Forget Resolutions. Here’s My 2020 Yearly Theme

Lots of people like to make resolutions around the new year. Fresh calendar, fresh start. I’ve gotten away from doing that and instead talking about a yearly theme – an idea I got from the Cortex podcast. In this episode, we’ll talk about my yearly theme, how it affects the show, and how you can pick one.

Show Notes


Hey everybody and welcome to a bonus episode of How I Built It. On this episode you’re just getting me and we’re talk about something a little different: yearly themes.

What are Yearly Themes?

I got the idea to do this from my favorite podcast, Cortex, by CGP Grey and Myke Hurley. This year, they even put out a fantastic journal to accompany the idea (links in the show notes). Here’s how they describe yearly themes on their Theme System website:

Instead of resolutions, we set an overall idea of how we would like to approach each year or season. This becomes almost like a guiding principle for our work and/or personal lives for that period.

I loved this idea when I first heard it, and I’m all in now. 2019 was the first time I did a yearly theme, and it was the Year of New Content. The overall idea here was that I didn’t consume enough good, new content in 2018, and I wanted to change that.

This is a yearly theme because I let it guide my decision making for books, TV shows, movies, and reading online. It also guided my professional goals. I wanted to be more deliberate about blogging, my YouTube channel, and putting out courses.

Your yearly theme (if you choose to accept one) should not focus on a singular goal – it’s easy to fail at those. If my goal was just to put out 5 courses this year, I would have failed. But I did put out more content (and completed 4 courses). It should be something you can actively work at.

So let’s start by evaluating 2019’s theme, introducing 2020’s theme, and then telling you how that is going to affect the podcast…as well as some tips if you want to start a yearly theme.

Evaluating 2019: The Year of New Content

Over on, I blogged about what this theme means to me, and it boiled down to 3 things:

  1. Consume different content – read more books, watch TV shows I haven’t seen a million times, and see more movies.
  2. Recommit to my learning plan – take more online courses
  3. Put out more quality content – namely more courses and write a new book.

So how did I do?

Consume different content

Well I’ve read 27 books – my goal was 18. So there’s a win.

I watched 3 new TV shows: The Handmaid’s Tale, The Morning Show, and The Mandalorian. I did end up watching a lot of Friends, Scrubs, Parks and Rec, and How I Met Your Mother, but since 3 new shows is 3 more than usual in a year, I’m counting this as a win.

Movies too. I usually watched new movies on flights, of which I had many. I also saw a couple in theaters.

Recommit to my learning plan

Admittedly, I did not take as many online courses I hoped I would. That said, I took 2 that were hugely helpful to me.

  1. Pat Flynn’s AMP’d Up Podcasting
  2. MacSparky’s OmniFocus Field Guide

They’ve changed my workflow for the better, so I’m counting this as a win.

Put out more content

Let’s start with the missed goals. I wanted to launch my podcast course and an update of my Beaver Builder course this year. I did neither.

I also wanted to do 1 YouTube video per week. I missed that too.

BUT, I did blog more, and post to YouTube a lot more. I grew my subscriber by 25% and I happy about it.

I also started making courses for LinkedIn Learning / I released 2, and recorded another 2. That’s one more than my original goal of 3.

I also landed a new book deal! So count that too.

Grade: B+

All-in-all I’m really happy with how this year went. I fell in a few places, but really did adhere to the theme of new content and it shows in my work.

I also have some thoughts on how I can improve, with the 2020 yearly theme. Speaking of…

2020: The Year of Depth

This yearly theme is a little more vague, but here’s what I’m thinking: I did too much in 2019. I tried to do too much. I didn’t absorb as much information as I wanted, I didn’t implement all of ideas and takeaways from the many books and courses I consumed. I spent too much money.

In 2020, I want to go less wide, but deeper. I want to cut my projects to only do the things I want to do (like launch my podcast course). I want to focus my membership on clear goals and benefits. And I want to deepen my pockets by only buying what I need and saving everything else.

To help, I’ve identified a few areas where I want more depth. With projects, it’s podcasting, and my membership. I’m reducing my services to just my done for you podcasting service, videos for hire, and my own courses. I will not be taking on any major web design projects in 2020.

I’ve also created a content plan that will guide me through these goals. For the first time ever, I’ve planned out the first 6 months of the year – content, product releases, and this very podcast.

For memberships specifically, it means less, not more, content. And that content will focus specifically on building sites on WordPress without code. I’m going to introduce 2 new courses, and that will be it for the courses I offer. I might even retire some. Then it will be updating what’s there, and giving my members more of my time to answer specific questions they have.

When it comes to learning, I’ve identified 1 area I definitely want to go deep on: tools. I’ve got courses lined up for automation tools like Hazel, Keyboard Maestro, and Siri Shortcuts. I’m also going to take courses on Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro.

These will help me with the next area: personal depth of time. Since I’m cutting out the projects I don’t need to work on, I’m also going to work on making more time for myself by doing only things I need to do. That means automating what I can, and hiring where I can. Another first for 2020: I’m hiring a video editor for my own courses.

The last, let’s say pillar, of this theme is reading, and it’s not the strongest. I’d like to use my reading time to go deep on a few topics here, but I’m not sure it will work out. That said, the idea is to focus on 1 topic per quarter and read books surrounding that topic. In Q1, it’s between Audio Engineering, and A.I.

What Does that Mean for the Podcast?

So how does this theme affect the podcast? Well, thanks to Pat Flynn’s course, I was able to identify that many of you are freelancers and small business owners. That isn’t really who I’ve been interviewing lately.

So 2020 is going to be dedicated to helping you grow. I’m going deep on that subject and I’ve meticulously selected guests and planned episodes around that. Even the sponsors are designed to help you. I’m really excited about the sponsors I have lined up.

Instead of casting a wide net and accepting all sorts of guests, I’m going deep and only interviewing people who are relatable to small business owners like you – people who are there, or who can give you specific advice to help you grow.

If You Want to Start a Yearly Theme

If you want to start a yearly theme, I have a few recommendations. First, head over to The Theme System website,, and read what Myke and Grey have to say. They also recommend a few episodes of Cortex.

Then I’d sit down and think about a few areas of your life you want to improve. Write them down and look for common threads. Rank them if you’d like. See what themes emerge, and pick one to focus on.

The beauty of the yearly theme is it’s never set in stone, and it is malleable. So If you decide you need to change direction 3 months in, you can.

I’m excited about my year of depth. I think it’s going to take my business, and this show to the next level.

Thanks so much for listening. If for all the show notes, head over to If you liked the episode, please give a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

And I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a yearly theme in mind? Email me,

Thanks so much and until next time, get out there and build something!

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