Happy New Year, friends! 🥳

💎 You’re viewing a new version of Pawlean’s “Addition by Subtraction” theme – still inspired by minimalism with a little extra Pawlean Pah Zaz layered on top. 😂 Enjoy!

After such a tough year, we finally made it to the New Year. Not much has changed overnight and I’m sure most of us wished that it did. But with that said, I’m also feeling relatively optimistic about the next 12 months.

The year in my apartment

But before we jump into the New Year, I wanted to take the time to reflect on 2020. Each year I have a word that I write everywhere to remind me what I want to “ground me” for the 12 months ahead (inspired by the Bullet Journalling community.) For 2020, my word was “Hyperfocus” mostly directed to hyper-focusing on some ambitious goals I had. Like most other folks, I imagined 2020 looking very different from what it did so I did have to be flexible a little bit on what I sought after.

Pauline is fine
Pauline has been fine

Because of how shitty 2020 was, I think it is vital for me to point out that I’ve felt very fortunate all year for having a job, staying healthy and connected during the pandemic. Working from home, working out at home, and having access to the internet has helped me tremendously hit my goals and even go beyond some!

I acknowledge I’ve been in a position of privilege to have done what I did, and I’m so grateful for it all. 🙏🏻 I write this 2020 reflection to celebrate and put a positive spin on a terrible year. This review is MY year in 2020.

PSA: I really couldn’t have done 2020 without the folks supporting me, so thank you so much to everyone that let me text and call when I needed it. You all made my 2020 the best that it could be. 💜

The Year of Hyperfocus

For context, at the start of 2020, I was in the final year of my graduate scheme, struggling to focus on one thing. You all know how much I love and enjoy many things in technology, but my lack of focus sometimes overwhelmed me as I tried to be great at everything I ever stumbled upon. 😂 Likewise, I had struggled with being open about what I do in my online space even though I enjoyed it so much! I wanted to change that. On the health aspect, I wanted to continue with another year of focus on building up my habits and progress in the personal finance and environment front.

I wrote down five focus areas for 2020. These were not rigid goals! In my monthly reflections, I added, removed and changed some throughout the year. As you can probably tell from my word of the year, my key objective was to stay focused on the next steps. Let’s see how it panned out!


🎯 My goals were:

  • Focus on bringing together everything I have learnt to push me in the right direction for what’s next
  • Focus on one area of technology 
  • Build my network further by connecting with more folks in the area that I want to focus on
  • Continue being so good they can’t ignore you 💪🏼

⚡️How did I do?

  • Successfully worked remotely since March 2020! 😱
  • Once I rolled off my graduate scheme, I secured a role as a Site Reliability Engineer. Throughout the process of interviewing internally as well as externally, I had two offers and fifteen rejections.
  • Levelled up technically to better understand DevOps, SRE, AWS, Terraform/Packer and Docker. I also passed my AWS Solutions Architect Associate exam. My focus ended up being on DevOps/Infra, mostly because it’s an area in which I’m becoming more interested in. 
  • Helped drive the development of the SRE team, improving my ability to lead, collaborate and communicate in a remote environment. 
  • Helped drive a React project at work, teaching others along the way! 🤩
"Why do we still need an International Women's Day?" BT event in London, March 2020 (pre-lockdown)
“Why do we still need an International Women’s Day?” BT event in London, March 2020 (pre-lockdown) This was my final face-to-face speaking engagement of the year.

“We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both.”

Brené Brown


🎯 My goals were:

  • Be as healthy as possible. Aim to push my personal bests.
  • Improve my mobility, cardiovascular health and diet
  • Continue being mindful of my capacity and standing up for myself
  • Overall, continue my positive habits

⚡️ How did I do?

  • Adapted to working out at home and set myself up with a home gym. I’m thrilled with how it turned out!
  • I couldn’t hit personal bests as I had planned especially in things like deadlifts, squats and bench presses, mostly because I don’t have access to heavy plates and didn’t want to fill my whole apartment with them. 😂
  • I did improve my pull-ups and push-ups this year! Bodyweight exercises do go a long way, 2020 reminded me of that.
  • I did stretching and yoga every single morning since March 🧘🏻‍♀️
Pauline taking a workout selfie
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen my morning workouts in my small apartment. Making it work. 😂
  • I got a foldable treadmill to walk more often (and to help with cardiovascular health) When we could, we walked on weekends with our masks on of course!
  • Scraped the “improve my diet” goal because I didn’t want to think of food as such a negative thing some days this year. Dieting does that to me, so I just practised more mindful eating which to me was: eat whatever I felt like at the time!
  • My work-life balance went out of the window in 2020. ☹️ I’ve seen and felt signs of burnout too often; this is something I need to get better at.
  • I got back into journaling and tracked how I was feeling almost every day using Youper.
  • Yo girl did continue standing up for herself A LOT 💁🏻‍♀️ 


