With June coming to end, it’s time to look back on what goals I laid out for myself and see how I did! I thrive in setting goals, the bigger the better. I’m still learning to keep things realistic as I found out this past quarter. I didn’t make the kind of progress I was hoping for, but it was still a great learning experience. It had the added bonus of helping me find an interest I apparently love – hiking around Utah!
Bonus this week! I was a guest on the 2 Frugal Dudes Podcast released last week. We talk about investment allocation, index funds and even a little cryptocurrency.
The Process: OKRs and KRs
Here’s what I tried for goal setting during the last three months:
- Create a few (3) high-level goals to work towards (Objectives).
- Each will have a number of sub-points on how I’ll measure success for them (Key Results).
- Have a few “health metrics” – things elsewhere in my life that I don’t want to let slip.
This process is called “objectives and key results”. It’s an approach that lots of businesses are starting to use to align teams around common goals and themes. It gives individual teams autonomy to work on their own while having a clear definition of success. At the team level, these OKRs and KR should be entirely accomplishable by that team. This will often take some wordsmithing to get something that has the right impact.
We’re still getting better at this at my work, but it’s a powerful structure when it works. There are a few good books about this structure that are worth checking out:
- Radical Focus by Christina Wodtke
- The 12 Week Year Book by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
- Measure What Matters by John Doerr
I’m a product manager myself, so this level of planning is part of my job role (it’s always nice when personal interests mesh well with the professional side!). After going through this process a few times, I’m starting to get better at it. I still have a lot to learn though, that’s for sure. Scoping things down to what’s actually accomplishable is tough. As is knowing what there will be energy to work on in a given day. The ongoing prioritization to know which thing to work on is still a concern – even though the pool of things to work on is smaller. This is an area I struggled with, as you’ll see in my Q2 goals breakdown.
My 2018 Q2 Goals
I set 3 goals for the last 3 months – some much more aggressive than others. I set these will the full intention that they would be difficult to complete in their entirety, and I’d be more than OK if some of them weren’t accomplished. It’s more about limiting what I focus on during the three months to these areas and not letting other things suddenly rise to the top of my focus.
1) Explore more of Utah through exercise and healthy living.
I’m rating this one as a success! I didn’t accomplish every one of my KRs, but I created some amazing habits that I thoroughly enjoy.
- See more natural beauty by going for 12, 2+ mile hikes or trail runs
- Schedule time on my calendar that Mrs. Minafi knows I’ll be unavailable.
- Create a prioritized list of hikes to try.
- Go for a first hike, etc.
- Increase energy by limiting alcohol to 2 nights a week.
- Grow fitness level by going to the gym at least 2 times a week.
- During weekly planning, set dates on my calendar for when I’ll be at the gym
- Eat cleanly at work 4 days a week to perform better when exercising.
- Don’t eat candy from the candy wall (yes, there’s an entire wall of sweets).
- Drink only water
- Do “Murph” (CrossFit Workout w/a 2 mile run, 300 squats, 200 pushups and 100 pullups) on Memorial day for the 6th straight year – this time in under 55 minutes.
The fitness side and exploration side was very much green, but the diet side was very much not.
We did a bunch of exploring during these three months! We had no shortage of weekends spent traveling and heading out to the mountains. Some of the most memorable ones were:
- Spending my birthday weekend in Zion National Park
- Hiking The Narrows (9 miles in water)
- Hiking Angels Landing (well, as much of it as we had the courage to do).
- Going canyoneering – scaling canyons with ropes and an expert
- Sooo many hikes around Salt Lake City including:
- Centerville Canyon Trail
- Rattlesnake Gulch Trail
- Desolation Trail Hike
- Terrace Trail
- Bobsled Trail
- Timpanogos Cave & Trail
The side effect of all this has been an Instagram-pretty lifestyle (if only I actually used Instagram). We even tried glamping over a weekend – staying in an upscale tent which had running water and lights.
My absolute favorite of all of these was The Narrows. The Narrows is a hike in Zion National Park where the trail is IN the river. You follow the river up from where it starts very wide to extremely narrow areas where it’s less than 10ft wide. We started our hike at 8 am and didn’t make it back home until 6 pm – after hiking over 9 miles in the water.
Mrs. Minafi even made a slick video about our hike!
The amount of energy involved in doing this was something I completely underestimated. Walking through water is equivalent to walking with extra weights on your feet. Imagine a 9-mile hike with 5-10 lb ankle weights on each foot and you’ll get a good idea.
