My 2014 Goals—Always Keep Your Hands Busy

Happy Holidays everyone. As has become my custom, the last post I publish each year takes a look back at the goals I set for that year and whether or not I succeeded in accomplishing them. I give myself a grade and reflect on each goal to learn what I can before setting goals for the coming year.

2014 Calendar

Those of you who have been reading here awhile will be familiar with these end and start of the year posts. Today I’ll look back on 2014 and on Thursday I’ll share my goals for 2015. If you aren’t familiar with how this works, here are some looking back posts from previous years.

2014 Goals

I set eight goals for myself in 2014 and I’ll stick with the one point per goal grading I’ve used in the past. I’m not sure if it’s the best system, but it’s the one I have for now. Here’s a reminder of the goals I set for the year.

  • Increase book sale conversions
  • Think about the next version of this site and my business
  • Improve the archives page
  • Set up a deployment strategy
  • Continue with changes on this blog
  • Find a workable solution to time and task management
  • Write another book
  • Continue my exploration of color

As 2013 was ending, I wasn’t quite sure what my goals should be for 2014. I wasn’t long from finishing my first book Design Fundamentals and I was feeling a loss in focus after having focused on one thing for most of the year.

Instead of my usual setting goals to help set a direction for the year, my lack of focus led me to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall in the hopes that some would stick and I’d gain direction in the doing as opposed to the planning.

“Always keep your hands busy,” is advice passed on to me from a friend who received the same advice from his father. It’s good advice. Whenever I’m not sure what to do I throw myself into anything just to keep busy. It might be aimless at first, but a direction usually reveals itself after a time and that’s what happened.

I’m giving myself a small range of grades this year. If I’m strict with myself I earned 4.75 out of 8.00. The generous me gave myself a 5.5 out of 8.0. Neither is a particularly good grade, but overall I did come through with the direction I was seeking. Read on for the details.

Increase Book Sale Conversions

Not really, but kind of. To keep busy I tried working on several goals at once to start the year. A day of this, a couple of days of that, and finish the week with that goal over there. Trying to increase book sales was one of those several goals.

I made a few small improvements.

  • I set up Google Analytics and purchased Yoast’s eCommerce tracking plugin to track sales and tie them into the rest of the data Google collects.
  • I chose one section of the book to be a free sample, which I added to the site.
  • I added another method of payment beyond PayPal.

That’s as far as I got before Adobe was in touch asking if I’d like to write a book for them. Part of my rationale for writing CSS Animations and Transitions was to help sell Design Fundamentals.

My thought was writing a book for a traditional publisher would lend some authority to me as writer and overcome a potential objection to buying a self-published book. It’s a theory I’ll test once I rework the Books section of the site.

At the end of July and for a few weeks in August, sales increased significantly. I wasn’t sure why until I noticed more email addresses from a single university than coincidence would allow. I think Design Fundamentals was assigned reading for a course, though I don’t know for certain. Hopefully it will remain assigned reading and I’ll receive a bump in sales every time the class is offered.

Still, I can’t claim to have done anything that led to those sales. Some of the specifics I mentioned when setting this goal were to:

  • A/B test the sales page
  • Create a sales funnel around the book
  • Offer a free sample chapter
  • Market and advertise the book

The only one above I completed was the sample chapter, which I suppose is the start of a sales funnel.

The hard grader is giving me 0.0 points, since I really didn’t increase sales over the year. Aside from the temporary spike, sales are the same as the start of the year. The generous grader is giving me 0.25 points for having set up analytics and for creating the free sample chapter.

Think About the Next Version of this Site and My Business

This one I successfully completed. I’m not ready to share all of the specifics, but they’re mainly concerned with moving from a service based business to one focused on creating and selling products. I’ve been thinking about how to go about doing this all year.

For a few years I thought the transition would involve developing WordPress themes or plugins. I no longer think it will. For years I set and failed to complete goals that would follow this path. If it was something I really wanted to do, I’d be working on it already.

Instead I’ve been creating products based on my writing and see writing as the path to follow. If you’d asked me two years ago what I did for a living I’d have said I design and develop websites or something to that effect. If you ask me in two years what I do for a living, I hope to say I’m a writer who also works on websites. If you ask me now, I’m somewhere in between.

I’m giving myself 1.0 points for this goal, since I did exactly what I intended to do.

Improve the Archives Page

Nope. I don’t think I ever looked at it beyond a few cursory glances to start the year. I collected some resources to help with what I thought I would do. I had expected to go through those resources over the summer and work on the page for a few weeks, but the CSS Animations and Transitions book decided otherwise.

At some point I started thinking I’d just wait till the next redesign of the site and I forgot about this goal for the remainder of the year.

I’m giving myself 0.0 points for this goal and would give myself less if I could.

