I’ve been following in the footsteps of Chris Guillebeau, completing an annual review each year and making goals towards next year. I’ve always appreciated Chris’ transparency and so I thought I’d share my list publicly this year in that same spirit.
What went well this year?
2013 was pretty amazing for many reasons.
Professionally, this was the best year of my life. I taught a workshop on PR for startups and a class on breaking into freelancing, spoke on a panel about social media marketing at Content Connections, had my highest annual revenue ever, and got to write for some places I’ve had my eye on for a while, including the Costco Connection and the Men’s Journal website. This is in addition to continued relationships with many amazing clients I already had.
I was lucky enough to interview so many of my heroes: Alexis Ohanian, Jason Fried, Adrian Holovaty, Nate Kontny, Brian Clark, Andrew Warner, Chris Kluwe, Derek Willis, Ethan Marcotte, Joshua Benton, Michael Brito, Charlie Gilkey, Marissa Bracke, Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits, Joe Kristoffer, Laura Roeder, Derek Halpern, Ryan Evans, Stella Fayman, Mana Ionescu, Michael Psilakis, the list goes on and on. I wish I could get them all in a room for a cocktail party.
I met amazing people, including Noah Kagan (whose HTMYFD program really contributed to my professional success), as well as Sheryl Sandberg, Michael Pollan, Maryn McKenna, Seth Mnookin… I even attended Chris Guillebeau’s CreativeLive session on travel hacking!
Speaking of travel, I did a LOT of it. I visited Boston, Kansas, Milwaukee, Seattle, Duluth, San Francisco, Madison, Chicago and Costa Rica, attending conferences and events and seeing friends and family. This even included an ironic segway tour.
I did some fun volunteer projects (including the Overnight Website Challenge) and helped with a couple of other fundraisers and volunteer events.
I got to spend time with friends and family, which was great. And I got to work with some amazing people, helping mentor newer writers, learn from seasoned professionals and collaborate with people who had so many strengths to complement my weaknesses (and vice versa).
What went badly?
Tragedy struck this year, as one of my college friends lost her battle with depression. This hit me like a ton of bricks. Many loved ones had other health concerns and issues that put a bit of a damper on things, but also helped me keep things in perspective.
I had serious health issues, mostly dental work which finally caught up with me after much neglect, and a lot of physical therapy to rehab a sports injury. This amounted to several thousand dollars in medical expenses and probably about 30 days total inside a medical facility of some sort (not including the fun stuff like massage and tuina). This is a very good reminder to keep up with things!
I also calculated badly and ended up owing a LOT in taxes for last year, so all that extra income I was so psyched about went towards taxes and medical/dental bills. Fun.
Not all of my work life was perfect, either. (I’ve written extensively about all the things I’ve learned the hard way in my four years of freelancing, and many of these mistakes are ones I’ve made long after I should’ve known better.) I have some failed projects and project attempts, some painfully lost audio files (thanks, Retronyms!), and, worst of all, a site that rewrote a balanced article of mine into linkbait… This kind of blindsided me, especially since the source who was on the business end of this hack job is someone I think the world of, and it hurts to know that I (albeit inadvertently) contributed to the type of journalism I hate. I had to take some time to really think about how to prevent that from happening again, which led to, well, less work.
The biggest overall problem I had this year, though, was that I worked way too much. This led to some serious burnout at times and some really preventable mistakes on my part at others. And I made some bad decisions about people to work with on a couple of occasions, the common denominator was actually when I tried to be too accommodating or helpful and didn’t set good boundaries. Because I was working so much, not all of my goals came to fruition. I made progress towards almost all of them, but ultimately didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do this year.
2013 was supposed to be the year of consistency, and I was consistent in how often I did things I set out to do, but could’ve really ramped things up a bit. I felt very unbalanced, and have been unsuccessful the time I work from when I don’t work. I definitely had some events that I’d define as “rock bottom” including very little sleep and last-minute revisions requested in the wee morning hours. I’d really love to have the type of lifestyle where work doesn’t spill into every other portion of my life, and a serious course correction is part of what I plan to work on going forward.
Looking forward to 2014
I have two themes for 2014. I’ve declared it The Year Of Balance, and The Year Of Wrapping Things Up.
Wrapping things up has to do with things I’ve started but haven’t finished. I’m planning to finally wrap them up for real in 2014.
The most exciting thing on the list is getting married to the man of my dreams in July (!!!), so I obviously need to do a bit of planning and wrapping up for that. It almost feels trite to list this as a “thing I’m wrapping up in 2014” on a goals list, but planning a wedding really does feel like finalizing what will be seven years of an amazing relationship… and a million logistical odds and ends as far as the actual event itself.
There are so many other unfinished projects this year. These include an improv class I started but didn’t finish, an at-home nature correspondence course I began ages ago but never finished, meeting some health and fitness goals (this year I got my 4th stripe in BJJ, but I really want that blue belt, and I’m also hard at work on getting in the best shape of my life for my wedding, but haven’t gotten where I need to yet). Also, this year I started learning how to code, but am really hoping to make considerable strides next year to learn Python/Django so I can analyze large data sets and present information in innovative new ways. I made huge strides in cleaning my office, but still have some piles and boxes to work through, and I want to finish it once and for all.
My professional goals are based on the type of content I want to create, not just financial goals. I’m wanting to move away a bit from ghostwriting and short blog posts and into feature writing and real reporting/storytelling, and cover business and tech. I want to blog more often, on my own blog, and to do some more in-depth reporting (whether it’s for a book or an in-depth post). I am really hoping to start pitching some publications and websites I’m really trying to break into (my hit list of dream publications includes Wired, as always, but also Verge, Inc., Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes, and a few others).
Balance has a lot to do with what I mentioned before. I’ll be separating work from non-work, not taking client calls in the evening or on weekends, and using the extra time to sleep more, work on activities other than writing, time with friends, and so forth.
I want to work actual vacations into my year, not just working vacations. I also have some epic trips planned, and am hard at work on some travel hacking goals.
Also included in balance is getting past what Danielle LaPorte refers to as “rage lite.” I’ve been trying to put my stress and frustration to bed every evening, and I think not working 24/7 will not only increase my productivity in the hours I do work, but help me with my overall mindset throughout the year.
I think this about covers it, and I hope it helps you with your own annual review–whether you choose to make it public or not. Here’s to a great 2014, for all of us!