It seems like just yesterday that I carefully laid out my red moleskin notebook and Pilot multicolored ballpoint pens to outline my 2011 New Years resolutions. Alas, it was actually a year ago. I still can’t believe 2011 is almost over.
Anyway, enough of my indulgent revelry. The end of the year always prompts reflection for me, and as I so clearly outlined my goals for the year in late 2010 I wanted to take this opportunity to see how I stacked up.
People much smarter than I have written about the process of doing an annual review. You ask yourself two key questions. 1) What went well? and 2) What didn’t go well? The reflection allows you to better steer your course for the upcoming year.
All in all, 2011 went pretty well. My goals for 2011 were split into several categories, including Muse, Writing, Health, Organization and Fun Stuff/Hobbies. The first two categories were where I put the most attention.
1. Muse. One of my principal goals for 2011 was to start a “muse,” or passive-income lifestyle business a la The 4-Hour Workweek. I’ve since realized it’s better to start with any business than trying to go straight for a passive income business, since you need to start somewhere. My goals in this category were vague, but reflected that I didn’t know exactly what direction I wanted to go with things, but knew I needed to start taking action. I had read Tim Ferriss’ book over a year and a half earlier but had yet to take any measurable action.
My goals were:
- brainstorm ideas
- research –> narrow down
- take action – choose one idea and go with it
- readjust target based on progress
- in one year: $1000-3000/month income
I had more specific goals of certain skills I wanted to learn, including web programming (html/css, Dreamweaver, WordPress), Photoshop, and tax strategy/tax law. Check and mate on all of those except for the tax law one (although I did hire a good accountant).
How I did. I’m pretty happy with my success in this category. Despite the vague goals I made a lot of progress. It started in January when I discovered the online course AffiloBlueprint, which teaches how to make affiliate websites. I quickly built up my first website, and over the course of the year built two more. While I found this work extremely tedious and only made about $100 from my sites (largely related to not seeing the work through), I learned how to build websites, which served me later in the year when started building websites for money.
In August, my cousin approached me asking if I could help him build a website for his urology practice. I had talked with him about my affiliate sites and so when he needed a website he called me up. I ended up building his site within a few weeks and charging him $1200, of which $1000 was net income (I spent some more outsourcing articles and buying stock images).
All of the sudden, promoting myself as a web developer started to sound like a damn good idea. I built two more sites for a friend of Peter’s for about $1800 each. I also got several smaller jobs doing website edits (through Craigslist) and made a few extra hundred dollars here and there.
I didn’t exactly accomplish my income goals, although I was close. My idea at the time was that by the end of the year I’d have a passive income business that would be earning me $1000-3000/month in extra income without additional work. In retrospect this was probably too lofty of a goal. However, I did make about $6000 building websites in the second half of the year, which averages to $1000/month. To continue earning this kind of money, though, would require continued effort seeking out clients and building sites, which I’m not sure at this point is a worthwhile effort (keep reading to hear more on that).
2. Writing. My second most important set of goals for the year was related to writing projects, mostly surrounding this blog. I had started the blog in the middle of my 4th year of medical school but had yet to do much with it and had written only a handful of posts. My goals were to:
- post regularly (1x/week)
- build up readership –> social media, guest posts, publicize, study blogging technique
- redesign site
How I did. These goals were also vague, so on some level I accomplished them, although I certainly could have done a lot more. Around March I joined the A List Blogging Club, which launched me into a whole new world of blogging strategy. I connected with some blogger friends and landed a guest post with one of the co-directors of the program, Mary Jaksch. I joined Aweber and started an email list and now have ~115 subscribers. The numbers aren’t that impressive, but I learned some techniques that I feel confident I could kick into high gear at any time if I wanted to greatly expand my subscriber base. It would just require a certain amount of effort that I didn’t make my top priority this year.
I didn’t hit my goal for posting frequency, although I got close, and had about 4x more posts than in 2010. At one point I tried to aim for 2 posts/week instead of 1, but was able to sustain this frequency only briefly.I did average about 1 post/week overall, which the exception of a few months where I didn’t have any posts.
I did succeed in doing a major redesign of the site. I changed to the Thesis theme, which I customized myself using my newfound WordPress ninja skills. I also designed all the images for the site using Photoshop, which I learned by watching about 40 hours of tutorial videos I found online.
I’m going to skim through the next three categories of goals, because I didn’t dedicate as much time to them and there isn’t as much to say.
3. Health. I had vague goals (are you seeing a patten that I tend to make vague goals?) about eating better and exercising more that I didn’t really accomplish. I tend to eat pretty well anyway, and after getting my bicycle started riding to work, which got me some default exercise. I can’t say I made any real, consistent effort to improve in this category though.
4. Organization. I don’t even know why I made organization goals, since I’m already extremely (obsessively?) organized. I had a couple of projects I wanted to get to, including organizing my finances, music, apartment, email, computer, and filing system. I did go through an revamp my finances, and now use a Mac-friendly program called iBank to keep track of my spending and budget. I gave away or sold a lot of old stuff that had been laying around my aparmtnent, like an old dvd player, my first snowboard, clothes I don’t wear, etc. I implemented a new email organization system a la Getting Things Done.
4. Fun Stuff/Hobbies. This category included getting my motorcycle license, surfing, snowboarding, cooking, travel, music (playing it), and getting into photography and/or directing mini movies. Again, I didn’t put any real or specific effort into any of these categories (the idea was just to make time for hobbies I enjoy), but I did get my motorcycle license, go on a couple snowboarding trips, surf regularly through the summer and fall, improve my cooking skills (although that fell off toward the end of the year as I got absorbed into other projects, and write a new ukulele song, the Intern Year Ukulele Song.
Reflections on the year
So I’ve talked about what I did and didn’t accomplish, but that’s only part of the story of what I’ve learned and what will help me moving forward. Overall, what I’m most happy about is my side web development business, but will I continue making websites into the new year? I’m leaning toward no. I thought that if I could earn enough making websites, it could be more valuable (and interesting) to continue with that business instead of moonlighting in my 3rd year of residency. However, moonlighting gigs start at $100/hour, and I had trouble earning more than $50 with the web design business. There was so much uncompensated work (seeking out clients, emailing, phone conversations, billing, doing small edits for free) that it seriously cut down on my hourly rate.
The web development stuff was a rapid-fire lesson in small business, and I’m glad I did it, but I’ve realized I need to think BIGGER. I need to set my sites higher. After all, am I really a web developer? Not really. But do you know what I am? A doctor. A psychiatry resident at a top program. A member of the AOA honor society (given to the top 15% of medical school graduates). A Harvard grad. A quick and motivated learner. A decent writer, perhaps? I want to start leveraging these unique skills and advantages into a much more lucrative, and much more meaningful project. I’m still trying to think up exactly what that will be, but I feel like I’m moving in the right direction.
What about you? How did 2011 go?
Image by Kevin Dooley