For the last few years, I’ve paused at my travel and blogaversary to both take stock of the goals I set the year before, and make a new round for the year ahead. Since self employment means I don’t quite have a boss to take care of this for me, consider it my annual progress review! My fifth year of blogging and travel was a pivotal one both personally and professionally, progress I credit primarily to the nearly seven months I spent based in Thailand.
By taking some baby steps back from travel, I was able to ink deals with major travel brands, start a newsletter, phase out a long-standing weekly feature, launch the Featured Blogger program, implement display ads, hire a second assistant, and sign on with a management team. Yup, this was a busy year behind the scenes at Alex in Wanderland! But let’s take a closer look at what went right, what went wrong, and what my new aims are moving forward.
Last Year’s Goals
Want to see these goals spelled out in more detail? Find last year’s goal setting post here.
Goal: Get my time back. Go offline for larger swaths of time without my universe collapsing. I plan to achieve this by slowing down, developing a home base, hiring out the aspects of my business that I am ineffective at, and developing more passive income streams.
Verdict: This was kind of a residual goal from year four that I felt I made progress on but definitely didn’t nail. A lot of people in my life have noted that I seem a lot calmer this year, and that zen comes straight from the huge steps I’ve taken to achieve this. That said, I’m still not at the point where I could pre-write a bunch of posts and go totally offline for two weeks, which is something I’d really love to do eventually. So, verdict? I’m getting there.
Goal: Take and write about trips that reflect my passions. I’d love to try to carve out time for both diving specific trips and perhaps even a yoga retreat this year.
Verdict: While it wasn’t exactly the liveaboard I imagined, my Bonaire trip was a diving one, so I can consider that a success – though getting myself in a bunk on floating dive trip is a must for this coming year. I also didn’t make it to a yoga-specific retreat, though my everyday practice really took off with regular attendance at classes and workshops on Koh Tao, so I’m not too sad about it.
Goal: Get my inbox under control. I am literally plagued with guilt on a daily basis over the hundreds (thousands?) of unanswered, flagged emails in my inbox. I am hoping that by turning the business ones over to someone else I will be able to focus more on the personal ones from readers.
Verdict: With a heavy heart I must say I failed spectacularly at this one. I’m not giving up though — I made steps by finding a couple channels of emails that I could redirect to my manager and to my assistants, and I’m going to revisit the rest of the equation in this year’s fresh new goals, below.
Goal: To be open to commitment again. I haven’t been in a relationship where I didn’t have one foot out the door in a long time. It’s been years since I committed to anything — a lease, a long term boyfriend, a monthly gym membership. I’m ready to try living life without an escape plan.
Verdict: The apartment part was tough! It was hard to adjust to paying rent while frequently flitting off on adventures and simultaneously paying for accommodation there too, but I quickly adjusted to the benefits of having a home to come back to. I still struggle with the concept of commitment, but I’m at least conscious of my phobia.
Goal: To turn down press trips guilt-free.
Verdict: Success! There were a few that were tough to say “no thank you” to, but overall I know I made the right choices and felt confident in my decisions.
Goal: To focus on improving my writing craft.
Verdict: After having a really strong showing for this in year four, I feel like I dropped the ball in year five. While I did experiment with writing a lot of non-destination specific personal and inspirational posts, I didn’t do much creative writing not directly intended for the blog. I’m going to revisit this in the upcoming year.
This Year’s Goals
Yes, some of the above are still works in progress. But onward and upward — let’s mix in some new goals to keep things fresh! I’ve learned that I have the best success rate with specifically outlined objectives, so while I’m setting more goals than ever, they are generally more detailed and bite-sized than in previous rounds.
New Goal: Reintroduce spontaneity into my travels. Hm, haven’t we heard this before? The grass is always greener, and now that I have stability back in my life, I’m cravings its counter-part, spontaneity. Perhaps life will be an endless cycle between the two as my inner pendulum swings between restless and overwhelmed! This past year was quite rigidly planned, and I felt it. I’d like to add in some structure-free backpacking back into the upcoming one. Perhaps a few weeks of purposely unplanned adventure in Indonesia?
