Writing annual and monthly project reports was a really beneficial practice for me last year. I have found that going through this process helps me see how well I aligned my time with my goals for the year.
I’m breaking down this report into three parts:
- How I spent my time
- The progress I made towards my annual goals
- What to replicate, eliminate, and continue in 2019
How I Spent My Time in 2018
My Top 25 Projects
- 160:06 – The Religion Teacher Email & Customer Service
- 89:52 – Speaking
- 74:04 – The Daily Learning Log & Project Reports
- 51:35 – Weekly Review
- 45:23 – Morning Preview
- 42:26 – Daily Review
- 36:43 – Faith Fables
- 35:34 – Shipping Books for The Religion Teacher Members
- 33:24 – The Religion Teacher Newsletter
- 28:11 – Book Launch: Christ in the Classroom
- 27:07 – January & September Launches: The Religion Teacher Membership Website
- 24:31 – The Evangelization Stack Course Content & Launch
- 20:51 – The Religion Teacher Blog Posts
- 19:45 – NaNoWriMo Book
- 18:21 – The Religion Teacher Accounting
- 18:01 – The Religion Teacher Members Weekly Email
- 17:47 – Revising The Religion Teacher’s Guide to Lesson Planning
- 17:43 – Make It Book
- 15:32 – The Religion Teacher’s Saints Worksheets
- 15:29 – Entreauthor Newsletter
- 11:07 – Launch: The Religion Teacher’s Catholic Mass Worksheets
- 9:00 – The Religion Teacher’s Catholic Mass Worksheets
- 8:00 – Catechist Articles
- 8:22 – Ornament Enlightenment: A Story about the True Meaning of Christmas
- 7:48 – Christ in the Classroom Writing and Editing
Progress Towards My 2018 Goals
In the past I tried to focus only on mission and vision and not specific performance goals. In 2018 I tried something different and set some big outcome-oriented goals for myself as a entrepreneurial author. You can read about the process I used to set these goals along a scale of success here: A Simple Process for Setting Bigger Goals.
Double the number of members of The Religion Teacher (audacious goal)
Result: 73% of Goal
Across the board, this was the best year ever for The Religion Teacher. I had more members join the website than ever before. My goal was to double the membership by the end of the year. That included both adding new members and keeping current members. The biggest challenge running and recurring membership service is keeping people active. The challenge I have is that there is a lot of teacher turnover from year to year. So I lose people due to circumstances rather than the value of the resources themselves.
3,162/5,000 copies sold of Christ in the Classroom (good/great)
Result: 63% of Goal
I did a big internal launch to my email list and to members of The Religion Teacher. I also did a lot of speaking and interviews related to the book. All in all, though, it was a slower start than I hoped. The book went back to the printer after only a month and the feedback on it has been amazing. I am confident it will be my best-selling book in the next few years, but that takes time for people to read it and share it. So, while the initial launch is complete, there is a lot more I will do to get this book into the hands of religious educators and I suspect I will pass the goal in early 2019.
1/1 published work of fiction (good)
Result: 100% of Goal
I wrote fiction for the first time in my life this year. It was a difficult, yet exciting experience. While I haven’t published anything in print, I did share my first eBook online in November. The Beatitales: Volume I collection of fables kicked off a new weekly email newsletter featuring my fiction. The response is great so far and I’m looking forward to getting much better as a fiction writer in 2019-2021 as I work towards writing my first 1 million words of fiction for kids.
6/7 paid speaking gigs (expected)
Result: 85% of Goal
To be asked to speak at an event is such a blessing. I love speaking and I love meeting the people doing great work all across North America. My kids are young and time on the road is time away from my family. I didn’t actively promote myself as a speaker this year, but I accepted six invitations to give keynotes and workshops at events. They were all great experiences and I’m looking forward to keeping the number of events about the same next year.
67/50 Read 50 books (good goal)
Result: 134% of Goal
I read more books this year than the last few years combined. There is a simple explanation really: audiobooks. About 90% of the books I read this year were mostly or partially read using Audible and Overdrive. I cut way back on the number of podcasts I listened to this year which made room for the books instead. I’m really focused on increasing the amount I read so that I can learn from other authors and grow as a writer.
56% Paid Off / Pay off mortgage in 2020 (good goal)
Result: 56% of Goal
We have been following the Dave Ramsey plan for ten years and we’ve finally made it to baby steps 4, 5, and 6. Paying off the mortgage seems crazy to people, but that is our next milestone. This year I tried to make the extra payments on our mortgage automatic by committing to setting aside 30% of our savings each month to pay down the principle. We made some good strides, but we have to really go big on this approach if we want to pay it all off by 2020. Unfortunately we had to pay for big house expenses this year just to upkeep the home: new furnace, new AC, new roof, and new siding.
