For me, 2012 was a year of finding out how to stay focused and what to focus on as a self-employed writer/consultant. Here are my top tips from this year’s journey.
1. Everything counts; it helps not to freak out.
It’s true. You decide what’s important. You lay out the plan. You find the money and make the money. It can be paralyzing and make you flirt with the idea of applying for any sort of job. When anxiety and overwhelm threaten to take you off track it helps to have a list of small projects that you can do while you get your breathing back to normal. Build your contact list. Work on ideas from your story/article notebook. Find a mentor; decide what you have to offer and what you hope for from the relationship. Develop a list of places/people you can be of service to at no charge. Once you are back to a less paranoid version of yourself focus on the one thing you can do right away to help your business/help your writing.
2. Small steps realize the vision.
What’s the one thing you want to get done next year? What do you need to do each quarter to make this dream come true? What do you need to do now to meet your first quarter milestone? Planning small steps and blocking them into your diary each week can take you where you want to go. Write for 15 minutes every day? For an hour? For three?
3. Learn to say yes to what feeds your soul.
What’s the 20% of what you do that makes it all worth it? Build that into every day and every week. Whether it is a specific activity or interacting with clients or other writers, make sure it happens. It will keep you going through those less than perfect moments.
4. What you do every day counts most; pick the right stuff.
It took an astonishingly long time for me to realize that my life was what I did every day. Even though I might treasure memories of a special trip or high point, it’s really what happens every day that counts. When I finally got it, I felt empowered. By changing what I did each day I could change my life. And I did. So don’t wait. Today is the day. Do what you love now.
5. Value your contribution.
Showing up is most of the gig. Showing up with all of you makes the difference between sleep walking your way through the day and living it. Start by valuing the fact that you are here and ready to work and that you bring your whole incredible self to the party.
6. Learn to say no.
At the beginning of the journey there may be the sense that nobody is going to want you to do anything for them and you may want to fall on the first offer with cries of gratitude even if it has nothing to do with your vision, or maybe you don’t have your vision yet, so everything looks good as long as someone will pay you for it. As you go on you realize there is really no reason to do what someone else could do better and with more joy. Say no.
7. Work with those you want to support; it’s a shared fate
When you take on a client, customer or project it’s a shared fate. If all goes well and your client is happy, it’s a win for both of you. If your client isn’t happy, or you’re not happy, it is a loss for both of you. It’s got to work for both of you.
8. Have fun!
Sometimes it’s bound to be intense. Learn to have fun while you work. Know who makes you smile and what makes you feel like dancing. Never waste a chance to celebrate what’s going on. Find one thing a day to celebrate, even if some days it means you celebrate it being over.
9. Let your soul shine through.
What about what you do satisfies your deep longing? What’s meaningful? Where does your satisfaction come from? Share this. It turns colleagues into friends and clients into fans. It’s what makes life and your work juicy.
10. Embrace your strengths.
Step one, get to know your strengths. There are lots of ways to go about this, but an easy one that just takes noticing comes from Danielle LaPorte. Notice what people thank you for. In fact, write down what people thank you for (we have a way of forgetting really fast).
11. Find sources of nourishment.
When you are the whole show you need a lot of creative fuel to keep you inspired and putting it out there. Identify the people, activities, blogs, books, films, music, workshops, associations and classes that feed you and keep reminding you of your vision and your strengths.
12. Eat, Workout, Sleep
Sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night works wonders. Forty minutes or more of daily exercise ditto. Eating for both health and pleasure provides balance. They are basics, and neglecting them can cause big problems, if not now, soon.
Join the discussion: What do you do to stay on track and keep creating?