2020 Annual Review

Fifty years ago Alvin Toffler and Adelaide Farrell wrote a book called Future Shock. They defined the term “future shock” as a psychological state where individuals and entire societies experience “too much change in too short a period of time”. They could have been writing about 2020.

Our world suddenly became one of health catastrophe, economic collapse, post-truth populist politics, post-geographic post-industrial work, isolation, loneliness and unpredictable change.

The challenge of life became one of adapting to change, for the entire world, and for me.

What didn’t go so well

Let’s get the things that didn’t go so well out of the way first.

Exercise & physical health

I started studying Krav Maga, which I really got a lot out of. Pandemics, not enough time, and not being in one place made it impossible to continue.

Indie maker side projects

I started lots of side projects, didn’t finish any of them. Mostly that’s ok though as the projects were more about learning about the indie maker community and approaches to side projects. The side project I worked most on was the Ultimate Digital Tools List. There are lots small lists on nocode products and the like but I wanted to create as a comprehensive a list as possible with the idea that it could be used by indie makers to figure out the best tech stack for their business.

I joined Visualise Value, a paid community of indie makers, but never gave it enough time to get the most out it.

Reading

I wanted to read books. Actual books. But I never had the time. Any time I could of spent reading I choose to spend studying. Rightly so, because it’s more of a priority but it meant all those books remain unread.

What went well

I’m grateful that so many things went well this year.

Work

I started a new role at the Prince’s Trust in January. And I’ve really enjoyed it. It hasn’t been without its challenges, but that’s where the fun is, in figuring out how to navigate the things that get in the way. I’m lucky to have a manager who is clear about what he wants to achieve and what he wants me to achieve. I’m even luckier to be part of a team that wants to learn how to build things that help young people achieve.

Volunteering

I continued to be a trustee of a small mental health charity. For some time I’ve wondered whether I should resign, whether I have anything of value to add. Then, one day one comment from one person and I realised what I bring. I’m the only one on the board who works in the charity sector, so although I don’t have experience in investing or property management I can offer some perspective on what I see happening across the sector and how these might be relevant to our charity and work.

Education

I finished the first year of my masters and started the second year. I’ve really benefited from the change its had on my thinking. It has made me be more critical, connect things into the history of ideas that helps us understand them, and given me a sold foundation for my thinking in the future. It has taken more time than I thought it would but been less intellectually demanding.

Carer

For the past seven years I’ve been a carer for a family member with serious mental illness. It was the most difficult challenge I’ve ever faced and most stressful experience of my life. But we made it. All that hard work paid off. By the middle of this year she was well enough to not need me as a carer anymore. Even though I hardly ever talked about it, or how it affected me, being a carer was a big part of my identity, and not being a carer is a big change. But a positive one. It opens up opportunities for me. I feel proud of her, of all that she has achieved, and all that she will in the future.

Friends

I’m grateful that old friends could turn to me when they needed help. I may not be the kind of friend that stays in touch and grabs a coffee every week but I’ll never turn away from someone asking for help.

Reflective practice

I continued to write Weeknotes every week (230 in a row by the end of this year). I find them a really useful way of reflecting on the things I’ve been doing, thinking about and reading.

Blogging

I wrote quite a few blog posts, mostly about digital charity and innovation. I completely get that they aren’t the kinds of blog posts most people want to read. Most of them are more like badly written essays that have been poorly researched and sprinkled with a few of my random ideas than they are blog posts that might be useful to someone.

Walked

I finished walking the Ridgeway. My brothers and I had been gradually (very gradually, it’s taken us years) walking the full length from Ivinghoe to Avebury and we finally finished it. The Ridgeway is considered one the oldest roads in Europe, which makes it a bit more special than just any national path or long walk.

Digital charity

I tried to be more a part of the digital charity community on Twitter. I met and chatted with some fantastic people, got mentioned in the 3rd sector newsletter, did a buddy chat video, took part in Charity Hour conversations about innovation, tried to start a fundraising campaign, and did some product advisor work.

Inputs & processes

I tired to improve my inputs, so rather than just randomly scrolling through Twitter I read newsletters, set up daily search term alerts, and increased my note-taking.

Digital nomad

I became a digital nomad, living and working in my car, and started an email newsletter about it.

So much happened this year. Part of me hopes that next year will be calmer, but I don’t expect that it will.

The most important thing I learned in 2020: Let it go

What am I going to work on next year?

Same goals, more work. Do good work at work to help direct the products we build to meet the needs of the people we want to help. Finish my masters. Contribute more to the digital charity community. Carrying on being a digital nomad. Improve my inputs and optimise how I process them. I have more detailed goals for 2021, but the ultimate goal is always to be more resilient to the changes that will inevitably occur.

“The only difference between you and the victim is the attitude with which you enter the water.”

― USCG AST Manual