Recap 2020

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I’ve written this recap during several stages of the year, each time reflecting on the current state of affairs and trying to include the most important lessons I’ve learned. Enjoy!

You can find my goals for 2020 here.

Recap as of 19.03.2020

This far, I’ve used quite some Pomodoros for my studying, but I’ve noticed that for some tasks – like proving difficult results in Graph Theory – 25 minutes is just too short, so I’ve started using Pomodoros of a length of 50 minutes instead. I’ve also tried to do the essential stuff first. Overall, I’ve been quite productive and focused, but I’d like to improve on that even more.

My analog and free Sundays are great! I really enjoy them a lot, but sadly they didn’t survive long during the stressful phases of learning for university…

The traveling is working out okay, sadly we didn’t even plan going to Nepal, which actually turned out to be just the right decision, as any journey would have been rendered impossible by the whole COVID-19 situation. Luckily, I’ve been to London for a week and I’ve also had two trips to cabins planned, however with the current situation I guess they won’t happen soon.

The startup is coming along great, we’ve been accepted to the Black Forest Accelerator 2020, where we get a lot of support and tips in workshops. Also the meetings with local authorities are turning out to be quite productive and inspiring. We’re motivated!

I’ve started collecting more basic recipes for my goal of cooking more basic stuff. I still enjoy cooking fancy dishes, but I’ll need to collect and try more simple recipes. It’s a bit of work to test out all these new recipes, but I guess the effort will pay off when I have my collection of fast and easy recipes.

As part of the Black Forest Accelerator we had to do some pitches, but other than that I couldn’t really improve my presentation skills this year yet. I’ve also tried to be more open to strangers and got awesome reactions, but I’d like a more strategic approach for this goal…

Over the past few weeks I sadly didn’t have much time for playing the guitar, but I did do my daily Spanish lessons. I also finished the first Spanish course at my university and plan on doing another one next semester.

I didn’t paint with oil colors this year yet, but I’ve got them at home and I’m planning to do so in the next few weeks.

Currently I’m finishing my 17th book, so I’m well ahead of schedule for reading 52 this year! I noticed that I should make better decisions on what book to read next though.

The writing is something I’m really enjoying, but sometimes I need to motivate myself to follow through. However, because it was recommended by both Derek Sivers and Jordan Peterson, I started journaling for clearer thinking and can already see some of its benefits.

I also started collecting my favorite parts of popular stoic texts, which I plan to release, either as pdf or by some sort of direct publishing, or both.

All in all I’m quite satisfied with the progress I’ve made this far, but I’ll have to up my game regarding some goals, especially the free and analog Sundays have to be reestablished and I should also plan a longer trip for this year. I have to try out more simple recipes, practice presenting a bit more often and also make a plan on how to be more open with strangers. Playing the guitar and using my paintbrushes more often wouldn’t hurt either. Also, I should write more on this blog.

This is only a first recap and there are more to follow over the course of the year.

Recap as of 23.06.2020

Here we are again, the first half of the year is over. How have I been doing this far?

I’ve really put a lot of effort into being efficient at the beginning of the year, only to work myself straight into a minor burnout. Maybe I’ve simply done too much; for my studies, for work and in my spare time as well. But maybe (and boy, do I hope so), I just had the wrong approach.
I tried to solve the issue of not having enough time with discipline, crazy routines and forcing myself into getting more done in less time. Until some day I noticed I didn’t really enjoy anything I was doing anymore. I was simply doing all these things in order to have done them and finally moving on to the next task on my list in a hurry. And remember, those weren’t all just things I did for university or work, this was my free time as well! Playing the guitar, reading, learning Spanish and painting all became chores! Finally, I think I’ve really understood the difference between efficiency and effectivity. So no more pomodoros, no more waking up at 5 AM (at least for now), but instead more thinking about priorities before starting to work and balancing my days better.
I think this alone was a great insight and an important pivot I’ve done this year.

I’ve reestablished and really enjoyed my analog Sundays and I’ve also implemented a tactic I (and others) call foyer phone, which I’m going to write a small post about soon. In addition, I’ve finally deleted YouTube and any other social media from my phone and that also helped tremendously with redesigning my spare time.

