2020 Lessons Learned and 2021 Annual Planning

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2020 has been quite a crazy year for all of us. The Netflix movie, Death to 2020, is an interesting reminder of this.

The lack of social interactions, closing of gyms, bars, restaurants, and just staying at home has given me the opportunity to work more on my mental game with meditation, Stoicism as well as philosophy generally, and more journaling. These reflections led me to write about Questions to Consider During a Pandemic and Optimizing Your Home Environment For Lockdown, since. my usual routines are no longer options.


End of Year Reflection Questions

At the end of each year, I like to spend extra time to reflect on questions such as:

  • What achievements did I accomplish? What went well?
  • What were the magical moments of the year?
  • What was difficult? What made them so?
  • What do I want to continue?
  • What do I want to stop?
  • What did I learn? Why are they valuable? What are the principles I can distill from this? Are there any lessons that I keep on re-learning?
  • What important decisions did I make? What bad decisions did I make? What made the good decisions good and the bad ones bad?

I’ll take a weekend with only pen and paper and just start writing.

2021 Planning

After going through this exercise, I set 2021 goals for fitness & health (bulking up), relationship, and business/money.

From the bigger annual goals, I’ll break them dow into quarterly time chunks and then into fortnightly tasks which are measurable. You can learn more about these generally from Todd Herman, Tony Robbins, and Brian Moran.

This involves coming up with different ideas for achieving my goals (How Can I Do This Better?), tracking SMART goals (What Should I Be Tracking?), and the Why or Purpose of the goals (What’s The Purpose?).

I’ll look over the ideas to achieve my goals a few times to see if I’ve missed anything, reflect on what the most important tasks are (the 20% that actually moves the needle and gets the result I’m looking for), look for any potentially low hanging fruit.

With a lot goals, simply looking at it differently can be a game changer. If the goal is to lose weight for example, then planning to walk all day on a treadmill is a lot of effort (80% in the 80/20) that won’t yield a lot of results. If you change your diet on the other hand, that’d be far easier and more effective (the 20% in 80/20).

Similarly, if you run a software business and your goal is to triple revenues this year, then it can sometimes be as simple as doubling down on what’s already working, and cutting everything else out so that your team is hyper-focused. This is where reflecting on what’s worked and what hasn’t comes in handy.

If you work hard and creatively, you can have virtually anything you want, but not everything. Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones. — Ray Dalio

One of the things I realized for last year is that I got easily distracted often so I’ve created a “Don’t Do List” or daily limitations so that I stay more focused on the bigger picture.

I like going down different rabbit holes so to satisfy that urge, I have set a daily time limit where I can explore whatever I feel like. It’s somewhat like investing where you allocate 10% of your dedicated investment funds for pure speculation to satisfy any gambling urges or FOMO when you see that your neighbors have made a bazillion dollars in Bitcoin but you’ve just been in boring ol’ passive index funds.

To bring further self-awareness on this, I’ve added to my daily reflection, the question of, “What work activities today were distractions?”

It’s a useful exercise to see instead whether you did the right things, invert it, and see whether you did any incorrect things. If you take care of the downside, the upside will take care of itself.

I also like to have a theme word for each of the year. The theme word for last year was Flow, and for this year it’s Create.

Final Remarks

If you haven’t done your planning yet for this year, it’s a good exercise to do. Reflect, make your goals, figure out the ways you can achieve them, break them down to measurable chunks, apply the 80/20 rule.

Taking the time to plan will make the execution far more effective.

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