Here is a look back on the major projects I worked on this year and the time I spent creating and sharing practical resources as an author and entrepreneur.
I also updated a full history of the most memorable projects I worked on since 2004. See all my projects here.
I will keep the same format again this year:
- 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 this year
How I Spent My Time in 2020
My Top 25 Projects
- 220:03 – The Religion Teacher Email & Customer Service
- 98:39 – Daily Review
- 89:00 – Weekly Review
- 87:42 – Morning Preview
- 57:32 – A Kids’ Daily Devotional Book
- 45:59 – Speaking Events
- 45:47 – The Religion Teacher Membership Website Launch
- 42:14 – The Religion Teacher’s Bible Biography Worksheets (Member Resources)
- 44:41 – Formation5 Daily Email Newsletter
- 38:39 – The Religion Teacher YouTube Videos
- 38:47 – The Religion Teacher Blog
- 33:53 – The Religion Teacher Newsletter
- 30:31 – Formative Fiction Newsletter
- 29:55 – The Religion Teacher’s Saints Worksheet Collection
- 28:36 – Accounting and Taxes
- 22:28 – Do Not Be Afraid: Bible Stories for Kids about Hope
- 22:12 – Bible Breaks Newsletter
- 20:37 – Pray without Ceasing: Bible Stories for Kids about Prayer
- 20:37 – The Adventurer Stories
- 18:31 – Take and Eat: Bible Stories for Kids about the Eucharist
- 18:07 – Prepare the Way: Advent and Christmas Bible Stories for Kids
- 16:01 – The Religion Teacher Member Weekly Email
- 14:38 – Psalm Stories
- 12:24 – The Itsy-Bitsy Quitter
- 12:05 – Monthly Project Reports
Total Time: 1,375:09 Hours
Progress Towards My 2020 Goals
100% / Double the number of members of The Religion Teacher (December 2017 to present) (+8%)
441,860/1,000,000 words for kids (A part of my #1millionwordsforkids goal) (+221,640 words)
593/600 Resources (Videos/Worksheets) for Members of The Religion Teacher (original goal of 500 resources achieved)
75/75 Books read
33/73 Books of the Bible read from beginning to end
128/100 30-minute workouts (+14 workouts)
An Annual Project Review
This three-part format is inspired by James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits.
Before I start, I have to acknowledge COVID-19. It dramatically changed everyone’s lives in 2020.
From a professional standpoint, however, not a lot changed for me. I already worked from home. I spoke a lot less than normal and barely travelled. The extra time at home was a wonderful gift. I was able to share some wonderful moments with all of our kids who weren’t in school during the day.
Also, our year brought in a wonderful surprise: the birth of our son, Bennett! (Which, by the way, explains the big drop in work time in August. We spent a lot of time in the NICU with our little guy, but he is doing great!)
What Went Well?
The Religion Teacher had a good year. I was worried at the start of the pandemic. I didn’t know how to best serve religious educators. No one knew what classrooms were going to look like during quarantine or again when school began in the fall. Plus, every city and every country handled things differently so there was no one way to provide help for everyone.
I unlocked a lot of member-only resources during quarantine and did my best to make sure the resources were as useful as possible in a virtual format. Many educators were very appreciative of the large and growing library of tools to use with their students online.
Sadly, a lot of teachers lost their jobs. Programs went completely virtual. Volunteers took the year off. I had more cancellations than usual.
But the new circumstances and growing reputation led to a lot more members and I was finally able to reach my 2017 goal of doubling the number of members.
I also passed the 500-resource mark and upped the milestone to 600. For 2021 I will be setting the bar even higher at 1,000 member resources.
Beatitales Reaches 100 Reviews
I always struggled to get ratings and reviews as an author. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 10 positive reviews for a book. Most of my books hovered around 10-20 ratings on Amazon.
This year, my first work of fiction passed 100 ratings on Amazon. It has been such a joy to see sales of Beatitales grow each month. Families are reading it together. Kids are reading it in schools. I didn’t know how the book would do when I wrote it. It was an experiment and the outcome has been wonderful.
Bible Breaks Bible Stories for Kids
My biggest writing focus this year has been creating Bible story collections for kids. Again, this was an experiment. I wanted to see if families and teachers could be encouraged to read more of the Bible. I started a weekly email newsletter and began writing kid-friendly versions of Bible stories.
