Year in Review Checklist – I designed a simple checklist that you can use to journal and think about how you spent your time, and how you can create more space in your life for joy, creativity, and fun.


Year in Review Checklist

I hope the early days of 2021 are treating you well. Simple things I used to take for granted (health, gatherings, a meal at a pub, travel) have taken on so much new meaning.

What are you looking FORWARD to most this year?

Some people choose a theme word or create a vision board.

Looking ahead, there is something I want to let go of…

A trusted mentor told me my perfectionism is getting the best of me. Apparently, my perfectionist tendency has been in overdrive lately.

It was a wake-up call to look at what I’m pursuing.

What about you?

Are you cultivating the life you want to be living?

Of course, we have obstacles. We can’t travel or socialize like before, and it has forced us to work in alternative ways.

What are you driving toward? Is your goal to be a full-time author?

Or perhaps you want to start your own business and be the one making decisions about your time?

Every year I look back at what I’ve accomplished. Usually, that’s looking at the number of books I wrote and published, sales figures, email list size, and all the usual suspects that contribute to an author business.

Yes, I’ll be looking at those, but I’m adding something new to the mix.

What’s Your Joy Factor?

What if we focused on the systems and routines that bring us joy? Sure, there’s still a place for hard numbers, but we need the space to quantify how well we’re doing at creating joy in our lives.

For example, my goal was to write and publish six books in 2020. That’s aggressive for many authors (me included)! I didn’t make that goal, but I made significant progress by writing four solid books that readers enjoy and come back to. That’s worth a lot more to me than pounding out those 2 extra books.

When you do this kind of review, you’ll see patterns emerge. Here are my observations this year…

Learning #1 – I perform at my best when I have deadlines and accountability. When I was taking part in Dean Wesley Smith’s Great Novel Challenge, I wrote six novels in one year.

That was my most productive writing time as an author so far. I credit it to knowing that someone was waiting for me to deliver—none other than Dean Wesley Smith. I didn’t want to disappoint him. Plus, I’d paid into the program so there was a monetary investment.

Learning #2 – I thrive on feedback from readers. Since publishing two books in my Rusted Wastelands series, I’ve gotten reader feedback about how much they enjoy the character Block and his relationship with the baby in the series. 

This was the first time I’d gotten such glowing feedback on my fiction work. The extra work spent on writing craft felt worth it. Going forward, I’m thinking about ways to engage with my current beta readers and build out the reader group to be even bigger.

Learning #3 – Going in deep with clients versus trying to serve many. This was a big Aha realization for me this year. I was lucky to have worked with a client in March who reached the New York Times bestseller list. Because we were launching during the pandemic, it was like we endured a war together. 

There were nail biting moments when we didn’t even know if the books would ship out from the warehouses because of the COVID outbreak. But rather than giving up or postponing the launch date, the author persevered, and we pushed through.

I’m working with another client who is a repeat book launch customer. Working with a team I already know has its advantages.

This led me to realize that trying to take on many book launch projects at once doesn’t work. I don’t have a team of freelancers at my disposal, nor do I want to spend my time managing one. I enjoy going deep with a few awesome clients. The best customers are those who are looking to partner, not just outsource tasks.

Who are your favorite customers? How do you know who they are?

Learning #4  Saying YES to experimental ventures. A few months ago, I applied for a unique publishing opportunity. I got in. I’m glad I went for it. 

The project is confidential until we publish the books. I’m writing in a related but different fiction category genre, one that I’m enjoying wholeheartedly. The amount of developmental editing is taking my writing to new heights. Mostly I’m soaring with excitement and sometimes I’m banging my head against the desk thinking, ‘Why do I have to edit this again?’ 

But it’s worth it. I’m learning so much about writing. It’s like boot camp for writing a series.

Sometimes you leap forward by taking a chance with a new opportunity. In my life, that’s been a constant:

Moving across the country to go to a new school. Moving to a new country, a new state. I left my old career to become a writer. These are the challenges that have come my way and made me who I am.

So, in 2021 maybe the word for the year is SHINE. That’s my word, anyway. 🙂

Let’s create space for joy.

That means saying goodbye to things that are no longer serving us.

Perfectionism has been a struggle my entire life. Often it has stopped me from being happy with my accomplishments.

What will you be saying goodbye to?

What If Your Physical Space Matched Your Inner Space?

I’ll be focusing a lot this year on home. After 12 years in our townhouse, my husband and I want to make a change. We have LOTS of work to do to figure out exactly where and how, but we strongly believe this is the year to make it happen. 

We want space that lets us be more creative. We want to be closer to nature. We don’t know yet what that looks like, but we’re excited. 

What If You Had NO GOALS This Year?

Am I really saying this? Ha. I will always be a productivity nerd who gets her kicks coming up with New Year’s goals. But this year it’s not just about numbers and checking things off the list.

This year is about putting routines in place that are sustainable. 2021 is about filling space with the things that bring joy—writing books that people love, delighting my clients, spending time with my family, and finding the creative home. 

Maybe it’s time to ditch or completely reconsider goals. What do you think?