I’m going to give myself 40 minutes to write my 2020 annual review as quickly as possible without editing, because if I don’t write something, I’m afraid I won’t write anything for another year. How do you look back on a year like 2020 without the fear of cracking open a can of tears that will never end? I’m wrecked by the year, but somehow still standing. At the very same time, I found so much steadiness and peace, too. I made big decisions that truly changed my life—and maybe who I am—and yet the wrecking devastation growing from our political and social ecosystem continue to make me wary.
I have so much grounding and privilege that my life was not rocked as precariously as others—yet the loss of independence and freedom still wears away at me. The heartbreak of the world threatens to numb me, too, but I fight to stay open and to feel, fully. Right now I feel I must write, quickly, because I don’t know when daycare will disappear again. These are the nuts and bolts from the last year.
We had no daycare for seven months
We left daycare on March 12, 2020, because we had fallen sick and the news was spreading of COVID. I was guessing it was much more widespread than we knew; the lack of testing and the abysmal administration that wasn’t tracking anything made me think we were in for a doozy. My hoarder tendencies came out. I purchased survival supplies like the search bar on Amazon was my ticket to survival. We still have too many diapers boxed up in the top cabinets of our closets and I may be serving canned sardines for dinners for years.
Daycare closed permanently on March 31st and didn’t open until August 24th. I already struggled to explain pre-pandemic how parenting creates a crater-sized hole in your sense of independence and freedom; childcare was our only 40 guaranteed hours away from our children each week. With a pandemic, we spent six months with a one-year-old and a three-year-old in a two bedroom apartment without a backyard or a car. And so, for the summer, we spent hours and hours outside. My two energizer bunnies probably single-handedly moved an entire mountain of extra dirt by the baseball fields at least three feet south.
We bought a house
We put an offer in on December 21, 2019, long before the pandemic took hold in public awareness or government action. It took until January to get into contract, but we didn’t close until…
…wait for it…
June. JUNE. It took seven months from offer to closing the contract. Our agent and lawyer said we won a prize for the longest-ever closing they’d been a part of.
We repainted and refinished the floors in July and moved in August, in the middle of a pandemic. The dishwasher, laundry, and toilet all broke within the first three months, but it wasn’t too surprising—the place was full of 20+ year old appliances, and we were hoping they’d last another year. Technically, they lasted a year from when we put the offer in! This Fall has been lots of purchasing of appliances and figuring out how to install them. Strange fact: appliances are all on backorder for months right now because of supply chains + everyone stuck at home deciding to do renovations.
My dad got COVID
It started as a cold that turned into pneumonia, and it was a lurker—it came from a very small event and took weeks to hit everyone. It snuck up on him. He didn’t even think it was COVID until the doctor recommended getting tested, just in case. He’s better and back trekking around Colorado.
My business doubled in revenue
Here, I’ll give you my honest first reactions: Wait, what? How? Really? Uh, okay… I was not expecting that this year.
I’ve been setting up systems for growth for four years now, and it has been slowly but steadily growing. I was not expecting this year to be double last year—in fact, I cancelled a huge number of projects in the books for 2020, and the year was a lot of holding on and maintaining existing client loads given a brand-new, strange schedule.
The majority of my time (70-80%) is spent building and growing Startup Parent. In addition, I write weekly here on my SKP website when I can (so, not during a pandemic without childcare) and I run my coaching program, FOCUS, that helps people get clear on their goals and be in community while they work to make changes in their daily lives that will lead them to achieve their goals.
Startup Parent has been entirely bootstrapped from the beginning, and we ran incredibly lean the first two years to get the business off the ground. The third year, we started making strides and gaining footing, and this fourth year has been an immense success, even moreso in the pandemic. Working women, pregnant women, and parents need community more than ever, and our virtual leadership incubator for women navigating parenting and business was an extraordinary success. I think, because of the way the year cracked so many of us open, we just went deep and talked about all the things—there was no filter, just survival and growth. We had 28 people go through the program last year, and 12 have already signed up to join the class of 2021 and go through the program again.
