Make room for success: the first step

How’s that action plan for the year going so far? If you’re like most goal oriented indies, you’ve over-planned, over-scheduled, and overcommitted yourself. Don’t worry, the year is still young. You can still make room for success.

Make room for success part 1

flickr photo courtesy puck90

The cycle of frustration and overwhelm.

If you’ve ever found yourselves with undone projects and goals at the end of the month or year, you’re in good company. The very nature of indie professionals includes that desire to always strive to be more and do more.

But when faced with a larger than desired pile of undone projects, you may feel frustrated or worse defeated. Of course that won’t stop you.

You are a problem solver. And so begins your search for the answer to getting more done. You search blogs, books, and podcasts for that magic bullet approach. You try several approaches only to realize the approach is adding more tasks to the list, not helping you get things done.

How to make room for success

I’m not here to tell you I have the magic formula for getting more done. What I propose is something much more uncomfortable. Doing less.

Are you still with me? If so, congratulations. You have passed the first test. In the face of something difficult and uncomfortable, you made the decision to move forward.

Your tenacity will be your best weapon against the internal and external adversaries you’ll face.

There are three stages to pass through on your way to success:

  1. Admitting you need to make room for success
  2. Taking necessary actions
  3. Dealing with the aftermath

Make room for success

You’ve read this far so I know you are at least somewhat interested, but are you really ready to make room? Do you know what it will take?

Clients come to me looking for significant change that ultimately will lead to their success as indie professionals. Often it involves changing a long-standing behavior or perception. Sometimes it’s to identify and overcome obstacles they can’t yet see. It always takes time and effort. It’s yet another project for them. So how do you add one more thing to your list when you can’t seem to make progress with what you already have?

Admitting you have a problem

Have you heard this joke? How many psychiatrists (or therapists, or coaches) does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.
It may be a joke, but it’s also true. There is often incongruence between what we say and what we do. It’s time for an alignment.

Actions speak louder than words. It’s time to listen to your actions. Are you really ready to make room? Or are you thinking right now that you can squeeze these actions into your already full calendar?

Recognize the signs

Warning: these challenges can be a bit harsh. Proceed with caution.

There are obvious and hidden signs of being overcommitted. The obvious include missing appointments, deadlines, payments, and the like. These are more obvious because there usually is someone else impacted. Whether it’s a client, colleague, or family member. This external accountability helps to remind you how often you’ve missed a commitment. Of course you may have just enough charisma to smooth over these bumps in the road.

It’s time to take an honest look at just how often you let others down.

The signs of being overcommitted aren’t always obvious, but they are there. You may be a master juggler. You may be able to adapt and adjust your calendar, your timeline, your life – to meet the needs of others. But what is that doing to the commitments you’ve made to yourself?

Your charisma can’t smooth over the damage of not keeping commitments to yourself. These commitments are usually the first casualties and often the most important. As an indie professional, you are the most important asset. If you are working to develop a skill, stay healthy, keep the back office running – these are all critical to being able to meet the needs of your clients (and family).

Gathering data

It’s time to measure the gap between what you think is happening and what’s really happening. Let’s gather some data.

Look over your commitments for the past week (or longer). Look at your calendar, email, paper planner – wherever you capture your commitments.

Make two lists. One with commitments you’ve made to others. The other list contains commitments you made to yourself. Here’s a partial list as an example:

Commitments to others:

  • Write guest blog post and deliver by Wednesday noon.
  • Facilitate half-day meeting Thursday 8:00 am
  • Provide written feedback on business proposal byMonday EOB
  • Meet with client at her office 8:30 am Wednesday.
  • Send financial reporting data to tax accountant.

Commitment to self:

  • Read backlog of newsletters
  • Finish next lesson of online course
  • Set up trial for new CRM software system
  • Updates to website content

Assessing results and your expectations

Next, go through each list and identify which commitments were kept and which were missed.

What percentage of commitments do you keep overall (both categories)?
What percentage commitments do you keep for others? for yourself?
Is there a difference between the two lists?
What does this tell you about your commitments?

These reflection questions are here not to judge, but to help you identify whether or not you actually have a problem over committing.

Making the decision

With this additional information in hand, do you need to make room for success? Are you now willing to take the next step?

In the next article, you’ll truly know if you’ve made the decision to change.