In 2015, I wrote my first public annual review. It recounted the good and bad of the past year and plans for the next.
This year's annual review is a little different.
In addition to answering the same 3 questions:
- What went well in 2016
- What didn't go well in 2016
- What I’m working toward next year
I’m picking a personal theme to anchor me throughout next year.
This theme will help me define my goals and strategies to accomplish those goals. My hope is that my theme will become part of my daily life and guide me to conquer more of my fears.
I’ll tell you more about my theme in a moment, but first, let’s start the review.
What Went Well This Year
Development of Inner Strength
I've noticed that things that would scare me or make me anxious in the past aren't as bad as they used to be. I don't have it all together, but I'm beginning to see some real progress in areas of my life. For example, starting conversations, making more eye contact during interactions, and being less worried about overall outcomes.
It took me about 3 months, way longer than I expected, to redesign my blog. I did a lot of surveying and reading about the things many of you struggled with and decided to reboot my blog to better serve you. I also narrowed my topic focus, but more on that in a second. Then, in October, I relaunched Discarded Anxiety with a new look and platform.
I love how it turned out.
A Narrowed Focus
Along with the new design came a focus on social anxiety.
After reviewing all of the surveys I ran prior to my redesign, I notice that social anxiety was the main issue that the majority of readers are struggling with.
So, I took it as a sign to direct my writing toward helping you overcome social anxiety. The narrowed focus is so helpful when it comes to creating new articles. I no longer sit down to write and wonder what I should talk about. Instead, I'm able to spend more time diving into the research on social anxiety and sharing the best strategies that you can implement on your own to conquer this issue.
I’m also learning so much and implementing the things I’m writing about in my own life, which is helping me to really grow as a person.
Our community here is growing. Despite having several months of downtime, our community grew by over 100 email subscribers. We have 179 subscribers and more people are finding us every day.
We’re averaging 400 visitors a month on our blog and that number is rising. Just this month, we’ve had 1,111 people visit the site. I recognize that this is largely due to readers like you sharing blog posts on Facebook and Twitter for which I am grateful.
This year, I published 16 new articles. While that number is shy of the goal I set, I’m proud of all my work.
My top 3 articles were:
My Five Minute Journal
I love the process of finding something to be grateful for every day. Plus, being able to look back at the things I’ve written has been eye-opening and endearing.
I can clearly see the things that mean the most to me and the things that I need to work on going forward.
Overall, my Five-Minute Journal has helped my build greater perspective on my life, my work, and what's most important to me.
Click the following link to get your very own Five Minute Journal.
This year, I attended a few online courses, summits, and seminars. Here are a two of my favorites:
The Habits Seminar by James Clear - James clear is one of my favorite bloggers. His habits seminar is an in-depth look at how to build strong habits and set yourself up for success.
The seminar was an hour long and I took 12 pages of notes. I learned so much about why my attempts to build new habits haven't worked in the past and new strategies to build better habits. Whenever James offers this seminar again, I highly recommend you sign up.
Here's the link: The Habits Seminar.
This year, I've read 10 books. I expect to finish my 11th before the year is over. I have about 40 pages to go. I set a goal to read 20 books this year and made that goal public on Goodreads.com.
I didn't quite reach my goal, but I'm so proud of my progress. I shared previously how much I hated reading growing up and now I'm reading blog posts and books regularly. I plan to do even more reading next year and look forward to learning more about the world and myself.
My favorite books this year were:
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Will it Fly by Pat Flynn
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: 7 Ways to Freedom... by Lawrence Wallace
If you ever need a way to reset your mind, get out of town. I don't think it matters much if you go a few miles away or halfway around the world. There's something about being in a new place that always reinvigorates me and gives me greater clarity with what I should be doing with my life.
This year Nekia and I were blessed to travel to Medford and Ashland Oregon, Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. I'll share more about travel in the next section.
What Didn't Go Well
One of the biggest goals I had this year was to get more consistent with my writing. Looking back over the year, I failed hard on this one.
Finding Making time to write turned out to be more difficult than I expected.
I had some unrealistic expectations about being able to write that didn't seem to include everyday tasks.
Plus, I didn't make any real effort to carve out time to write. I simply tried to steal whatever free time I could. Lunch breaks, sleepless nights, early mornings. I tried to use it all to write. But most of the time, I had a severe lack of focus because I rarely put together adequate time to really sit down and dive into my writing.
Many of you may not have noticed, but the blog and website were nonexistent from May 31st until October 12th. During those 4 months, I was trying my hardest to redesign my website, learn how to serve you better, and figure out a whole new blogging platform. I honestly thought the whole process would take a few weeks. Boy, was I wrong.
I decided to list this as something that didn't go well because I didn't follow through on this goal like I should have. I planned to submit some new articles to different blogs around the Internet to help more people find our little community.
But, I was still struggling with the fear of rejection. So... I cheated the system. Instead of sending new articles to different blogs, I sent one's I'd already written to Medium Publications. Sharing my articles to Medium allowed me to "guest post" without really having to ask for permission or deal with direct rejection.
Since I didn't fight against my fear of rejection... in my book, this was something that didn't go well.
As I said earlier, I did happen to read 10 books this year. But, I still fell short of my reading goal for 2016. I wanted to read 20 pages a day for at least 5 days a week. This would have come out to be 5,200 pages read.
I started out really strong on this goal, then real life set in and I fell off the wagon...multiple times.
All in all, I read 2,232 pages and 10 books, which I'm still proud of, but I know I can do much better.
