Yearly review – 2020

Here’s the review of my entire year of 2020.

The idea of making public reviews of my own life comes from James Clear’s annual reviews. The goal of these public reviews is twofold: to keep myself accountable by sharing my goals and actions; and to provide useful information and perspective to those embarked on similar journeys.

Warning: this might be very boring. I think these reviews are mainly useful for myself.


My goals remained the same through the year:

In February I decided to focus fully on Altocode and leave OneMillionLoops in maintenance mode.

I didn’t achieve any of my three goals during 2020. But I am still making progress on all three and confident that I’ll get there sooner or later. It’s interesting to start 2021 with goals I’ve been working on for at least a year – makes the new year more of a continuation than a new beginning.

In fact, rather than determining my direction for the year from scratch, I’ll do it along the course of this article, as corrections and improvements of what I did during last year.


In physical terms it was a very good year, thanks to systematic workouts. I work out about one hour per day, Monday to Friday, and I try to do a run every weekend. Here’s the summary of what I actually did, for each of the quarters:

For the upcoming year:

In terms of fat loss, this year there was great progress towards my goal of reaching 10% body fat. In terms of net megacalories (mcal) and waist measurements (in cm), here’s how the quarters went:

By my reckoning, a deficit of 28.5mcal equals a loss of about 3 kilos of fat (as a kilo of fat is about 9mcal). This is supported by the DEXA scans I performed in Q3 and Q4. Here’s the results for the last three DEXA scans, one in 2019 and the other two in 2020:

While it’s impossible to know exactly why this happened, these are the changes I implemented this year:

To get to the goal, I need a deficit of about 25mcal, which is four lean weeks. It is likely that I’ll get there on the first quarter of 2021. I’m curious to see if as I get closer, the lean days/weeks get harder, easier, or stay at the same level of difficulty. Usually the second day is the hardest and the third and fourth day are easier, even when working out.


Since about 2017 I’ve been having a daily block of learning – or rather, striving to. This year the habit has been quite solid. The learning “subjects” are piano, Russian, Dutch and reading non-fiction. In the last quarter, I replaced an earlier math learning block with reading non-fiction, not because I didn’t like math, but because I felt that reading was more important and I couldn’t find a consistent block of time in the evening for that.

Here’s the averages I had of “showing up” to each of the learning subjects:

Here’s what I’d like to change for the upcoming year:


My two main projects are ustack and ac;pic. My intended habit this year was to work on them every weekday, for 1.5 hours each. In practice, this is what happened:

In summary, I had 2/3 of the planned working sessions for the ustack and for a length of an hour instead of an hour and a half. For the apps I was much closer to my intention, with 92% presence and an average of slightly over 1.5 hours.

In terms of achievements:

For the upcoming year, I’d like to do the following:


The black swan of 2020, in terms of work, was the backendlore article I published in January. I wrote it in an afternoon as a way to get into writing some design principles I use when designing apps, so I would have something to point to when discussing architectural matters with clients.

Almost by reflex I posted it to Hacker News since I figured it might be useful to a few people. Against all expectation, it reached the front page of Hacker News and became very popular. The backendlore repo (which is just a document) became the trendiest repository in the entire Github. I got amazing and very detailed feedback, both on HN and on Github, so a couple weeks of my life essentially got hijacked by backendlore. It was exhilarating, a bit stressful, and a lot of fun.

Thanks to this, Jeremy Jung had me on his podcast, and also thanks to him I met Felienne Hermans, with whom I’m now working on Hedy. After my 20 seconds of fame, backendlore definitely left positive ripples in my life.

A funny note: before backendlore, my most popular repo (which is also the oldest and on which I have been working for seven years) had 11 or 12 stars and I was (secretly) proud of that. Backendlore, which was written in less than a day, got more than four thousand stars in a few days (incidentally other repos of mine got tens of extra stars because of all the attention). So much for incremental progress.


Besides backendlore, I’m grateful for many many things. This was a very hard year for humanity, given the pandemic and its after-effects. My 2020 was mostly a year of growth and progress, but none of this would have been possible without my family, my friends, business partners and society in general. Anything I did is only because I was enabled by others to do.

I’m grateful for:

I have great hopes for 2021, for the world as a whole and also for what’s immediately ahead in my path. I wish you a year full of happiness, insight and prosperity.