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Yearly Review 2023

A girl stepping across a line on the ground. Only the boots and part of her jeans can be seen.
Stepping into a new world. The world of Freelance

Last year’s theme was “everything, everywhere and all at once”, and I asked myself:

I started many more projects than I finished: will 2023 will be a year of wrapping up this undirected energy?

And it’s safe to say: no, I did not wrap up projects. I (again) started many more than I could finish.

Still, 2023 has a very different feel than 2022. I felt growth: I became a more senior designer (a product owner, even), and took the leap to freelance. This growth did not come without growing pains. I have a lot of ‘headache’, ‘tired’ and ‘being grumpy’ in my diary. I’m working on a better balance so this won’t happen this year.

Now on to the reflection brag-list.

Work at PostNL #

I grew a lot in my work at PostNL:

  • I became research lead and product-owner of a research team for SME
  • I held innovation-workshops at PostNL
  • I created the product vision for the PostNL business portals
  • I instigated improvement in work process. I created a new EPIC-process within the SAFe framework, with a focus on delivery / release / learn strategies. And worked with a Systems-Thinking approach to identify and communicate problems in process
  • I was involved in hiring two new designers
  • I designed the new mobile app for business customers, and worked closely with the product-owner / channel manager / marketing to align development, research and marketing with a scenario-based approach.

Freelancing #

The feeling of “I’d like to try and be my own boss” has been itching for a long time. And in September I made the switch to freelancing. I already have two amazing clients and am looking forward to more.

Freelancing gives me more structure than working as an employee. Sure, I have to set that structure myself, but that’s loads better than trying to play catch-up with other peoples structures. I get to decide how to spend my days, when to take time-off, where my pension goes, etcetera. I set the structure and I fully understand that structure. For example: as employee there are a maximum number of holidays, some rolled over in a new year and others didn’t, some national holidays were free and others weren’t – freelancing is much simpler: you work, you get paid.

Another aspect of freelancing that brings structure is project-based working. Projects have a beginning-and-end, and there are less politics in the middle. Compare that with my work at PostNL, where I was often doing 20 projects at the same time (my own fault! I took all that in! But still).

There’s a lot of work figuring stuff out (accountant, insurance, creating invoices), but I enjoy all of it. Even the ‘boring’ stuff. I like being my own person.

I also feel more valued, as I get ‘hired’ for my seniority and my influence on projects is much clearer.

Construction in the house #

2023 was the year of some smaller household chores. I stripped the stairs of the carpet, finished tidying up the fireplace, worked in the garden a lot. I fixed some leaks (mainly a flower place connected to the wall) and I fixed the lining of the roof of our shed. I also installed a new rain barrel, which was more work than expected as I rerouted the gutter.

A screenshot of the puzzle

Creativity #

I again released a cryptographic puzzle for Easter (very happy with this edition, although I prefer the illustration-style of the year before). I wrote three articles on my blog: my thoughts on AI and art, an article on the quality of Apple TV and of course the yearly review of 2022.

I also built an AI-reply for e-mail using the OpenAI-API. I named him George. It’s great fun to email George and get replies. There’s a very different vibe to email than chat: it’s slower and more thoughtful. Plus, it’s very simple to use existing content: you just forward an email. It feels like a “poor man’s OpenAI-API”. My friend JP is now creating a real service out of it (mine was hacked together on an old laptop).

There’s a long list of things I wrote that are unpublished: a magic-story, a new (old) book from my father, a puzzle-calendar for print, an investigation into how Apple handles raw photos, a new logo for freelance work, a massive new article on solar panels….

Not all activities were theoretical, I also visited a lot of museums and watched a lot of (good) movies and visited a conference on Enterprise UX and read a handful of books.

I made hats for dinosaurs for my son’s party of leaving daycare, organizing parties for my daughter (Christmas lunch, movie-day, her jungle-birthday).

I created a new “Heuristic 0” for UX, as an addition to the famous 10 heuristics of Jakob Nielsen (should write an article about this someday):

Heuristic 0: “Design should be beneficial for all”

I updated my CV and portfolio (three times, in PDF not online) and designed a new personal website (not live yet).

Making space for me: joining the 5AM club #

Another major changes in my life (besides freelancing) is that I started waking up at 05:00. This gives me more ‘me-time’. I wrote in-depth about this on Medium.

On to 2024! #

As I write this, already more than 10% of 2024 has passed.

I’m very excited for the year, having a lot of energy from exploring this new thing “freelancing” I’m doing.

I also hope to release a product: I’ve been working on a cool note-taking app (together with a friend) that I would like all of you to see (yes, all of you: all three of my RSS-readers!).

So much time, so little to do. Strike that. Reverse it. – Willy Wonka