2020 threw a wrench into everyone’s life, and we all had a lot of grieving to do. Many lost their work and found their plans thrown out of the window. Others lost loved ones or found themselves facing severe health challenges. Some were forced into isolation, and others had to spend too much time with everyone in their household. The global COVID-19 pandemic disclosed and amplified existing systemic issues like racism and socioeconomic disparities. We all wished for better things in 2021.

But 2020 was not all bad! The web is full of small AND big stories showing the good moments individuals and even the whole world went through. We all encountered nature and wildlife returning to our cities once we were in lockdown. Neighbours stepped up and supported those most vulnerable in their communities. We listened to musicians stepping into their windows and spreading joy with their music. In Italy, two young folks fell in love getting to know each other from their rooftops across the street. Finally, scientists across the globe cooperated to develop vaccines in the least amount of time in history. People lived, laughed and loved everywhere.

Experiencing this dichotomy myself, I used the time between Christmas and today to pinpoint those good moments in my own life. Next, I rooted my state moving on from 2020 in them, instead of in the doom and gloom of the never-ending news stream. Out of this rooting, I was able to define five things I learned from this ambiguous year. These will support me to build back better in 2021 – personally and business-wise.

1. Manage my energy and productive time more purposefully.

In 2020, all the ‘busy work’ fell on my feed. Burned out from the intensive year 2019 and my father’s loss, I found myself putting my few spoons of energy in all the wrong place. Once the pandemic banned me to the home office, my productive time got eaten up by emails, video calls and so-called productivity tools. After my COVID infection, time spent in front of the screen became even more fatiguing.

Colourful spoons

As there isn’t a high likelihood of remote and virtual work ending any time soon, I decided to think about the‘new normal’ of my work more purposely. The first step was to have an honest look at what can be done analogue and what HAS to be done digitally. Next, which of those digital tasks had to be done by me or were there shortcuts I can take. Do I have to attend every video call or can its content be covered by a simple email which costs me less energy? And third and finally, is there a way in which I can pair drainer tasks with something meaningful that gives me strength back.

For my private life, I am similarly approaching my energy. As I have more control over what I have to do and what I can skip, my first step always is to create a running list of things that give me energy. Next, I schedule as many of those as possible in before I even think of my weekly to-do list. I also apply a straightforward principle to chores and energy suckers:

 Delegate, delegate, delegate!

2. Rest has to be a priority – not just in 2021.

In the vain of my first learning from 2020 lays this one. As some many fellow millennials and members of other generations, I am stuck in the productivity trap. I constantly feel I have to hustle, make the time count, optimise, conquer the next challenge and so on. That got even worse in pandemic 2020. I expected myself to function in the same way as in the pre-COVID world, not acknowledging the worry and the grief that came with it. Until everything went to a shrieking hold with my COVID infection, my mind, body and soul were so exhausted, and no rest could help.

I understood then that rest is not the medicine for exhaustion or burn-out, but it is the remedy to avoid it!Sign say 'Not Sorry, I am Resting'

To translate this insight into effects, I started to be very purposefully and strict about scheduling rest as a priority. During work, I use the Pomodoro Technique to ensure a balance between focused work and intentional breaks. I keep a list of what I call ‘Break Ideas’ nearby. These are simple activities like stretching, stepping on the balcony or doodling that I can do during my break, so I do not end up mindless scrolling on my phone. In my free time, I aim to spend as much time as possible off-screen. But most importantly, if I feel like I need rest, I rest no matter how long the to-do list is. That can mean a nap, a craft break or just a snuggle with Pi – my cat.

3. Time can fly by and slow down at the same time.

The last ten-month went by in a blur. It feels almost as if we went from early March to today in a second. On the other hand, all those days in the home office and lockdown felt never-ending. Every second extended to hours and hours and hours. Time flew by and slowed down at the same time. Looking back at my past year’s agendas, I see two main things that could explain this paradox. Usually, we would root our year’s story in the large events – the weddings, holidays, get-togethers, events, trips, birthday parties. All those either shrunk or disappeared in 2020. My cousin’s wedding only happened with four guests instead of the invited 100+. The big international camp in August which the NGO I worked for planned was cancelled. The Christmas party with friends moved on Zoom. Responsible for the endless slowing was the monotony of it all. Living, working, learning, spending free time, eating, loving, fighting within the same four walls of your apartment does not lend itself to variety and excitement. The same applied to our to-do list tasks when work shrank to solely digital or social distant. Also, social times became the same old same old due to the extremely restricted number of people from outside our household we were allowed to meet.