New Goal: Email management. No seriously this time, because this is one of the biggest sources of stress in my life. I want to reach inbox zero. Dream big, right? This summer I’ll be shifting my email server, doing some serious unsubscribes, and then sitting down and writing an actual email management plan, rather than using my current system of waiting for my emails to answer themselves and then acting baffled when they don’t. Wish me luck!
New Goal: Continue focusing on eco-friendly travel and sharing my own journey towards sustainability.
New Goal: Be proactive instead of putting out fires. I’d love to be one of those entrepreneurs who goes to a coworking space and listens to productivity podcasts, but unfortunately I think I tend to fall into the more “hot mess super sorry I never returned your email whoops” category instead. I’d like to spend less time this year frantically doing things I meant to do yesterday, and more time brainstorming big picture ideas; and I’d like to proactively pitch brands I want to work with rather than waiting to pick through those that come to me. I think the agent/manager I recently signed with is going to help me make huge strides towards this goal.
New Goal: Pitch and publish a personal essay somewhere I’ll be proud of.
New Goal: Prioritize. Be realistic about what can be accomplished in a day. I have a terrible habit of doing the easiest things on the to-do list first as opposed to the most important, which considering I tend to write to do lists a mile long, means that I often never get to the important stuff! (If you hear muffled sobbing in the distance, it is me lamenting the fact that I still have no completed my ebook project five years in the running.) Being self employed means there are always somewhere between a dozen and a hundred options for things to busy yourself with and I often pick the wrong option. I work hard and work often, but I don’t always work smart.
I’ve gotten a lot better about being realistic and not beating myself up at the end of the day that I haven’t completed my literally humanely impossible list of tasks, but I don’t want to let that mean my passion projects atrophy while I distract myself with ticking off busy work. While I know that there is some value in following my whims and interests and focus of the day, I do want to experiment with setting stricter boundaries for myself. I recently purchased a day planner and I’m going to work on starting each week and each day with prioritized to-do lists.
New Goal: Nurture my hobbies and interests. Keep attending festivals, go on a diving liveaboard, read a book in Spanish, go to a yoga retreat and nail a forearm handstand. I’ve actually reached the conclusion that I want to do my yoga teacher training at some point, and while I’m not sure that needs to be on my list for this upcoming year, it is in the back of my mind moving forward.
New Goal: Start donating regularly to charity again. After having a very rewarding year of giving when I started turning a profit off this blog, I fell out of the habit. Time to get back on the giving train.
New Goal: Be a grown up. I recently made adjustments to my accounting system that I hope will make my monthly monthly book-keeping and annual taxes a hell of a lot easier. Next steps? Form an LLC, get health insurance, and start a retirement plan.
New Goal: Get closer to real time in my blogging. In general I think this bothers me more than it bothers you, but this is the most “behind” I’ve ever been in blogging and it’s driving me nuts.
New Goal: Double my earnings from affiliates and display ads. I introduced one new affiliate program this past year (Agoda, my favorite hotel booking site for Southeast Asia) but I have really only skimmed the surface of my potential incomes in these particular categories. While I certainly wouldn’t be bummed if my other income sources exploded as well, outside renegotiating my long term contracts for reasonable raises, I’m just focusing on keeping the others stable for the time being and growing these two in particular.
New Goal: Publish my ebook. Boom.
The cool thing at stopping to take stock every year is despite the number of goals I marked “in progress,” I actually feel I am making significant steps towards being a functional human businessperson, and finding balance and distinction between work and play. There is light at the end of the tunnel! I’m not there yet but I’m on my way, which is a big step up from feeling like I was drowning in my own puddle of inefficiency with no life raft in sight.
Are you working on any goals, personal or professional?
There’s just one post left in this blogaversary series — another ask me anything post! Want to submit a question? Ask here, or in the comments, or privately via email. Nothing is off limits to ask, though I exercise the right to be choosy in what I answer 😉