My Goals For 2017

2016 has been a really good year for me. I have made significant progress towards my goals both personally and professionally. Some of the year’s highlights include making my first business acquisition, Distisuite, and selling my first project to a Fortune 1000 client.

While there have been many positive things that occurred in 2016, there were also several things that didn’t work out as well as I’d anticipated. My back injuries haven’t gotten much better, my sales aren’t as high as i’d wanted them to be, and my productivity has been less than ideal on a day-to-day basis.

Personal Goals For 2017

My personal goals are going to be one of my primary focuses in 2017. I have come to the realization that working almost every minute of every day is not sustainable, nor is it healthy. Becasue of this, my personal goals are focused on creating a more holistic, balanced life.

Improving my health

One of the biggest issues I have with myself is my health. I am overweight and am starting to see the early implications of this. I know that losing weight, exercising more, and eating better will make me not only be healthier, but i’ll feel healthier. This will have positive impacts on all areas of my live including my mood, energy, and productivity.

  1. Work with my personal trainer: I started working with a personal trainer earlier this year. Since doing so, I have seen that i’ve been feeling better and that i’m getting stronger. I want to continue doing so 2+ days a week and try to get to the gym at least 3 days a week.
  2. Cook at home: One of the biggest contributors to me gaining weight these past few years has been that i’ve been eating out way too often. When I eat out, I make poor food choices. I want to make it a habit of cooking at home every day because when I cook at home, I tend to eat healthier. This includes preparing a lunch so I don’t go out during the week and eat something unhealthy.

If I implement these 2 difficult, but not impossible, practices I should be able to improve my health relatively quickly.

Travel More

I want to make it a point to do some more traveling this year. Being able to take a break from work for a couple of days and relax somewhere that is not my home can be really refreshing, and have a positive impact on my health. Some places I am considering traveling:

  • Niagara Falls
  • Gettysburg
  • Boston
  • The Beach (Atlantic City or Ocean City)
  • New York City
  • Washington DC

These are all places that I can do in a long weekend without having to worry about the airport.

Education Goals

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn as much in 2016 as I had anticipated. While I did vastly expand my knowledge of JavaScript, Python and Linux, I didn’t make nearly as much progress as I had anticipated. I think I set goals that were too steep in 2016, so for the next year I want to make them a little less intense, and more achievable. I plan on studying for 5 hours a week, which is only an hour a day while i’m working. This will add up to 250 hours of education when 2017 is over, which is plenty of time to grasp a bunch of new concepts.

JavaScript

In 2016 I learned a lot of JavaScript. I was able to get a solid grasp of the language as well as a more in depth understanding of DOM manipulation in vanilla JavaScript. I didn’t get to learning any more advanced libraries. My plan for 2017 is to gain a better understanding of:

  1. NodeJS/ExpressJS: Node is becoming more and more popular for building websites and even native apps.
  2. VueJS: I really like the simplicity of this library and want to start implementing it more in the applications I build.
  3. Functional JavaScript: I want to get a solid grasp of functional programming, and why not learn it in JS.
  4. React/Redux(maybe): I think it could be interesting to learn these technologies for the sake of React Native. I say maybe, as it I do not feel it is necessary to learn every trendy framework in order to complete my education. I’d rather focus on getting better with vanilla JavaScript than the popular framework of the month.

Python

I have a deep affinity for the Python. I love the simplicity of the language, it’s efficiency. I’d love to be able to write Python all day long. In order to get better with Python, I want to do the following:

  1. Get better with the language: Having a more in depth understanding of Python itself will make me a better Python programmer. Some of the things that I need to learn more in depth are generators, list comprehensions, map/reduce/etc.., decorators, and recursive functions.
  2. Django: Django is one of the best RAD frameworks in existences, and it’s written in Python! I want to have an in-depth understanding on how to create web applications in Django so I can build them for myself and others quickly and efficiently.
  3. Flask: Flask is really interesting to me as a microframework – minimalistic and simple. I would like to have at least a basic understanding on how to create apps in Flask even if i don’t ever use it. At the very least, it’ll give me something to compare Django to.

