5 Small Things That Can Lead to Daily Progress

step stones up airIf you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you “should” do to launch or grow your web-writing business, you’re not alone. Learning your craft, marketing your business, creating a website, working with clients …

Where do you start? And, how can you get it all done?

I had those questions, too. And, sadly, I let them keep me frozen in fear for far too long.

While working a full-time job, I’d come home after a long, tiring day, glance at my to-do list, feel the anxiety rise, and promptly decide I needed a “night off.” The rest of the evening would be spent plopped in front of the TV, feeling terrible about my lack of progress and telling myself my current job wasn’t so bad after all.

It was a dangerous cycle of procrastination.

After a while, though, I realized I would never achieve my goals if I didn’t find a way to make daily progress — no matter how small. After all, how do you eat an elephant? That’s right. One bite at a time.

Here are the five small things I did to turn it all around, make steady progress, and finally reach my goal of leaving my full-time job behind to become a freelance web writer:

1. Create a morning routine.

If you work a full-time job, your morning routine likely consists of showering, getting dressed, pouring coffee into a travel mug, and quickly eating a granola bar during your commute. At least, mine did.

I was so rushed in the mornings (probably because I hit “snooze” so many times — argh!) that my goals didn’t cross my mind until much later in the day. By that point, I already felt like I had fallen behind.

To turn this around — and start making daily progress — I changed my morning routine. First, I stopped pushing “snooze.” Then, I used the extra time to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee and journal. Some of the things I journal about are goals, progress, ideas, things to be grateful for, and tasks I don’t want to forget.

2. Put your most important tasks first.

You’ve probably heard the popular advice to “eat a frog.” Basically, the idea is you tackle a big task — something that will move you closer to your goals — first thing every day (before email, social media, and other distractions).

While I never quite mastered “eating a frog” before work, I did make it a top priority when I got home. I would tell myself if I did something for 30 minutes, I could take the rest of the evening off.

Often, 30 minutes would turn into more, and I’d wind up quite productive. But, by keeping the commitment small, I basically tricked myself into starting.

To ensure you create smaller tasks that can be accomplished in 30 minutes each, break down your goals. Saying, “I’m going to build my website in the next 30 minutes” is the same as setting yourself up to fail. It’s simply not an obtainable goal within such a short time.

Instead, break that big goal into smaller parts: writing the content for your home page, choosing your color scheme, setting up your contact page, or other small (but meaningful) things that can be completed in 30 minutes.

If you’re not sure what to work on, and you don’t yet have paying clients, here are some ideas:

  • Create a Money-Making Website (or your freelance website)
  • Write spec assignments for potential clients
  • Rewrite letters received from marketers to create samples
  • Offer writing to charities in exchange for testimonials and samples
  • Reply to job-board posts looking for writers

When you’re finished, be sure to check the task off your list. Or, even better, move it to a “done” list. When we make incremental progress — spread out over days, weeks, or even months — it can be difficult to recognize exactly how much progress has been made. A “done” list will help you stay motivated and mindful of just how far you’ve come.

3. Write daily.

I often include this tip when writing or discussing web-writing success… Why? Because practicing your craft (i.e., web writing) is essential to becoming a successful (well-paid) web writer. There’s no way around this one. If you want to be a writer, you must write.

If you already have clients, you probably write every day to meet your deadlines. But, if you’re still in a full-time job, you might need to be creative about how to fit in your writing time. You might write as part of your morning routine, on your lunch break, after work, or maybe at the end of the day. Any time is fine… as long as you do it.

If you’re not sure what to write, here are a few ideas:

  • Write out a sales letter by hand
  • Write your own sales letter for a product or service
  • Journal about your goals and progress
  • Write blog posts or articles about what you’re learning

Of course, these ideas are just a few of the many things you could write. The point here is that you do take the time to write. (I aim for at least 500 words, five times a week.)

