (and how they fit under the Talent Stack // The “Tactical” Angle
— The Lights for January – (and make sure to add systems and habits so the projects above get done). // The “Operational” Angle
The Main Point? You want, every day, to make a little progress on all your goals — learning five new words for Japanese, writing one page for your book, etc. “People overestimate what they can do in one day, but underestimate what they can do in one year.”
That’s It! I strongly encourage you to visit at least some of these questions. The AR has helped me a ton, and I’m sure it can help you too.
*For Inspiration? My Specific Feedback From 2019 and Ideas for 2020 🍌*
I had a very good 2019. It was different – new person in the family, after all, but good.
Specifically, two highlights and one observation:
*— Compounding Success.* I got better results in my day job, side business, and personal projects in 2019 than in past years — this, despite I’ve been working less. I credit this to the momentum / compounding effect of working on the same areas for now a good number of years. (I used to flip-flop a lot more in my earlier years!).
Thought – Are you compounding / building momentum in your career and personal projects?
*— More Social, More Happy.* Having a healthy, cute (people say!) and happy baby made me a lot more loving and appreciative of what I have. (The little man is always smiling, charming people, etc. so it’s pushing me to catch up, too!). It’s a cliche but it’s true. I was also a lot more social (meeting friends, etc.) in 2019 than in years past, and that’s something I missed and needed.
*— Achieving Goals, and Meh.* I achieved two long time career and side business goals, and, aside from a little celebration one night, I did not make anything out of them. This meant that a) I’m choosing the wrong goals, or b) I need to step it up with my execution. (Maybe, BOTH a) and b) 🧐)
A Sad Note – In April, one of my best friends in Denmark — one of the most generous, selfless guys I met over there — passed away unexpectedly. (This certainly pushed me to be out more, too — this being the second good friend to pass away in the last three years 😟 )
Moving into 2020, I selected SPEED as the “Theme” of the New Year. Specifically, I want to improve myself and setup systems, so I can free up time to:
— Meet a lot of new people
— Improve big time in key skills
— Spend quality time with my family
For that, I decided to:
— *Speed Technology Up*. I’m investigating everything I can do to speed daily life up — this, with technology, from using TextExpander (or alternatives) to write faster, to storing email templates, reviewing keyboard shortcuts, increasing typing speed, etc., and more mundane things as e.g. getting a faster bicycle.
— *Loosen Up With Cash*. I hate spending money — bar travel, I’m very tight on my budget. In 2020, I’ll try to circulate a bit more of it — I’m still allergic to any fixed costs (e.g. I’m not going to get Netflix or other subscriptions), but, I aim to spend more in two specific ways:
a) Pay for Coaching. I improved my Danish a ton with iTalki 1-on-1 classes. It has been insane ROI, and for a very low investment. For 2020, I’ll be investigating into finding high quality coaches for the specific areas I want to improve on (e.g. writing, presenting), especially focused on speed.
b) Interesting People Fund. I’ll have — especially in the first half of the year, per a work project — the chance to meet a ton of new people. I’ll budget a big chunk to pay for coffees, dinners, activities, etc. where I could meet people that I’m specifically interested in connecting with.
— *Delegate & Outsource!* This at work, with my side projects, and in my personal life. I delegate a good amount, but could do a lot more. For this I’m thinking of making an experimient .. taking a month in 2020 where I try to outsource absolutely everything I do and see what happens. From cooking, to groceries, to using our back office teams at work to do presentations and analyses for me, paying someone to write material for me, to format the newsletter, etc.
There’s a lot more, thought. These are just the principles I’m still working on the specific projects, actions, habits, etc. I would aim to build through the year. I’ll keep you all in the loop.
Do you’ve any tips and ideas on increasing speed? I would love to hear from you!
Travel Update – End of 2019 Travels 🍱
As I wrote above, I’m off work traveling for seven weeks — roughly from mid November to mid January.
This is, believe or not, the longest stretch of travel in one go I’ve ever done. It goes like this:
— First Leg — Stopped by Singapore, Laos (Country #126) and Brunei (#127) and Sydney in Australia, all to get to New Zealand (#128), where we boarded a cruise ship and did a two week-ish tour of the North and South Islands and with a stop in Tasmania as a bonus. Loved it, especially the Sounds (fjords), which were spectacular.
(Note — We missed the volcano by only two days. We’re incredibly lucky, as we seriously thought about taking the cruise that got volcano-ed.)
— Second Leg — We then flew to Miami, and from there joined another cruise, this time to six islands, including St Kitts (#129) and Dominica (#130). After that, I’ll take off solo and see Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent’s and Suriname (#131, #132 and #133).
It’s a lot of traveling to end the year, but mind — up to November, 2019 was by far the year I had traveled the least in a long while. For 2020, I’ve big plans already lined up, and I’ll tell you more about that soon.
Merry Christmas and Happy 2020!
What’s up with you? Do you’ve any exciting plans for 2020? Reply to this email and let me know. I would love to hear! (I’m always looking for inspiration!)
Thank you so much for reading, and wish you Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a great start to 2020!