Random Ramblings

2021: An End of Year Progress Review

With the new year approaching, it’s a good time to both look back at what has happened and look forward to what is yet to come.  And wow, a lot has happened this year.  Much of 2020 was spent in lockdown, and 2021 was set up as much of the same.  People still complained about the “scam-demic”, complained about the mask mandate, complained about the vaccine rollout, and complained about generally having to inconvenience themselves in order to keep everyone alive.  Because why the hell should we make sure those more vulnerable can actually have a life to live when we can go out and get a shitty excuse of a pint in a grotty ‘Spoons?

(In case you are wondering, I hate Weatherspoons. I don’t give a shit, they’re owned by an obnoxious git and regularly frequented by racist arseholes. Come at me.)

Protests in Manchester city centre against the wearing of masks in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic
Just a bunch of people protesting the wearing of masks in the height of a pandemic, no big deal. Probably all Weatherspoons customers.

Still, this year was still worth looking back on, even though much of it was spent indoors.  So here are some major changes that I think are important to look back on.

Personal Updates

So I’ll start with my personal updates, not because I want to talk about how great my life is because it’s not great.  At all.  But I figured, if I do this first then I can end on a high since my professional life has seen more progress and I’m quite happy with where that’s gone.  Sort of.

First of all, not unrelated to my opening comment, I got COVID.  After almost two years of isolating, lockdowns, masks, vaccines, boosters (booked, at least), social distancing, remote working, and listening to endless debates about just how effective modern, life-saving medicine really isn’t from people who clearly got their doctorate in Medicine from the University of Bullshit and Ponzi Schemes™, I still got COVID in November.  Thankfully, symptoms were mild and passed quickly, but it still annoyed me that I got it in the first place.  Especially because it is a reminder that so many people have been actively doing everything they can to sabotage the progress we have collectively made to weaken it and stop the spread around the world.  Go figure.

There has been a lot in my mental health that I need to sort out, and I do mean a lot.  I’ve really neglected myself for a long time and while I know I should practise self-care, I haven’t done anything to start thinking about it.  Not to blow smoke up my own arse, but I am genuinely more concerned with making sure others are ok and doing what I can for others instead of looking after myself, and it’s coming back to bite me on the arse big time.  There are reasons behind that, and I need to work through a lot in order to get even part-way to being alright.  Perhaps 2022 will be the year changes are made in that respect.  So while it isn’t a big change or improvement, it’s important enough to mention that I have decided action needs to be taken.  Let’s see how that pans out …

There was one big change this year that I never saw coming.  When I was a child, I enjoyed football (or soccer, if you prefer to say it the wrong way).  I wasn’t a huge fan, but I supported Manchester United as most of my family did, and while I still can watch a game without falling asleep, I no longer love it as I did all those years ago.  Shortly thereafter, I stopped caring about all sport completely, except for major contests like the World Cup.  But recently I found a sport that I like and it’s one I never thought I would – cricket.

Manchester Originals warming up at Old Trafford for The Hundred, the new limited-ball cricket format that launched this year

Where most people think of cricket as a more stuck-up and boring cousin of baseball, I was fortunate to see the game as something exciting and worth watching.  The Hundred, a new limited-ball format of cricket, launched this summer and I went to see the Manchester Originals up against the Birmingham Phoenix at Old Trafford.  The Originals lost (😢) but seeing the women play in the same arena as the men – especially with the double-header matches that were played throughout the summer – made me feel hopeful that change could come for women in other sports.  From what I’ve seen, women’s sports in general have been relegated to footnotes on the major sporting calendars and played at smaller stadiums than their male counterparts.  Addressing this unequal platform and standing of women’s sport is especially important given the multitude of equality and diversity drives that we are seeing across all sporting institutions.  There have been major lapses in all of them, which have been seen even more with allegations and investigations into institutional racism, but we are seeing shifts with all major sports and campaigns to stamp discrimination of all sorts out, so it’s not all hopeless.

