Each year, I take some time in December to write my Annual Review. The purpose of this yearly report is to reflect on the previous twelve months and write an honest review of what went well, what could have gone better, and what I'm working toward.
My Annual Review is a time when I get to celebrate the hard work and important decisions I have made over the past year, while also taking stock of where I failed and how I can improve. Although you should highlight your victories, it's not about comparing yourself to others or picking a winner. The Annual Review is about seeing yourself for who you really are and thinking about the type of person you want to become. As I said earlier this year, keep your eyes on your own paper.
I will answer 3 questions in my 2014 Annual Review. (This is a format you are welcome to copy or modify if you feel like conducting your own annual review.)
- What went well this year?
- What didn’t go so well this year?
- What am I working toward?
Let's get after it…
1. What went well this year?
Writing. As regular readers know, I publish new articles every Monday and Thursday. I'm proud to say that I stuck to this schedule without missing a post in 2014. (I did take some time off during a planned sabbatical in June.)
The consistency paid off. JamesClear.com had more than 2.4 million visitors in 2014. (Thank you for reading!) In total, there are now 111,964 email subscribers who receive the free weekly newsletter. With over 100,000 email subscribers in just two years, I believe JamesClear.com is the fastest-growing single-author blog in the world. 1
Writing highlights for 2014:
- 88 new articles published (browse my best articles)
- 70,839 new email subscribers (111,964 total)
- 2,485,951 unique visitors
Travel. I visited 7 countries and 14 states in 2014. These numbers are similar to last year, which means that international travel is becoming a normal part of my life. Honestly, this is pretty hard to believe. Just four years ago, I had never been outside of North America. As of 2014, I have been to 23 countries in total. That said, I still love family vacations to Kentucky state parks.
Travel highlights for 2014:
- 7 countries (4 new): Canada, Denmark, England (twice), Morocco, Scotland, Spain, United States.
- 14 states (2 new): California (twice), Colorado, Florida (twice), Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas (twice), Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin.
Strength Training. Consistency is everything when it comes to strength training. My goal is to be the type of person who doesn't miss workouts (more here), and I did a good job of that this year. Overall, I did 113 strength training workouts in 2014. This is an average of 9.4 per month. Next year, I'd like to increase this to 120 total workouts (an average of 10 per month).
Workouts per month in 2014:
- January – 7
- February – 7
- March – 10
- April – 12
- May – 6
- June – 10
- July – 9
- August – 12
- September – 9
- October – 13
- November – 6
- December – 12
My best lifts of 2014:
- Clean – 275 lbs (124 kg) for 1 rep
- Back Squat – 405 lbs (183 kg) for 1 rep
- Bench Press – 220 lbs (100 kg) for 5 sets of 5 reps
- Deadlift – 455 lbs (206 kg) for 2 reps
Speaking. I was fortunate to speak at a variety of events this year in Long Beach, Dallas, Miami, London (twice), Statesboro, and Raleigh. I even had the chance to speak at the Google Campus in London. That said, I still haven't decided how big of a role I want speaking to play in my business. (I don't really want to be on the road speaking at 50 different events per year.)
Simplifying my business life. Focus is a trademark of the world's greatest entrepreneurs (see Warren Buffett). I still have plenty of progress to make in this area, but I did take a step forward this year. I closed two old business projects that were underperforming. I cancelled three software services that I was paying for, but rarely used. I also switched my email marketing service (from Aweber to Drip) and my website hosting provider, which saved over $1,000 per month in expenses. Perhaps the biggest improvement: I became better at saying no and turned down multiple offers to partner with people on new businesses or otherwise spread myself too thin.
Giving the credit to others. During my sabbatical in June, I thought about how I could improve my writing and give more credit to the people who inspire me and influence my work. My first improvement was citing sources at the end of my articles. I also made an effort to verbally cite sources in interviews (I usually do 3 to 5 interviews per week). My favorite improvement, though, was creating my Thank You page. This page is a small tribute to the people who have helped me throughout my life.
2. What didn’t go so well this year?
Working on my weaknesses. Below, I have listed four major areas that I struggled with this year. The surprising thing? These four were also on my list last year. There are two interesting things I noticed. First, although I struggled in the same areas it was often for different reasons. Second, this could mean I am really staying focused on a few core areas (good) or that I am stumbling around and not focusing enough on the things I say are important to me (bad). I still haven't figured out which one it is.
Creating products. Sigh. This was a failure no matter how you slice it. While I did launch two workshops and a larger course this year, I didn't have the customer support systems in place to respond to issues quickly. I learned a lot, but I still feel bad that customers had to wait for the answers they needed. I also failed to complete the most important project: writing my book. I've written about big project syndrome before and I struggled with it again this year.
Doing travel photography work. File this one under the started-strong-but-limped-across-the-finish-line category. I began the year by doing a two-week photography trip to Morocco. It was incredible. A few months later, I took photos in Rocky Mountain National Park. During the second half of the year, however, I tried to cram photography work into trips with family and friends, which rarely worked out well. Next year, I would love to blend the storytelling of my photos with my weekly articles.
Sprinting. This is one of those areas that I know I need to work on, but for some reason I just don't do it. I know my hamstrings are a weak point when it comes to strength and that I need more cardio work. And yet, I barely did a sprint workout in 2014. Even though I write about building habits that stick, I have often said that I don't have perfect habits myself. My lack of sprinting is another reminder that behavior change is hard and we're all in this together.
Making people wait on me. I'm always trying to fit too many tasks into too little time. The result? I end up making the people who love me the most wait on me.
3. What am I working toward?
My attention will be focused on two areas in 2015.
Going pro as a writer. I've been a full-time entrepreneur for four years now. I've started four different businesses (two of which succeeded) and a number of smaller projects. Someday I'll share the full story. But more than anything I've done, I love writing my articles each week and helping people build habits that stick. So, it's time to phase out other projects and turn pro. Mostly, that means finishing my first book. And 2015 is the year to do it.
Unifying our community. We have over 100,000 people receiving the free newsletter each week. Millions more read these articles each year. This is no longer a random collection of people on the web. We are a community now, and every community has a worldview that unites its members. After much thought, I believe that our worldview is built around 3 core principles and 3 daily actions.
- Self-Respect: Authenticity, Balance, Happiness
- Resiliency: Preparedness, Strength, Sisu
- Growth: Learning, Adventure, Taking Action
- Habits: Am I doing the right things consistently?
- Creativity: Am I contributing to the world or just consuming it?
- Service: Am I taking actions that make the lives of others better?
I can't predict the future, but I can tell you that no matter where our community goes, these principles will be part of the journey.
The Bottom Line
I have said many times this year that I am not an expert. In most of the areas above (even the good ones), I don’t have it all figured out. I’m just sharing what I learn along the way.
As always, it is a privilege to write for you. Thanks for reading.2
The Annual Review Archives
This is a complete list of Annual Reviews I have written.
There are plenty of websites with multiple authors and employees that have grown faster than JamesClear.com. However, if you know of a single-author blog that has grown faster, then let me know. If you're curious, here are two other single-author blogs that grew very quickly: Zen Habits (50,000 subscribers in 2 years) and Social Triggers (71,000 subscribers in 21 months).
Thanks to Chris Guillebeau for inspiring me to do an Annual Review each year.