Looking back (An annual review – 2019)

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From the past six years, I’m doing an annual review of my life. December month is usually the time of every year when I tend to slow down a bit and take a pause. It’s the time when I reflect back on the year. What I’ve done, where I’ve been, where I’m at right now and what I’m looking forward to. To promote writing online and to keep myself publicly committed to my new year’s goals, I publish the annual review here.

A rear view mirror showing Himanshu behind the camera near a waterbody showing looking back 2019 annual review text as well

This is my 7th annual review, you can access all my previous reviews at the end of this post.

This year also I’ll answer three questions, the same as the past 6 years.

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What’s am I working toward?

Hope it will be insightful and interesting for some of you. Lets cut to the chase.

Looking back (An annual review – 2019)

1. What went well this year?

Creative Ventures. Last year I mentioned the idea of sifting through different ideas and picking a few which show the sign of being the one that might work. So I narrowed down my focus and creative energy to Podcast, “Saturday-Pentacle” weekly newsletter and my YouTube Channel.

Quality over Quantity always.

Till last year I was working on another side gig which was in the travel business, but seeing the efforts I put and the return on energy and money. It was an obvious choice to throw in the towel. So I rested that case. (Though I’m still in the process of disposing off the assets). But as they say –

Struggle ≠ Failure

A temporary defeat doesn’t mean that I should say goodbye to future ideas as well. So I released myself mentally from this venture because most of the times mentally one cannot let oneself release from it. So keeping in mind the Law of Diminishing1Which I read in the book Law of Success by Napoleon Hill I decided to let it go.

My main focus in 2019 had been to fully devote myself to digital content creation and Business of Media. Here is how these focused efforts worked out –

  1. Podcast – I’m happy to announce that this particular decision to start the interview series podcast with a theme of covering stories of people who have transformed their passion into their profession, was life-changing for me. I was able to do 13 episodes in 2019 for my podcast. Making a total of 16 episodes as a whole.

    LAL Podcast really gave my creative energy the right direction. It made me nervous at times, made me anxious, made me uncomfortable and made me impatient but eventually turned out to be a superb learning experience which I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.

    Here is what I learned from the podcast production –
    1. How to approach people above your paygrade?
    2. How to research on people?
    3. How to do an interview in a way that the interviewee can open up like never before?
    4. How to be more humane while talking to people?
    5. How to read emotions in people and their body language?
    6. How to use your own body language to make people comfortable?
    7. How to start a podcast?
    8. How to edit audio?
    9. How to do audio production and post-production overall?
    10. How to make it a great experience for both the parties involved (interviewer and interviewee)?
    11. How to take turns in the conversation to ask questions at the right time and be natural in conversations? (yes that’s science too, trust me).

  2. BlogSaturday-Pentacle newsletter is one of the things that I’ve been consistent with for a long time (almost 3+ years now). For the new readers – think of it as ‘Best of the week’ newsletter, which I started in 2016. As mentioned in my last year’s review2Annual Review 2018, I wanted to stop it in 2018, but then I checked with few of my very close people and found that they love it and don’t want me to stop this newsletter. So I kept on publishing it, as the other reason was that it made me learn and discover new and cool stuff which I might not have otherwise. So this ritual of weekly newsletter continued in 2019 and going to continue in upcoming years as well. This year I’m going to separate it from the blog and put it as just an email subscription. On the blog, I want to write more blogs on Lifestyle design and things which are more instructive like How-Tos. That means a few blogs posts are on the horizon.

    Now coming to the annual report of the blog, here are some analytical stats from 2019 –
    • 52 new Saturday Pentacle Posts published this year.
    • 13 New podcast episodes (as podcast show notes are hosted on my site).
    • YoY Growth (2018 Vs 2019)
      • Unique visitors growth – 95 %
      • Unique page views growth – 91 %
      • New email subscribers growth – 32.46 % (This has been slow but progressive)

  3. YouTube Channel – My goal in 2019 was to create 12 videos, one video a month at least. I exceeded that goal by a good margin. I posted 20 videos on YouTube in 2019.

    I got a lot better in editing videos and handling post-production in video side. I switched from Adobe Premiere Pro to DaVinci Resolve on my Mac and I can’t say enough that how awesome that decision was, it yielded me so much benefit in video editing. I’m hopeful to scaling up the video production in 2020.

    Here is the break up of 20 videos I posted –
    1. 17 Videos of podcast episodes (including one full interview video with Shubham Vanmali who is an international swimmer, rest 16 were audio interviews converted into videos), which is still a big deal for me
    2. 3 videos including – 1 How-To video, 1 Intro to my channel and the last one is a vertical format video which I experimented with in mindfulness video series which I’m working on at the moment.

