Every year I do an annual retrospective, where I look back on the year and reflect on all my favourite experiences, reflect on lessons learned, and share my goals and intentions moving forward.
I shared a more visual breakdown of some of the insights I pulled from my Notion databases which you can check out here:
Best of the Year
Top 5 happiest moments of the past year
• Niagara Falls visit with my family
• Hiring Georgia Full-time
• Staycation in Roberts Creek
• Being a mentor for ODCC
• Getting my ADHD diagnosis
We watched 55 TV Series, 62 Movies, Played 6 different video games and 2 Board games.
Movie: Soul, Bo Burnham Inside
Shows: High Score, Sex Education, Parks + Rec
Games: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
Top 3 things I am grateful for
My husband, Ben.
Ben is both my life and business partner. He is the most supportive force in my life. He is a huge part of why I am able to thrive as a woman with ADHD. (I plan to write a lot more about this) Did I mention he’s also a volunteer firefighter? Yeah, he’s a pretty amazing dude.
My business, Oki Doki.
I am grateful to have a business that I love, that also supports my psychological, financial, spiritual, and energetic needs.
I am so grateful for the relationships that I have cultivated in my life. From my team, to my friends, to my students, customers, and internet friends, I am often in awe of the gratitude and connection I feel in my day to day life and I do not take this for granted. (Like that time our friends lent us their car for the weekend when our reservation was botched in Toronto! Thank you Gloria + Ricardo!)
The simple joys of day-to-day life
- Sipping coffee on the sunny patio on summer mornings.
- Spending time in the garden
- Growing food in the garden tower
- Cooking healthy food
- Baking unhealthy food
- Running weekly calls for my Notion Mastery community
- Sending and receiving Marco Polo video messages with friends + family
- Playing games (Witcher 3, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and various board games)
Personal Highlights of the year
- Getting diagnosed with ADHD. A life changing new level of awareness.
- Stepping up my cooking and baking game.
- Creating more space for self care; booked myself a solo staycation!
Professional highlights of the year
- Hiring Georgia Cyr as our full-time operations manager – my first full-time employee!
- Launching Hot Seats for Startups in collaboration with Notion.
- Growing Notion Mastery by 950 students, and over $500k in revenue.
- Being a mentor for On Deck Course Creators.
- Collaborating with Andrew Barry and Robbie Crabtree on C3.
- Relaunching Notion Mastery with the support of an amazing curriculum designer.
- Collaborating with Cat Mulvihill on Notion Mastery live trainings.
- Shipping 30 essays as part of Ship30for30.
- Over 20+ guest trainings, podcasts, and guest sessions for amazing folks like Stew Fortier, Khe Hy, Shawn Blanc, Jay Clouse, Doc Williams, Jason Lengstorf, Monica Lent, as well as mentions in WSJ and Fast Company.
This year my big focus was on curriculum design, presentation, and facilitation, as well as leadership, hiring, and team growth.
The year in pictures
The Year in Numbers
- 6 new videos published
- 7 livestreams
- 8 email newsletters sent
- 30 essays published
Top 10 Youtube videos
Only 3 were created this year!
We ran 120 live events in 2021 for Notion Mastery!
9 days of Beast Mode:
The Story behind 2021
A lot of big things happened both professionally and personally in 2021, despite it being another weird pandemic year. The biggest of which were: growing my team, stepping up my teaching, facilitation, and curriculum, and coming out of my shell.
Let’s break it down:
Growing the team
Notion Mastery (my signature course/product) continued to pick up momentum at the end of 2020, and I knew I was ready for more support. I had been working with Georgia as a contractor for well over a year, and it had made an unbelievable difference to all aspects of my life and business.
I was able to focus on the work I loved doing. I felt less tired. I actually had weekends again! Things weren’t falling through the cracks, because Georgia was always many steps ahead of me, taking care of things that needed to be taken care of.
With the growth of the course, I was confident that Georgia and I could do so much more together, and I made her a full-time offer (in Notion of course), which she accepted! This felt like a huge milestone: hiring my very first employee! Eeeeeee!
Working with Georgia has been such a highlight of the year. I’m so grateful she was willing to even consider going full-time, as it required her to saying goodbye to other clients.
Even though we were pretty much a 2-person company for all of 2021, it was important to me that we both have plenty of ownership over our responsibilities, a ton of flexibility in how we work, and that we feel energized by the work we do.
Georgia feels like she has her dream job (with profit sharing, flex time, and a 4-day work week), and I feel like I have my dream employee. Win win 🙂
Georgia runs the day-to-day operations for Oki Doki, the majority of which is focused on Notion Mastery, our key product.
