My 2021 in Review (Includes 2022 Goals!)

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2021! The year of more lockdowns and the unbearable peer pressure to watch Squid Game and buy an air fryer. How did you get on?

It’s that time of the year again where I bare my soul, writing the unfiltered truth about how I got on in 2021 and how I plan to tackle the next year.

It seems like only yesterday when I wrote my last annual review. Time really is precious and these posts are a wonderful reminder (or warning) to how I have been spending those valuable ticking seconds.

I’ve received a couple of emails from readers asking me why I don’t write anymore. This is actually my 101st post of the year, I’ve been writing my arse off, I just haven’t been on social media.

I do enjoy these seemingly pleasure-seeking posts. They’re more for me as a personal diary and accountability (which is how Man Vs Clock started) as they help me to reflect and refocus.

So let’s dig in!

Mental Health 7/10

There is no coincidence to this topic being the main heading of the annual review. You can have all the money in the world and all the tea in China, but if you are depressed and anxious (or both) then you really should prioritise getting yourself right before trying to fix the world or take over it.

My emotions have been on a rollercoaster in recent years with all the travel and lack of grounding. So with the global pandemic seriously hitting my income and freedom of movement…I decided that this was the ideal time to really work on myself at the core.

Trying to understand myself was a cyclic battle, with me often having to unlearn negative thinking patterns and behaviours. I talked last year about my chromic daytime bruxism (teeth-grinding), potentially triggered by my mountain accident in Argentina.

This went from bad to worse. Every time I felt overwhelmed or anxious, I ground my teeth so aggressively that I would crack them. I have had several replaced crowns this year, with me constantly in and out of the dentist’s chair. 

She said I am one of the worst cases that she has worked with. Not the worst, but one of. Quite hard to hear when you’re feeling oversensitive.

Spending more money than I had and the feeling of helplessness spiralled me into a depression for a few months. I tried botox, neurofeedback therapy, meditation, self-help books…shit I would have joined a cult if I thought it would work. 

I was desperate.

None of these things helped to the level that I wanted to and the teeth-grinding brought back sad memories from my past. I had nervous tics as a kid/teenager, similar to Tourettes and teeth-grinding is essentially a tic, but a bloody aggressive and expensive one. 

Against my desire, I decided to seek therapy.

I’m not against talking therapy, I think it’s great that people seek help when in need but I have had bad experiences in the past with therapists, which tainted my view a little. 

I often had nothing in common with them (something I found to be important in therapy) and they tend to speak in a wanky, fake guru tone that doesn’t sound like an actual human being, which is very off-putting.

And then I met Jim (he’s not called Jim).

Jim and I had an instant connection from day one. He grew up in the same part of England as me, so he understands the nuances of the subculture that I was raised in, we have similar humour and “issues,” and most importantly I feel like I can be my true self when I open up to him.

With me getting to the crux of my issues and a dose of hypnotherapy, my teeth-grinding subsided by about 80% and I started a very healthy personal development journey.

I also cut out caffeine and will be for the foreseeable future. I slept a lot better almost immediately, so I will be sticking to that for now.

I meditate daily and running is fantastic for my mental health. I admittedly worked too hard this year, which did take a toll on my happiness, but I am happy with the output and planning to reprioritise my downtime next year.

At the end of the day, I decided to face my demons full-on, surround myself with good people, exercise, eat well and keep those who f**k with my energy at a distance. 

It’s a constant battle of course, but this year was a win for me in this category and a massive milestone to getting my confidence back was the honour of performing a best man’s speech at one of my best mate’s wedding…terrifying but it all worked out well in the end!

Physical Health 7.5/10

Last year I talked about our self-governed alcohol credit system, where you choose an allotted number of limited “tokens” that you must cash in every time you drink.

I chose 50 this year, as opposed to last year’s 75. This year is, without doubt, the least I have drunk in a year since going 9 months without alcohol when I first arrived in Thailand a decade ago.

I have inflammation in my elbow, which sadly meant I was limited to only running and callisthenics. Ironically I felt sorry for myself when I had to throw in the towel for the Muay Thai dream for a little while – resulting in me drinking more for a short period of time. (The irony being that alcohol is very inflammatory).

My pity party was short-lived when Johnny came back into town, running up and down Doi Suthep (a half marathon) on most days. Inspired by positive peer pressure, I took up running again on a more regular basis.

I lost 8% body fat (that I really needed to shift) and my cardio is pretty good again. My elbow is showing fewer signs of inflammation so hopefully, I will be able to challenge myself more next year with Muay Thai and gymnastic rings.

I am slim and fit now, but I am hoping to end next year with a more lean and mean looking body and an all-around fitness, as opposed to just being a cardio junkie with no strength or flexibility.

