Welcome to my December 2017 Project Report. My goal with these monthly reports is to help other authors, entrepreneurs, leaders, or anyone else who wants to make an impact on others. Each month I will share how I spent my time as an author and creative entrepreneur and the successes, failures, and lessons I’ve learned along the way.
How I Spent My Time in December 2017
- 10:40 – The Religion Teacher Email
- 10:32 – Daily Learning Log (archive)
- 10:12 – Christ in the Classroom Book
- 7:25 – The Evangelization Stack (Online course beta launching in January 2018)
- 6:28 – Weekly Review
- 4:12 – Daily Review
- 3:07 – 2018 Business Planning
- 2:41 – Morning Preview
- 2:32 – The Religion Teacher Newsletter
- 2:16 – The Religion Teacher Member Communication
Total Time Spent: 71:31
Here is what I produced during this time last month:
- Worksheets: 1
- Articles/Blog Posts: 42
- Newsletter Emails: 10
- Videos: 4
- Books: 1,212 words
- Workshops & Webinars: 0
December 2017 Highlights
I submitted the manuscript for my next book!
After sprinting through to completion, the manuscript for my next book has been submitted to my publisher. I stumbled on a concept in the fall of last year that really resonated with my audience. When you come across an idea or system that makes an impact like this, you have to do something with it. So, I did some additional work on the idea and put into book-form a system that I think can change the way we do religious education in the Catholic Church today. I’m very grateful that Ave Maria Press accommodated a quicker-than-usual turn around for the book and I’m excited it will available by October 2018.
I wasn’t planning to write a book last year. In fact, I had even written in a list of goals/vision statements that I read every day that I would not write a book this year until I sold through the first printing of the book that released this year. Well, when you come across an idea like this one, you can’t let it sit and wait.
The Daily Learning Log
When I started this daily blog in November, I had no idea the kind of impact it would have on me. I completed a second month blogging every day and it has been enlightening. Having this outlet to teach what I am learning solidifies the lessons that are helping me grow. I haven’t paid attention to the traffic or stats. I’m just focused on learning and sharing what I’m learning. This is something I think everyone should do.
The Evangelization Stack Course
In the fall I promised new annual members of The Religion Teacher access to an online course focused on evangelization. In December I finally had time to work on it. The course will open to those members in January and I’m excited to see how it makes an impact. I have reorganized a lot of the ideas in my book on evangelization in a way I hope will inspire people to take action. More on this in the January report once the course is live.
I took a lot of time off in December for Christmas. One of the advantages of working for yourself is that you don’t have a limited number of personal days to take. You don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission to take a day off. I still woke up at 5:00 a.m. every morning, as I do every day, but I kept work to a minimum during the rest of the day. It was a lot harder than I thought! I was often antsy and knowing I had a pile of work adding up down in my office didn’t help. Still, I really enjoyed my time with the family and feel so blessed by the Christmas we had this year.
What I Learned in December 2017
My Weakness: Customer Service
In his book, Principles, Ray Dalio writes a lot about knowing your weaknesses. My weakness was made very apparent last month. I am not good at customer service. There were more member cancellations and refunds during December than any other month before. It turns out that some of my members weren’t getting receipts and they didn’t realize they were still paying for the membership. I have to cancel each membership manually using Samcart and Wishlist Member and it became very time-consuming last month.
It made me realize a few things:
- I need a better system for cancellations and refunds.
- I need to set up a business phone number instead of getting calls on my cell phone at random times. (I set up a Grasshopper account in December. It is an amazing service. I love being able to scan voicemails that have been transcribed as emails. I also love the ability to screen phone calls to separate personal from business calls.)
- I may need to hire help.
That last lesson makes me the most nervous. In the nine years since I started an online business, I’ve done almost everything myself. I realize, though, that customer service is a weakness. Someone could do a much better job managing cancellations, refunds, invoices, and all the other details that come with managing more than 1,000 paying members.
I wrote about Situation-Specific SEO last month, but it is a much broader concept that really helped me think about 2018. A lot of business advice out there talks about coming up with an audience avatar and describing the people you are trying to serve. I’ve found that helpful, but even more helpful to me is thinking about the exact context and situation in which I am helping my audience.
What are they doing when they think of my websites, products, and books?
What are they doing when they have any of the things I have created open on their desks or computers?
I realized that the specific context in which I want to serve through The Religion Teacher is lesson planning. This might have been obvious, but defining it in this way helps me stay focused on how exactly I serve. Any other “content” that doesn’t serve this specific context or situation is a distraction.
Planning vs. Productivity
Towards the end of the year I started thinking ahead to 2018 and writing out plans for the year. It became pretty laborious to be honest. I wasn’t energized and excited. (As is typical, however, I did get energized planning ahead for 2018 while on a plane trip to give a talk in Texas. I love planning on planes.)
There is a certain point at which planning has diminishing returns. A better approach would be to make plans quickly and get to work. Then you can adjust the plans and make new ones based on the success and failure. You just don’t know anything until you start taking action so stop crafting that perfectly planned document and start failing faster.