More part-time team members
Bringing on a Co-Instructor
I also brought on a fabulous co-instructor (and fellow Canadian) Cat Mulvihill. Cat joined Notion Mastery in the spring, and had a ton of really great insight and feedback. She showed up regularly to calls and contributed, and she always had super high quality video, great eye contact on camera, and a whole business teaching people how to elevate their online presentations with Zoom.
I was intrigued, and joined her Elevate course to learn from her, as I really wanted to step up my zoom, ecamm, and presentation skills.
Cat quickly became a good friend and collaborator. I am not even totally sure how this happened, but I knew I wanted to work with Cat in any capacity I could.
She had a lot of natural skills in areas that felt like weaknesses of mine, or areas where I didn’t feel strong.
She’s so well-spoken, articulate, comfortable on camera, and has a background in adult learning (among many other areas of speciality!) and, of course, she’s an advanced Notion user!
A big goal of mine this year was to redesign the curriculum, and I knew that Cat would be an incredible contributor, so we began scheming ways to work together.
Cat helped design the new live trainings that we tested out this year in late December, and has been running our beginner office hours.
I respect and admire Cat so much; collaborating with her been so rewarding, and I feel like I’ve made a new friend. It’s been so wonderful to work with someone who is so similar to me in so many ways, and yet complements my work in her own unique way.
I might be veering uncomfortably close to harassment territory with my “hinting” to Cat that I would love for her to come work with us full-time… A GIRL CAN DREAM, RIGHT?
Either way, I plan to collaborate even more with Cat in 2022!
[UPDATE: I made Cat a job offer and SHE SAID YES!!!]
We also brought on and continued to work with several other team members on contract to help with various aspects of the course:
Stacy-Ann Hayles has been our amazing community support superstar, welcoming new members, answering questions in the forum, and running beginner-friendly Simplify with Stacy events.
Kayla Rose has been designing Notion Mastery’s gorgeous branding, design, and course graphics.
Mike Kilcoyne has been running weekly Power Hours, a weekly co-working session where we take an hour to focus on work that’s important but not urgent.
Ben Borowski (my husband) left his full-time job in December to re-join our company after two years of working full-time as a lead engineer at Precision Nutrition. Ben now also runs office hours and provides more technical how-tos and team-friendly workflow solutions for working with Notion, and is focused on API and Notion for teams.
(And a shout out to two “honorary” Oki Doki team members: DJ Carey and Karaminder!)
We also experienced a few hiccups along the way in our team growth.
Things were moving quickly, and I don’t have any formal training around managing people. I couldn’t get away with my previous “fast and loose” mode of operating. (I was also diagnosed with ADHD in August of this year, which explains… a lot.)
I move extremely quickly and impulsively. I’ve worked alone for nearly a decade so I’m used to making decisions in my head, and don’t always keep others in the loop. It’s easy for others to feel left out or take this personally.
Is she mad at me? Did I disappoint her? Why haven’t I heard back from her?
These challenges were some of the most difficult I experienced this year, and many painful lessons were learned.
I had to be more planful, strategic, focused, and patient. I had to factor in different needs, personalities, and motivations. I was slow to make certain decisions, and moved way too fast in others. I overcommitted in some areas, and neglected many others. I had to deal with a lot of interpersonal challenges and team dynamics, and make really difficult decisions.
It was all new to me.
It took time for Georgia and I to find our groove. I had no idea how to delegate work to her when we first started working together on contract. We had to learn how to work with one another. Eventually it became easy (at least for me! Ha ha… ). But I forgot that we cultivated that ease together over the course of a year. Georgia learned to take initiative and make decisions on my behalf. We built incredible trust. She learned how to work around and work with my ADHD (even if we didn’t know that was an element of it at the time).
I’m not sure there’s any way around the growing pains that come along with developing your team, and especially so when the leader/manager has ADHD. Truthfully, this could be a whole post of its own (and it will be).
(Principles You was a really fun and helpful resource for understanding team dynamics and strengths.)
I had so many conversations with other business owners and leaders, those with ADHD and those without, with tiny teams and larger teams. I spoke to all kinds of people about leadership, decision making, team dynamics, and delegation. I learned about common struggles and pitfalls, and gathered a ton of insight from others who’d been there before.
I knew this was another skill gap that I was going to have to work through if I was going to build a thriving company where team members felt excited, empowered, confident, and happy about their work.
