My 2020 Annual Review

…Aaand 2020 is a wrap. Despite all the craziness, 2020 is the first year that I’m going to break down in an Annual Review blog post. I adopted the habit of making Annual Reviews in 2019 while listening to James Clear’s audiobook Atomic Habits. Annual Review is when you look back at the year and review the various aspects of life that are important to you. In my earlier blog post How I Plan My Year, I go into more detail and explain what tools I’m currently using in my process.

This post follows the format laid out in James Clear’s blog, which you can find here. Anyways, let’s get started!

What went well this year?

Graduated. I finished my bachelor’s degree in business administration at the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences. I graduated with a degree in game development, and I specialized in game production in the role of a producer. A bachelor’s degree in Finland usually takes around 3.5 years to complete, but I managed to wrap up the studies in 3 semesters. By making use of all the right opportunities it became an adventure that changed my life for the better.

Found a good job after graduation. I started my UAS studies at the age of 25 with a background in low-skilled work. Knowing the realities of the job market, I placed the highest regard on making myself more employable after graduation. You can never predict the future, though. When I graduated in May, COVID-19 had become a pandemic. With determination, I sent almost 200 job applications in the spring, and eventually got hired in a Finnish software company.

Got accepted to a new study program. My new and challenging job has taught me as much in six months as I learned on the school bench. Despite that, I want to keep learning and dwell into new and exiting subjects. I suppose you could call me a generalist! On the day of my graduation, I received news that I got accepted to the Highway 2 Code programme. H2C is a half a year study programme for improving one’s skills in programming and software development at large.

Finished 25 books. My goal for 2020 was to finish 24 books, which I achieved almost effortlessly thanks to audiobooks. According to Audible, I spent 227 hours listening to books, 201 hours of which was spent listening to nonfiction and 26 hours listening to fiction. My goals for 2021 include finishing 36 books, increasing the percentage of fiction, and reading more in my mother language. Check out my recent blog post where I introduce my 2020 reading list with the top 10 picks of the year.

Improved my VO2max considerably. I have been traditionally more interesting in strength training rather than aerobic exercise. However, COVID-19 closed the gyms and I was slow to buy any home workout equipment. I had to find alternative means to exercise, and I eventually resorted to running. The progress I made in 2020 simply blew my mind. Indeed, I improved my VO2max by 10 units (ml/kg/min) in a half a year period. Not a bad time to have healthy lungs!

Started meditation. I first tried meditating in 2019 but couldn’t incorporate it into my daily routines. Maybe it was the wrong headphones, the wrong app, or simply the wrong time in my life. In 2020, however, I started using the Headspace app, and things just clicked. By the end of the year, my meditation sessions had grown from 5 minutes per session to 15 minutes per session. During the last months of December, I eventually reached the goal of meditating on 100 days in a row.

Started investing and saving for a house. In 2020, I made my first investments. I also opened an ASP account, which is an account type in Finland meant for young home savers. Making the first investment was a big threshold and required lots of research. Luckily, my wife is also interested in investing. We still have a long way to go, but the first step is now taken. In 2021, we will work on our budget, and try find realistic monthly amounts for investing and saving.

What didn’t go so well this year?

Journaled inconsistently. Having kept a diary on and off for almost a decade, I have noticed a pattern in my journaling habits. Whenever there’s a lot of things going on in my life and days seem too short, that’s when I write the least. However, when things are more quiet and there’s less interesting stuff to write about, that’s when I write the most. Next year, I want to unpack my mind more consistently; not necessarily daily, but more than once a week.

Social life took a hit. From the middle of 2018 to early 2020, I spent more than one year abroad. I visited several countries, met lots of new people, and made new friends. This almost became the new normal for me. My return to Finland, however, was followed by the quarantine measures, my graduation, the start of remote work, and being in a long-distance relationship. To switch gears like that was not easy, and I often felt a sense of isolation.

Did some hasty purchases. After spending close to three years as a student and traveling around the world, I wanted to finally set up the apartment. I had slept the past years on the floor on a mattress, on the nights I was at home anyways, and judged it was about time to upgrade. Fast forward to the end of the year, and I found myself with various items, some of which were bought with emotion and in a haste. Next year, I will have to remind myself to take my time and plan my purchases.

Did not experience a live graduation ceremony. This might seem like something rather minor. However, I feel that attending a live graduation ceremony would have given a better sense of closure for finishing the studies. I actually watched the graduation ceremony live streamed on YouTube while at my workplace. Did not expect that! Many students around the world have missed essential school experiences due to the quarantine measures, and that’s a real pity.

What did I learn this year?

Being in a long-distance relationship. I met my future wife while studying abroad, and eventually married her in early 2020. Shortly afterwards I had to return to my home country, and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to see each other for most of the year. Being apart has highlighted the importance of communication in a relationship, especially in a long-distance relationship where face to face communication is not possible.

The importance of budgeting properly. It’s one thing to keep a log of your income and expenses, but a whole another matter to actually budget. I do keep an Excel file, which is named “The Budget”, and have spent tens of hours fine-tuning it. However, I did not make the corrections that I had deemed necessary in order to make the budgeting more accurate. In 2021, the budget file will see a total revamp, and I will be sure to remind myself of the definition of budgeting.

Removing negative people from my life. Having friends of all kinds, and from all walks of life, can be a richness. Sometimes, however, the personalities, the lifestyles, or just overall differences can be too great. This is something that I woke up to this year, and I had to make the decision to cut ties with a friend who I recognized was having a negative influence on me. It was difficult and I initially avoided it, but once done, it gave me a sense of relief.

Being selfish in a healthy way. Sometimes our plans involve other people, and compromises are required to make things happen. It’s up to you, however, to decide how much you are ready to compromise. While saying no to something can feel difficult for fear of hurting the other person, I find that it clears the air and ends up feeling much better than agreeing to something that I don’t want to do. This year, I learned how to be selfish in a healthy way.

Many things in life are negotiable. I’m a rule follower personality, at least intuitively. Sometimes, though, we have interests that collide with the rules and structures, whether those of school, work, or something else. This is when you have to decide how much you want something and whether you are prepared to take the initiative and open negotiations to make it a reality. I had a couple of experiences in 2020 that really drove this lesson home for me.