🎯 My goals were:

  • Continue dedicating time to writing and publishing posts
  • Speak about my blogging story at an event
  • Revive Inspiring Figures
  • Be proud of what I create and promote it more

⚡️ How did I do? in 2020 in 2020

Personal Finance

🎯 My goals were:

  • Save more money than I did last year

⚡️ How did I do?

Lockdown had a massive impact on this. It turns out, most of my paycheck funds mine and Matt’s adventures around the world. And so because of the lack of travel, I managed to save quite a bit — more so than I’ve done in previous years!

I also challenged myself with no-spend months or no-spend two-weeks often, which contributed to the habit of putting money away rather than browsing Amazon again. Oh, and I got into Cryptocurrency.

I’m proud of my financial gains 😁 I will keep this up in 2021!


🎯 My goals were:

  • Live in a more eco-friendly and sustainable way

⚡️ How did I do?

My environmental goal was again that was backed by the COVID lockdown. I managed to reduce my single-use plastic usage, eat everything in the kitchen before buying more food, stop randomly going into Boots or other high street stores for an “innocent” browse and use my stuff as much as I could before purchasing something new (the number of times I resisted getting a new MacBook or iPhone this year…omg 😂) 

With the latter point, I did break my “no more sports bras” rule twice, but some things I’m still working on, I guess. When I have had the itch to shop, I’ve bought second-hand from Depop or a sustainability-focused brand. Some of my favourites from this year include Organic Basics, TALA, ModiBodi (oh yeah, I stopped using pads/tampons in 2020) and Boodywear.


  • Saw Caravan Palace live in Leeds in January
  • Had to cancel our places to go to Greece this year to see Georgie and Nick (which was a surprise Valentines gift from Matt!) No PAWGIE in 2020 😞
  • My last trip out of Leeds/Sheffield was in March to London
  • Moved to a new apartment! Our most modern one yet. ☺️
  • Too many video calls to count! I appreciated technology so much more.
  • Got into casual gaming again — I played a lot of Animal Crossing and Zelda BOTW. 😂

Moments on Learning

For my full learnings in 2020, you can read my annual blog post “5 things I learnt in 2020”. On that, I briefly touch on how I learnt that people deal with things in different ways — for me, this was probably a number 1 lesson.

Pauline walking at the Peak District in summer 2020
The first time I went home this year. I made the most out of it by going on lots of walks in nature!

For example, with this pandemic, I learnt that just because some people are thriving off the remote culture and being at home all the time. It doesn’t mean that everyone else is the same.

There were moments in the year where I couldn’t understand why I was trying not to have a full-blown panic attack with everything going on, whilst my partner was completely okay. Admittedly, I sometimes felt upset seeing others thrive whilst I felt so stuck in (particularly reaching that 6-month point), but then I realised that we all react to things in different ways. Matt watching the news, didn’t have the same reaction as when I watch the news. We all have various views on remote culture, what keeps us going at work, our social lives, etc. We’re all different!

Walking away from triggers

My key learning from all this was that I need to step away from triggers like reading the news, latest tweets on another Tier or IG stories with lavish lockdown lives. I’m aware that it’s terrible for my mental health. But sometimes I can’t stop feeding my brain with all of it.

By the end of the year, I got better at just walking away from social media and the news because I knew that I couldn’t do that to myself anymore. The key to staying sane was transparency with those I spoke to daily about what I didn’t want to hear/know about from the news. I know some people like to see the COVID numbers day-in, day-out to inform themselves, but I don’t. Staying informed is different from doom-scrolling; this wasn’t as obvious to me until recently.

We can’t dismiss the fact that we’re all in the same shitty situation – we’re all in this together all – and yes, we’re all different, but one thing we all need now more than ever is kindness to ourselves and others. So let’s do more of that. 💜

2021 – Finding Contentment

My focus word for the new year is “Serenity”. What does this mean?

