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Annual Review 2020

Illustration by Faridah Faiz

What a year. Here's a quick recap of 2020, which happened to be one of the most transformative years of my life (and certainly for the world!).

I'm using James Clear's annual review template but there are other templates you can follow if you're interested in doing your own annual review.

1. What went well this year?

Professional development. I passed all my ACA exams, completed my training contract and submitted my training file to ICAEW. I'm done! I'm finally done!

Accurate depiction of how I felt on results day:

15 papers, 5 retakes, 210 focused study hours in 2020 alone. I seriously contemplated quitting the ACA altogether in April 2019 after a string of failures (more on that later), but I'm glad that I didn't.

Don't quit. Recalibrate.

Ultimately, if I hadn't failed, I wouldn't have worked as hard as I did to overhaul my study technique and my environment. I discovered active recall and spaced repetition and started building review systems on Anki and Google Sheets. Adam introduced me to Notion and helped me build this beautifully elaborate set-up to replace my Google Sheets system.

I sourced tuition providers that had online classes (before online learning became the norm for all tuition providers in 2020) so I had the freedom to study at home instead of spending 2 hours to drive back and forth from my original tuition provider. I made sure that everyone understood that finishing these papers was the single most important thing in my life right now and made adjustments where necessary, be it at home or at work. I learned how to manage my anxiety better - prayer and writing down my worries before each exam did wonders.

It was all worth it in the end.

Writing. I published this website and started accepting commissions to write articles for clients. The transition from auditor to freelance writer, albeit temporarily, has been an interesting one. It's nice to write something other than audit working papers for a change. Here's to more articles in 2021.

Deep work. I've been tracking all my deep work hours on Forest since 2019 (basically since I read Deep Work by Cal Newport).

  • 2020 : 420 hours 35 minutes

  • 2019 : 54 hours 52 minutes

Moving back to the UK. Not a personal achievement but definitely something that went well in 2020. Adam received a scholarship to pursue his masters in Cambridge!

20/20 vision. Again, laser eye surgery is not technically a 'personal achievement' but it was one of those things that I was glad to have finally bit the bullet and went through with. I had amblyopia or 'lazy eye' as a child, so I wore glasses for almost 20 years. Being able to see with my own two eyes is such a blessing. It's definitely a risky procedure but I went to two different doctors and passed all their various tests, and I opted for ReLEx SMILE over LASIK.

2. What didn't go so well this year?

Goal tracking. A bit of a meta failure here but I didn't do very well in tracking my progress for the original goals I set at the start of 2020. So, I can't offer stats on how well I did, target vs actual, etc. It also doesn't help that I wrote all the goals down in a bullet journal and left said bullet journal back in Malaysia. Only keeping digital notes from now on.

Consumption to creation ratio. I'm definitely a net consumer than a net creator at this point in time. At some point you just need to stop scrolling Instagram or Youtube or Twitter, or even reading books and joining online courses, and ask yourself, "Why am I spending my time consuming other people's content when I could be spending time making my own?".

Fitness. As with many fitness goals, I started off strong in January and then it came to a grinding halt when we went into lockdown in March. After experimenting for a few years, I definitely know that I prefer weight training and daily walks over any other form of exercise - I was the strongest and leanest I've ever been in 2018. I also experimented with Beeminder earlier this year, which actually helped me stay consistent for a bit until I disabled it. But, still, failed goal because my systems weren't robust enough to keep me consistent. Something to improve on in 2021.

Routine. Completely went out the window this year, but then again it's been a strange year for everyone. Routine disrupted during lockdown, then just as we got into the groove of working from home, Adam and I packed up and moved back to the UK. Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't trade the opportunity to live in Cambridge for the world - but there's truly nothing more stressful than moving homes. Relocating also meant that I had to leave my previous job; I underestimated the emotional and mental stability that a 9 to 5 job (or in the case of audit, 9 to 9) brings. However, some good things have come out of this disruption in routine, which I'll discuss more about below.

3. What am I working towards?

Learning goals. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get through the whole list in 2021 but I want to get to a point where I know these things well enough to apply it in a work setting: - Python, Tableau, SQL, Azure ML, Procreate

Writing goals. I know I've already written about it in The Big Goal but I've set myself the audacious target of writing a book. At this point in time, I don't even know what I'm going to write about (too many ideas bouncing around) but I'm hoping that peer pressure will help me get started. If not now, when?

Health goals. Consistency is key here - I'm not sure if I can get over my own personal virus-phobia to head to the gym yet in 2021 but I'm going to revive my Beeminder and build an exercise habit again. The only goal for 2021 is to stick to the Two Day Rule.

Create more than I consume. You'll be seeing more posts on this site in 2021.

This sabbatical (and frankly 2020 as whole) has given me the gift of time to self-reflect, think more deeply about where I want to be in the next 10 years, read more, and learn about things that I wouldn't have otherwise had time to learn. It's been a fantastic year for personal growth.


Overall, 2020 marks the end of an era in my personal and professional life. Looking forward to sharing more insights with you all in 2021! Stay safe and happy new year.

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