We are entering into the final days of 2021. It has been a whirlwind and a roller coaster. The year has felt interminable, and it has gone by in the blink of an eye. There has been hope and there has been frustration. There have been a few successes along the way, and not an inconsiderable number of setbacks. As I reflect on my own year, I can honestly say that I have accomplished more than I might have expected, and leave the year with a positive stance. That outcome was not always a certainty.
Once again, we approach the close of the year. 2021 has been a difficult and awkward year for many, myself included. Despite that, it has arguably been one of my best writing years yet. A lot of what I have written is personal. Much of it is heart-felt, if not heart-wrenching. Many of the messages and conclusions I arrive at are important for myself to pay attention to, let alone anyone else joining me on this journey. What follows is an exploration of your favourite writing of the year, as well as mine. In most things there is alignment, but there are a few outliers along the way as well.
What if you never forgot anything? Consider what it would mean to remember every idea you have ever come across, and where it originally came from. Even better, imagine building on that knowledge to identify ideas you want to explore, papers you want to write, research you want to do or projects you want to pursue. Sound far-fetched? Perhaps. But an obscure (to most of us) sociologist named Niklas Luhmann devised a system to support doing exactly this. The essence of the system is absolute simplicity. This isn’t to say that actually building one doesn’t involve some significant complexity and work.
Our notes and systems are how we make sense of the world, of ourselves and of our work. For the most part, my note-taking and information retrieval has lurched from project to project. My method of writing has focused on what I need to produce now. I have a method—or at least a notion of an approach—that works for me, despite largely being internal, abstract and fuzzy. Once I know what I am doing, I can usually get it done, and done well. Until then, precious little of value is likely to be produced. I’m coming to terms with the fact that regardless of my track record to date, this might not be the most efficient way of getting things done.
We all get to choose who we wish to become. While that has always been true, there have been few opportunities quite so significant and meaningful as the situation in which we find ourselves today. We have been collectively in a liminal transition from the start of the pandemic. While we didn’t choose this, there are opportunities to learn from it. In particular, there is a choice of how each of us emerges from the experience. This isn’t about going back to where you were before; none of us are doing that fully. As you navigate towards your next normal, you have the opportunity to use your current liminal reality to shape and define who your future self. There will never be a better opportunity for broad reinvention of who you become and where you go than the situation you find yourself in today.
As is no doubt true for many of us, I started off last year with the best of intentions. While I am proud of what I accomplished (despite 2020 being, well, 2020) it was not without its challenges. My first post last year outlined my plans to revisit how I plan, how I organize and how I manage. A check-in on how that went—spoiler alert: inconsistently—and what I’m doing differently this year.