2020 was a wild year for all of us. What started with many people's hopes, goals, and ambitions for their best year ever, turned into a global pandemic and a year of uncertainty that feels like one big blur.
This year, a lot has happened. In May, I ended up getting laid off from a job that I enjoyed. I've had loved ones that had COVID, and even a few acquaintances pass away from complications from it. I struggled with depression, and any routine I had was ruined while the days started to blend together.
The feeling of not being able to make plans has also taken its toll on me. There's been nothing for me to look forward to, and I feel like I'm just living my life day by day. It's left me feeling drained. I am an introvert by nature, and my key forms of social interaction were also stripped away. I feel like I've become socially awkward and need to work on my communication skills again.
With all the negativity that this year brought, I still feel the need to focus on the good. This year, it's much easier to focus on all the negative, but if you can, write down 3-5 positive things that happened this year and focus on that. We can't change the state of the world, but we can at least change our outlook on things, though it's much easier said than done.
I started taking better care of myself
Once the pandemic started, I put on weight like a lot of other people. I noticed I was up to 225lbs from 210, a weight I don't feel comfortable with. My clothes no longer fit me right, and I didn't even have the energy to complete my daily tasks.
After getting fed up with my lack of energy, I set up my bike trainer in the garage, and I've been riding my bike 3-4x a week. I use an app called Zwift to make my indoor rides a little less boring and have made it a goal this winter to climb Alpe du Zwift, the game's largest virtual mountain, which is 3,396ft to the top. Living in the midwestern United States, I'm not used to much in terms of elevation change, so this has proven to be quite the challenge.
Over the last few years, I stopped biking as much as I used to and want to get back into it and stick with it. I also picked up new activities this year, such as golf to take breaks from the computer. Taking breaks away from screens helps clear my mind and relax.
It's been one of my goals for at least the last five years to start blogging on a somewhat regular basis. This year, I finally took that dream and made it a reality.
I have published 15 new articles this year. That's a little more than one post a month on average! The quality of my content matters much more than the quantity, so I feel I'm off to a great start.
I have created a process for writing blog articles that works out well for me, and if you're planning on using a static site generator for your blog, here's my general workflow.
- I start with a topic that I want to study and start taking notes on everything I learned or struggled with using Notion.
- Once I have enough notes on a topic that I learned about, I start organizing the content and try out all the steps to see if I can replicate the results. If I run into any issues, I note that issue and place it in the article.
- I then copy/paste my post from Notion to Grammarly to make my articles more straightforward. I found that correcting an article after it's written makes things easier for me. It allows me to write freely with no limitations, so I don't have to think about structure until It's proofreading time.
- I then move the finished post back to Notion, where I then export the post to Markdown.
- I take the finished Markdown file and place it in my blog and edit the formatting if needed.
Another task for the year was updating my personal website. I wanted to rebuild my site to highlight who I am, my accomplishments, a link to my resume, and as a home for my newly created blog articles.
Building the site with Gridsome/Tailwind CSS site made the site more comfortable to manage since using Markdown for all my content means I can easily import it anywhere I want in the future if I decide to. For the blog section, I utilized the Bleda theme to get me up and running as quickly as possible with only needing to modify the UI.
Switched my primary focus from development to UI/UX design
I was already doing UI/UX work regularly using Sketch, but I decided it was time to put development on the back-burner and become a designer that knows how to code rather than a developer that knows how to design. I have already spent the last few years primarily creating conceptual interfaces for sales demos and haven't been writing nearly as much code as I used to. So the switch made sense; I just had to realize the track I was heading down. Sometimes it makes sense to take a step back and re-evaluate what you enjoy doing and change paths. I'm mainly UI based, but also enjoy research, accessibility, and creating user personas. I also took the time to produce a portfolio of my latest projects to explain my design process.
With some of the extra time I had during this year, I took the time to jump into learning some new tech to keep myself productive.
Figma — I've been using Sketch as my primary UI tool for the last 5-6 years and decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about with Figma. It's crazy to see what can be accomplished with an app designed to be used in the browser. It took a little bit to make the transition, but I'm enjoying the overall experience.
I'm looking forward to working on projects where you can collaborate with other designers.
Safari — I've been working on de-googling some aspects of my life and have switched to using Safari as my default browser. It's taken a while to get used to, and I've noticed some things such as Messenger video calls don't work on it, but my computer's performance and battery life have increased drastically, making the switch worth it.
VSCode — Since I got out of writing code regularly and mainly write it for freelance and personal projects, I felt I didn't need the features of PHPStorm anymore and switched over to VSCode. It suits my needs for UI development and editing markdown files. If you're just getting into VSCode, check out my article on it.
Tailwind CSS — The concept of Tailwind with using all utility class names seemed like a mess until I started using it. But, once I got the hang of it, I couldn't imagine building web apps any other way.
All in all, 2020 was a complete mess, though I tried to make the most of it. I can't wait until I can see my friends, play hockey, and travel again.