Each year, for the last few years I’ve done an end of the year retrospective. I didn’t invent this. I got the idea from Nate. But it is the first time I’ve publicly posted my retrospective.
I usually do this around my birthday in November, but this year I pushed it back. I sat down with a glass of wine, opened my rose gold MacBook Air, and answered the following questions.
- What went well this year?
- What did not go so well?
- What did I learn?
- How can I fix what’s not working for better results?
Read, enjoy, and judge me harshly. Then, if you’re up for it. Spend a few hours before the ball drops in 2019 to complete your own retrospective.
WHAT WENT WELL THIS YEAR?
I started working full time for Nerd Fitness. We’ve got an amazing team over there. Helping nerds, misfits, and mutants lose weight, get strong, and get healthy permanently.
Took a one-week stay-cation. I was feeling burned out towards the end of the year. At the recommendation of a client, I took one week off from in-person coaching. I worked from home, drank lots of coffee, and hung out with my pups. It was glorious.
I’ve never done this before. Usually, when I take time off it’s to travel to Europe. It was nice to relax and unwind without the stress of exploring a new country.
On Tuesday’s I started meeting up with one of my best friends. These meetups have been like therapy. For me and for him. They even led to this blog post, the next thing on my what went well list, and my decision to start dating again.
I started putting in “emotional reps.” This past year I spent a lot of time working on my communication skills. As well as getting comfortable with and expressing what I’m feeling. To do this I went on two Evryman retreats. Their open-source and MELT.
See my “emotional journal” post.
To every man (no pun intended) reading this post, GO! These retreats give men an opportunity to connect. And to help each other to lead more successful, fulfilling lives. They aim to support one million men over the next five years.
I plan on continuing Evryman retreats in 2020. If you’re interested in going. Please contact me here. I’ll see if I can meet up with you at one of them.
I started a regular sleep and wake schedule. I’m in bed six nights out of the week by 8:30 pm and up at 4 am. I’ve always hated sleeping. I’ve viewed it as an inconvenience that kept me from getting more work down.
I was wrong. After years of sleeping four hours per night, I burned out. My energy, mood, workouts, and relationships suffered because of this.
My quality of sleep still isn’t great. But I’m focusing on what I can control and not on what I can’t. I put up blackout curtains in my room, set the temp to 65 degrees, and wear a mask and earplugs.
The dogs still like to wake me up. But I don’t see me getting rid of them any time soon.
Got back into rock climbing. These past few years my hobbies have fallen by the wayside. I’ve been so focused on work that I didn’t create time for them. I’m climbing every Sunday, love it, and will continue this. I’m hoping it leads me to create more time for other interests like archery and photography.
Saving a ton of money. Between coaching online with Nerd Fitness and Precision Nutrition. As well as my in-person coaching practice going well. I was able to save tons of money despite being a single man in Southern California. The struggle is REAL.
The only debt I have is my graduate school loans. I plan to pay those off this year. Then, I’ll buy champagne and cigars for everyone to celebrate… thus, going back into debt.
WHAT DID NOT GO WELL THIS YEAR?
Not much traveling. I usually take 3 big trips overseas each year. This year I went to Hawaii for 4 days and that’s it. This had a lot to do with taking on new work.
There are still many places I want to see. I’m coming for you:
Didn’t date as much as I’d like (sorta avoided it). Dating and relationships, in general, has never been much of a priority for me. In fact, I seem to do my best to avoid it. Always making excuses why it’s not the “right time.” Sound familiar?
I love the idea of having a significant other. But hate the idea of giving up any sort of freedom. I want to do what I want when I want to do it. This is a topic of conversation for my therapist.
I went on a few dates this year but didn’t take them seriously. At 39, I should start doing this. I bit the bullet and started using a dating app. Let’s see where this goes. Any relationship or dating advice? I’m all ears.
The basics were all fucked up for me. I’m a big believer in getting good at the basics. Then doing them over and over again.
- Moving your body in ways you enjoy and resistance training 2-3 days per week.