My Theme for 2017
For 2017, I want to set a theme to help anchor my goals and keep me focused on doing the work to accomplish more next year.
My theme for 2017 is Consistency.
Everything I want to improve will require consistency.
The biggest problem I have with completing goals is not being consistent. One of the reasons I struggle with social anxiety is because I'm not always consistent. The reason I miss publishing an article on time is because I'm not being consistent. The reason I'm not in the best shape of my life is because I'm not consistent.
Are you starting to see a pattern here?
I want to change these things this coming year, so I'm heading into the new year with consistency at the core of everything I plan to do.
What I Working Towards in 2017
I want to read 20 books next year, double what I did this year. My plan is still 20 pages a day, 5 days a week. This plan didn't work that well last year because in my mind I had to read all 20 pages in one setting. This year, I’ll try reading just 10 pages in the morning and 10 pages before bed. This will help me read the same amount each day, but I hope will make it easier to accomplish.
I will also utilize audiobooks when possible or have Siri read to me while I driving. I spend a good amount of time in the car, so listening to books while driving will give me about 30 minutes a day to listen to books and learn.
I've actually made a list of the books I want to read this year.
All of the books will serve a purpose to help me improve my skills as a writer, learner, and teacher. At the top of my list of books to read this year is the Bible. An average Bible is about 1,400 pages and will take some time to digest. So I’m considering reading 10 pages a day of the Bible in the AM then going into my prayers and reading 10 pages of another book in the evenings.
I don't talk much about my relationship with God on the blog, but I am a Christian. My faith is a big part of who I am and I'd like to rededicate myself to learning more about God's Word, His promises, and His plans for my life.
1,000 Words a Day
I've read that every good writer writes every day. Many of my favorite authors and bloggers have daily writing habits and credit writing every day as being the main reason their writing has improved over time.
I want to be a good writer. So, I'm going to write every day too.
I set my goal at 1,000 words a day which is a little more than 2 pages. I've already started this habit and plan to continue it throughout next year. I use a distraction-free app called Focused and write every morning. I wake up pretty early and try to block out 30 minutes to write.
My plan is to continue taking 30 minutes each morning after prayer to write. I'm not going to be too pressed to write about anything specific starting out. I first want to build the habit of showing up and writing every day.
40 Published Articles for My Blog
In October, I decided to go to a biweekly publishing format on the blog. My goal was to be able to give myself more time to write better articles. I also wanted to build a backlog of articles so that when I took a vacation or had an emergency, the blog would continue to post helpful articles.
My plan is to continue my biweekly posting schedule until June 2017 then go back to weekly posting. This will result in a minimum of 40 articles this year.
Articles will focus on specific strategies for overcoming social anxiety, personal case studies, book reviews, and more. Stay tuned.
12 Guest Posts Submissions
Did you catch that?
I didn't say I wanted to have 12 guest posts published, I just want to submit my work 12 times next year.
The reason my goal is to submit articles and not to have them published is because I can't control whether or not the author of the blog I submit my work to will publish my article. That's entirely their decision.
One of the issues many of us have with social anxiety is a fear of outcomes, many of which we have no control over. This goal will help me work through my issues with rejection by focusing on the things I can control.
I can control whether or not I make the effort to submit a well-written article.
My plan here is pretty simple. Find blogs that I think my writing aligns with, create new articles tailored to their audiences, share my articles with the authors of those blogs, and ask them to publish them as guest posts.
I'd love to have every article published, but once I submit the articles for consideration, I'll consider it an accomplishment.
Raise your hand if you hate getting free gifts.
I'm assuming you didn't raise your hand.
Here's the thing, you've been really good to me. You've been super supportive of my blog by sharing articles on Facebook and Twitter. You've also sent me personal emails of encouragement that have kept me going during those more difficult days.
So, to show my appreciation, I want to do a few giveaways next year and give you the chance to win gifts for free.
The cool thing about the giveaways I'll be sharing with you next year is, if you share the giveaway promotion with your friends on social media, you'll actually get additional entries into the giveaway.
I can't wait to start giving back to you.
If you have any suggestions for free gifts you'd love to receive, let me know in the comments below.
Work Life Balance
As you can see, I plan to devote a lot of time next year to developing my skills and this blog into a stronger resource for overcoming social anxiety.
But, I want to make sure that the people in my life aren't left behind in the process. So, I plan to work out a better schedule this year by being more vocal about my plans as well making time for friends and family.
Some of the things I'll implement next year are disconnected weekends where I won't use any phones or computers for the weekend and instead go out and have a real life experience with my wife, family, and friends.
What are You Working Toward in 2017?
I truly hope this annual review was helpful in some way to you. I also hope you take some time to sit down and plan out some goals and strategies to accomplish those goals over the next few days.
I pray your holidays have been blessed and the ones to come are joyous.
To those of you who struggle during this time of year, know that you're not alone and that there are people out here who care about you.
If this past year hasn't been all that great, remember this:
You've survived every one of those days. You've made it through every anxious moment, struggle, and pain. This should tell you two things:
First, you're much stronger than you may think.
Second, you still have a chance to make things better.
I'm rooting for you!
Do This in the Next 10 Minutes...
Let me know what you thought of this review in the comments below.
Grab a piece of paper, or create a new note in your phone and answer the following questions to conduct a quick annual review for yourself:
- What were 3 things that went well in 2016?
- What are 3 things that didn't go well in 2016?
- What are 3 big goals I want to Accomplish in 2017?
- What are the first 3 step I'll take to get started on each my goals?