My 2020 review

Rob

December 31, 2020

2020

The purpose of my annual review is to dedicate some time to reflecting on the year that has gone past. This is so I can be thankful for the things that have gone well, learn lessons from what has not gone so well, and prepare for 2021.

I am primarily writing this for me, but I want to share it with the internet for the following reasons:

  • By having some external accountability, success becomes more likely.
  • Each action of vulnerability is a small step towards integrating the public and private versions of myself.
  • I want the future conversations that I have to be framed around helping each others to become the best versions of themselves possible.
  • This might light a fire in you to consider where you are, and what you want to achieve

  • How did I do this?

    Good question, I used a template from a guy called Chris Sparks, which can be found here.

    Annual Review Template

    To start, I focussed on 3 questions:

    1. What has gone well?
    2. What has not gone so well?
    3. What are my plans for 2021?

    I then split these questions into 4 areas; Career, health, relationships and wealth. This was the first time I had done something like this so please bear with me!

    What has gone well this year?

    Career
    I took a new job at a FTSE 100 company after deciding to transition away from management consulting (hint – work life balance, not so much) in April of this year. I managed to get a 50% pay rise from my previous job to my new one, which has enabled a greater sense of financial security than previous years.

    This has managed to take a lot of pressure off me and my partner to save for our wedding. I also have managed to get a job that commands quite a high salary due to its semi-specialist nature, so have benefited from niche-ing down.

    This allowed me to take 3 weeks off in between finishing my old job and starting my new one which really helped to recharge the batteries, but was during the first UK lockdown in March – this has pros (could focus 100% on GramFitness) but also cons (had travel plans that were sent into the toilet).

    GramFitness has also grown since this time last year, doubling the number of clients we now have. But it has been surprising how difficult is to effectively grow your social media presence as a business.

    The lesson for me is one of consistency for GramFitness & the importance of setting boundaries in my day job. For GramFitness, I learned that you really need to do the basic things e.g. e-mails, social media posts, YouTube videos consistently to get leads, and ultimately convert those leads into clients.

    For my day job, boundaries need to be set & adhered to the majority of the time otherwise you could end up working every hour of every day.

    A key lesson for me is the importance of prioritising the actions that are going to make a difference, both in my day job and in GramFitness: you only have a limited amount of hours in the day and you need to take control of how you use them.

    Relationships

    This year could have been a real disaster. My relationship with my fiancé, Kirsty, could have been challenged by working from home 5 days per week in a one bedroom flat. But I have actually really enjoyed this time together. It’s the most time we have spent together in the 7 years we have known each other. I feel like we are now closer than ever, and have learned even more about each other. She has amazing determination and work ethic that I have witnessed first hand and this has been a real eye opener & given me a new found level of respect and admiration for her.

    I tried to stay really close to my family during this year, especially throughout lockdown and particularly with my elderly grandparents (84, 85, and 94). I have made more concerted efforts to call/FaceTime them (94 year old Nana has never had internet) which is something I aim to keep up. My relationship with my soon to be in-laws has also improved, again seeing new sides to them after spending more extended periods of time with them during the various lockdowns in the UK.

    In terms of friendships, I have realised that I have a core friendship circle that I really enjoy spending time with. These are people that give me energy when I speak to them, challenge me and my thinking, and push me to be the best possible version of me I can. I was surprised to come to this realisation but the more I think about it the more I know this is right. I will be keeping close to this small group of friends in 2021, trying to spend more time with them across different domains.

    One other relationship that improved is with myself. In 2020, I focussed less on goals, and more on working out my systems, habits and a semi consistent schedule. My self care has 2-3X this year; wim-hof breathing, journaling, stretching, walking, weightlifting: I am not surprised by this but pleased that the benefits of the consistent habits I’m practicing seem to paying off.

    Health

    I started 2020 off the back of a nasty operation which inadvertently meant that I went sober for 3 months from January – March 2020. This was a real positive & eye opening experience as my levels of productivity went through the roof.

    There was never any of the fuzzy headedness when you get up in the morning, you are able to think with absolute clarity consistently. I learned that planned periods of sobriety is a real positive for me. This is something I’ll be implementing again at the start of 2021. I can’t see myself giving up alcohol for good as for me personally, there is a time and a place but I am certainly feeling like I have less and less to learn from the drug.

    Despite the challenging start my physical health has been great. I have had no real injuries this year combined with the introduction of a monthly sports massage since September has meant a clean bill of physical health.

    I have invested in my health (physical and mental) with a powerlifting coach from 3D Muscle Journey which has meant that I have been and continue to be more consistent that I have ever been with my training.

