I told my wife that this blog post was going to consist of one sentence: “2012: good riddance to bad rubbish”.
For posterity’s sake, I’ll spell it out a little more. The last half of 2012 has been particularly trying. I traveled too much and worked too much. I moved to a new apartment in a new borough. I had too many deadlines on top of each other. And my amazing wife has somehow been even busier than I’ve been, which has made ours a hectic home. So, while there’ve been some really wonderful parts of 2012 (especially watching my son turn from a baby into a toddler), I’m happy to bid it farewell – and good riddance.
In lieu of a roundup in the style of the lastfewyears, here are a couple of thoughts I’d like to keep in mind during the upcoming year.
Don’t get too comfortable professionally. In 2012, I fine-tuned my professional work to be more highly focused and purpose-driven. (See this post for some related thoughts and strategy.) This process has been a success by just about every metric: I’m making better money, and I’m doing work that has a broader impact. But I’ve got to be careful not to fall too deeply into the niche I’ve chosen. As I become more and more of an expert, I find myself supervising others rather than building myself; and when I do find myself building, it’s rarely something really new and interesting. Expertise is good for your career, but, almost by definition, being an expert means being bored more of the time. I’ve got to remind myself to keep doing new things, even if (or especially if) it means leaving my comfort zone.
I can’t do everything. 2012 was the first year where I really felt that I was reaching the limit of how much work I can realistically do. Another side effect of expertise is that you start to think that you have an infinite capacity for taking on new projects, but the truth is that everything suffers if you allow yourself to be overextended. I’ve got to start saying no more often, and being more realistic when I schedule myself.
Turn it off sometimes. My schedule in 2012 has lulled me into thinking that it’s OK to check my email all the time, or to work every evening, or to work every weekend. For me, these things are decidedly not OK, and I should start acting accordingly. If it means that I’ve got to start taking on fewer professional projects, so be it.
I get a lot of requests to do BuddyPress and WordPress dev work, and I can only take a fraction of that work myself. So I end up referring a lot of work to other developers. Sometimes I hear back from the client that one of the referrals worked out (or didn’t). Unfortunately, it’s very rare that I hear from the developer himself about it.
It’s unfortunate not because I need the gratification (although it’s nice to hear “thanks for the referrals” sometimes). It’s unfortunate because I want to be a good referer. I read every job inquiry carefully, and I try to make good matches between inquiries and what I know about the developers on my list. I look at how big the job will be, what kind of work it is (plugin dev, theme work, troubleshooting, etc), what field the client comes from (education, journalism, retail, etc), and other stuff like that, and match it up with the devs I think would be best for (and would most enjoy) that particular referral. When I never hear back from these friends, I don’t have the data I need. Stuff like: If you refused the job, why? Too busy? Not the kind of work you generally like to do? Did the referral make your lousy-client-sense tingle? If you took the job, how did it go? Was the client good to work with? Should I continue to send work like this?
So please: if you know that one of your client inquiries came from a friend’s referral, ping that friend at some point down the road. The more info you share, the better the referrals you’ll get from me.
As a side note, I’ve been chatting privately with David Bisset about coming up with systematic solutions to the kinds of problems I’ve described here (among others). But in the meantime, an occasional email will do the trick :)
Today I’m going to spend down some of my PayPal slush fund by making donations to online causes that are important to me. I do this every year, usually on a day in December (Christmas! Last chance for tax breaks! etc). Doing it in a single day makes it fun, like an event. Here’s a partial list of where I’ll be sending moolah today:
You don’t have to give to these specific causes (though you should – they are awesome!), but you should get out there and support some of the causes that you believe in. Even a couple bucks can be meaningful. ‘Tis the season!
A few months ago, I held a successful Kickstarter campaign to support some development on Anthologize. In the past week or so, I’ve started work in earnest. This first round of development has consisted of a number of unglamorous but important cleanup tasks. A rundown of what’s been done so far:
Improvements to the way that TCPDF stores its cache files, to avoid permissions errors that can mess up PDF export
Improvements to the way tags and categories appear in HTML export mode
Improved compliance with WordPress coding standards
Rewritten plugin initialization, for better stability across various setups and decreased memory footprint
Better compatibility with PHP 5.4+
This round of development was brought to you by Siobhan McKeown, an early and enthusiastic supporter of my Anthologize campaign. Siobhan is the proprietress of Words for WP, a delightful consultancy focused on writing documentation, publicity, UX, and other copy for WordPress-based businesses. She’s the best at what she does, and rumor has it that she also has a very famous musician for a cousin. Thanks, Siobhan!