PHP

PHP has only gotten more popular over the years, and it’s become an overall better language to work with. I think that i’ll be working in PHP to some extent quite often for the foreseeable future, so it’s worth it to be as good as I can with the language.

  1. Laravel: I have heard nothing but good things about this framework. Getting an understanding of how to build apps in Laravel can be really useful when selling new projects, and to get a better understanding of the capabilities of PHP.
  2. Performance Optimization: Learning tips and tricks to squeeze every last millisecond of speed out of PHP can have material benefits to my clients. This includes caching, load balancing and queuing/messaging.

Other Things

There is an infinite amount of things that I can learn, but I only have a finite amount of time and energy. Some of the other things I want to learn more about is:

  • Microservice Architecture: This has always been something that is interesting to me. Learning to break up a monolithic app into smaller, self-contained services could be really useful as I start to work on larger and more complex projects. This also includes getting a better understanding of Kubernetes to orchestrate production application workloads.
  • C: I have a personal interest in IoT and microcontrollers. Most of these controllers are programmed in C so understanding the language will allow me to make cool things.
  • Android/iOS Development: Learning to build native apps would be a good thing for me to learn, especially as it ties into IoT projects that I want to work on.

While there is a lot I want to learn in 2017, I thing that all of these topics are contained enough that I should be able to do so without too many issues. While this won’t make me an engineering master, it’ll definitely be setting me on the right path.

Professional Goals For 2017

I want 2017 to be the best year yet in my professional life. I would really like to scale ProTech, DistiSuite, and launch a standalone product this year.

ProTech

ProTech has been my primary source of income since 2012. I have grown it from doing small website tweaks on eLance to building full scale applications for some of the largest companies in the world. While the quality of work that I have gotten has steadily increased, the quantity of it has not. This has been purposeful as I have been reluctant to grow the size of my team due to fear of failure and confidence. In 2017 this is going to change. I plan on putting my marketing on overdrive and learning to master of the art of delegation. If I can sell the projects, delegate them out to employees, then do QA before I deliver it I can still maintain the same quality of work (given I hire the right people) while vastly increasing the quantity of it.

DistiSuite

It’s been almost a year since I purchased DistiSuite and I couldn’t be happier with the decision. In 2017, I want to rebuild the platform from the ground up – making it more feature rich, faster, and more valuable to my customers. Ultimately, I want to make DistiSuite more profitable and more efficient, which is totally doable.

Launch A Product

This sounds vague because it is a concept that I am only in the early stages of exploring. I have been a very apt follower of HackerNews of late, and there is a good amount of content there about people who are launching their own products. I would like to create something that can start passively generating some income. Growing as an entrepreneur has always been important to me, and creating passive income sources is the next logical step for me to take.

 

Conclusion

I have a very ambitious year set for me in 2017, but with solid effort and persistence I am confident that I’ll be able to accomplish all of my goals, and then some!

Starting my Experiment on Productivity

Over the past several months, I have been almost obsessed in productivity. Since I started running my own businesses, I have found that, while I have accomplished a lot, I have by no means been performing at the level in which I would like to. If I had, I would be much further along with my long-term goals, have more money, and have a lot less work-related stress.

In an effort to battle the need to become more productive, I have spent a lot of time reading (actually, listening to) books on productivity. There have been several that I have read, but the one that has had the most impact on how I view things is Deep Work, by Cal Newport. This book, at a high level teaches you to focus on “Deep” or meaningful work that is conducive to your goals, and eliminate distractions and busywork as much as possible.

After reading this, and a few others. I set a goal of getting 4 billable hours of work done a day. In reality this wasn’t a hard goal and, when accomplished, I can make a lot of money. Unfortunately, this goal is flawed; I have been working on 4 hours of billable work, but not meaningful work, so while I was able to get work done that makes progress, I was still having the issue of meeting deadlines and goals. This has set me back to the drawing board.

