Here is the month-by-month breakdown of the time I spent as a creator:
MY TOP 25 PROJECTS
- 122:21 – The Religion Teacher Email & Customer Service
- 82:57 – Morning Preview
- 72:00 – The Gospel According to Video Games (Book)
- 66:06 – Daily Review
- 52:16 – Weekly Review
- 49:52 – Speaking Events
- 47:54 – Jared Dees Newsletter (previously Formative Fiction & Bible Breaks Newsletters)
- 46:14 – The Religion Teacher’s Videos (YouTube and Membership)
- 42:26 – The Religion Teacher Membership Website Launches
- 28:17 – The Religion Teacher Newsletter
- 25:22 – Just Plant Seeds (Book)
- 20:09 – Volunteering (Catechist, Charity Events, Charity Support)
- 20:05 – Accounting and Taxes
- 19:49 – Social Media (@jareddees)
- 18:09 – Personal Finances
- 17:15 – The Religion Teacher Member Worksheets
- 15:47 – The Religion Teacher Member Weekly Email
- 15:00 – The Religion Teacher Blog
- 14:00 – The Religion Teacher Social Media
- 13:30 – Uncommon Habits for Uncommon Kids (book)
- 10:01 – Sunglasses Fable (book)
- 9:18 – The Angelus & Regina Caeli (revisions)
- 7:04 – Real Life RPG (book)
- 3:14 – ToolsTeach.com Worksheets
- 2:02 – Calls and Networking
Total Time: 843:54 Hours
MY 2023 VISION & GOALS
In 2022 I wrote out a clear vision and theme for the year. It was enormously helpful to have a clear purpose every day as I sat down for work. I tried this again in 2023 but the initial theme “Reach to Teach” (focused on building a social media audience) fizzled. I regrouped a couple of months into the year and came up with a new theme.
My theme for most of 2023 was “Principles” and here was my vision statement:
I worked on a set of guiding principles to be selfless and full of joy. I began the year in the usual overwhelmed, anxious, and grumpy way. But slowly I got better and applied the selflessness principles to transform my work and my family life. I shared my journey towards joy along the way and compiled my research into posts and books that are already making an impact in the lives of others.
Here are the principles I collected and applied throughout the year:
Writing Rules: Work & Creativity
- One page a day
- Write what you know.
- Heck yes, or no.
- Fast first drafts.
- “And the bad version is…”
- Plan tomorrow, today.
- Steal structure.
- The Milestone Method
- The Person Principle
- The Dickens Formula
- Be Narrowly Prolific
- One Project, One Person, One Page
- Stuck? Walk away.
- Template. Set. Go.
- “But therefore” not “And then”
- Tiny habits even tinier.
- No worries. What’s next?
- The Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule)
- Stories: First, Last, Worst, Best
- Be uncommon among the uncommon.
- The 90% Perfect Rule
- Medium Rare Stakes
- Remember: Jobs to Be Done
- Context is the Key
- If it isn’t practical, pitch it.
- Create assets, not ideas.
- Do One Better
- 1% Better Every Day
- Outwork everyone.
- Be the bear riding a unicycle. / Purple Cow
- Turn failure into feedback.
Code of Selflessness / Honor Code
- Fast Forgiveness
- Grab garbage.
- People over productivity.
- Pride lies. Praise raises.
- Greed grows forever. Need knows enough.
- Let wrath roll off your back.
- Envy less. You are blessed!
- Lust? Look away.
- Gluttony? Go slowly, savory.
- Sloth hates small steps.
- No Regret Records
- Own your apology.
- Silent Service
- Can’t Count Costs
- Tecmo Temptation
- Never Give Guilt
- God, Family, World
726,934/1,000,000 words for kids (A part of my #1millionwordsforkids goal) (+105,700 words)
1,109/1,500 Resources (Videos/Worksheets) for Members of The Religion Teacher (+98 resources)
3/2 Books Written—Complete
51/48 Books Read—Complete
161/100 30-minute workouts—Complete!
AN ANNUAL PROJECT REVIEW
2023 By the Numbers
The Religion Teacher Newsletter grew from 82,689 subscribers to 94,352 (+11,663)
The JaredDees.com Newsletter (previously two newsletters) grew from 7,333 to 8,569 (+1,236)
The Religion Teacher YouTube channel grew from 29,000 subscribers to 37,500 (+8,500)
The Religion Teacher membership only grew by an average of about 50 people this year.
