2022 in Review

Year in Review
Updated: Dec 22, 2023

2022, for the most part, has been a good one. I’m ending the year feeling fit and energised for the year ahead – I can’t ask for much more than that.

As with every year there’s been highs and lows. Some of which I’ll try to summarise here in my annual reflection. As ever, I’m using my usual format; first what went well, then what didn’t go so well, followed by a few realisations I made along the way.

To learn more about how I approach this thing, I wrote a year in review a few years back, all about why I write this and the inspiration I borrow from for the structure. Make sure you take a look if it’s of interest to you.

Ok, here it goes.

What went well #

I feel I started to get a handle on things this year. Mostly surrounding work and organising my life, both online and off. It was also a great year for travel and celebration.

Work #

I’ve been working hard on my business offering this year, spending a good amount of time building systems and creating SOP’s to guide my process.

As a result, I have a much clearer idea of what I do, how I go about it and perhaps most important of all, what I don’t do. This lead me to said no to several opportunities this year. And, as hard as that can be at the time, I know it will be worth it over the long term.

I’ve also doubled down on a what I believe to be a more sustainable approach to building content-focused websites. I’m confident this focus will allow me to scale my business and be more productive.

Although I didn’t launch many new sites this year, I spent a good bit of time behind the scenes, working on existing projects. I’ve adopted new technologies, and let others go. I’ve become ruthless about cutting costs and ditching unnessary subscriptions. Where I can, my aim is to support projects that are open-source and prioritise the privacy and security of their customers.

Travel #

In March I was in Hamburg. We travelled up to Travemünde for a birthday weekend, then spent the following week back in the city, catching up with friends.

In May I celebrated the wedding of two great friends in Ibiza. My third time on the island. This time we ventured across to Formentera, hired bikes and explored the beaches. Time well spent.

In August we were back in Germany. Another week in Hamburg, before a train ride to Kappeln for the final wedding of the year – another two friends, who I got to know well when I first started visiting Germany all those years ago.

In October we flew to Athens – one of my favourite places. We spent a weekend in the city, a week on Poros and another on Spetses, before heading back to Athens. I’m a big fan of Greece, it’s somewhere I can easily spend time.

In November we travelled to South Africa. This was my first time south of the equator. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, to be honest, but whatever it was, my expectations were exceeded.

We spent two weeks working from Cape Town. Then hired a car and drove the Garden Route to Addo Elephant Park, and back via Route 62. South Africa is an incredible country. It should be at the top of your list if it isn’t already. On our travels we made a bunch of new friends, all of whom I hope to see again.

Privacy and security #

I’ve been working on De-Googling – and generally trying to improve my quality of life online – for a while now.

In March I moved my email from Google Workspace to privacy-focused Tutanota. Then I discovered email masking and adopted the brilliant SimpleLogin, as part of my account sign-up workflow. Now I can seamlessly generate both usernames (masked emails) and passwords directly from Bitwarden, my password manager. Nerd stuff maybe, but I’m now in full control of the email I receive.

This year I started using a VPN, at all times, whilst browsing the web. It’s not easy finding the perfect browser. Currently I’m using a mix of Brave, Vivaldi and Firefox. There are two extensions I can’t live without – uBlock Origin and SponsorBlock – which block ads on websites and YouTube videos, respectively.

If you’re new to all this privacy and security stuff, Brian Lovin’s Secuirty Checklist and The New Oil are two great places to start.

What didn’t go so well #

Talking about what didn’t go well is never easy, but I’ve found in the past it’s a great way to identify either areas for improvement or what’s important and thus deserving of your time and attention.

Health #

In June, out of nowhere, I started having panic attacks. I’m still not exactly sure what caused them, but my guess is a whole bunch of things coming together and boiling over.

A panic attack is essentially anxiety manifesting as a variety of physical symptoms. I can best describe what I feel during a panic attack as something close to an out-of-body experience. It’s a feeling of disconnect from your mind, body or surroundings – something I’ve come to know as dissociation – making you feel like you’ve lost control or you’re going crazy. You may also experience feeling numb, shaking, your legs turning to jelly or struggling to breath. Whatever the symptoms, panic attacks can be extremely uncomfortable.

Talking about it was the best thing I did to overcome my issues. I told as many people I could about what I was experiencing. I stopped being so hard on myself and took the final 6 months of the year at a much slower pace. I’ve had the occasional blip over the past few months, but I’m a world away from where I was in June and haven’t had a full-blown panic attack since.

Side projects #

Much of my energy this year I spent writing content for my Hugo course – Practical Hugo. Focusing on a new project meant I didn’t publish a huge amount on my personal site.

Practical Hugo got off to a good start, but, to be honest, I started to feel overwhelmed by the challenge of a full-blown course. Then I got sick and struggled to keep it up. To kick things off again, I might try to rework some of the lessons into an email course, or a humble blog of tips. Something that feels less daunting, that will allow me to get finished content out there. Anything to help get the ball rolling, again.

I managed to work a couple of Hugo themes – Mood and Notes (which I plan on releasing soon). Progress has been slow, but I enjoy building themes and I’ve got loads of ideas. So thats another thing to explore in 2023.

