Ready, Set… Build Something Amazing!

7 minute read

The end of the year is just around the corner… can you believe it?!?

At this time of year, I always start thinking about what I want to achieve in the coming year.

On one hand, it’s silly. Dates are arbitrary. There’s no reason I should feel more inclined to make big changes and dream big dreams now versus any other time of the year.

But, on the other hand, traditions have weight. And the yearly cycle is steeped in tradition. So, whether it makes sense doesn’t really matter… this is a time of year when I start thinking about two things…

How did this past year go?

And what do I want to do in the coming year that will blow my own socks off?

The Value of Reflection

What I recommend is that you schedule some time and sit down to think about the year you’ve had…

What got you excited? What were you proud of? What did you learn? Where did you fall short?

First, spend some time thinking. And then, spend some time writing about what you want to carry forward and build on, what you want to do differently, and what you want to let go of.

That’s the ideal.

In reality, with the holidays looming, it can be hard to find the time just to sit and reflect and write out your thoughts. I get that. For me, the thinking part of this process often takes place while making coffee in the morning or while driving or going on walks. I might make some notes in my journal here and there. But it can be a scattershot effort.

I think there’s a lot of benefit to dedicating time to end-of-the-year reflection, but you can think about these things in the in-between moments, where your hands are busy, but your mind is not. And it works. By mid-December, if you were to ask me about my year and what I was proud of and what didn’t go to plan, I’m able to give a very coherent answer whether I had dedicated time to thinking and writing or not.

I also want to add that, as part of this, make sure you consider the unexpected things that happened that had the potential to (or that did) derail your plans. Ask yourself if what pulled you off course was worth that. Sometimes, it’s not. But sometimes, it absolutely is. This year I had a lot of family stuff happening. Not family drama, but health issues and big events… and I have no regrets that I prioritized those things, even though it means I didn’t make the headway I wanted to on some of my projects.

What Would Blow Your Socks Off?

man in black shirt and gray pants jumping
Photo by Caleb Woods

Once you have some ideas about what you’ve accomplished, what you’ve enjoyed most, and what’s no longer serving you, it’s time to turn your mind to what you want the next year to look like.

What could you do in the coming year that would blow your own socks off?

And, I think it’s important to put the emphasis on trying to blow your socks off. It’s easy to worry about gaining status with other people… building a following… being an influencer. Those can be useful things, but consider holding yourself to your own standards. In my experience, it’s quite a bit easier to impress other people than it is for me to be impressed with myself.

So, what can you do that will impress yourself?

You Need a Vision

Coming up with a vision for the next year happens in two steps

First, think about everything that’s possible… everything you might want to do.

This is the easy part for me… coming up with a whole bunch of things I think would be fun and meaningful… profitable and helpful… things that would make an impact on other people…

Sometimes, when I talk about helping people, there’s a misunderstanding about how that ties in with making money. I offer a certain degree of free help. I try to be generous in sharing content and answering questions and making suggestions. But, when it gets into the execution of things, I absolutely charge for that. When you go to the doctor, and they give you a solution to a health problem, that’s very helpful…. and they get paid for it. When your mechanic fixes your car, that’s very helpful… and they get paid for it. When you write a new landing page for a client, that’s very helpful… and you should get paid for it.

Coming up with ideas is the easy part. We’re writers… ideas are part of what makes us tick.  

The second part of defining your vision is where problems can happen.

You have to take that big list of ideas — so full of potential — and choose just one or two (maybe three) that you’ll really throw yourself into. Capture all the other ideas for a future time. But, whittle that list down to no more than three big things you want to do… otherwise you’ll get overwhelmed.

But, How Do You Choose?

When it comes to selecting projects to focus on, weigh your excitement levels. What would make you happiest at the end of the year to have achieved? That’s a good indication that it belongs on your short list.

I also look for things where I have a lot of the groundwork laid. So, for example, in the coming year I want to expand my UX copywriting offers, and also reach some new audiences. I have the skills already, I know my core message, and I know who I can help and how. That’s an easy dream to start moving on. That means it might be a good one to focus on in the coming year.