Top-selling Books in 2023
- Take Up Your Cros
- Take and Eat
- 15-Minute Stations of the Cross for Kids
- Tales of the Ten Commandments
Most Viewed Videos from The Religion Teacher in 2023
- The Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer
- The Meaning of Yahweh (YHWH) in the Bible (new in 2023)
- The Meaning of the Sign of the Cross
- The Meaning of Baptism
- Ash Wednesday
Most Viewed Pages at TheReligionTeacher.com in 2023
- The Nativity Story (Birth of Jesus) Skit Script
- Lent Activities
- Advent Activities
- Catholic Worksheets
- Catholic Lesson Plans
- Ash Wednesday Lesson Plan
- Fun Catholic Ice Breakers
- How to Create Blank Venn Diagrams
- Beatitudes Activities
- Rosary Activities
Most Popular Stories at JaredDees.com in 2023
- The Fish Story in the Move Soul
- Joseph the Dreamer Bible Story for Kids
- Crossing the Red Sea Bible Story for Kids
- Jonah and the Whale Bible Story for Kids
- The Road to Emmaus Bible Story for Kids
- Kindness is My Superpower Book Summary and Worksheet
- What If Everybody Did That? Summary and Worksheet
- The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse Summary and Worksheet
- The Birth of Isaac Bible Story for Kids
- The Bad Seed Book Summary and Worksheet
WHAT WENT WELL?
The Gospel According to Video Games (book) – I really enjoyed writing and researching this book of connections between video games and Christianity. I probably had more fun writing this book than any other project before. I’m looking forward to getting it out into the world and sharing the message with gamers of all ages.
Just Plant Seeds (book) – Derek Sivers inspired me to write this book. He mentioned in a podcast that he wrote his book, Anything You Want, in two days and only a few days later Seth Godin was able to publish it as a part of Amazon’s Domino Project. I remember reading the book when it first came out and it was immediately useful in my own life and work. Derek’s story made me wonder if I could quickly write a short book for teachers. Instead of two days, I gave myself two months to write and two months to edit and publish. I wrote it specifically for the members of The Religion Teacher and shared excerpts with them as I wrote. The feedback was amazing and I’m looking forward to giving this gift to members at the beginning of next year.
Speaking – I have not prioritized speaking or traveling since the pandemic, but I did give four talks this year. As always, I enjoy speaking and traveling but it is difficult to be away from the family. The highlight of the year was teaming up with my wife in a presentation to kick-off the school year for our children’s grade school.
Jared Dees Newsletter – I began the year with too many email lists, so I combined my fiction email list (Formative Fiction) and the Bible stories email list (Bible Breaks) into one “Jared Dees” Newsletter. Stories remain the common element in the email list and I spent the latter part of the year exploring non-Biblical fables and stories from famous people for kids.
The Religion Teacher Newsletter – I am so grateful for the simplicity of this newsletter. Inspired by James Clear’s 3-2-1 Newsletter, I share three activities, two videos, and one prayer each week. I constantly meet new people who thank me for these weekly emails and I was happy to see the list grow to nearly 100,000 people by the end of the year (thanks mostly to the surprisingly popular Nativity skit script).
The Religion Teacher Membership Launches – I once again launched The Religion Teacher’s membership website in January and September with motivational messages for all teachers on the email list. The site continues to grow, but teacher turn-over is tremendously high. Many people cancel because they move on from teaching or volunteering. As I look ahead to 2024, I can’t believe it will be the tenth year of offering paid memberships.
The Religion Teacher YouTube Channel – I consider myself an author more than a “YouTuber,” but it was great to see The Religion Teacher’s YouTube channel continue to grow in both views (6 million views, 1.2 million in 2023) and subscribers (37,500 total, +8,500 new in 2023). I published a new video nearly every week and then created an additional worksheet to support these videos for members.
Weekly Learning Log – Three years ago I started taking notes on every podcast I listened to on a weekly basis. I got tired of listening to podcasts or audiobooks without remembering what I learned. I reference these notes often now in research for books. This year I also began taking notes on every TV show and movie I watched. This has been an incredibly helpful practice and I’ve started to appreciate the methods that the producers and writers are using to create these stories. The process has given me a lot of ideas for my own stories and story structures.
