Doing a yearly annual review is a practice I picked up a few years ago from the Vivir al Maximo blog (in Spanish). It instantly felt natural to me. The end of the year is when we all like to look back, reflect, and create plans for the future. Doing the same, but in a more structured and formal manner, seemed logical. Since then, I have been doing it on an on-and-off basis every year, mostly using a good old pen and notebook. However, this time, I decided to crank it up a notch and publish what I came up with. This way, it could serve as a reminder to myself but also provide additional insight to my readers.
And so, in this article, you won’t find epic locations, travel advice, photography tips, or anything else you typically expect from Sunset Obsession. However, if you are interested in what is on my mind as we transition into 2021 or what the future holds for this blog, grab a cup of coffee, and let’s begin.
I won’t spend much time going over the process. There is no right or wrong formula for the personal annual review. Everyone comes up with a variation that works best for them. My approach is reminiscent of one laid out in this article, but you are welcome to invent your own. I will start with an overview of 2020, then analyze what went well and what didn’t. Finally, I will share my vision for 2021 and list the goals I wish to achieve over the year.
As a heads up, I will only cover anything loosely related to Sunset Obsession. Clearly, my full annual review includes personal activities and goals as well, but I won’t bore the reader with those.
Early 2020 – A Perfect Storm
As we all well know, 2020 has been quite a year. It caused us to rethink and reinvent a lot of habits we always took for granted. A shift of such magnitude is never easy, and it definitely hasn’t been for me. Most of what I do with Sunset Obsession is grounded in travel. I just love to see the world and share what I learn on this blog and my Youtube channel. So when travel was essentially shut down in March, it was a big deal for me.
To make matters worse, by then I was starting to experience general exhaustion and lack of motivation. The reason was simple enough. Trying to combine my full-time job with traveling, writing articles, and creating YouTube videos proved to be too much.
Together, the restrictions caused by the pandemic, and this mental fatigue have created a personal perfect storm. The net result was that I completely lost all creative motivation for a few months. From March to about June I didn’t take any photos or work on anything related to this website. Basically, I shut down this whole part of my life. I just didn’t feel like doing any of it.
Late 2020 – Getting Out of the Pit
The rest of the year was like getting out of the pit. A slow and careful process of regaining the confidence and motivation for doing the things that I know I love. I started off by simply taking my camera with me when going out. The next step was to realize that I could still travel, even if only locally. Our generation is so used to exploring distant countries that we forget that there is often beauty right where we live. You just have to look for it.
In my case, I found it in Allgäu, a stunning mountain region a couple of hours driving away from my place. I made a few trips there during late summer and autumn and thoroughly enjoyed it. Allgäu is what inspired me to begin writing again. I just had to share everything that place has to offer. By now, Allgäu grew to become one of my favorite destinations in Germany.
As we say good-bye to 2020, I can confidently state that I’m back and ready to take on new challenges. I learned that I’m still captivated by landscape photography. I enjoy going out and seeing the beauty of nature, be that a thousand kilometers away or just around the corner. Simply put, I still love everything that drove me to create Sunset Obsession in the first place. It took me a while to get through this personal crisis, but it also cleared many things in my head. I have a ton of ideas and the energy to see them through. But before we get into that, let’s have one more look at what did and didn’t go well in 2020.
