Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness

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Year In Review and Looking to 2019

Year In Review posts are popular right now. I love reading about how others sum up their year and give serious consideration to the year ahead. I have been using The 12 Week Year for much of 2018, so I have a few “years” within 2018, each with its own successes and shortcomings. It is helpful, too, to have an overarching review of the entire 2018 year and think about how I can be better in the next year.

Work smarter not harder

I placed a reminder in the wall above my computer last year that says “Work smarter not harder.” I don’t feel I often live by that mantra, but I certainly strive to!

Overall, 2018 was a mental and emotional transition year for me. Turning 50 was harder emotionally than I expected it to be. I travelled a lot this year, including a few WordCamps, visits to help my extended family in South Carolina, a trip to Japan to visit my BFF from high school, a trip to Iceland with my family at the end of the summer, and most recently a weekend in Montreal with a dear friend and Christmas in the Dominican Republic with my extended family. Lucky me! And I got a tattoo! Our whole family participated, and while it has taken some adjustment to the idea of this old lady having “ink,” I embrace it and am glad we all did this together:

Dime Tattoo

Getting older is one thing, but I feel like I also lost my “Mom” job. My oldest child graduate from college, moved home for the fall and is moving across the country to begin his career in a few days. My youngest child is not planning to come back home for a while, so the house will be empty again and this time for an indeterminate amount of time. It is hard to grasp that this home we built, where we have raised our children, is not really their home anymore. While my website business has been an important part of my self-definition, there is no “career” that has or will ever feel more important and rewarding than being a mom. I know I will always be their mother, but I feel like I’ve gone out of business or my biggest clients have downgraded their plan with me.

 

Alas, life goes on! And I do have a website agency to tend to and nurture. In my review last year, I planned to keep in mind and review my 2018 goals every month. Did I succeed? Not fully. Did I make progress and improvements in 2018? Absolutely!

Goals and Processes for 2018

  • Plot out goals/steps toward goals on a calendar, pin up on my wall and schedule email reminders to myself every month to ensure I don’t forget this time!
    • Report: I did not follow through on the email reminders. I am not sure what happened, but I think it fell off my radar since I was setting goals and tactics weekly with the 12 Week Year.
  • Participate in a “Mastermind” group which will help hold me accountable to working toward my goals.
    • Report: YES! This has been a great part of 2018. I am grateful for my Mastermind Group.
  • Experiment with some cold-calling for projects in the niche I am exploring to help be more selective in projects I take on.
    • Report: No. But I am really going to do this in 2019, as I have a defined niche and a list of prospects, as well as someone to coach me on cold calling.
  • Block off Fridays from work to have personal time and/or learning time, including piano lesson weekly.
    • Report: Did this most Fridays. Took piano lessons until my teacher quit (he said it was a long commute for him, which it was, but I took it personally and haven’t played since).
  • Plot out and schedule working on (not mastering) a new skill each month (for 2018: more SEO, CSS Grid, and Git Workflow)
    • Report: Not a very organized approach to this, although I do feel happy with some skills and tools I mastered this year, including a full-on embrace of Beaver Builder and Beaver Themer, and more emphasis on SEO and using Google Analytics.
  • “Prototype” having an employee manage small tasks from on-going clients. Ask clients to start using support@ email address to alleviate the time spent on troubleshooting and minor edits.
    • Report: Totally successful here. Can’t imagine going back. Clients are almost all using our support email, and my team was helpful in taking care of small tasks.
  • Schedule one volunteer project per month, either on a weekend or weekday.
    • Report: Yes, I have done some volunteer projects this year, including reading with elementary school kids, helping to distribute food once a month at a family marketplace for people in need, and mentoring a high school student preparing for college.
  • Plan and conduct a local “Website Weekend” pro bono event.
    • Report: I am disappointed that I have not made progress here. In part, I was waiting for WordPress DC to be scheduled, but that still has not happened. I have reached out to some venues and have not had success in finding a space yet.
  • Maintain a consistent physical exercise routine, with an increased focus on strength training and flexibility as part of training for upcoming race events.
    • Report: I have continued to exercise, although my fitness and stamina have declined. This is in part due to some heel pain from plantar fascitis which has produced a heel spur and has been lingering for 9 months. I am disappointed in my lack of commitment to rebuilding my prior fitness level.

