We survived another year during a pandemic! This year was a really mixed bag for me. Let’s get into the 2021 annual review, starting with some quick stats.
- This year I worked with 17 clients, 7 of them new.
- A rough calculation of additions in my git commits tells me that I wrote at least 40k lines of code this year. This is…insane. 70% of that code belongs to a single project.
- Including this one, I published 6 articles.
- I added 150 new subscribers to my email list, most from January/February 2021 when I was actually trying
- Aurooba.com got 26k unique visitors, with nearly 50% of the traffic going to this one tiny tutorial. (what might it look like, if I published more substantial valuable content?)
- Added at least 200 new Twitter followers, mostly because I was actually on Twitter in Nov/Dec (what would it be like if I was consistently on Twitter?) (as of Dec 22, follower count is 1946)
- I took 35 days of vacation (much of it in July as planned) – the most I have ever been able to take
- Permanently started taking Fridays off starting mid-September
- Had a garage built! This was a major home improvement goal for this year.
- Hosted 8 times (brunches, game nights, a couple dinner parties, etc)
- Got 80% of our home set up and figured out (our basement and outdoor areas are still a hot mess)
- Got a new water heater (second major home improvement goal)
- Visited Kelowna for 2 nights
- Camped in Blue River, BC for 2 nights
- Camped in Jasper, AB for a night (was supposed to be 2, but we got rained out!)
- Went to Ottawa for a wedding
- Spent 1 day in Montreal and also met up with Sasha for the very first time!
(not bad for pandemic times)
What went well?
This was my second year as a solo entrepreneur, and it once again confirmed I’m a capable developer who can bring in projects and make a living as a self-employed human. A small part of me was scared last year was a fluke, but it’s starting to look like I do know what I’m doing – and although there is plenty of room for improvement in my processes – I can make a fantastic six figure income doing what I love.
I learned a lot, once again. Developing blocks for the Block Editor no longer causes me any anxiety. I also successfully shipped projects with more backend work (custom database tables, API development, etc), and I’m starting to get to the point where I feel comfortable calling myself a full stack (WordPress) developer.
In the last half of the year, I really figured out my work routine. I started taking Fridays off completely, and returning to my more organized mode of working, which in turn meant I only worked between 4-6 hours a day, which was a blessing after the nightmare of Jan – Jun (more on that later). I feel much better positioned to work sustainably and happily for next year. There are no doomsdays in my future, no unmet deadlines, or upset clients. I have projects lined up for next year (with room for only a couple more) and I feel very steady.
I transitioned away from ClickUp, which felt increasingly cumbersome, broken, and unreliable. Around August (funnily enough, pun totally intended), I found August Bradley’s YouTube channel, and embraced his Life OS system in Notion with tweaks and adjustments to make it more personally applicable. It’s undoubtedly been a major contributor to my success and happiness in the last half of this year; his holistic approach really clicks for me.
I upgraded my office, now called the studio! Now that my spouse is no longer working from home, I was able to bring my studio vision to life. I have a new standing desk, a new MacBook Pro, and space for both my work and my crafty hobbies. The space is clean, with a white and black theme, and two desks. I can work on one desk and get creative and messy on the other (which is nicely hidden away from my camera angle so no one sees it during meetings). The second desk also means I can host friends and family who work remotely! For a couple weeks, my brother was staying with us, and he was able to comfortably set up his remote work station there and do his thing.
I made friends, and not just online in my professional circle! Having a few people I really enjoy in town has contributed to me feeling fully human again.
A couple of my health issues have been ironed out, which has meant better sleep, less migraines, and more energy.
We did some camping, attended a wedding, and explored Montreal for a day. Travel is always one of the biggest highlights of my year, and although we didn’t go out of the country, it felt good to drive and even jump on a plane again.
In the last half of the year, I was really able to be present for my family and friends. With work not being insane, I could play video games with my spouse, plan a couple fancy brunches, go to the movies, help my parents move, and be emotionally present for loved ones when they needed me.