    Since June, I have worked out 4 x per week, every week. Not all of these sessions have been amazing or hitting new personal bests, but I have showed up and done the work which has culminated in me gaining 15lbs this year, whilst staying relatively lean.

    My mental health has stayed pretty consistent. I should add I am not someone who considers themselves to have suffer, but I think we can all vouch that this year has been tough for everyone around the world.

    Starting a new job virtually, in a new company, in the midst of a pandemic whilst also trying to build your own online business on the side has been challenge, but it is precisely this challenge that has forced me to push myself forwards and take action.

    Wealth

    2019 was expensive for me: an engagement ring, 2 x MacBook pros, 1 x iPhone XR bought outright, 3 weeks in Japan watching the rugby world cup to name a few purchases. I knew I needed to knuckle down this year and save particularly as I have a wedding to pay for now.

    One of the best people I have started listening to this year is Ramit Sethi. Kirsty bought his I Will Teach You To Be Rich book, which has been worth every penny.

    He changed my attitude towards money, and my savings approach entirely. I have gone from negative cash flow each month to positive (mainly also thanks to my new job), automating all my savings into different pots each month leaving some “fun money” which can be used for guilt free spending.

    I also learned that buying a house could be a big mistake for me and Kirsty given where we are at in life, so am really glad that we hadn’t decided to put a deposit down on anywhere too quickly.

    We have been focussed on gathering assets and limiting liabilities thinking of paying for rent as paying for our freedom. I have changed the way I look at wealth now, and it has had a really positive impact on how I am spending my money. I have spent more on things that I love; the gym, exercise, coaching, family, coffee and much less on the things that I don’t.

    What habit or system most accounted for success?

    Here is a list of all the habits I have tried to complete in 2020, mostly daily:

    - Walking
    - Weight training
    - Breath work
    - Cold showers
    - Hot bath before bed
    - Waking up to light alarm
    - Journaling
    - Stretching
    - Calls with family
    - Reading
    - Audiobooks
    - Listening to podcasts
    - No coffee before 30 mins of waking or after 1200

    I think out of the above, the habit that has accounted for most of my success is exercise (walking & weight training). My weight training regime has been the best it ever has since I competed in bodybuilding in 2015 as is showing no signs of stopping. I hit personal best across the big 3 lifts

    Squat: 175kg x 1 to 195kg x 1
    Bench: 120kg x 1 to 132.5kg x 1
    Deadlift: 220kg x 1 to 222.5kg x 1

    Training in the morning is something that I really enjoy but have only managed this for circa 40% of sessions this year, it’s something I need to double down on in 2021. Walking has also been a real help to stay active, and been a great book end to the start and end of a work day.

    It’s helped to establish a routine and give myself some solitude, the opposite of which is defined by Cal Newport in Digital Minimalism “A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds”.

    Leaving my phone at home whilst I go for a walk has been one of the most valuable habits that I will double down on next year. In addition it has also been a great way to maximise audiobooks and podcast at 2x speed to get in a positive state of mind. I can enhance these by

    - Setting my light alarm to go off at the same time each morning to make sure I get a morning walk in
    - Going to bed at a consistent time
    - Being more proactive when I know I am planning to work out the next day by packing my bag, leaving my clothes out and making my shaker ready for the morning

    What are the most valuable ways that I spent my time?

    Starting and Building GramFitness: I spend most of my time on building sales funnels, scheduling social media content & creating it, filming & editing videos & making sure that the sales e-mails go out each week. I know I can allocate more time to these tasks which will be enabled by ditching the smart phone & prioritising my tasks more effectively. When you run your own business it is very difficult to know how best to spend your time, but the cold reality is that you need to be focussing on those things that will give you the most leads.

    Utilising the principle of “is this piece of content reusable and evergreen?” has been a good litmus test for me this past year. I can allocate more time to these tasks by reducing the time spent playing PlayStation (circa. 6-8 hours each week) or on my smartphone (circa 15 hours each week).

    Starting the Wim Hof method: This is another valuable way I spend my time. I have found the breathing techniques to be really valuable combined with the cold showers to help me centre myself & focus my attention/concentration. I will continue to allocate time to this in 2021 each morning to make sure I progress with the breathing techniques and the cold water exposure.

    What did I say yes to that helped move me towards my goals?

    I said yes to getting a weightlifting coach. This was a fantastic opportunity to work with a company who I had followed for over 10 years.

