2020: Year in Review

2020: Year in Review

Well, wasn't 2020 quite the year?

The year started out well with the year looking set to be a busy one. We had lots of plans for the year including a couple of trips already lined up, whilst the first couple of months were packed full of seeing family and friends, meals out and events like the Stranger Things Secret Cinema. Meanwhile, work was busy with a big deadline looming that looked set to keep me challenged for quite a while.

Looking back now, January 2020 feels like a lifetime ago.

Like most people, I was blissfully unaware of how news from China would end up impacting us all so much, so quickly. By March, all plans for the year were cancelled as we all adopted mass working from home and national lockdown measures came into place. It all makes writing a "review" for the year a bit of a strange task, at times it feels like an achievement to simply make it to 2021. But regardless, here are some of the notable achievements for me this year.

Launching this blog

One of my goals for a while now has been to create a blog and start writing more which I finally achieved in 2020. This year I replaced my previous WordPress site with a new Gatsby site using Ghost as my CMS. As with all personal projects, it's hard to release something which doesn't feel finished so I did have to force myself to just make the plunge and embrace the fact that this is my own little corner of the web and really does not need to be perfect. I've since migrated from Gatsby to Eleventy, and have a number of other changes I'd like to make.

So far, I've written a small number of posts on performance and atomic design which I've found a useful process for documenting my own thoughts on a topic. For the first couple of months of lockdown I also posted on my own experience as this was a particularly remarkable time and I wanted to give myself a way of looking back and reflecting on what happened in the Spring of 2020.

Major projects at work

Work at Immediate continued, with most of the year spent working towards completing a huge migration project to move the BBC Good Food website, apps and Alexa skills onto our Fabric platform alongside a major re-architecture programme. The work required taking on additional responsibilities as technical lead for the project and became my focus for much of the year until we successfully launched in August.

It's been a hugely challenging project, but one that I've learned a lot from and can feel proud to have been a part of. It took a lot of effort by a lot of people, all whilst adjusting to remote working during a pandemic!

Away from this migration I've also been working on increasing the awareness of performance within the company including new monitoring and reporting and improvements in a number of areas including our ad speed and third-party integrations. There's plenty of room for improvement so I'm hoping to continue this work in 2021.

Staying healthy during a pandemic

Putting the COVID pandemic itself aside, going into lockdown raised a number of other concerns. I already knew 2020 was going to be a busy year at work and likely to involve putting in extra hours, but how could I stop work becoming all encompassing once continually working from home? Working in an office is already pretty sedentary, and that could become a lot worse when spending so much time at home so how could I manage my health?

For me, I felt it important to try and stick to my usual working hours as much as possible. At the end of the day, I'd aim to finish promptly and get outside for walk. As daylight hours extended and evenings stayed lighter for longer it became quite nice seeing different parts of our local area. It meant I managed to get a clean divide between work and home, and crucialy allowed me to stay healthy.

River Thames in Hammersmith on a bright sunny day, with house boats moored to one side and Hammersmith Bridge in the background
Walking along the river during lockdown

During the summer I also started running, going from being entirely unable to run any distance to actually enjoying it, ending the year physically healthier than I started.

Having that walking routine was also good for my mental health, especially as the work deadlines crept closer and the pressure built up.

It continues to surprise me how often I'll spend the day trying to solve a problem, yet more often than not it's when I stop working and stat walking or cooking that I'll actually solve the problem. It's like switching work to a background thread allows our brain to remove tunnel vision, and start poking the problem from different angles until it solves the problem. Just shows that sometimes productivity can't be measured by hours sat at a computer – taking a break is healthy and productive.

Travelling in 2020

In a normal year my personal highlights would involve trips away, and I started 2020 with a number of trips planned. Like most other people, these trips all ended up being cancelled as the world entered various lockdowns and borders started to close.

During the autumn, I was lucky enough to be able to do a couple of smaller trips including a visit to Sicily, a road trip to the Lake District, Yorkshire and the Peak District and a weekend away to Norfolk.

Panorama showing a wide open green valley
Curbar Edge in the Peak District, England
Still water on the tarn reflecting the hills on a cloudy day
Alcock Tarn in the Lake District, England
Statue with jets of water in a fountain
Fountain of Diana in Syracuse, Sicily
Ancient ruins of a template on a hilltop
Temple of Juno in the Valley of Templates in Agrigento, Sicily 
Sunset off the coast with rock formations
Sunset at Scala dei Turchi, Sicily
Still water on a beach reflecting the clouds above
Holkham Beach in Norfolk, England

What next?

Going into 2020 it felt like the road ahead was quite well known, whereas the reality turned out quite different. The rollercoaster of 2020 means I'm now going into 2021 without a real vision of what the year is going to look like.

As I write this, we're part way through out third national lockdown with the next few months looking likely to remain fairly tough. The road for 2021 is really dependent on how the next few weeks progress. Will things recover enough to allow for more social interaction again? What about more travelling?

At work there is no single project that seems likely to take over my year, instead there are a number of different projects that I'll be involved in and a number of other initiatives and areas of improvement that I'll be looking to focus on.

I'm aiming to continue writing on this blog too, giving me a chance to improve my writing and find topics to focus on.