It’s the start of the last day of the year and – wow – what a year we’ve all had. There were hard times, absolutely, but I find myself remembering the good times even more. I remarked last night to my husband that maybe it’s like childbirth…once it’s over you tend to forget how hard it was!
If you’re curious what my year looked like, here are some of things that marked it in each quarter.
January – March
January hit my family hard in the face with the death of my father-in-law a few days into the new year. It set plans in motion for us to help my husband’s mom pack up her house in the Boundary region and move to where we live on Vancouver Island. We did this in March Break just as COVID-19 was hitting British Columbia – definitely an “interesting” experience and one that I’m glad I don’t have to repeat.
I also went to Cuba early in January with a good girlfriend of mine that I’ve known for over 25 years. We didn’t know that the trip was going to come at a bad time for me (we had preplanned it months earlier) but being there with her in the sun and sand was an idyllic experience that we were both extremely grateful for at the time and especially when we looked back on it later. We had no idea the pandemic was soon going to hit as we toured sugar cane fields, tasted rum and drank in the sights and sounds of Havana.
From January to March I taught the last iteration of the workplace innovation course that I’d been doing through Royal Roads University for the last five years. I loved facilitating Innovation Tools and Processes (WINV 685) online and supporting the participants to learn design thinking and facilitation skills, but it just felt like time to make a change to open up new opportunities. I wish that program all the best as they continue another version of it this fall/winter.
January also marked the start of my work with FriesenPress, the publishing services company that has helped me bring my book to market. (More on the actual book later in this post.) I had spent all 2019 researching and writing and hiring an independent editor and going it alone when I realized that I just needed some professionals to bring me to the finish line. The folks at FriesenPress worked well with me to listen and respond to my high expectations about what I wanted the book to be – thanks folks!
Some notable clients that I designed both face-to-face and online learning courses in this time period for were: Local Government Management Association, BC Pension, Canadian Cancer Society, and BC Children’s Hospital. (Sorry I can’t mention everyone!)
April – June
When the pandemic hit in March I knew that I was going to have to get going earlier on a project that I had planned to carry out in the fall of 2020, which was to secure my own learning management system (LMS) and e-commerce site. This quarter saw me getting those sites established with a hosting company and bringing my “shop” to the world (while at the same time supporting the many clients who contacted me to say “help us learn about online learning, Beth!”). The first online course I offered on my LMS to a group of outstanding individuals was, not surprisingly, Facilitating Learning Online (FLO) Synchronous, which helps people learn how to design and facilitate virtual sessions. I designed FLO Synchronous several years ago and had facilitated it several times through BCcampus and Royal Roads. It was exciting to run my own version for participants across various sectors.
I also spent these months facilitating multiple overlapping and back-to-back online asynchronous courses (with synchronous bits thrown into each) for Royal Roads and BCcampus, as well as many short virtual sessions for my own client organizations and individuals. In fact, I worked so much at my computer during this time period to support all my various clients and participants (often 10-12 hours a day) that I threw my neck and shoulders badly out of alignment. This landed me in multiple acupuncture, chiropractic and massage appointments stretching throughout the rest of the year and I learned a big lesson (I hope!) about not killing myself for my work. Working with coach Carmel Ecker helped me to see that giving so much to my clients while forgetting to take care of myself doesn’t really work that well for any of us. So the irony wasn’t lost on me that even though I’d been designing and facilitating online for years (and helping other people do the same) I myself still had boundary issues doing SO much work online and had to kick my own butt to make some changes to rebalance my life and health. (I think this is a trap that some of us who absolutely love our work fall into from time to time and I’m going to come back and read this blog post in the future when I need to be reminded of its message!)
Some clients during this time on projects ranging from learning design on e-learning and online courses to educational consulting to helping folks learn how to design and facilitate virtual sessions were: Esquimalt Military Family Resource Centre, Victoria Hospice, Wayne Newell – Corporate Trainer, Royal Roads University, BCcampus, BC Patient Safety & Quality Council, Sauder School of Business Continuing Studies, and CDG Consulting & Communication.
July – September
In late July and August I was able to take a couple of much-needed weeks of holidays, which helped get me and my work back on track for the rest of the year. I use Google Calendar to time block all my meetings and projects and looking back at my April to June period is a reminder of the overwhelm I felt at the time, whereas my July and August schedules had a bit more breathing space in them and showed activities for fun and not just work. (And my iPhone camera rolls proves it; I have lots of great family photos from short day trips around Victoria as we soaked up all the beauty this area has to offer.)
In August, while the pandemic released its hold on all of us a little, we were able to get up to Courtenay for a couple of nights where I hiked at Strathcona Provincial Park for the first time. We also took a short trip to Whistler, where we hadn’t been for many years. I truly do live in a gorgeous part of the world and every time I made a traditional land acknowledgement at the start of one of my virtual sessions this year I was reminded of how grateful I am to live where I do, where the natural world surrounds us so fully.
In September I co-facilitated two separate online “micro-courses” (one week each) with fantastic colleagues, one of whom was Valeria Cortes who I’m pleased to say will be working more with me in 2021. (See my emerging team.) It was during this month that I was also able to announce that pre-sales for my book, Design to Engage: How to Create a Great Learning Experience for Any Group, were open. This set off the thrilling escapade of beginning to let everyone know more about the huge project that I had been working on for so long.
October – December
When I first launched pre-sales for Design to Engage in September, FriesenPress had told me the printers were backed up from the pandemic and that I might be able to get my book order in hand by December/January. Thankfully, the printers caught up and I took delivery of about 24 boxes of books in early November. I soon started sending them out to the door to the dozens and dozens of people who had purchased and were waiting patiently to get them. (Thank you everyone! It’s been a wild ride so far and I’m exciting for the worldwide launch of the book starting Jan 4 2021, when the book will be available on Amazon, FriesenPress’s site and other places. Follow me on Instagram for the most up to date news.)
During this quarter I also started working with Mary Chan of Organized Sound Productions to record the audio book for Design to Engage. I built a little temporary studio in my basement guest room – I mean, no one was coming to visit us anyway during COVID! – and fit recording sessions in and around my regular work. Mary is a dream audio coach and she’s been able to teach this newbie some of the tricks of the biz. (She even taught me how to roar like a lion!). I listened to the first finished couple of chapters while I was on the treadmill a few weeks ago and I actually got a little emotional. It sounded like a real audio book!
During this quarter I was pleased to facilitate virtual sessions for the BC Public Service Learning Centre and the University of Victoria (to name just two) and facilitate even more online courses for Royal Roads (including one on Designing Online with Liberating Structures with the awesome Susana Guardado of Bright Light Ideas). I also facilitated a bunch of public offering webinars through my own site. (Which, by the way, I changed AGAIN this fall and am now happy to be hosted by Pathwise Solutions for a new, integrated LMS and e-commerce site.) I’m loving the community of facilitators that has been participating in my webinars and also coming together through the Victoria Facilitators Group and the Vancouver Island Liberating Structures User Group. It’s been pretty clear to me that facilitators were helping to make the world turn this year and I’m extremely grateful for the part I’ve been able to play in it all.
Well, this is starting to feel like an Academic Awards speech where I can’t help but forget someone or something. Even recapping the highlights of 2020 has taken a long time and thank you for reading this far if you did! All in all, even though 2020 threw us all a lot of curveballs I still feel more like I was able to knock it out of the park. Happy new year everyone! May we all find much success and joy in the year to come.