Its that time of year again. :)
Well, its my 11th year of doing this folks! Feeling pretty chuffed with myself for that. I now get people telling me they are looking forward to this post! You only get that after years and years of commitment. It’s hard to explain the feeling of accomplishment when you can look back on ten years of something.
Maybe this is the year I can inspire you to start something yourself?
Before I go on, I’ve just re-read last years post and promised myself that this year will be a lot lighter in tone! Sorry about that but 2018/19 weren’t good years personally so I struggled to inject the normal element of humour and fun into them!
OK, lets crack on with the list.
I’m an absolute nightmare when it comes to being advertised to on Instagram. I get caught out regularly! This year one of my purchases (which I love) was a journal, made especially for men.
Since buying this, I’ve been doing a fair bit of personal writing, this product is awesome – it helps you set goals, bucket lists, balance your life and obviously journal. It has loads of great exercises which ease you into the practice.
With the personal journaling going well, I turned to the idea of business journaling. Not a bad year to start with everything going on. Earlier in the year I’d heard about this breakout platform called Substack which is a cross between blogging and email marketing. People subscribe to your (paid or non-paid) list (please subscribe to mine :)) and when you create your content, it updates them straight to their inbox. For me it answered the main reason I’ve not been on my personal blog much these days – the ongoing challenge of dissemination.
Over the last month I’ve created a handful of entries. I wrote an entry about mental health a few weeks ago and it absolutely took off. If you’re looking for a platform to build your database and keep connected this year maybe you should check out this one.
I am not ashamed to say that I am terrible at saving money. It just doesn’t compute! So when my friend talked about this app that does it automatically for you, I was all ears. Its super easy to work. You download the app, connect it to your bank accounts and tell it how much you’re happy saving and if you want to invest that money or simply leave it in a savings account. As I didn’t really know or particularly trust this sort of technology a year or so ago I just set it off really low, saving a couple of quid a week. I also put myself into the highest risk profile I could find for the investments (eek). I’ve played around with it a lot over the last year and while we aren’t talking mega money here, the app has saved me almost £2000 and made a 20% increase in my investments! And the best thing – I haven’t even realised. Genius.
3). Digital Academy Launch
Last year we had our first full year’s cohort through our digital marketing academy. This was an idea I’d had at least five years previously, so it was amazing to finally see it come to fruition. Naturally the first time you run things you find it’s not quite as simple as you thought but we got through and finished the cohort (virtually) in October. Two of the team – Becky and Jack were integral to making this a success. During the lockdown we also invested a huge amount of time into taking the courses online. We filmed and edited hundreds of videos and now have 6 of 12 courses online for anyone to take, wherever they are in the world, breaking down geographic boundaries that previously existed.
p.s. Our new ‘live’ sessions start in Jan so if you’re interested, drop me a line, there is still time.
4). Google Nest
My first product of the year. Before our Nest, we had a bog-standard thermostat in our house and I was constantly turning it up and down. It was a joke! Enjoying a gadget as I do, I bought a nest from Amazon and got my good friend Gareth to install it (if you need a quality electrician, ask me and I’ll put you in touch). If you’re wondering, you definitely need someone to do this for you, something I don’t think was pointed out too well. We can now control the temperature of our home from anywhere via the app (no more returning to a freezing cold house after a holiday (whatever those are)). It also learns heating patterns and helps you save money with its eco modes. A absolute no-brainer household gadget I should have bought years ago.
*At time of writing this product has £50 off on Amazon! 31/12/20
I’m not going to get away with a post about things that changed my life this year without mentioning Coronavirus am I. I refuse however to put it at the top though. It gets far too much airtime already! I’ve written extensively about this from a business perspective, however I’ve not really touched on things from a personal perspective. As a family, we’ve actually quite enjoyed the various lockdowns but we realise that we’re also in a very privileged position. Lizz works from home for our businesses so was able to do the home schooling very easily. We have plenty of devices for the kids to share and we have room (just) for us all to live without tripping over each other. We realise we are very lucky and many people had a torrid time, either alone or battling multiple jobs and home-schooling together.
I experienced a couple of personal breakthroughs during this period – exercise and nature being two of the biggest. We started off doing PE with Joe back in lock down 1 and it kinda stuck with me. I’m now doing exercises every morning. That wouldn’t have happened pre lockdown. Due to the difficulties of work and the pressure we were under, I ended up spending an inordinate about of time in our local forest – Ashclyst. Some days I’d be there for 3 or 4 hours, just walking the dog with my headphones on making constant phone calls. There is no doubt being in nature helped me massively and I wrote about that in my post about mental health here. This has been a year like no other. I hope we’ll never experience anything like it again in our lifetime but if we do, hopefully we’ll have learnt a lot of lessons this time round!