Designing an Experiment

I do not have the answer as to what will make me more productive, but I do have some hypothesis that I will be testing out. I also think they have a high probability of giving me some success.

One thing to consider, is that productivity is hard to measure. Not all hours are created equal, while I can do an hour of billable work and get my hourly rate, there are some hours that I can do things that have an astronomically higher payoff. For example, if I spend an hour working on a proposal for a potential project. Assuming I win the bid, that could mean thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in profit long term. With my previous mindset, it isn’t billable time, so doing proposals got pushed back to the end of the day. I am not sure how I will quantify my productivity just yet, but I know that I will be able to measure how effective these experiments are, which I can then see the impact on my life.

Slaying the Email Beast

Email has been the literal bane of my existence for the past several months. As I take on more projects and responsibilities, inevitably more emails come in. If I can pinpoint the one biggest stresser in my workday, it is dealing with emails. I literally get hundreds of emails a day that need my direct attention. Instead of dealing with them in sweeps (I am a huge subscriber and proponent of Inbox Zero), I let them pile up and neglect addressing even the important ones. I also keep my email client running all day, so I get distracted whenever a new email comes in. This then breaks my focus, and, can potentially stress me out if it is some new demand or issue that comes to me unexpectedly.

My first step here is to simply turn my email client off. If it is not there, front-and-center, I can’t be distracted by it. I know that I have a physical urge to check and see my unread messages, but I need to condition myself not to. While I know people can get away with checking their email once a day, I would be thrilled if I can do so every hour or two. When then go through my inbox, I will achieve Inbox Zero every time – following my pseudo GTD methodology of dealing with emails. If I can respond/implement the task in less than 2 minutes, do it right away. If it takes more than 2 minutes – create a task on my list and archive the message. I then can go through my list periodically throughout the day/week and schedule them to be accomplished when they realistically fit in.

To Summarize:

Goal: Check email every 1-2 hours
Expected Results: Less stress over email, and less distractions during my workday. I will feel more in control.

Going Distraction Free

Ah, distractions… these happen all of the time. Some are in my control, others are not. Hangouts, Slack, calls/texts, people around me, the list can go on and on. One of the key things noted in Deep Work is to try to eliminate distractions so you can focus. Here is the thing; I work from Indy Hall, a very busy coworking space where distractions are not only common, but encouraged. I can try to eliminate all of the digital distractions in the world, but there will always be physical things that take away from my attention. And i’m ok with that, if I wasn’t – then Indy Hall isn’t the place where I should be working from.

The good news is, that I do have some control over this. The first thing I need to do is figure out a solution to minimize the virtual distractions. While it may seem like a logical idea to turn off slack, silence my phone, and become a digital hermit for hours at a time, it’s not feasible for me. There are people who work for me, clients who need my attention, and legitimate emergencies that people need to be able to get in touch with me for. What I need to figure out is a way to differentiate between communication that can realistically be responded to at a later time, and things that truly do require my immediate attention.

I think what I want to do is figure out a way to create a digital “panic button” that will allow people to get in touch with me if it is a time sensitive issue, and turn off notifications for everything else. This would essentially mean me putting Slack in do not disturb mode, and possibly create a command in slack /emergency {message} which would create a notification that pushes to my phone/mac. I would then create something similar with an email reply, contact form, or something. This would allow me to turn off many of the digital distractions from my day that can wait until later.

To Summarize:

Goal: Turn off as many digital distractions as possible, while still creating a way for me to be contacted in emergencies.
Expected Results: I think there will be an adjustment period to disconnecting, but once that happens, I will find it much easier to stay focused.

Putting this to the Test

Since productivity is such a hard thing to measure, I have came up with a good way to see if I can actually get more done in less time – i’m going to learn a new skill. I have been putting off continuing my engineering studies for years becasue I valued “actual” work as more important. To put all of this to the test, i’m gong to dedicate meaningful time 3-5 days a week towards expanding my knowledge as a software engineer. My plan is to apply the test above, continue my plan of study, and see where I am in a month. Hopefully, I will be able to get all of my work done, spend make significant progress in my studies, and do so in the same amount of time or less than I currently spend working. This will give me more time to do whatever I want.

