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Reflecting on 2020 and focus for 2021

2020. It’s not what any of us expected. To be honest, if all you did was survive and you're hanging on by your fingernails (which in many ways I am) you’ve done amazingly.

Last year was the first year I did an annual review (check out my review of 2019), and this year it feels even more important to reflect on what has gone well and what I’ve managed to achieve in spite of all the challenges.

What went well in 2020?

I started focusing on myself (beyond being a business owner and a mum).

I realised that if I am to give my best to my family and clients, I need to focus on myself and look after myself. I had great intentions to start climbing, something I haven’t done since school, and had planned to do couch to 5k again this Spring, but not being able to leave the house without a 4.5 year old put paid to that. Lockdown was a challenge, so I needed to focus on what was achievable. I began to work meditation and 10 minutes of yoga into most days (although I still struggle to be consistent).

And I journaled. Oh, did I journal. From someone who could never get on with journaling, I’ve got through six notebooks this year!

But this wasn’t enough. On the verge of burnout towards the end of the year I made a decision that, now my son was at school, I would take Fridays off for myself. Just for me. I think it’s going to take a while to fully see the benefits as I’ve got a lot of time to make up for, but now I’ve made the decision I’m not going back.

I developed a powerful signature programme that is already having a huge impact.

A year ago I wasn’t really sure what I could offer to publishers that wasn’t a one off consultancy session or piecemeal work. After coming up with one plan in the spring and promoting it, I realised it wasn’t really aligned with what I wanted to be doing. The next idea didn’t come to me immediately, but one night when writing in my journal the whole plan just poured out. I’ve since developed and tested the Inclusion Incubator, and it feels totally aligned and exactly what I should be doing to have the biggest impact. In fact, it’s already having a huge impact on those who have been through it. I've even developed a version for freelancers.

I invested in myself.

2020 was the year I truly started investing in myself. It’s a bit addictive – now I’ve started I can’t stop. At the end of 2019 I signed up to Gemma Gilbert’s Membership and it quickly had an impact. In February I started a 6 month Thrive programme with Keri Jarvis which was incredible. When lockdown hit I was worried I wouldn’t be able to focus on it, but actually I wouldn’t have coped without it, and the amazing group of women I connected to with it. In July I signed up to Gemma Bennett’s Sunny programme (I told you it was addictive) in an attempt to bring more joy into my life. With nurseries reopened though I had less time for personal reflection than I’d become used to (strangely) as I had so much work to catch up on. And in August I signed up to The One with Suzy Ashworth. I’d done a free challenge with her and knew I needed more of her perspective in my life!

There have been books, blogs and articles I’ve devoured as well, both for my personal and professional development.

I’d intended to sign up to a programme to support my professional development before the end of the year, but on the verge of burnout I realised I needed to sadly wait another month or so until there was a bit more harmony in my life. However, professional development is one of my core goals for next year.

I set goals!

The most pivotal habit I started in 2020 was 90 day, monthly and weekly goal setting, which I do alongside my accountability partner, the composer Ella Jarman-Pinto. We also have accountability check-ins daily to keep each other on track.

I make sure my goals go in my bullet journal. As part of this, each month I make a list each where I log my daily wins and learnings. Reflecting back on these at the end of the month and quarter is really inspiring and keeps me focused on what I have achieved.

What didn’t go so well and what did I learn?

My work-life balance was far from ideal.

Work-life balance? In 2020? No chance. We all found new ways of working this year and did what we had to to get through. Being a solo parent, lockdown had a big impact on me and how much I was able to work. It’s hard to concentrate with a small person around but I did enjoy the time to take long walks with my son and explore the local area. I hated feeling resentful of him though.

However, lockdown gave me the chance to reflect on my work-life balance in general. Even before that, I’d realised that I was generally slogging my guts out for very little reward. And, you know what? It was making me resentful. I was giving my all but in turn sacrificing so much. It gave me a chance to reflect on what I was doing, how I work, and how I was supporting my own energy. And I’ve started to put things in place to bring me a better balance.

