Projects 19-24
2019 in review


2019 was one of those years that feels like it only began 5 minutes ago, but here we are in December and where did the days go? The same place that all the hours and minutes and used train tickets went, I suppose.

Even more so than last year, this year’s work was almost entirely for Public Digital.

Two things stand out from the year there: more publishing projects (such as Signals), and more work for PD clients. I can’t say much about most of the latter, but it’s been fun to get out and about. I’ve met some interesting new people and been asked to help out with some knotty communication problems. I travelled to Munich for a few days, that was nice.

The work’s been hard, no doubt about that, and my health has suffered a bit over the year. More on that below.

Other things happened too

Project 19 began in the closing days of 2018 but most of the important work happened in spring this year. This was working with the digital team at the Department for Education, helping them rethink and find some focus for their comms. I got to work with some truly lovely people, including Kate Shiner, Emma Stace and my old GDS pal Nettie Williams. I didn’t spend very long working at DfE - with hindsight, I should have done more, I think - but it was one of the most enjoyable projects and best teams I’ve worked with.

There’s always a few smaller bits of work that slot in around other things - the two that stand out from this year are Juno, who are making conveyancing better, and Cydea, a new UK-based cyber security start-up. These were both very short bits of work, and both sufficiently different from the usual stuff that they helped re-fire a few brain neurons that had fallen into disuse.


My health has definitely been an issue this year. I reached a point where sudden and severe illness left me unable to do anything except lie in bed and mope for about 2 weeks. It was grim. I came out of it determined to do better, with 2 priorities: lose some weight and do some exercise. The weight loss has been hard to maintain, but exercise has worked out better than I expected. I’ve been greatly inspired by Simon Wilson’s publicly documented efforts, not that I’m anywhere close to achieving what he’s achieved. I plod along, I don’t enjoy the doing of it that much, but I feel better once I’ve done it.

A writing project

I always say to teams I work with that the best way to start a writing project is with a bad draft - then at least you have something to work on.

This year I took a week away from work and family to go and write a bad draft of my own, the beginnings of what I hope will be a book one day. My target was not that ambitious - 10,000 words for the week. After a shaky start, I got motoring mid-week and hit the target by Wednesday. I went home early.

The bad draft remains a bad draft for now, and I’ve had little time since that week to give it much thought and make it better. But having a bad draft is better than having no draft. I’d like to make more progress on this in 2020, but one lesson I learned this year is that doing so will require concentration. I’ll probably take some more time off.

Projects 25+

Conversations with 3 (!) potential new clients in recent weeks failed to turn into actual work, but that wasn’t a problem or a cause of disappointment. Stuff like this takes time, and everyone’s always too busy with the now to think very hard about the next. I get that.

2019 in numbers

Filed under: work
(20 December 2019)