4. Brain dump.

I vividly remember a drowning feeling as too many tasks swirled around in my head… “finish Chapter 7 of Web Copy 2.0,” “write the content for a LinkedIn page,” “reply to new posts on the job board,” “decide on a website theme,” “learn about website security,” “launch a Facebook page,” “create proposal templates,” and on and on.

Just thinking about those things made me stressed. And, to make matters worse, they all felt equally important!

That’s when I turned to task management, which doesn’t have to be difficult. I confess I spent a lot of time — far too much time — exploring different task management apps and weighing the pros and cons of each. Even after choosing one and setting it up, I would change my mind and start over.

Finally, I realized all of that was completely unnecessary and only distracted me from real progress. All you really need to manage your tasks is a piece of paper and a pen. (You can always worry about adopting apps later, once your business is up and running.)

For now, grab a pen and write down all those things swirling around in your head. Get it all out — even the tasks you think are unnecessary. Just by writing these tasks down, you’ll feel some relief.

Then, focus on only the tasks you must do. If you’re not sure which tasks are most important, here’s an article I think will help: “How to Finally Make Progress on Even Your Most Neglected Goals

5. Start an evening routine.

In the beginning, my freelance work didn’t begin until after 6 p.m. So, my evening routine was often a “before bed routine.” (These days, I aim to complete it at the end of the work day.)

The first thing I do is review my calendar. At the end of each day, there are tasks that were completed (which I check off), tasks that need to be postponed (which I drag onto the next day), and new tasks to add.

By making this part of my evening routine, I know exactly what’s on the schedule for the next day, so I’ll be able to get right to work. (Plus, I can enjoy the evening knowing I’m on top of things… even if I didn’t finish everything on my list.)

During my evening routine, I also check and reply to email, review and recommit to my goals, and brain dump any new tasks floating around in my head.

I also take time to be grateful for how far I’ve come. While this advice might seem “woo-woo” or flippant, I’ve found it to be the most important, because gratitude keeps me motivated and moving forward, even on the most difficult days.

So how about you? Do you have a morning routine, evening routine, or both? What “small things” do you use to create big change in your life? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “5 Small Things That Can Lead to Daily Progress”

  1. Great article Christina! You have inspired me and I am definitely going to try these small things. I’m sure this will help relieve this feeling of being overwhelmed I have. Best advice I’ve read in some time and I am excited to give it a go!

  2. I’m sorry my vocabulary isn’t more sophisticated right now — but this article is so, so AWESOME. Very real and very wise.

    It took a minor freak-out this week for me to remember the importance of prioritizing, breaking tasks into chunks, getting the tough stuff out of the way first, NOT hitting the snooze button, etc. I’ve been panicking because I have less than 2 weeks before I move back to the USA, and I have lots of things to do to prepare — plus I’m still working full-time — plus I’m just starting to blog weekly for a language learning website. That’s not even counting all the personal projects I have running, like my writer’s blog and my fiction.

    It helped to brain-dump (#4), prioritize the most pressing/stressful things, and then schedule them step-by-step into my calendar. Voila, clarity and relief.

    Bookmarking this article for after the move. 🙂

  3. Thank you for reminding and hopefully inspiring others with what I know to one day end up some where on purpose, as long as you believe you are more than talented to succeed and never lose faith as everytime faith is tested, you also prove your endurance. The only other belief I feel to be mindful of if working on huge goals which are often multifaucted and patience i’ve proven to be part of sometimes a neccessary ingredient that I know all to much talent and one’s almost succeeding dreams thrown away and talent wasted. Painful. Never give up.

  4. I love that you took time to address this article to us. I totally subscribe to all you say thought I admit I have not conquered the am routine but I am trying. As far as planning your day the night before, prioritizing your to do list I have found that is very important. I also have found that putting only the 3 most important items on the list is making me more productive and keep me moving forward on what is most important to me. Your point about gratitude is very important.. I have found taking the time to be grateful seems to make things flow more smoothly and great ideas and opportunities seem to keep coming to me when I conscientiously have a grateful frame of mind.

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