8 questions I'm asking myself as I plan for the new year (+ free goal tracker!)

 
8 Questions I'm asking myself as I plan for the new year (+ free goal tracker!) — Paper + Oats www.paperandoats.com

My dad and I have always had this question that we throw back and forth to each other — and bear with me here, because at first it can sound like a dirty joke. We ask each other, Are you keeping all the balls in the air?

We’re talking about juggling all the important things that make up our lives, and this looks different for everyone. For me, my “balls in the air” (see the dirty joke potential??) are motherhood, business, relationships, self-care, and my faith / personal growth. The goal is to juggle them so that all the balls stay in the air. But juggling is hard, right? And sometimes we get tripped up or lose our focus and a ball can fall out of the mix, even lay on the ground for a bit before it’s picked back up. 

So when I start reflecting on the past year and planning for the next, I think about all my “balls in the air.” Which ones fell out of the group too many times this past year, and how can I do better at keeping them all in the air next year? To do this, I go through 8 questions to help me sort through the last 12 months. Yes, this can be a lot, so I try to block out a few solid days to work through these questions and write out thoughtful answers.

 

But before we start on the 8 questions, we need to do a brain dump. 

Go through your calendar or planner or whatever place you track your tasks + to do lists, and write down some of the major things you did throughout the year. What services you offered, what clients you worked with, what products you launched or relaunched, what new things you tried, what ways you promoted your business, what things you invested in, etc. This will end up being a pretty long list, but don’t get overwhelmed! We’re going to get everything organized into groups as we start into the questions, so for now, just get it all down on paper. You can write this out by hand, type it up in a document or note-taking app (I use Evernote), or you could even put them all on post-it notes so they can easily be moved around.

Once you have your “year in review” all dumped out, let’s start on the questions, where we’ll get things organized so we can get a clearer view of the last 12 months. I’ll give you some direction with each question, and I’ll also show you some examples from my own answers as I planned for the new year myself.

 

8 questions I'm asking myself as I plan for the new year

 

1. What projects were most successful AND what did I enjoy doing the most last year?

First, we’re going to start with the YES group. Pull things off your list that were successful AND that you enjoyed working on the most. A couple key things to remember — make sure these were projects or strategies that were actually successful. Not just ones that you felt were successful. Look at the numbers, look at the return on investment for time + money. Did this thing actually move your business forward in a measurable way?

Here’s a few things from my own list for last year:

  • My website redesign + free email course launch (Digital Product Roadmap) in January were very well-received, got a lot of positive feedback, and the free email course has added thousands to my email list in the last year.
  • My annual birthday sale in my Etsy shop and my Black Friday sales both did well, and didn’t take much extra time to put together. 
  • I launched my first mini-class, How to Design the Perfect Ebook, and it was both enjoyable and successful. It was fun to put together with some humor sprinkled throughout, it was faster to build than I expected, and it brought in $6,500 total this year.
  • I have really enjoyed [finally!] starting writing my book, and sharing about the process on Instagram + in blog posts has had a lot of engagement. 
  • My monthly P+O Givebacks don’t get much engagement on social media, and don’t necessarily bring in any more sales than usual, but I’m really proud of them and generosity is a value I want to keep incorporating into my business.
  • Blogging wasn’t as much of a priority this year as it has been in the past, but I still managed to write 16 new posts total last year, and a couple of them have quickly become my top visited blog posts of all time.
  • My free InDesign resource, The InDesign Cliff Notes, has been very well-received and had a lot of positive feedback as a more natural lead-in to my main InDesign course. Over 1,000 people have signed up for it in just 4 months.
  • Hired a virtual assistant, and she's been so helpful with behind-the-scenes stuff! Love ya, Jess ;)

 

2. What projects were not successful AND what did I not enjoy doing last year?

I call this the NO list. This is where you need to get real with yourself. Be honest about what you really didn’t enjoy, AND with what didn’t actually work (even if you did enjoy it). Unsuccessful could look like low engagement, low sales, low conversion, etc. This doesn’t mean that you have to scrap all these things, we’re just evaluating right now and seeing where things fall. Again, look at the actual numbers to know if a project or strategy was successful or not.

