Grading My 2015 Goals — I Passed Thanks To The Curve

Happy Holidays. It’s become tradition for my last post of the year to review the goals I set at the start of the year and I see no reason to break tradition today.

2015 Calendar

I want remind you of the goals I set back in January and share my progress or lack of progress with each. I’ll also grade myself on my success or lack thereof, all in preparation for setting new goals for the next year.

You may or may not be familiar with these year end reviews or the setting goals posts that follow. If you’re interested, here are my review posts from past years.

Next week I’ll share my goals for 2016 and in that post I’ll link to the goal setting posts from previous years.

I’ve mentioned a few times throughout the years why I find it beneficial to set goals each year. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned why I like the reviews. They keep me honest. It’s easy to set goals, but much harder to accomplish them. Being up front about my successes and failures makes me want to succeed more.

The reviews also help me to see how much I get done so I have a better idea how much to plan for another year. Over time I’ve noticed goals I set and never worked on and it helped me understand that I really wanted to do other things.

With that said, let’s see how I did this year.

My Goals for 2015

At the start of the year I set myself eight goals over four different themes for lack of a better word. When I set the goals I said I was more interested in making progress with each theme than I was in completing each goal. Here are the themes and the specific goals I listed under each.

  • Create more products
    • Write more books
  • Market new and existing products
    • Develop a content marketing strategy
    • Learn email marketing
    • Widen distribution
  • Design/Plan for the future
    • Improve this site
    • Prepare for a new site
  • Improve my productivity system
    • Include more tools
    • Try a new set of tools

As it often does, the year brought some unexpected changes. Midway through I decided to start a new website about writing, creativity, and productivity and I also moved my existing sites to a new hosting company. For a variety of reasons, the latter took more time than expected. On the bright side, moving helped with some of my goals for the year and I’ll get to the details in a bit.

I decided to grade myself in two ways, once looking only at the themes, and once looking only at the goals. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly I scored the same 62.5% each way. As you read through the details I’ll present my theme grade and at the very end I’ll show you how I came up with the grades for the specific goals.

Create More Products

I only listed one goal under this theme, which was to write more books and I started the year on schedule. I spent the first few weeks looking over the flexbox book I had started the previous year and I made notes for how to finish it. I needed to see what was left to do and I needed to update some of the information.

Then I began working and revising.

When I was about a month away from finishing, I put the book on hold while I made my mid-year changes. I never got back to the book or the ones I planned on writing after it.

Technically I didn’t complete the lone goal, however I do think I complied with the spirit of this theme, which was to make progress in creating products to sell instead of custom services.

I stopped taking on clients at the start of the year. I’m still working with existing clients, but even there I’ve allowed the work to grow fewer and further between.

I’ve started work on a new site geared toward writing, creativity, and productivity, and have been talking with a couple of fiends about building a larger site and business model around my small business forum.

Finally I started a rethink of the content on this site and how I might use it toward the goal of having more products to sell.

I’m going to be generous and give myself credit for what I worked on. I’ll give myself 0.5 out of 1.0 for having worked on the flexbox book as much as I did as well as making progress in the spirit of this theme.

Market New and Existing Products

I offered three specific goals under this theme.

  • Develop a content marketing strategy
  • Learn email marketing
  • Widen distribution

I don’t think I made much progress with the general idea of this theme, especially the existing products part, but oddly enough I did make progress with each of the specific goals.

Develop a content marketing strategy

I have spent considerable time rethinking the content on this site as well as planning content for two other sites and I’ve come up with a content marketing strategy for all three.

I still need to implement the strategy and I suspect it’ll need more than a little fine tuning and practice on my part to execute well. However, I do have a strategy in mind for each of the sites, which was the goal.

Learn email marketing

I’ve started to use Mailchimp with the new writing site. I’ve been sending out a regular newsletter with new content every three weeks. I’m learning my way around Mailchimp and what I can do with it and email marketing in general.

Of course, there are still plenty of features I’ve yet to actually try and I’m hardly close to being an email marketing expert, but my goal last year was more about starting the learning process. I learned what I wanted to learn and even started to build a list.

Widen distribution

I didn’t widen distribution of my book Design Fundamentals, which is still only available here on the site. I want to rewrite the first section of the book and make a few other presentational changes before selling it elsewhere. Unfortunately I didn’t get to those changes and so I didn’t start selling elsewhere.

The other part of this goal was to write more for other sites and I wrote seven guest articles the first half of the year. I don’t think I stated an amount I wanted to write, though in my mind, the goal was 10. I didn’t keep up the momentum the second half of the year.

I’m giving myself 0.5 for this theme, because I made progress with two and a half of the three specific goals, even if I don’t think I made the progress I wanted in the overall theme or truly completed any of the goals as I intended.

Design/Plan for the Future

The idea behind this theme was to make changes reflecting the changes I’m making to the business model. Overall I think I met this goal.