Magnifying glass showing lady bug on a flowerMy response to both phenomena is to zoom into the ‘little things’.

Instead of focussing on the significant cornerstone events, I looked back on 2020 along the small but endlessly meaningful moments, that we usually overlook. This way, last year became the year of inspiring conversations, revolutionary self-learning and personal growth, yoga sessions, and lunch break walks. I broke the monotony of every day by recognising the changing view from my bed room’s window, trying new recipes and finding as many ways as possible to open a zoom meeting.

Give Space4. Letting go of one thing gives space to something else.

Many people experienced a lot of grief and had to let go of cherished people, properties, circumstances, plans, dreams and more. All that let to avoid, an open gash where the now lost thing was. After my father’s death, I wanted to give myself to the sense of missing and irreplaceability. It almost became a sky-high wall between me and the world out there. But when I started to let go of this sense, the void began to fill. Conversations with friends that spun around my father’s life allowed me to claim my memories with him. Understanding the role, he played in empowering me to become who I am, enabled me to become my own cheerleader. Letting go is and never will be an easy thing, but I learned that it lays the ground for allowing something else in. This might be a job, a former friend, a self-image or a plan for the future. That is also true when letting go of the past year and start into 2021 with an open heart.

Sometimes you are even surprised by what steps into its space.

5. Being a multipotentialite does not mean everything has to fit under one umbrella.

I identify as a multipotentialite as described by Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike. Discovering her changed my life, but also put me up for a new challenge.

A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits. (Emilie Wapnick, Puttylike)

As such, I have struggled to always find ways to integrate all my passions into one offering/brand/business. Emily refers to this as your Umbrella Brand/Passion in her book Renaissance Business. As great as the concept is, for me, it complicated things. I was trying to find ways how to combine my passion for facilitation, which is at the root of Affective Facilitation, with bullet journaling, mentoring, illustration, youth work, arts and crafts, social justice, my cat Pi, public speaking and all the other fascinating things my multi-passionate brain goes to regularly.Three times me

With some of those, it made sense to pull them into the Affective Facilitation umbrella-like public speaking and mentoring. With others like youth work and social justice, I see an inevitable overlap. Still, there are some which are entirely disconnected. Why would someone interested in my facilitation work  be interested in my initial trials in poetry or the news adventures of Pi? Also, I pressured myself by forcing a connection with Affective Facilitation that everything I am interested in or want to share needs to monetise. Overwhelmed by all these thoughts, I stopped sharing, creating and reaching out entirely. Too much energy was eating up by doubting every step I would attempt.

In 2021, I am setting myself free!
So, what do all these learnings from 2020 mean for you, my readers and fellow travellers? First of all, it means I will segment the content I am creating. In 2021, Affective Facilitation will start living in parallel with Affective Creative, a channel for all my creative and art-related endeavours, and Affective Me, a lens into my more private adventures. Of course, in a real multipotentialite manner, these three will still overlap in some ways. I wanted a dedicated home for each of the three umbrellas that drive me most. As an initial consequence, I split my one social media presence into three.

Affective Facilitation Logo  #ToonMe portrait of Anuschka Ruge  Visual representation of Affective Creative

Secondly, having these three segments is freeing me to focus more on what I offer you with Affective Facilitation here. Moving the blog over to my own domain made a start. Over the next months, you will see this page further develop. I am planning to add pages about different services I provide, a newsletter and at some point of the future, most likely not in 2021, a podcast for non-formal education practitioners and other facilitators. But most importantly, they’re finally will be new content on the blog consistently!!

Portrait picture of Anuschka RugeWhat are your learnings from turbulent 2020? What helped you starting strong into 2021?

Let me know in the comments below. If you want to be one of the first people to receive my newsletter once it goes live, subscribe here. I also invite you to follow any of my Instagram accounts below.

Love and appreciation,


P.S. I also hope we will meet in person again in the second half of 2021…

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