It’s that time of year again where I feel compelled to write a “year in review” blog post.
You know, since all the cool kids are doing it.
As always, I write this blog post primarily for my own benefit, but I publish it because it might help a few other people who happen to read it.
2017 was a very good year, overall. When I look back, I have plenty to celebrate and really don’t have much to complain about.
Here are some calendar highlights:
- January: I started a new job which is much more suited to my skills and personality than my previous job
- March: I went to Italy for the first time and ate real Italian food (foodie bucket list item)
- May: I saw Hamilton in Chicago – it was AMAZING
- Sometime in spring/early summer: I began working from home once a week, which has significantly improved the quality of my work life
- July: My wife and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary
- August: I published my second book
- November: I ran my first half marathon and visited my grandfather in Kenya for the first time in four years
- December: I put up my first Christmas tree (#adulting) and wrote another short, unplanned book in the span of about 10 days
Here are some things I was pleased with this year:
I dramatically improved my health by eating more fruits and vegetables, getting more steps, and consistently going to the gym.
My writing was viewed over 400,000 times on Quora.
I published two new books and sold over 1,000 copies of my books in total in 2017.
I started designing t-shirts for the Merch by Amazon program, uploaded 55 designs, and sold 67 t-shirts.
I made over $2,000 total from books and t-shirt sales in 2017.
I started developing a bias towards action. Perfectionism is something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past. I’ve always wanted to delay taking any action until I had the perfect idea/method/training/etc.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realize that this is extremely detrimental to any kind of meaningful progress in any endeavor, so I’m now focused as best I can on executing as quickly as possible and pivoting later.
Some examples of this were:
- I started investing in cryptocurrency before I understood it
- I wrote and published a new book in 10 days including doing the editing and cover design myself, just to see if I could
- I agreed to take several impromptu vacations with my wife on the spot, including our trip to Italy and a Thanksgiving weekend getaway to Savannah, which turned out to be amazing experiences
I tracked my 2017 goals which I set a year ago every month throughout the course of 2017.
I had three personal goals for 2017:
- Health: Eat a minimum of 1,100 servings of fruits and vegetables
- Fitness: Complete 100 workouts minimum
- Writing: Write and publish a minimum of 350 answers or blog posts on Quora
I wrote about these goals in more detail in this blog post.
12/31/17 update: Here is what I accomplished in 2017:
- Health: 1,260 servings of fruits and vegetables
- Fitness: 930 sets (approximately 107 workouts)
- Writing: Around 300 posts, over 100k words
I’m particularly proud of this tracking achievement because I proved to myself that no matter the results, I could consistently hold myself accountable to my goals for an entire year. Considering most people give up on their new years goals after 2-3 weeks, that’s pretty good.
I exceeded two of my goals and fell short on one, but I took away some valuable lessons on how to improve my metrics, which I will carry into this coming year.
Here are some things that I didn’t do very well this year:
I failed to sleep 7.5 hours a night consistently. Most months, I averaged around 7 hours a night and I had several months where I averaged less than 7 hours a night. Sleep is a huge part of the engine that runs everything, so this needs to improve.
Specifically, budgeting for home-related expenses and travel. I’m normally very good at budgeting, but this was my first year of real home ownership (I don’t count living in a condo because I didn’t have to do anything) and I also did not set aside enough money for travel this year.
Now for the exciting part: my 2018 goals.
Obviously, there is a lot I want to accomplish in 2018 but if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that building habits around your goals and doing certain things every day is FAR more important than setting your sights on grand resolutions.
With that in mind, I’m setting some habit-based goals for 2018 around my highest life priorities, since this seemed to work well for me in 2017.
With each priority, I want to write a short blurb to remind myself WHY this is a priority in my life (sometimes, it’s easy to forget the why, which is the most important part). I also write these WHYs under each of these categories in my daily to-do list.
WHY: I want to feel good all the time, be able to support my loved ones now, and have the longevity to support them in the future.
Eat a minimum of 1,400 servings of fruits and vegetables:
This is up from my 2017 goal of 1,100 and my 2017 actual count of 1,260. I exceeded my 2017 goal by a lot and I am very pleased with this, but I feel like I need to keep improving in this area because the higher percentage of my diet is made up of fruits and vegetables, the better I feel and the less sick I get. I’ve come a long way since 2016 and prior when I’d struggle to eat even a couple of servings per day and I never want to go back to that. I actually think it would be good for me to transition to an 80% or so plant-based diet over the next decade.
Get a minimum of 2,700 hours of sleep:
I didn’t set a sleep goal in 2017, but I feel like I need one because according to some experts, sleep is more important for overall health than diet and exercise combined. I’ve done well to improve my average bedtime, going to bed between 8pm and 10pm on work nights and rarely later than midnight on weekends, but I also need to improve my sleep hygiene, particularly around late night electronics, so that I’m making the most of my sleep.
