My 2021 Annual Review

6 minute read


Learning from the author of Atomic Habit, James Clear, I plan to write an annual review of 2021 to answer the following three questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?
  3. What did I learn?

1. What Went Well This Year?


  • I celebrated my 36th birthday this year. My father passed away in a motorcycle accident in May 1999. His life stopped at the age of 35.5 years before he could celebrate his 36th birthday. Therefore, my 36th birthday has always been a milestone in my mind. I am glad that I was able to celebrate it. Many times I wonder if my dad would be proud of me were he still alive. I hope to be alive long enough so that my kids will not have this lingering question.


  • Two of my papers were accepted for publication. One was accepted for the Journal of the Association for Information Systems in January and the other for MIS Quarterly in December.

  • I completed the Faculty Success Program. My school paid for this 12-week program that cost $4500. The goal of the program was to improve research productivity and life balance. I learned a lot from this program including time management, saying no, prioritizing projects, and finding mentors.

  • I won the Teacher of the Month for Ivy College of Business in November.


  • I read 31 books this year. Out of these 31, there are five that I highly recommend:

    1. The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton
    2. 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows by Ai Weiwei
    3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
    4. Open by Andre Agassi
    5. Atomic Habits by James Clear


  • My family and I went on a vacation to Florida in May to celebrate my elder son’s birthday. Legoland, Universal studio, and Gatorland were a lot of fun.

  • My family and I went on another trip to Dallas and Austin in December. It was nice to be back in Texas. During our six years (2012–2018) in Dallas, we had never been to Austin. Fortunately, this year’s annual conference for our area was in Austin, Texas and so we grabbed this chance. We also drove to Dallas to visit several friends and to enjoy so many restaurants (Haidilao Hot Pot in Frisco was our favorite part of this trip).

  • I went on a trip to Boston in October for the 2021 Boston Marathon.


  • I completed 365 days of running covering 2,361 miles this year. That is about the distance from New York City to Las Vegas.

  • In the Boston Marathon 2021, I ran my personal record of 2 hours and 46 minutes for a full marathon.

2. What Didn’t Go So Well This Year?

  • Eight hours of sleep. I aim to get eight hours of sleep every day. However, once I start using the computer in the evening, I often cut one to three hours from my target sleeping time. This is something I will work on in the new year.

  • Daily meditation. I used to do one hour per day vipassana meditation. Similar to cutting my sleeping time, I cut my meditation time this year as well. Cutting corners in meditation time has led to some negative impacts on my life. First of all, it is hard to put my anxious thoughts at bay if I wake up during my sleep. Second, I tend to be distracted by thoughts and urges during the day.

  • An addiction to dopamine rushes. Life can be boring, therefore, there are so many products that I tend to use to kill time. Among all my time sinks, the biggest category is social media including Youtube, Facebook, and Wechat.

  • I was sick quite a few times.

    • I experienced migraine symptoms during our Florida trip in May. The flight was delayed by eight hours (Allegiant Air) and I was sleep deprived when we arrived in Florida at 3 am.
    • I went through five rounds of cold from August to December.
    • I had shingles in October.

3. What Did I Learn?

  • I do not have to like research to be a productive researcher. Even Andre Agassi hates tennis! But that does not stope him from earning all those grand slams. I used to have unrealistic expectations about research: I have to love research to be able to work on it. When I do not seem to find that love, I tend to digress to social media. What I learned is that this is a typical symptom of procrastination by denial. By denying the meaning of what I am working on, I give myself excuses not to work on it.

  • To keep my office door open when I work at school. This is a commitment device that help me stay focused on my work. It would be embarrassing for my colleagues to find me watching funny cat videos in my office.

  • Talking to a mentor really helps. It is the same reason why counselling helps. You may have noticed how easy it is to find problems in other people’s lives but not your own. Talking to a mentor or a counsellor gives them chances to identify the problems in your own life. Even better, these mentors and counsellors are often people you trust. They help you come up with constructive plans so that you will make fewer mistakes and avoid common pitfalls. By talking to my mentor, I found out some of the projects I spent time on were hopeless. The conversation helped me prioritize what I should be focusing on in my research. Also, through my mentor, I came to understand the papers I publish also appreciate in value, just like the value of investment houses.

  • Setting realistic goals. I used to think that I can spend five hours on research six days a week. This created a lot of trouble for me. Sometimes, I followed a self-sabotaging routine of starting a day with social media. When I realized that I would not be able to spend five hours on research that day anyway, I would give up that goal and do whatever I like. In addition, during those productive days when I did log 4.5 hours on research, I still felt like a failure since I did not achieve that five-hour goal. Planning my week ahead by marking my calendars was very helpful for me to stay realistic. I was able to stay committed to what I wanted to achieve by reserving time slots for research, teaching, family time, and so on.