I’ve never written an end of year review before, but I decided to do a personal retrospective of 2020 when I saw Pat Kua’s template (HT David Heath for sharing it). The idea particularly appealed to me this year because my last four months have been dominated by having a TIA (a ‘mini-stroke’) and then a stroke, and I was finding it hard to see past that. Also, it was end-of-year appraisal time at work and, having to write a self-assessment, I had the sense that I hadn’t done much or achieved much over the year, so I was keen to get a broader perspective.

I followed Pat’s guidelines (eg I made his template my own by using some of the questions that help me when I reflect on things, I sat in a quiet space with minimum interruptions, turned off notifications and mined my calendar, my twitter and medium accounts, and my photos of the year, for data — events and activities that were significant to me). After I had completed my data collection to remind myself what had happened during the year, and come up with a list of stuff broken down by month, I went over the retrospective questions and then took a break, giving me time to reflect. And over the next few days I came back to my list several times, looked at my questions, gradually grouped things together, generally mulled things over and wrote this post.

3 things I did for the first time

  1. Went two-person Kayaking

Events/activities that brought me joy

  1. Getting up in the morning to experience the dawn chorus
    (HT Rob Hopkins)
The beach at Pagham, where we we stayed on holiday in July

Events/activities that made me sad

  1. My godfather having a stroke

Things that I found particularly challenging

  • I had a stroke — but I survived and I recovered, thanks to expert medical care, and lots of support from a rehab team, family and friends. It meant that I learnt a lot about the brain and neoroplasticity, about stroke, and I guess it’s given me a different appreciation of life and its fragility


  1. I got promoted at work

Events/activities that helped me grow

  • Working on the psychological safety program helped me to think at scale: Elsevier is a global business; we have nearly 8000 employees and offices worldwide. It was also testament to what a small cross-functional team can achieve when everyone on the team is engaged and cares about the subject matter/outcome

3 things that I’m grateful for

  1. Surviving my stroke - I’m alive, I’m recovering well, and my work have been amazingly supportive and understanding as I’ve returned to work

What would you have liked to do more of?

  • Spoon carving — after learning to carve in February 2017, I did another course in February this year, where I learnt new techniques and gained confidence. I continued and practised through March and April. But then I fell out of the habit. However, in August I was given some beautiful cherry wood and was beginning to get back into it, when I had my stroke, and I’ve not been able to carve since. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start again next year.

What did you experiment with?

  • I experimented with ways to support our community of managers and senior leaders. My goals were to help these people to learn and grow their non-technical skills; and to share knowledge and help collaboration.
What people said it takes to be a good manager

What could have gone better?

  • As part of our L&D objective for the year, I joined a small team to develop a clear offering of (non-technical) training for managers, including an ‘onboarding’ program for new managers. We started quite well, but we weren’t particularly agile, we didn’t manage effectively manage the relationship with the supplier we were working with, the project lead was off work for a couple of months for health reasons, and too many of us had competing demands from our day jobs…

Habits from 2020 that I want to continue doing

  1. Daily exercise — helps keep me healthy

Imagine yourself at the end of 2021. What are big accomplishments that you are proud of?

  1. Our management team is a high-performing team that is great at product leadership.

In the first week of January I plan to discuss these goals with my boss and break them down into quarterly (but flexible) steps and actions.

What are you looking forward to next year?

  • Rebecca completing her rolfing training

Senior Director @ElsevierConnect doing product strategy implementation & performance. Mainly writing about getting from A to B, & digital stuff. Personal acc’t.