Here is a look back at 2022 and the lessons I learned as full-time creator. This is the sixth time I have published an annual project report (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) and I always find it to be a useful exercise to start the new year.
Here is the month-by-month breakdown of the time I spent as a creator:
My Top 25 Projects
- 142:02 – The Religion Teacher’s Member Worksheets (Saints, Bible, Sacraments, Church History, Creed, Beatitudes, Prayer, Our Lady, Exodus, David, and more)
- 124:31 – The Religion Teacher Email & Customer Service
- 82:13 – Morning Preview
- 78:12 – Daily Review
- 68:46 – The Religion Teacher’s Videos (YouTube and Membership)
- 47:34 – Weekly Review
- 39:25 – The Religion Teacher Membership Website Launch
- 31:23 – The Religion Teacher Newsletter
- 27:45 – Tools Teach Worksheets (Founding Fathers, U.S. Presidents, and more)
- 25:01 – Personal Finances
- 24:24 – The Religion Teacher Blog
- 21:46 – Social Media (@jareddees)
- 19:42 – jareddees.com Project Reports and Other Writing
- 19:00 – The Religion Teacher Member Weekly Email
- 18:08 – Accounting and Taxes
- 17:31 – Church Volunteering (Catechist, Parish Council)
- 16:48 – The Religion Teacher Social Media
- 16:37 – Formative Fiction Newsletter & Worksheets
- 13:36 – Bible Breaks Newsletter
- 11:05 – The Religion Teacher Product Launches
- 9:10 – Speaking Events
- 7:56 – ToolsTeach.com Blog & Setup
- 6:52 – Tools Teach Videos
- 5:46 – Miscellaneous Writing
- 5:41 – 15-Minute Stations of the Cross for Kids Launch
Total Time: 871:05 Hours
MY 2022 VISION & GOALS
I called 2022 my “Year of the Worksheet.” I wish I had made worksheets my priority sooner. This was one of my most prolific and profitable years yet. I published more products and produced more creative work than any other year before and I worked less hours than I ever have before in order to be present to the family. The focus on worksheets also let me to make connections with new people. It helped me stand out for a unique skill instead of being just any other author.
623,235/1,000,000 words for kids (A part of my #1millionwordsforkids goal) (+8,115 words)
I see a kid putting into action something she read in a book. She is trying to overcome a challenge in a new way with a positive attitude. She surprises her parents and explains where she learned it: that book by Jared Dees. (Or: that worksheet…that video…that exercise with Jared Dees.)
1,011/1,000 Resources (Videos/Worksheets) for Members of The Religion Teacher—Complete!
I see a teacher showing The Religion Teacher videos and using worksheets that get kids thinking and praying in class. They experience something with those resources that keeps them thinking the rest of the day: an encounter with Christ. The teacher returns to lesson planning feeling less overwhelmed and more excited to teach the next class.
39/24 Books Read—Complete
I see myself talking to friends and family about some of my favorite books.
21/100 Non-fiction Books Started & Skimmed (+0)
I see myself talking about non-fiction books on social media and during interviews because these books helped me improve my life and create my own work.
73/73 Books of the Bible read from beginning to end—Complete!
I see myself reading the daily readings with a new perspective remembering the experience of reading the entire Bible.
130/100 30-minute workouts—Complete!
I see myself working out often and having more energy and happiness around my kids and at the computer for work.
*/200 word vocabulary to learn American Sign Language (* words)
I see my son and I having conversations in sign language during our one-on-one time during the day.
*I stopped keeping track of the number of words in ASL I’m learning with my son. He’s doing so well that it’s really hard to keep track of all the new signs we are learning! Imagine trying to keep track of how many different words you speak every day! It’s a much more fluid process than the experience of learning vocabulary words in school.
AN ANNUAL PROJECT REVIEW
What went well?
The Year of the Worksheet – I experimented in 2022 by setting a theme for the year and describing a concrete vision for how the year would end. It worked better than I imagined. I re-read the vision every morning and it kept me focused on finishing my one worksheet every day. By the end of the year I had created more than 300 worksheets and published more products than I ever have before just as I stated in the vision.
Email Efficiency – I respond to every email in my inbox. Many of those emails are customer service requests asking for help updating passwords, updating credit cards, canceling memberships, getting refunds, etc. After reading a Twitter thread by Blake Burge about Gmail, I quickly set up a few templates for customer service responses. It saved me countless numbers of hours!
Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) – I studied some of the most successful TPT stores for ideas and inspiration. I made updates to the covers of all my products and got some good ideas for worksheet formats as well. I also added the backlog of products I had available through The Religion Teacher and happily reached a new audience with many new sales on the platform. I was already selling a few worksheets and collections on TPT, but this year I finally added them all. It was one of those things I should have done many years ago.
