I normally start blogs with something that grabs the reader’s interest. But I don’t think this needs that kind of a start. Why? Because this is not a normal blog post and not a normal topic. I am gonna be talking about the craziest ride ever, the year 2020. God! what a year. So many things have happened this year that I can’t even remember everything. But I will try. Because looking back is as important as marching straight ahead. I have a habit of doing a yearly review of my goals towards the end of a year. But I did that done in a corner of my diary until 2019.
But like I said, 2020 is a crazy year and am taking that further ahead and publishing my yearly review here. So without further ado, let’s jump right in and see how the year went by.
The Goal Setting For 2020
The year started off really well. I took a short break towards the end of 2019 and spent a good amount of time in setting the goals for 2020. One of the biggest changes in my goal setting this year has been the adoption of OKR. Inspired by my indirect mentor Manas, I adopted the OKR framework of goal setting and that changed the game significantly.
Until 2020, I used to set goals for the entire year. And one year is such a long period of time, very often I lost track of the goal and gave up after a few months.
That’s precisely what OKRs changed for me. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. So along with setting a goal (objective) you also define Key results. These key results are time-bound and specific. So you’re always measuring progress against the key-result. That is important because unless you measure, you don’t know the progress you’re making. And once you get a feel of progress, it motivates you to keep doing more and more. You can check the example below for my goal of blogging.
Another biggest advantage of OKR system for me was the ease of planning. Soon after I planned the larger objectives and the key results, I assigned a timeline to each key result. After assigning the timeline, I broke the key result down further into smaller tasks. The goal was to do to something every day to be on track to reach the key result at the end of the given timeline.
Tracking Daily Progress
To visualize my progress on a day-to-day basis, I adopted a system called Daily Squares. The concept is inspired by Bujo Journals. They look something like this.
Each square represents a day. The number on the top left represents the day in my life, the right top is the place where I was. The date is on the left-hand side and the numbers at the bottom represent the sleep timings. And each symbol in the square represents a task that I was expected to do. This task is derived from the key-result.
This was such an effective method to focus on what’s important. It was so effective that the moment I stopped doing it after August, my productivity levels dropped like crazy.
The key results also helped me plan my weekends well. At the peak of 2019, I spent almost 11 out of 16 weekends after August on Traveling. Even during the weekends, I stayed home, I couldn’t accomplish much as I was tired. I love travelling, that’s a given but I love balance in life even more. So I planned my weekends ahead of time (indicatively) after setting the key results. And I figured I could travel once every month and achieve my goals as well. Now that’s what I call a balanced approach to life. And I was excited to start the year.
Where Do I Stand Today!
So, now that the background is established, let’s jump right into the goals and see what I accomplished.
I am a Program Manager by profession. So obviously I was good at planning if I had predictable data about a certain activity. But I have never done, let alone attempted these goals in my life, so how will I plan?
That was my first roadblock. But I had to move forward no matter what. After establishing the key results and daily squares, I told myself, that I’d get enough data to make a call later.
So I moved ahead with all the goals I mentioned above. I dropped the goal of pursuing full-time travel blogging, Decrease time to FIRE (Financial Independence and Retire Early), become a better graphic designer after a couple of months. I didn’t have time. And once COVID-19 entered the country, I kissed a goodbye to travel as well.
That left Blogging, Personal Finance, becoming a healthier version, Book reading and personal investment strategy in my goals.
Blogging Goal- CY 2020
As promised in 2019, I wanted to grow Trails Of Inju significantly this year. Initially, I focused only on SEO as I thought it would be enough when I set the goals. But over time, I realized that social media is also a significant traffic driver. Moreover, SEO is a long term game. But I knew nothing about social media marketing. That’s when I started reading books on psychology and digital marketing. Looking back, I pat myself on the back for not being rigid with SEO strategy.
As of today, I have created a social media marketing strategy. I even figured out the tools that will help me reduce a lot of manual activity out of this. Am really excited to try this system in CY 2021.
In 2020, I grew the blog from 0-200 monthly visitors. All the focus on SEO started paying off really well towards the end of this year. I created a newsletter and it continues to grow even as I stopped publishing newsletters for many weeks now.
I’ve realized the blogging goal cannot be a standalone one. It needs to be part of a larger content marketing strategy which in turn is linked to a larger business goal, say growing newsletter or increasing traffic/revenue. Moreover with an increasing focus on video content, as a content creator, I need to adapt to the changing preferences.
