Freelancers, Stop Making Your Goals Hard to Reach
(Note: I'm giving away a free Self Journal—scroll to the bottom for details!)
As a freelancer, have you ever noticed your to-do list never gets shorter?
Does it reinforce your suspicion there aren’t enough hours in the day? Do certain tasks roll over to the next day’s list again and again because they just never get done? Worse, does your to-do list stress you out?
If your to-do list causes you to feel more frantic than productive, you’re right.
Forbes estimates that 41 percent of items on your to-do list never get finished. So, if you had 10 tasks on today’s to-do list, four wouldn’t get finished.
Not only that, unfinished tasks compound over time.
If you only finish six out of 10 tasks on Monday, you add four tasks on top of your 10 items for Tuesday. (Now, you have to tackle 14 items instead of 10.) But because you’ll only finish 59 percent of that list, you’ll carry over six tasks for Wednesday, for a total of 16 items.
It’s no wonder you’re so stressed out.
The truth is, to-do lists often do more harm than good. That’s unfortunate considering how many people use task lists as their primary productivity tool.
But it’s an even bigger problem for freelancers since you’re in charge of setting, reaching, and holding yourself accountable to your own goals. Why? Because never reaching them not only affects your self-esteem, it also impacts your income and success level.
The good news? There's a better way.
In fact, a simple shift in how you organize and run your day can have you taking intelligent action toward your goals, so you reach them even faster.
As a freelancer, you know success is more than impressing acquaintances with tales working from a beach cottage in Bali. It’s about your livelihood—paying the bills, putting food on the table, taking control of your life, uncorking your income potential.
Only you can achieve your goals. (And only you are to blame if you fall short.) That’s why it matters how you approach managing your time—every day.
Instead of creating a laundry list of tasks and then prioritizing them, you should use a combination of two strategies: a top 3 list and a daily schedule.
- Top 3 List. This is a list of the top three things you need to accomplish today. Ideally, these should relate directly to your big picture goals. If one goal is to earn $130,000 in freelance income this year, what's the smallest task you need to complete today to take a step toward it?
- Daily Schedule. Schedule out your entire day. Some of the most successful people in history (think Benjamin Franklin), scheduled their days down to the minute and followed it unwaveringly. But it's not set in stone—if something changes in your day, adjust your schedule accordingly.
The idea is to use time allotted in your schedule to do your first task until it’s done. Once that task is completed, move on to the next.
(This is why it’s important to be realistic about identifying the smallest task you need to complete to move forward on a priority goal. It should also be something you can feasibly complete in one day. So, a task like, “Research marketing opportunities for the upcoming small business conference,” is too big and general. Instead, break it down into smaller chunks, like “Call Emily, the small business conference planner, about marketing opportunities I can take advantage of as a sponsor.”)
Treat anything you’ve scheduled for the day the way you would a meeting. If a task’s not done, but you’ve scheduled a 15-minute walk at noon, keep your eye on the clock and get yourself to a comfortable stopping place so when the clock hits twelve, you’ve got sneakers on and are headed out the door. Then, when you’re scheduled to work, be sitting at your desk and return to the task at hand.
Free-spirited freelancers may balk at “rigid” scheduling, but the practice encourages consistency and discipline (two key characteristics of really successful freelancers). If you want to achieve something, you have to take small, consistent steps toward it every day. And if you want time to do whatever you want, schedule that in your day, too.
Stop making your goals hard to reach. Instead, make reaching them inevitable.
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