Writing. 2019 was a decent year from the personal writing perspective, I published 52 newsletter posts, 13 podcast posts including research and show notes on the guests. In 2018 I had started following the journaling practice rigorously, I kept it up in this year (2019) as well. I made almost 127 entries in my physical journal and 5-6 entries in my Evernote.

Letting your thoughts come out on a paper has been a great experience. Because I learned that –

Thoughts become things.3Check out my podcast episode with The Overrated Outcast (Trishita Bhattacharya) where we talked about it in lenght.

Journaling has been like a mental cleansing for me, I tried 5 minutes journal last year (which is like a template of bullet points to write on, check the link). However, as per my experience, the free-flowing journal is what I like more. Just start writing about your day and things experienced the previous day or the emotions you are feeling at the moment and your mind will magically get cleared from the weight of previous days gazzilion things and emotions clouding your mind.

Through Journaling I’ve experienced that mind starts making the connection between isolated ideas and you’ll eventually get one idea or the other which you can actually implement in your life. That’s what happened with me in the past 2 years of journaling. Many important projects came out of these journal pages including the idea for an upcoming Course which I’m creating on Podcasting itself (subscribe to my newsletter to know when it comes out).

Reading. My goal was to read 12 books in the year 2019. One book each month. I was able to achieve this goal this year with the help of Audiobooks. I listened to almost all the books except for a couple which I had no option but to read as they aren’t available in audio format as of now.

Here are the books I read/listened to –

I read most of the above books completely, but few of them in a manner I liked where I left out a few chapters intentionally. Because they didn’t resonate with me. But I guess that’s ok. A book is written by the Author most of the times to be consumed by readers as per their perspective (unless it’s highly directed book of fiction).

So I’m really happy with the progress I made with my reading, I’m aiming to ramp it up in 2020 and the target is going to be 24 books in a year, that makes it two books a month. Let’s see how it goes. Even If I fail, I should be able to read more than I did in 2019.

Home and Finance. This year was decent if not better than last year from this perspective. Last year’s highlight was buying a home in Bombay Suburbs. So it couldn’t be topped up in the subsequent year.

But the goal this year was to keep up with finances and not let myself indulge in things I don’t need in my life. Because we usually tend to follow the consumerism created by the companies and media and being humans we fall for it. But I was able to manage my cravings for unnecessary indulges.

My goal in the year 2019 was to work on the Kitchen Project and creating myself a small creative home studio where I can create the best work of my life. I’m happy to say that I was able to finish both the projects. I would definitely want to share the videos I shot while working on both projects. Our new Kitchen has turned out to be pretty well, so has the creative studio setup. That’s where this annual review is being written.

One major note to any new home buyers – If you buy a home, you can put all the interest paid for the year into tax exemption under a special category, which is limited to a maximum of 2 Lacs5Refer this cleartax article and applicable for India only. So with this fact, even though I’m not able to do any more monthly investments to save tax like earlier, but now with these interest certificates from my home loan account, I’m able to get the tax exemptions, which has been a huge relief.

I also bumped up my insurance premium this past year to a decent amount to cater to my requirements. The usual thumb rule is to make your term insurance amount 10-15 times of your yearly income. So as you move up the ladder of your career and your income increases so you should increase your term insurance cover.

This new year 2020 I would like to able to invest small amounts consistently into a couple of new areas like medical insurance which I’m yet to take apart from the one my workplace provides. I’m also thinking to invest a little bit in government bonds which is a safer investment but provides more ROI as compared to Fixed deposits. I learned about it in this article.

Being a Do-er. As mentioned in the last yearly review, being a do-er takes a lot of self-introspection and internal push. Sometimes we face critism externally which gets hold of ourselves and then we get into the self-critical mode. It leads nowhere in a place of anxiety. Since I learned this in 2018, I’ve been conscious about what I’m doing in 2019 by self-awareness and journaling and once I became sure about it, I put all my effort in executing the plan. This has made me go out of my comfort zone a lot of times, yes. But as Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) says –

The further you get away from yourself, the more challenging it is. Not to be in your comfort zone is great fun.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Deep work. I continued the practice of deep work in 2019 (got introduced to this concept from a book – Deep Work by Cal Newport). It basically talks about while doing work, you can put yourself into a state of flow where you are more focused and can work in a deep state of mind where ideas intersect each other to form new ideas.