I also was able to do fun things again! Started learning how to play the guitar, participated in some interesting Twitter Spaces conversations, scrapbooked a little, painted a couple mini landscapes, and cooked some new fun things.
This year marked 3 years of marriage and 6 years of being together, and I can heartily confirm that my spouse is still (and even more so) my favourite human on the planet.
What didn’t go so well
Straight up, January to June was a nightmare. The first two weeks of January weren’t terrible, and then it was all out insanity. A project I signed in 2020 took over my life. It was a project with an event-driven timeline, and an MVP product, for which neither I, my collaborators, or the clients really knew the full scope for until we were deep in the weeds. However, it had to be launched by June, with a few non-negotiable milestones in between. I estimated about 150 hours of work, but it took about 600 hours of work, most of it between February and May. I was working around the clock (not only on this project but other projects I had), and was putting in 14-15 hour work days. Talk about a horrible horrible miscalculation.
There were days I didn’t sleep more than an hour, and just worked through the night. By April, I was having weekly panic attacks – the more I worked, the more there was to do, it felt like there was no end in sight. My health, my mental state, really my whole life (including some of my other clients) was impacted in ways I cannot describe. There were days when my spouse was so worried something would happen to me, he would stay up all night with me. He’s a gem and seriously a pillar of strength in my life. The worst part was, that parts of 2020 were bad and I had wanted 2021 to be different, and yet, the decisions of 2020 continued to impact 2021 and it was disheartening.
In the end, we launched the project, and it was very successful. I had built a great, big, complex, wondrous application on top of WordPress, that was actively used by hundreds of people across Canada, and had over a thousand users. The code I wrote pushed and manipulated WordPress in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. I can look back proudly at the work I did, while simultaneously getting nauseous remembering how awful my life was for those few months.
It was a long nightmare, but thankfully, it was the only nightmare.
I set some goals for 2021 in my last annual review, let’s review those, shall we? Honestly, going to discount the first half of the year from my goals, because..nightmare.
- Focus more deeply during work hours: check and check.
- Add an extra work hour, Monday – Thursday, and work half days on Fridays: I couldn’t do this in the first half of the year, but then I transitioned to Fridays completely off, so check and check!
- Take a full hour for lunch and not eat at my desk: again, first half of the year this was impossible. But since then I have done this and it has been truly excellent.
- Actively reduce the need for meetings so I have no more than 3 in any week: I have definitely had less unnecessary meetings this year, but I can’t say I had 3 or less in general.
- Hit 10k steps daily: not everyday, but I did well. In 2020, I averaged 4974 steps, and in 2021, I have averaged 6588
- Sleep by 11pm everyday: after the first half of the year, check and check!
- Truly start building towards a secondary income stream: started this in Jan and then the nightmare got in the way..so..nope.
- Say no to projects that aren’t a good fit: with the grand exception of 1 project that I took in a weird panic, check and check!
- Take a summer vacation: so so proud and grateful that I was able to do this one!
Looking forward to 2022
I’m cautiously optimistic (as doctors say) for next year and I don’t want to jinx it by saying things in the absolute (haha).
Professional goals for next year:
- Submit a plugin to the WordPress plugin repository.
- Publish 12 valuable pieces of content.
- Consistently send out a biweekly email newsletter.
- Add 10% more to my income.
- Have 5 speaking engagements (be a speaker at events, guest on podcasts, etc)
Personal goals for next year:
- Learn how to play 4 songs well on the guitar.
- Plant a small vegetable garden.
- Take 2 trips outside the country.
- Squat 185lbs (yep, I’ve started lifting again after a 4 year hiatus).
- Play more video games.
One Little Word for 2022
I choose a word every year, a guiding idea, a wish for the new year encapsulated in a single thematic word.
For 2022, I choose embrace.
In 2022, I want to embrace my changing vision of work.
In 2022, I want to embrace consistent creation.
In 2022, I want to embrace speaking and engaging with my communities.
In 2022, I want to embrace more play in my life.
In 2022, I want to embrace changing roles in my life.
And so, onwards we go.