    I also said yes to a new job, moving away from management consulting which was not aligned with my values, and to be honest was making me miserable; I was working long hours (60 hours per week on average and most weekends), was travelling a lot which meant less time with family and friends, less weight training and also less free time to spend as a chose.

    Saying yes to the new job has moved me towards both my health and wealth goals. These opportunities were really thrust upon me; the first via a podcast saying there was space on the 3DMJ roster, and the second a cold message from a recruiter on LinkedIn.

    Funnily enough I wasn’t even going to go to the interview if Kirsty hadn’t give me a motivation pep talk in the lift of our flat complex. I can’t remember exactly what she said but it was something along the lines of “you can’t complain you’re not happy then keep turning down opportunities to improve your situation”. And she was right!

    I also said yes to investing in a longer term stocks and shares portfolio. This has made a 15% return this year; a lot more than the 0.1% I would be making in a savings account. I’ll continue to invest aggressively in this during my early thirties.

    What Did Not Go So Well

    Career

    I have had to work extraordinarily long hours this year at my day job. Days have regularly been starting at 0800 and finishing at 1900, with lots of days finishing much later than this too. At the start of my new job, I thought that I had to made a mistake but have learned that this is standard practice. Whilst this might seem horrendous the pandemic has a lot to answer for here: people have nothing else better to do!

    I have learned that I need to be better at building and sticking to boundaries for myself for the start and the end of a work day. This is true for both my day job and GramFitness, and I also need to better at challenging the status quo for these working hours.

    In terms of GramFitness specifically, there have been a couple of times where me and Ben have failed to convert any leads to sales through a couple of different sales processes. We had hedged £200-£300 on ads which led to 0 sales. I learned two things from this; the first being how hard it is to configure Facebook Ads, the second being that failure teaches you a whole lot more than success.

    As chiche as it sounds, I learned more about how to unpick what has gone well and what hasn’t from those two sales flops than anything we did that went right. They made us up our game on content, production value, delivery and the end product.

    I also learned that there is no substitute for a great product. Once you have this (and I truly believe that we do), it’s just a case of getting the client results, showcasing these results and gaining trust of the market.

    The element of this failure that surprised me the most is how much it took the wind out of my sales, and how for a couple of days/weeks after I really resented the fact that we hadn’t sold anything. But once I let go of this and took responsibility for the failure, things moved forwards pretty quickly.

    Relationships

    I have not managed to see my friends as much as I would have wanted to this year, which has had me questioning “who do I really want to be spending my time with?”. I want to surround myself with people who want the best for me, who bring me energy & who are supportive of my goals.

    I was however surprised at deeply connecting with a few people who had been on the edge of my friendship circle before (e.g. previous work colleagues) and will make a concerted effort to spend more time with them next year. I can hand on heart say that there are people in my friendship circle I have really missed, and people I will likely be in no rush to see when the new normal is in full force.

    My relationship with Kirsty has been tested at times (planning a wedding in a global pandemic, working in a 1 bedroom flat in the same room that has become an office, a gym, a dining room, & a relaxation space) can be pretty difficult, but I learned the importance of communication & how crucial it is for us both to be on the same page, or at least know that we are not on the same page. I also learned how really small acts of kindness can be celebrated to make your day.

    Health

    Overall my health has improved this year. I am trying to add muscle, so a negative may be that I have added a little bit of body fat. I know this is inevitable (and exactly what we tell our clients) if I am going to get stronger.

    Combined with this, I know that I could drop 10-12lbs in 8 weeks so I am not too worried. But I learned that I maybe place more emphasis on my physique than I previously thought.

    This year I have also managed to remain injury free, although I have a niggle in my right shoulder from 100’s of floor presses with my kettlebell. The lesson here? Form! Ensure that I am focussing on perfect form for every rep of every exercise.

    My sleep has been mixed. I have had months where I am averaging 8 hours per night (I use a FitBit to track my sleep) and some when I am average 6.5. Now I edge closer to 30 I really, really feel the benefits of a good nights sleep.

    Despite ambitions to maintain a regular sleep/wake time, I would say I have only achieved this circa. 60% of the time. I am aiming to be in bed by 2230, having stayed off electronics for 30 mins before this and waking at 0630. I have learned that charging your phone outside your room is a critical enabler for this and 100% required now in my books, alongside an Alaska Bear Eye Mask.

    Wealth

    My wealth has gone up but not without mistakes along the way. I put off opening a stocks and shares ISA with Vanguard for far too long. I opened this year & ended the year 15% up.