See more natural beauty by going for 12, 2+ mile hikes or trail runs
This was probably my favorite thing and that which excited me the most. I created repeating calendar events on Wednesday after work and Sunday morning which were my default hikes. It helped that I was giving myself double the number of opportunities to succeed in my 12x hike goal. If I had other plans, or it was raining, or I wasn’t feeling well, I could skip one of those days but still know I was on track.
I picked up the AllTrails app and have been favoriting places to go all around Utah. When I go on hikes alone (none dangerous by the way) I’ll make sure to update the location in my calendar so Mrs. Minafi knows where I am. Usually, these places lack cell connection, so if I’m going straight from work this gives her a place to check (so she can hopefully rescue me sooner than 127 hours).
Limit alcohol / eat cleanly
Mrs. Minafi and I like a glass of wine or a homemade cocktail (Last Words are my personal favorite) after work to relax. One week I realized that we’d had something almost every night and started to realize that was a little too much. I’d say we hit 2 nights a week for 1/3 of the the time during this period – partly from being sick at times. This is an area I want to continue to improve on. If I were to change this, I might have rephrased it as “only have alcohol to once a week at home / limit alcohol when out to 1 drink”. I think that would be a good compromise, and good food for thought for Q3 planning (or maybe after world cup planning).
On the “eat cleanly” side, I haven’t done a great job of this at all. I know from times when I was much more lean (maybe 25 pounds lighter) that I can go overboard with eating well – and that’s not what I want. I’ve let that swing a little too much to the “it’s here and I like it, so I’ll eat it” side. I think a better approach to this would have been to track what I eat to better understand it. What get measured gets improved right?
Go to the gym / do Murph on Memorial Day
This one was a little rocky this quarter, but it ended well. The CrossFit gym I go to closed in April amidst a bunch of drama. They announced they were closing but that everyones membership would transfer to their other location a few miles away, but people could cancel. Before the gym ended up closing, the coaches brought some members to another gym to introduce them to it. This was shared on Instagram and started a snowball that ended with all the coaches at the gym getting fired. This would’ve been relatively quiet drama, but the owner shared all of these facts in an email sent out to all members(!). This made for a number of… interesting chats with people while warming up with new trainers we’d never met before.
The bright side of this was I transferred to a new gym, Salt Lake City CrossFit. This has a few big bonuses. For one, it’s a great gym with talented coaches and a lot of energy. The CrossFit Regionals were held at the gym last month, which is a testament to their involvement in the community. The workouts are tougher (not a bad thing) and the classes are bigger (kind of a downer – harder for me to make friends).
The biggest advantage for me about this switch is that the gym is 0.6 miles from the train station. This means I can rely on public transportation completely and still go to the gym. This is one of the reasons that I felt enabled to sell my car.
The downside is that I only have 10 minutes (if the train is on time) to travel 0.6 miles and change clothes. That’s been a struggle, which has resulting in my borrowing coworkers’ skateboards, picking up a Lux Razor Scooter (not that Luxe), looking into electric scooters and even those weird 1-wheel electric things.
I haven’t found a solution for this I love yet. The train is late way too often, sometimes making me late. The scooter has been the best solution so far, but does require me carrying a scooter on a bus, on a train to work, then on a train, and on a bus home – which is rather annoying for something that’s still not great. I’m excited that Bird, the controversial scooter startup that’s become a scourge on sidewalks around the country, has made its way to SLC. Downtown SLC is wide and flat with huge roads and lots of bike lanes. It’s pretty much ideal for scooters.
I’m spending a lot of time talking about just getting to the gym because having the inspiration to go hasn’t been a problem. Being healthy enough, having a way to get there and just having a gym to go to have been the main issues. I think they’re all good now.
One thing that was a lot of fun was doing the Murph CrossFit workout this past Memorial Day at the new gym. My time was 56:56 (unpartitioned), which is about 7 minutes slower than 3 years ago. I love bodyweight exercises, and this is one of the most challenging. It consists of doing the following:
- Run 1 mile
- 100 Pull-ups
- 200 Push-ups
- 300 Air Squats
- Run 1 mile
You can do this straight through like I did this time (which is called doing it unpartitioned), or you can break up the middle part — for example 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups / 10 pushups / 15 air squats. In the past, I’d always done this partitioned in that format, but I wanted to try something new. For me the pushups are always the hardest part. I can do a ton of pull-ups and air squats all day, but push-ups and general endurance are my weakness. If you want to learn more about Murph and Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy who inspired the workout, it’s worth checking out.