Admittedly, this is all stuff that comes so much more easily to Ben, but for most of 2021 he was employed full-time, so I was left to my own devices. With Ben coming back to the business, project and team management is absolutely a lot smoother. He doesn’t struggle with boundaries and feelings like I do. We’ve always made a good team, so I’m excited to have him back!
Today, I am absolutely blown away by the awesome team we’ve cultivated that helps keep the course awesome.
Stepping up my teaching
Teaching is something I stumbled into. I thrive when I feel helpful, useful, and impactful. But curriculum design and learning design is a whole different beast than “being helpful” to others. There’s also a big difference between teaching and curriculum design.
Being good at something is very different than being good at teaching something.
I knew that the first version of Notion Mastery was a mess. I was throwing brand new Notion users into the deep end without floaties. I was missing steps. I was assuming knowledge. I was giving an F1 racing car to a toddler. I knew I was leaving many people in the dust.
I know that many students were getting value, but I also know I was adding to people’s overwhelm by expecting them to connect way too many dots way too fast. (Surprise, the course was designed by someone with ADHD!)
The course had continued to evolve month over month, adapting to student feedback and Notion’s own big updates. It had gone through many iterations, but wasn’t designed from the ground up with learning outcomes in mind. The more events I ran and the more questions I saw in the forum, the more I knew where the course needed to go.
I knew there was a lot of value buried within the course material, and it needed to be redesigned. I didn’t want the course to be mediocre, I wanted it to be epic. I wanted anyone who joined to feel surprised and delighted by how much value we offer. (We ran 128 live events in 2021!)
I wanted to increase engagement and attendance, I wanted to feel more confident in my teaching, and most of all I wanted to make sure that students could finish the course feeling like they got what the course had promised.
I was noticing patterns in the different ways people were using Notion, as well as different niches and use cases, and some “tracks” began to emerge.
I was beginning to beat myself up with just how long this process was taking. It was turning me inside out how long it was taking to develop the new structure and content.
What I didn’t know at the time was that difficulty with sequential processing is actually a very common symptom of ADHD, and something I’ve always struggled with. I didn’t understand why something that seemed so simple (coming up with an improved structure for the course) was taking so long and felt so difficult.
I knew I needed outside support.
In typical Marie fashion, when I struggle with something I often hire multiple people and obsessively study the thing until I can wrap my head around it. I focused all of my reading, learning and research on adult learning, online course design, curriculum design etc, and I hired multiple people to help me along the journey in different ways.
I was fully immersed in all things online courses for pretty much the entirety of 2021. It consumed my thoughts almost every single day; I couldn’t escape it. I had a vision for what the course could be and I needed to get there. It pained me not to be there yet.
I hired Emily Walker to go deeper into this process with me, and working with her was one of the best investments of this year. I loved working with her so much I even signed up for her group program right after we finished.
Emily went deep with me, helping me create the macro structure of the course, and make key decisions around the different tracks, learning outcomes, lesson structure, pace, timing, and other key elements of the course experience.
It was a beastly project that is still nearing completion! In December 2021 we launched Level 0 and Level 1, along with 4 live trainings, one in each Track, to take beginners through the material in a live session.
Launching this new course material was one of the most beastly projects I’ve ever worked on. Every single other element of my business was mostly on pause while I was 100% focused on this project.
For the course to continue to scale and support students, it needed to be of the highest quality!
The morning we launched, I got this message from a student:
This message reinforced that all the effort was worth it.
One student tweeted about the evolution:
The feedback on the new lessons continued to pour in, both in the forum, through emails, and through private messages!
I cannot express the relief I felt from getting the first batch of new lessons launched, and getting this feedback from students. I knew I was on the right track!
The course now has 4 Levels (three core levels plus a Level 0 that introduces Notion—the tool and interface—before diving into the nitty gritty) and 4 Tracks: Self Development, Personal Productivity, Business Operations, and Knowledge Management.
One of the biggest challenges was the process of transitioning the content from old to new, without causing too much disruption. We launched Level 0 and Level 1 in December, and then moved all older curriculum into a searchable resource library while Level 2 and Level 3 are being completed in the new lesson format.
Running the live events in December helped us better understand the different student levels, the most common questions across the different tracks, and helped us develop our own strong opinions and best practices for learning and leveraging Notion quickly, while reducing overwhelm.
While I am disappointed that I was not able to launch the entire suite of lessons before the end of 2021, I cannot express how much better it feels to have a product that I feel proud of, and that I know isn’t leaving students in the dust!
As of this moment, Notion Mastery has 1,675 student members!