Sadly, no good news on the traveling part as COVID-19 is still around… But maybe I can go to a nearby cabin with some friends soon. We actually wanted to spend some cozy days there before, filled with reading, cooking together on an open fire, playing the guitar together and just having fun. But this was before COVID, the booking was already completed, but then we had to cancel it… Now it looks like we might start another try soon.

The startup is doing some heavy turns, but it’s getting along quite nicely. We’re all learning so many new things, some of them domain-specific, but mostly meta-stuff; communication (in the team as well as outwards), presenting and so on… This also helps with my goal of being more open with strangers, practicing presenting, discussing and so on. It’s a great experience this far – equally fun and valuable – and I’m excited to see what’s yet to come!

I haven’t really started cooking as many basic recipes as I’d like to, but today I made some delicious cake and tomorrow I’m going to cook up some burritos. I’ve never tried making them before, but I’m really looking forward to it!

I’m also trying out stuff which was not initially on my list, like some basic gardening. Some days ago I ordered seeds for the goji berry to plant, but now I have to stratify them for 30 days first. I hope I’ll be able to harvest some berries in two to three years.

I’m playing a lot of guitar lately, I’ve learned some really fun pieces! A few days ago I’ve learned multiple (simultaneous) parts of one song, so I booted up Audacity on my laptop, recorded the rythm first and then played the solo on top of that.

So now I can finally present my progress after about 6 months of playing:

Check out the solo starting at around 2:35! B)

It is a lot of fun to jam to a rythm as opposed to just the empty void. I should probably hit up some friends to play together in the future!

The Spanish course in university is coming along fine, but I think the real progress is made with Duolingo. I’m excited when I listen to Spanish music or hear people talking in Spanish now. It’s still pretty fast, but I can already understand a good part.

Since my last update here, I’ve actually managed to paint two oil paintings! They were both made as gifts and I know they’re far from perfect (on the one I forgot to paint the shadows, the other one turned out to be very dark), but I think they’re really beautiful nonetheless. Especially considering that they are my second and third oil painting ever. Take a look:

painting one
painting one
painting two
painting two

I’ve also just finished reading my 23th book for this year, so I’m a few behind, but I think I can still pull off 52 until the end of this year.

I think the writing is doing okay, I write a post on here from time to time, but I haven’t really made any progress on the other writing projects… The year is still long, isn’t it? I’ve also been journaling daily, it’s helping so much with reflection, I’m glad I’ve started this habit.

So while I’m still struggling with some obstacles, I think most of my goals are perfectly on the way to be completed this year.

Final recap as of 11.01.2021

So that was 2020. Quite a ride.
I think now is the appropriate time for actually reviewing my goals one by one instead of just doing a random recap like before. Let’s start!

Focus better on your work

So after kind of crashing this goal in the first half of the year, I think I managed to find a way to be productive nonetheless. I’m still stressed out from time to time, when there’s a lot on my plate, but in general, my tasks are fun and exciting.

I’ve noticed that it’s so much easier to focus on work and not procrastinate when the pressure is real. This kind of led me to finding even more things to put on my todo list, which helped with the procrastination, but made things a lot more stressful. I’ll have to see if I can manage this in the long term, or if there’s a better solution still.

One thing I’m including in my goals for this year, that’s related to this past goal, is that I’ll try to schedule a lot of Deep Work.

Don’t work on Sundays and keep them analog

While I mostly managed to keep my Sundays free from work and digital devices in the middle of the year, this got increasingly harder over time, as more and more things to coordinate regarding the startup came up.

Currently, I’m more often than not working seven days a week. It’s a price I’m prepared to pay for the time being.

Do more traveling (Nepal, cabin, shorttrips, London)

Let’s be for real: Traveling and 2020 just didn’t work.

I don’t think there’s much I could’ve done differently, not even traveling to other cities inside Germany would’ve worked well. Once, I planned visiting a friend in Munich and even had the Flixbus tickets printed already, but then another lockdown came up and there wasn’t really much we could’ve done except for sitting in his flat, so we cancelled that as well.

I’ve included this goal for this year again; we’ll see whether that works out.