2020 – What Went Well
Despite all the challenges 2020 brought, it has by no means been a disastrous year. There are still objectives that I managed to achieve and feel good about. Here are the most important ones:
- Completed my very first photography guide – Sunset Obsession Photography Guide to Patagonia. It hasn’t gone live yet, but it will soon, and it’s beautiful. Featuring more than 140 pages and dozens of locations in Patagonia, it is something I know will be of great value to my fellow photographers
- Gone through the downtime and came out the other side with more clarity about the future and how to take things forward
- Redesigned the Sunset Obsession website. It now looks cleaner, fresher and more modern
- Created a unified color palette and moved all my social media under the Sunset Obsession umbrella
- Created a mission statement for Sunset Obsession. You can find it on the home page of the renewed website. The mission statement has helped me in both communicating my values to the world and keeping myself on track with the things I pursue
- Wrote 4 new articles and created 6 YouTube videos. This isn’t much, I know, but it’s still something to appreciate
- Finally, I have moved my legal base of operations to Germany, where I live, by registering myself as self-employed. Sunset Obsession is by no means a fully fleshed-out business yet, but it’s a start
2020 – What didn’t Go Well
Obviously, not everything was shiny and splendid in 2020. Some initiatives didn’t go too well or downright failed for me this year:
- I failed to publish new content consistently, be that on YouTube, my blog, or even Instagram. Uploads have been sporadic and lacking any rhythm or schedule
- As a consequence, the audience of Sunset Obsession has declined by almost 50% compared to the numbers of 2019. YouTube and Instagram remained mostly at the same level, which is nothing to be proud of either
- Even though I completed my first photography guide, I failed to release it by the end of the year as initially planned
- I still haven’t made any money with Sunset Obsession. For now, it largely remains a hobby, and I am still far away from transitioning it into a working business
- A bunch of ideas that I worked on this year (including a website for travel itineraries) never went live and have since been abandoned
2021 – A Year of Action
A cool thing I’ve seen some people do with their annual review is to come up with a theme for the coming year. My theme for 2021 is simple: Action. I want 2021 to be a year of action. A year in which I combine the groundwork laid out in the past with knowledge and insight gained in 2020, and build on that. I want Sunset Obsession to stay true to its principles and the mission statement. However, I also intend to take the steps necessary to convert it into a thriving business in the future.
Rather than any action, I want 2021 to be all about focused action. If there is anything 2020 has taught me, it’s that taking on too much will eventually drain you. Trying multiple things at once stretches you too thin, making you dizzy and disoriented. When no clear direction is set, any direction is as good as any other, preventing meaningful progress. I’ve experienced this in early 2020 and am determined to avoid making the same mistake again.
All of this is to say that in 2021, I will mainly concentrate on Sunset Obsession. As much as it hurts me to admit it, for now, YouTube will have to remain secondary. I might publish an occasional video, but I simply have no resources to properly develop the channel right now. Instead of trying to juggle two things at once and failing spectacularly at both, I will devote my undivided attention to just one primary target.
My Goals for 2021
With that, it’s time to wrap-up the annual review by bringing everything together and listing my goals for 2021. I imagine with everything I explained above, most of these will look fairly obvious.
- Publishing consistently, at a rate of at least one article every two weeks. It’s not a huge amount, but with a full-time job, it’s a schedule I feel I can maintain. With 52 weeks in a year, this means a total of 26 new articles by the end of 2021. That’s an increase of 650% compared to 2020
- Boosting the number of total views on Sunset Obsession by 50%
- Releasing my Patagonia photography guide by mid-to-late February
- Completing and releasing another photography guide in the second half of 2021
- Creating my first landscape photography calendar for 2022
- Earning my first $200 off Sunset Obsession
So there you have it – my Sunset Obsession goals for 2021. Looking at the list above, I wonder if I have set my bar too low. Then again, accomplishing everything I set out to achieve will mean the best year for Sunset Obsession so far. And, well, should that turn out to be the case, I will repeat the exercise more aggressively in twelve months.
Conducting your own annual review is a great practice, and I encourage everyone to give it a go. Privately or openly, in a similar manner or differently – do it any way you prefer, but try it. It really makes you think about what you want to accomplish and where you want to go. If anything, it’s certainly more useful than coming up with resolutions that fall apart in a week or two.
While I’m pleased with my annual review and the objectives for 2021, it’s an unusual experience too. Stating my goals openly like that definitely makes me more accountable for any failures. But if that motivates me to try harder, it’s all good. Meanwhile, having the confidence to share this plan certainly gives me confidence that I can see it through. Somehow, it is very liberating.
I definitely hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it gave you a bit of inspiration. With that, I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and let’s talk soon!