Previously I used to feel anxiety every time a sale came in (yes, really), but for the first time, I’m legitimately STOKED, and am full-steam ahead on new lessons to bring the whole project to completion. PHEW.
The entire course redesign and revamp was my singular focus for the year. If you reached out to me and didn’t hear back from me, this is probably why. I still love you.
Coming out of my shell
All through the growth and evolution of the course, I was becoming more visible online (whether I liked it or not).
Prior to Notion Mastery, I was a quiet person on the internet, writing whenever I felt like it, trying not to ruffle feathers, and basically being a much more shy, censored, and quiet version of myself. Being on camera, in front of groups of people, or on center-stage was not a natural, enjoyable, or comfortable thing for me.
I’ve written in detail before about all the weird and wonderful things I’ve done in my life to help me work through all the fear I’ve had around being visible.
Having impact and leaving a legacy is important to me, so overcoming fear and focusing on my impact has been a priority for many years. I knew that if I wanted to make a difference at scale, I was going to have to keep doing the work. 2020 was the year of Courage after all!
For most of my life I have felt a great discordance between how the world sees me, and how I see myself.
I’ve worked with coaches and therapists for many years to work through this tension, and continue to do so, but the biggest missing piece of the puzzle finally fell into place this year.
One morning as I was scrolling through reddit, I stumbled upon this video:
I decided to give it a watch because my sister has ADHD, and there are a HUGE number of students in Notion Mastery with ADHD. I wanted to learn more about it to be able to understand and relate to my sisters’ experience, and to the specific challenges of those with ADHD.
I even did a livestream with my sister where we addressed ADHD and Notion in a live build. ADHD was something I was learning about in order to better relate to the people around me who had it (ha ha).
Watching that video was eye opening.
Wait a second… is this me?
My ears perked up when he spoke about the incredible difficulty of waking up in the morning. This is something I have struggled with my entire life and has been a serious point of embarrassment and frustration. It’s a huge part of why I’ve designed my business to not have any calls before 10am. This has caused problems with school, professionally, and even in relationships (not with Ben though, that man lets me do my thing without judgment, BLESS THAT MAN).
In middle school and high school I had three separate alarms in different parts of my room, and I still wouldn’t wake up until someone (my sister) would burst into my room, irritated at all the noise. I could sleep through a fire.
Obviously I went down a hyperfocus research rabbit-hole. I started reaching out to people that I knew had ADHD. I started reading more about it, watching videos, and getting curious.
I spoke to my sister more deeply about her experience. “OBVIOUSLY you have ADHD, yes” she said, laughing. I was still skeptical. My sister and I are SO different. She’s the poster child for ADHD, and I’ve been running my own business for over a decade… surely we couldn’t possibly have the same diagnosis?
I can get 3 months worth of focused work done in a few days… that’s not ADHD is it?
I watched and listened with an open mind.
I started a Notion document where I logged stories, symptoms, and behaviours from childhood until now, which quickly turned into a 2500 word document. I actually laughed out loud reading it.
Even in early 2021, there was not a single fibre of my being that would ever have suspected I would have ADHD. Not even one inkling. I was so used to struggling with certain things, I just got used to them. It was my normal.
And yet, when I looked at many of my behaviours over the course of my lifetime through this lens, a lot made sense. It was one of the most bizarre and yet wonderful experiences to go from “there’s absolutely no way” to “holy shit everything in my life suddenly actually makes sense now” so quickly you get whiplash.
For most of my life I have felt like a highly intelligent person with a stupid brain.
A flood of emotions came up during this process.
What does this mean?
How on earth did I miss this?
Is it for real for real?
What if [behaviour] is just trauma?
Does that explain X? Or is that just my personality?
There were so many basic things I struggled with that seemed to come so easily to other people. I straight up assumed I was a little stupid. And YET I thrived in so many other ways and have so many different skills!
Why had I read every single productivity book, but basic things always fell through the cracks? What was wrong with me?
I was so good at so many things, and yet struggled with seriously basic stuff. It was embarrassing. This year I realized how much of my social anxiety over the years was fear that my ADHD would highlight the parts of me I was ashamed of.
I was already fairly sure by this point after my research and exploration, but I decided that for my own peace of mind I wanted to explore diagnosis. SPOILER ALERT: it’s ADHD.
I was still skeptical even after the diagnostic sessions. I asked him if he was sure, and he laughed. Yes, of course, he said.
Doesn’t everyone experience X? Couldn’t this be considered CPTSD or social anxiety? Aren’t we all just addicted to our smart phones and have information overload?