Launch the startup

The team and I were pretty active regarding this goal and we’ve come a long way.

We started the year by getting accepted in an accelerator program, which helped by teaching us new things and connecting us to people. The most crucial things we’ve learned were always changes in perspective. Of course, that’s usually not something you learn by being taught, and it wasn’t the exception for us: We mostly learned these by failing and then analyzing what didn’t work.

So this way we launched a few nice projects without one of them being something you’d call a business or startup. Still, those were great projects to work on and important lessons to learn, I’m just glad we persisted. On the way, we learned a lot of things individually and as a team, mostly about communication, negotiations, networking and presenting. We also got better by several orders of magnitude at working efficiently and effectively as a team, especially in meetings.

At last, we managed to actually do something which people wanted, getting us an order and forcing us to finally incorporate. More on that soon…

Currently we’re still in the process of founding the company, but we’ve got the notary appointment next week, so I’ll count this goal as achieved. Yay!

Of course, I’ve got several goals connected to this one up for completion this year.

Cook more basic stuff (fast, simple and healthy)

I’ve expanded my list of basic recipes, although it’s not as long and varied as I want it to be yet. I’ll continue to expand the list this year.

Be open to strangers and practice presenting

Being open to lots of different strangers isn’t the greatest of all goals during a global pandemic, but I did reasonably well. Most notably, I’ve joined various (remote) meetings of diverse groups and thus met new people and made new friends. The good thing about such groups of interest is that

  1. you can help each other achieve common goals (commitment!) and
  2. you meet really interesting people.

The groups I’ve joined were focused on

Especially Rationality started to heavily influence my thinking over the course of this year. You should definitely look into it.

The presenting part was somewhat helped by attending the accelerator program. For example, I gave an interview at the summer fair in front of 100 people (which was my first time ever using a real microphone?). It was a great and novel experience and in the end I wasn’t even as nervous as I thought I’d be.

Get better at playing the guitar

I made some solid progress at playing the guitar, although at times I was playing a lot and at other times I was barely practicing. Notable: I did some extreme learning in only two of the songs I’ve learned (Nothing Else Matters and Peach Pit). I guess those two alone account for approximately 70% of my total skill. I believe the secret trick at play was that I found really good tabs/tutorials for those two, which allowed me to learn some advanced techniques I hadn’t tried before.

During the last weeks of the year I also revived my piano skills by practicing some Vivaldi, which was great fun too.

Learn Spanish

I’ve started a rápido course at my university, which basically means you do two language courses in one. I’m glad I’ve done this, as the workload isn’t too much to handle and I’m making good progress. Also, it’s another course I get for free while being a student.

Listening to music with Spanish lyrics really helped with being able to understand fast paced pronunciations.

I’m currently on level A2, but I’ll advance to B1 this year, by doing another of those delicious rápido courses.

Learn to paint with oil colors

In the second half of the year, I wasn’t really motivated to continue learning to paint with oil colors, so I guess the art world has to wait for now…

Read 52 books

I’ve actually managed to read 52 books. I also believe the quality of books I’ve read slowly started increasing; they got better (judged by personal perception) and generally more thought-provoking as well. In the middle of the year, I was reading a lot of blog posts and only very few books for some time, which made me think I maybe wouldn’t be able to complete this “challenge” I set myself, but in the end I switched back to books and made it. Audiobooks while grocery shopping and cooking also helped a great deal.

I feel like those books really shaped my thinking over the course of only one year, so I’ve decided to read another 52 this year.

I’m also planning on writing about my favorites soon.

Write more (this blog, journaling, etc.) & Publish a piece of writing (either as document or book)

I wrote some more posts, one of which sparked a damn interesting discussion on Hacker News, but I didn’t write as much as I planned to in the latter half of the year.


I’m pretty happy with what I’ve managed to achieve in 2020 and grateful for the year in general, but I’ve also noticed some flaws in my goals.

Felix, a guy I met in one of the groups I’ve joined (guess which one), recently held a great Goal Setting workshop that I attended, so I’ve now got some even better goals to tackle this year.

Stay tuned!

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© Niklas Bühler, 2021 RSS / Contact me