2020 in Review

Well, obviously that didn't go as expected! This post is going to focus on the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year and how I went with them. There's plenty that happened in 2020 that I'm not going to cover but the two main themes were "baby" and "pandemic" 🤷‍♂️.

A new approach to goals

I really don't recall what inspired the approach to goals I took in 2020 - in hindsight I should have recorded my thoughts on the matter - but it essentially breaks down like this:

  • A focus area (e.g. guitar, swedish)
  • A final outcome. This is my end goal with the focus areas. For example for Swedish the outcome I'd wanted was "to be at a point where I can express myself clearly in Swedish and learn without resorting to another language".
  • 2020 milestones. These were specific things I wanted to achieve in the focus area in 2020. For guitar my aim was "to be able to play and sing 6 songs from memory, with at least 3 of songs being of intermediate difficulty."
  • Next steps. These were individual, short-term tasks/goals to reach the 2020 milestones. My intention was that they would be very achievable - as an example for my Fitness focus area my first task was to "go for a run". Achieving one task would then require the creation of a new task that would get me closer to the associated milestone, e.g. "go for a run 3 times in 1 week".

For the milestones and next steps I tried my best to follow the SMART criteria for goal setting. Some focus areas had no final outcome as they were something I'd like to be a lifelong process (e.g. getting better at guitar). I also had one focus area - Improve the World - that had no 2020 milestone, as I was uncertain of what path it would take and how I might measure it.

Outcomes

I'd say I had mixed success with this system. I don't think I reached my milestones for any of the focus areas, and yet for some I did find myself making regular progress. I'm going to stick with the system in 2021 I think.

Let's delve a bit more into how each focus area and how I'd like to continue with it in 2021:

Guitar

This is the one I'd say I had the most progress with, at least for the first half of the year. My milestone was "to be able to play and sing 6 songs from memory, with at least 3 of songs being of intermediate difficulty." I'm not quite there, but I'm not far off I'd say. Two things made this pretty easy to progress with. First was having very clear and linear next steps, i.e. "Learn to play song X without reading a tab". The second was having a young daughter who really enjoyed sitting and listening to guitar. The latter, however, started to backfire once she started moving and wanted to hold both the guitar and phone I was using to learn the songs with!

In 2021 I'm going to change my focus here to be less on rote memorisation and more about learning the fundamentals of guitar/music theory - concepts like chord progressions, keys, etc. My initial milestone will be to finish the Intermediate level of Justin Sandercoe's guitar lessons. I say initial as I'm a little uncertain what I may already know so it's hard to gauge the time I'll need to put in.

Electronic Music

My milestone was to "release an EP or something equivalent of music that I'm proud of and would listen to if made by another artist". I utterly failed at this, not even completing a single "next step". I'd like to keep the same milestone for 2021, but I'll need to work on how I can create smaller goals for myself to help me get there.

Electronics

I had three goals here:

  • Be regularly building things
  • Work on a larger project
  • Build something of my own design

I'd say I've kind of accomplished the latter two, but it's more of a coincidence as a recently got interested in Cyberdecks and have started constructing my own. My initial intention for this though was to focus on creating musical instruments with electronics, and I haven't done a lot with that. I'm a little uncertain if I want to actually keep this as a focus area for 2021. I'm going to leave it as a maybe for now.

Swedish

My milestones here were "to be able to speak Swedish for daily errands like ordering food, etc." and "to be able to read a magazine article or short story with reasonable comprehension without using a dictionary". The first one I'm kind of there, though there's not a lot of outside communication in these pandemic times, so that's more theoretical than anything. The second milestone I've definitely not reached though. I don't think I'll change much here for 2021, though I need to think more about how I can be more consistent in striving for this one.

Fitness

My milestone was "run 365km in 2020". I didn't come anywhere close to this 😅. I'm not good at motivating myself to do exercise, however one thing I discovered in 2020 that I found worked better was Ring Fit Adventure. So for 2021 I'm going to structure my fitness goals around that!

Improve the world

As mentioned previously I didn't have a milestone for this one as I wasn't really sure where I wanted this to go. Instead I had one next action which was to attend meetups in Stockholm in the hope of gaining inspiration for how I could use my skills to do something better for the world. The pandemic threw a spanner in the works on that one. The other main action I took in this direction was to donate more to charities.

I think this focus suffered the most from not having clearly defined goals, so that's something I'd like to change for 2021. I still don't think I'm going to box myself in by defining a milestone here, but I'll aim to make the next steps as actionable as possible.