6). Understanding Mental Health
Unfortunately, I was born in an era that didn’t pay much attention to, or understand mental health and we’re seeing a worrying number of people (particularly around my age) take their own lives because of it. I’m ashamed to say that until I started to struggle myself, I too fell into the camp of people who thought it was a weakness. Not exactly stiff upper lip stuff! I now understand, having immersed myself in books/blogs/videos/talking with others about it that it really is no different to having a physical injury. If you sprained or broke your leg, you wouldn’t think twice about seeing a doctor, yet for some reason when people’s minds (which are unbelievably powerful and complex things) start to suffer, we don’t do the same. If you want to watch a sad but powerful documentary which shows the impact of pressure and success on someone’s mental health, watch the avicii documentary. Sorry, I did say at the beginning of this post I’d keep the tone light! The positive for me therefore is being more aware of this subject and ways of combatting darker thoughts and times.
7). Video Calling
I really had to question my reasons before putting pen to paper on this one. On one hand I love the fact we’ve all got used to this technology and it’s just a part of our lives now, on the other hand I detest it sometimes. Let me be clear tho, this is a list about things that have changed my life and no one could argue it hasn’t! This was made most apparent when we organised a call with a client in Germany earlier this year. When I got off the call 45 minutes later I realised what had just occurred. Pre Lockdown and in a desire to impress, Thomas and I would have jumped on a plane, spent a night in Germany and flown back again. That’s two flights, two hotel rooms, taxis, meals and that’s before all the coffee that Thomas and I drink! We achieved the same result in a 45 minute video call and neither of us left our living rooms! The cost is one thing but when you think of the saving to the environment as well you can’t help but smile. When things go back to ‘normal’ again I hope to see a blended mixture of face to face and video meetings. I fear it will need consciously considering as everyone is desperate for human interaction again. I hope in part that by writing this now, I might remind my future self of the way I was thinking when I wrote this.
My second product of the year. Thanks to Dan White who gave me the inspiration for this one. Two key reasons I think this is a great product. It’s an alarm clock which means you can stop relying on your phone and therefore checking it last thing at night, first thing in the morning. Secondly (and this is my favourite bit) – its natural light function slowly wakes you up in the morning. You control all the times and settings, but I have mine start to get lighter about an hour before I want to wake up. Then by the time it reaches my alarm, its natural light has helped you gain consciousness. There is also the reverse for when you go to bed but I’ve not worked that out yet! I don’t have trouble going to sleep so it’s not been a priority. I would imagine if this was a problem then this would be an epic product for that as well.
9). Scrabble Go
Always gotta chuck in a fun one right? I’ve loved playing Scrabble since childhood. Playing a game which helps improve your vocabulary – how can that be anything but a good thing? The Scrabble Go app allows you to play your friends / family or complete strangers. Probably should come with a warning that its extremely addictive and may cause you relationships issues with the aforementioned (especially if it’s your younger brother who is notably better than you at it)!
10). Rob Stevens
I’ve run Optix with James for 21 years now. That’s a long time. Although I still love the industry, over the last few years I was undoubtedly starting to feel the pressure and burn out so James and I bought on Rob Stevens in October 2019 as our Ops Director. It was our first appointment at Director level which was a scary enough move for us but after a year of running the business with us we made Rob the offer to join us as an equity partner in the business and to take on the title of Managing Director. I’m so pleased that Rob is part of the Optix Family. He’s really taken to the role of MD and between James, himself and I we form a really strong management team. It also helps that I really like Rob as a person. A genuinely nice guy with strong ethics, values and a drive for success that matches my own. In a post I did on LinkedIn recently he said he had a mancrush on me but the feeling is mutual Rob. I’m now focusing on more of the thought leadership work I’ve always loved and this in turn has given me a renewed enthusiasm for the business again. All this makes me a happier person :)
So there we have it, my round up of 2020.
Although I didn’t include Lizz as a point herself, it doesn’t mean I appreciate her any less. Once again, she’s been a rock (my rock) this year and constantly amazes me with her skills and kindness as a mother and partner. To my kids, you are a constant source of joy and laughter for me on a daily basis.
How has your 2020 been, difficult I’m sure? What have you learnt, experienced, found that has positively affected your life? I’d love you to share so we can learn together. I wish you all a very, Happy New Year!
*Disclosure - some of the links in this post will be affiliate links. I NEVER choose to link to these products because of the comissions they pay, only ever because I want to share the benefits I’ve had with them, with you.