I learned a lot from creating these books at every level: writing, editing, designing, publishing, advertising, etc.
In many ways, these books defined my year. Now that they are completed, I look forward to seeing how they are received and read as I create other kinds of writing projects.
The biggest new project came unexpectedly at the end of the year. I wanted to create something for parents who were eager to do more faith formation at home. The family-focused faith formation model is growing. Most of my tools are specifically designed for teachers. I wanted to create something for parents as well.
Formation5 is a daily email with five-minute family faith formation lessons. It launched on November 1st and has continued every day since then.
Although time-consuming, I really enjoy putting these daily lessons together. I’m learning a lot about our Catholic faith and so is my family. It is honestly the most practical thing I have created this year.
I’m looking forward to continuing it through 2021 with the hope that I won’t be burnt out. So far, I would continue creating these lessons whether other families wanted them or not.
YouTube Videos & Subscribers
Email has been my only follower/subscriber focus for years. I made a few tweaks to see if I could increase the number of YouTube subscribers this year. I updated the description and gave videos a bigger focus in the weekly email Newsletter.
The results have been great. The number of YouTube subscribers more than doubled, passing 13,000 people. Even more shocking: there were 1.1 million views of The Religion Teacher videos this year (up 132%).
The numbers are great, but honestly making the videos makes me happy. I enjoy learning and teaching. I stumbled into the whiteboard videos. They have been a blessing for me and for the viewers.
What Didn’t Go Well?
I worked on a few fiction projects and shared some of them in serialized form here on my personal author website. I shifted my focus to the Bible stories, though, and it was a good experiment. I want to return to more fable-based fiction in 2021. Kids and parents love fiction. I enjoy writing it. I should spend more time improving my skills as a writer of fiction.
Usually I am on the road speaking much more than I was this year, but thanks to COVID-19 I only had a few events. I did give a some talks during the year and planned for a number of potential online events, but almost all of them fell through.
I enjoy speaking, but I love spending time with my family. It would be hard for me to go back to the level of travel and speaking I was doing before this year. I’ve heard this a lot from other authors and speakers this year. I’m just grateful speaking isn’t the primary source of our family’s income.
Twitter Dad Tips
I stopped using Twitter a few years ago. This summer I decided to spend more time with it. I picked a project and set a 100x goal. I posted a daily tip for dads from May to September. The response wasn’t overwhelming, but I certainly learned a lot by teaching and gathering the tips.
Here are some of the most popular Dad Tips I shared:
Instagram Bible Quotes
I used the work I was putting into the daily devotional for kids to create some unique images with Bible quotes. The images had icons that have been the cornerstone of my designs. Again, the social media experiment was lackluster in impact. Here are some of the most popular among the content I created:
A Daily Devotional for Kids (unfinished)
I am excited about this project, but surprised by how much time it took up this summer. I made my way through three of the four Gospels writing reflections for every sentence that Jesus spoke. Again, it was a great journey for me to read and reflect. I’m looking forward to getting this into book form.
I will return to it soon with the hopes of publishing it to start the new year in 2022.
What Did I Learn?
I know it is cliche, but family was my #1 priority this year. Whether it was helping them with school or finding fun ways to spend time in quarantine, we had a good year together. Bennett’s birth was unexpected, but gave us a great experience to share. Having a child with Down syndrome brings so many unknowns, but Bennett is full of blessings. We have been surrounded by support. He has amazed us every single day and continues to surpass every goal and expectation we have for him.
One Project at a Time
I should have learned this lesson by now! The more I focused on completing one project to the end, the more I accomplished. The times when I was writing multiple books or working on multiple projects, I slowed down and felt the drag of being unproductive.
Setting milestones for each project mad a big difference. Instead of creating worksheets at random times, I focused on creating as many as I could in one day and worked towards the milestones. Once I hit the milestones (100 Saint worksheets for example), I could move on to the next project. The momentum and creative energy worked so much more by focusing on just one project at a time.
Daily Email > Daily Social Media Post
Formation5 has been a great experience. I love the feedback and engagement so far. A daily email was so much more effective yet just as time intensive as the social media posts that received very little response.