For many of us, the end of the year brings an ideal atmosphere for introspection. I don’t know if it is superstition, the need to escape from unbearably long family dinners and dodge poking questions about our relationship status; or simply the wish to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again. At the end of 2019, I also couldn’t stop the urge to reflect and plan for the year to come.
2020 was supposed to be not only the beginning of a new year but also the beginning of a new decade and the year I will turn 30. With the extra motivation, I rolled myself in a blanket, found a comfortable spot on the sofa and spent a good couple of hours crafting the perfect list of goals for 2020.
Little had I known what was about to happen.
2020 has been a hard year for many of us and a terrible year for many others. I believe it is important we acknowledge this and take the time to heal if we need to.
Personally, I try to focus on the learnings and the positives from this complicated year as a way to cope with it.
My list of 2020 goals could be divided in 4 areas of focus.
The goals were:
- Blog writing. I always wanted to share knowledge through blogs but never dared to do so. I wanted 2020 to be the year where I would overcome my impostor syndrome, step up and just do it. I set a goal of at least 6 blog posts by the end of the year ❔
- Learn Go. At the beginning of 2020, my team moved to a project where I needed to use Go for backend development. In order to prepare for that, I aimed to complete Advent of Code in Go by the end of Q1 2020 ✅
- Learn Game Development. I have been working for a video game developer company for a few years now, but I have learnt little about what game development is about. I believe it is important I understand the differences between what I do regularly and what game development is so I can collaborate with game teams more effectively. To do so, I aimed to complete the Multiplayer Game Development Mini-Degree in Zenva by the end of the year ❌
Although I didn’t meet the goal of 6 posts, since the goal was to start blog writing, I am happy I was able to take time to write publish my first blog post on mob programming and the post that you are reading now.
When it comes to Go, I managed to learn enough to do what I needed to do at work, hence why I consider this goal met. However, I didn’t get enough time to finish Advent of Code in Go. I uploaded my progress to GitHub in case you are curious to see how far I got.
Unfortunately, this year was quite busy at work with many tight deadlines. So I couldn’t find the time and energy to commit to explore game development.
The previous year, I focused too much on doing great at work and I struggled to disconnect from it. Over time, this affected my sleep, which initiated a butterfly effect. With bad sleep, my energy levels plummeted, which influenced my mood and impacted the people around me. Something had to change, otherwise I was going to end up burning out.
The goals were:
- Sleep more. At a minimum, go to bed before 11 PM at least 3 times per week ❔
- Exercise more. Go to the gym at least 3 times per week ❌
- Maintain reading habit. Reading is one activity that helps me disconnect and relax. In 2019, I aimed to read one book per month and ended up reading about 30. This was something I enjoyed a lot and wanted to continue doing in 2020. For 2020, my goal was also 1 book per month ❌
- Watch series & movies. Similarly, this is another activity that helps me disconnect and I wanted to make time for it. At a minimum, I aimed for one movie night per week ✅
- Play more games. Towards the second half of 2019, I stopped playing the games we develop in house and explored titles developed by other companies. Playing games is another activity that helps me disconnect, and I had an entire console generation to catch up with. For 2020, my goal was to play at least 3 games developed by other studios ✅
Although the quality of the sleep improved, the number of hours was sometimes not enough. This year, it had more to do with the fact that we have been working with teams across multiple time zones (China and US West coast) which meant we had to start work early and finish late.
With the series of lockdowns, tight deadlines we had to face at work and everything that was going on around the world, I didn’t have enough mental energy to exercise or read.
To keep myself sane, I over-indexed in the other two activities which kept me going throughout the year.
If you are curious, I ended up spending a lot of hours in: The Witcher 3, Dragon Ball Kakarot, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, AC Origins, AC Odyssey and AC Valhalla.
If 2020 has taught us anything it was the importance to spend time with our loved ones. Fortunately, this was something that I already wanted to change before the year started.
The goals were:
- Travel to India in October. To meet my partner’s family and spend at least one week there ❌
- Travel to my hometown in August and spend at least two weeks there ❌
- Move in with my partner by July ✅
- Spend the end of 2020 also in my hometown. To celebrate my 30th birthday with my friends there ❌
- Travel to Lyon to visit friends ❌
- Travel to Munich to visit another friend ❌
As you can imagine, I couldn’t meet any of the goals that required traveling. Although flights were still operating, I cancelled all my travel plans as they were non essential.
With that said, I managed to move in with my partner before the lockdowns started. My previous apartment was close to a busy road, which didn’t help with my sleeping problems. So I pushed that goal a bit forward and we ended up moving together in by the end of March.
My master plan was to move in with my partner in 2020 and, if that went well, start searching for a house to buy together. In order to save for that deposit, there were certain things of my careless spending habits that I had to bring back in line.
The goals were:
- Reduce book purchases. In 2019, I bought 22 books for a total of €257. Unfortunately, I only managed to read 13 of those books since I had plenty more in my library that were waiting for me to pick up. For 2020, I wanted to save some money by cutting book purchases down to less than 10. ✅
- Reduce takeaway orders. After living alone for many years, I had become a bit lazy when it comes to cooking and relied on Deliveroo more than I should have. Over the year, I made 14 orders and spent about €400 on it. This was another opportunity for me to save some money in 2020 and reduce the number of orders to one per month at most. ✅
- Maximize company allowance. My company has many perks I wasn’t fully leveraging in previous years (travel, game, sports, etc). This year I wanted to make sure I maximized them as much as I could. ✅
When it comes to books, I only bought 7 books in 2020 but they were also a bit more expensive, so ended up saving only about €100 there.
Deliveroo was a bit of a different story. The number of orders was also 14 this year, but some of them came from company allowance. The total was €100 over the previous year, but it was shared between two people, since I am now living with my partner. Overall, I think we did better than the previous year considering that we had to cook a lot more in 2020 because of the move to WFH.
Overall, I saved for the new house’s deposit and also realized that the impact of these spending habits to my overall saving power is not that great as I initially thought.
Apart from the goals I laid out at the beginning of the year, I have accomplished other things that I wasn’t initially planning for:
- I got promoted to Senior Software Engineer 🥳
- We made an offer to buy a house that was accepted and we are in the process of purchasing it 🥳
- Contributed to the launch of 3 games 3️⃣✖️🎮
- Led an initiative to upgrade my team’s on-call process, including product triage, reduce mis-escalations and onboarding process 🚨
2020 has been a hectic year and not much is going to change until the vaccine has been rolled out across the globe.
With only 7.7 out of 17 (or 12 if we exclude the travel-related goals) met, you might think that I have missed a lot of the goals I signed up for, and you are right.
However, I strongly believe is important to celebrate our small victories, especially when they take place under less than ideal circumstances.
As someone once said:
Life is a marathon, not a sprint …
Every improvement we can make, regardless of how small, it is still a step forward in the right direction.
I hope you enjoyed my 2020 goals story. I’m also planning to share what my 2021 goals will be in a follow up post where I will explain in detail the process I follow to come up with them.
Keep tuned and stay safe!