I also got a hat and a shirt, so that happened too.

Me in my Manchester Originals shirt and cap.
Hat, shirt, mask. Because COVID-19.

Professional achievements

Now onto the good stuff.  Professionally, there were a lot of changes and many of them were positive.

The first change was a whole new admin system for my work, which has helped me manage and process clients.  It works really well on a tight budget and has helped me track so much in my work.  It was a long time coming, and worth every second of research and planning.  You can read more about some of the systems I used as part of my Freelancing on any Budget post.  In 2022, I plan on writing more about each item I use and compile them into a PDF guide, so look out for that.

With the new system came a requirement for a new site, and after months of working through 2020, I launched the new site for my corporate brand, Cocode Designs.  Not only did my corporate brand get a facelift, but my personal brand did too.  And, as strange as it may sound, I don’t think I’m likely to change them all that much for a while.  Usually, no sooner have I finished one design than I am already planning my next design.  Maybe this could be a new start?  There are some changes that will come to my professional site, which I’ll talk about later …

One of my most anticipated projects as well has also come to fruition.  Something I love about WordPress that is often celebrated by the WordPress community is its open-source nature, and I wanted to give back to the software that has been a major part of my freelancing career.  That’s why I developed Project Zero, a bare-bones theme to sort of act as a launchpad for developers to build their own themes.  It is available for free and is released under the GNU General Public License version 3, so it fits perfectly with the WordPress theme requirements.  It’s available on GitHub so you can fork your own instance and build on top of it to your heart’s content, or contribute to the main project.  I’d love to hear what you think about it.

And I have finally planned a content calendar for 2022 and added at least some generic content to go on my site and my social channels.  My plan is to get at least three months of generic content ready and keep three months ahead, but after my first cycle, I want to have a review of both my sites and social media profiles.  I’m not sure that having two sites dedicated to the same content may be best, so it might be that I merge the two and have my corporate brand become a personal brand.  The aim of Cocode Designs was to become a collective, but it might be worthwhile making it into a personal brand.  We shall see what happens.

What’s next for 2022?

After the progress I have made this year, there are three things I want to do in 2022:

First, I want to spend one day a month on self-care, in addition to whatever action I take for my mental health in general.  That means no work, no social networks, a complete switch-off and disconnect from everything.  It might help, it might not, but it’s needed.  It’s definitely needed.  So the first day of each month will be dedicated to just looking after myself, and that starts in January.

Second, I want to look at my branding.  As much as I love my sites – and I do – I think I need to rethink how they work and manage them better.  I have two sites that are both doing the same sort of thing, so I need to sit down and plan what’s going on.  Perhaps merging the two will take some pressure off me to make Cocode Designs a formal company so quickly, and that may help with my own self-care.  I’ll hopefully decide how things go around March or April time.

Thirdly, I want to blog more.  The content calendar will help with that, but I want to write more, and I want it to be structured rather than haphazard.  So I have set myself a target of one post each month, plus an end of quarter review so I can look at the past three months and set smaller goals for the next three months at least.  If more come out, that’s a bonus, but if I can keep to that schedule then I will have achieved something.

And finally, I want to get the documentation for Project Zero published. I’ve got some of the articles done and the rest drafted, but I want to finish them all. It’s possible, it’s doable, it’ll take a little time. But I am hoping to get the first version published by the end of January.

In business, it’s good to create SMART goals – something Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based, so, with that in mind, my goals are:

  • To schedule and take one day off all social media platforms and support tickets each month.
  • To write a plan that will help me to better manage my personal and professional websites by March.
  • To write and publish a minimum of one blog post each month and four reviews posted each quarter.
  • To publish the first version of the documentation for Project Zero by the end of January 2022.

Let’s see how I do keeping to this.

What about you?

How has your 2021 turned out?  What have you achieved this year?  What are you planning for next year?  I’d love to hear from you, so head on to the comments and let’s discuss.

In the meantime, so long 2021 and Happy 2022 to everyone.

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