2021 Reflections - Apple Trees & The Possibility Of More Apples!
We are in the new year! Unfortunately, a new year does not mean everything magically resets. While we do have an opportunity to transform, it's not automatic. So, while our calendar has changed, the darkness and tragedy of 2020 have unfortunately followed us into 2021.
The new year launched with the horrific Capitol Insurrection event (partially driven by many vocal Christian nationalists), founded on a lie, and encouraged by a seditious president. And to imagine, it could have been dramatically worse (or prevented entirely)! This political drama is also shrouded by new records of COVID-19 related deaths — peaking at 4,194 deaths in one day — and the related and floundering vaccine rollout. And all of this doesn't include the likely global issues that are likely to continue unraveling (as we continue struggling internally).
This year is going to be another tough challenge for our country, communities, and us individuals in them. Thankfully, there is always a transcendent hope. This equips us to see these challenges as an opportunity to grow, to courageously solve these complex problems, and to remind us to live with gratitude.
So, this year, more than ever, it’s vital that we clearly articulate our vision and goals for the year. Without this clarity, we’re more likely to be sucked in by the many competing distractions fully formed around us. Don’t let 2021 end with a lost year of progress when you look back in twelve months. Reflecting back and planning forward have been two powerful habits that have helped me tackled numerous challenges and objectives.
For 2021, I’d like to sustain many of the great things I’ve added into my life over the past years while also injecting adjustments and new projects into the mix.
My past energy has been on sustaining while working to minimize what was holding us back. We’ve knocked out all debt, except the house, while also building family and community foundations that allow for growth in different areas. With more margin, we have less stress and more flexibility.
As this new year unfolds, I want to continue seeing progress across the board in the specific areas I’ll describe below. I’m most excited about developing things that generate results in a compounding way even if it’s a longer-term approach. Metaphorically speaking, I’m excited when my apple tree generates results, but the more apple trees I can plant and grow, the more total apples are possible in the future. This also diversifies the risk of only having one apple tree!
Let’s dive into my goals for the year and let them be an inspiration as you work on your 2021 aspirations.
New Projects & Existing Project Updates
These are the biggest and most important projects on my plate for 2021.
- New Book — From the Garden to the Cross: if it’s realistic to do so, I’d like to write one new book each year to build out my library of books. I’ve got four ideas and the next one of the bunch will focus on Jesus’ harrowing journey from the garden of Gethsemane to the crucifixion on the cross. The book will explore what we can learn about God and humanity from that monumental historical event. For me to finish by year's end, I need to complete 10% each month so I'm done by October, while also giving me two months to make revisions. I’m also exploring a publisher for this and future projects.
- Website Template & Library Structure Migration: Last year, I launched a new website template and logo but I’ve not yet migrated all categories to the new template or into the endgame content structure. I’d like to be fully migrated to the new template by the year’s end. With Joomla 4 coming out this year, I’m also planning to make that upgrade too. So, that means I need to roll out two categories per month to the new template and move those respective articles around.
- Podcast Name Change & New Episodes: My original plan was not to launch the podcast until 2021 but the unexpected pandemic accelerated my plans. With 37 episodes in the library, I’d like to add another 12 episodes this year. Additionally, I’ve decided to change the name from Grow Your Life to Share Life, which is also my personal Mission statement.
- Exercise: When it comes to exercise, I’ve been on and off with the habit. I’ve never sustained it over the long run but last year was going to be different and I established a routine where I worked out at the local community workout center. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, they closed, and my exercise routine was thwarted. So, to help remove the friction, I purchased an inexpensive rowing machine (affiliate link). This will allow me to merge the goal with my entertainment consumption so while I'm watching a movie or TV show, I can also exercise instead of sitting on the couch. My newly created standing desk (by my wonderful wife) is another step in living healthier.
- Blogging: For seven years, I’ve been blogging here! I pulled back dramatically on new publishing last year due to a planned year break. This year, I'll pick it back up at a monthly level. Expect to see at least 12 new blog posts from me this year.
- Sustaining Income with Fewer Hours: As has been my annual plan for the last several years, my paid work goal is to earn the same target income while working fewer hours each year. This recovered time can be redirected towards relationships and my side project work. Since I started freelancing, I’ve increased my rate by $5/hour each year. This year for the first time, I’ve increased it $10, to $110/hour. I started at $75/hour so that’s a total increase of $35/hour which means I now earn the same amount with 1/3 less time compared to the first year of freelancing.
Other sustaining goals include:
- Weekly Date Night With Kiddos: As I’ve done for several years, one day each week, I’ll take a kiddo out on a one-on-one date. with COVID, we had many drives instead of dine-in experiences but after recovering from the virus, it opens up our options.
- Bible Reading + My Utmost For His Highest: I’ll continue reading a devotional passage from Utmost and a section of the Bible as I read it from beginning to end.
- Monthly Days Off: As an expansion of my freelancing system, I plan my goal and work around taking a weekday off each month. This will continue.
- Side Work During Work Day: I’d like to relegate my book writing, blogging, podcasting and these other website updates activity to be done during the workday as opposed to nights and weekends. To make this happen will require I get more disciplined during my workdays to ensure I’m using the extra time I have for this purpose. One way to help me do this is to create a view in my Freelancing dashboard to track the number of days in the month, and where my hour tally needs to be by that time compared to where I am.
- Reading 12 Books: By slowing down in 2020, I was planning to read 24 books but with the craziness of the year fell short at 18. For this year, I’ll plan on finishing one each month. You can connect with me and follow along on Goodreads here.
- Church Volunteering: Our church has continued operating without a weekly gathering in-person. They are now planning to begin physical gatherings so I’ll continue volunteering as a greeter as part of the experimental phase.
- Continue Investments: With our debts addressed, we finally started our personal investments last year filing up a Roth IRA. We’ll continue this effort in 2021 and beyond.
Some other experimental and incidental ideas include:
- Opportunistic Gift Giving: I’ve leaned into riding the wave of gift-giving and would like to continue the practice of seeing great gift ideas for my wife, kids, and community.
- Prayer Journal: I’d like to have and use a physical prayer journal to collect the requests, needs, and desires of fellow Jesus followers (as well as those who are not so sure).
- Blog Audio Readings: I’ve done one of these. I’d like to have an audio reading of every blog post. But that’ll be awhile. In the meantime, I’d like to do it for some of the more popular content.
- Promoting Movie Shapes: With Movie Shapes — a better way to find, review, and share movies we love — now available, I’d like to experiment with ways I can tap into any opportunities to promote it. A video tutorial on creating a Movie Shapes profile would also be helpful for those who want to build their own profile.
- Blog Library Improvements: I intend to get to the point where I am able to keep the blog archives updated on an annual schedule, but until then it will be ad-hoc. I would go through the archives from the oldest to newest, updating posts and optimizing for SEO. I may also create some tags or lines to more clearly articulate the focused problem of the content and its solution to solve it.
- Private Community Group: I've got a client and some friends using and experimenting with Mighty Networks. While building a paid membership program is a great deal of work, it is something that aligns with my long term goals. If it makes sense, I'd like to explore getting something started with perhaps a free starting point and an expectation that it will have a fee in the future.
- Comic Strip?
- Family fun time?
As it would for you too, writing out my goals for the year gives me marching orders and increases the likelihood of the desired actions being executed. I tend to bite off a little more than I can chew, but that allows me some projects to work on should I get ahead of the plan. If I fall behind, I can simply roll the remaining items into next year’s project plan.
With a practice of reflecting back and planning forward, I’ve quickly discovered how much I can truly accomplish in a short period of time. And, being this diligent tracking the journey slows downtime for me (like watching a clock) so I can more enjoy and appreciate it. Without this habit, I’d expect my progress would have been negligible, only a fraction of what it has been.
So, what does your 2021 look like? What's the story you want to tell? What are the projects you want to start and finish?
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