Before you comment on the title of this piece, I agree : it was an unprecedented year and bad in many, many ways. But every coin has its flip side and 2020 was extremely good in some ways too. Apart from realising that my bubble is the right one and a very pleasant want to live in, this pandemic year gave me the opportunity to read a record number of books and learned me how walking is one of the best management tools there is.

almost 100 books

Goodread

On average I read 50 books per year. Not all of them are thick pageturners. The number includes art catalogues and essays featuring as a small gift book on the shelf of my favourite book store, apart from the mainly Anglo-Saxon literature and management books that caught my attention when reading the book reviews in The New York Times or De Standaard.

This year I doubled that amount to almost 100. I would never had thought that this was possible and I doubt if I will be able to do better before I retire. Books have always given me pleasure, beauty, provocation and insights but his year they gave me comfort. In most languages when the Word of 2020 was chosen it was something COVID19 related : unprecedented, quarantine, “knuffelcontact”, … It’s a pity that comfort wasn’t chosen, because that is what we had to find when we had to quarantine in this unprecedented year.

Books gave me a lot of comfort and were a way of escaping whilst in lockdown. Books send you around the world. In 2021 I will touch base with the real world again, but never without having a book nearby.

management through walking

app Life Cycle, Track Your Time

Another way to escape 2020 was by walking. According to Life Cycle I did 4.092.843 steps in 2019. I will have to wait till midnight December 31 to discover how many steps I did in 2020, but I expect I will have beaten that number too. I must have seen every corner of Geneva and Brussels, escaping Corona with a podcast in my ear.

As most professional meetings happened online for over 9 months, managing personal relations was difficult. Informal one on one chitchats are almost impossible in a virtual meeting. The number of meetings even increased as you now are online one click away from another meeting room. You can easily do 10 meetings in day and 2021be ‘present’ with tens or hundreds of people. Decisions were taken, but often I lacked context or granularity. Personally I tend to take decisions out of the board room, when I test my assumptions over a diner, reflect with someone before I take a stand. None of that was possible, until I took my direct reports for a walk. It was chitchat, bonding, checking in on their personal lives and going through the agenda of what would have been a traditional 1:1. I still would prepare an agenda, send it out in advance and then throw it away, being guided by wherever are walk was leading us.

2021 will be a good year and my bubble, my books and my professional walks will be there to stay.