About 2020 (Year in Review)

Transformational. This is how I can label 2020.

Probably it has to do with the great psychology books I read this year. Probably it’s because of the lockdown. Or probably because I’m getting older. I’m not quite sure. But I can say that 2020 initially felt like a derailed roller coaster that was headed towards a burning building. Then, all of a sudden, somewhere around August, my cart landed in a safe, but different place at the end – which was good.

Surely a lot of negative things have happened for the past 12 months that we are all aware of – the coronavirus and everything related to this disease. But my main struggles throughout the year were internal, not quite related to what was happening outside.

While I had more time to work on my website because of the lockdown, I didn’t have the mental energy to pursue all the projects that constantly morphed in my brain. I was trying hard to create content so I can reach a wider audience and potentially more members. But the more I worked on my site, the less effective I became. There was a disproportion between the amount of effort I put into this project and the returns I was getting (and there still is). I was hustling hard but gaining less and less recognition. The lack of positive feedback sent me to a dark mental state where I thought that nothing matters and that I should probably quit.

As you can see, I didn’t quit. I’m still going hard. Not that the returns from my membership program increased a lot, but the way I look at the work I do has changed.

In this post, similarly to what I wrote last year, I’m going to share a couple of things related to my life and this project.

For me, the creation of this post helps me set some priorities for the year that follows and also forces me to actually pursue the about-to-be-set priorities later – you know, social pressure and stuff.

So, here’s what happened in my life in 2020 and what you can expect from me in 2021:

Personal

Good:

  • My son learned to walk in the middle of the pandemic and he’s now unstoppable. While our house looks like a tornado blew through it at least 3 times per day, there is nothing more precious than walking around with my son holding hands and explaining to him about the world.
  • Getting up at 05:00 AM is my daily routine now. My body is finally accustomed to this early hour and although I still feel like a total wreck some days, these are rather exceptions.
  • The time I created for myself – between 05:00 and 08:00 – allows me to write and exercise.
  • The worst thing about running a side-project is seeing this side-project not getting any relevant traction – or moving super slowly as in my case. When I launched my membership program at the beginning of 2020, I knew that I’ll not get rich overnight – not that this was my intention – but the slow growth of my project was taking a mental toll on me. I wanted to make this project better, I wanted to see positive feedback in return for my effort. And while I do regularly receive praise for the work I do, the middle of the year was really hard because I was constantly thinking that what I do doesn’t matter. That people don’t care. That I should quit and do something else instead. Probably all online creators feel this way at some point. But this was also negatively affecting my relationships. After thinking about it. Reading about it. And, I don’t know, thinking about it some more, I simply let it go. I convinced myself that I’ll write regardless of the outcome – financial or other. This realization and internal agreement allowed me to function again as a normal human being.
  • I was able to read 41 books this year and summarize all of them – the last book I read in 2020 is The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.
  • I started investing part of my cash and I learned a lot about the topic.

Not so good:

  • As I mentioned above, I was struggling internally. I wasn’t sure if I should continue with this project and stay committed to my writing schedule because I doubted myself. Like everyone else, I want to know if my efforts are worthwhile. And while people do seem to find value in my work because my articles are regularly shared and my membership program is slowly growing, there are times of silence. Times when there is no feedback and there is no recognition. This lack of positive reinforcements breaks my spirit. My mind is consumed with thoughts about finding something else to fill my time with.

Business

Good:

  • I believe I found my voice in terms of writing. Previously, I was heavily influenced by what other people were writing for and I was writing about similar things. Now, I focus on my own desires and I know what I want to pursue as a goal with this site.
  • A bit over 1,000 people are now subscribers to my bi-weekly newsletter.
  • I started a membership program at the beginning of the year. When I announce it, I had only one sale for the first 24 hours. Then, 7 days later, I had 5 people joining for 1 day. It felt amazing, but the success was short-lived. After the initial launch of the project, progress was rather slow during the year. Things changed when I switched providers two months ago (from RestrictContentPro to Memberful) but there is still a long way towards making this project financially feasible for me.
  • There are now over 100 book summaries published on my site.
  • Not quite sure if this is good or bad but the average length of my book summaries is now around 3,500 words. Previously, my summaries were around 2000 words.
  • I created my first online course. Later though, based on feedback I received I decided that it’s best to make it an eBook, not a course. See, I was planning to add a course per year on my site and eventually build a library of courses. While it’s a good idea on the surface, it turns out that it’s better to have these things available as eBooks. Now, I’m in the process of making my course an eBook.
  • I switched from sending weekly emails to sending emails every other week. I thought that people will go mad and not enjoy this change but after running a survey it turned out that the by-weekly email is the preferable option. I was confused initially, but I later figured it out. 2020 felt like the email renaissance. Everyone started a newsletter. And since the market was over-flooded with emails, and still is, it’s perfectly normal to feel that your inbox is slowly becoming a chore.
  • I switched from Restrict Content Pro to Memberful towards the end of 2020 (plus reduced the plugins I use on my site). Thank god I did the switch. While Memberful is much more expensive, it’s totally worth it for handling membership.
  • For the first time in my life, I appeared on a podcast. The lovely Jaclyn Stover was kind enough to invite me as a guest on her podcast.

Not so good:

  • While sending a newsletter twice a month is way better in terms of time, people are engaging less with my content when I share my links.
  • I didn’t have enough time this year to write more articles and more book-list-type posts. Last year, I set a goal to create a rich hub where people can find book recommendations on various topics. Sadly, my time was consumed with other stuff.
  • And worst of all… Google made some changes related to their algorithm in December and the traffic to my site dropped by more than 50%. It’s like I’m back at the beginning of my blogging journey, it hurts.

Goals for 2021

Personal:

  • Of course, I want to spend more with my son and help him make sense of the world we live in. He still doesn’t speak. He understands a lot, but he still can’t form words. We hope that this will change in 2021.
  • Try not to fill every spare minute with tasks. Schedule time for fun activities also.
  • Remind myself that I can’t control the outcome. I have full control only over my habits, actions, and processes. I should concentrate my efforts on the things I can change and not mourn about the things I can’t.

Business:

  • Read and summarize at least 40 books.
  • Apart from writing and reading daily, I have only one big goal: Make my site, my newsletter, and my social profile attuned to my desire to promote reading (Yes, I’m now on Instagram). I have a lot of things planned for 2021. I want to revamp my newsletter and make it more related to books and reading. More about this soon.
  • Simplify my message and the overall experience on my site. I don’t know what was up with me. In 2020, I had a ton of ideas that I wanted to implement on my site. I tried a bunch of things knowing that I don’t have time for all of them. This resulted in the above-mentioned emotional crisis that took me a couple of months to recover from. Towards the end of the previous year, I started to remove the clutter from the site. A deleted a bunch of posts and I also removed a lot of features that were only slowing down my site. This will be also the trend for 2021. Less but better stuff.

Thanks for reading and I wish you all a wonderful year!