My income wasn’t consistent

Let’s face it, the pandemic didn’t help, but as the sole earner for my family I either need a secure and consistent income, or enough of a buffer to account for quieter months. I realised I was still undercharging and over delivering a lot of the time.

I always over deliver, it’s in my nature, so I need to charge accordingly. Working with me is an investment not just for the current project, but for everything you work on. And there’s a lot of value in that. So, guess what? I’ve increased my prices and developed programmes to allow me to have a business that has the potential to earn me enough to live comfortably and to reduce stress, which also helps with the work-life balance and how available I can be for my son. And in turn this means my clients will get the absolute best from me because I won't be so stressed!

I realised I had less time than I thought

Investing in business coaching has helped me to realise the amount of time I need to spend working ON my business rather than just IN it. I used to dedicate every hour to client work, but have learned that I actually need to spend about 50 per cent of my time working ON my business, whether that is marketing, strategy, admin or something else. I’m still trying to get the balance right but I’m getting closer.

I felt disconnected

(In spite of all the Zoom meetings.) Haven’t we all ? The lack of book fairs and other events this year means I’ve felt more disconnected from my industry than before. Even when events are running, it’s really hard for me to attend them as a solo parent living outside of London, so I need to find other ways of staying connected with others in the children’s book world. Towards the end of 2020 I started reaching out to more people just to stay in touch, and it was great to connect, so I plan to keep on sending ‘Hey, how are you?’ emails every now and then.

What am I working towards in 2021?

Playing a major part in transforming the children’s book landscape.

This was a goal last year, but to be honest I only had a vague idea how I was going to make it work. Now I KNOW that my Inclusion Incubator and Foundations for Inclusion programmes have the power to make this happen.

Investing in professional development

I want to make sure that I am constantly building my knowledge in order to best support my clients. I’ve wanted to do Nova Reid’s White Privilege and Anti-Racism course for over a year now, and am hoping to start this in February. And whilst I read a lot of personal and business development books in 2020, I’m planning to shift the focus a little so there are more books that support my professional development amongst those. I’m currently reading Sway by Pragya Argwal.

Keeping in touch

I finally got my mailing list off the ground this year (albeit not until at least June), and I’ve really enjoying emailing everyone on there to share tips and thoughts around inclusion. I want to keep this up in 2021 and bring a bit more structure to what I’m sharing, so that I can get more responses like this:

“Loving receiving your updates! So insightful and really keep you thinking.”

(Make sure you’re on the list).

Continuing to improve my work-life balance

For me, Fridays off have become non-negotiable, so that will continue. But I also want to make sure I’m present for my son and not distracted by work, so this will mean deleting social media apps at weekends, and dedicated phone free time when he’s around. I want to make sure we finish each day strong by doing an activity together.

Summary of 2020

My themes for 2020 were THRIVE and TRANSFORM. Thrive was very important to me personally as I wanted to achieve a balance between my personal, business and family life, and to be able to feel that I was succeeding in all three rather than getting by. I’d signed up for some personal development work to help me achieve this, and although ‘thriving’ was hampered a little due to the challenges of 2002, it helped me survive, and I put tools in place to thrive in future.

Work wise, my plan was to transform my business, and in turn the children’s book landscape. In 2020 I transformed my business model and what I offer and this will lead to a transformation in the children’s book landscape in the long run.

This year has been overwhelming and transformational. We’ve all dealt with things that we never could have imagined, and made the best of it. I feel like I’ve ended this year in a much more powerful place. This time last year I knew I was on the cusp of change and wanted things to be different, but it was all very pie in the sky. I had no idea how it was actually going to happen.

I’ve ended the year with new friends, better support in place, a much clearer idea of where I’m going and how I can have an impact.

My theme for 2021

TRUST. Trust in myself, what I offer, the impact I can have, the person I can be, and that my dreams are achievable. I’ve learned that if I can trust, everything else will follow.

So, with that in mind, let’s stride boldly in 2021. I’m excited for this year and what might happen. (Okay, I'll admit it, right now I'm a little apprehensive too, but I'm trying to look at the bigger picture rather than just the next few months.)

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