You’ll notice, if you’ve been following along, that I didn’t do an end-of-year review last year. There was a reason for that – and whilst I’ve now put in an update a year later, it’s worth taking the time to explain a bit of an overview of 2021 to understand my approach to 2022.

In many ways, 2021 was my annus horribilis. I started the year being dreadfully ill–something caused by the events of 2020–and the further I get away from that time and continue the long process back to full health, the more I realise how ill I was. I also had somewhat of an unpleasent encounter with publishing. Several of my friends still work there, but some have left and told a similar story to me.

So in many ways, whilst I soldiered on, and kept The Climb running as much to hold myself accountable as to document my life, so I found there was more and more that I couldn’t talk about.

That was very much the case in late 2021, where I started on a bit of an experiment. Some of those things like Write Productively and The First Draft were part of that experimentation, but there were other things I did that I never told a soul about.

And whereas I found the public elements a little bit pressurised, I found the secret stuff freeing. With the video projects there were expectations, deadlines, deliverables. With the other projects, I had no public accountability.

And so that was why I went quiet at the end of last year. I wanted to broaden the experiment, but I wanted to be in an environment where no-one knew but me, where I was able to try things others might advise against, fail incredibly hard and learn important personal lessons.

After such a shitty year, I ended 2021 in a position where I had written more than I ever had done, 99% of it trash. I had also found new ways to work, developed processes and systems to support that. The question was, could I scale that?

My biggest challenge and the aim for 2022 was in being consistent.

I often like to think my theme for the year isn’t a reflection of the year as a whole, but the thing I will strive for as the year goes on. So in approaching 2022 my aim was to make myself consistant. I wanted to maximise my productivity without having mad sprints that would leave me burnt out. I wanted something more sustainable where I could achieve goals by chipping away at them, not dropping everything else and only doing that one thing for months on end.

And looking back now, whilst the year did not go how I would have liked it, I found consistency in ways I hadn’t really planned.

The thing that really torpedoed my plans as I saw them was my day job. I began looking for a new permanent job in March / April and started with a new company at the beginning of July. And whilst a lot of my motivation to write had, in recent years, been derived from hating my job, I loved this new place. The people are amazing and nice; the attitude is can-do, and the job is fulfilling. In fact, the only ‘downside’ is that the role is very demanding. It’s a massive step up from what I had been doing, and I really needed to put all my mental focus into it.

I don’t regret it, even though I didn’t have the mental energy to jump into the writing at the end of the work day. I was in a position where I could really add value to the company and see the impact of my efforts.

As a result, I delayed any writing for 3 months while I settled in, but then encountered a new problem.

So much of my drive to write had come from wanting to get away from my 9-5 that now I had an enjoyable and fulfilling job, the motivation to write wasn’t as strong.  My year had already been torpedoed.  My plan for consistency was in ruins, replaced by a year of stability.

I still wanted to do my scaled up 12 month experiment  (because I want to know), but with a new World of Warcraft expansion due at the end of the year, I knew starting it there and then was probably a bad idea.  So the plan is to run my secret 12 month experiment next year. I’m finding I’m becoming more and more against things starting on New Year. It just seems all to often to be a way to procrastinate. But it made sense in this case.

So 2022’s experiment gets pushed to 2023, and whilst that was my main focus of consistency, that’s not to say that things haven’t been done in the last year.

As anyone who knows me will testify, I like my systems. My productivity runs on the systems I’ve built for myself. And far from getting sucked into the productivity sinkhole, I find these are of real benefit to me and answer an actual need.

This year I overhauled a few systems.

I’ve had a personal accountability daily tracker for a number of years now, mainly to tell my old job what I’d been working on, but I revamped it this year.  I widened the accountability to the whole day, added areas for tracking things like reading, music and learning (I already had trackers for writing). I built an amazing gamification of my productivity but it practically broke Notion so I moved it into an embedded excel sheet. I also included areas for tracking my goals, and analysing where things go wrong.

I’ve extended this to the weekly and monthly views, which whilst I think there’s further work that can be done, feeds upon what I did in the daily tracker.

I built myself a master tags database, allowing me to add notes to my daily tracker of things I encounter which may be of use to future me without having to take the effort to build specific pages for them in Notion.

I’ve also gone over my goals and milestones and for 2023 completely revamped them to be much more focused and trackable. For someone who hates milestones, this has been a huge piece of work. I occasionally find myself looking at these productivity Youtubers who have built themselves second brains that I would have once marveled at, only to now think their systems are a little more basic than mine.

And the result is more than just a procrastination exercise. My system is built for me, and it certainly works for me.  My systems are built as a safety net to help me when things get busy rather than a prison, and so some days I use them more heavily than others. But it’s allowed me to be productive in my work. I use ToDoist for my tasks and saw my greatest ever streak (only ending when I forgot to turn it off when I took time off).

If there’s one area I have been consistent this past year, it’s in gaming. During the pandemic, I leaned on World of Warcraft heavily as my escape. As I moved into the experiments and then a new job, it has proved to be a way to recharge.

In 2021, with the Blizzard accusations of sexual harassment, a lot of people (including me for a time) stopped playing the game, resulting in the disbandment of my guild. I went back to my main back at the end of last year and started working on alts. I found new fun in collecting things and managing a vast array of alts. That eventually meant spreadsheets to track each character, what they had done, what they needed to do, and the like.

