So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

2009 Annual Report

This time last year I wrote a post called Quantifying Nothing, where I tried to answer the question “what do you do?” with a slightly more detailed response than “nothing!”

At the time I was feeling a bit down about how much I was achieving with my time, but I found documenting what I’d actually done quite cathartic.

So, if you’ll indulge me, here’s an attempt to do the same again for 2009.

For the first time since I left university in 1996 I spent a full 12 months without a job, as such. Despite that, it still felt like I spent a fair amount of time “working” on one thing or another.

According to RescueTime I spent 1,228 hours using my computer, with 310 hours (25%) being email. That’s 20% less than in 2008, or over 8 working weeks’ worth. I’m pretty pleased to have it back!

Excluding spam etc, I received about 4,900 emails and sent just over 3,000. Those numbers are also both a lot lower than last year, and much more manageable. I stopped automatically checking for new messages, which helps. This is all good, although I do need to remind myself occasionally that Inbox Zero = Satisfying but Calendar Zero = Depressing.

After email, the next biggest time sink was blogging. This time last year I said I would try to write fewer, more considered posts.  In the end I managed 73 posts (down from 171 in 2008), but finished up one short of my target of 30 posts worth keeping. I’m not really sure why I choose to spend so much time on this, other than that I’m constantly and pleasantly surprised by the variety and calibre of people who take the time to read what I write.

Twitter was my new vice this year. It is exactly one year and one day since I made my first tentative tweet, and I followed it with 755 more. I follow 58 people, who mostly add more value than the attention they consume. And I have 497 followers, who hopefully find some of what I write interesting, entertaining or otherwise useful. Or not, whatever.

I did a lot of reading as well as writing (I bookmarked 393 web pages on delicious, two more than last year).  At least that’s true online, because offline I once again didn’t read nearly enough, as evidenced by the pile of books that taunts me from my bedside table.

I also spent some time working with various start-up companies during the year. I was paid for some of this time, but not most of it. I really enjoyed most of it, but not all of it.

I invested in three new ventures during the year, but all of those were smaller amounts, so it’s fair to say my focus was on the existing rather than the new.

It’s been a year of mixed fortunes:

  • Xero seems to have wind in their sails. Although I no longer have any day-to-day involvement there I’m still happy to be a shareholder and look forward to following their progress in 2010.
  • Fishpond have had another big year and I’ve enjoyed being part of their advisory board. They are smart guys working hard on a good business. It’s exciting to think there are still so many more improvements to make.
  • Others, like Areograph and Valuecruncher, have also been paddling hard all year.  We’ll find out in 2010 whether they will fly or not.

Unfortunately there are some that have not gone so well:

  • Wingman was an itch we scratched, but it never got any traction, so we shut it down in April. Despite that, I enjoyed working with Koz, and look forward to being involved in future ventures with him given the opportunity.
  • PlanHQ also went nowhere fast, and towards the end of the year we all agreed to cut our losses and sell the company back to Tim (one of the founders). He struggled to get his head around the obligations that come with having external shareholders, so perhaps he’ll make a better run of it now he owns it all?

Clearly I’m still learning. Often what not to do, it seems. But, I continue to subscribe to the just try stuff approach.

So, while I wasn’t working so much, what did I fill that time with?

Lots of different things…

The year started and ended with crazy endurance events. I did the bike leg (180km) of Challenge Wanaka in January, and then a few weeks ago I completed my third Half Ironman (2km swim, 90km bike, 21km run) in Taupo. I was a little worse for wear for a few days after both, but the satisfaction of completing something difficult lasts longer than the sore legs.

I also rode from Wellington to Otaki over the Akatarawas with Vaughan, as part of his ride from Bluff to Cape Reinga.

With all of that I couldn’t help but be fitter, I suppose. But, I’m also quite a bit smaller now than I was this time last year too, thanks in part to a post I wrote in May, called Keeping Score. In the comments Carolyn (an old friend and colleague) linked to The Hackers Diet. With that, and some help from an iPhone app, I’ve lost another 12kg since then. For the first time in my adult life I’m under 80kg and “normal” according to the BMI scale.  You do get what you measure, it would seem!

In total I’ve now lost 30kg since 2001. Despite still being full of advice, I am increasingly embarrassed to have needed to do this, rather than proud that I have. I don’t want to be like those people who quit something (smoking, coffee, eating too much, whatever) and then can’t shut up about it to everybody else who never started in the first place!

As well as all of this healthy stuff, I also kept busy spectating during the year. I saw Wellington defend the Ranfurly Shield again, 26 years after watching them lose to Canterbury from the top deck of the old Millard Stand. I watched the All Whites qualify for the World Cup, from just about the best seat in the house – sharing a box with some other Rongotai old boys (Sam, Terry, Winton). Plus some things that were a bit new and different for me: sumo wrestling in Tokyo, surfing at Sunset Beach in Hawaii, and …

I took my dad and my brother on a pilgrimage to The Masters at Augusta. If you’ve ever watched this on TV you’ll know it’s a magical venue, and even better in person. Spending a week watching golf might sound torturous to many of you, but it was actually lots of fun. We saw Tiger and Phil Mickelson making their charge on the final day and caught up with the leaders from our green side seats at the 16th, reserved earlier in the day simply by leaving our chairs there.  It was a special trip, and I’m pleased we took the opportunity.

I played 39 rounds of golf myself, including at a couple of the best courses in the world: Pebble Beach (where I shot 99!) and Spyglass Hill, en route to the Masters, Ria Bintan in Indonesia, and Cape Kidnappers more recently. My handicap dropped just slightly from 16.6 to 15.7.  But I also got soundly beaten by our two year old (on the Wii), so I keep my feet on the ground.