Last year I started listening to music which included Binaural Beats.6binaural beat is an auditory illusion. It is perceived when two different pure-tone sine waves are presented to a listener, one tone to each ear.

Another app/website I continue using from the past couple of years – Noisli.

Adding here a few Spotify playlists which helped me get into the flow state faster –

Deep work has become a state for me where I produce significantly important work. I would be continuing to learn more ways to tap into this state in 2020.

Cycling. Since I got a new road bike in 2017, I started including cycling more into my fitness routine, in 2018 I rode more than 700 KMs. But this past year has been just ok (which is still better if I see my work routine but not as good as the previous year), I would like to complete more than 1000 KMs in 2020 for sure.

Highlights of my cycling efforts –

Distance193.8 km
Time9h 35m
Elevation Gain2067 m

Nutrition. In 2018 Dec month, I turned vegan to experiment with this lifestyle. But I had t stop the experiment after 4 months due to multiple deficiencies. Not because Veganism is bad, but more so because I didn’t do much of the homework required to sustain that lifestyle when I cut down milk and dairy because otherwise, I’m already a vegetarian. My Vitamin B12 and D3 levels dropped significantly. I started craving for food more often. As I said earlier, this was more due to the fact that I didn’t put many efforts beforehand in finding proper alternatives to the dairy food I’ve been eating to get the nutrition. Secondly, I didn’t include supplements like B12 and D3 until I got deficient. All of it hit me hard and I had to stop it.

As my mantra says temporary defeat does not equal to Permanent failure. So I’m putting in the time now to become more environmentally conscious, finding alternatives to the food required while being a vegan, along with the supplemental requirements.

I want to break a myth here, being a vegan doesn’t lead you towards deficiency of vitamins. We already are deficient from these vitamins because of the usual foods (people who are vegetarians) doesn’t contain these vitamins. But because you eat diary being a vegetarian, a little bit is covered in that. Once you stop dairy and start the vegan way of eating these deficiencies become more prominent. So vegan or not check your health report and start supplementing on the essential vitamins to avoid any health issues while there is still time. Even after I stopped being a vegan I have kept many of the conscious food habits. Like eating flax seeds and having green smoothies and most important taking B12 and D3 supplements to fulfil my daily needs.

So 2019 has been a good year from that perspective. But I can’t deny the fact that I indulged in processed food often than I would like to, but still, I was able to curb my cravings till a good extent.

One more thing I would like to mention which I experimented with in the past year was fasting. I tried two type of fasts – Circadian Rythm fasting method and Intermittent fasting method. Even though I did these fast 1 or 2 days a week for many weeks, I found that they helped me rejuvenate and detox. But many days I was left with headaches which lasted for hours. So I felt a mix of emotions for the fasting.

Meeting new people. In 2019, I continued the trend and met a lot of people through my podcast and otherwise. Made many new friends.

I learned a lot from meeting these people, many success stories, many failures in the initial times which led them to success subsequently. Got to learn about great eating places, got to learn expensive club, got to learn about how human struggles are a way to evolve.

In 2020 I definitely would keep on discovering new people and probably interview many of them for the podcast. But more importantly, would also like to talk to more local people when I travel to new places. Cause that’s how you get to learn about the other cultures apart from yours.

2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Fitness. My fitness level stayed consistent, without any major health issue. However, I faced headaches while I was trying out fasting. But that could control by not fasting or making my eating more prominent inside the eating times. Still working on to reduce the fat around my gut area, didn’t have much of a success in 2019. It is a resolution for 2020.

Running. This was a massive failure. This year also my running schedules went on backburners and my running stats kept on declining from the previous year –

2019 Vs 2018 comparison –

  • Mileage – 225.4 KMs Vs 410.4 KMs. (Down by 54.92%)

In 2020 I want to get back to running full-fledged and cover 1000 KMs in the year along with 1000 KMs of cycling.

Work on the book. This was another failure from last year’s goals. I’m not putting it in priority and that’s what the problem is. But I have created the framework for my first book which is going to be a non-fiction self-help Lifestyle Design book. Now in 2020, I need to really devote daily at least 1 hour in writing 1000 words or more. I’m hopeful but not too ambitious with this, knowing all my other priorities.

Online Store – In the year 2019, one of my goals was to create an online store with the merchandise created specifically for my brand Lifestyle Architecture Lab. But that didn’t go so well, as I couldn’t put my focus and energy into that.

