I have seen some great examples of End of Year Review posts, for instance here and here. These great posts made me think about my own commentary about the past twelve months, and since I have been applying more and more the principle of radical openness in my life and business, I thought I would give it a shot.
Here is my 2014 Review in less than 2,000 words. This post is really a love letter to myself, intended primarily to set the tone and intention for the year ahead. To facilitate the reading in case you want to join me in my reflections, I have divided this review into five chapters: Business, Financial, Personal, Mind and Body.
Chapter One: Business
I run a small consultancy firm called La Fabbrica della Realtà. I help clients with their interactive and social communication as well as their advertising. Occasionally, I also do some delightful consulting work concerning business innovation.
At the end of 2013, I set my bar for 2014 pretty high: I wanted to double my sales by the year’s end. Although I did not reach this 100% increase, I am very happy with what I was able to achieve.
In 2014, my business grew 52%, halfway to my 100% target. I went from four active customers to five, so the increase was indeed dictated by an increase in the amount of work per client.
Oddly enough, despite the business objective not being met, I saw my total income rise 108% due to some unexpected financial not-work-related upsides. On second thought, it wasn’t odd at all. After hitting a rough patch in 2013, where my finances hit rock bottom, I dedicatedly worked towards a rebound. It seems that the universe was listening, and allowed me to exceed my ambitious goal by 8%.
As anyone who has been close to me this year knows, I have worked a lot. I have had work always on my mind, and this has become an issue. I will discuss more about it in the Personal chapter.
In 2014 the totality of my sales orders derived from consulting work, which takes many hours to complete. I am not going to decrease my consulting work for 2015, but I don’t want to increase it either. I aspire to diversify my income sources. I have thought and shared my plan to create a product in a couple of articles this year. This new product will launch on January 15th.
For 2015, I would like my income to be more balanced: part from consulting and part from product sales.
In financial terms, in 2015 I aim for a 50% growth over this year’s result. This is again a pretty aggressive goal, and I plan to reach it thanks to the revenue from a new product.
Chapter Two: Financial
This year, At 37, I started saving money for the first time in my life. Better late than never.
I designed a savings system that has given me much satisfaction. First, I created an emergency fund that will allow me to go without income for 3 months (okay, this seems obvious to most of you, rational financial people, but I never had such a thing before).
After I funded this first emergency account, I created four buckets. All of my income goes to the first bucket and each month, based on how full that bucket is, I “feed” three different other buckets:
“Pension Fund”: For the moment, it is just a savings account. The money that lands there cannot be touched.
“Savings”: Readily available cash, to be used in case of any emergency and to pay for taxes.
“Investment”: Money that I don’t need immediately and that can be put to work.
I was able to capture around one third of my total income inside this collection of buckets.
During this year I also invested a little over 10% of my gross income in my new product, Presentation Hero.
I started to be conscious about financial products around me and I spent a lot of time pondering how to build a portfolio. To start, I settled for a “Permanent Portfolio” with a little innovation added in by joining a p2p lending platform.
This forced finance schooling is still giving me a bit of anxiety as I feel that a financial rookie is ready prey to bad or stupid decisions.
Future income growth will all go into this financial bucket system. My plan is to maintain my lifestyle as it is now. I want to use a little bit of the upside to have some great experiences with the people I love, but I plan to stay in the same 60 square meters rented apartment, without a car or motorbike, and without changing any other habit that would negatively impact my financial plan.
Chapter Three: Personal
I have been single most of my life, surrounded by a terrific community of friends. However, in recent times I had been feeling that there was something missing.
Clearly, my prayers have been heard. I met a very special person that casted loving nets on me and captured me in a dance of love. This is the best result I could have ever expected for the year.
I had promised once and again that I would not behave like my partnered friends: I would not stay home every night; I would not make a nest. I would be the same approachable, open scheduled, let’s-go-out kind of person. Yeah, right.
I had my eyes so fixed on the business goal for the year that it was really hard to devote quality time to a very important relationship.