WHAT DIDN’T GO WELL?
The Angelus & Regina Caeli (book relaunch) – I got the rights back for Praying the Angelus from my publisher. I decided to re-write the introduction and republish the book under a different title. I’m happy with the new version, but unhappy with the sales. Re-publishing a book isn’t very exciting and I did a poor job relaunching the book. I also have to keep in mind that the low number of sales is the reason I received the rights back in the first place. The benefit of publishing directly through my own company, however, is that print-on-demand enables me to keep the book up and for sale perpetually.
The Religion Teacher Worksheet Packs – I had a couple of unpublished worksheet packs from the 2022 Year of the Worksheet that I published at the beginning of this year. The response and sales were minimal, but the research to create the resources is something I enjoyed.
Social Media – With the exception of the Just Plant Seeds excerpts I shared on The Religion Teacher’s Facebook page, social media was a pretty big flop. I began 2023 thinking it would be my highest priority, but I just can’t get my heart into it. I don’t use social media very much as a consumer, so creating social media content does not come naturally to me. I am excited, however, of using social media to meet new authors next year as I shift my focus more specifically on middle grade books.
Childcare – This year was another new low for number of hours worked. I spend most of my days as a stay-at-home dad. Our son began the year with his many therapies (speech, OT, and PT) until he started preschool in August. His time at school gives me some extra time to work during the week and we were able to get some help from babysitters to increase my number of working hours. It was a tough start to the year, though, with some really short work-weeks.
WHAT DID I LEARN?
I would say I learned three main lessons in 2023:
Focus and consistency leads to compounding returns. I’ve seen growth in the response to consistent weekly email newsletters and new weekly YouTube videos. I’ve also seen that small goals consistently met compound over time. In 2022 I set a daily goal to create one worksheet a day. In terms of books, I focused on one page a day. This consistency compounded into a 99-chapter book for The Gospel According to Video Games that I am excited to publish next year. Towards the end of this year, I decided to increase my devotion to writing books with a higher standard of 1,000 words a day. This heightened focus enabled me to finish three books this year and start a fourth and fifth book before the end of the year.
A Vision Must Be Concrete
My “Reach to Teach” vision at the beginning of this year was too vague. The 2022 “Year of the Worksheet” vision was so simple. Make a worksheet. That was it! Switching to “Principles” this year really helped narrow what I was trying to accomplish. I worked on that list of principles every day and referenced it whenever I was struggling with something personally or professionally.
As I look ahead to 2024, I am trying to keep in mind the importance of a concrete vision. I want to improve as an author next year, but not just any kind of author. I want to focus next year on improving as a “middle grade author,” which means narrowing my energy on reading and writing books specifically for 8-12 year old kids.
Pain Leads to Principles
I found Ray Dalio’s approach to developing principles (in his book Principles) extremely helpful. At the end of every work day this year, I wrote down the pain I experienced that day. This pain included daily sources of sadness, anger, frustration, annoyances, anxiety, envy, and insecurity. Under each source of pain, I wrote down the principle from my list of Principles that would help address or prevent that pain next time. If I didn’t have a principle, then I created one or improved upon one I had written before.
I also added to the list of principles as I found strategies and mental frameworks in books or podcast interviews. These new additions came in handy as I continued to add to my pain list every day.
As I look at my list of pains, here are the principles I applied most often this year:
- One page a day. This principle helped me consistently make progress on big projects every day despite limited amount of time to work.
- Heck yes, or no. This principle helped me focus on projects I was excited to return to each day.
- Plan tomorrow, today. I ended every writing session by writing an outline for the following day, which helped keep the momentum going from one day to the next. I never sat down to work without knowing what I was going to do that day.
- Outwork everyone. This principle was inspired by Kobe Bryant. It is the reason I started writing 1,000 words a day instead of just one page.
- Fast forgiveness. Fights, resentment, anger, sadness, and disappointment (mostly in myself) . . . all of these negative emotions are released through forgiveness and the faster the better.
- Let wrath roll off your back. This principle was really difficult to apply, but the physical image of releasing the anger rolling off of my back was really helpful.
- No regrets record. I have a tendency to linger on past mistakes like a broken record. This principle helped me recognize the negative self talk and turn it off.