2021 Annual Review

What went well this year?

A lot went right for me this year.

Social media audience. Prior to this year, I never really had much of social media presence. I've been on Twitter for a long time and had around 1,200 followers but I only really used it to keep up with news, complain about sports, and doom scroll. My theme last year was "Positivity and Purpose" so I took care of the doom scrolling by unfollowing around 2,000 accounts.

Since I started writing about ADHD online, I've grown audience on several platforms:

  • Twitter: ~1,200 to 12,000
  • Instagram: ~500 to 12,000
  • TikTok: 0 to 62,000

I've been learning about ADHD for the past 5-6 years since I was diagnosed, but I only realized this year how much my knowledge could help others. It's been incredibly fulfilling to help others better understand their ADHD and not feel so alone. Many have discovered they have ADHD for the first time through my content. My diagnosis was life-changing, so it's amazing to be able to be part of other people's story in that way.

Newsletter. I started my Extra Focus newsletter in February and have delivered it weekly every single week except for one (I intentionally took a one week break as an experiment to see if it affected the open rate but it didn't change at all).

In the first few months, the majority of my audience was coming from TikTok and I had an open rate that fluctuated between 20-30% which I thought was great. In the second half of 2021, I slowed down on creating TikTok content and focused more on Twitter and Instagram. This audience seems to be a better overall match for the content I write, and as my newsletter audience grew from these platforms, my open rates began to increase as well.

I now have over 5,000 subscribers and my open rate has been consistently 50% or higher for the past few months which I am super proud of and excited about.

Podcast interviews. I was invited to be a guest on several podcasts this year, something I'd only done once before (years ago on a tech podcast). Even cooler than that, one of those invites was for The Focused Podcast with Mike Schmitz and David Sparks, a podcast I'm a huge fan of. It's been great having the chance to share my story, especially on podcasts that don't have ADHD-specific audiences.

Since doing these, I've heard from a lot of people that discovered they had ADHD after hearing one of these episodes. Here are a few of my favorites:

I also hosted a few mini interviews with ADHD Creatives on Racket which was a blast:

I had a great time with all of these and am excited to do more with podcasting in 2022.

Speaking at conferences. I submitted a talk to the 12th Annual ADHD Awareness Expo and was accepted. I've given talks before on developer related stuff, but this was the first time speaking at an ADHD-related conference.

Later, I was invited to speak at the ADHD Entrepreneur's Summit. Having a talk accepted is great, but having someone reach out to specifically invite you to speak is something else. So cool.

The talk for this is now available on Youtube.

Discovered passion for writing. Of course, all of this started because I joined the #Ship30for30 cohort in February and began writing about ADHD. I don't even know what compelled me to join the cohort, but it's unlocked something special that I didn't know I had. Specifically, it helped me realize how much I enjoy writing and teaching. I had no idea how fulfilling it would be, it's like I've discovered this hidden passion that's been hiding under the surface all this time, just waiting for the right moment to shine.

Book announcement and waitlist. If you'd told me a year ago I would be writing a book, I wouldn't have believed you. But now, I can't imagine not writing this book (Refocus: A Practical Guide to ADHD).

One of the things I struggle with is not having a great resource to point people toward when they first hear about ADHD and realize they (or someone they know) might actually have it. I want a resource that is super approachable that explains a lot of the practical basics and bust the myths that are out there.

Launching in public has been super exciting. I've had so much great feedback and so many ideas sent in that I can't wait to implement. Writing in public is also helping me with the accountability I need to stay focused. And I have a waitlist that is close to 600 people. Will all those people buy the book? Probably not, but it's great to know that people are excited for it!

Sabbatical. I was able to take a 6 week sabbatical this summer, which was amazing to get the chance to rest and refuel. I took a weeklong roadtrip down the West Coast and got to see some amazing sites on the Pacific Coast Highway, meet some of my new online friends in real life, and finally see Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland. The road trip was amazing and I'd love to do another one (perhaps even longer?) in the next year or so.

ADHD Coach Training. Do I want to be an ADHD Coach? I don't know! But do I know how fulfilling it's been this year helping to educate and inform people about ADHD. So with that in mind I've been exploring the possibility and taking some preliminary training courses.

