Writing annual and monthly project reports has been a really beneficial practice to start off a new year. I always find myself spending a surprising amount of time on projects I didn’t realize became such a big priority. Going through this analysis helps establish the most important areas to spend my time the following year.
Once again I’m breaking down this report into three parts:
- How I spent my time
- The progress I made towards my annual goals
- What to went well, what didn’t go well, and what I learned in 2019
How I Spent My Time in 2019
My Top 25 Projects
- 197:13 – The Religion Teacher Email & Customer Service
- 145:48 – Speaking
- 79:55 – Daily Review
- 60:29 – Weekly Review
- 55:26 – Morning Preview
- 51:28 – Beatitales
- 50:37 – The Religion Teacher Membership Website & Product Launches
- 38:44 – The Religion Teacher’s Saints Worksheets
- 38:23 – Angel Academy Stories
- 34:06 – The Religion Teacher Videos
- 32:30 – The Religion Teacher Blog Posts
- 27:47 – Tales of the Ten Commandments
- 26:50 – The Religion Teacher Newsletter
- 24:20 – Beatitales Launch
- 23:44 – The Religion Teacher’s Advent Activity Pack
- 19:55 – The Religion Teacher Newsletter
- 19:47 – The Religion Teacher Accounting
- 19:39 – The Religion Teacher’s Lenten Activity Pack
- 16:16 – The Religion Teacher Members Weekly Email
- 14:19 – Brainstorming Stories
- 12:33 – Faith Fables
- 11:46 – Website Outage & Optimization
- 10:52 – The Magic Money Bag (unpublished book)
- 11:32 – Project Reports
- 10:07 – Freelance Writing
My Progress Towards My 2019 Goals
Some of my 2019 goals were carried over for the previous year. I also separated my goals into two categories (professional and personal).
90% / Double the number of members of The Religion Teacher (December 2017 to present) (+17%)
This has been the goal at the top of my list for three years now. It is incredible how much the membership to The Religion Teacher has grown over the years. I am so grateful. I have no doubt that I will finally accomplish this goal in 2020.
5,000/5,000 copies sold of Christ in the Classroom (Goal accomplished!)
The response from this book has been great. I’m glad to see the sales numbers finally match the impact that people are saying it has had on their teaching. Many of the sales this year came from bonus gifts to new members of The Religion Teacher and in the increased number of speaking engagements in 2019.
221,322/1,000,000 words for kids (A part of my #1millionwordsforkids goal) (+144,266 words)
I’m continuing to learn so much about writing for kids! As I accomplish the two previous goals, I will be shifting more energy to writing 1,000,000 words for kids before I turn 40.
2/4 new published works of fiction on Amazon.com
I learned so much about self-publishing in 2019! I was able to publish two new books: Beatitales and Tales of the Ten Commandments. These books are collections of fables I’ve written over the last couple of years. Publishing a book of fiction was a new experience for me. I’m very pleased with the response. My young daughters now consider me a “real” author since their friends are now reading my books.
7/7 paid speaking gigs (Goal accomplished!)
I travelled and spoke more in 2019 than any other year before. I loved it, but I missed being home. I enjoy speaking and the impact on people is priceless, but I’m glad it isn’t the biggest part of what I do.
481/500 Resources (Videos/Worksheets) for Members of The Religion Teacher
This was a late addition to my 2019 goals. I felt that 500 was a good milestone to work towards. Although I didn’t reach the 500 mark, I’m on pace to pass it early in 2020.
81/100 books read
I planned to read many more children’s books this year, which is why the number was so high. Instead, I finally started reading the epic fantasy books by Brandon Sanderson. I was hooked. So I read a few 1,000+ page books instead of dozens of children’s books I could have read during that time.
21/73 Books: Read the entire Bible from beginning to end.
My original goal was to read (listen to the audio version) the Bible in one year. I didn’t reach the goal, but I did enjoy finally reading many chapters and stories of the Old Testament I hadn’t read before. I’ve read all of the New Testament before, but there were many books in the old that I’ve studied without reading beginning to end. I’m looking forward to finishing the Old Testament in 2020.
94/100 30-minute workouts
I spent an entire year lifting weights rather than running. I really enjoyed it. I can honestly say I’m in the best physical shape of my life. The exercising gives me increased energy and a chance to listen to podcasts that I used to follow when I had a morning commute.