Set up a Deployment Strategy

Again nope. I can’t say I did much for this goal beyond collecting resources throughout the year. I had good intentions, but I don’t think I should experiment with one of my client’s sites. I should set this up first for one of my sites and make mistakes with my sites.

However, I didn’t work a lot on my sites this year, beyond the usual maintenance. When the time comes to either redesign this site or design a new one for myself, I’ll revisit setting up a deployment strategy.

I am mad at myself for not working on this more. It’s important to have a better deployment strategy than being a sometimes cowboy coder. I’ll blame the book again, though not having the right site to set up deployment created another obstacle I did’t overcome. Mostly the fault lies with me for not making more of an effort to get this done.

I’m giving myself 0.0 points, though the generous me wants to give myself 0.25 points. While I didn’t do anything specific, I have been doing a lot of research and paying more attention to the topic. I have a better idea what I need to do and how to go about doing it. My generosity might have more to do with the holiday season than because I deserve it where this goal is concerned.

Continue with Changes on this Blog

Yes and no. I had mentioned a few specifics for this goal such as adding the podcast to iTunes, moving the blog away from FeedBurner, and adding some screencasts to the site. I did the first, didn’t do the third, and spent some time deciding how to do the task in the middle.

As part of this goal, I wanted to increase the spontaneity of the content here. I have worked at it, mainly with the podcasts. I now start with fewer notes and improvise more while recording. The spontaneity has crossed over into my writing to some degree as well.

I also learned I could write more than I thought I could over a set amount of time. It’s something I learned while working on the book and wanting to meet every deadline. It’s helped me become a more productive writer. I exceeded what I thought was a limit and I’ve been able to increase my weekly output ever since.

Finally I’ve been keeping something of a private journal all year. I’m now looking to set up specific journals or notebooks about topics that interest me and ideally some of what goes into those notebooks will make their way into the public, whether here or on another site.

I’m giving myself 1.0 points for this goal, though the mean grader wants to deduct 0.25 points for not making any progress with screencasting.

Find a Workable Solution to Time and Task Management

Yes and more so than the usual “Yes”; I assign to this goal. Being more productive is a goal I set every year. This year I spent considerable time figuring out how I could use Things with a GTD system that incorporates creative work. I shared much of what I learned in a series of posts.

This was the year I really tried to connect the system to the actual work I do and the tools I use. I still have plenty to improve, but I think I made signifiant strides in being more productive this year.

I’m giving myself 1.0 points and would give myself more if I could. I figured out something with this goal that had eluded me in previous years.

Write Another Book

A definite yes, though not the book I expected. I mentioned trying to work several goals simultaneously at the start of the year. A book was one of them.

I began what I hope will be the first of a series of practical guides. I finished the draft for the first half of the book and had started working on the practical examples half when Adobe called asking if I wanted to write a book for them.

Within a week I had a new focus and from that point on the book dominated the rest of my year. Between May and September I didn’t think about much else. By late June I was working weekends to keep up.

I snuck in two smaller client projects to help pay the bills, but mostly it was the book. I even let the blog slide, though fortunately I was several weeks ahead when I started. I was only half a week ahead when I finished. I spent the last few months catching up on all the things I pushed to the side while working on the book

While I didn’t complete the practical guide, I have started to look over it again to remember where I was. Finishing the guide is part of one of my 2015 goals.

It may not have been the book I was thinking I would write, but I certainly wrote a book in 2014 and I’m giving myself 1.0 points for the goal. I’d give myself more if I could as I learned far more working with a publisher and professional editors than I expected and because of the increase in productivity since finishing.

Continue My Exploration of Color

Once again yes. In fairness I set this goal as something of a gimme, since I felt confident I could come up with a few color related posts during the year.

I was right. I wrote two series of posts about color this year. First was a look into different color systems back in May.

The last few weeks I presented a series about luminance.

I’ve also spent more time with color decisions on the sites I’ve designed and worked on this year as well.

I’m giving myself 1.0 points for what I learned, what I wrote, and how I worked with color when designing.

Summary

How did I do overall? There’s a slight range. On the low end I’m giving myself 4.75 points and on the high end I’m giving myself 5.5 points. Neither is great score so I’ll go with the high end just to feel a little better about myself.

If I look at my grade alone, I failed. At best I scored 68.5% which isn’t quite failing, but it is pretty close. However, I usually look beyond the score.

Looking at all eight goals, I can feel good about completing five of them and not so good about three others. That’s not too bad, especially considering the lack of focus I had to start the year and how something unexpected dominated most of my time the rest of the year.

Like I said 2014 was a year I threw some things against the wall to see what would stick. Some did, some didn’t, and I shouldn’t have expected anything else. In keeping busy I discovered a direction to follow, which is the main thing I’m after with these goals.

Happy Holidays everyone. Have a Happy New Year and let’s meet again early in 2015. How about Thursday? I’ll share what I’m hoping to accomplish in the coming year and why and you’re welcome to do the same.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

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