Photography. In 2019 I posted just 36 photographs on my Instagram feed and around 100+ moments shared on Instagram stories throughout the year. I learned that finding your perfect shot with attempts similar to other skills require a lot of practice. So not only I need to take more and more pictures if I want to improve my craft, but also I need to put a lot of mindfulness into the images before I take the actual shots.

It should not be from luck that you get your shot, but from a pre-thought meditation about the shot and then the practice itself.

So 2019 was almost a failure in the photography department, but I want to improve in 2020 as this is one of the essential skills of storytelling which I want to keep cultivating.

I would totally love if you go and check out my Instagram profile and follow for more upcoming photos.

Travelling. I travelled as less than usual in 2019. No solo trip this past year, but I travelled to a few really good places including Kerala, Munnar and Panchgani. I want to keep on exploring places where I’ve never been before every year. But 2019 wasn’t as much of a success in this front.

Few places I visited this year –

  1. Lavasa
  2. Kerala
  3. Munnar
  4. Delhi
  5. Sirsa (Haryana)
  6. Kaithal (Haryana)
  7. Vasai Virar
  8. Mahabaleshwar
  9. Panchgani

I want to break this pattern and plan more travels in 2020. Places where I’ve never been and also places where I’ve been and absolutely love.

Last year when I became vegan (for four months until I stopped earlier this year), I wanted to go to 50 vegan cafes across the country. But that couldn’t happen either. Once I stopped being a vegan. I had less of a zeal to go to vegan cafes than before.

But this year in 2020 I want to explore new eateries or at least be at the ones I already love. But more than that I want to consciously start preparing my own food (at least snacks for daily consumption). This way I can be more conscious about what I eat.

3. What am I working towards?

I would like to keep up the things I’m doing well as described in the first section. Apart from that here a few new goals for the year 2020.

Improve on the relationships with family and friends. This is one area which I’m working all the time, but still, I’m feeling like I’m not giving enough attention because of all the work I’m involved in. So in 2020, First, I would like to move the next level in my relationship status. Secondly, I would also like to improve on the relationships which I want to keep in my life family, many of the relatives and many of my friends. Because as you move through life, many relationships become dormant. But it’s on your own consciousness, which ones do you want to keep and put efforts in those. So I would put more efforts into my relationships as they are the base of your existence in many ways. At least that’s what my experience has been.

Podcast Scale-up. As the LAL podcast has been going strong in the year 2019 with almost 500+ downloads each episode. Still, the episode production was not consistent as I would like it to be. So I want to commit to a consistency of a weekly podcast episode in 2020. Plus I want to add a few sponsors this year once I do the rebranding of the podcast in early 2020.

Online Store. In the year 2020, I’m going to put aside time every week to achieve this till July 2020. I’m gonna work towards creating an online store on my website which will have two sections – 1) Affiliate link store where I will link the amazon links for my favourite products 2) Products which I want to get manufactured according to my experiences and my brand and sell online on my website store.

Improve my fitness as I grow older. As I turned vegan on my 30th Birthday (towards the end of 2018) as mentioned above, I started putting a serious deal of thought on whatever I ate. But in 2019 I stopped being a vegan after 4 months of the experiment. I also started eating processed food not very frequently but still, I did. In 2020 I want to improve on my eating habits and exercise habits so that I am more consistent. I’ve noticed if I don’t start my day with exercise then I don’t do meditation and I don’t eat good breakfast and tend to eat processed food. All good habits are connected with a chain. If one stumbles others too. So I want to include this positive chain of events back again in my life in 2020 – Running, Cycling, Meditation (even though I did meditate more than 150 days in 2019), Eating healthier and being grateful.

YouTube scale-up. As I created 20 videos in 2019. This year I’m going to increase the frequency and invest in better gear so that it can be fixed in my home creative studio so that I can just come there and record without any hassles. I’ll be trying to push out 2 videos a month in the first half of 2020 and 4 videos a month in the second half of 2020.

This wraps up my 2019 Annual Review. I’d like to close by thanking you for reading. Of course, I don’t have all the answers, nobody does. But I’m delighted to share what I’ve learned so far.

Here’s to an amazing 2020! A new decade starts.

My Annual Review Archives:

This is a complete list of Annual Reviews I have written.

Special note: Thanks to James Clear for inspiring me to start writing these Annual Review posts and hold myself accountable publicly on my reflections of each past year. I also took inspiration from David Perell and Ali Abdaal this whole year from, their creative endeavours inspired me. So I’m really grateful for their work as well.

Disclaimer – Some of the product links in this article are affiliated and you’ll be supporting me if you buy any book or product via these links. This help me get a small commission and help run this site independently.

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