    Obviously it has been an extraordinary year for the markets so I start next year with a blank slate but positive returns thanks to Ramit’s advice. I have tried to save more money but have ended up sticking to the budget plan Kirsty made (explained in previous section) around 70% of the time.

    There are always months where we overspend e.g. Christmas, going away, food shopping. But I have learned that it’s ok to do this because you can’t live your life in a vacuum!

    You need to be enjoying what you are doing each day and as Ramit says “Stop worry about the $30 question, and start worrying about the $30,000 one”. I have also discovered my multiple pension accounts from previous employers that are lacking login information which I will take forward as a key financial action into 2021.

    In terms of GramFitness, cash flow is positive and we are making a gross profit each month but using any of this profit to reinvest in advertising to try and grow the business.

    We have a long way to go before we get any-where near the type of revenue we would need to stop working and do this full time. I did however learn the exact number of clients that I would need to do this.

    Annual Planning for 2021

    Career

    My most important goal in my career is to build up GramFitness to double the size that it is now in 2021. This means double the number of clients, double the number of revenue and hopefully, double the amount of profit that can be reinvested to drive growth. This goal is super important to me because it represents the person that I want to become.

    I want to become a full time online coach that has a consistent and reliable way of generating leads and revenue, so that I can have the successful business I have wanted.

    Success will look like increasing the number of leads that we need, targeting those leads effectively with either paid advertising or e-mail marketing, and then converting some of those leads into paying clients. I truly believe that me and Ben can achieve this goal.

    In terms of my day job, my career goal is to maintain where I am currently operating. I do not wish to rush to try and get promoted as I believe that, like your training, you need to periodise certain parts of your career; sometimes you will need to go HAM and want to get promoted, others the desire is not there.

    On an average day, someone who will achieve this goal generally wakes up around 0600-0630, completes their morning routine, weight trains, then sits down to work around 0830, working until 1730-1800.

    Then after this, the time in the evening is either spent relaxing with Kirsty and progressing through the evening routine, or completing some important tasks on the business before heading to bed around 1030.

    Milestones (cumulative)
    Q1 milestone
    - 500 leads generated
    - 2 x sales processes delivered
    - 50% more clients than this time last year
    - 50% more revenue than this time last year
    - Flat cost base

    Q2 milestone
    - 1000 leads generated
    - 4 x sales processes delivered
    - 75% more clients than this time last year
    - 75% more revenue than this time last year
    - Flat cost base

    Q3 milestone
    - 1500 leads generated
    - 6 x sales processes delivered
    - 100% more clients than this time last year
    - 100% more revenue than this time last year
    - Flat cost base

    Action steps

    - Focus on lead generation on a daily basis through driving traffic to our lead magnet, getting people to sign up to our e-mail list
    - Ensure each social media post has a clear call to action
    - Maintain consistency of sales e-mails (3 x per week) and actively develop quality of sales e-mails
    - Keep building e-mail list through paid advertising on Facebook
    - Keep refining Facebook advertising model, testing new image, text and targeting variants throughout the year documenting the success of each creative variant

    Relationship

    My most important relationship goal is to spend more time with the people I truly value. I would probably say there are less than 10 people in this category. This is important to me because I want to develop myself this year in terms of thought, language, and overall outlook, not nailing my colours to any particular mast but seeking to understand the complexity that this world around us creates. Success can be quantified by the amount of time spent with these individuals, combined with the types of conversations and interactions that we have.

    Overall, I see an outcome of this being a more rounded and diverse understanding of the world, and how to interpret it effectively. Spending more time around these people will enable me to double down on the types of interactions that I enjoy, but also keep pushing myself to be more precise in your speech (a homage to the great Jordan Peterson).

    On an average day someone who will achieve this limits the amount of time spent on social media and mainstream media, instead focussing attention to scheduling time with these people, either face to face or through video calls, having prepared specific topics to discuss and interrogate.

    Milestones (cumulative)
    Q1 milestone
    - At least 1 hour spent per month with each person
    - 1 x evening per week with Kirsty where there are no phones
    - 1 x podcast filmed per week (average)

    Q2 milestone
    - Go on silent retreat (alone)
    - 1 x evening per week with Kirsty where there are no phones
    - At least 1 hour per month spent with each person
    - 1 x podcast filmed per week (average)

    Q3 milestone
    - 1 x evening per week with Kirsty where there are no phones
    - At least 1 hour per month spent with each person
    - 1 x podcast filmed per week (average)

    Action Steps
    - Self-reflect on who those people in my life are
    - Tell them this! Reach out to them to make them aware of how I feel
    - Schedule time in with them, either on a recurring basis or ad-hoc
    - Thoughtfully prepare subject matters to discuss, reading around the topic before hand
    - Maintain social contact with them throughout year

    Health

    My number one goal this year is to remain injury free. This may seem like a slightly odd one considering how often I talk about competing in Powerlifting or increasing my totals but these are both outcomes of remaining injury free. I know that if I focus on the process of remaining injury free, the outcome if far more likely than if I simply state powerlifting as my goal.