- Eating whole foods in the right amounts for your activity levels
- Building a strong sleep routine
- Taking time to de-stress each day
This year I’ve struggled with three of these. Resistance training, eating whole foods and de-stressing. I’m in maintenance mode. Which is ok, but I don’t want to be here forever.
I’m moving my body daily and resistance training but not to the level I’d like. I’m eating for my energy needs. But find myself eating more protein bars, shakes, and snacks versus meals. De-stressing is non-existent. I have no regular practice for this at the moment.
I’m proud of maintaining consistency and doing “good enough.” But this year I’d like to get better at these basics.
The writing was non-existent. I published one new article on the blog this year. Most of my writing consisted of short blurbs on social media. Like this one, this one, and this one.
The good news is that this was due to my extra workload. The bad news is I love writing and want to do more of it.
In the words of the wise Jeremy Grey. “No excuses. Play like a champion.” Or in this case, write like Hemmingway.
WHAT DID I LEARN?
I value time. Slowing down. Limited commitments. For the last 11 years, I’ve been working with clients doing a split shift. 5 am-9 am and 4 pm to 7p. The afternoons are filled with online coaching work and it hasn’t left me with much time for anything else.
After taking a week off from training clients in-person. It was refreshing to not have to wake up to an alarm clock. My mornings moved at a slower-paced. I wasn’t rushed. I immediately noticed a change in my mood and energy.
I need to say NO more. I say YES to everything and everyone. Having opportunities is a great problem to have. I need to start saying no to the ones that are not aligned with my goals, values, and priorities.
This year I want to pair down my life. I take on far too many tasks and it leaves me unfocused, anxious, and unproductive.
There’s not a single one of us who is free of that trap, in my experience. We say yes to invitations and commitments. We answer as many emails and messages as we can. We join courses and groups. We buy books and take on new hobbies, get involved in new relationships and buy more stuff.
The result of this tendency to overfill is predictable:
We spend too much money and get into too much debt, and then have too much clutter. We are always busy and always feel like we’re behind on everything. We don’t have time for what’s important. Relationships, meaningful work, solitude, and silence, taking care of ourselves. We can’t fulfill our commitments because we have too much going on. We use full lives to distract ourselves from being present.
It’s understandable that we overfill our lives. We are usually acting on desires, and not giving full contemplation to what we want in our lives and what we don’t want. -Leo Babauta
We’re rewarded for “grinding and hustling” but not for resting and relaxing. This was the biggest lesson I learned this year. And it will be a guiding force in 2020 for me.
More downtime. Less grind time.
This is an unpopular opinion in our hashtag hustle society. I plan on proving how you can be productive without burning yourself out.
HOW CAN I FIX WHAT’S NOT WORKING FOR BETTER RESULTS?
This isn’t very complicated. I want to be the best man I can be and help other men be the same.
I want to be a good provider. Pay for a round of drinks for friends. Take care of the people I care about. Have amazing sex. Be fit, healthy, and capable of backpacking in a foreign country. Or performing daily tasks without feeling old and broken.
To simplify and essentialize (made that word up) my life by focusing on the things that matter most. Forgetting about the rest.
- The simple and essential fitness stuff
- The simple and essential nutrition stuff
- The simple and essential relationship stuff
- The simple and essential work stuff
- The simple and essential life stuff
The year of pairing down.
- Cut back on possessions
- Pare down on commitments
- Reduce my time in front of a screen, online, and work that doesn’t matter years from now.
- Get clear on what matters most. No random hobbies, dreams, or desires.
To do this, chose a few things to focus on each day.
- Meaningful work: Nerd Fitness and my Personal Coaching.
- Spend time with the people I care most about. Where we add value to each other’s lives
- Read and write daily
- De-stress daily (meditate, nap, listen to John Mayer)
- Move my body (or exercise) daily
- Simplify my diet and emphasize real food
Say NO more to.
- Any work that doesn’t benefit NF or JTM
- Writing articles and producing content that I do not enjoy or is not directly helping someone
- Anything that keeps me from simple daily focuses above
- Emotional vampires and relationships that drain me
Thanks for reading. I hope you had a wonderful 2019 and best wishes to you in 2020.
Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash