The Year To Come: Looking Ahead To 2011

A few days ago I shared the successes and failures of my goals for 2010. I also offered some reasons why I think it’s important to look back and review what you have and haven’t accomplished. Today I want to share some goals for 2011 and offer thoughts on why setting goals is important.

2011 calendar cover with a drop of water inside a curled leaf

Below are a few of my looking ahead posts from years past. I linked to the first one last time and the other two posts are the 2nd parts of the others I also linked to last time around.

Journal entry with title 'My life in 10 years'

Why Set Goals?

I mentioned last time how the review process helps to identify patterns that can limit your success and that the process helps you stay focused.

One of my goals from a few years ago was to be more productive and toward that end I’ve been taking advantage of task management software and systems which include weekly and monthly reviews.

Setting and reviewing goals on a regular basis helps you see the big picture. It’s very easy to get lost in the minutiae of the day to day of running a business, but when you spend the time to set and review goals it helps you take a step back and see the forest through the trees.

Taking some time to set larger goals allows you to step back and really look at your business. When I set goals I try to set them in the overall direction I have planned for my business, which naturally gets me thinking about the overall direction of the business again.

A nice bonus of having goals give you something to work on during the ebbs in client work that inevitably occur.

There’s also something to the act of writing things down and sharing them. It makes a commitment to do what you wrote and shared and has a tendency to actually get you to do those things.

Done well setting goals can keep you focused on the big picture while providing realistic projects for the months and year ahead. And as with reviews it works best when you set and review goals more consistently than once a year.

2011 calendar with illustration of girl looking up at the moon and stars

My Goals for 2011

Last year I said I was being ambitious listing 4 goals for the year. I’ll be ambitious again and list 4 this year as well. One of the goals will really come about as part of one of the others and like last year I’ve left one a little vague.

  • Redesign this site
  • Develop a WordPress theme framework for myself
  • Continue Improving the small business forum
  • Write an ebook

Hopefully this time next year I’ll be telling you how I got all 4 done. Even better you’ll see them getting done during the year. I think the first 3 are very doable. The last I also think doable, but having never written an entire book before, I’m not sure what to expect.

Also the goals above tie in to goals of years past. Some of my goals from prior years, such as being more productive and writing better content, are ongoing goals. I don’t list them here, but I’m still working on them.

Design is so simple. That's why it's so complicated.

Redesign This Site

I’ve been wanting to redesign this site since the day I introduced the current design. Actually I was ready for a redesign before I introduced the current one. The design you see today was one I came up with a year before anyone else saw it. It looks dated to me and I don’t think it reflects my current skills as a web designer and developer or reflect the kind of site I would design for a client.

There are things I realize I failed to style the first time around or could have set up more flexibly. Neither the visual design nor the code behind the design is as good as it could and should be. A redesign will also give me an opportunity to put into practice some of the theory I’ve recently taught myself.

There are also issues with the design inluding some that affect working with it on a daily basis like

  • Not enough room in the content section
  • 3 columns where only 2 are needed
  • Blog categories I never use
  • A lack of tags on posts
  • 1 px misalignment in the navigation bar

I could go on and on and on with all the little things I don’t like about the site as it is.

I also have some ideas for things I’d like to do here that would be hard to integrate into the current design. I’ll hold back on sharing some of those ideas since many aren’t all that fleshed out and I’d rather not promise a few things I may not be able to do. Suffice it to say the current design won’t be able to handle well some things I’d like to do.

I talk about communicating messages and creating unity and harmony between all your messages and design elements. Well the message I want to convey has changed somewhat from what it was a few years ago.

Then I was interested in having this site align with a certain group of people who were becoming my clients. Now I want to communicate more the information and educational resource I’d like to think I’ve been building here.

New message —> new design.

There’s more, but what it comes down to is over the last few years I’ve changed and my business has changed, which means the design of this site should change as well to reflect those other changes.

And to top it all off I’m a bit jealous of designing and developing better sites for my clients than what I have here and want to change that.

WordPress logo

Develop a WordPress Framework for Myself

This is me scaling back the WordPress site I’ve been wanting to develop these last couple of years. Again I still want to do this and this will be the first step.

Whenever I think about a WordPress site I naturally think of offering themes and/or a theme framework. I also think a lot about having enough content to maintain a blog. Last year I gave myself a small start on the content and this year I’d like to have a theme framework in place.

The idea serves 2 purposes.

  1. It will speed up my own development time. I currently use a mostly blank theme when turning html/css into a WordPress theme. I think I can do better than a mostly blank theme and think a framework will lead to quicker and better WordPress development in my own work.
  2. As the framework evolves I expect it to reach a point where other WordPress developers will also find it useful. There are plenty of good theme frameworks out already, but I think I have some ideas to make them easier for some to use.

My goal for 2011 is more the first idea. SInce I haven’t built the WordPress site I keep setting as a goal I thought I’d set something that will help lead to that site as a goal instead.

I’ll get the start of the framework going when I redesign this site. It’s something I would be mostly doing anyway. If by the end of the year I’m using the framework as a starting point for all or most of my WordPress development I’ll consider this goal successfully completed. If it happens to lead to a WordPress site sooner so much the better.

It’s not part of the current goal, but I’m also hoping to work a little more on some of the WordPress related content I started this past year. It’ll either be cornerstone content for the site I hope to build or it will be a stockpile of posts I can use here or for guest posting.

Screen shot of the small-business-forum.net home page

Continue Improving the Small Business Forum

Again I’ve left this goal a little vague. In part it’s because my plan for the forum is still rather loose and informal. The first part of this goal is really tightening the plan and organizing the ideas I’ve put down into a more cohesive whole.

There are a few things I know I want to do.

  • Continue fixing and improving things. I did take care of the most important fixes, but I know there are plenty of small improvements I need to make. There are also a number of modules that I’d like to add to help make the place run smoother.
  • Automate admin tasks. There are a number of tasks from backing up the forum database to fighting spam than can be automated better and more than they currently are.
  • Upgrade the forum software to vBulletin’s full publishing suite for reasons I’ll talk about more below.

As with this site I see my small business forum as one that could do well with advertising if it grows large enough. Nothing as obnoxious as I’ve seen on some forums, but enough to generate a significant amount of money. It’s time the forum starts paying its own way and then some.

What the full publishing suite does is allow for non forum content to be easily present on the site. It can be used to publish articles and forum members can be given permission to publish blog posts.

While I don’t plan on letting every member of the forum publish on the site. there are a select group among the existing community who I think could be counted on to create content worthy of reading and spreading.

Allowing those select few to publish should improve overall traffic and visibility to the site, the community, and the authors. In the end I think it will be a win-win for both the site and those members who contribute.

Ideally I might publish there once a week and have the community supply 4 more blog posts or articles for the week. At the least the posts and articles should serve as starter topics for forum threads. At best they should help bring more people to the site and the community.

Setting up the publishing suite and working toward some community generated content will be my main goal with improving the forum this year.

2 hands holding ebook readers

Write an eBook

It sounds a bit scary just typing it, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile and will work toward making it happen this year.

I have a few ideas for books I’m qualified to write and have already worked on the outline for a book about visual design. What it needs next is fleshing out the outline a little more and then filling in with lots of words.

Digital products are something I want to add here as a way to scale my business and having one or more ebooks for sale is part of that overall plan

Given my enjoyment for writing as well as the compliments I sometimes receive from those who’ve read what I’ve written, an ebook seems like a natural fit for me. Add to that an enjoyment of learning and teaching and an ebook was probably inevitable.

I’m somewhat nervous about the whole idea and I’m wondering if I’m biting more than I can chew with this one, but I’m up for the challenge and excited at some of the things I can do in an ebook that I don’t really get to do here on the blog. Mostly that will mean being able to design the pages of the book in a way that reinforces the text.

We’ll see in about 12 months if I can make this happen. I suspect that those of you who enjoy reading posts here will enjoy what I have planned for the book. Wish me luck on this one.

Without some goals and some efforts to reach it, no man can live

Summary

Those are some of my big goals for 2011. It feels good to have shared and also a little scary knowing I’ve put some things out there that you’ll be watching to see if I get done.

That works since it’s part of the idea of writing them here. I’ve set a challenge for myself to keep me focused and give me some direction for the year ahead.

I may not get to everything, but having goals will motivate me to get as many done as I can. Sharing them will make me work a little harder to get them done too.

Feel free to offer your thoughts about my goals and plans. Am I crazy to think I can get everything done and still run a business and 2 sites? Are there things here I should forget about and some others I need to consider?

How about you? As I asked last time do you set goals for your business? Is it a once a year thing or do you set goals regularly and consistently review how you’re doing? And do you find the setting of goals helpful for your business?

2011 desktop wallpaper calendar

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

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