My 2013 Goals — An Unexpectedly Successful Year

Happy almost New Year everyone. One of the things that’s become tradition for me as one year ends and another begins is to look back at the goals I set at the start of the year and give myself a grade based on my success or lack of success. I then use the evaluation as a springboard to set goals for the year ahead.

If you’ve been reading here awhile you likely know the routine. Today, with the last post of 2013, I’ll look back give myself a critique based on the year’s goals. On Thursday, with the first post of 2014, I’ll share new goals for the coming year.

2013 calendar over a snowy mountain background

If you’re interested in how I’ve done in the past when it comes to completing goals here are previous year end posts.

My Goals for 2013

Last year I was ambitious and set 6 goals for year. Of course, I had many more small goals throughout the year and plenty of goals to meet within these 6 goals. The idea is these are the 6 big things I wanted to accomplish last year that took more than a day or two to complete.

  • Transition my business toward product based revenue
  • Set up a better development workflow
  • Make improvements to this site
  • Continue down my new blogging path
  • Improve task and time management
  • Learn more about color

If each of the above is worth a single point, I’m giving myself 4.75 points out of a possible 6.0. Read on for details of how I decided on that grade.

Transition My Business Toward Product Based Revenue

Done. I defined the goal somewhat loosely as having a product of some sort to sell. Even when I made the goal I knew that product would be a book and a year later, I did finish a book. It might have taken a little longer than I expected, but I did finish so check the box on this goal.

This wasn’t really just about writing a book or having a product for sale though. For a variety of reasons I want to mix up how I earn a living and transition from earning everything by serving clients to earning some through clients and some through my own creations.

In addition to finishing the book, I increased advertising revenue here and on my forum. Neither is anything I’m going to retire on soon, but together they generate some additional income each month for doing something I was already doing.

The combination of book sales and advertising now gives me a small base of revenue each month for work I either would be doing anyway or work that I’ve already done.

Set up a Better Development Workflow

Not really. In some sense yes I did complete this goal, but not at all how I expected or in the way I was thinking. When the year started my goal was to be using Git on every project, and while not specifically mentioned, be pushing changes to servers instead of practicing cowboy coding.

I can’t say I’m doing either. I do have Git installed locally and have played around with it on some personal projects. I even have a GitHub account, though I’m mostly using it to bookmark projects that look interesting.

I have to admit I’m still confused somewhat by Git and version control. I get why version control is important and do understand the basics of using Git. What confuses me is how do I use it in practice and integrate it into my current workflow. Little decisions like how should I set up project directories and which folders do I need to have Git watch are harder for me to make than they should be.

Another part of this goal was to make better and more use of Sass in projects, which I’ve certainly done. There’s plenty more I can and should do with Sass, but as far as the goal is concerned, I’ve done exactly what I set out to do. I can’t remember the last project where I didn’t use it.

Deployment wasn’t specifically a goal this year, but I had hoped I would be on the way by this point and I’m not really close.

With that said, I did make a lot of changes to my design and development process. I moved away from comps and toward prototypes. I involve clients more in the process, which has generally resulted in fewer issues and happier clients. In many respects I do now how have a better development workflow. It’s just not the one I expected to change.

Make Improvements to This Site

Yes, though also not quite how I expected. When setting the goal I listed 5 things I might potentially do to improve the site. I knew I wouldn’t get to all of them and was somewhat noncommittal about doing the specific things listed. I had and have a much longer list of things to do on the site and the goal was to do some of them.

Here’s what I actually listed:

  • Optimize the speed of the site
  • Add a forum
  • Create unique designs for pages outside of the blog
  • Improve the archives filtering
  • Redevelop the site using Sass

I did optimize the place to make pages load quicker. It may not feel like it as you’re browsing, but trust me the site loads quicker than it did at the start of the year.

First I made some of the basic tweaks you can find in any article about page speed like making sure gzip is set up. I also followed some of the general advice given in YSlow, though not all of it. I switched caching plugins from Super Cache to W3 Total Cache and tweaked its settings for my server.

I also worked with my host to tweak the server itself and eventually threw some money at the problem and upped my resources on the server. There’s still more to do, but a lot has already been done.