Incomplete / Play Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” on the harmonica.
Sadly, I spent almost no time in pursuit of this goal. My kids practice their instruments every day. I thought I might join them. I bought a harmonica and watched a few videos, but that was the extent of this missed goal.
The Project Review
Here is a short analysis of what went well and what I learned as an author and entrepreneur in 2019.
What went well?
- I published my first works of fiction: Beatitales and Tales of the Ten Commandments
- I revised some of my best-selling products at The Religion Teacher and made them available to members for the first time.
- I completed a year’s worth of worksheets for Catholic saints and launched it like a product for members of The Religion Teacher.
- I led workshops and gave keynote speeches in many places throughout the U.S. this year.
- I recorded more whiteboard videos than I ever have before and many of them have already been viewed 10,000+ times. I also nearly doubled the number of subscribers to my YouTube channel.
- I experimented with TikTok and a few videos went viral. I now have more followers on TikTok than any other social media platform. I haven’t created much since that first month of experiments because it isn’t my target audience.
What didn’t go well?
- My website was down . . . a lot. I spent almost twelve hours this year trying to get my website(s) back up and running after outages. The customer service department for my hosting company was helpful, but it took me a very long time to find out what plugins were causing the problems to prevent outages in the future.
- While I did publish two books, I wrote a lot of other fiction for kids this year that I may not ever publish. That is the point of the 1,000,000 words for kids milestone. I need to practice a lot before I can get my work to a level I’m proud to share.
- Switching shopping cart companies to get all of my website members under one system took more time than I hoped. I’m grateful for the patience of those who made the switch last year.
- I wasn’t able to develop a good system for social media. Despite the TikTok success, I haven’t gotten into a good process for creating content for social media. I did find, however, that Instagram was a great way to connect with other authors and influencers.
What did I learn?
This was my first full year as a self-employed author and entrepreneur. I learned a lot this year especially as I entered into the world of fiction as an author for the first time.
Here are my top three lessons from 2019:
I know people say this all the time, but I really learned the true meaning of family first in 2019.
I get to spend a few mornings a week as a stay-at-home dad. I’ve been able to do this every week since our youngest daughter was born. I love my work, but I love being able to be a dad during the day, too.
I was at home all the time. Working from home, I sometimes go all day without leaving the house. There were many times throughout the year in which the house got very loud. Summer was particularly tough this year with the kids at home while I tried to work. This really helped me learn patience. I also found some good music to listen to while I worked.
Finally, I spent many hours and many miles driving to and from Cleveland to be with my mom this year. She was diagnosed with acute leukemia in June and it took her life in December. Having the flexibility to spend so much time with her this year is something I’m so grateful for. I had many moments with her from this year that I will cherish.
Repurpose on Purpose
“Repurpose” may be my theme for 2019. Almost everything I created, published, or sold was developed and distributed in various ways.
My two new fiction books are collections of short fables I originally wrote for my Friday fiction newsletter.
The videos I created for YouTube were also made available with graphic organizer worksheets to members of The Religion Teacher.
The first new product I created this year was a collection of parable worksheets, most of which were already completed by creating worksheets for the weekly Gospel readings.
I revised my two bestselling products this year and kept 80% of what was already there in the original versions.
While I customize every one of my keynotes and workshops, many of the ideas were pulled from books or used later in articles and emails I wrote.
There are so many people looking for quality resources to use to pass on faith to young people. I was sitting on many of those resources and all I needed to do was repurpose them to make them more easily available.
Consistency is Key
With so much travel from speaking, family trips, and visits to the Cleveland Clinic to see my mom, I had to prioritize the essential from the non-essential work.
Having email newsletters with a designated day and time to send was a tremendous help. These weekly newsletter helped me prioritize what new content I needed to create. They helped me stay close to what the educators and parents were looking for each day. Missing these emails became non-negotiable. As a result, creating new articles, videos, stories, etc. consistently became a priority as well.
Likewise, creating worksheets for a saint for every week of the year was a motivating way to create a large library of tools.
The other lessons I learned were mostly of a technical nature:
- I learned a few tweaks to get more views and better rankings on YouTube and in Google.
- I learned how to find editors and designers for self-published books.
- I learned how to self-publish through Amazon.
- I learned how to use TikTok.
- I learned the value of aligning projects with goals.
Here’s to a great 2020! ????