Overall, here are the best things that happened for Design TLC in 2018:

I created this website TaraClaeys.com after realizing that much of the content on my Design TLC website agency site was directed at my peers and not potential clients. This was really helpful for me in separating out my content and creating more client-focused content, while also sharing tips and information for my colleagues.

The Hallway Chats podcast has continued to be an enriching experience. I love getting to know new people in the WordPress community and discussing definitions of success, along with their personal story. Co-hosting with the wonderful Liam Dempsey makes the podcast better, and we collaborate well as a team to produce a show every week.

My friendships within the WordPress community have grown and strengthened. Through the Business of WordPress Slack channel I co-founded with Sara Dunn, I have met new people who make a living with WordPress and have a wonderful group of colleagues who I also call friends. We support each other, share laughs (even if they are just emoji laughs!) and frustrations. This group makes me better at what I do, and I am very grateful for them!

I continued to expand my SEO, Google Analytics and digital marketing knowledge and experience. This helps me better serve my clients as the digital space gets more crowded and complex.

I discovered a niche I love and am excited to pursue. I have been skeptical of choosing and declaring a “niche” for my business, as I love variety and don’t like turning away business (and wasn’t sure what my niche should be). However, I had some experiences this year building new websites for a variety of clients, and as I looked back, I realized that I did a better job, was more engaged and happier with the process when I was working with content that I understood and enjoyed. I also realized that I already had a good number of websites/clients within this category. While I am not opposed to working on other types of sites, I am going to spend my marketing energy looking for kid focused camps, schools, enrichment and non-profit programs in 2019.

I completed the Leadership Arlington program, and volunteered in my local community in a variety of ways, and helped some family members in crisis. This was a priority as I defined my goals and vision for the year/the future. I look forward to continuing to find ways to help those less fortunate.

I took time to express my love and gratitude to important people in my life. Whether with note cards, small notes, emails, text messages or small gifts, I made a point of letting people know I was thinking of them.

Having a plan and goals helps me as I strive to continue to grow as a business owner/website creator/digital marketer, friend, wife, mother and daughter. My overarching goal is to be the best human being I can be, by trying to get better every day.

For 2019, my vision includes 3 key goals:

1. Making more time to work ON rather than IN my business by relying on my team to take care of client requests and smaller projects. This includes:

  • Blogging a least twice a month on my Design TLC website
  • Cold calling new prospects weekly
  • Researching and analyzing my niche, looking for marketing opportunities

2. Making my mental and physical health more of a priority.

This is so easy to say, to start, but really hard to stick to! I am hoping I can be realistically committed to:

  • Taking more breaks through the day and getting away from my desk to move my body at least every hour.
  • Leaving my office by 6:30pm every day (oh, this is not realistic but I have hope!)
  • Taking yoga classes a couple of days a week
  • Continuing to run with my running group, bike with my cycling group and go to the gym, for 5-6 days of exercise per week
  • Planning focused time with my husband doing something fun or new at least once a month

3. Giving back to my local community and to the WordPress Community.

This will include:

  • Continuing to run the monthly WordPress Meetup in my area
  • Speaking at 1-2 WordCamps this year
  • Mentoring a local student
  • Volunteering at food distribution center
  • Reading to children monthly with Aspire! After School Program
  • Possible Website Weekend – need to pursue options or drop it
  • Other opportunities as they arise

I am going to try again to Block Schedule to hold myself accountable to my business and scheduling goals. I have failed miserably at previous attempts, but I am going to reward myself each week that I successfully discipline myself to stick to this schedule with a treat, like a manicure or dinner out!

 

If you have made it this far, thank you for reading this! I hope you are planning great things for 2019. I would love to hear what you are committing to, and am always looking for inspiration on how to be more disciplined in sticking to goals and plans.

Best wishes for the year ahead!

 

 

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