2022 Year in Review
This year was all about routine. This was my first full year working as a Senior Product Designer II (L6) at Instacart. I also maintained contracts with two of my own freelance clients for the entirety of the year.
That made my schedule incredibly consistent and dramatically simplified my professional life. After freelancing full-time for 7 years, it was refreshing to focus on my work rather than running a business.
I didn’t write any proposals, and my recurring invoices were automatically sent (and paid). I sent fewer emails this year than I have in over a decade.
Even though I was working about 55 hours per week, the consistent schedule and reliable income made it feel relatively easy. I worked 9-5 pm for Instacart, but reserved 8-9 am and 5-6 pm for my own freelance clients.
My newsletter surpassed 3,000 subscribers, I published several new blog posts, and I learned how to use Figma. Personally, this year was a roller coaster. There were seasons of joy, sadness, growth, prosperity, difficulty, and everything in between.
As much as I love sticking to patterns, this year’s review is going to be different because this year was so much different than any other. But first, let’s look at some website analytics.
Website Analytics 📊
My business website underperformed in every category this year. That’s not too surprising since I didn’t update it at all and I took a full-time job at Instacart. I had a few leads, but had to turn them all down.
I’m not sure if business is slow because of COVID, the global recession, or my recent career change. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three. Either way, I’ll probably never know the answer, but the timing was perfect.
For the first time, possibly since high school, I had a consistent daily routine. This has been one of the most enjoyable parts of having a full-time job.
With little exception, I woke up around 7:30 am every day, got dressed, and got ready for the day. The coffee was set to brew daily at 7:45 am. I actually can’t function properly if I don’t get dressed, fix my hair, and shave. I’ve always been that way.
I even followed this part of my routine on weekends.
Pro Tip: Deviating too far from your routine too frequently can be detrimental to the routine itself.
Then, I let the dog out, fixed my coffee, and straightened my workspace, if needed.
I worked on my freelance client work from approximately 8-9 am using my personal laptop. Around 9 am, I switched to my work laptop, which I keep on my desk attached to a 27″ thunderbolt display.
For those of you who are more visual, this is what my weekly calendar looked like:
From 9-5, I focused on my job at Instacart. From 5-6 pm, I switched back to my personal laptop and continued my freelance work. Approximately 6-7 pm was dinner time with my wife. 7-11 pm was time for quality time, chores, and hobbies.
I tried to be asleep no later than midnight. On weekends, I rarely did any work and diligently protected my personal time.
I think it’s important to clarify that my schedule fluctuated. I’m not a robot (no one is) and each day was slightly different. Some weeks were chaotic and others were relaxing, but generally speaking, this was my daily routine throughout 2022!
While I can’t discuss the details of what I worked on at Instacart, I can share some of what I learned and how I feel about my position!
I’m a Senior Product Designer on the Verticals team, which handles the mobile and desktop design of all non-grocery projects within the core marketplace experience. That includes:
- Ready Meals
- Community Carts
- Ready Meals
- Sporting Goods
We partner closely with other teams who own specific surfaces such as home, search, browse, cart, and checkout that make up the core shopping journey. Overall, the year was extremely busy and somewhat chaotic at times, which was influenced by a variety of factors. We faced some organizational challenges as the company continued to grow, which isn’t uncommon on new, large, and important teams.
I continue to be impressed by how rapidly Instacart translates feedback into meaningful, positive change. When we face challenges or find ways to improve, our voices are heard, processes are optimized, re-organizations take place when needed, and the teams are empowered to make necessary adjustments across multiple dimensions.
Here are some more reasons I love my job:
- Our projects are structured quite similarly to my own freelance projects.
- It’s empowering to collaborate with a team rather than work in isolation.
- We have weekly design critiques, which is a big change from working as a solo freelancer.
- I’m given a lot of freedom and flexibility to own my projects and influence the process as well as the outcome.
- Meetings and communication are efficient and my time is respected.
- I work directly with the engineering team to ensure my work is getting implemented
- Proactively communicating on a daily basis has been the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make.
- Quickly identifying when I don’t have the correct inputs from the correct people will be key to making 2023 a better year.
Perhaps my most rewarding project of the year was the launch of Community Carts, which allows users to donate physical grocery items directly to over 100+ food banks across the country. The launch received national press coverage and tens of thousands of items have already been donated!
In 2023, my team will be more structured and I’ll be able to focus on 1-2 workstreams for an extended period of time. This year, I’ll be leading the design efforts on the Alcohol & Convenience team, both of which are extremely high priorities for the company!
My main freelance client for the year was TaxExact and I worked with them for the entire year starting January 1. The year was incredibly productive.
My first task was to painstakingly convert the Adobe XD files to Figma (manually, by hand). During that process, I established a proper design system and library that would make all future design work far more efficient and collaborative.
I designed two powerful features, OCR and Auto-Verify. OCR allows users to upload PDF documents, which we then scan and import the data directly into the software, eliminating data entry. The second automatically verifies matching amounts (the foundational principle behind the software’s existence).
I made dozens of smaller product updates throughout the year as well. Lastly, I tediously animated a new promotional video, then designed and built a fresh new marketing website.
With hard work, diligence, and discipline, I was able to stay incredibly productive throughout the year and work with TaxExact alongside my job at Instacart.