In short, although I haven’t released much into the wild this year, I am working on things. It’s all just taking longer than expected. And, as is often the case, this year, life happened to get in the way.

Sticking with habits #

Exercise has ebbed and flowed this year. I was out of the habit of meditating for the first part of the year, but picked it up again when I got sick. Running was the exact opposite. Yoga I’ve been a bit more consistent with, I usually attribute this to it being fairly low intensity and easy to roll out a mat.

Writing is another one I struggled with. I was writing consistently and wrote a fair amount, up until I got sick at the beginning of June. Then I lost motivation and I’ve struggled to find it again, until the last few weeks that is. I guess my energy was elsewhere – focusing on my health, travel and generally taking a break from it all.

Studying. I dabbled with a number of courses this year – Jack Butcher’s Build Once, Sell Twice and Chris Ferdinandi’s Vanilla JS Pocket Guides are the ones I’ve stuck at most, but I’m yet to completed either. I would like to be more disiplined in the new year. Perhaps blocking out time in my calander each week to focus on study, but I’m not going to stress if it doesn’t work out.

What did I learn #

I’m sure I learnt a bunch in 2022, but these are the things that come to mind.

Talk about it #

A problem shared is a problem halved. A age-old saying and well worth remembering. For good reason, too – there’s a lot of truth to it.

Don’t bottle it up. Seek help if you’re struggling. Talk about your problems, as crazy as them may seem. You’ll be surprised how supportive family and friends can be.

For those in the UK, if you can’t get an appointment with the NHS, go private, if you can. There’s plenty of drop in clinics that will see you on the same day. DocTap is one.

Your health comes first. Look after it. You can’t do much without it.

Organise your chaos #

Start using systems to organise the chaos in your digital life. It’s the best way I’ve found to stay focused and deal with the overwhelm of working online. It also feels really good to get on top of things.

Use a web clipper to save content to a Reading Inbox. Use Notion, Pocket, Instapaper or whatever – just make sure it’s all in one place and not spread across a bunch of different services.

Use a method like P.A.R.A to assign open tabs to projects your working on. Then you can clean up your browser and confidently close it down at the end of each work session.

Go through your password manager and close accounts you no longer use. Generate a unique forwarding address for every new account you create – dealing with spam will become a whole lot easier. It’s also great for security.

Only keep a years worth of images and videos on your phone. Get yourself an external hard drive and stop paying Apple or whoever for yet more cloud storage. A cloud storage subscription is expensive, for you and for the planet. Only use it for recent things or projects you’re actively working on.

Social media is optional #

For a long time now, building a following on social media has felt somewhat mandatory for anyone looking to grow a thing – whether it be a business, a side project or some other venture you’re involved in.

Since the recent demise of Twitter, it seems that sentiment is starting to change. I believe this is because, as Andy puts it in 2023, the year of websites:

“people are also realising—including me—that betting everything on a single place is not great, actually. The only place you really can bet on with confidence is a place that you created and that you own. No one can break it, but you.“

As someone who has always found social media distracting, stressful, rather unenjoyable, and generally more harm than good, this shift excites me a great deal.

I’ve always been weary about building followings on centralized platforms controlled by big tech. I’ve experienced the pitfalls of social media first hand, in the past. And I don’t wish to repeat them. But until recently it has felt like few share this sentiment. Surely we haven’t all forgotten the fate of Bebo, Myspace and practically every other platform that was once the place to hang out?

So it’s encouraging to see so many others sharing their concerns and suggesting suitable alternatives.

For one, Ash and Ryan lanched Bring back blogging, then Chris and Andy both share their take on the whole thing. I’m right there too.

The shift back to personal websites, microblogging on your own platform and good old RSS, is long over due, IMHO. But let’s not stop there.

Jack, who you will likely know through Twitter or Instagram, realised (like many) the constant need to feed the algorithm isn’t sustainable. To put it bluntly – if you don’t post regularly, you disappear.

Jack now leverages the benefits of SEO, and for good reason. Jack even offers his personal playbook in his new course Compound Content.

With this change in momentum, I now realise that social media is optional. In other words, don’t feel like you have to use it. It may even be better if you don’t.

Let’s be honest, social media is short-term and kinda fickle, so probably not worth the effort. As Jack puts it:

The longer you spend building a business on social media, the more you realize you are fighting an uphill battle.

On the other hand, owning your own content, and focusing your efforts on SEO, is robust and long-term. Something worth investing your time and energy in.

If you do decide to use social media, approach it with caution. Maybe use Mastodon? Just don’t go all-in and be sure as hell it isn’t the source of truth for your content. Instead, aim to own your content, then syndicate to social. There are plenty of ways to make a success without social media. Find what works for you. And don’t ever feel like you have to follow the crowd.

Final thoughts #

Just to recap 2022 was a year in which, I:

  • Travelled to some amazing places and met some incredible people
  • Found focus in my work, mainly by refining my business offering, saying no a lot and only pursuing what I’m into
  • Learnt a lot about myself and managed to feel more comfortable than I’ve ever felt, in my mind and body
  • Started to get on top of my digital footprint, mainly through the process of deleting stuff, which I like to call subtraction (and should write about more)
  • Realised that social media is, in fact, optional and you might be better off without it

Ok, that’s all I’ve got. Here’s to 2023!

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