24:39 PR / Run a 5K under 23:00 (good goal)
Result: 1:39 Short of Goal
I ran a lot this year. I was really set on reaching my goal of a sub-23 minute 5k, but I didn’t get there. I felt great. I ran well, but I just couldn’t get fast enough. I didn’t put in enough miles and I wasn’t training for speed. The reality is, though, that I could have been more mentally tough during the races. I let the tiredness get to me at the end of the races and didn’t push through the pain enough to reach the pace I needed to reach my goal.
Start a support ministry for startup founders. (expected goal)
I have no excuse here. I talked about it with a lot of people, but I never picked a date and sent an invite. I like the idea, but I need to stop waiting to come up with the perfect format and just go for it.
The Project Review
Successful Projects to Repeat
I had a large email list for years that I only sent messages to sporadically. I could go weeks without a single email to send to the list. I was afraid of losing subscribers.
Then I came up with something I call “Prime Time Newsletters.” Basically, the idea is to think about your audience and the best time of the week (or day) to send an email that serves them in some way. The best TV shows, for example, traditionally air live at a time in which adults can finally sit down to relax for the evening.
I surveyed the subscribers to my email list to find out when they write their lesson plans and the majority of them did so on Sundays. So, I started sending them an email with activity ideas to help plan lessons for the week every Sunday morning. The feedback and results have been amazing and the best part is that it only takes me about twenty minutes a week to write these emails.
At the end of 2018, I published a three-part children’s story about Christmas to my Formative Fiction email list. The feedback and anticipation for each part was great. The idea is inspired by Charles Dickens, who got his start writing serialized versions of books that later became bestsellers.
The most effective part about this project, though, was the motivation to get the writing finished and published. The NaNoWriMo book I wrote, for example, is just sitting on my hard drive and probably will never be published. The incentive isn’t quite there yet. But starting a story and saying the next part is coming the following week really puts you on the line! Plus, it helped me learn the value of short chapters and cliffhangers.
Unsuccessful Projects to Eliminate
The Daily Learning Log
For NaNoWriMo 2017, I committed to writing a blog post every day for a month. Then I extended the project to last for a year. I loved the thrill of writing something first thing in the morning. I had a feeling of accomplishment each day. I also found my creativity was elevated and I was trying new ideas as a writer and business person.
The amount of time it took to write these posts seemed small on a daily basis (20-30 minutes), but the cumulative amount of time each month beat out almost all my other really valuable projects.
The posts were really written for me and not my audience(s). As a result, I put the blog in hiatus and I have only published the monthly project reports here since then.
I still miss that early morning creative burst, but I’m glad I have that time back to spend on other projects, particularly the fiction.
I started a separate website and email list years ago to help entrepreneurial authors. I loved sharing what I was learning with them. I revived the email list and started sending them prime time newsletters each week. I justified it by telling myself it only took about twenty minutes to write the emails.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just the time that is the issue. I also had to dedicate some mental bandwidth. This audience is great, but it is separate from my main mission as an author. It was dividing my attention and intentions each day. Now that I’m focusing more exclusively on my main audience, the creative energy is directly entirely towards one goal, not spread out among different audiences.
Watching this email list continue to grow without any extra work makes the decision harder, but I’m pleased with the decision for now.
Priceless Projects to Continue Doing Anyway
(These are projects that I really enjoyed and were extremely valuable even though they did not lead directly to traditional success metrics.)
The “Make It” Book
I spent almost eighteen hours of research and writing on a book for artists. I don’t know if it will ever be published, but I do know that the principles I found researching successful authors and artists have dramatically impacted my own work this year. The book is the silent, driving force behind all of my creative decisions this year and the reason why I think I will find success writing fiction in the next few years.
I dedicated it to my daughters and have it ready for them to read if they should ever decide they want to become professional authors and artists, too.
There are three parts and I don’t know if there will need to be more. I’ve finished the first chapter and I need to revise and rewrite parts of chapters 2 and 3.
I start each day with my Morning Preview and end each day with a Daily Review. I try to end each week with a Weekly Review, too. This time helps me re-establish priorities and goals each day. It gives me the time to pray and connect with God within the context of my work. While this takes up a lot of cumulative time throughout the year, I could not succeed without it.