Overall, I had a wonderful year filled with exciting projects, trips, and activities. I’ve captured some of the most memorable moments in this next section of this year’s review. This is the only time I share glimpses into my personal life on my blog and I’m excited to share them with you!
Snowstorms & Surgery
The year started off by driving our dog Lily to Maryland so she could have surgery on her two front legs. She has two bad elbows and one had a bone chip that needed to be removed. It was cold, the drive was long. The recovery process was extensive, but she handled it like a champ! Then, we narrowly avoided the insane blizzard that buried our house the weekend we returned!
Then, we almost moved to Tennessee in pursuit of more land and more freedom. We were actually moments away from putting a contract in on a house after spontaneously driving 12 hours to explore the area in person. Sadly, we were not impressed with anything we saw. In fact, our entire experience was quite poor — and we never even got to see the house!
The area was so bad that I didn’t bother taking a single photo. While that was disappointing, it meant we avoided making a potentially catastrophic mistake.
Ultimately, we decided to stay in NY, develop a more positive perspective, and be honest about where and when we wanted to move. We’re still anticipating a move someday, but more likely northeast to New Hampshire or Maine. We love New England and it feels more like home to us!
Rachel’s Edit Studio
In the Spring, my wife had an opportunity to move her makeup and esthetics business into a new, brighter, and larger studio. Since moving in and hosting an elegant grand opening, her business has really taken off! We’re expecting the momentum to continue into 2023. To celebrate, I built her a beautiful custom desk to fit her space!
Shed Delivery & Installation
One of my favorite moments of the year was getting our shed delivered. It’s a 12×24 high-side barn garage that was built by the Amish and has a workbench plus a loft. We have about an acre of land that backs up to 1,000 acres of farmland, so this shed was the perfect addition to our property.
First, we removed the old structure and installed a larger foundation. Once the ground finally dried, we had the shed delivered. Then, I had to build a shed ramp to get vehicles in and out. I used crushed gravel to achieve the desired slope on a grade.
My goal for the shed was to create a woodworking shop that doubled as a storage solution for our outdoor power equipment and accessories. That required electricity, so we hired an electrician to run two 20amp circuits to the shed, which let me run all my power tools and install shop lighting!
Home, Summer Nights, & Family Time
In the past, it’s been extremely difficult for me to mentally unplug on nights and weekends. Even though I worked more hours each day this year, I was able to turn off work mode by 6pm and spend more quality time with my wife Rachel, our pets, and our friends! We grilled dinner on the patio, went on dates, plenty of walks with the dog, and enjoyed every moment together ❤️
This year I had the unique opportunity to go axe throwing at Axes & Ales for my friend’s 30th birthday. Admittedly, I was skeptical about the concept of drinking beer and throwing an axe. I haven’t had good experiences with sharp objects, but it was surprisingly fun (and safe)!
Laundry Room Renovation
As fall approached, I spent a few weeks transforming our laundry room from an inefficient mess into a haven of baskets, bins, storage, and supplies. The only thing I didn’t modify was the layout and electrical. You can see the before and after comparison in the photos above.
We tore out the old shelving and utility sink, and installed new upper cabinets, custom shelving, a farmhouse sink, floor, and a custom cubby I built to maximize our storage space. I also built a new countertop to give us a folding surface over the washer and dryer.
RIP Watson 💕 🐾
By far the most difficult part of this year (and there were several), was losing my precious kitty, Watson, to congestive heart failure. She was just 5 years old and it was extremely unexpected. She was the most adorable cat you’d ever see with the biggest personality you’d ever meet and she was a special blessing to our family from the day we brought her home.
Through months of sadness, we’ve become thankful for the time we had together. There was never a moment (or photo opportunity) wasted and she brought us more joy than we ever knew a pet could bring. Rest in peace, sweet girl (2.5.17 – 9.7.22)
My wife and I had the unique opportunity to have a private animal encounter at the Roo Ranch this fall. We got to hold baby kangaroos and see wallabies, armadillos, pigs, turtles, Patagonian maras, goats, and a camel named Riley.
Fall Festivities, Walks, and Bonfires
Fall is by far my favorite time of year and there’s almost no better place to experience it than upstate New York. Even just the view from my upstairs window was breathtaking. The mornings and evenings are crisp, but the afternoons are warm and comfortable.
This year we had many bonfires on our backyard patio in addition to several at the homes of our close friends. We had apple cider, pumpkins, walks on the Erie Canal, flowers, and cookies, and unlike past years, the fall seemed to last forever. It was definitely one of the most memorable autumn seasons we’ve had yet!
End of the Year
Towards the end of the year, I started taking guitar lessons. I’ve been playing (self-taught) guitar for almost 20 years, but wanted to get some professional training. It’s been very exciting and rewarding so far! My wife also bought me a puzzle board earlier in the year which has made working on Dowdle puzzles together much more enjoyable!
We hosted my family for Thanksgiving and Christmas and spent New Year’s Eve with friends. I took several weeks off work to enjoy the holidays to enjoy time with my family.
It’s hard to believe another year is officially in the books. Time is flying, so I’m actively trying to make the most of every day.
If you’re interested in seeing how my business and personal life has taken shape over the years, check out my annual reviews from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015.