As part of getting the site ready to sell a book, I added a forum behind the scenes. At the moment it’s available only to myself and anyone who’s purchased the book and quite honestly it’s a very lonely place (only one person besides myself has posted anything and that was specifically at my request), but as far as this goal is concerned I added a forum to the site.

I didn’t create the unique page designs and likely won’t bother until it’s time for another redesign. I didn’t improve the archives page, which is something I really wanted to do and should shave done (It’ll be a goal for 2014). I also didn’t redevelop the site using Sass, though I never expected to. It seemed like a lot of work for something that made more sense to do with the next design.

Continue Down My New Blogging Path

Yes, though again not quite as expected. I’ve clearly been delivering on the podcasts. It looks like I managed to do 25 of them this year. At least that’s how many I tagged as podcast. I think I’m getting better at producing them as well and hopefully you agree.

On the other hand I didn’t find or create a new way to house demos. In fact I’m debating if it’s something I should develop here or if I should simply use CodePen or similar. I think I did a few more demos this year though so that’s positive.

I didn’t try screencasting as much as I had hoped. I created just the one (demonstrating a very simple and limited color tool I built), but one is better than none I suppose and it’s a step in the right direction.

I still find myself with a mental block when it comes to screencasts. I realize I simply need to practice a bit until I’m happy enough to show people, but I keep letting small excuses stop me from trying. I’ll tell myself I don’t have enough time for the practice or I’m not sure what would make for a good idea or I think about what a pain it is to close running apps and reset the resolution of my monitor for better recording.

None of the above should really stop me from screencasting as they’re all minor annoyances instead of real problems, but something in me keeps letting little things like these get in the way.

For the most part though I consider this goal met, since I did continue down a path I started at the end of 2012.

Improve Task and Time Management

The goal that never really can be checked as complete. No matter how much you get done, you can always improve so it’s simply a judgement call as to whether or not I succeeded.

I do think I was able to get more done in 2013 than in years past and to some degree that’s due to having made improvements in both task and time management. In some ways it was a matter of getting busy at times that are usually slowest and having no choice, but to get more done.

At the start of the year, I did improve on my GTD system using Things. I’d be lying if I said I used the set up as efficiently as I could. Too often I use it as a simple list of things to do today or tomorrow and I still create lists for of things I need to do for projects in .txt files outside of the system.

I’m not sure if the problem is me, Things, GTD in general, or something else entirely. I suspect it’s a bit of all. As hard as it is to know where task and time management is concerned, I do think I completed this goal. I did make improvements and I did get more done this year than in years past.

Learn More About Color

Yes, and for a change, exactly how I expected. I even predicted when I would complete this goal and I was pretty much on schedule. In fairness it was a rather easy goal for me to complete and one I knew I would get done.

For my birthday I asked my brother for some books through Amazon (Thanks David) and included several books about color in the list. I started reading them as soon as they arrived, alternating a color book with one on a different subject.

I wrote a handful of posts, generally increased my understanding of how color works and even built a rather simple color tool. Since the spring I’ve generally been paying more attention to color, in my work, in the work of others, while walking around town, watching TV, leafing through a magazine, and on and on.

I think the last couple of sites I designed made better use of color than previous sites. There’s no question I need a lot more practice, but there’s also no question my understanding and skill with color has improved and that I completed this goal exactly as I set it out at the start of the year.

Summary

If you’re keeping score here’s how I evaluate all of the above

  • 3 goals completed, sort of, but not quite as expected.
  • 2 goals completed as expected, one of which was my primary goal for the year.
  • 1 goal completed even though it never feels completed and it’s hard to know how successful I’ve been.

I’m giving myself a grade of 4.75 out of 6.0. I took off a quarter point each for the site improvements I didn’t make and also for the lack of screencasts. I took off three quarters of a point for my development workflow. Even though I did make some significant changes and improvements, I didn’t really make much progress on the main goal as I defined it.

I am giving myself full points for the remainder. I did transition the business with a book and increased advertising revenue. Regardless of how it feels, I did improve my task and time management and did get more done this year. And I did learn more about color exactly as I expected and wanted.

That’s how 2013 went for me where goals are concerned. Next up are my goals for 2014, which I’ll share later in the week when it’s actually 2014.

Have a Happy New Year everyone.

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