20 things that I learned in 2020 – Part I | Deep Dive

2020 has been a rough year for us all. There has been so much for us all to deal with that reaching New Year’s Eve will feel like such a relief. Time to seize 2021 and make it mine, your friends will say over Google Hangout, FaceTime or Zoom.

Nonetheless, 2020 has also given us all an opportunity for tremendous personal growth. Search your memories of the year gone by and I’m sure you’ll also discover the 20 lessons that you’ve learned, big or small, to reflect on. Here are the first 10 of mine:

1. Be your most productive self

Lockdown started in March and left a lot of us without purpose – especially for those suddenly furloughed, who had had their day jobs taken from them. I was training to teach, and it was jarring not waking each day for placement. We had to find our own reasons to get out of bed in the mornings.

To combat this, I became a professor of productivity. I attempted different working techniques, such as the pomodoru method, and the far less effective drink as much coffee as possible method, and the former really helped with getting things done – including getting my blog back into full swing.

2. But don’t worry if you’re not

Sure, I might preach my productivity prowess on this blog, but it shouldn’t be your only calling. Whenever motivation fails you and you still endeavour to think productively, think about why you are doing it. Personally, I learned that being more productive was so that my work wouldn’t overspill into my free time. I am productive so that I actually have time to rest and relax.

I learned that it’s okay to put my productive hat away for a while, and that it’s okay to have a lie in, or video games all day long if I need them. I learned to take a break (especially now, because it’s Christmas).

3. Practice self-care

Speaking of taking breaks, make time for You, whatever that involves. Don’t work 24/7: you are much more than your job. You are a musician; a writer; a baker or an explorer.

Do something for yourself for once; you’ve earned it.

4. Become an athlete

Okay, maybe not, but exercising as often as you can – and want to – is just as good. I’ve always been into exercising, partly because I enjoy it, but also because I want to put on muscle – it’s why I go to the gym. Partly, also, because I want to be able to defend myself – it’s one of the reasons that I practice martial arts. But, coming to teaching, exercise was put onto the back burner.

During Lockdown 1, however, I learned to enjoy running, for once (previously being a cycling purist), and it was a great way to escape the news and add structure to my days.

5. Lifelong learning

As teachers, we’re encouraged to stay on top of CPL – Continued Professional Learning. I had never considered the fact that I stopped learning after completing my Undergrad degree in 2018, but really took to the idea of lifelong learning this year. I started by reading and summarising Rosenshine’s 10 Principles of Instruction, and this taught me so much about supporting learners.

I think that everybody should continue to learn, regardless of your education level or interests, just because it’s fun, but also because it keeps our brains working in tip-top shape! Give yourself a challenge and pursue something that you were interested in but never thought to pursue!

6. Have a habit…or thirty

I am a man of habit, of routines. I track them in my Bullet Journal every single day, colouring in a grid if I hit those goals. I’ve discovered that it’s so important to have as many enjoyable habits as I can for a few reasons, namely:

  1. It’s fun, and makes life a lot more enjoyable.
  2. Learning new things fits into my lesson of lifelong learning. Always challenge yourself to do something new!
  3. It makes me more interesting.

That final one sounds a little egotistical, but I’d rather call it honest. I wouldn’t have started learning to play the ukulele if I didn’t also genuinely enjoy it, but having a passion for something, honestly, also just gives me something more to talk about and discuss with people.

Plus, how satisfying is it that I can now read at least a little bit of sheet music!

7. Speed listening

2020, for me, was the year that I finally got into audiobooks, thanks to the amazing free service offered by our local libraries (download BorroBox, where I listen to my audiobooks for free, here!). They’d replace my podcasts whenever I had got fully up-to-date with each of them.

But listening was a drag. Audiobooks are just so long, and it was tricky devoting that level of time to each entry, even if I did enjoy them.

Enter speed listening. What a game changer.

Initially it was jarring, listening to narrators on 1.5x speed, but I soon moved up to 2x – and this applied to my podcasts too. With some speakers, I’ve even moved up to 3x, cutting Michele Obama’s Becoming, for instance, from 19 hours to just 6.3 hours. As long as I can still understand what’s going on, why wouldn’t I increase the speed?

Now I can finally get through the huge backlog of books on my e-shelf! (Speaking of, why not check out what I’m reading on Goodreads?)

8. Minimise your clutter

I speed-listened to Marie Kondu’s Magic of Tidying and, while a lot of it was too hyperbolic for my liking, the general idea that, if something doesn’t spark joy, why should you have it? really stuck. This was really useful for decluttering my workspace, where I now only have the essentials on show to maximise my productivity.

I’m going to put together a workspace tour at some point soon, so you can see for yourselves how I’ve maximised my productivity.

9. Don’t waste your money

Earning a salary, finally, means that I can buy things. It’s a nice change to my days living as a broke student, but it’s no excuse for me to blow it all at a bar or club every other weekend (if I even could right now, but that’s besides the point).

I’ve never been one for shopping sprees, either, so why should that change just because the amount in my bank account has changed? Buy what you want, spend money on things that’ll make you happy, but don’t waste it. Save where possible and try your best to live within your means. Save for an emergency.

I think that’s pretty sound advice, regardless of your bottom line.

10. Then again, don’t be stingy

While you shouldn’t waste your earnings, don’t be afraid to spend it, either. Offer to buy your friend a coffee, or get the milk when it might not be your turn. Support local businesses where possible. Use your cash for small, random acts of kindness when you can and you’ll probably be happier for it.

What’s the other extreme? Recording how much your pals owe you on a detailed spreadsheet? No thanks.


Set an alarm: part 2 is coming next Friday! See you all then for the 10 other lessons that I learned in 2020.


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