When I took a break from blogging last summer, it was in part to make plans and complete projects relating to my then two existing sites and one new site to come.

I moved my sites to a new host, which as I mentioned earlier, took more time than expected. In addition to adjusting to a new host, the sites had grown considerably larger since the last time I moved them.

Prepare for a New Site

There’s no live site yet, but I have the design generally worked out. I have a prototype for the site on my laptop that I’m still working on. Some of what I’m still fine tuning is the content organization and the navigation. I’ve also planned some content for the site, though I’ve yet to write it.

I have been sending out an email newsletter and I placed an ad to the new site here in the hopes that you might sign up.

Improve this Site

The hosting move fixed some of what I wanted to do on this site, such as the problem with the archives page not loading properly and the site constantly going down for a few minutes here and there.

Many of the performance issues I wanted to address were corrected by the move. That’s not to say the performance of this can’t be better, but many of the issues I planned on tackling in 2015 are fixed.

On the other hand I didn’t rework the book(s) section on the site and while the archives page loads, it’s still not organized well. I did remove a lot of the content that was here, but wasn’t worth reading or had outlived its purpose, which hopefully makes it easier to find the better content. The page still needs work.

I’m giving myself 0.875 points because other than the specific goal to work on the book(s) section of the site and not reworking the archives page like I wanted, I did complete my goals and I did meet the general goal of the theme.

Improve My Productivity System

I list productivity as a goal in some form every year.

I didn’t start out the year making improvements, but I have over the second half of the year. The last few months I’ve rethought my entire system and reworked all the tasks and projects that were in it.

Include More Tools

I never did use my task management app, Things, on my phone or tablet. I did on occasion add a task through my phone and I did sometimes look over my tasks on my phone, but I can’t say there was any purpose behind either. I was killing time more than I was trying to be productive.

I found I didn’t really need to incorporate phone or tablets to keep my system organized and actually do the things listed in the system. Then again had I tried to use them more maybe I would have found ways they could help.

I did integrate Fantastical into my workflow and I used it to improve the set up and tracking of my editorial calendar.

Try a New Set of Tools

I am trying a new set of tools or rather the first new tool of a set. Midway through the year I didn’t feel like I was getting a lot done. I had let my system slip. I wasn’t reviewing it regularly and I’d let some bad habits creep in.

To shake myself up and also because this was a listed goal, I purchased OmniFocus and switched over from Things. I downloaded the two week trial and kept both apps open for two weeks. At the end of the trial, I decided to purchase OmniFocus. I’ve been waiting to see if there are holiday sales for the iOS version, though I plan to purchase them sale or not.

This isn’t a knock on Things by the way. Both are great apps. I needed the change. New software forced me to go through all my tasks and projects as I moved them to the new app and because both OmniFocus and Things each have limitations the other doesn’t, I had to think differently about my work.

I’m giving myself 0.625 for meeting the overall goal of the theme and for making the switch to OmniFocus during the year. I took points off for not really incorporating devices beyond my Macbook into my workflow even though I didn’t find it necessary.

Closing Thoughts

Overall I gave myself 2.5 out of 4.0 for the year’s themes. I met the spirit behind the first theme (half a point), met nothing for the second theme, and made the progress I wanted with the last two themes (a point each).

On the specific goals I’m giving myself 5.0 out of 8.0. If I made enough progress with the goal I called it a success even if I didn’t quite complete some like I intended. It’s a bit of a curve, but I think it’s fair to grade on a curve this year, because of the change in focus midway through.

I gave myself a point for creating a content marketing strategy, starting to learn email marketing, guest posting, improving this site, preparing for new sites, and switching over to using OmniFocus.

The non-point goals were writing more books, additional distribution of existing books, and no use of productivity tools on other devices.

That works out pretty well since both grades equate to a 62.5% success rate. When I was in school that was usually a failing grade, but I’m grading on a curve and calling the year a success, albeit a mild one.

2015 was mainly about making progress as I transition my business and I think I succeeded overall in making progress. It wasn’t always the progress I planned, but I see myself closer to where I want to be than I was a year ago this time.

Happy Holidays. I hope you have a Happy New Year later this week. Next week it will be a new year and keeping with my tradition my first post of the year will share the goals I have for 2016. See you then.

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  1. Awesome goals Steve. Question, how do you decide which products to create / offer? Is it something you just have an idea about or are you constantly gauging your current customers sentiment? Thanks

    • Thanks Sayha,

      At the moment the only products I’ve created are a couple of books. The decision came about because I enjoy writing and it was like a natural fit. Design Fundamentals was a topic I wanted to write about and one I didn’t see a lot of other people writing about. CSS Animations evolved in discussions with a publisher. It was one of several ideas I suggested and that was the idea they liked best.

      In general I do pay attention to what’s going on in the industry and what topics others are talking about. I also think about what I’m interested in and what topics I think I know well enough or can learn well enough to write about.

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