Finances 5/10 ($106,020 Annual Income)

The above figure is money generated online, not pocketed!

Selling advertising in the travel industry is all fun and games…until there is a global pandemic of course.

I’ve worked the hardest that I have in a decade and I am making less money. Some of it is my “fault,” I guess as I sold some spammy links which ended up hurting Man Vs Clock’s rankings and traffic.

I knew exactly what I was doing at the time and I am not sorry. I’ll spare you the faux-apologies and in true Walter White fashion, I’ll admit: “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it.”

I have had a million and one happy memories and met the greatest of people by going against Google’s guidelines over the years.

But you can’t outsmart the big G forever and my chickens finally came home to roost. Resulting in me not selling any advertising at all on my main site (this one) and losing $2,000 a month, not including opportunity costs.

The positive in this is it forced me to write more quality, long content about travel. If you go through my blog you will see that I have written tons of helpful content (that will be updated regularly with pics) and I am hoping that this will turn my blog into a more sustainable business in the future.

I had to spend a lot of money and time on this and I still am, so money is tight at the moment and times uncertain. There is no other option but to keep going and stop whining about it.

Goals Achieved in 2021:

This is the bit where I look back on my goals for last year and check off the successes.

  • Squat and deadlift 1.5 of my own body weight. I did this for one-rep max, but not multiple sets. Still, it’s a personal best for me so I’ll take it. I grew incredibly bored of weights and as I was limited with my upper body, I did more running and lower body training. Boredom is death to me in training, I can see me gravitating more and more to callisthenics-style training. Different strokes for different folks, and all that.
  • Start learning Muay Thai kickboxing. I did a 5-weeks intensive, one-on-one class with a legendary local guy here in Thailand, but had to stop due to a (heartbreaking) injury. I was really enjoying it. I felt truly alive and I can’t wait to get back at it.
  • Fix my tennis elbow. It’s almost healed. I thought it never would. I’m of course worried it’ll inflame again when I start using it more, but it hurts a lot less now, so that’s hopeful.
  • Read 10 of the top 100 classics. I successfully read 10 fictional classics, but in all honesty, it started to become a chore/obligation. I’ll be going back to reading books with the core values that changed my life next year.
  • Increase morning meditation to 20 minutes from 10. We often say we “don’t have enough time,” to do things that are beneficial to us and it’s often a load of bollocks. Upping my meditation to 20 minutes worked wonders for my focus, mental health and also helped with my teeth grinding issue.
  • Go for a walk as soon as I wake up in the morning. I’m not the best morning person, but one thing that wakes me up faster and helps me sleep better at nighttime is going for a walk as soon as I wake up. I slip on my clothes as soon as I wake up and go for a wander around my block while making sure my mind doesn’t start the day neurotically or negatively. 
  • Fix my daytime Bruxism. Not 100% there yet, but 80% – “practice makes progress” and all that.
  • “Catch up on my blog.” This was quite arbitrary, but I definitely can say that I am happy with what I have done with the time that I had. There’s still an absolute mountain more to do, to truly “catch up” on a decade of travel, including a comprehensive travel guide to over 100 countries. Then there is of course keeping up to date with Covid restrictions for each country. A truly huge project, but for this year I genuinely don’t think I could have done more than I already have.
  • Alcohol restriction rules (50 tokens). It was a tight one, to say the least, but I stuck to the 50 tokens (and ran a trail marathon to earn an extra one haha!)

Goals Failed in 2021:

This is the part where I realised I bit off more than I could chew…

  • Mobility stretching. Every. God. Damn. Day. It only takes 10 minutes and I always feel better when I do it. So God only knows why I talk myself out of it some days, although I managed it about 60% of the year. I’ll be aiming to smash that next year.
  • Learn to handstand. Not for the want of trying, but my injury limited me to the point where raising my right arm above my head hurt.
  • Increase my net worth by £50,000. Making less money and investing hard in business means I did not save a single penny or add to my net worth for 2021.
  • Get a full health checkup. I did not go for a hormonal health full checkup like I said I would in last year’s review.

Top Goals For 2022

One thing that I have learned from writing these reviews is that I try to juggle too much at once and then get overwhelmed when I fail at a few (even though I do achieve most things that I set out to do).

Also, in the past, I have written very casual terms for my goals without being direct enough. So with that in mind, I am trying not to do that when referring to next year’s goals.

  1. Run a 100km Ultramarathon

Every time I finish an Ultra, I say “never again.” I said it after Marathon des Sables and I said it last year after a gruelling 200km ultramarathon in Northern Thailand.

However, I promised during a drunken handshake with a new friend that I would run one with him, as he could never find a willing mate to run one with him. Drunk it may have been but I don’t like to break promises.

So we are pencilled in for a 100km ultramarathon in late January.

