At the start of most years, I put together my list of resolutions–both personal and professional. Then I break those goals down into micro-tasks. This works well for me because I can squeeze in progress no matter how much, or how little, time I have any given day. This year I’m doing something different:
I’m focusing on a combination of focus areas and creating systems.
I talked about this a little bit over at All Freelance Writing already because that site is one of my big focus areas this year. Check out that post if you’re interested in seeing what’s coming to All Freelance Writing in 2024.
The thing is, this approach flies in the face of standard advice. “Set SMART goals,” you’ve probably heard.
Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time-bound.
But screw it.
It’s time to try something different.
Why No Traditional Goal-Setting?
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against SMART goals. And I’ll still use them this year. Just on more of a monthly or quarterly planning basis.
For the broader year, I’ve narrowed down major focus areas instead. I’m still creating those micro-task lists so there’s never a question of what I could, or should, work on. And I’m building systems wherever possible to simplify business growth in the areas I want to focus on.
I’ll share those focus areas shortly. But first, if you know me through my freelance business writing work, All Freelance Writing, or Freelance Writing Pros, you might be surprised to know the service side of my business will not be one of them.
I mentioned last year that I was starting to ease toward freelance “retirement” in my own way–moving away from client work (freelance writing and PR / online marketing / social media / SEO / content strategy consulting).
And it went well. I’m very comfortable with my core client base which can include a mix of regular and retainer work along with long-time clients who come back periodically with projects.
It’s rare I have time to take on new clients. And it’s even rarer a prospect or their project is interesting enough that I’d consider working them in anymore. I’m at a point where I don’t have to. Don’t get me wrong. If a dream client came along, I’d bite. Probably. But with me scaling back on that side of things, it’s not exactly “growth” I’m after. Not in terms of client count at least.
So there’s no point in prioritizing that idea.
Instead, my focus areas fall within the other two sides of my business: digital publishing / blogging and indie publishing.
My 2024 Focus Areas
Here are my specific focus areas for 2024–the areas where I’m focusing on growth:
- All Freelance Writing (Fixes, Clean-up, feature overhauls, SEO, monetization, and traffic growth)
- Pro Business Writer (Mostly turning it into a platform for product sales and thought leadership work)
- Freelance Writing Pros (Optimizations, SEO, monetization, and traffic growth — this site will likely become an SEO case study project here)
- 2-3 new “core” site builds (These tie into the All Freelance Writing changes as some of that removed content will be the base for two of these)
- A new collection of what I call “quiet sites“
- A mystery novel series
- Short horror fiction
- The Query-Free Freelancer (A book I wrote but never releases–needs revisions, editing, some new content additions, etc.)
This might seem like a long list of focus projects. But for me, it’s not. These are over the course of the year, not all at once. And while some of these are long-term focus areas, others are one-and-done.
The next step of this year’s planning involves building systems.
Building Systems to Reach Business Goals
Recently I was talking to my husband about the challenges of growth and progress when you have ADHD. I love those hyper-focus states. But the in-between time can be disastrous. And there’s no better way to keep moving than having systems already in place.
This can be as simple as eliminating some choices you have to make on a regular basis.
On the personal side for example, this can mean picking out your clothes for the week all at once, or doing monthly meal planning and meal prep. When things are laid out and ready to go with minimal work in-the-moment, those choices don’t slow you down as much (which is common with ADHD, but systems like this can help just about anyone).
Now I’m doing similar with the business.
For example, I curate freelance writing jobs at All Freelance Writing. I hate doing it. There are always more important things to do. But it helps visitors, it’s a solid traffic source, and stopping isn’t an option based on existing plans.
So I’ve made it a little bit easier by identifying leads at the end of my day before I call it quits. I keep them open in tabs in a separate browser window. And when I wake up, they’re waiting on me, ready to be entered into the platform.
And I’m still working on this system. For example, I’ve been tweaking the way the job board runs, introducing more automation. So job ads will go through an automated expiration process and require fewer manual checks. The schema Google relies on will adapt accordingly. And I’m hashing out automating the redirects after expiration too so I stop losing traffic every time older job leads are removed.
More than this, I’m also exploring AI use cases for these systems. For that job board for example, I’m working on a way to have AI handle summaries, or at least the form entry process via Zapier.
I’m also working on AI systems and automated site audits to help with things like maintaining active links in my writers’ market directory.
Systems can be AI workflows, or they can be a simple collection of habits you rely on to keep you moving forward. Don’t overcomplicate it.
Will it work out better than having my usual collection of SMART goals? I don’t know yet. But as long as I can keep my focus on the areas where I want it, I believe the rest will fall into place.
You’ll be able to learn more about these and other projects on Kiss My Biz throughout the year–from SEO campaigns and launching social channels to AI integration and improving efficiency through automation.
What kinds of systems do you rely on in your business?