I also love my day job as a designer/developer so I'm not eager to change careers or anything like that, but I'm trying to keep an open mind and explore this new passion I've found. Even if I don't ever become a coach, I'm learning a lot about ADHD through this process which will help me to be better informed on how to help others.

Reach and impact. There isn't a specific stat or anything, but it feels like I've established myself as a trustworthy voice and resource in the ADHD community. People often will reach out and I've been able to help people directly with their ADHD journey and learning what next steps to take. It feels great to know that I am making a positive impact on a lot of people's lives, and it's amazing to see others share my name as a good resource for ADHD.

What didn't go so well this year?

Despite mostly being an up year, there were a few disappointments.

Career difficulties. I love my day job and work at an amazing company, but this year was tough. Due to some unfortunate situations outside my control, I had a total of 4 different managers throughout 2021 as I swapped between internal teams several times. This made it really hard to ever settle into a groove and produce good work. I'm still in sort of a weird place of figuring out my role after a lot of internal changes, but hopeful these will get figured out in 2022.

Book writing difficulties. I've hit a number of stalls in writing my Refocus book. Sometimes writer's block, sometimes stuck in my own head worrying about overall structure, sometimes I just can't find the executive function to do the work.

My goal in early 2022 is to just write, write, write and not worry so much about the overall structure. I need to brute-force my way to the "sh*tty first draft" (SFD) as Anne Lamott calls it. I need to see it all down on (digital) paper. Then I can take that mess and improve it.

The frustrating part is that, while I've talked about writing-in-public, I also promised myself that the SFD will be for my eyes only, so I don't stress when writing it. That's created a bit of a public vacuum as I'm still stuck in that first phase, so I don't have anything I can share yet. (But you can still conribute ideas at refocusbook.com!)

Relationships. I made a lot of new online friendships in 2021, which has been amazing! Unfortunately, some of my real-life relationships have suffered. Covid is partly to blame, but I also haven't done a great job of cultivating those relationships and making an effort to see many friends in real life.

Physical health. At the beginning of 2021 I was doing Future.fit and working out regularly. Unfortunately, I got so busy with other projects, that I ended up cancelling my account and basically fell off of working out completely. I'm hoping to get back to working out regularly in 2022.

What am I working toward?

My theme for 2022 is Intentional Action.

I got swept up in a lot of things last year when I was having success, and I spent energy doing things that weren't really my strength. Things I didn't love doing. This year, I'm planning to slow down taking on new projects. Derek Sivers wrote "if you're not saying 'HELL YEAH!' about something, say no" and I'm trying to keep that as my model for deciding what things to act on.

Specifically, in 2022 some projects I'm planning to intentionally act on:

  • Finish writing Refocus book. This is my primary focus for this year. It's a much more difficult project than I originally expected (shocking!). I'm planning to set up some personal deadlines to help me focus and get more work done so I start working with alpha readers. Want to be an alpha reader? Sign up at refocusbook.com and you'll be the first to hear about it.
  • Social media writing. I've found a lot of value in sharing my thoughts and experiences of living with ADHD, and find that writing about it often helps inspire thoughts for the book and reach new people. I hear from a lot of people figuring out for the first time they have ADHD, and I want that to continue. That said, I will likely do less short-form video (TikTok/Reels) this year. I enjoyed it, but that type of video content never quite felt like my strength so unless something changes, I plan to do less of it in 2022.
  • Redesign website. I want my website to be more of an ADHD resource for people. Right now it was a quickly put together site that just has a long list of my writings. I have plans for how to change it and I hope to get that done this year.
  • Podcast? This is a maybe, but I've been toying with the idea of launching a podcast for awhile. I had cohost I was working with for awhile but we ultimately decided to table that idea for now, so I'm now considering whether to launch something solo, or find a new cohost. Nothing is set in stone, but I'm strongly considering "ADHD Nerds" as the name, since I own adhdnerds.com and @adhdnerds but haven't done anything with them yet. Big "we'll see" energy here.

I'm excited for the potential of 2022!

I couldn't imagine ending up where I did at the end of 2021, and I'm excited to see what wonderful surprises come in 2022.

Based on James Clear's annual review template