As a new year passes, I take some time to reflect on 2017, similarly as how I did in 2016. Spending some time to look back and notice how my life has changed over the course of the year helps to put everything in perspective.
2016 was primarily a year of change for me. A new job and moving to a new city.
2017 feels similarly. A year with some endings and some new beginnings. Without further ado, let's dive in.
When I look at my professional impact, it's a year which hasn't met my expectations. I feel that my impact was subpar looking back at the time I've spent on some projects in the past year.
The upside of this experience is that it made me realise that I should question the environment I work in more often and shouldn't be more afraid to take more bolder decisions.
Furthermore, when you feel that you're not reaching your full potential because of circumstances beyond your control, it's a good moment to self-reflect.
When it comes to my own business in general, I had more successes. I've built a strong partnership with Turtle which in my eyes, is the future of software & product development. Furthermore, I kept working primarily with clients in the United States which seems to be more hands-on in comparison to local projects.
In 2018 I'll be starting at Duval Union Consulting as a management consultant, which is a new challenge for me. I haven't done this type of consulting in the past, I'm excited to learn a trick or two and help companies with their digital transformation.
Financially, 2017 was my best year to date. I'm especially proud of seeing the results of my own company improve by 9%, despite spending less time working. As I'm interested in financial independence, it's superb to see these numbers improve year by year.
I retained a high savings & investment rate. All by all, I managed to funnel about 17% of my total net-income to non-secure investments, which is exactly the same as 2016. Similarly, I did improve my cash buffer for none-foreseen expenses.
My stock portfolio had a yield of 15%. To compare this to the BEL20: 8% and the S&P500: 20%. As I invested more in European stocks over the year, I'm pleased with the final result.
My total yield since I started investing is currently at about 28%, which is a significant number.
2016 was a shitty year health-wise, I'm really happy that 2017 was about as flawless as it can be. I didn't get sick, I got much more exercise than the year before and in general I felt healthier.
Part of this is by using the car much less and walking around. To give an indication:
2015: Average of 5521 steps per day
2016: Average of 7684 steps per day
2017: Average of 7942 steps per day
Sleep on the other hand remains problematic (well, I've written most of this post at 3am, which seems to be a more productive hour of mine).
2016: On average of 6:00 hours of sleep per night, with a sleep quality of 60%
2017: On average of 6:20 hours of sleep per night, with a sleep quality of 65%
(Compare this to the Belgium average, which is 7:27 and 76%)
It's also the first year I've tracked my wellbeing using Moodscope. With few lows, quite a few highs and an average well-being percentage of 72%, it was a good year mentally.
If you are a bit sceptical of how you can translate your wellbeing to a percentage, check out how it works on their website. There's actually quite some research behind it.
The biggest news here is that I started to learn how to play the piano. It's something I've always wanted to do and I finally made the move to get myself a piano, find a teacher and just do it.
It's been a very rewarding experience, albeit difficult (I didn't expect otherwise).
In comparison to last year, I read much less and much more fragmented. All by all, I finished two books, but started reading a whole number of them. I like this aspect though, just picking up something and finding the interesting bits and pieces. There shouldn't be any pressure to finish a book.
One of the highlights of the year was traveling to Zürich to visit the Product Management Festival. I learnt so much about building the right product. Beyond the quality of the conference, which was superb, I was extremely intrigued by the quality of life in Switzerland. I think I've never experienced a country where quality of life is deemed so important.
Past year was exceptional on this level. I feel as I've gained a great amount of close friends and we've been seeing each other consistently. For the first time in my life, I feel as I have a strong social circle surrounding me and that I'm taking proper time to maintain those relationships.
As making great friends is much, much more difficult once you start working, this is definitely aspect I'm most grateful for in 2017.
These are always the most confrontational numbers. How much time did I spend online, and how where those hours spent?
For the first time I've spent much less time behind a computer screen.
2015: 2825 hours - 51% time spent productively
2016: 3035 hours - 64% time spent productively
2017: 2090 hours - 67% time spent productively
I'm really, really proud of the numbers above. Less time, more qualitative time. It also clearly indicates I spent much less time working as usual. Here are some of the more interesting data:
2015: 192 hours
2016: 178 hours
2017: 162 hours
2015: 96 hours Photoshop, 78 hours Sketch
2016: 199 hours Sketch, 63 hours Photoshop
2017: 111 hours Sketch
2015: 193 hours Reddit, 122 hours Facebook
2016: 111 hours Reddit, 102 hours Facebook
2017: 55 hours Reddit, 133 hours Facebook (side-note: 29 hours of Netflix, that's not as bad as I thought it would be)
Of course, I did travel and tried a few new things here and there. In 2017 I visited Milan, Barcelona, Düsseldorf, Utrecht, Paris and Zürich.
Milan was the first of the year and was a solo trip. You can read more about that experience here. Emotionally, the most intense trip was Paris, despite it just lasting two days. It was two days of walking around the city, drinking a lot of coffee and writing a lot.
There was also this time I went Urbexing for the first time, which was really, really cool.
Utrecht was the other highlight. It was an exceptional trip, primarily because of two exceptional friends I could spend time with - that honestly makes a trip much more gratifying. The city felt like a hipster kingdom. Highlight of the trip was an exceptional whisky tasting, talking the night away about life.
I tremendously enjoyed my trip to Barcelona as well. It was with a bunch of friends and it felt so carefree. Exploring the city and partying the night away isn't something I would do every often, but at that time, at that place, it felt more than right. I really enjoyed the spontaneity of it all.
Culinary, it was an exceptional year. I've went to Hof van Cleve (best restaurant in Belgium), The Jane (my personal favourite). Altermezzo and to Aan Tafel Bij Luc Bellings (before it closed permanently). It was an exceptional experience to dine at these places and it's one of my guilty pleasures in life.
Musically, I've also witnessed some cool concerts. The highlight was definitely The XX live at Pukkelpop. Tamino at Ancienne Belgique before he was the Belgian breakthrough this summer on the festivals was a very intimate experience. Finally, seeing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Orchestra was reliving my childhood.
What's in store for next year? In general, I'm pleased with the outcome of 2017. I did feel as I did improve quite a bit in a few areas and in general my quality of life has improved.
In 2017, the year was all focused on being contented. By being satisfied with how things are. Not only did that mindset improve (!) my life significantly, I've also accomplished more than I thought I would.
If there's one area I would like to focus on over the next 365 days, it's to become better playing the piano. The amount of challenge and joy it brings is something I haven't experienced in a long while. Simultaneously, I'll continue hammering away at my own business. 2018 will mark the fifth year of my company and that's to be celebrated.
Furthermore, I think being more stoic in comparison to last year would be a great goal.
Here's to making 2018 a healthy year, full of great experiences, surrounded by the people whom I love.