My Annual Review – 2019 Edition

At the end of each year, I sit down and look back at my year–what worked well, what didn’t, and what lessons I learned. It helps me be on top of my goals, and this practice provides a way for me to remember my goals and assess changes and improvements I need to make.

If you’re interested in doing the same, read about how I do my personal evaluation at the end of the year. Alternatively, read how James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) does it here.

2019: A Year Waiting & Dealing with Uncertainties

The year 2019 entered with a lot of joy and uncertainty. In November 2018, we welcome our second son, Caspian, into the world! Although, we are far away from family (who are in the Philippines), we managed to contain the chaos and organized our lives.

Thanks to the organization I work for, I enjoyed a rather long paternity leave–a paid one at that! That helped me take care of my wife, our new baby, and Kuya Malcolm who was in Kindergarten.

I faced two big uncertainties, though, at the start of the year. For one, our visa expires in March 2020, and unless we receive our Green Card before that, we will need to pack up and go back to the Philippines.

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7 Simple Hacks to Achieve Goals Effectively and Efficiently

I thank God for the New Year. It’s a great reminder of the circle of life. The previous year might have been great for you. Or not. But the new year brings fresh hope that things could be better if we make the most out of it.

We should all review the past year to learn from our experiences and celebrate our wins. But we should also plan for the new year that is here now. On the first few days of this year, I sat down to identify my goals. This has really become my habit at the start of the year since 2010.

During a meeting with my team, I just reflected on the renewed sense of commitment and energy. It will probably not last for very long. But by making some changes to my schedule and my lifestyle, I could probably make the most out of the excitement of the new year. I might even make this the year I achieved all the goals I’ve identified!

7 Simple Hacks to Achieve Goals Effectively and Efficiently

Here are 7 Simple Hacks that I am implementing to help me achieve my goals effectively and efficiently.

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The Inevitability of Routines

We humans are creatures of habit. There are a set of things that we do regularly, in a particular sequence and manner.

Case in point. What did you do first right after waking up? If you’re like me and millions of others, you probably picked up your phone first to turn off your alarm (right!). That first activity in the morning will be followed by dozens of tasks and activities.

Often, these tasks are automatic, you don’t even think about doing them anymore. You’ve just been used to doing one thing after another in a particular sequence and manner.

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How to Apply for a University of the Philippines Transcript of Records Online

Last year I applied to a Master’s degree program. I applied and got accepted to the Master’s degree in Youth Development Program at Missouri University. It was quite the process.

I had to apply for admission. Then I had to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), which is required for all foreigners who want to study in a university in the USA. I’m proud that I got a score of 117 out of 120! 🙂 I prepared for that test but not thoroughly. I can write another post about that soon.

To be admitted to a master’s degree program in the USA, though, you will need to send your official transcript of records (TOR) to the university. Your personal copy does not count, though. It should be sent directly from the college or university in the Philippines to the college or university in the USA.

Here’s how to apply for a UP Transcript of Records Online

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My DIY Productivity Journal

My last paper-based planner-journal was the one I got from Starbucks after drinking too many cups of expensive, oftentimes sweet, coffee in 2011. After that, I saw the power of Google Calendar on my browser and on my Android phone. So I went full digital and ditched my paper-based planner. It wasn’t too difficult to train myself to adjust to a full digital planner and calendar.

Enter appointments on the app and it syncs everywhere!

If I had an upcoming meeting, deadlines, or any appointment, I just swipe my smartphone open, pick the date and time with a description of the appointment and it syncs with all the devices where I installed the calendar app. For the record, I have only ever used Google Calendar since then. I use Outlook’s calendar every now and then for work, but that’s the only setting where I use another calendar app.

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Random Reflections After Turning 35

Over the weekend, I turned 35! It’s a big number! I feel like I’ve made significant progress in #Adulting. But who knows… when you were a kid, you thought that the adults knew what they were doing. Now that I am an adult, I’m not so sure… 😀

I told my wife before my birthday that if I were to die at 70 years old, then I am already in my mid-life.

At this age, birthdays are really not that a big deal. They come as just another day, only a little bit more special because loved ones remember it and they greet you (thankfully there’s Facebook and social media to remind us of each other’s birthdates).

People my age did cool stuff. But there’s a handful who STARTED something at this age. I came across this interesting website that displays “Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age.” Here’s the list of what people did when they were my age:

At age 35:

• Based on a nightmarish dream, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
• Russian ambassador Aleksandr Borosovich Kurakin introduced the practice of serving meals in courses.
• Frederic William Herschel, an English astronomer, invented the contact lens.
• American sprinter Evelyn Ashford won her final Olympic gold medal at age 35, old for a sprinter.
• Amedeo Avogadro developed Avogadro’s hypothesis.
• Law School professor Anita Hill charged that Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas made indecent remarks to her.
• Margie Profet proposed a new theory of menstruation which claims that menstruation protects against infection and won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.
• Astronaut Buzz Aldrin achieved his life’s ambition at age 35 and wondered, what do you do after that?
• Julia Child began to learn to cook.
• Mozart stopped composing and started, well, you know.