“The definition of serenity is a state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. Achieving this positive state of mind means you won’t feel as troubled by life’s ups and downs. While addiction often brings chaos, a loss of control and emotional turmoil, serenity will help you stay calm and true to yourself.” 

I took some pretty bold moves in 2020. I’m proud of what I created for myself during a challenging year. I worked super hard. Exerting so much effort isn’t new in my reflections. When I look back at previous years and see how much I progressed; I beam with pride, knowing that the small steps I took resulted in great things. 

Pauline in the Peaks
Christmas break reset

But I’m increasingly becoming mindful of how I’ve felt more and more dissatisfied with success over the years. Sometimes, I’ve felt like I’m stuck in a loop of making bold moves and striving for the “next best thing“. This “personality trait” or whatever you call it is who I’ve always been since I was a child, albeit my energy was channelled in different things back then. It’s taken my pride to admit this, but it’s true! I don’t regret the moves I’ve made over the years because it has been those same moves that got me to where I am today. I’m grateful for past me for putting in the work without a doubt.

When was the last time you truly enjoyed yourself?

I recently met with a few of my former colleagues, and we discussed how work had been lately. One of them had described how they were moving along at work and enjoying the days as they come. I’ve been thinking about that day ever since what they had said had touched me. I began to wonder when the last time was when I just stayed in the present. Instead of planning my next moves. I couldn’t even remember a year where I wasn’t always striving towards the next big thing for me. 

Gif of Angelica singing Hamilton's "Satisfied"
I feel ya girl

Our society today glorifies this constant hustle. I’ve been a massive part of it which has caused me to overwork myself, put my mental health and relationships on the line, and forget what is essential.

Taking stock

Upon realising this, I wanted to shift my focus away from the hustle and grind and towards manifesting feelings of contentment more often. This shift doesn’t mean not setting goals for myself or working hard, but more about enjoying the journey. “Taking stock” is another way of phrasing what I want to do this year. 

Another example I could think of for those Zelda BOTW fans is when Link is climbing up a mountain, and you’re repeatedly pressing the jump button to get him to get up the mountain faster. What you don’t realise is the mountain is so high, and you don’t have max stamina yet (because of those damn shrines), and so you end up falling to your death and GAME OVER.

I sometimes feel like I’m continually smashing that jump button, running out of stamina before getting to the top and falling into burnout. Even when I get to the top of the mountain and climb another one, I never stop to take in the view and end up climbing without resting, resulting in running out of stamina again. I want to leave that behind in 2020. I want to get to a suitable resting spot like those mountains in BOTW to fully restore my stamina, maybe even appreciating the views or collecting resources for future armour upgrades before heading onto the next adventure.

For this reason, I didn’t want to set goals this year.

Instead, I want to continue moving forwards on the foundations I’ve made from last year. That includes the pillars in health, personal finance, career and the environment. From the past few years of being relentless, I’ve created great foundations. I have everything I ever wanted and more! Unlike Alexander Hamilton, I want to be satisfied.

So I guess if there was one goal that I had in mind, it is simply to be content.

2 responses to “Serenity”

  1. PAULINE!! 💜 Reading this put a huge smile on my face for all you have achieved, but also especially for your reflection and realisation at the end. You’ve inspired me to no end, but you’ve worked so hard and definitely deserve to slow down a little. You’ve earned it.

    The hustle culture has been one that has irritated me for the past few years, and having been in the same situation as you with pushing myself to my next limit and aiming higher, I often find overachievement to be a painful reminder of my own past. I’ve learned to be gentler with myself over the past couple of years especially: one of the biggest things you’ll learn is that you’ll be able to grow even if you do take each day as it comes. I think this is my general attitude towards life, but also just trying to be a better person each day (in a small amount, but without the pressure of goals). I’m so certain you’ll enjoy your new mentality into 2021 🤗

    So bummed PAWGIE didn’t happen 😭😭😭 One day soon!! The most important thing is that we stay safe and well and can keep supporting each other from opposite sides of the earth 💜

    1. Thanks so much for all the support, Georgie! 🥰 You made a huge chunk of my 2020 super wonderful even though you are on the other side of the world. Recognising that I’m sometimes a part of that hustle culture and seeing how much it’s wore me down has been something I just want to stop! I’m a little scared of “slowing down” because of the fears of missing out, falling behind but at the same time I know that there is growth in small steps. It doesn’t always have to big and bold jumps, after all! 😌

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from a blog by Pawlean

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading