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2021 Annual Review

Published
January 3, 2022
Topics
Personal

Ah, the annual review post.

I didn’t do one of these last year, because I was in the middle of a cross-country move and low key mental breakdown.

So to catch you up on what happened since my last review post (besides the obvious):

  • In February 2020, Alex and I got engaged after 12 years together and decided to start moving forward on the California move we’d been thinking about for awhile.
  • The pandemic put a pin in that (we had originally planned to move in May), and Alex started working from home in our Manhattan apartment.
    • Having two people living AND working out of that 350 square foot, 2-room apartment wasn’t easy!
    • I’m still surprised at how little we get on each other’s nerves.
  • Between giving Alex my corner work nook, decreased physical health from not being able to go to appointments to manage my chronic illness, and decreased mental health from everything else, my business took a back seat.
    • (I still deal with a lot of complicated feelings about this. I “should” be one of the businesses that flourished in the pandemic, given my niche and lack of obligations like childcare. My business had a LOT of opportunities, and I had to pass on almost all of them, including being featured in a New York Times piece because I was too sick for a phone interview and the author was under deadline.)
  • I closed ongoing/evergreen enrollment to the Work Brighter Clubhouse with the intention of pivoting some branding and reopening it soon
    • It’s now over a year later and I still haven’t gotten the changes I wanted finished and have been stuck on an open/close enrollment schedule ever since, which I really hate.
    • The membership’s growth and engagement has suffered as a result, and I’m not quite sure how to fix it, to be honest. But I’m still committed to figuring it out.
  • We made it out to California in December…barely!
    • The day of our flight was the day of the first blizzard. We ended up having to book an earlier flight, move out of our apartment a day early, and spend a night in an empty airport hotel. We made it out on one of the last flights before all the ones cancelled for snow!

Phew.

So that was 2020. I went into 2021 with no furniture (the movers didn’t get here until a month after us) and severe jet lag, extremely burnt out and hitting a pandemic wall.

I couldn’t bring myself to set traditional goals, but I did have ideas and intentions to grow both businesses and explore California.

I didn’t really do many of them, but I’m also indifferent about it.

Maybe it’s growth, maybe it’s seasonal depression. 🤷🏻‍♀️

So, how did the year go?

The Year’s Yays

Focusing on my own brands

This will be the first year that combined product sales from both Work Brighter and BrittanyBerger.com total more than client work. I only took on, like, 3 writing projects and 2 coaching calls, and haven’t taken on a new client project since the summer.

I do plan on doing a bit more than that in 2022, but not by much.

I never wanted to be a freelance writer or a consultant, but it paid bills while I built up my own product suites and audience.

While I now make less than when I focused on client work, it’s so worth it.

Energetically, it’s way easier. And I’m truly making a living from my own ideas and voice instead of “just” my expertise.

Launching a signature content strategy course

A course about content marketing strategy has been on my idea list ever since I found out about online courses over a decade ago.

But with content marketing REALLY being my thing, I knew if I was going to do it, I’d do it right. Give it my full focus.

And that couldn’t happen with client projects every week.

So once I realized I had a month or so with no projects, I decided to block off the rest of the year and finally do the damn thing.

I opened a presale to that business’s email list for just over a month, way longer than is usually recommended by launching experts.

But it was awesome.

It was slow-paced and low-stressed, and I got 20 people enrolled in the beta, some at $300 and some at $600, totaling a bit over $7k in projected revenue and making it my best launch ever by like 3x over.

It ended up being about a quarter of my revenue this year. That pricing is important.

Once the course is done, it will be $900. My highest priced digital product by far, closer to my what services rates were.

If I can make a few sales of the course per month eventually, that income will be around what client work was when I stopped it, around $2.5k per month.

That should give me some stability & security to continue releasing lower priced and more accessible products at Work Brighter.

Embracing biphasic sleep

I’m like, officially a biphasic sleeper now, I guess. I’ve always been a night owl and a napper (these were my first two stakes in the ground against the traditional productivity rules lol), but it’s not like I took one every day.

Until the pandemic.

When the pandemic started fucking with my nighttime sleep even more, I fully embraced biphasic sleep.

Planning for a nap every day, building it into my schedule, and not feeling mad or guilty if I only get a few hours during my “first sleep.”

It’s been even easier since we moved here to California, since we have more space and the bedroom is quieter. 🙂

At this point, I probably nap 5 or 6 days a week.

I prioritize getting at least 7 hours of sleep over getting all my sleep at once. The days I don’t nap, it’s usually because I don’t need it.

Sleep hygiene has been a long journey for me, but I’ve come a long way from the 4 hours per night I was getting in 2016.

Trying pandemic travel

I’m not a big travel person to begin with, so with COVID, most trips just aren’t worth the risk for me. But we did try a long weekend in San Diego, which is a few hours away, just for a change of scenery and some outdoor activities like walking and kayaking.

Turns out, I actually was able to relax a little bit and enjoyed exploring a new area. In 2022 we’ll probably be exploring more towns in the area, like Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, and San Luis Obispo.

Consistent therapy

I’d been doing virtual therapy since 2017, but with a service that had consistently gotten worse as the company continued to prioritize growth over the health of their patients and good work environment for the therapists providing care (yes, it’s the one you’re thinking of).

By the end of 2020, I wasn’t doing any calls with my therapist and it was taking forever for them to respond to my messages.

So in 2021, I switched services to a smaller company (that doesn’t seem to be trying to scale fast and overfocus on acquisition) that also has care providers that can help you with medication. AND it includes weekly therapy video calls.

This is the most consistently I’ve gone to therapy since college, and I’ve made a ton of progress on some mental health and self-worth issues as a result. My therapist also has chronic illness and ADHD, so he can really relate to several my struggles and understand what I’m going through on a personal level as well as a medical one.

It’s helped me understand my triggers better, add new tools to my coping toolbox, and work out my feelings.

Starting to drive again

Finally, I started driving again in the fall. I hadn’t driven consistently since I lived in Delaware (which I left in 2015), and at all since I’d gotten really sick.

Between my anxiety getting so bad and having such little energy, it just never felt safe.

But once I was in a better place this year, Alex started taking me for “driving refresher lessons.”

I still haven’t gone on highways yet, because they’re ridiculous out here I’m not at that level yet. 🤣

Driving was something I found really fun and relaxing so I’m excited to get back into it and regain some independence I’ve lost since my supersick years.

Social media boundaries

It’s been something I’ve been experimenting with and writing about for years, but I finally feel like I’m in a good place with social media.

(Most days.)

At this point, I spend less than half an hour a day total on social media.

My phone only has Twitter and Instagram, with screen time limits on them both. I also have a screen time plugin in Chrome to limit browsing there.

I only watch TikToks that get sent to me some other way...no FYP for me. Don’t remember the last time I logged into LinkedIn.

I haven’t posted on Facebook since like February, but log in around twice a week, mostly to check groups I still need.

I have separate Instagram accounts for personal (like totally non-business, not personal brand) use and competitive analysis, so each individual account is more focused and distracts me less.

It’s all part of a shift I’m trying to make away from veblenian entrepreneurship where I AM my business and personal brand, rather than those being thing that make up a small portion of my life.

Overall, I’m proud that I was able to make social media work for me instead of having to leave any platforms completely. The bad can be bad, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to the good.

The Year’s Womp Womps

Of course, for every win there were probably half a dozen womp womps, including...

Forgetting to get married lol

Alex and I have been engaged for almost 2 years now, and we’d planned on having a short engagement lol. We’re not having a big wedding, maybe not any “wedding” at all, but between life admin stuff we want to get taken care of before we’re officially married (mostly financial and business stuff).

And that stuff we just keep forgetting and procrastinating, so here we are.

*shrug*

Financial stress from business model shifts

Purpose-wise, I feel really great about where Work Brighter is going. But while I don’t know much of where that is yet, I do know it’s business-to-consumer, and consumer price points. And that’s the opposite of my experience so far.

Going from focusing on $1,000 client blog posts to $50 product sales has been a bit of a mindset fuck.

So the shift has added some financial stress, but there’s also less interpersonal stress and stuff like that. Plus, like I said, this feels like what Work Brighter has been leading up to all along.

Not making the apartment cozy

We’ve been in this apartment for a year now and I haven’t decorated or “cozified” it anywhere near as much as I want to. It’s something else that just kept getting away from me.

We had a lot of crucial furniture we needed to buy when we first moved, like a couch and work setup for Alex, so once it was done we thought we’d take a bit of a spending break before diving into “accessory” furniture and decor.

Aaaand we just haven’t dove back in.

More frequent flare ups

I’ve gotten a lot more active this year, and with that, has come more flare-ups.

A lot of things that I hadn’t dealt with in a while, like travel flare-ups and exercise flare-ups, have started happening now that I’m working out more, traveling occasionally, etc.

Several flares this year were as bad as the flare-ups from my supersick period, which was kind of scary, so I’ve slowed down a bit since summer. They were still nowhere frequent as they used to be, but that also means I’m less “used” to them and less able to suck it up and tolerate the pain.

Overall, I’m glad I’m not ignoring pain from my body anymore.

But it also makes these flare-ups a lot harder to go through in the present.

Continued trauma

Despite all the progress I’ve made with older mental health issues, new ones just keep cropping back up.

This summer, there was a substantial fire in our section of the apartment complex.

I was already in the middle of a bad flare up, injured my ankle running in the evacuation, and saw some traumatizing images that were hard to shake.

(We and our apartment had no direct damage from the fire, but that sadly wasn’t true of everyone in the building.)

It was also really disturbing to see how bad antisemitism is getting, both online and off.

Between being targeted by trolls sending antisemitic blood libel through my website’s contact form, seeing what was basically a pogram happen at a shopping center in my new city, and more, I’m really uncomfortable with how normalized it’s gotten and how few so-called progressives, supposed allies, pay any attention.

And then of course, there’s the fact that the pandemic has made pretty much everyone more ableist, or at least made their hidden ableism more visible. Sometimes it feels like I’ll never be done working on my PTSD because I’ll never be done sustaining ableist trauma, and the post-traumatic growth can’t happen til it does.

Seeing a lot of people’s true colors in regards to different social issues has also made my social circle a lot smaller over the course of pandemic. There were a lot of people that I thought were better than “this,” whatever the “this” of the moment was.

It’s getting isolating to lose “older” connections faster than I can make new ones that are more aligned with my current values, and it’s taking a toll on me.

New Habits Built

Work Brighter followers know I love habit building and behavior science, so instead of making building new habits one section of the wins, I wanted to break it out into its own section.

Some of the ones I started or improved this year were:

  • Drinking water: I’d never drank enough water, and also didn’t know what “enough” was for me. So I’d been in a habit of chugging a lot of water in one day and then not drinking much for another few. But now I consistently drink about 40 oz of water a day, and it feels like “enough.”
  • Evening wash up routine: my morning and evening personal care routines had fallen by the wayside when I was more focused on my internal health than external stuff. But now that I have the energy to put into maintaining my skin and hair more now, I tried re-establishing those rituals and so far my whole evening routine is very enjoyable.
  • Jogging: over the summer and fall I started the Couch to 5K program and really loved it. Eventually I got a bit burnt out and during my allergy season I didn’t have the energy for it, but I’ve remained more active than before and plan on getting back into it when my energy levels go back up after winter.
  • Morning pages: I’d heard about The Artist’s Way and morning pages for years, but never felt compelled to try them out until this year. I’ve been doing my version of morning pages now and have had SO MANY breakthroughs from it already. Definitely plan on adding artist date and Artist Way exercises as well in 2022.
  • Mid-afternoon balcony breaks: I have learned precisely what time of the afternoon, in each season, the sun hits the hammock on our balcony. I try to make time to get out there for at least 20 minutes a few days a week, either to read, listen to a podcast, call my family, or play a video game.

Courses & Programs I’ve Learned Through

I’m also obsessed with learning and development, so I spend time every week going through different courses, whether to fill business gaps or explore cool things that catch my interest on Skillshare.

The bad ones outnumber the good, and by A LOT, so it’s worth noting the ones that had an impact on me:

Freshly Implemented / Modern CEO

Amber McCue’s coaching programs, formerly Freshly Implemented and now Modern CEO, have been my main support and professional development for the past several years now.

Amber’s one of the few coaches I’ve found actually understands me, respects the way I want to do business, and supports multiple business models and approaches instead of trying to convince all clients to follow the same path.

Instead of just teaching you what she did, she teaches you how to figure out the best choices for yourself.

It’s unlike any other business “coaching” program I’ve tried, which is why I keep reinvesting!

Ship 30 for 30

I also was one of those people you might’ve seen sharing lots of text images and ship emojis on Twitter last year. 😝

Ship 30 for 30 is a writing...challenge? Program? Accountability group?

Everyone in the cohort publishes an “atomic essay” (less than 250 words) every day for 30 days. And in 2020 and early 2021, I felt seriously off my usual writing vibes.

Previously, I was mostly writing in a few binge sessions per week, and they were exhausting. I wanted to practice writing in shorter, more frequent sessions throughout the week instead, and figured 30 reps of 30-minute writing sessions was a great way to build the habit!

It’s been great, and I plan on dropping in on more rounds as an alum whenever my writing habit needs a tune-up.

(You can find all my essays on this blog, if you’re interested.)

Linking Your Thinking

Another one of my favorite courses this year was Linking Your Thinking. So much of my content creation workflow changed and got easier when I first seriously got into personal knowledge management.

And I got so much out of Building a Second Brain, a beginner’s course on the topic, that I was ready for more.

I had already been reading about and playing with the Zettlekasten and “evergreen notetaking” approach and was ready to learn a structured system from someone.

It’s a live course and unfortunately I had a flare-up in the middle, so I had to drop out of the community components, but it has enhanced my notetaking habit a lot and I’m looking forward to doing an alumni round.