Let me be really clear, though: while it’s wonderful to double revenue numbers, that’s not income. I didn’t double my take-home pay. While the business made more money, one of the key things I did in 2020 was hire people to help while I was buried underneath children at all hours of the day. Which brings me to—
I hired two assistants and two coaches
I’ve always done things myself because I could, and this year, I couldn’t. For the first time in my life what threatened my business was my own obstinance. If I waited to find time to do things that I could pay other people around the world to do, I felt I would lose everything I was building. So I doubled down on hiring people. I hired not one but two coaches for The Wise Women’s Council, and hired not one but two assistants, one for each program (and that way if either of them fall sick or have childcare puzzles, we’re building a more resilient team and system).
Alex became the CEO of Akimbo
My husband, Alex (who took my last name and became Alex Peck), has had the great joy of working with Seth Godin on a number of projects for the past five years. The big news came this year when Seth and the team decided it was time for Akimbo, a publisher of professional development workshops, to become an institution in its own right—and to be led by Alex. He and the team have since incorporated as a B Corp, moved to full-time remote work, and are weathering the pandemic as best they can. He’s been working tirelessly while home with no childcare to make this all happen, and I think we both have more gray hairs and bags under our eyes from this year than any other year of our lives. Coffee, sleep, and exercise have been paramount.
When I think about 2020, I feel overwhelmed. I want to cry. I DO cry. Questions about lessons learned, missed goals, personal growth, or ambitions feel way too hard for me to process right now.
What we did was survive, as best as possible. In some ways, with a lot of luck and fortune, we were able to find steadiness and grab onto growth amidst it all. There may have been some thriving, too, but the exhaustion overwhelmed that sense.
Here are few more milestones from the last year:
We basically stopped drinking alcohol.
Maybe we started this in 2019? I can’t really remember, but this year was 95% dry, too. Maybe it was the tracking devices—I got an Oura Ring and a new Withings tracker to track my sleep and the constant connection between a drink of alcohol and absolutely terrible sleep to feeling wrecked the next day just didn’t feel worth it. I couldn’t make it through a day after drinking.
It might be getting older, it might be the terrible hangovers that just a few sips of alcohol give me, it might be the fact that I need every ounce of sleep I can muster with these small kiddos demanding so much time and attention from me—whatever it is, I’m okay with it.
I gained 20 or so pounds, more like 30 overall since I started the year with some postpartum weight.
I have no current weight loss goals, but I do want to feel slightly better. I’m comfortable waiting on this because it’s not a priority right now. I also know that ice cream may be the best choice in a given situation (versus screaming my head off at my kids), so I’m taking it all in and finding my way through.
Please read this next sentence: I’m not looking for ANY fixes or advice. If you send me tips, tools, or programs I will block you faster than I can say 2021. Right now I love this body and this shape, I love riding my bicycle, I love walking, and I love that ice cream and chips are my current comfort foods that make me feel better at the end of a 16-18 hour never-ending workday. I am neither better or worse for the size of my hips and thighs, I am a gorgeous, complex, layered human being with emotional and physical realities. This is also an active practice for me to dismantle fat phobia in my mind and our cultural indoctrination around thinness as an ideal.
I also gave up Facebook, nearly permanently.
I deleted 200+ groups and paused 99% of my activity on the site. I am occasionally still there for two remaining groups I’m a part of, one of which I’ll likely move if and when there’s time and focus and I want to do it. But my own promotion, for my own storytelling, I need to be elsewhere. The news feed and the constant barrage of clutter that digs into my mental landscape is done. It’s so much nicer and freer right now. I don’t find the conversations, moderation, or interactions—or even my own writing—better for being there. Bye Facebook. Let’s try new strategies in the new year.
Other family + personal milestones
We took the kids out of daycare to avoid the holiday contagion and I became primary parent and worked on my business from 4am-8am most days before spending the majority of the day with the kiddos and taking them to parks, trails, and even long drives with audio books to get them out of the house.
My older kiddo turned four!
My younger kid turned two.
I turned 37.
I wrote 100+ letters for the election campaign.
Biden won the election and became President-elect.
I road 10,000 minutes on the Peloton bike, and hit 500 rides since buying the bike in February 2019.
I almost hit my reading goal
I read 53 books this year, two books shy of my goal to read more books than any year before (my highest record was 54 books). I’ll take it in a pandemic.