2) Create enough income to enable Minafi to be self-sufficient.
This one was a little ambitious, wasn’t it? Like with building any budget, there are two ways to go here – make more money or spend less money. I don’t love that doing what I want on Minafi will be costly, but I do love doing it. I track and share how much I spend on Minafi each month as well as how much Minafi earns on my Income page which is updated each month. I prefer not to create new posts every month because sharing that information isn’t essential for helping others make their first informed investment – but it is useful for understanding my motivations and potential conflicts.
I set a number of very ambitious goals based around launching a product. Spoiler: I didn’t launch a product.
- Release a product that helps people learn how to invest and brings in at least $500/month.
- Finish all text edits for the course.
- Create additional sections to expand on the email course.
- Finish creating quizzes.
- Record videos for the course.
- Update Minafi to point people towards the course
- Launch The Minimal Investor Course.
- Spread the word by contacting at least 100 financial media creators about joining the affiliate program for this new product.
- Find opportunities to share affiliate links by auditing the 25 most viewed pages on Minafi.
Release a product that helps people learn how to invest and brings in at least $500/month.
I learned something important about myself this quarter. Having a financial goal like this adds absolutely nothing to my motivation. I get much more motivated by having a goal that is about what I’ll be creating and how I’ll be creating it. This phrasing of the Objectives/KRs is much better for working at a company where there’ll be actual business based around this and lots of people working on it.
Seeing this one on my list didn’t get me excited to work on it.
My goal with this one has shifted in this last quarter, but I’m very happy with the direction it’s headed. Originally I was going to make a course on Teachable complete with some videos teaching investing, quizzes and more. After recording a few videos I realized just how much work that was going to be. I also didn’t love that I’d be linking out to another platform which I’d be beholden to for all eternity (or that they’d be getting my backlinks).
I also didn’t think this would be the best way to reach the largest audience. I spent some time reflecting on my core goal here on Minafi:
I want to help 1 million people make their first informed investment.
And it became clear this was not the right approach to reach that goal. It might be the most profitable path, but not the one that’s aligned with interests that excite me. So, what does that mean? Well, it means that the Minimal Investor Course is going to change from being a course to being a book. There is a reason people write books. They have massive readership and are a familiar format and can be easily scaled.
I’m not sure where the book idea will go long term, but step one will be writing transforming the course into a book and selling it here from Minafi. Where that goes next who knows – selling on Amazon? Looking for a publisher? Actually using the minimalinvestor.com domain I picked up? Time will tell. I’ll have a few Q3 goals around this one for sure.
Another thing that happened this month was I decided to spend time doing completely different things! I redid the navigation, which will be great to build on, I updated everything to be GDPR compliant created a “guides” layout for long posts with a table of contents and more. These side explorations were a ton of fun. Those are the kinds of things I enjoy spending time on, but they aren’t the most impactful things I could spend my time on.
3) Inspire new people to invest by introducing them to Minafi
This goal was all about increasing traffic to Minafi. Seeing traffic increase is a ton of fun, and completely euphoric. Working drive traffic? Not so much. There is a popular statement about this:
Spend 20% of your time creating, 80% of your time marketing.
I completely and utterly ignore this. If I wanted to spend 80% of my time marketing I’d stop blogging altogether. I do think I could spend 20% of my time on this and that would be beneficial though. I didn’t do a great job of driving more traffic to Minafi, but I did try some things and learn some things. I have a plan for Q3 on the marketing side that I’m actually excited to implement (that I’ve already started).
Minafi’s traffic is from all over today. For June, Minafi had about 5,000 sessions/ 7,500 page views. It’s not an amount that’s going to turn too many heads, but the people that have left comments, I’ve talked to on email, or social channels have been amazing! At the end of the free Minimal Investor Course, I have a form for people to give feedback on what they thought about it. These have been some of the most amazing comments I’ve ever received. If I’m running low on motivation then looking at these can be a great boost.
Here are the incredibly ambitious results I tried to achieve in the last 3 months:
- Increase month over month social visits from 1,700 to 3,000. (went down to 740)
- Go through the “Perfect Pin” course.
- Create images for the 15 most pin-worthy posts
- Try using Pinterest with these and other strategies.
- Look into systems that recycle some old posts (in a non-spammy, spread out way).
- Increase month over month organic search visits from 1,600 to 3,000. (went down to 1,353)
- Write down my personal strategy to use on all posts.
- Develop a strategy to optimize past posts for SEO. (Tips on a strategy here would be helpful actually)
- Audit past posts to optimize pages that could benefit most from SEO.
- Increase traffic from Quora from 0 to 250 visits per month. (no action)
- Increase traffic from Medium from 10 visits to 100 visits per month. (up to like 20/month)
- Continue sharing my story at a pace of (at least) 2 posts a week + 1 email. (1 post + 1 email)
There’s a lot here. Trying to find what to focus on to grow a blog is something you could take a take a full course on (like Pete’s Blogger U Course).
A few on this list worked well though! Getting the basics down of Pinterest was helpful, even if I’m not mass messaging people and joining group boards just yet. Having some next steps there that are less daunting is nice – namely just learning how to use Pinterest, creating pins and actually using Pinterest. Have you ever tried to become good at something you don’t even use? Yeah, it’s not going to work too well. Pays to start as a learner.
Search Engine Optimization
Learning SEO has been so. much. fun. I didn’t expect that. What did it for me was taking Ahrefs Blogging for Business course. The entire course was free during May, but now it’s a very high price of $799. I don’t know that I’d have ever paid that much given my current situation, but I don’t doubt the value I’ll create due to this course will exceed $799.
It really helped turn the lights on for me when it comes to SEO – content planning, finding new topics to talk about in my nice, easy ways to improve existing content – just super helpful all around. I ended up becoming a paying member because of this course – even though their service is $99/month. They have no affiliate program either – I’m mentioning them because they’re just a really useful tool. I’m thinking of the cost today more as an educational expense. I’m paying to get better at SEO by actually doing SEO related tasks.
In January I wrote 3x a week. From February to April I went down to 2x. In May/June I went down to 1 long post. I’ve actually loved writing one long post. I can focus on creating really good, deep content – which is what I love doing. The ESPP Guide is a good example. It includes answers to just about any question related to ESPPs I could think of (or find people asking about) and even includes an interactive calculator. That guide was researched and planned over a week, then written and implemented over about 4 days.
Writing very often is great, especially when trying to find your voice and figure out your content strategy. It helps SEO, it gives you more fuel to link to and it helps you become a better writer. It’s not the only route though. I’ve found my favored route is writing long, evergreen guides some weeks and more personal journaling / what’s going on in my life now/later spread out.
I realized a few things of own in going through this process. Namely that:
- I’m spreading myself too thin trying to do all of these things at once. I should focus on one and do it until it’s great.
- I enjoyed being able to focus on a specific area and become an expert in it. I want to do one at a time but do it well.
- It’s OK to spend time learning the basics of multiple areas at once but set realistic expectations for them.
I think about it like this, in my head when I’m beginning to learn a lot of these. What I was trying to do in Q2 was something like this:
That’s a lot of movement in 3 months! Learning and implementing this much action in that time would take a lot of time and dedication that I wasn’t prepared to do. Kathy Sierra, famous for her “Head First” book series and other great content, has this idea that when you’re teaching people, you should focus on specific things to concentrate on and not having overwhelm people with a bunch of things at once. If you want to learn more about this concept, check her great book: Making Users Awesome. If you’re trying to teach people anything – either building a product that has onboarding, building a guide or information product – this book is solid gold.
At the end of the quarter here’s what my progress on this actually looks like.
Not quite as impressive hunh? Setting too many goals here was a humbling process though, and it did help me understand how I want to do this in the future. If I were to try this again, I’d set a goal of having at most two box moves. That could be one move from “Can’t do” to “Mastered”, moving two skills one spot. For Q3, I’m hoping to move SEO to “Mastered” and Pinterest to “Can do with effort” – which you’ll see on my later Q3 goals post. This is a much more accomplishable goal – especially with everything else going on.
Goal Setting Takeaways
That was a lot to go over, but reflecting on goals helps improve how I set them going forward. I’m currently working on setting my Q3 goals, and without reflecting on how Q2 went, I’d likely just make the same mistakes. So what are my takeaways from Q2?
- Exercise and hiking related goals worked well. I should build on those habits.
- Diet-related goals seemed like deprivation. I should try to set goals that address that. (Maybe a goal around tracking food I eat?)
- The goal of building a product here on Minafi is to teach people investing, not to make money. Write your goals that way.
- Also, set production/work goals rather than output goals.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin with trying too many things in the same area.
- It’s OK to post less with longer, better posts.
Looking forward to bringing these insights into my Q3 goals!