The Artist's Way

Finally, like I mentioned before, I finally got into The Artist’s Way this year. A course or program taught through the format of a book, I didn’t know how to categorize it lol, but it was important enough for me that I’m counting it as both.

I haven’t done the exercises or artist dates yet, but even without them, with just the morning pages and reading the book, it’s been life-changing.

Highly recommend anyone who considers themselves creative try it! And anyone who doesn’t currently consider themselves creative but would like to!

Favorite Media

Finally, you know your most pop culture-obsessed friend can’t end a recap without talking about entertainment!

Between my stress-induced shortened attention span and stress-and-trauma induced need for nostalgia content, I didn’t consume a lot of NEW-new stuff this year, but did revisit a lot of old favorites.

TV

  • Just Shoot Me: I’d never watched it all the way through, and never watched it since I was old enough to understand most of the jokes lol
  • New Adventures of Old Christine: finding this on hotel cable in San Diego made me revisit and rewatch this whole series and my God it’s so gloriously hilarious
  • The Nanny: same on the gloriously hilarious, also so unabashedly, radically Jewish
  • The Flight Attendant: the first new thing we watched, and I REALLY loved it
  • Mare of Easttown: liked this one a lot too, no opinions on it that haven’t been said though
  • Hacks: THE JEAN SMART RENAISSANCE CONTINUES, and this one was my favorite of hers (also, expect Designing Women and Frasier rewatches from me soon)
  • You Season 3: I enjoyed this season the least, but that was still a whole damn lot. And the cultural commentary of this season, focused on tech and entrepreneur bros and spiritual empowerment babes, was more relevant to me personally than previous seasons so that was hilarious (they literally mentioned two different Hustle Culture nemeses of mine hahahah)
  • Succession Season 3: again my least favorite season so far, but still good. Highlight for me was Kendall practically eating a blunt in a perfect encapsulation of his character.
  • Only Murders in the Building Season 1: this show was AMAZING and succeeded so well at both comedy and mystery. I was left thinking about it for days after I finished it.
  • Notable but not “favorite”: lol it feels wrong to call season 2 of Emily in Paris or season 1 of Cruel Summer a favorite, because I did not think they were good, but I did enjoy the experience of hate watching them, so that’s worth something!

Books

I didn’t read as many books as normal for me in 2021, but it was still more than 2020, so that’s nice! I was slacking on fiction though.

Here were some of my favorite reads:

You can follow my reading progress on Storygraph, a Goodreads alternative I found and loved last year.

Movies

I really haven’t had the attention span for movies, even ones I’ve seen before, so I only watched AND enjoyed 2 movies worth mentioning:

  • Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar: to be fair, I have watched this at least 5 times. It is absolutely absurd and so stupid in the absolute BEST ways. I. love. it. so. much.
  • Josie & the Pussycats: I rewatched this for the first time in ages originally just for the music and was surprised to find out it was a BITING anti-capitalist satire that totally went over my head at a preteen. 🤣 Even better as an adult! It was way ahead of its time.

Podcasts

  • Too Long Didn't Watch
  • Life Kit
  • Bad With Money
  • Money Please
  • Body Stuff with Dr Jen Gunter
  • Duped
  • Maintenance Phase
  • Sounds Like a Cult
  • The Plot Thickens
  • PEOPLE in the 90s

Content Created

I’m REALLY proud of the amount of content I created in 2021...from public content, to client work, to marketing and customer engagement emails for my products.

This isn’t even everything, but it’s everything available free & publicly:

👤
Body of Work

WorkBrighter.co
Work Brighter Newsletter
YouTube
BrittanyBerger.com
BrittanyBerger.com Newsletter
External

What’s Next?

Honestly, I’m “reusing” most of my plan and ideas from 2021. Most of the ones I didn’t accomplish are still relevant, I just needed more time.

And like Amber McCue always reminds me, “I’m right on time” on my own timeline.

This year I’m focused on specific roadmaps in my businesses and life...things that I want to do and what order I want to do them in.

But I’m not attaching timelines to them yet.

At least, not a timeline other than what comes naturally.

I’ll do my best, like I always do, and be okay with what that looks like and how long it takes.

At least, I’ll try.

Here are some of the items on the roadmap:

  • Rebranding and relaunching the Work Brighter membership
  • Rebranding Work Brighter as a whole
  • Getting serious about publishing a book
  • Scaling the sales system for my BrittanyBerger.com products
  • Writing & YouTubing about disability & mental illness in the productivity space
  • Doing weekly artist dates with myself
  • Finding new communities to get involved with both in-person and online

And I guess that’s it!

If this review was helpful or interesting to you, let me know by sharing this and tagging me or messaging me on Instagram or Twitter. 😀