Time for a Mindset Reset
I’ve been, for all intents and purposes, self-employed with no other means of support for over 5 years now. Many would look at what I do, as well as my accounting records and say I’m retired. For awhile, I guess I behaved as if I was, but when the bills piled up and outflow exceeded inflow for too many months I had to face reality. If I’m going to call myself self-employed, I need to freakin’ act like it! That means doing whatever I need to to attract clients. But even more, being absolutely clear on what I do and who I want to do it for.
As a writer, that means setting myself a daily schedule for writing, and sticking to it come hell or high water. Part of that was upping the ante on how often I publish. In the last 5 years, I’ve ranged from daily (during a couple of blog challenges) to whenever I felt like it, to weekly, to twice weekly, and finally, to thrice weekly which I’ve maintained for a few months now.
Stifling Demon Procrastination
Once I got into the habit of posting three times a week, I encountered a new challenge. Too often, I’d get to a posting day and think:
Oh shit! It’s time for a post, and I’ve got nothin’! Better dash something off before the day is over!
The trouble with that methodology was I sacrificed quality for procrastination. Of late, I’ve set myself loftier goals. I’m still posting 3 times a week, but now, I insist upon having at least 2 weeks of posts scheduled. I was doing fairly well for awhile, but between tragedy, being a dancing nomad, and the holidays, I’ve slipped my schedule.
It took me a few years, but I’ve finally gotten better about keeping commitments to myself. I was my own red-headed stepchild for too long. Now, I use Trello to keep track of my posts. Every time I schedule one, I get to check it off giving me a small win. As I set them up on my board a month at a time, nothing makes me happier than to see each of my posting days at 100% with month still left over. My ultimate, yet currently unachieved goal is to see myself at 100% before the month has started.
Commitment and Determination
At the moment, I have 6 more to write for next month, and it’s the last day of the month so I’m a bit shy of that goal. But on the positive side, I’ve gotten closer this week. Since the first of the year, I’ve struggled to keep a week ahead, and at the moment, I’m finally back at two, if only for a day, assuming I don’t finish this post today (which by damn, I will!).
Which brings me to the point of this post (only took me about 450 words to get there. ADD is running amok today!). Actually, I have two points. Being self-employed, especially when you’re re-creating yourself in a heretofore non-existent image takes determination, perseverance, and a willingness to fail a few thousand times in the process of getting it right. It can also mean watching your finances dwindle at a rather frightening rate, dipping into resources, or accepting clients you’ve promised to avoid, and cutting back on things you once deemed necessities.
My second point has to do with commitment to yourself. If you’re like me, you were the over-achiever in your office, getting projects done ahead of deadline, working into the wee hours if necessary, and always coming through—for everyone else. You got so good at doing for others, you left yourself hanging on a limb time and time again. When it became only your needs at stake, you had years of bad habits to break before you could set deadlines for yourself and shut off the excuse-o-matic that got in the way of meeting those deadlines.
Entrepreneurs Put Themselves First
I’m a little slower about self-care than most, so it took me the better part of 5 years to finally learn to put myself first. Sure, I am still meeting or beating deadlines for my clients, and it will always be that way. I set high standards for myself when it comes to my clients, and have no intention of changing them. The shift came when I finally internalized the idea that I am my very best client and deserve the same high standards when it comes to completing tasks for me.
Then and only then was I able to complete, first the draft of my memoir, and within 3 months (even with the holidays and some serious traumas and travails), complete the re-write. Sure, I had to both kick and have my butt kicked pretty regularly in order to achieve it, but in the process, I’ve been learning to respect myself more as a client.
Keep Raising That Bar!
Another thing I’ve learned about both building my business and treating my own goals with respect is the bar needs to keep going up. Sure, I’m back to my 2 weeks ahead posting goal, but I want to raise it to 3 sooner than later. Meanwhile, I’ve also set an aggressive, 3 posts a week goal for sharing on Medium. this time, though, I created a spreadsheet with posting dates, date scheduled, exactly which post I’m sharing when, and whether it is coming from my blog site or website. In my past life, I kept on task by having a detailed, specific schedule for when each piece of the project was due.
And oh yes, the publication dates from the spreadsheet are now on a card on Medium as well. It helps to keep due dates in one place, at least for me. I even have a reminder on my daily calendar to check my Trello boards to ensure I stay on track.
I used to tell my staff to use their tools. Funny that it took me so long to take my own advice.
Rules To Live By
To summarize what I’ve learned in the process of reinventing myself as a writer:
- Treat yourself like you would your best client.
- Set up processes to monitor your projects and deadlines.
- Re-visit your deadlines daily.
- Accept no excuses for missing any of those deadlines.
- Beat all deadlines as often as possible, and it’s always possible.
- Never use work for other clients as an excuse to push your own deadlines.
- Keep raising the bar. A completed task is an opportunity to add a new one, not a time to rest on our laurels and sip mimosas.
- Work ahead wherever possible. Slacking off guarantees a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Murphy who love throwing a monkey wrench into the works to back the whole system up.
- Have a couple of butt kickers in your arsenal. Nothing makes you work faster, harder, better than being held accountable by outside sources close to you.
- Love yourself enough to believe, achieve, and thrive.
Your Big “Why”
On a final note, I reinvented myself because I realized I’d spent years working for people I couldn’t respect, doing work that had begun to bore me to tears with the tedium. I was a creative stuck in a fairly routine line of work, which to make things worse, was far too people-y for this introvert. I’ve never been happier, if somewhat less affluent than I am working from home on my own schedule (no more getting up before 8 AM to commute) with cats on my desk occasionally interrupting to tell me they’re feeling neglected. (Who am I kidding? What cat ever felt neglected occasionally?)
I’m free to go to the gym during the day when it’s less crowded, take a day off during the week to run errands and avoid the crowds, even meet a friend for lunch, a movie, or anything else. I am also free to work well into the night, or wee hours as the case may be. Those are my productive hours, and no “expert” is ever going to convince me to get up at the crack of dawn because “everyone” is more productive then. I know myself better than anyone, and I’ve learned I don’t hit my productive stride until at least 11AM most days.
I encourage everyone to imagine their perfect life, then go forth and get it. I don’t recommend taking the drastic approach I did, but for some of us, cold turkey is the only way. Get us hungry, and there’s no telling what we can achieve!
Gratitude Greases the Wheels
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for my butt kickers.
- I am grateful for the leap of faith I took and the reinvention of my life which followed. It might be taking longer than planned, but I’m learning so much along the way.
- I am grateful for my failures. From them I learn more than I do from my successes.
- I am grateful for my low-stress lifestyle. I only wish I’d realized sooner it was possible.
- I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, opportunities, self-respect, achievements, goals met, goals set, dreams realized, world expanding, self-confidence building, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
Love and Light
About the Author
Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws , of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward