It's officially the last day of 2018 as I sit here and start the final part of my 2018 annual review process… for the past 60 days, I've been knee-deep in reviewing, planning, and reflecting on the year that was 2018.

Run your own planathon with the Fresh Start Workbook

Normally, I'd follow Chris Guillebeau's process, but this year, I'm completely deviating from this and following Amber McCue's review process, which you can find outlined in her Fresh Start 2019 Workbook & Planning Guide.

I'm sure you're familiar with Amber's name, particularly if you've heard me speak about the Planathon before. Amber runs this free event every year to help creative entrepreneurs get clear on what priorities they should focus on for the coming year.

This process starts at the end of October.

Since the Planathon and grabbing Amber's Fresh Start Guide, I've been reviewing my goal card, my one-page business plan and figuring out what worked and didn't work in 2018.

So let's take a trip down memory lane…

2018 Annual Review – My Reflections

This year, I wanted to take a different approach to my 2018 annual review process and split it up into quarterly reviews instead.

The reason?

I'm a huge fan of 90-day plans and that's what I did successfully in 2018.

Once we go through the reflections piece, we'll then look at how I'm planning for success in 2019 (which will be in a follow-up blog post).

My 2018 Strategic Plan aka One-Page Business Plan

It helps to see what my intentions were at the end of 2017 as I was planning out 2018. Below is an image of my strategic plan for 2018.

This is what I thought I'd be focusing on for the year.

2018 Strategic Plan

Let's see what actually eventuated shall we?!

My 2018 Annual Review

Before we dive in, the focus is going to be a recap of each quarter, what went down, how I was feeling.

For your own annual review process, you might like to focus on two questions only:

  1. What went well for you this past year
  2. What didn't go well for you this past year

Those two questions are how I always start this process, and with Amber's Fresh Start Guide, I dug even deeper.

But for you, those two questions will be enough to get the ball rolling!

Let's get started.

What Happened in Q1?

The first half of 2018 was interesting. I was still in the middle of planning out and implementing everything I learned from Be Booked Out and we were still housesitting.

I remember feeling a little lost and in limbo, a theme that has been part of the last four years as my husband and I try to figure out how to live our best lives.

Not so easy to do when you live in a country that is extremely expensive to live in. Hence why we are looking at moving overseas… I'll keep you posted on that as it happens!

I AM An AuthorHowever, in true Lise style, I did kick off the year with a few awesome things:

  1. I launched my book, I AM An Author and it became an Amazon #1 Best Seller
  2. I started coaching for Self-Publishing School again

Those two things happened in January 2018. A pretty great start to the year!

In early February, we found an apartment to live in and stopped housesitting. Yay, I could now set up my office 🙂

But then…

February turned out to be a crap month mostly. I lost my Aunty (my Dad's sister) to cancer in February. It was sudden and unexpected and threw me for a loop. She had been diagnosed with cancer about 12 months earlier, but the prognosis was good and she had been doing good. We'd seen her at Christmas and she looked great.

I struggled a lot in February, hurting for my Dad and hurting for her two sons who hadn't expected this to happen so quickly either.

Death is one of those things that forces you to reassess your own life and where you're going.

I remember sitting down and asking myself the question, “What do I really want to be doing?”

A hard question to answer for someone like me who is more focused on moving forward. I always need to be moving forward, to be taking action.

But I forced myself to sit with that question and allow the thoughts to come through. I did that for a week, just asking the question and allowing the answers to come.

At the end of that week, I was a lot clearer on what I wanted to do with the rest of 2018, which saw a shift in my focus.

I threw out my 2018 strategic plan. 


Instead, I would choose to focus on eating healthier, exercising and helping as many people as I could with their author businesses.

The shining light in February was that we celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary and got to go out for dinner and a movie, something we hadn't yet done in the first part of the year.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” – Jim Rohn

March saw me throw myself further into coaching with Self-Publishing School and I planned out some book ideas that I wanted to write.

But I struggled to write.

I'm infamous for saying you cannot have writer's block if you have a strong outline, but even I can admit there are times when even having a strong outline won't help you.

Those times are when you are emotionally blocked.

And that was definitely the case for me.

If you refer back to my strategic plan above, you'll note that I had planned to write a book in Q1. That did not happen.

I'm not sure whether it was because of my Aunty's passing or coaching authors again, but I felt emotionally tapped out.

In terms of the goals I'd set for myself, I wasn't even close to my financial target of $100,000 by December 31, 2018 (broken down, that meant I'd need to be earning $25,000 per quarter) and my goal of adding a further 7,000 subscribers to my list wasn't on pace either.

I ended Q1 feeling pretty meh.

What Happened in Q2?

The start of Q2 was pretty relaxed. In New Zealand, we get four days off for Easter, so I took the time to regroup and spend time with my family.

“Be someone who inspires others.” – Anon

Coming out of Easter, I was excited to be invited to provide an online workshop for the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors Association) Self-Publishing Advice Conference on productivity as an author.

You can check out the workshop below.

Q2 really started to feel good, I'd done the presentation for ALLi and had been asked to create a writing course from an unexpected company.

I'd also started writing my next book and was asked to contribute a chapter to a book for people looking to make money as an author. That book is called “Write and Grow Rich.”

The end of April was fun as I took time off to hang out with our nieces during the school holidays.

They came and stayed for a week and we did loads of fun things like:

  • Visited Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World
  • Caught the Peter Rabbit movie
  • Visited Auckland Zoo
  • Caught the Sherlock Gnomes movie

It's times like this that I'm reminded how lucky I am to work for myself and set my own hours.

“Live the life you've imagined” – Anon

By May, I'd finished creating the writing course I'd been asked to create and was full swing into coaching with Self-Publishing School.

I was also asked to create course content for a new course that Self-Publishing School was launching, called Sell More Books early on in Q2.

The Sell More Books course I'd help create with Self-Publishing School launched in May to beta users and was sold out.

But what made May super fun and special was marking Guy's 40th birthday.

In my family, birthdays are kind of a big deal, and so by extension, Guy now gets subjected to all the fuss… something he wasn't super happy about when we first met, but now loves the fun things we do to celebrate…

Like filing the lounge full of balloons, birthday banners, streamers, and all other manner of decorations I can find strewn all around the house. Not too mention birthday cake and a day filled with all the things the birthday person loves.

You can see why Guy was persuaded to enjoy birthdays!

change your mind!I launched my second book for the year in June, called Mind The Chatter: Master Your Inner Voice, Gain a Positive Mindset, and Get Your Power Back!

It was the first book in a while that I was really excited about sharing with others, as it laid out the exact technique I use to quiet the inner negative chatter inside my head.

The end of Q2 (June) is where we also made some big decisions about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do, particularly for my hubby.

He decided to go all in on his own business, something he'd been working at on the side for the past six months.

We both sat down and decided that to move his business forward, it would be best if he could dedicate 100% of his focus to this.

I ended Q2 about 25% on pace towards my financial target and with a very stagnant email list 🙁

What Happened in Q3?

At the beginning of Q3, my hubby was a project manager for a large shopping mall company, you might have heard of them… Westfield.

His job was demanding and required him to focus a lot and meant longer hours. This is why he decided to quit his job so he could focus on his business and did that in July.

Looking at the monthly reflection questions from my journal for the end of June, I can see that I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed and frustrated that I wasn't getting much done in my own business heading into Q3…

Which is a little crazy when you look back over the things I had done to that point:

  • Launched two books
  • Created two courses
  • Contributed to a book full of author influencers
  • Created and delivered an online workshop

That's a lot of things I'd accomplished without even realising it.

Sometimes you've gotta stop, review what came before you and celebrate the achievements you've made.

July was all about moving out of our apartment and heading down to my parents before heading on an overseas trip to Australia, New York, and Toronto.

July was a whirlwind of activity and I remember feeling excited, nervous, and overwhelmed all at the same time.

August was when we started our 8-week trip, starting with a quick trip to Australia for a conference, then on to New York for two weeks so Guy could meet with his business mentor and discuss next steps.

The middle of Q3 saw us in Australia and New York (August), before moving on to Toronto, Canada, hanging out with our friends and working in our businesses in September.

August was a whirlwind of activity again and I remember being so excited to be in NYC.

September is where I learned a lot about the way I like to work

And it's where I also struggled the most… when you work for yourself, friends and family often don't understand what a typical day looks like.

They think they can chat with you at any time, ask you to join them for a long lunch, or wonder why you're still working at 8pm at night.

Add in the fact that you're coaching 80% of the time and flexibility goes out the window.

Our trip to Toronto 2018September was a great month overall though, as I got to catch up with my two favourite people in Toronto. We ate lots, drank way too much, and talked about everything under the sun as only best friends can do.

We got to experience Cottage Country (a first for Guy) and we saw a Maple Leafs Ice Hockey pre-season game.

September rocked!

I'm the kinda gal that loves change, but when a lot of change hits you all at once, it can take your breath away, and that's how I felt at the end of Q3… out of breath.

What Happened in Q4?

October we were back in New Zealand, hanging out at my parents' place as we figured out the next steps in Guy's business.

October is also where I took on a couple of consulting clients to help them with the launch of their book and to get the right author business systems set up.

I also hired a virtual assistant!

I have had virtual assistant's in the past, but hadn't had one since I fired my last one back in December 2017.

I'd been reluctant to bring on a VA because I hadn't had a great run with the past three… I was starting to think it was me!

But Sonia, my new VA, is a dream to work with and she is pro-active. She asks questions, tries to figure things out first before asking for help and is adding value in so many ways. I'm excited to see how we work together in 2019.

October is also when I started to think seriously about what I want to achieve in 2019.

“The dreamers are the saviours of the world.” – James Allen

October is also when my newest nephew was born. Grayson Maxwell Hester Carter joined us on October 19, 2018. He is completely adorable and has my hubby and I excited to start our own family in 2019!

October 29th is when the 2018 Planathon started and I was super excited to get my hands on Amber McCue's Fresh Start 2019 Workbook.

November started off with a relaxing day road trip to Raglan, one of the prettiest black sand beaches in NZ.

Summer had finally started in NZ and we made a pact to make the most of it and get out and see more of sights around the Waikato.

My birthday also happened in November and my husband surprised me with a beautiful sapphire and diamond necklace as well as a day spent doing fun things, like visiting a local tea estate for a high tea lunch!

November was also when we had planned on heading back to NYC and Toronto, but as the best-laid plans go… things changed. Things had slowed down for Guy's business and it made no sense to go over if it wasn't necessary.

I treated myself to a new rose gold MacBook Air as well!

By December, I was pretty clear that I wanted to take two weeks off over Christmas and blocked off the time in my calendar and told all my SPS students and my clients that if they wanted to get anything achieved before I went on holidays, then they'd better book in the time asap!

This saw me being crazy busy for the first three weeks of December, something I'm in no hurry to experience again.

Merry Christmas 2018From back-to-back calls and no time to regroup, by the time December 21st rolled around (my official finish date), I was exhausted.

We had a quiet, low-key Christmas with our close family and spent it hanging in the sunshine, eating waaaaay too much food and relaxing.

The first time in close to 10 months where I had truly stopped to smell the roses. No laptop in sight!

So how did Q4 finish?

I'm excited to say that I exceeded my financial target by $3,000!

And while I didn't hit 10,000 subscribers, I did reach 5,000 engaged subscribers, something I've learned is far better than 10,000 unengaged subscribers.

Still, my goal for 2019 is to reach 10,000 subscribers because now I know what to do!

Q4 was by far the best of the year and also the most fun for me. I'm learning more about how I like to work each year as I work through this review process and I'm excited about what 2019 is going to bring my way.

Before I let you in on what I'm doing in 2019, let's take a look at what didn't go so well for me in 2018.

What Didn't Go Well in 2018?

If we look back at my strategic plan, you'll notice that a lot of the big things I had planned didn't eventuate… I only wrote 2 out of the 4 books I'd planned and achieved nothing else on that plan!


That's normal my friends. When you're planning at the beginning of the year, you cannot possibly know what lies ahead. This is why it's gotta be flexible and why I choose to focus on 90-day plans instead.

Looking back to Q1, you'll notice that I was really struggling emotionally. That was largely in part to my Aunty passing away.

But what I didn't do was take some time off.

Sure I had a few days for the funeral, but I really should have taken a week off to regroup and mourn fully.

As Q2 approached, I was feeling a bit better, but still focused on what I wasn't doing well versus what was working. This is something I'm going to practice better in 2019, celebrating the wins, big and small.

Q3 and Q4 worked really well, but I found myself feeling overwhelmed and frustrated more often than not.

This was because I wasn't giving myself enough time to regroup and recoup. This lead to me taking Monday's and Friday's for myself to relax and focus on the things I want to be doing. Something I'll be continuing to do in 2019.

What I Learned in 2018

Goodbye 2018A lot of what I learned from 2018 is similar to 2017… which tells me that I keep repeating the same mistakes, lol!

So I've learned that in order to make plans for the future, I need to stop and smell the roses at the end of each quarter. To take the time to reflect and review before setting out my goals for the next 90 days.

I learned that I'm still super passionate about helping people inspire and connect with their tribe and that I love inspiring and connecting with others too.

I learned how much I love sharing productivity tips and tricks, particularly when it comes to running my online business. I'll be sharing a lot more of these with you in 2019.

I learned that even the best-laid plans need to be flexible.

Being able to roll with the punches is a specialty of mine, but a few major changes really threw me for a loop.

I learned to be ok with not being ok. I do not have to be Miss Positivity 365 days of the year.

But mostly, I learned that I truly am happy with who I am and what I've achieved. I'm happy with where we're heading and excited for what 2019 has to bring our way.

“Thoughts become things… so choose the good ones.” ~ Mike Dooley

In my next blog post, coming out next week, I'll be sharing with you how I'm using Amber McCue's Fresh Start Workbook and Trello to plan out and automate my goals and plans for 2019.

But for now, I wish you a Happy New Year and a safe and fulfilling 2019.

Lise Cartwright
Lise Cartwright

Founder of Hustle & Groove and your creative business strategist. If you want to get notified of new posts just like the ones you see here, then make sure you join the awesome H & G community — Join Now!

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