2019 was thankfully lot different than last year. This time last year I was in the neuro ICU with my dad as he came out of a coma and was fighting off spinal meningitis. I’m so incredibly thankful he’s made a full recovery and is back to refereeing basketball and playing pickleball, which is so great.
There’s a lot to reflect on and look back on over this last year, but first here’s 2019 by the numbers:
2019 by the numbers
- Wrote 35 posts on my blog
- Shared only 52 links on my site
- Traveled over 51,120 miles to over 26 cities in 4 countries on 2 continents
- Spoke at 10 conferences and gave 9 company and conference workshops
- Consulted with 7 clients and helped them create and evolve their respective design systems
- Built 1 giant design system
- Worked on 2 side projects
- Had 1 office constructed in my back yard
- Processed 2,097 ebook orders of Atomic Design
- Raised $4,425 for various charities
What happened in 2019
A lot happened in 2019; I’ll break it down into professional stuff and personal stuff.
One big thing that happened in 2019 is that we built a new office in my back yard.
Having a dedicated workspace that isn’t our guest bedroom has been super helpful. It’s created a really nice and much-needed separation between my work and personal life. When I’m done for the day, I leave my laptop in the office and “commute” into my house, whereas before I could easily find my way back in front of my computer after hours. I still do that occasionally, but it’s a more deliberate action now. Oh! And the other big benefit of having a dedicated space like this is that I’m able to play music pretty much any time I want and I don’t have to worry about pissing off the neighbors or waking my daughter. That’s been huge.
From a day to day work perspective, the majority of my year involved building a design system for a big ol’ company. We built a React-powered component library containing over 70 UI components in addition to delivering a lot of product work, helping establish a design system team, creating a governance process, and doing a lot of process & people stuff to create the right culture around the design system. We should be able to share more of that work soon, so stay tuned!
I also consulted with and conducted workshops with a number of companies on all things design systems. It’s been a lot of fun to work with companies at various stages of their design system journey. Some companies are just getting started, while others are really far down the design system road. In all of these scenarios, I feel I’ve been able to provide a lot of value as an objective outsider who can offer advice, provide resources, and share my own experience. Helping teams level up their design system game continues to be a big source of professional satisfaction.
Over on my blog, I wrote some articles:
- Don’t Get Clever with Login Forms was my most popular post of 2019
- After discussing my struggles to learn React last year, I’ve made a lot of progress and shared those thoughts in a post I’m particularly proud of: Frontend Design, React, and a Bridge over the Great Divide
- I wrote about how you probably don’t need
- In Extending Atomic Design, I talked about the relationship between design tokens and atomic design, and other thoughts 6 years into atomic design
- I detailed what a design system governance process might look like. This post is based on my work with a number of large companies and gets granular with what exactly happens when changes or additions need to happen.
I also continued to speak at conferences and live coded on stage for the first time! I was skeptical at first, but now I’m super into it. I live-coded a design system at Smashing Conf SF and then live-coded a website with Dan and Ian at Smashing Conf NYC.
The overall personal highlight of 2019 has been watching my daughter grow. She’s now in full toddler mode, so every day she’s learning new things, saying new (often hilarious) things, and coming into her own. It’s been an absolute joy to witness.
My family accompanied me to Iceland and the Netherlands for conferences, and we turned them into holidays, which were an absolute blast. We hit those trips right developmentally because while Ella could walk, she wasn’t super squirmy and demanding to run around everywhere like she is now.
I worked a lot this year and I took on a lot of extra responsibilities, including taking on an apprentice (a friend of mine looking to change careers). Between those extra responsibilities and the demands of working with a large enterprise, I hit a pretty serious wall and would probably say that I burnt out. In order to help with that and get back on track, I decided to make something every day in December. It’s been really helpful to do things that are creative and not specifically work related. I’m hoping to carry that through into the new decade.
Rolling over into a new decade is a big deal, and I’d like to enter this new decade thinking very deliberately about what I want to accomplish. I need to spend some more time thinking about this, but here are some things I’d like to make a priority in 2020:
- Travel less – My wife and I sat down and took a look at all of my travel. In 2019, I had 24 work-related trips. We both agreed that’s too many trips. So in 2020, we’re going to actively manage how many trips I take and be super careful about how many obligations I sign up for.
- Work/life balance – This has already started this year, but I’m doing my best to work normal hours and to be very careful about letting work bleed into my personal life. It’s going to be challenging because we have a number of clients lined up for early 2020 so it’s going to involve delegating and ceding a certain amount of control.
- Creative endeavors – As part of establishing a better work/life balance, I’m looking forward to exploring other creative endeavors, like tile making, music, painting, and other things I feel I’ve neglected over the past few years
- Stay on top of productivity and organization – I’ve been chipping away at my Notion and feel like I’ve finally landed on a task workflow that allows me to capture everything I need to do (personal and professional) and line it all up in a way that’s manageable. I’m excited to
- Make exercise fun – In the past I’ve worked with a personal trainer and gone to the gym, and I’ve learned that exercise needs to be fun for me. I signed up for a basketball league and my wife’s new workspace is right next to a climbing gym we occasionally go to, so I’m hoping to do more of that.
- Cut pork out from my diet – This is a first baby step into altering my diet for the better. Cutting out pork should be pretty easy because we don’t buy pork products at the store and I really only eat it when out and about. Long-term I’d like to cut out pork and beef from my diet and rely more on chicken and seafood for protein.
- Make FIRE progress – In 2018 I read a few books about financial independence retire early that really resonated with me. I’ve been putting a lot of infrastructure in place this year to position myself to be able to hit the ground running with these concepts in 2020.
I’m looking forward to this new decade and I wish you health and happiness in the new year!