A review of 2019 and plans for 2020

One year ago today I posted some of the plans that I had for the year and this is a brief review of those plans, as well as starting to think about what I might get into for 2020.

Writing: I managed to stick to my goal of writing every day with the caveat that I obviously can’t always write as much as I’d like to every day. I did manage to carve out about 2 hours, for at least 3 days a week, which I used to write papers, blog posts and provide feedback for postgraduate students. I’ll keep to that plan of putting aside a few hours every morning for 2020 although I’m hoping to spend more of that time on more informal writing rather than putting out more research articles.

Research and exchange: I visited Oslo for 2 weeks in August with a small group of undergraduate students and a colleague from my department, as part of a research project on internationalisation. This year, we’ll host 4 students and 2 lecturers from OsloMet in my department in March. This visit was a fantastic experience – for lecturers and students – and I cannot wait for our Norwegian colleagues to come to Cape Town. It wasn’t just a brilliant academic experience but was so wonderful to spend some time wondering around the parks in Oslo.

Sognsvann Lake outside of Oslo.

I also completed a survey on the perceptions of physiotherapy clinicians on the impact of AI on clinical practice, and hope to complete the associated interviews early this year. And finally, I’ve made the decision not to apply to have my NRF rating re-evaluated, since I realised that I was spending more time than I was happy with simply dealing with the admin of being rated. And with the added pressure to keep meeting benchmarks in an already hyper-competative field I decided that it was serving as little more than an unwanted distraction from the things that really brought me a lot of joy in my professional work in 2019. Speaking of which…

In Beta: The first In Beta unconference was held in May in Lausanne and was incredible; definitely one of the highlights of 2019 for me. Thanks so much to Guillaume Christe and Veronika Schoeb for all of their assistance, not only in making it possible but in making it awesome. I’m super excited to be working with Ben and Joost to prepare the second unconference at HAN in the Netherlands from 14-15 September.

We didn’t get to publish as many podcasts in 2019 as I’d hoped (although we did end up recording quite a few) because of the significant time it takes to edit them. On the other hand we did start the In Beta monthly newsletter which has been a fun little experiment. For 2020 we’ll keep working on the podcasts (the first discussion is scheduled for the 21st of January) and the newsletter (here’s the January edition). There’s also a rumour of an In Beta Introduction to Physiotherapy Education open access book but that can’t be true because we’d never take on anything so unrealistic and unlikely to materialise. Surely? Oh, and Ben started an In Beta Twitter account so you should probably check that out.

Technology: I’ve done more in 2019 to move myself away from social media in general, as well as finding alternatives to Google products (this decision needs a whole post to explore). My main goal is to try and get off of closed platforms and try to use open source software where possible. I’ve also been experimenting with some Indieweb applications and ideas, which has been fun. I’ll probably write a few updates on this process during the year.

365 project: I managed to take a photo a day for 346 days in 2019, which wasn’t too bad. Here are some of my favourites.

I won’t continue with the photo a day project this year but will be trying to work on other projects “with my hands”. What this means exactly is yet to be determined but I think it’ll most likely involve making/building/creating things. For example, I’m going to start sketching (see this early attempt at a gecko).

And also restoring some of the old furniture we’ve had in the house for years, like this wardrobe that my mother-in-law had when she was a child.

Exercise: I didn’t get to do as much cycling as I’d hoped for but I did start trail running in September. I’ve gone running for 3 days of almost every week since I first went out and have found it to be…interesting. I won’t say that I enjoy it but I haven’t stopped doing it so there’s that. I basically just want to make it so that I’m less likely to have a heart attack when I’m 45.

Trail running around the back of Lion’s Head.

Reading: I read 36 books in 2019 and 3 million words in Pocket (which it estimates is the equivalent of about 40 books but who knows how they come up with that). While I’m fairly happy with how much I’m reading I’m pretty depressed with how little I remember. Which is why I’m going to try and read fewer books/words in 2020 and pay more attention to how I engage with what I’m reading. As it is I read all of my books in the Moon+ reader app and export all highlights and notes into Joplin. But then I don’t take the next step of reviewing, editing and connecting those notes to other concepts in order to extract what is most useful from what I’ve read. I’ll be doing more of that kind of “post-reading” work in 2020. I also didn’t read as many research papers in 2019 as I would’ve liked but then again, I don’t want to fall into the trap of reading articles just so that I can tick them off. With that in mind I’m going to try and read a paper a day during the last hour of work during the week and then post short summaries here (note that reading a paper a day isn’t the same thing as finishing a paper a day, so at least I’ve got some breathing space there).

Productivity: I did pretty well with my plan to restructure my day at work so that I don’t have to do anything in the evenings and on weekends. I think that there may have been a total of a few weeks in the year when I had to do some work at night and it was usually the result of an influx of urgent tasks from others rather than an inability to manage my time effectively. I spent a lot of time refining my workflow and I think that that alone helped me to stay focused and get stuff done. I managed to stick to a fairly regular meditation schedule for about half the year but then got out of the habit and didn’t pick it up again. I’ll probably make another atempt this year.

That’s about it from my side. I hope that you have a great 2020.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.