  1. Learn To Read Thai 

It’s utterly embarrassing to me that I have not done this already, considering how many accumulative years I have lived in Thailand. But shame is sometimes used for good and a mate of mine recently inspired me by how quickly he learned to do this.

  1. Mobility Goals

I am honestly so pathetically immobile and it’s only getting worse the more I ignore it. I am in pain when I clip my toenails!

When fitness and health are discussed, people rarely talk about mobility (although I have realised a surge in it recently). I have pinpointed the main weaknesses in my body and have found 5 major exercises that I plan to be able to do before the end of 2022, I will be announcing them as challenges and updating accordingly.

  • Back Bridge. I struggle with overhead mobility, so this will be a tough one.
  • Wall Angel. The closest your ass is to the wall and your ability to do this is a good indicator of your mobility. 
  • Asian Squat for one minute. This would be the ultimate win for me as my hip flexors are incredibly tight.
  • Sissy Squat (Unassisted x 10). A solid prison workout. Love it! But I currently need to hold onto something strong in order to perform it.
  • Get off the floor without the use of hands. It may be more important than you think.
  1. Increase my net worth by £50,000

As I mentioned before, I failed this last year. Financial freedom has always been a big part of this blog and it always will be until I achieve it. Me and a close friend have had a business idea for years, we were going to call the business “Omyakon,” which sounds an awful lot like something else that’s being mentioned in the news lately so maybe we need to rethink that name!

Let’s have another go at 50,000k in 2021.

  1. Visit a New Country 

I used to do this weekly/monthly, but for obvious reasons, this was the first year that I did not travel to one single destination. I got a lot done and I enjoyed living a more “boring” life as it needed to be done, but I don’t want to go another year without visiting a new country. 

  1. Write That God Damn Book

Have you ever found yourself going on about an idea for so long, that you start to irritate yourself due to the fact it’s still an “idea” as you have not acted on it?

Yup, you’re not alone on this one. 

I have had an idea for a passion project for years, in fact, I have already written the first draft over a year ago, but I didn’t touch it again. I need to get back at it next year and complete/publish the book.

It will be tight with all my blogging goals, but even if I write an hour a day I know I can make it happen. I just need to segment my writing time as it is very different from travel writing and I prefer to focus on single tasks as opposed to juggling too many balls with multitasking.

  1. Do Not “Work” on Weekends

I worked pretty much every weekend this year and I’m pretty sure it ended up being to my detriment. I got a lot done in the earlier part of the year, but then I inevitably burned out and didn’t listen to my body.

I want to hold myself accountable for no longer working on my blog and business during weekends (not including a cheeky hour or two on the passion project). 

I’ll use that time to travel domestically or for relaxation and rejuvenation so I am running on 100% when I tackle work during the week.

  1. Start Muay Thai Training 

I fell in love with it during my brief fling with it before the injury. It’s fast and furious, brutal and the cultural aspect of it is fascinating. I am priming my body in the new year with cardio, mobility and strength to get back into Muay Thai kickboxing full time, with the main goal being having a Muay Thai fight in the future.

  1. Get Strong on Gymnastic Rings

I had a nice 3 month period last year when Covid first kicked off when all I exercised with was gymnastic rings. I was able to do proper form ring pullups, pushups and dips for 3 sets of 10. 

I plan to go back to basics next year and be able to do that again comfortably. 

  1. Run a 10k under 40 Minutes 

I successfully ran 5k under 20 minutes this year and next year I want to double that effort. Follow me on Strava to keep up to date with my progress with this goal.

11. Meditate 30 Minutes Every Day

And stop finding crap excuses as to why I “have no time.”

12. 50,000 Monthly Page Views on Manvsclock.com

The blogging game has changed immensely since I first got involved 10 years ago. My blog was mainly all about entertainment in terms of content; I’d make people laugh, or talk about profound subjects and emotional topics and to be honest…that is my preference when it comes to writing.

However, it isn’t sustainable. Search engine traffic is, so right now I am prioritising long and detailed travel posts. 

It doesn’t make sense that I would spend all this time and money travelling over 100 countries and not converting that into my writing. That’s a bad business decision.

It’s my least favourite kind of writing, I’m sure I will be writing the more free-flowing posts of old again but for now, I have to prioritise growing my traffic before I get left behind.

I think 50,000 page views is doable, albeit incredibly hard after I have plummeted down to 2-4,000 a month. But that’s the number I’m calling and what I am going for.

I will also be off social media (something that I consider a necessary evil and do not enjoy) until at least March.

Best of luck to you all with your own goals and health in 2022!

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Anthony Middleton

Former loser who took a risk. Visited over 100 countries. Trying my best to not get skinny-fat during Covid.

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Ultra runner walking in desert

Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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