We are into the last few days of 2020 as I sit down to write this year in review. And we all know 2020 was a particularly unusual year. Words like “unprecedented,” “unpredictable,” and “uncertain” definitely had plenty of time in the spotlight.
My intention for this post is not to rehash everything that happened this year on a global scale (although some of that will naturally come up). What I would like to do is take a moment to reflect on my 2020. I was inspired by Marie Forleo’s Year in Review template, which is a simple set of three questions:
- What did I do, create, or experience this year that I’m really proud of?
- What mistakes did I make that taught me something or what lessons did I learn that I can leverage?
- What am I willing to let go of?
I’ll go through each question and share a few of my highlights for each one.
What did I do, create, or experience this year that I’m really proud of?
Work, work, work
When it came to work projects, I was very busy in 2020! I wrote a ton of eBooks, blog posts, and case studies for clients like Greenhouse, Productboard, Udemy for Business, and Product Talk. If I could identify a common thread in the work that I’m most proud of, it would be pieces that showcase people’s progress and wins, like the Product in Practice series on Product Talk. Or work that helps companies take actionable steps toward lofty goals like promoting Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) or incorporating learning and development into their company culture. Here is just a small selection:
- Distributed hiring and remote working: The complete guide
- Employer branding best practices: How to build and communicate an impactful employer brand
- Inclusive hiring strategies for everyone at your company: Practical advice to bring your DE&I recruiting efforts to life
- How to Gather and Leverage Deep User Insights
- Defining What Matters: The Essential Guide to Prioritization
- Charting Your Course: The Building Blocks of Excellent Product Roadmaps
- Product in Practice: Iterating to an Actionable Outcome at tails.com
- Product in Practice: When Travel Ground to a Halt, Seera Group Used Opportunity Mapping to Discover a New Market
- The Soft Skill Revolution: Why it Matters
- How Businesses Are Handling the Sudden Shift to Remote Work
- How to Help Recent Grads Succeed at Remote Work, Part 1 and Part 2
One of the other areas I’m especially proud of is my continued involvement with the Oakland chapter of CreativeMornings. This was my second year overseeing our social media accounts, which help us promote our events and speakers (many of who are Black, people of color, LGBTQ, or from other communities that tend to be underrepresented in the speaking world). After February we weren’t able to gather in person, but that didn’t stop us from continuing to host events virtually. This year we also used our platform to share information about local protests, events, fundraisers, and ways to support small business owners.
We teamed up with the San Francisco chapter to co-host an event on the theme of Biophilia, with a guessing game of trying to identify sounds submitted by our community members and sound healing with crystal bowls. It was one of the most unique virtual events I’ve participated in and I was so thrilled to have been part of the ideation and execution.
Before the pandemic hit, CreativeMornings already felt like a supportive community of self-selected coworkers. Since I’m a freelancer, I sometimes miss having a team of people I can chit-chat and enjoy a sense of camaraderie with. The other volunteers have continued to fulfill that need, but they’ve also been a source of comfort and humor throughout this rollercoaster of a year. They inspire me to be the change I want to see in the world through actions like writing postcards to encourage Georgia voters to register or helping formerly incarcerated individuals start fresh with new headshots and the chance to share their story.
What mistakes did I make that taught me something or what lessons did I learn that I can leverage?
Loss and carrying on the love
On a deeply personal note, I lost someone who was very dear to me earlier this year. Kay Shafer, lovingly known as “Gram,” was an inspiring and warm-hearted matriarch who taught me so much. Despite growing up in a much more conservative era, she displayed so much openness and so little judgment of others. She had an insatiable love of travel (sound familiar?) and a cheeky sense of humor. She always made me feel accepted and appreciated exactly as I was, and she was so curious and genuinely interested in my life. I look to her as the type of person I strive to be, so one of my big lessons of 2020 was to keep Gram’s spirit alive and do my best to live in a way that would make her proud.
Uncertainty is the name of the game
I’m trying not to verge into too much cliché here, but I do think it’s fair to say that we all had to deal with massive amounts of uncertainty this year. There was the uncertainty of the coronavirus and the damage it would be able to cause (I remember early in the year brushing it off as just another type of flu). This was followed closely by the uncertainty of the economy and job security (my husband lost his job and some of my clients put my workload on pause for a few months). And the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor highlighted the uncertainty of America as a safe place to live, raising awareness of the ubiquitous effects of systemic racism across every dimension of society. Oh, and there was all that uncertainty about how the presidential election would turn out and whether the results would be honored.
While some of that uncertainty has been resolved, there is still so much that hasn’t. And there will always be new uncertainty to take its place. So what exactly was the learning here? For me, it was about trying to put my focus on the things that were within my power. What were the actions I could take (no matter how small they might seem) that would help chip away at a bigger problem? When I could turn my attention to the specific things that were within my control, that’s when I found myself feeling less anxious and more at peace. This is one of those lessons that sounds very simple in theory but it can be much more challenging to actually put it in practice.
What am I willing to let go of?
This one is easy: Pants with fasteners. It’s stretchy yoga pants all day every day for the foreseeable future!
When it comes to 2021, I have a few hopes that I believe should be attainable:
- Continuing to be a part of my communities, even if it has to stay on a virtual basis for the time being.
- Continuing to prioritize my mental and physical health with regular yoga and Zumba classes and frequent neighborhood walks.
- Keeping my freelance business going strong with a steady roster of regular clients.
And I don’t know how realistic it is, but I’d love to pick up travel again, provided it’s safe to do so. There are so many friends and family members I’d love to see and hug and new and old places to explore. Fingers crossed for that one!
If you’ve made it this far, thank you! I hope you’ve found something useful in here and it’s given you some ideas for how you might want to think about the past year—and the one ahead.