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  • Jill Helmer

Capturing What You Learned in 2020


We are in the last week of 2020. If you are like me, you find yourself so grateful that the finish line of this year is here, AND you find yourself preoccupied with what the new year will be like, professionally and personally. There is so much that is unknown. Candidly, I feel that I have already wasted too much time trying to plan it all out. If 2020 taught me anything, it is that I am able to roll with the punches when they come at me, and I can regroup when the plan is altered. Did it teach you the same thing? Have you thought about what else you learned this year? And the real question…have you taken the time to write it down and reflect on it?


Here is my suggestion for you. Instead of spending this week worrying about what is coming when the ball drops in 2021, spend your time reflecting on what you have learned through this crazy and chaotic year of 2020. How to do that? A simple set of questions and a little time set aside to record your thoughts.


The first question to ask yourself is: what did I do well in 2020? When asking yourself this, I strongly suggest that you split this answer into the different roles you play in life. For me, this means asking myself what I did well as a business owner in 2020; what I did well as a Mom; what I did well as a wife; what I did well as a friend; and what I did well as a volunteer. If you are like many people I work with, you will shortchange these answers. You might even roll your eyes at the thought of having to start this exercise with what you did well. Trust me, it is important, to begin with what you did well, and I promise you that if you are still reading this and living and breathing at the end of this year, you did more than a few things well.


The second question is: what did I not do well in 2020? When asking yourself this, I again want you to separate your answer into the different roles you play AND I want you to consider the WHY behind your poor performance. The WHY is not an excuse for not being the best that you could be, but it is especially important to understand. The WHY this year is most likely connected in some way to the pandemic. On the surface, you could have one of two reactions. The first is to dismiss your performance as a “once in a pandemic fluke” and not learn from it. The second is to beat yourself up for poor performance in conditions that you could not control. By asking yourself WHY I did not perform and asking if the conditions were in your control, you get closer to identifying the aspects of your performance that you can improve in the future.


The third question is: what opportunities did I miss or not take advantage of in 2020? You know the drill by now and the importance of separating into the roles that you hold in your life. I would also like to note that this is not an attempt to make you feel bad about what you didn’t do during a pandemic. For example, I did not become a better cook in 2020. Did I have an opportunity to spend more time in the kitchen? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Did I use that time to learn how to make sourdough bread or create a few new dishes? I didn’t and I have to say I am completely ok with that answer. But there are other opportunities that I did miss and I want to reflect upon. From a business perspective, I found myself with too much work in the March time frame. I had a great client call me and offer me a piece of work. I didn’t want to disappoint them and I was worried that I simply could not do my best, so I said no and suggested they call a respected colleague. They did and my colleague did the work well. I kick myself for missing the opportunity to think more creatively about how to serve them vs. passing the opportunity to someone else.


Once you have your reflections, the important work begins. I would recommend taking 3-5 of your reflections above and turning them into Your 2021 Development Plan. I would suggest taking one item that you are the proudest of doing well in 2020 and writing down how you will continue to do it in 2021. For me, I am most proud of taking better care of myself and getting more sleep. As life returns to a greater form of “normal” in 2021, there will be different demands on my time. How will I continue the progress that I have made? I would also suggest taking one or two areas where you did not perform at your best and making these a priority. Take the time to weed out the “once in a pandemic” items and focus on where you want to do better as a person, a professional, a spouse, etc. Lastly, I would pull out one opportunity that you missed in 2020 and make a plan to seize it in 2021. Whether yours is to be more creative with your workload or it is to learn to do something new, I guarantee you that you will get further with it if you write it down.


There is so much ahead of us that we do not know. But there is so much behind us that we have accomplished. I encourage you to use the last few days of 2020 focused on the latter. Focus on how far you have come, and what you did to get yourself to the finish line. I guarantee you have learned lessons that could last a lifetime if you take the time to reflect upon them. Take that time. Your future self will thank you for it.


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