I had overly-ambitious ideas for everything I was going to include in this 2023 year-in-review post. And I realized that if I included all the bells and whistles and ideas I wanted to… this post would be ready sometime around June. And I realized, further, that I was basically trying to wedge all the draft ideas and projects-in-progress that I have floating around into a year-in-review post. Which is not the place for them! I’ll be content to let those ideas and projects percolate and grow in coming weeks and month, and share them here on the blog in their own time.
I guess that a year in review post is officially one of my new year’s traditions, since I’ve now done two years in a row (you can see my 2022 year in review post here). I love reading other people’s annual retrospective posts– I find it inspiring to learn about their own favourite experiences, lessons learned, and their celebrations and challenges. So I’ll use a few unaccounted-for hours over the holidays to put together my own contribution on an annual review.
Table of Contents
What worked out well in 2023: things I’m grateful I was able to accomplish
- Launching Obsidian for Minimalists in December 2023! 🎉
- As you might have seen in this post about the course while it was still under development, I had been a bit uncertain whether I’d be able to get the course launched and out the door this year, or if it would need to wait until Q2 of 2024 (as I have other obligations in Q1 2023). This course had been percolating for a while, ever since my post on how to get started with Obsidian Notes became one of the most popular posts on my site.
- I’m very grateful that I discovered CleanShot X for Mac (hat tip to Philipp Temmel of Creativerly for this recommendation!), as the course is quite screenshot-heavy, and CleanShot helped to make the process of capturing and annotating screenshots far more streamlined.
- I had great fun building the course material itself within Obsidian, which exported beautifully to MemberVault using the Copy Document as HTML Obsidian plugin by mvdkwast.
- Trying out newsletter ads! 📰
- In 2023, I tried dipping my toe into paid advertising (via newsletter ads purchased from independent creators) to help share the word about Calmer Notes and my other courses.
- Up until this I’ve relied solely organic traffic via SEO and word-of-mouth from students who’ve taken the course, and that process has worked surprisingly well.
- But when I ventured out into purchasing newsletter ads from folks like Claudia Dawson + Kevin Kelly + Mark Frauenfelder of Recomendo, or Caitlin Dewey of Links I Would Gchat You If We Were Friends, or Ann Friedman and her eponymous newsletter, I felt good about supporting fellow internet creators while also being delighted to be able to reach a whole new audience of people who hadn’t yet come across my work.
- Moving from Gumroad to LemonSqueezy. 🍋
- Amalgamating and moving my website to WordPress. 💻
- After years spent maintaining a separate blog on Ghost and a main website on other webpage builders (first Carrd, then PixieSet), I finally made the move in 2023 to amalgamate my web presence into one single site using a WordPress theme from Heartenmade.
- I’m glad I made this move overall, but definitely feel like WordPress’ strength is as a content management system. However, it lacks the sleek, minimalist, joy-to-use blogging platform of Ghost. That being said, I appreciate everything else about WordPress as a website builder.
- Starting a new microblog/writing workshop space/short-form writing studio blog on Ghost. 🎨
- I’m not entirely sure how to describe the space (I’m still figuring it out), but I’m trying a new approach of writing more casual, shorter pieces on a new mini-blog I’m calling The Studio by Elizabeth Butler.
- Basically, I felt sorely tempted to start a Substack (since I feel like so many of my favourite online creators are moving in that direction), but Substack itself didn’t feel like quite the right fit for me. Nonetheless, I wanted a space that felt a bit more casual, where I didn’t feel as much (self-imposed) pressure to focus on optimizing every post for SEO, and where I could share a mix of inspiring quotes and snippets of my own ideas and works-in-progress.
- Since I miss the aesthetic experience of blogging on the Ghost platform, and I didn’t feel like starting a Substack, I decided to build The Studio on Ghost.
- At present, I think that I’ll likely use The Studio as a place for first-drafts and working through concepts, then will share more polished versions of my writing on this blog. However, I’m still a little murky on how the two blogs will work together… watch this space (and that space!) as I figure things out.
- Keeping this side project running while being a person with a full (and at times overflowing) life. 🪴
- When I read other people’s year-in-review posts, sometimes I can feel a bit daunted and suffer from comparison-itis. My small accomplishments seem to pale into comparison to theirs. And there’s a pull, sometimes, to say– why am I bothering to do this?
- Why spend my small pockets of time on writing course material or drafting a blog post or marketing my business when I can’t do this full time? When my business (which I run in the nooks and crannies of my too-busy week) can’t possibly compare to another online creator who is able to devote their full time and attention to their business? Should I even be investing this time?
- Then I’ll get a thoughtful, kind email from a student in my course, letting me know that the material has made a difference to them, and it feels like it’s worth it. It makes me feel warm and cozy and relieved and happy to know that all of this means something to someone, and is helpful in some small way.
What I’d hoped to accomplish in 2023 (but wasn’t in the cards)
- More blog posts about Quiet Productivity (I have a bunch of drafts in progress, but only one blog post up on the topic so far).
- A more regular rhythm of blog posts, and being more on top of sending email newsletters when I do have updated blog posts. Other options of email newsletters that send automatically from RSS (such as Buttondown) are on my radar, but I do otherwise quite like Flodesk as my email newsletter software.
Creator tools and apps I loved in 2023
- Heartenmade for WordPress themes
- SiteGround for WordPress hosting
- MemberVault for course hosting
- Flodesk for email newsletters
- Ahrefs for SEO research
- Plausible for privacy-focused web analytics
- Canva for graphic design
- Whimsical for mind maps and diagrams
- CleanShot X for Mac for screencaptures
- Missive for email
My favourite reads of 2023
This is definitely an incomplete list– I’m absolutely sure I’ve left out some gems I enjoyed this year– but here’s an handful of some of my favourite articles that I came across this year:
- The Life-Changing Magic of Letting Yourself Take Breaks by Karla Starr
- You Can’t Hoard Life by Oliver Burkeman
- What Can You Put in Place? by Janelle Hardacre
- Doing Things Is What Counts by Oliver Burkeman
- Letting Go of the Shoulds and The Guilt of Rest by Ashley Janssen
- Welcome to Peak Complexity: Why Modern Life is So Exhausting by Karla Starr
- Lists are Menus by Oliver Burkeman
- The Difference Between Busy and Non-Busy People by Joshua Becker
- Productivity Gurus are the Instagram Influencers of Capitalism by Karla Starr
What I’m hoping to accomplish in 2024
- Launch a third course (if it happens in 2024, it will most likely be towards the end of the year).
- Have fun experimenting with a new writing space at The Studio by Elizabeth Butler and finding out how that might change my rhythm of blogging here at my main website.
- Keep exploring paid advertising with publications from other independent creators.
- Maintain my motivation to continue creating content– even if imperfectly and at a slower pace than I’d prefer– and accepting my limitations as a part-time creator while also still making a contribution.
New Year’s-related posts from The Studio
If you’re feeling in a mood for reflection, you might appreciate this two-part post series on reflecting on the challenges and successes of the old year from The Studio:
- Part 1: Giving ourselves permission to grieve for the old year
- Part 2: Giving ourselves permission to celebrate the old year
Wishing you a happy end to 2023 and a wonderful 2024 ahead! 🎉