I went to TED in Palm Springs in February. It was both exhausting and inspiring. If you like the 15min videos they post on the web, try to imagine one after another after another for four days – I don’t recall ever feeling like my brain was so full! Thankfully, I wasn’t as out of my depth as I thought I might be. I met a few heroes (like Morgan Spurlock and Matt Harding), who turned out to be thoroughly nice.  And I won an awesome spot prize.  But, despite loving it, I’m not sure I’ll go back until I’ve got a more interesting story to tell (actually, the organisers think so too – I applied to go to the main conference in Long Beach in 2010 and was turned down).

I attended two great weddings: one in Bora Bora and one in Martinborough.

And, no funerals!

I saw Coldplay live in Sydney and Neil Finn live in Auckland at a special fund-raising dinner for Medicine Mondiale.

I flew on an Airbus A380 and went to the top of Taipei 101.

I enjoyed a long weekend of skiing and helicopter adventures in Wanaka.

I did the 134m Nevis bungy in Queenstown and a knee hang catch on the flying trapeze at Bintan. My fear of heights is tamed, if not conquered.

According to TripIt I was away 139 days, visiting 38 cities in 8 countries and covering over 100,000km! This included some great family trips, taking advantage of the opportunity to travel with the boys before they start school.

I realise that spending this much time with the boys while they are this age is a huge privilege. And, even still, I don’t take advantage of that as much as I might. I did watch quite a lot of Wot Wots with our two year old (wotty wotty!), and read Moo Baa La La La more times than I can count. I can also thoroughly recommend living within walking distance of a school. Our oldest started in October, and walking with him there in the mornings is often the best part of the day.

Reading all of that back, I appreciate how very unreasonable it would be to complain about anything.

So, what does 2010 hold?

I have no idea, but will soon find out I guess.

I don’t have a grand plan, beyond trying to keep calm and carry on.

I think the best I can hope for is that there will be another good collection of stories to share this time next year.

11 thoughts on “So this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

  1. Sounds like you are a busy man, all the best for twenty-10. Next time you are in taupo, be sure to have a mini tweetup, would love to chew the fat!
    This year I plan to ride at least 5k on my push bike, do the flyer, round the lake and a few other great NZ rides.
    Thanks for your blogs this year, always a good read, if not a little controversial!

  2. Brilliant – I’ve been working on the same ‘annual report’ concept. I’m interested in your focus on quantification. I find it appealing but think mine would start with ‘what is important’, then ‘how much time did I spend on x’, then reconcile the two.

    All the best for a great 2010

    1. I think that putting numbers to things is a great way to help you focus on them, or at least separate fact from opinion (see:

      As you say, you need to start with things that are important to you, otherwise the numbers are meaningless.

      Some of the numbers I’ve included in this post are vanity metrics (see: , but they help tell the story.

  3. Great inspiration for those who stagger and not believe in themselves.

    well done for. Half ironman . You have not even touch your extreme and see your ability to sail through ironman.

    My advise is try it you need to practise transition phases and few Marathons.

    2010 be on the top of world.
    business values are changing.
    Try googling mindfulness .

    Check what google and iPhone has adopted.
    Medical world where I am from has Bern in grips of looking at mind body awareness and chronic illness like heart disease etc.

    Google follows flipping , flexible attitude.

    Go figure and tweet.

  4. Hi Rowan

    Happy new year! Always enjoy reading these posts. Hope you and your family have a great 2010.

  5. Thanks Rowan for the entertaining blogs throughout 2009.

    I agree with your “less is more approach” to writing as the quality of what you write exceeds most other blogs I stumble across.

    How anyone can measure their life to the degree you have dumbfounds me. Or perhaps this is how you pass the time away on all those flights…. lol

    Happy new year.

  6. I think you can sleep soundly now! And I am utterly impressed by your hyperlink mastery. Keep the sunny side up.

  7. Thanks for the inspiration to start measuring my weight loss journey, just downloaded the app you suggested for my iphone. Do you record your food intake?

    1. You’re welcome! Good luck.

      I had a detailed food intake analysis done a while back. This involved tracking every single thing I ate and drank over a whole week, including weighing foods and ingredients, and measuring liquids etc (a large portion of calories came from drinks, so don’t forget those). This was then combined to give a breakdown of inputs over that time.

      There were a few small things that I changed following that, but to be honest the major things that were highlighted were things that I was already aware of – it just made it a bit harder to ignore them!

      This was a lot of work, and I’d be surprised if anybody was able to keep up that level of record keeping over a sustained period.

      The FatWatch iPhone app I linked to in the post is based on the Hackers Diet approach, which comes at the same question from the complete opposite angle. That is, rather than trying to track the gap between calories in and calories out by measuring inputs/outputs, track the impact (weight gained or lost over time) and determine the deficit or surplus from that.

      Since May last year I’ve lost 12.3kgs or 0.33kgs per week, which corresponds to a deficit of about 360 calories per day, which is not much when you consider how many calories you get from a glass of coke or a small snack.

      If you’re interested the guys at Science of Sport Blog have an excellent series going at the moment with lots of information about this sort of thing:

      1. Thanks for the link, Rowan :-)

        In addition to the Hacker’s Diet link I originally posted (which helped me lose 10kg the first time round) I also now use an iPhone app called Edibles – it lets me keep a daily food diary without cluttering my phone up with a huge database of American foods.

        I agree with Rowan that it would work if you just track the results (weight changes) and use that to deduce the input/output imbalance. But I find that the discipline of logging every morsel that I eat stops me from scarfing that tenth chocolate of the day. There’s probably something psychological involved….

        But this year, I’m more interested in logging carbon emitted and hours flown than weight lost. As Rowan says, what you measure is important.

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