As a result, a big focus in 2021 would be to produce a variety of content based on the blogs I’ve written in 2020. Video content, Audio content, Images, Reels and whatnot, it’s gonna be one hell of a ride and I can’t wait to start 2021.
Developing A Personal Finance Management Framework
Am really glad that my four year research has finally come together very well. In addition to the experiments I did over the last three years, I ready specific books on investing this year. As a result, I can say that I have a solid framework in place to manage my finances well.
I am gonna be writing about the details of this framework in the coming few weeks. I sorted out insurance policies. My emergency fund build-up is in progress and long term investments are automated. A goal-based short term investment planning is in progress. So all in all, 2020 has set a strong base due to accelerated learning backed by intense reading. What remains to be seen is my discipline in continuing this.
A quick summary of my takeaways in this journey.
- increase your income.
- Save early save first and save well.
- Invest early and invest in the right instruments. Right instruments are based on your goals.
- Get your emergency fund sorted
- Get your term and health insurance sorted
- Invest the rest in a goal-based investment strategy.
- Spend below your means and don’t give into advertisement-led consumption.
Another big learning has been the realization that money is a means to an end. Money as such doesn’t have a value of its own. It is as valuable as the activity you use it for. So if you know of an opportunity that can help you grow yourself by leaps and bounds, then invest your money in that opportunity. Because you’re your biggest asset and you should prioritize your growth as well. That brings me to the next goal.
Taking Care Of Self
While the other activities helped me fine-tune my skills, this goal helped me take care of myself. By actively tracking my exercise regime and what I ate, I felt active every single day. There have been days where I worked late into the night. But I felt as energized when I woke up in the morning.
Unfortunately, laziness took over once I moved back to Hyderabad. But the system I created worked for the most part of 2020 and I hope to resume it and continue in 2021.
I have no idea how many varieties of dishes I cooked in the name of healthier food. And I ever created a short-lived venture called Inju’s Kitchen which was abandoned when I moved back to Hyderabad.
I targeted a 4 times per week workout routine but for 7 months, I did it for at least 6 days a week. The frequency reduced once I moved back to Hyderabad which I intend to correct if I stay here any longer. But the last three months have been worse and I even put on some weight. Hoping to convert this to good old days in the coming days, months and years.
I tracked my sleep patterns just for the heck of it but realized that the earlier you sleep the earlier you wake up. But my most productive time has been posting 10 so many days I slept around 12 and woke up at 7 or 7:30 PM, which is what I was targeting anyway.
Importance Of Distractions
The significance of the workout and cooking is that they take you off your regular work stuff. It’s a refreshing activity where you’re not thinking about work or other goals you want to work on. It used to be my weekend travel escapades before COVID-19. But throughout the lockdown, these activities acted as substitutes, providing me for that much-needed distraction.
That’s partly the reason why I haven’t been working out at home because my mom takes care of the cooking. Because of a lack of reason to get up from work, I continue to work and didn’t make time for workouts either.
So reminder to self to resume focus on workouts and cooking once I move back to Bangalore.
Reading 30 Books
As On date, I read only 24 Books. So I haven’t read as much as I planned to. While the reasons are plenty, I have to remind myself that this is the highest ever in all of my life. I used to tell myself that I loved reading but I never crossed 12-13 books a year.
But doubling that number wouldn’t have been possible without the system I created above. I just implemented whatever strategies James Clear suggested in Atomic Habits and it worked wonders for me.
The Focus Based Approach To Reading
Secondly, until this year I used to select books at random. But this year I figured that it wasn’t the right way of reading books.
Not all books are useful at all points in life. A book should help you solve a problem you’re facing at that moment.
So, with that quoted embedded deep in my mind, I chose books that supported the goals. For example, I read books on marketing when I was implementing SEO and social media marketing strategies. I read books on investing while I was trying to develop my personal finance strategy. Surprisingly, I picked up Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog and it leads to the creation of my new venture, Green Ribbon.
So a focused approach to picking the books that complement the goals is a brilliant way to inculcate a reading habit and endure it over months and years. I am definitely carrying this strategy forward.
So overall, it was an amazing year even though I couldn’t travel much but I got to explore many crazy things. I am stoked and bullish about 2021. And I already have a feeling that it would be an amazing year.
How was your 2020? Would you like to implement the OKR framework in your life? Drop a comment below and I would love to help you out.
That’s all for today folks. Thank you for sticking through to the end.
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