I will fully admit that I was incredibly ignorant about ADHD before, and had a lot of assumptions. I am sure that I myself contributed to the stigma of ADHD before I did my own research.
Assessments look at behaviour across your entire life until now, and assess how disruptive the symptoms and behaviours are to your life. Most of us do experience elements of the symptoms from time to time, so it can be easy to identify with them, and even dismiss them as being normal.
The unraveling, confusion, and clarity that happened over the course of the few months before, during, and since diagnosis is hard to describe.
Seriously, how the F did I miss this?
I plan to write a lot more about the experience in future posts, so I won’t go too much into detail right now except to say that finally knowing that I have ADHD has allowed me to understand my behaviour more deeply at the neuro chemical level.
I now partly understand why it felt so difficult to be visible, or be the center of attention. My brain is moving so fast and my impulsivity is so high, that I frequently found myself oversharing, jumping around in my thoughts, or blurting out things I would later regret and play over and over again in my mind in cringe-inducing horror.
Deep down I felt like a weird person who was spending an inordinate amount of energy trying to be “normal.”
I could have a conversation with anyone, anytime, about anything, but preparing a presentation with a logical progression and clear outcomes was the most draining and difficult thing in the world.
Consistency was my kryptonite. I couldn’t even imagine or understand how people created content on any kind of consistent schedule. (A weekly newsletter, are you serious??)
I even signed up for Ship30 to give consistency a go! The adrenaline of a deadline and making a public commitment is great for ADHD. I am super proud that I was able to ship 30 essays in 30 days!
I also pretty much energetically collapsed after and couldn’t write for a while.
How can you plan your content creation for next Tuesday when you don’t know how you’re going to feel on Tuesday?
I felt a lot of secret shame that I never acknowledged, even to myself. I didn’t have the vocabulary for it, just a sense that something was off.
Everything in my life and business was designed around my energy and motivation, and I didn’t even realize. It’s so obvious looking back, I have to laugh.
It explains my extreme bursts of hyperfocus/fixation and motivation, followed by an inability to do anything.
At the end of the day, it also explains why Notion was such a life-changing tool for me. It helped me not only function with my poor working memory, but actually thrive. Notion is my outsourced memory.
This is the year I realized, yep I AM a little weird, and it’s time to own it.
What could life look like if I didn’t fight against my nature?
A gigantic weight was lifted from my shoulders. Fear began to melt away. I decided to get curious and ask myself, what would it look like if I embraced my ADHD? What if being more honest and vocal about my struggles and strengths could actually help others? What if it was ok that I swear sometimes, struggle with boundaries, overshare, or say awkward things? What if my quirks do make me more interesting?
Trying not to be “too much” was exhausting.
Why was I spending so much effort trying to be something I’m not? Because strangers on the internet might figure out that I’m weird? WHY DO I CARE??
This is the year I found my people and came out of my shell.
I found an ease and a confidence I had never felt before. I stopped trying so hard to disguise my quirks and flaws, and was learning to work with them, and lean on my strengths (and my team!).
Knowledge is power, and know I can equip myself (and others) with strategies tailored to help me succeed.
I still get a bit emotional about it when I think about how much young Marie struggled and didn’t even realize. It gives me so much compassion for others who have even more extreme symptoms than I do.
I feel incredibly privileged that I’ve been able to find a way to make my life and business ADHD-friendly. Having a supportive partner is one of the biggest factors in my thriving.
I’d also like to thank amazing folks like Karaminder, Jesse J Anderson, and Norman Tran for also being vocal about and sharing their experiences ADHD. I have learned so much from chatting with these folks, and am so grateful for their sage wisdom.
I know that this is just the beginning of the journey!
Going into 2022 there are some things I’d love more of, and lots of clarity in terms of what comes next.
I will continue to go deeper into developing Oki Doki as a training company, with Notion Mastery being our signature product. We will develop a suite of complementary courses, including courses for teams, as well as a Train the Trainer program.
I will keep building our incredible team while keeping the vibes high. I am ruthlessly focused on curating the right mix of people who are operating at their highest level.
I will lean into being more of myself. I will continue to deepen my research, awareness, and understanding of ADHD.
I will continue to collaborate in creative ways with incredible people that I admire.
I will be brave and be more visible this year.
Once I choose my word for 2022 I’ll update this post 🙂
On a personal level, (and in line with being more of my self), I’m working toward embracing my natural hair without damaging heat styling.
Obviously I’ve started a Notion board for this, because I have a terrible memory, and this helps me remember what works, what doesn’t and how to improve my routine!
For your amusement:
Wishing you a happy new year!