Get a minimum of 3.1 million steps:
I didn’t have an official step goal in 2017, but since I started getting over 8,000 steps per day regularly, I noticed some beneficial things. I had a lot more room in my diet to eat more calories – about an extra 200-300 per day, which made it much harder for me to gain unwanted weight. My Fitbit goal is currently 8,500 steps per day and I think this is a good target for me right now. If I hit this target, I’ll cover just over 3.1 million steps in a year.
WHY: I want to get stronger and fitter so I can look good, do athletic things, and maintain my physical health and well-being.
Perform a minimum of 1,225 training sets:
My 2017 goal was 100 workouts. But I didn’t like this metric because a “workout” is somewhat arbitrary. These days, when I’m crunched for time, I like to do abbreviated workouts – sometimes only 3 to 5 sets. But in terms of building strength, exercise selection and overall volume seem to matter more than the number of “formal” workouts completed. So, in 2018 I’m shooting for 1,225 sets, which is about 25 sets per week, on average.
Go for a minimum of 100 runs:
This wasn’t a goal in 2017, but after I ran my first half marathon this year, I decided it would be better if I was always just “semi-trained” so that when I do decide to do a long race, it’s not such a pain in the ass to go from zero to race ready. Plus, running in the morning makes me feel good and helps me sleep better that night. I don’t care how long the runs are. Many of my recent runs around my neighborhood have been only 1.8 miles and taken less than 20 minutes. I just care that I run twice a week every week to build the habit.
Do a minimum of 5,000 push ups:
This is another kind of random fitness goal. I liked the way I looked a couple of years ago when I was doing a lot of push ups, so a few weeks ago, I decided to try to do 100 push ups per week. Just a set of 20 first thing in the morning a few times a week and that’s it. Nothing crazy and not a huge priority. Just more of a “for fun” goal to see what it does for my physique.
WHY: I want to provide wealth, security, and experiences for myself and my family. I want to be financially independent as early as possible because having total autonomy over my time will maximize my quality of life.
Upload a minimum of 350 designs to Merch by Amazon:
I did not set a goal around personal finance in 2017 because the majority of my high-value financial activities are fully automated (savings, investments, etc.). What I do want to actively improve this year is earning more income doing something I enjoy.
I’d like to get to $1,000 a month by the end of 2018, but I don’t want to set a revenue goal because I ultimately don’t control whether people buy my products. I do, however, control the products that I put out there. This is where Merch by Amazon comes in.
Merch by Amazon is a side hustle I started earlier this year. I didn’t go very hard on it because I only uploaded 55 designs this year. I know many people who are making four to five figures a month selling t-shirts on MBA, but they have A LOT of designs uploaded and they absolutely stress maximizing your daily allowable uploads if you want to do well. So, that’s what I’m going to do.
WHY: I want to share my best ideas and build a strong personal brand.
Write a minimum of 125,000 words:
In 2017, I set a goal of 350 answers or posts on Quora, which I did not hit. I ended up with around 300 answers/posts for the year. It turns out writing something every day is a lot harder than it sounds. I did, however, write well over 100,000 words in 2017, which is a great accomplishment. In 2018, I’d like to up that to 125,000. I don’t care whether it’s on Quora, Medium, my blog, emails to my list, whatever. Just hitting publish on about 2,500 words per week. If I can do this, I’m sure some good things will happen.
Write another book:
After I wrote my first book, I told myself I can do one of these per year. I also told myself if I do one of these per year, after 20 years I’ll have 20 books and one of them is bound to do really well, especially if I keep improving my writing. So, that’s the plan. Another book.
Publish a minimum of 365 Instagram posts:
This is another one of my “fun, see what happens” goals. I’d like to build my Instagram following this year and see if I can get to 1,000 followers by the end of the year. The internet says in order to build an Instagram following, you need to post consistently – daily at a minimum. Since I’m not very good at photography, I’m mainly going to be repurposing my writing content on Instagram and posting my favorite Quora answers. We’ll see how it goes.
Okay, now that I’ve listed 9 habit-based goals that will require daily effort, I need to prioritize them because realistically, I won’t always be able to do all of these things every day. So I find it not only helpful, but necessary to “rank” some of these goals higher than others in terms of importance.
So, looking at the required daily output to hit each annual goal, here is my daily and weekly habit goal depth chart:
- 4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- 7.5 hours of sleep per day
- 25 workout sets per week
- 8,500 steps per day
- 1 Merch by Amazon upload per day
- 2,500 words written per week
- 2 runs per week
- 20 push ups per day
- 1 Instagram post per day
For me, the health-related goals have to come first because without good health, I won’t be very useful to my family or very productive in any other area.
I’d say the first 3 goals listed are my top priorities, the next 3 are my secondary priorities, and the last 3 are my lowest priorities.
I really need to try to remind myself that if I only do the first 3-6 things each day, then that’s still a successful day.
Phew, that was a lot.
If you’ve read this far, I hope you’ve gotten something out of my little brain dump.
Thank you so much for reading and feel free to leave a comment or reach out with any questions!
Have a great New Year! I wish you all the best in 2018.
First published on Quora.