My writing goals went out the window—but then boomeranged back to me in a surprising way
Writing is one of the things that’s very hard for me to do in a world of constant, unpredictable interruptions. The thoughts and ideas I’m trying to piece together often come behind hour number three—the first two hours are sorting and synthesizing, the final hour is pulling together the ideas. With young children, I have—at best—36 minutes of uninterrupted time at one stretch. Sometimes the interruptions come every three minutes.
What I found, if I’m being honest, is that my anger and irritation were highest when I had any expectations around writing or productivity for the day ahead. When I had to get stuff done, when I needed to hit a deadline or a goal, and when I wanted to be alone and write—that’s when the interruptions struck a match in me, made my anger boil up and my rage come to a simmer. It was all I could do not to scream, “Leave me alone! For goodness sake, just leave me alone for two hours!” But you can’t leave two year old alone for two hours safely, and it’s not his fault that he wants to show you his car, or that he’s surprised to discover a poopy diaper, or he needs you to be with him.
And so I tried to let go of writing expectations. Instead, I shifted the cadre, the structure, of my goals. Rather than write the big pieces I wanted to focus on, I tried to find things that I could ship and complete in under 30 minutes. I wrote fast pieces, and whatever was easiest to complete in any given day. If I couldn’t tackle the heavy stuff, I’d write something smaller.
I started getting up consistently around 4am so I could have an hour or two to myself. This was not easy. I was very tired. It took a lot of 45-minutes-of-coffee-and-water-drinking to be ready to write by 5am. I tried to make a small goal to finish and publish by 5:45am and then let the rest of the day go. On days when I would do primary parenting (my husband and I would alternate), I tried to keep the work churn off my mind.
I could write a list of all the things I didn’t do: I didn’t write a weekly Startup Parent essay or newsletter. I didn’t keep the podcast up—podcasting with children at home is near impossible. Writing I might be able to do pieces of when they are quiet. But talking? If I even dare to start talking, they’ll be on me like flies to honey, jabbering. “Mom! What are you saying? Who are you talking to? Can I talk!”
But I did write very short, 500-word pieces whenever I could. And then, I muffled my shame and embarrassment at “not getting enough done” and I emailed my agent: “This is what I could do, all things considered this year.” She sent the pieces off to a publisher. We submitted two proposals in late November to a book editor.
Then the book editor got COVID, and now my agent is on maternity leave, so I’m in a holding pattern for the time being.
But I shipped something. In 2020. I’ll take it.
Business goals + structure + methods
I’ve been focusing intensely on systems and sustainable scale, and we’re starting to gain traction with Startup Parent in a way that’s really satisfying. That said, there is so, so, so much more I want to do and so much I wanted to do this year that had to get shelved. We are where we are.
I started studying with Quantic MBA to officially get an MBA. For years I’ve been studying business systems, strategies, and workings. Lately my clients have challenged me with the puzzles they bring my way, and I want to continue to meet them where they are—and as always, continue to learn and grow. I’ve taken courses with the School of Life, SVA’s Design School, Penn Design, and studied with Marie Forleo, Seth Godin, and more, but I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning.
One thing I’ve found during the intense years of parenting and pandemics-ing is that while I can’t get as much big, creative work done and shipped (because time can be so sliced and diced and unpredictable)—I am able to consume more in the ten to twenty minutes of down time between various bursts of children and household activity. This is how I did Marie Forleo’s B-School when my second child was born, and this is the strategy I turned to again when 2020 decided to upend the majority of our plans.
Since July 2020, I’ve done about 5 hours a week of reading, writing, studying, and taken exams in Accounting, Economics, Data Analysis & Decision Making, and Operations Management. I’ll say that the accounting bent my brain a whole bunch, and I have even more gratitude for the accountants I work with! I’m on track to graduate by September 2021, but I can also delay my studies if the year becomes unwieldy.
That’s all for now. This will serve as the 2020 annual review.
If you’d like to do your own annual review process, I have a template of 10 questions to conduct your own annual review. If you can’t answer all the questions, then set a timer and write down as much as you can (or want) about the year that’s passed. What were the big milestones? What lessons did you learn? What surprised you?
If you have any comments or want to share your own review, tell me on Twitter.