2013: year in review

2013 has been one crazy non-stop year! I love making these annual reports – it’s a way to take a step back and really see what I’ve achieved in the year. Until I started this post, I felt like I hadn’t accomplished much this year apart from the new book (which will unfairly count as next year’s accomplishment even though 95% of the work was completed in 2013). It turns out that’s not true at all:

2013 PlanetJune crochet patterns
PlanetJune 2013 crochet patterns – if you’d like to make any of them this month, the 2013 Designs CAL starts today in the PJ rav group

I was surprised to discover that I’ve actually published 18 new crochet patterns – that’s about 3/4 of my typical annual average! If I add all the patterns I’ve designed for the book (which I can’t show you yet, but there are lots!), I’ve actually designed many more patterns this year than in previous years.

And I managed to squeeze in 9 craft projects – 6 crocheted, 2 knitted, and 1 sewn:

2013 PlanetJune craft projects
My 2013 craft projects

The rest of this post is long, personal, and introspective, but my life and my business are so closely tied that talking only about PlanetJune without explaining the changes I’m making for myself wouldn’t paint the real picture. I don’t like to overshare, but honesty is important – I want to explain the reasons for my big decisions. Feel free to skip it if you’re not interested!

Personal Report

2013 has been probably been the most challenging year of my life. For the past 3 years, since discovering we’d be leaving Canada for South Africa, I’ve been struggling against sickness, moving halfway around the world, culture shock, dealing with a growing business that takes more and more time, and constant other challenges that never let me take a breath. Every time one crisis was over, something else came up, but I felt like I just had to keep going, as there was no other option – things have to get done, and there’s nobody else who can do them.

Well, now, I feel like I have to not keep going – there really is no other option. I’d like PlanetJune to be around for many years to come and that won’t happen if I don’t start looking after myself. I’ve struggled for 3 long years and that’s enough: it’s time to take care of myself.

I’m absolutely worn out. I’m spread far too thin – the challenges of my life take a lot of time away from my business hours, and I’ve been forced to work longer hours than I’d like while achieving less than I want to. It’s frustrating when there’s so much more I want to do, but that’s just the reality of my life.

Taking on another book when I was already feeling very fragile (after a very tense few months of jumping through ridiculous hoops to try to get my visa renewed before it expired) wasn’t a healthy move, but you have to make sacrifices for things you really want. This was a book I really wanted to write, and an opportunity that wouldn’t come again. I’m very happy to have written it – I think it’s an amazing book! – but now it’s finished, I’m drawing the line. I can’t take on anything else, no matter how tempting. I’m not healthy and I need to change that, and I need to make time to enjoy the advantages of living in South Africa – good food, natural beauty, and wildlife galore!

Christmas dinner, SA style

We’ve already made a start on that over Christmas: a simple relaxed braai (barbecue) in our garden for Christmas, a trip to the Cape Winelands to go cherry picking; watching a sea turtle and rays being hand-fed at the aquarium; and an amazing encounter with a large troop of wild baboons (don’t worry, we were safely in the car at the time). I’ll be resurrecting my SA wildlife photoblog post series so you can share some of my nature encounters, starting with those baboons, coming soon :)

Business Report

Despite the fact that I’ve been pulled in multiple directions this year and haven’t been able to devote anywhere near as much time to PlanetJune as I’d like, my business income has stayed on par with 2012. That’s actually a huge achievement when you consider I’ve probably spent less than half the time on it than I have in previous years.

Looking back
In 2012′s review, I said:

This past year, I’ve worked harder than I ever have in my life… But the big goal here is worth it: to transition my business from a very hands-on one-person business to an automated one-person business, so I can spend the majority of my work time creating new designs and tutorials. I’m trying to… grow past the one-person level without expanding or outsourcing. I’m hoping that all my automation strategies will pay off in 2013, and I’ll have a virtual assistant (in the form of my own website and systems reducing my workload) instead of having to hire an actual assistant.

Although I anticipate another year of very hard work behind the scenes of PlanetJune, I’m giving this plan one more year to succeed. If it doesn’t, I’d have to either find a way to scale back my business, or take on minions (unless I can come up with another alternative, as neither of those options appeal to me).