This summer saw a change allowing horde and alliance from different servers to play together. As a result, back in September, I was able to join some of my old guildees, along with new friends, and raid with them.  Raiding with my main has been a dream for ages, and I even got to tank, where I rediscovered just how much I love tanking.

It’s meant I’ve been able to go into Dragon flight with my main as my raiding main, and I’m having a blast having already cleared the raid on normal, and running Mythic+ as a tank.

I’d hoped I would have been burned out a little by now (giving me more time for some of my other 2023 goals) but that doesn’t seem to have happened yet. Some of my 2023 goals do relate to progressing my huge array of alts, but in many ways, the consistency I have found there is something I’m looking to emulate elsewhere.

One of those big areas is fitness. Now my health is much better than it was in early 2021, I’ve been focused on losing the weight I gained whilst ill. It’s a long road and often feels like 2 steps forward and 1 step back (which is still better than a few years ago where everything was in rapid decline).

My aim for 2023 is to slowly get back in shape. The fact I’d made so much progress by getting medical conditions under control only for them to be brought to chaos by individuals that looked to actively exploit them is something I get constantly reminded of whenever I try to make progress. It’s a long road to being back where I was, and it’s littered with reminders of people who make me unbelievably angry.

I still can’t fit in my fencing jacket so HEMA is currently off the cards, but I do plan to open a school early next year (if I can sort out a venue) and want to be in a position where I compete in my first tournament by year end.

I’ve still been super involved, running the websites for both SOTS and Wessex League. I did a massive hosting migration this autumn, where I moved a lot of the sites I host to a new provider. My old provider who I’ve hosted on for years, has deteriorated over the past few years to the extent that when they did internal migrations, they broke underlying systems and never fixed them. They also stopped providing some services, started charging for others, and it became a massive job just to maintain very simple sites.

The move was a mammoth piece of work. I still have sites and domains to move, and whilst I’d hoped to get it all done by the end of the year, I’ve done most of them already.

Now a lot of the work is done, I can focus on content on those sites (which has been sporadic this year)

Last year was very silent on the social media front. A lot of this was intentional. My idea was to disappear and be forgotten while I experimented with things. A lot of it was also due to being exhausted at the end of a long day at work.

As part of my systems upgrades in 2022, I built myself some Social Media tracking systems. The tracking is working consistently but I’ve not really made a lot of effort to create new content. I want to start doing that in 2023, but more from a place of just being consistent rather than there being a big overall social media plan. Something I learnt in 2021 (and my big take away for the year) was that I need to get out of my own way.

By that I mean that I’m more likely to learn and plan, wanting everything to be perfect before proceeding, only to then get thrown off when I get thrown a curve ball. Historically, I’d then go back and refine systems to prepare for this eventuality before proceeding, impacting my consistency.

I have nothing against having those systems in place, because I honestly believe that for 2022, the upgrades I made to mine are a real investment. Neither do I think learning is bad. I’ve done a lot of major learning this year and see it as a worthwhile investment.

But sometimes the best way to learn is to do, or learn WHILE you do. That’s easier said than done when there’s some form of accountability or a deliverable at the end or a fixed system that will break.  I think my systems over the last few years have been very flexible, but the thing that wasn’t was me.

In my experiments in late 2021, the thing I learnt was that if I didn’t continually stop and evaluate, wonder and debate with myself, I made huge progress.

By having systems for review and tracking, it’s helped me alleviate the need to do that, but there’s a need for me to proceed when I feel 75% ready, not when I feel 100% ready. This is a real mindset change, but one that I found very true.

I also have systems for planning, and I can give you one example. I used to spend a lot of time on plotting. It’s still a bit of a dark art to me. My editing used to feel like that but I worked out a system to edit that’s massively sped it up AND improved accuracy.

I spent the summer of 2021 looking at plotting. I watched a bunch of videos on the subject; I read a load of books, looking at not only novels but scripts and plays.

I used a lot of this knowledge to start building more robust plots and whilst I wouldn’t say I am beholden to any one ‘method’, I use a variety of them to layer over my plot and spot potential issues. I look at plot arcs, emotional arcs, and character arcs. I now plot in Plottr and export to Scrivener to write.

I think it’s helped to strengthen my plotting. So much so that a novel I wrote before all this plot work, really needs a rewrite because I can identify a number of minor issues with the plot. Those systems are worthwhile because they allow me to take action quickly (Yes, I know I’ve not rewritten that novel as a result, but… 2022!)

So if I stop trying to second guess myself, have systems in place that are comprehensive, flexible and that I trust, I can get on with the actual work.

In many ways, the aim of my experiments is to identify the areas where I second guess myself and put things in place so I don’t.

It is, therefore, unlikely to be a surprise that 2023 is the Year of Making. It’s a year for not feeling fully ready despite having everything in place and doing anyway.  It’s a year for getting out my own way, for doing the work and not letting the distractions and outside influence derail me. And I have no doubt that like 2021, it won’t be a year where that’s what I’m actually doing all year, but something that I work towards.

I would like to get all those secret projects done though!