I will then go and test some more productivity ideas and see how they affect me.

2016 Goals

2016 Goals

I’m excited for what’s to come for me in 2016. I didn’t reach all my goals last year mainly due to health reasons. I’m determined not to let this affect me in the upcoming year.

I’m going to break this down into three different sections:

  1. Business
  2. Professional Development
  3. Personal

Business Goals

I want this year to be one of the most memorable years for me. I have a lot of promising business ideas. If I can consistently dedicate time towards building these ideas to maturity, I can make a lot of money.

The first thing I want to do is bring my WordPress maintainence service, WP Improve, into production. The good news is that this site is already functional. In order for me to start getting customers, I need to start writing content and marketing to my target audience. To begin, I need to start writing sales content. I want to target web professionals with the service, I can keep it more technical. Next, I want to start writing blog posts targeted towards web professionals. To do so,  i’m going to write tutorials specializing in popular WordPress niches like Woocommerce, Gravity Forms, and the Genesis Framework. I also want to experiment with Twitter ads to further attract customers.

Next, is a relatively new idea that I have; a web crawling/scraping service that crawls fully rendered pages (i.e. JavaScript and AJAX). This service would fill a need that the SEO industry desperately needs.  I have the knowledge and infastructure ideas to implement this in a way that is completely scalable.

Lastl, is the more obvious goal: growing my consultancy, ProTech. I have let my online presence with this company remain stagnant for the past year or so. This has happened becasue I have been content with the volume of work/leads I have sustained in 2015. Not this year. In 2016 I would love to double my revenues, and up the bar in both the quantity of leads I receive, and the quality of my deliverables. Ideally, I want to take on larger, more complex projects that really allow me to use my development and marketing skills.

To start, I need to launch my redesigned website. It’s been in development since October of 2014, so it’s more than time to finish it. Since it’s about 85% completed, I would like to have it live by mid-January. Next, I want to start writing more blog posts for ProTech. I think if I focus on my specialties (WordPress & Techical SEO), I can draw decent amount of traffic. Lastly, I want to start networking more. This was something that suffered greatly in 2015 due to my back injuries – I couldn’t go to many networking events. I would like to attend at least one networking event per week and speak at least six times.

Professional Development

In 2016, I want to continue my education to become a much better programmer. Currently, I’m comfortable where I am building WordPress websites. If I continue being comfortable, I will end up falling behind of the curve and my career will suffer. I want to become familiar with some more technologies which will allow me to keep a competetive edge.

The first thing that I want to do is become more proficient with Python. I  have a solid grasp of the language to land an entry-level position , but I want to become an expert in Python. To start, i’ll finish my Professional Python book. Then, I want to become familiar with Flask, and building an app with Django.

Next, I want to become more proficient with JavaScript. I want to learn some of the more popular libraries, like NodeJS, React and Polymer. I also want to do some more visualizations using D3.

I would then like to learn more Ruby.  I don’t expect to become an expert in Ruby, but I would love to get a solid grasp of the language. I would then like a practical understanding of Ruby on Rails and Sinatra.

Lastly, I would like to be more of an active participant in the WordPress community. I have been developing almost exclusively on WordPress for almost 5 years now, and I would like to become a core contributor. My goal here is to become a named contributor for the 4.6, which would be sometime in June.

Personal Goals

My big personal goal, has been one that i’ve failed at for several years (as i’m sure most people do), I want to lose weight. For the past several years, I have consistently gained wait, and it is time to seriously change this. My weight issues are mostly related to unhealthy food choices I make, eating a lot of fried, high calorie foods, and not a lot of vegetables. This is mostly because of convenience, I like eating healthy, but ordering takeout is easy. I think I can lose weight by cooking at home more, and my goal is to lose 75-100 lbs or 1.5 to 2lbs a week.

What do you think about my goals for 2016? Feel free to comment below.