I still think my plan was good, but unfortunately, all the unforeseen non-PlanetJune time-grabbers that came up in 2013 mean that I’ve barely had a chance to progress with it. It looks like I’d have another year of hard work ahead to get all my ducks in a row and see if I can really make my business sustainable for the long term without overloading myself or outsourcing. But I can’t keep forcing myself to maintain the pace I have been for the past few years, so scaling back some of my ambitions is the only way I can keep going.

What’s next?

These are the absolute requirements for 2014:

  • Get healthy
  • Make time to get out and see more of South Africa
  • Enjoy myself creating new designs with no time pressure

And, if nothing else comes up, I hope I can manage these too:

  • Complete the behind-the-scenes tech upgrades and pattern updates
  • Continue with my pattern commissions with less-pressuring deadlines
  • (Possibly) get the homepage and shop redesign completed

That list encompasses so much less than I’d like to do, but, realistically, even that sounds like a lot to take on, and I can’t push myself hard any more. There are dozens, or possibly hundreds, of exciting design ideas floating around inside my head, and some of them are desperate to get out! I need to look after myself so I can make that happen, and start enjoying my life again.

I’ve realised some things while working on this book: I don’t do well with deadlines. I don’t like working under pressure. I want my work to be right, not the best I can manage in the time available. While I’m very proud of the book, getting it to meet my standards in such a limited time pushed me almost to breaking point, and I don’t think I’ll repeat this process again.

I’m fortunate that I’m not motivated by competitiveness or money – I want the things I do to count; to hopefully make a difference to people, or at least to give me the satisfaction of having done the best I can. Of course, I’d like to make a good living too, but that’s really secondary to living a fulfilling life.

So, I will be true to myself. I will only take on projects I really want to do. I will let go of projects that aren’t working out. I will love what I do, and if you love it too, that’s even better, but being genuine comes before anything else.

This feels right: looking over all my designs, I feel that my work has a calm, tranquil aspect to it, and I’d like that to be a reflection of the real me too, not just the PlanetJune style.

Here’s to a positive and relaxed 2014 – let’s make it a great one!

7 Comments »

  1. Jody Ouradnik said

    June – Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings — positive AND negative! I discovered your Web site a little over a year ago when my nephew showed me a picture of your crocheted Discworld and asked if I’d make one like it for his birthday. I did, and it was an important turning point in my relationship with him. Since then, I have made quite a number of your designs, and the crocheting, as well as keeping up with your transition to life in South Africa have been a great help in working through my own tough year of transitions.

    I understand the temptations that keep us pushing beyond reasonable limits and applaud your decision to look to your own health first during the next year! I wish you success and joy in whatever you choose to do next. I will be a continuing fan of PlanetJune for a long time to come, whether you publish any new patterns or not, because it will probably take me years to make all of the great patterns that are on your site and in my project queue!

    Cheers & Happy New Year!

    • June said

      Thank you Jody! I’m so glad to know my Discworld helped you bond with your nephew. And not releasing any new patterns is definitely not part of my plan for this year – designing crochet patterns is the thing I love most, and I’d keep making new amigurumi and accessories even if my business dried up altogether and nobody bought my patterns any more :) I’m really looking forward to having the time to delve into research for new designs with no pressure for when they need to be completed.

  2. Sara M said

    I am so glad to hear that caring for yourself is the priority. I remember hearing somewhere that there is a reason why they tell us to put our own oxygen masks on first when reviewing safety on a plane – because if we don’t take care of ourselves first, there is no way that we can do anything for others or the world.

    You are a very talented designer, and doing what you love should never be a chore. I fully support you in making your life exactly what you want it to be. If you are following your dream and are true to yourself, then you are living more fully than many who tread on this Earth.

    Hugs to you!!

    • June said

      You’re so right, Sara – thank you! I think it’ll make my work stronger too, if I can get back to really enjoying what I do instead of feeling under constant pressure.

  3. Jean said

    Best wishes on accomplishing your new goals. I reached a similar conclusion myself at the end of 2013 after numerous years of caring for an aging parent, dealing with crazy business partners (who I’m thankfully now free from), and trying to keep everything afloat. It left me very little energy to do the things I wanted to do. Perhaps both of us will be able to take better care of ourselves this year. :-)

    • June said

      Thank you, Jean – I hope so! Life is just too short to spend it always struggling to keep afloat.

  4. Emma said

    Your sewn armadillo is simply darling!

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    June Gilbank Hi, I'm June. Welcome to my world of nature-inspired crochet and crafting. I hope you enjoy your visit!
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