My three words for 2020

Every year, for the past nine years, I’ve been following a tradition started by Chris Brogan in 2006 to choose three words to guide my actions and choices for the year ahead. I’m not a big fan of New Year resolutions; if you’re going to make a change, any date is as good as any and the good intentions at the start of the year tend to wear off sooner or later

Of course 2020 isn’t just the start of New year but a new decade, too. Whilst I won’t choose three words for the decade, I would like my three words for 2020 to set the tone for how I’d like to proceed from this year and onwards. 
Before I outline my three words for 2020, here’s a quick review of my three words from 2019:

Adapt

The ability to adapt to new roles and situations is incredibly important. Change is constant and that’s something I’ve experienced a lot in both my personal and professional lives over the last few years.

2019 was no different and started off with a bit of a bump from a professional perspective. Unfortunately things didn’t work out where I was working in January but I soon found a freelance opportunity and then a longer-term contracting role. In both instances I needed to adapt, and the latter required me to learn a completely new set of skills.

Perspective

Taking a set back and realising what’s really important (such as friends, family and time away from work) is something many people struggle to manage effectively.

Whilst I still have work to do in this area (I always think there’s more to do before I can switch off), working for Nationwide Building Society has really helped me to balance my time at work and home. The office is closer to where I live, my wife works in the same place (meaning we could travel in together with the children) and the company has a very flexible working policy.

Simplify

As with ‘perspective’, there’s definitely more I need to do to tackle my habit of overthinking projects, tasks and situations. The environment in which I’ve been working has helped me in this respect: there’s less pressure to get things 100% right straight away, although that doesn’t always stop me from feeling overwhelmed.


As with all my previous year’s words, I will continue to look back and reflect on the words I chose and why. But looking ahead to this year, here are my three words for 2020:

Play

I’m very fortunate to have three wonderful young children, so it’s fascinating to see everyday the way they interact with the world around them. They’re endlessly curious without a trace of cynicism! 

It’s also been demonstrated that play can lead to higher levels of creativity, innovation and new ideas. When we get too used to certain ways of working we can forget how to think differently so I believe it’s important to constantly challenge our assumptions and preconceptions.

In 2020 I want to learn to relax and ‘play’ more in every aspect of my life. From a personal perspective, I’d like to use my time with the children to have fun and build my imagination, as well as learn the guitar and cook. And in my professional life, I’d like to continue working on not overthinking problems and use play to find my way to solutions.

Compose

When I reflect on what motivates and interests me, creating new things (such as writing a blog post or creating a presentation) is often top of the list. Although the concept of creativity doesn’t always fit naturally in what I do every day, I’d like to find ways to make this happen more often. 

On New Year’s Day I thought about some of the things I’d like to do this year: write more (and expand my range), learn to play the guitar (I can already play but I want to get better), work on new projects (a new website), all of which require a strong element of creativity and composition. 

Composition is a particular form of creativity. One of the definitions of ‘compose’ is “to make or form by combining things, parts, or elements”. The Beatles are an enduring inspiration for me and this is exactly how they worked as a band. They would take different musical influences (Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) and combine to create a sound and energy of their own. I’d like to do the same and compose more of my own work in 2020.

Commit

I don’t think I’m alone in finding that my attention is constantly under threat from hundreds of different things. Whilst I’ve always struggled to concentrate, it feels like there are more distractions than ever to take my mind away from any given task or activity. 

Whilst I’d like to be more playful and creative in the way I approach life, I also need to commit to tasks and deliver on my promises (to myself and others). I take a lot of interest in learning about how others work, think and create, but at some point you have to stop thinking and start doing (one of my first three words from 2011 was ‘ship’).

So I’m going to identify the main projects I’d like to work on in 2020 and commit to giving these the time and attention needed to make meaningful progress.