Here’s a few things from my own list for last year:

  • I invested in some new strategies for the fall INDFG launch hoping to increase sales quite a bit, but they didn’t pan out like I had hoped, and I didn’t hit my sales goal. But there were a lot of lessons learned, some investments may payout in future launches, some new ideas were sparked, so I’m excited to keep moving forward with my signature course.
  • My second mini-class, Launching for Introverts, was really fun to research + build, but it hasn’t had very consistent sales past the initial launch in August. But I’m figuring out some ways to incorporate it better with other products I sell, and I’m hoping next year will show some higher numbers because of that.
  • My quarterly Q+A webinars for both of my courses (EOA + INDFG) sometimes seemed like more work than they were worth because of low engagement. Not sure they’re as valuable for students as they used to be.
  • My annual Back To School sale in my Etsy shop had basically zero sales. Ha! Lesson learned, that one has run it’s course.
  • Etsy on Autopilot has been a little rough this year. Inconsistent sales, very high interest with very low conversion, despite some new promotions and an added payment plan.
  • My monthly overview emails don’t get much engagement, but I think it’s important to keep a regular, consistent foot in the door with subscribers, since I don’t have an ongoing email newsletter. (If you want in on these, scroll down to the very bottom of any page on my site and click the Signup for Monthly Updates button!)

 

3. What things from the lists above will I continue in the next year, with little changes?

This is where you can start sorting through the lists above and deciding what can stay in the mix without much change needed. You can pull from both lists, not just the successful things! Maybe there are things that don’t always lead to more revenue, but they’re important to your values and that’s worth it to you to keep doing it. For example, my givebacks don’t necessarily bring in more sales and don’t always get much engagement on social media, but they’re important to me, so I’m going to keep doing them.

Here’s some other things from my own list that I plan to continue with little to no changes in the new year:

  • Monthly emails
  • 1-2 blog posts per month
  • Birthday sale in my Etsy shop
  • Black Friday sale on a variety of products
  • My lovely assistant ;)

 

4. What things from the lists above will I continue in the next year, but with some improvements?

Again, these can come from either the successful list or the unsuccessful list. These are things you want to keep in the mix, but maybe need some updating or improvements so they can perform better for you next year. 

Here’s some things from my own list that I plan to keep, but improve upon, next year:

  • Make improvements to my free Etsy resource, the Pilot Run, to get better conversions.
  • Continue with my spring + fall launches of INDFG, but work on incorporating proven strategies from my past launches, and improving the overall administration of the launch with better systems that take less time.
  • Keep the INDFG Q+A webinars as those get a bit more engagement and serve as a continued education for students to keep returning to the course and learn new tools + design tips.
  • Put more of a focus on email marketing, as that has measurable results, and less focus on social media marketing, as that is harder to track.

 

5. What things from the lists above with will I stop doing completely?

Oddly enough, this is one of my favorite questions to address. The more I grow into this whole business mindset, the more I enjoy cutting out the things that aren’t working or aren’t enjoyable, so I can focus on what lights me up and actually pays the bills. It gets easier and easier to say no once you start, so I highly recommend cutting a few things from last year that fell flat. (And pssst — don’t feel guilty about it!)

Here’s some things from my own list that I plan to do away with next year:

  • Stop doing quarterly Q+A webinars for my Etsy course as those get the least engagement, and make less sense for students to attend after they complete the course.
  • Scrap the Back To School sale as it obviously fell flat on it’s face!
  • Hit pause on any new promotions for my Etsy course, and focus on improving the free Pilot Run for better conversions.

 

6. What new things (not listed above) will I incorporate, try, or experiment with next year?

This is the fun part! I love experimenting for my business and incorporating new things — that’s how we learn about those first two questions, right? You won’t know what works + what doesn’t until you try it out. So think about some things that have been on your mind for awhile, and decide if this is the year to implement them. But also make sure they align with Question #1 — obviously you won’t know if they’re successful or not yet, but you can know if it’s something you’re passionate about and aligns with your values.

Here’s some things that I plan to try out next year:

  • Attend more in-person events / conferences / retreats — I’ve already got one booked, and a couple more on my radar to book soon! I’ve only ever been to one creative conference, and it was super beneficial in terms of growing my business and making some new friends, so why have I not been to any more in the last 2.5 years?!
  • Write and publish my book. Obviously this is big and new (and scary), and I’m so excited (slash scared) that it’s finally going to happen this year. (Check out my book update blog posts here and here).
  • Create another mini-class, maybe in Q3 or Q4 (after the book is done!). But I want to make sure I have the time to commit to it, that it fits in naturally with my other products, and that it's something I truly enjoy teaching on and have expertise in.

 

7. What do I want my days in the new year to look like? 

This doesn’t necessarily mean create a set schedule for an ideal day (because that can be impossible as a working mom!), but a general list of things you want to be active with and how you want to feel on a regular basis. This is where I like to start merging the business and the personal (cause let’s be real, everyday life obviously mixes the two.)

Here’s how I want my days to look next year:

  • I want to work on tasks I truly enjoy and look forward to doing each day, not stuff I’ve put off for weeks or dread doing.
  • I want to have a clear focus when it comes to tackling my to do list, and not feeling scatterbrained or unsure of where to start.
  • I want to carve out specific time for writing.
  • I also want to carve out time for creative outlets (i.e. away from a screen!), like trying abstract painting or weaving.
  • I want to get out of the house more — be it outings with Poppy, coffee with friends, or my new favorite thing: hot yoga.
  • I want to spend more time working on smaller house projects. I love DIY stuff, and didn’t do much last year (besides forking out a bunch of money for someone else to remodel my kitchen!). I miss getting my hands dirty, and that’s half the reason I chose to live in an 85 year old house.
  • I want to make sure my business is bringing in consistent passive income, not the extreme highs and lows (thought I really don’t mind those either). I want to settle into some predictable rhythms this year in terms of income.

 

8. What word or phrase can you assign to the new year to help you stay on track with making these “ideal days” a reality?

Lastly — and I know this can be daunting — but can you sum up your plans for this next year (and the things you want to change from last year) into a single word or phrase? I know this is a common practice, and I’ve honestly never done it before (my indecisiveness always got the best of me), but this year I felt more led to choose something.

Honestly, I’m not planning to do a ton of new things this year, like I’ve done in the past (besides that big ole book project). This year, I’m choosing to spend more time utilizing the offerings + content I already have, and making them work more efficiently for my long-term, slow growth. I don’t want to add more until I refine what I already have. So I threw around lots of words like refine, forge, margin, and sharpen.

But the one I kept coming back to and finally landed on is HONE. Hone is defined as this: to refine or perfect something over a period of time; give greater strength to. I love that last bit — give greater strength to. I want to give greater strength to lots of areas of my life, such as…

  • home – hone in on spaces and pieces for my home that are meaningful + beautiful to me
  • life – hone a well-rounded routine with what I put in and on my body, and my overall health
  • motherhood – hone in on my relationship with Poppy, be more intentional with my time with her, more 1-1 connection, less screens, more fun + spontaneous silliness, fewer battles
  • relationships – hone my friendships, show more of myself, less worry about appearances, and more being proactive 
  • business –hone in on my favorite projects and double down on just those, phase out projects that don’t light me up, push my comfort zone + vulnerability with events and the book, hone in on systems that work seamlessly in the background to bring some more predictability to my income
  • spiritual – hone in on my relationship with God, stay consistent in church, worship, and prayer, share more about what God’s doing with those around me, more meditation with less distraction, and share more faith in my business

 

These questions may even be helpful to go through for each of your main “balls in the air,” if that helps you compartmentalize things a bit. Most questions can apply to a lot more than just your business, so give it a try, and see where it leads you.

After I answer these 8 questions (actually writing down answers, not just thinking about it!), I start to get a clearer picture of what the new year holds. It motivates me and helps me keep molding my business and life into a legacy I'm proud of. A great way to keep the momentum going is to set monthly goals that align with these birds-eye-view goals, so you can be sure you're living intentionally and sticking to your word or phrase. Feel free to download my free monthly goal tracker below to help you do just that.


Free download – monthly goal tracker

8 questions I'm asking myself as I plan for the new year – free goal tracker printable – Paper + Oats

To help keep all your balls in the air each month, and break out your big goals into smaller, measurable goals throughout the year, try out this free download – a free monthly goal tracker with these four categories: Life + Home, Business, Relationships, and Spiritual. I made this for myself a couple weeks ago so I can be reminded of what I’m working towards each month — and hopefully won’t let any balls fall out of the juggle! Drop in your name + email below, and I’ll send it on to ya!


YOUR TURN

Your turn for these 8 questions is gonna be mostly in your own note taking + reflecting of course, but which of these questions surprised you? Or maybe better, which of your answers has surprised you?


 

Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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