Between Christmas and New Years Eve, I took a few hours to look back on my 2018. I reviewed my time sheets, my projects, my business development tracker, my calendar, and my journal. I reflected on my wins, my challenges, my values, and my goals both for my business and for my personal life.
As we are settling into the new year, I’d like to share some highlights from my Annual Review with you. My hope is that this essay encourages you to take the time to reflect on your last 12 months, and gives you an honest look into my life at the moment.
This year, I’m structuring my annual review as answers to the following three questions:
1. What is the story of my life last year?
2. What did I learn from pursuing my goals?
3. What am I working towards this year?
What was the story in my life last year?
From all that review, if I could put my 2018 into a few words, those would be “All In”.
There were no monumental changes in my life in 2018 – no international travel or cross-country road trips, no moving or switching jobs for my wife or myself. The year was filled with long work-weeks, broken up by skiing, hiking, and construction projects on weekends. In short, making progress on the projects I started in 2017.
My home office is less quiet now, as my wife and I welcomed a rescued puppy – a border collie named Lucy – into our home last October. I’m also commuting to client meetings in a new truck, a huge improvement from the beat-up Dodge 1500 van that served double duty as a camper and an office-on-the-road.
My business has been successful, and has pushed me to grow in great ways. Being sound financially as an independent consultant is no small feat! I worked with 20 nonprofit clients in 2018, and gained traction with some new types of projects. I’ve also struggled mightily to keep up with my workload, and making quality time to spend with my wife and friends has been a challenge I haven’t yet solved.
What did I learn from pursuing my goals?
At the beginning of 2018, I committed myself to several goals. I learned so much from pursuing them, and I’ll share those learnings here. For each goal, I also gave myself a rating from 1 (completely failed) to 10 (hit this goal out of the park).
Goal 1: Become as professional about developing my business as executing my client work.
Score: 9/10. The first few months of 2018 were incredibly stressful, as I had little work and no pipeline of new consulting clients. I realize now that I under-invested in networking and other business development activities in the fall of 2017 due to several major overlapping projects. In 2018 I began tracking all of my business development activities, and set a monthly target of 8 one-on-one conversations with potential clients. I also began pitching training topics to relevant conferences and associations. My sales habits and pipeline are significantly stronger now – there’s still so much to do, but I’ve made some progress.
Goal 2: Win and execute 150+ hours of analytics and evaluation consulting work.
Score: 10/10. I thought this goal was in the bag in January 2018, when I was a finalist for an evaluation contract with an education organization. That didn’t pan out, and it took months until I had a conversation with Banks Benitez at Uncharted about revamping their impact measurement strategy. That eventually matured into my biggest and most rewarding consulting project of the 2018.
Goal 3: Significantly increase my statistics knowledge.
Score: 3/10. I work in a field where most professionals have graduate degrees and formal training in statistical analysis, so I know I need to fill this gap in my knowledge. In 2018 I decided to transition from completing online courses (which I would invariably stall on) to reading through books to increase my knowledge. My intent was to get through three books – I made it through one during the year. The problem here is that I intend to allocate an hour each morning (6 – 7 am) for personal learning. However, I wasn’t disciplined in my sleep schedule over the summer so getting up for this was a struggle. In the fall, I was better about getting up but had so much billable work that I needed to use my mornings on client projects instead of learning. Reclaiming my mornings for learning is one of my priorities for 2019.
Goal 4: Take up a weekly, social hobby for at least 3 months:
Score: 6/10. Technically, I fully completed this when I joined one of Mile High Ultimate Frisbee’s spring leagues. Participating in that league was a blast, but with summer travel and then a very busy fall of work, I just didn’t have time to participate in another league. Moreover, I realized that this goal didn’t move me closer to my ultimate aim of building a better community of friends in Denver. I didn’t have any prior connections with my teammates, and I realized a once-a-week sports league for three months isn’t enough time to build meaningful friendships. This next year, I need to focus more of my time with existing friends and acquaintances here in Denver.
Goal 5: Build muscle (target weight = 170 lbs.)
Score: 7/10. I actually lowered my sights for this goal over the year, from a target of 170 lbs. to a target of 165 lbs. (I started the year at 159). Despite that, I feel good about my progress. I’ve struggled to gain strength for years. It took a lot of discipline to make progress in 2018 – sticking to a workout routine, recovering from injuries, trying to get enough sleep to adequately recover, and trying to eat enough while keeping my diet healthy. In this process, I came to terms with what I would need to do to gain more weight: I would need to up my sleep to closer to 9 hours a night, eliminate alcohol from my diet, and increase the length of my workouts to ~90 minutes three times per week. It would be very difficult for me to fit these into my current lifestyle, so I’m comfortable with just maintaining the progress I have made.
Goal 6: Take 5 digital-detoxes throughout the year (defined as 4 consecutive days offline)
Score: 9/10. My digital-detoxes were: March – skiing in Tahoe (4 days); July – trip to Chicago (5 days); September – College friends’ reunion in Arizona (4 days); November – Thanksgiving (4 days); December – Christmas through New Year’s (10 days). I felt so much better about my work, and did better work after each digital detox. However, they still didn’t feel like quite enough. I had a habit of overworking myself to the point of burnout prior to these days off, so I was recovered but not necessarily energized when I returned. Next year, my goal is to space this time off better throughout the year, and try to add one more day to these digital detoxes so I have more time to recover.
What am I working toward this year?
In 2019, I want to build off of what I’ve learned and adjust. When I was thinking about my goals for 2019, they fell into five categories, and I’m focusing on 1-2 goals in each per quarter:
Category: Prepare my business for growth
Q1 Goal: Align my rates for my long-term clients to those I’m charging new clients
Category: Model health and effective habits
Q1 Goal: Begin my morning routine at 6 am daily
Q1 Goal: Consume 5 or fewer alcoholic drinks per week
Category: Take four digitally-free vacations (5+ days)
Q1 Goal: Book June and September vacations
Category: Transform my home
Q1 Goal: Find and hire a landscape designer
Category: Have a social life
Q1 Goal: Take Melissa on one truly interesting / unique date night per month (this means each week I should try to make a date night fun and creative, knowing that some things I try won’t pan out)
2019 – Let’s Do This
I know I’ll need to continue being “all in” to make these goals a reality. What are you working towards? If you have important goals you are focused on this year I’d love to learn about them, and hear how I can help you stay on track. If nothing else, I want you to know I’m here struggling with you, and I’m grateful for your continued support.