The one bad thing about this year is that the amount of work I have been doing has had an impact on the length of my sleep. The quality of my sleep is still great, though, as it is easy for me to fall asleep, but I have had a lot of early wake ups that I guess are anxiety related. I definitely need to work on that!
In 2015 I would like to have more peace of mind and allow myself to have more time to spend with my special one. I want to stop working full weekends altogether, or at least avoid working weekends in a row. However, I already know that will not be possible during January.
I also want to make sure that I get at least 8 hours of good sleep every day. Since it seems that I have already started to wake up earlier, it could be a good idea to go to bed at an earlier time.
Chapter Four: Mind
I have kept my mind quite healthy this year. Although I did not meditate, I have been following my “Getting Things Done” routine. I also implemented a priority-based approach for the important areas of my life, built on on this great article from “A year of productivity”. It was certainly the most important and influential thing I read this year.
My mind is most happy when I am in a state of flow. This comes to me very easily when writing. Thus, this year I have radically altered the amount of the time I spend writing. It is now the first thing I do almost every day.
Incidentally, writing has come up also in my business review: producing quality content is the most important strategic activity I can do, also from a business perspective.
Writing goes hand in hand with reading. In 2104 I have been reading mostly long-form stuff, and not so many books (although I don’t keep count). I have certainly read a lot of great articles on Pocket.
This year I had also some other goals on my mind: I wanted to meditate, get fluent in German, and start learning Chinese (this last one is a love-related goal). Results were not optimal in any of these.
I could not convince myself that sitting still with a nice posture in order to meditate is something I can do every day. I do many activities in a meditative state: washing the dishes manually and taking a shower in the morning are great opportunities for meditation, and while running outdoors I easily get into a very focused state.
Sitting still in the morning, though, is not for me.
My German has gotten slightly better, but I did not devote to this task as much time as I wanted. As for Chinese, I made little progress, but that may change soon.
In the future, I would like to link more of my income to the act of writing. I think it would be greatly beneficial for my mind to do what pleases her, and -if it works well from a business standpoint-, I could also enjoy the financial benefits from that.
I will try to devote some time each Saturday to German, and each Sunday to Chinese.
Chapter Five: Body
“Do you have a plan for your work? Yes. Do you have a plan for your finances? Great. But do you have a plan for your body?”
When I heard this a few years ago, it hit me hard. I was 29, a smoker; originally thin, but getting fat. In the 8 years that followed, I developed and implemented a health plan that has resulted in much better habits and in my being in the best shape I have ever been.
My body plan this year had a setback due to a small surgery that had long and annoying consequences, and that did not allow me to do physical activity for the most part of 4 months. Since then, whenever I am at home in Berlin, I’m on a solid 3-times-per-week gym routine that includes bodyweight and kettle bell training. From Spring to Autumn, I also kept a good routine of running and walking outdoors.
I started the year eating Paleo with intermittent fasting. It was terrific. Nevertheless, I was not able to actually sustain it for very long periods.
My standing desk is a loyal companion and I miss it dearly when I’m traveling.
I haven’t been eating that well and I realize that the energy advantage of eating fewer carbs is enormous. On the other hand, I am a “frikkin Italian” and I “frikkin” love pasta. Therefore, I can only go Paleo for so long without going nuts.
I would like to integrate more Paleo weeks or months in the coming year and, particularly, to continue with my gym routine. I have seen it work wonders for my mental sanity and I look better too. Hence, I hope to be able to go on with it.
This reflection on 2014 has also sparked a different train of thoughts. I have started to think about how I want to create content and be present online in 2015. You can see the result in this Slideshare.
Want to keep the slides? You can download them here.
Overall, 2014 has been a terrific year. I have some great memories from these past months and I have accomplished a lot. I will not change my focus in 2015. Financially, I want to build a better business and jumpstart my new product. Personally, I want to continue investing in my important relationships and keep my mind and body healthy.
Over the year, I will surely course-correct many times, but the 50,000 feet view is very clear to me.
This is it for my Year Review. I hope you enjoyed it, and if it has inspired you, please let me know in the comments.
If you want to be a part of my 2015 Review, there is one thing for you to do: go to this page here and sign-up to my email list. You will not regret it.