2016 Annual Review

This is my annual review for the year of 2016. I reflect on what went well and what didn't, and I think about how I can improve things in the coming year.

Diner Ismail

7 minute read

Last year I wrote my first annual review, and it has been a very useful exercise and a positive experience. I want to continue that tradition, so this is my annual review for 2016 where I publicly reflect on the previous twelve months and I answer the following questions:

I’ve been inspired to do this by James Clear and Juvoni Beckford. I find it very helpful to review my successes and failures, and it’s a great way to hold myself publicly accountable.

What went well this year?

Graduated. In May I’ve finished my Computer Science degree and in October I have officially graduated. Although I still consider myself a student in the sense that I love learning, being in an educational institution is definitely not for me. I don’t like the many rules and restrictions that they have everywhere. I like my learning to be self-directed and unbounded, and to follow my own curiosity. It has overall been a great experience that has opened up many opportunities and positive relationships, but more than being proud, I’m actually relieved that it’s all done so that I can spend more time doing things that I actually enjoy.

Cambridge Programmers’ Study Group. I am now a co-organiser! I’ve gained a lot from being in this community and I have attended almost 100 meetings, so it’s only fair to give back by helping out. We have a few exciting plans for 2017 to make it even better.

Blog. I have published a few posts this year, and they were all very positively received. I’m glad I have finally managed to overcome my fears, and I feel like I have finally stepped in the arena. This is not only an exercise in writing better or an attempt to make money out of it - I don’t have any illusions about that. No, this has been an exercise in showing my work, being vulnerable, and overcoming perfectionism. It started as an experiment, but in the coming year I want to step up the game and write better and more useful content.

Worked in a startup. Between June and November I’ve worked for an e-learning startup where I learned loads about how a startup works, and it gave me a good idea about what would be required before I would venture into starting my own company. Sadly, things didn’t work out so I had to look for another job, but I appreciate the time spent working there.

New job. I have just started a new awesome job at Reckon UK, and I’m extremely excited about it. So far I’m really enjoying everything, and I feel very lucky to have found such a good opportunity and positive workplace. I was a bit down when I had to leave the startup, but in hindsight it seems like that just opened up space for something better.

New house. In June I’ve moved into a shared house with awesome house-mates, and I finally don’t have to move as often as I did during my degree.

Health and fitness. I feel healthier and stronger, as I have maintained a relatively good diet and weightlifting routine. I have also started practicing Savate (french kickboxing) and switched gyms so that I can use a functional fitness area and attend different fitness classes.

Fun and relationships. Besides being the year with the most accomplishments, 2016 has also been the most fun year I’ve ever had. I made great new friendships and strengthened existing ones, I’ve gone on awesome trips abroad and in the UK, but the best part is that I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy pleasant moments without being worried about not being productive (yes, I used to have that nagging voice in my head). Life’s not all about goals and achievements, and constantly chasing after something. I’m glad that I’ve learned this early on in life, and I am successfully finding a good balance between seriousness and play.

What didn’t go so well this year?

Habits and routines. This is something that I’ve noticed in last year’s review: my morning routine is now a mess, and I have completely stopped meditating. I think it was more difficult to have a proper routine with the irregular schedule in uni, but now with a full-time job that requires me to be in the office at 9 I will have no excuse. Meditation is scientifically proven to bring numerous benefits to wellbeing and focus, so I will focus on rebuilding this habit in the coming year.

Sugar consumption. I eat too much damn sugar! I generally have a very good diet, but the amount of sugar that I consume is immense. I often jokingly talk about it with friends, but this is something that has to change.

Budgeting and saving. A few months ago when the startup I was working for ran out of money I was in a shitty situation as I realised that I have no savings at all and I can’t even survive for 1 month without getting my salary. Not only that, but I’ve also maxxed out my credit card. It’s true that I have been working full-time only since June, but I still could have saved some money for rainy days. From next month I will start saving properly and being more careful with my spending.

What am I working toward?

Job. I have a new job, so of course a main priority in 2017 will be to do well and position myself well within my team and the company. I want to do great work and take pride in my craft.

Blog. I have a lot of ideas for topics to write about, so I want to start writing more and better. My writing still sucks in many ways, so I will read a couple of books on how to write better and I’ll apply those lessons in my writing. I also want to start using more stories in my essays.

Giving talks. I have a few ideas for talks that I want to give, and I will get started this year with a few lightning talks at local developer groups and in my new company. Public speaking is something that I want to break into this coming year, and another fear of mine that I want to overcome.

Diet and fitness. In last year’s review I wrote about the fact that I want to eat less meat. Unfortunately, this has hardly changed and I still eat loads of it, and I only learned how to cook one vegetarian meal. I think one reason it hasn’t changed is because I haven’t made any clear rules, therefore…wait for it…I declare Tuesday as Meat Free Tuesday! This will force me to adapt and learn how to cook more vegetarian meals. The same rule applies as for No Sugar Thursdays- so if you see me eating meat on a Tuesday, just remind me and I’ll have to give you £20.

I also want to experiment more with intermittent fasting, as well as to try out gymnastic strength training in order to improve my flexibility - because I can barely kick at head-level in Savate.

I know 2016 has been a shitty year for the world, but for me personally it’s been an incredible year full of positive things. I’m very grateful to have met so many amazing people and I consider myself very lucky. As Arnie said, which I also echo here: I am not a self-made man. I got a lot of help.

Like last year, I will leave you with another new year wish from Neil Gaiman:

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

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