It’s certainly an interesting list. And I know that I still have a lot of life, energy, and daredevil in me.

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Begin [Blogging] Again… and Try Harder

Those wooden blocks by Melissa and Doug are awesome at teaching motor skills, creativity and persistence to a little one. My wife recently bought it for our 4-year old son Coco.

One night, Coco and I were building a tower made out of Jenga blocks and colorful wooden blocks. After helping him build towers for a few times, I asked him to build a tower by himself.

He was doing so well until a small mistake sent everything tumbling down. It must have been because of unstable placement of the blocks at the bottom layer, or his hands might have knocked it over.

He was so frustrated that he threw some blocks to the floor. He was on the verge of crying!
“But it’s too difficult!” he cried.

So I let him vent his frustration while trying to suppress my smile. Then I said “if you do something and it doesn’t work out at first, what do we do?”

He answered “Try harder.”

That’s what I’ve been telling him whenever he does something that doesn’t work out at first. And it looks like I need to make that my mantra as well.

I decided to begin blogging again…. And try harder.

My Blogging History

Since 2008, I started some personal blogs here and there. But it wasn’t until 2013 when I launched a blog for young professionals in the Philippines. Not long after that, I also launched a podcast as part of the services offered by the blog.

It was fun! I got to write about my journey and growth as a young professional in the Philippines–from the time I graduated from College, to my first jobs until I found the faith-based, non-profit organization that I still work at today.

The podcast wasn’t all about me, either. I interviewed several experts on career development as well as young professionals who are getting ahead in their careers. The conversations gave me immense inspiration and encouragement! On top of that, I get to share it with other Filipino young professionals!

But alas, I had to shut it down. My own tower of wooden blocks came tumbling down.

Thankfully, I shut it down because I pursued another career path that offered a big opportunity for growth. By the middle of 2015, I moved with my family to the United States to take on a new role with our organization.

Begin Again…

This statement took on so many different meanings for me in the past 2 years. I arrived in Nashville, TN on June 2015 and my wife and son followed two months later.

I didn’t expect how many things I had to unlearn and relearn as we tried to live in a new country. Heck, I didn’t even know how to put gas into my car! I had to apply for financing to buy a car. To do that, I had to have good credit, which was totally nonexistent. I needed a bank account, a credit card, and a million other things!

I’d been drowning in the overwhelming process of adjusting to life in a foreign country. I know it’s cliché, but the past 2 years can be appropriately titled as my “Begin Again” chapter. Oh the things we take for granted!

It was hard and often frustrating. And like my son, there were too many times that I wanted to throw wooden blocks at life.

Try Harder

My family and I are at a better right now. Our son is 4 and going to Pre-K after the summer. Our needs are being met, and we have adjusted pretty well to our new life in the United States.

So I take a deep breath and decide that it is time for me to begin blogging again and try harder! Heck, I’m going to do it and be relentless about it until I get the fame and money! Bwahahah.

Well, maybe not. I don’t really intend to monetize my blog (at least not right now).

But Why Blog Again?

I decided to begin blogging again. I may need to take the mantra I gave to my son. I definitely need to try harder to blog successfully. But why bother writing articles and blogging my heart out? I know that writing day after day could be unrewarding and will take a lot of my time.

Back when I was still blogging, I realized the following benefits of blogging:

  • Creative expression. I get to write and explore my creativity. I’ve always been drawn to writing even when I was in High School. I don’t harbor any illusion about the quality of my writing.

I am no Hemingway and it will not give me a Nobel prize. But there is something cathartic and satisfying about expressing your creativity. Through blogging, I can even improve my writing and nurture the discipline I need for this art.

  • Learn about a topic. I’m a big reader! In the past 2 years, I read more than 50 books per year. This year, I dialed it down and aimed to read only 12 books. I am also a big learner and I usually document the things I am learning about.

Blogging could be a cool way to post my reflections and how I am learning new things. That could be helpful to people who may also be interested in learning about those things.

  • Connecting with an online community. This is something I probably failed to do in my blogging efforts in the past. As someone who recently started living in the USA, it would be great to find a community that shares my interests and passions.

Unlearning, Relearning

There’s much to unlearn because the blogging world I was familiar with has definitely changed over the past 2 years. I’m not expecting blogging to work in the same way that it did in the past 3-5 years.

I need to relearn so many things and chief among them good writing. To make it happen, I also need a good routine and a system that will enable me to do it, on top of the other commitments that I can’t do without.

I will begin again and try harder…. Push through, and as I learn the craft of writing and blogging, I may just learn to do it smarter!