    Staying free of injuries is really important to me as it will enable me to progress my lifts, compete in Powerlifting, be able to complete more functional forms of fitness (running for a bus, playing football with friends) and also will start to form a crucial part of my routine.

    I have noticed the benefits of doing yoga at the start of 2020 and had found a class at my local gym that was once a week. Sadly, this habit died a death when the gyms closed and I have not been able to regain consistency. I think this is because I really valued to teacher, and the fact that I had to make the effort to get to the gym for this session acted as a good commitment device.

    If I can get through 2021 without any serious injuries (which I define as having to take over 1 week off training to rest) then that will be a success in my books. There will always be pain associated with lifting, it’s just a case of recognising when that pain is resulting in a true injury or whether that is something that is par for the course.

    On an average day, I’ll perform Stuart McGill’s big 3, ensure that I warm up effectively in the gym or at home, and keep working on my ankle mobility (which has come on leaps and bounds in 2020).

    Milestones (cumulative)
    Q1 milestone
    - Big 3 performed circa 70% of days
    - Weight training warm up routine established – performing the same routine each time
    - 2 mins spent in deep squat mobilising ankles per day
    - 1 x sports massage per month
    - Follow de-load protocol

    Q2 milestone
    - Big 3 performed circa 80% of days
    - Perform consistent warm up in gym 80% of the time
    - 3 mins spent in deep squat mobilising ankles per day
    - 1 x sports massage per month
    - Follow de-load protocol

    Q3 milestone
    - Big 3 performed circa 80% of days
    - Perform consistent warm up in gym 80% of the time
    - 4 mins spent in deep squat mobilising ankles per day
    - 1 x sports massage per month
    - Follow de-load protocol

    Action steps
    What are the action steps I need to take in order to achieve my goal? What can I do now to help do this?

    - Watch detailed video on Stuart McGill big 3 technique
    - Buy Back Mechanic book by Stuart McGill – this will act as a commitment device
    - Place reminder on phone to do ankle & squat mobility work each day at consistent time, eventually factoring this and McGill big 3 in as part of morning routine
    - Continue to use sports masseuse, prioritising this cost each month from fun money
    - Ensure that I follow de-load protocols as outlined by my coach, utilising more autoregulation than previously years
    - Get adequate sleep to ensure my body is recovering
    - Limit the amount of alcohol that I am consuming before a training session
    - Implement a consistent warm up routine, making sure I leave enough time in the gym to do this effectively

    Wealth

    The most important goal in terms of wealth for me next year is both financial and time. I want to keep contributing towards the savings plan that Kirsty has devised, whilst also spending more of my time on the things that I enjoy. My priority will be on investing heavily into my stocks and shares account to try and grow that as rapidly as possible. This is important to me as we being to plan for our future together. Saving more now, should hopefully enable me to have more time in the future, and devote more time to GramFitness.

    This is important to me because f I am less reliant on my day job for income, it also gives me more options about how I chose to spend my time and where I chose to spend my time (assuming the Covid restrictions are lifted for the UK in 2021. I will know if I’m successful or not by my net assets increasing and my liabilities staying the same – in theory these should even reduce if I continue to pay off my student loan repayments.
    Q1 milestone
    - Stick to savings plan all quarter
    - Reduce costs in areas I do not enjoy e.g. eating out, unnecessary purchases on Amazon

    Q2 milestone
    - Stick to savings plan all quarter
    - Invest any extra cash (bonuses, birthday money) into stocks and shares

    Q3 milestone
    - Stick to savings plan all quarter
    - Continue to reduce costs in areas I do not enjoy

    Action steps
    - Perform weekly reviews of spending
    - Perform monthly reviews of spending vs savings tracker
    - Continue to invest in stocks and shares as main portfolio
    - Review savings tracker allocations after Q2 – is the split still right?

    Overall, personally an excellent year despite the pandemonium many others have experienced.

    Many elements to celebrate but also set backs which I can learn from. I feel happier, and more at peace with who I am than ever before.

    Writing this review has been pretty difficult and uncomfortable at times. I would highly encourage you to write one though and share your answers with at least one other person.

    Here is to a great 2021.

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