But, I also consider what would push me to learn a lot, especially skills I might then be able to use on other things.

As an example here, I have an idea for an information business that will mean learning how to use Substack, leveling up my community-building skills, putting into practice the things I know about online monetization, learning about building apps and publishing non-fiction books, and getting effective at landing appearances on other people’s podcasts.

Every one of those skills, I’ll be able to apply to future projects. There’s a lot of leverage in building that business. The thing I have to keep in mind is that, by the end of the year, I won’t probably have a big monetary pay off… yet. But, I will be in the position for a big payoff in 2025… and I’ll have all sorts of things I can leverage into new opportunities.

So, that’s another way to choose the projects you want to work on.

Finally, I try to choose at least one project that’s just pure joy for me, that has very little promise in the way of monetary value. Often, for me, this has to do with fiction writing. For you it could be learning a language or learning to dance.

I think that, in the next year, I might get really good at baking éclairs. I’ve never made an éclair before, but my grandma used to make them when I was young. I loved them… so simple and elegant. It would be a joy to work on that for no other reason than the fun of it. And if, by the end of the year, I could make a beautiful, tasty, technically perfect éclair, I’d be thrilled about that.

Getting Ready for Success

a person holding a toy
Photo by Kelly Sikkema

Once you know what you’re going to focus on in the coming year, it’s time to get ready to build your dreams.

For me, this starts with a plan. I tend to over-plan, so my mind runs wild with all the ways I might turn my dream into a reality. There’s usually way more in my plans than is necessary… which means I can overwhelm myself and derail a project completely before I even get started. I find that a lot of other writers have this same tendency.

My way of dealing with this is to let myself plan like crazy. I write down everything that comes to mind. I get it out of my system. Then I start stripping away what I don’t need. Do I really need 20 pages before I can launch my website? Maybe I just need five pages to start. If that’s the case, the five pages go into my plan… not the 20.

Strip things down to the minimum of what you need to go public with what you’re doing.

Then make a list of what you’ll create for that minimum viable launch.

Are You Set?

The next step is to show up.

Look out at the weeks ahead and schedule time blocks to work on your dream. Make your best guess as to how long it will take to be ready to launch and put a launch date on your calendar.

Then show up for yourself.

You can approach this as a daily commitment, if you prefer. Dedicate an hour a day to creating the things you need… and then, once you start getting to the last two or three items on your list, you can determine your launch window.

I do recommend getting into that launch mindset. That’s something I learned from Russ Henneberry. When you set a launch window for a project, even something as simple as offering a new service in your writing business, you give yourself momentum. Having a launch plan, where you make a big to-do about it for a week or so, can boost your commitment. It can get you excited. It can earn you more attention. And, it can deliver you a better result, which makes the whole process more satisfying.

But, it all starts with showing up.

If you think about running a race… you step up to the starting blocks. You get in position. You’re there, and you’re ready to go.

To succeed as a freelancer or with any side hustle… you have to do the same thing.

You have to do the work today, so you can show up tomorrow even better and further along.

Start Building!!

Building something worthwhile takes time and commitment.

And, it takes… getting started.  

Decide what you want to build. Identify what you need to get that off the ground. And then, do something about it.

But, there’s one more step. Plan to check in with yourself regularly to see what comes next. Maybe you get your website launched and decide you want to add a blog. Or, maybe you launch a side hustle and decide you want to set up some affiliate deals. Many of the things you build will need regular tending… like a garden. If you don’t put in daily or weekly attention, you’ll lose ground.

So, as you’re building, make time to think about what comes next.

Don’t Wait

If you take these steps now…

Think back on your year, what you want more of and what you want less of…

Choose just a couple of things to do — and do really well — in the coming year…

And create a reasonable, accessible, non-overwhelming plan to make steady progress…

I can all but guarantee you’ll end next year with a smile on your face, more money coming in, and new skills you can leverage.