Fitness – I started the year averaging only 1-2 workouts a week, but when it got warmer I started going for runs while pushing my son in the stroller. I ran so much with him that I got a reputation in the neighborhood as the stroller guy. I also started lifting weights while my little guy played or watched videos. He “works out” with mom, too, he is also having fun doing “push-ups” and “lifting” weights.
ToolsTeach.com – As my worksheet productivity increased, I wanted to branch out a little bit into other subject areas. I started with worksheets for fiction then started creating biography worksheets for the Founding Fathers then the U.S. Presidents. I needed a place to put all these resources and I came up with a new website: ToolsTeach.com. I set up a TPT store and website and I will be steadily adding more tools as time goes on. More to come here!
What didn’t go well?
Sign Language – My son mostly communicates with American Sign Language. He has Down syndrome, so his speech is delayed. I set a goal to increase my vocabulary along with him, but it was hard to keep track of everything we use to communicate in a spreadsheet. He was learning too quickly and more fluidly than I imagined. He has made so much progress and after we had his tonsils removed, he is starting to become much more verbal.
Skimming Non-fiction Books – I have so many unread books in my Kindle library that I wanted to start skimming through the ones I wanted to read most. The problem was I kept enjoying the books so much that I wanted to read them more thoroughly. Instead of reading for the sake of finishing them, however, I should have been more intentional about learning. I batched a few health and nutrition books at the beginning of the year and skimming and/or reading them had a big impact on me. I didn’t reach my goal, but I did learn a valuable lesson about reading to learn instead of reading for the sake of reading.
Work Time – I put in less hours of work time in 2022 than I did when I had a part-time job in 2018 and 2017. It’s hard to imagine that. My wife’s work has grown so much that she earned a promotion and needed to increase the amount of time she was in the office. With our son’s morning therapies and my flexible work situation, I stepped back and worked a lot less this year. Thankfully, the business continued to thrive and reach new people. Meanwhile, I get to spend more time with my kids than most dads on the planet. There will be time in the future to work more hours. The more I reflect on this point, the more I see this as a positive rather than a negative.
Books, Fiction, and Speaking – In order to maintain productivity and success, I had to narrow my focus on the best use of my time. By making worksheets my primary focus, I had to eliminate the time I was spending writing books, writing fiction, and speaking. Focus is one of the hardest things for creative people to do. I had to force myself to focus and forgive myself for not doing anything else but worksheets and videos. It was the only way to maximize my time at work.
Social Media – I continued to fail at reaching a larger audience through social media. To use a common metaphor, I was just dipping my toe in the water. Reaching a new audience is an all-or-nothing kind of thing. My time was too valuable to spend on social media without that full commitment.
What did I learn?
I would say I learned three main lessons in 2023:
I was very frustrated with the deceased work time at the beginning of the year. I was committed to being a stay-at-home dad, but still trying to do too many projects at the same time.
As the year went on I increasingly saw my primary vocation not as a creator but as a dad. I started putting the same mental energy in working on myself and serving my family as I was putting into work. I am still constantly failing and figuring it all out, but I want to continue making “Family First” a reality not just a catch-phrase.
The biggest revelation came when I adopted a simple productivity system:
One Page A Day
I considered a day to be successful when I finished my one page (worksheet) for the day. Everything else was a bonus. So, when one of our kids got sick or my wife had a work emergency, I was okay. I didn’t have minor panic attacks or harbor resentment. I finished my one page in the morning and felt gratitude for everything else I was able to accomplish the rest of the day.
In addition to the One Page A Day principle, I found these ideas something to live by on a day-to-day basis:
- One page a day.
- Start with a template.
- Plan tomorrow, today.
- One project at a time.
- Write and edit on different days.
- Just write the next one.
Here’s an in-depth summary of these six principles:
Tools > Teaching
Finally, I solidified an idea that has always been a common theme in my work:
Tools are better than teaching.
There’s a reason why most people do not complete online courses.
They want results.
They want the outcome.
They don’t want a lecture.
There’s a parable I hear quoted a lot:
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The adage is missing one thing: a fishing pole.
I have found teaching to work best when we give people tools to learn for themselves.
This is why I spend so much of my time creating worksheets, videos, activities, and lesson plans for teachers.
Instead of “give a man a fish” or “teach a man to fish,” how about:
Give a man a fishing pole and teach him how to use it.
I am glad to see a movement in the creator economy away from online courses to this idea of creating tools and templates.
I am a teacher. I love teaching, but the tools I have created make a much bigger impact than the lessons I have tried to teach along the way.
As I head into the next year I am once again reminded of a creative mantra I come back to again and again:
“If it isn’t practical, pitch it.”