Every year since 2014, I’ve deliberately set aside some time in late December or early January to evaluate the past year and set my theme for the year ahead.
For the past 6 of those years, I’ve shared my theme for the year in a blog post. My theme in 2014 was change and resiliency. In 2015, it was vulnerability. In 2016 it was mindfulness. In 2017, it was honey over vinegar. In 2018, it was process. This past year – focus.
I start out by asking a serious of macro-level questions.
- What are the things that went well in 2019? What were the things that I was most proud of?
- What were my biggest mistakes or failures in 2019?
- What do I want to stop doing?
- What goals did I not achieve this year?
- Where is the resistance winning?
- Did I fully embrace the theme that I set out for myself for that year?
For the last couple of months of 2017, and most of 2018, I found myself in a bit of creative rut. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted, trying a bunch of things and starting and stopping too many to count.
Last year, I fully embraced being an entrepreneur. My word for 2019 was focus and went all-in on building my business.
A funny thing happens – when you actually commit to one thing and do it over and over again for months, you start to see results. This was certainly the case for me, especially in the second half of the year.
Here are a couple of things I’m most proud of from 2019.
- Had my first five-figure sales month 6 months into starting my business, which was a big confidence booster for me.
- Nearly doubled income from 2018 to 2019. (No complaints there)
Because I was in a rut in 2018, I set some goals for myself that I thought I wanted, but throughout last year, I realized I needed to put on hold or abandon altogether.
The biggest one was writing and self-publishing a nonfiction book. In 2018, I actually wrote about 30,000 words before promptly abandoning it. The intention was to pick it back up and launch it before my birthday (in March).
I took a hard look at the draft that I had at the start of last year and realized it was terrible. The best books have a clear POV and “whisper” an underlying message or theme to you.
While I still want to write a book at some point, I realize that I am not ready to put in the time, energy, and effort needed to produce one worth reading.
While I had some big professional and business wins in 2019, there are a lot of things that I want to improve or, in some cases, stop doing this year.
I was so laser-focused on building my business from zero to one, that other aspects of my life (especially working out) took a backseat. One of my goals, when deciding to go out on my own, was to build a business for the long haul. A business that I could work on for years if not decades. This means building a sustainable business. This all starts with me.
Starting a business is HARD and requires a ton of sacrifices. While I fully expect to have a 60+ hour workweek before a big deadline, that can’t be the norm.
That’s why my word for 2020 is MOMENTUM.
In order to grow a business for the long haul, there are some areas where I want to improve.
- Build a network of trusted freelancers and independent contractors that I can turn to for help with specific projects or “overflow work.”
- I started to do this during the second half of last year, and want to lean into it more in 2020. This is a way to get even bigger wins for clients, free up some of my bandwidth, and prevent overworking.
- Learning to say “no” to projects and clients that aren’t “a good fit.”
- One of the biggest mistakes that I made this year was ignoring red flags and taking on a few projects that I really shouldn’t have touched. Looking back, I know I took on the work because of fear. I was worried if I turned away work that no new projects would show up. In reality, it just created stress and led to some uncomfortable conversations.
- Working out at least three times per week
- I’m not trying to run a triathlon or marathon, but I also don’t want to wind up on a future episode of My 600lb Life either. I joke. But, your health does have an impact on your energy and productivity levels. I found that even on days where I eat reasonably healthy and just take a long walk, I get more done.
- Prioritizing sleeping 7 hours a night
- I’m jealous of people who can function well on 3-4 hours of sleep a night. I’m NOT one of them. As a night owl who does their best writing and other deep work tasks (like content planning and strategy) in the evening and late-night hours, this also means knowing when to stop working and go to bed. So, that I can be fresh and start the next workday at 10 am.
Ultimately when I think about building momentum, I think about creating my own workflows to do better work, keep learning (and growing) and drive forward progress.
I recently read Adam Savage’s book, “Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It” (Yes, this was one of the Mythbusters Co-hosts), he summed up the process of creating momentum better than I ever could.
While he is specifically talking about the maker community, I think it also applies to entrepreneurship. Even the tiniest wins can be massive motivation and momentum builders.