Too often, I see web writers mistake being busy with being productive. Last week, we looked at how different activities affect your productivity … from things that tend to undo your progress like getting stuck in the planning stages to things that will always move you forward, like working on a client project.
This week, we’re going to dig deeper into how you can use the idea of meaningful action to get more done in the coming year. I’m talking more free time, more streams of income, more goals achieved … in short, use this meaningful action roadmap to make 2014 your most satisfying and rewarding year yet.
Define Your Meaning
If you’re going to take meaningful action, the first thing you have to do is define a meaningful goal or objective.
For example — and I don’t mean to pick on social media, it’s just an area that can be very powerful or a huge waste of time, depending on how you use it — let’s say you read an article about the value of a new social media network.
You visit the new site, you sign up and fill out your profile, and you get to work building connections. Why?
If you don’t have an answer to that question, then you’re doing busy work.
On the other hand, let’s say you read about that same new network, you do a little research and discover there’s a lot of interest in your niche, so it will be a good place to connect with your target audience. You have your website set up with a lead-generation piece and an email sign-up form. Now, when you begin engaging on that network, you’re building connections with the goal of developing a long-term relationship by enticing your audience to visit your website and sign up for your list.
With a well-defined Why? to what you’re doing, the action takes on a whole new meaning … or rather it takes on meaning in the first place.
Ask the Right Questions
Start adding meaning to all your actions by asking yourself the right questions.
First up, ask yourself, “What do I want?” If you haven’t asked yourself this question recently, do it right now. In terms of your web-writing business, write down everything you want … the income you want to be earning, the type of clients you want to work with, how you want your friends, family, and colleagues to perceive you (don’t cringe at this one — perceptions are important, so be honest with yourself), the hours you want to work, the process you want to use, the marketing ideas that excite you, the passive income streams you desire. Get it all down on paper or in a document somewhere.
Next question — and this is key to bringing meaning to what you’re doing — “Why do I want it?” Why that income? Why those clients? Why that industry? Why that specialty? Why those hours? Why those perceptions? Your answers here will serve as motivation when you’re frustrated, discouraged, or stressed out.
Now we get into the meat and potatoes. Ask yourself, “How do I get there?” Answering this question might take a little research, but I’ll give you a hint. Most freelancers succeed based on a combination of skill and strategy. So list the skills you need and the strategies you’ll use. Basically, this breaks down into “What do I need to learn?” and “What do I need to do?”
And now for the most important question. Look at the list of skills you just made and the list of objectives you just set and ask yourself, “What is the minimum I need learn and do to achieve what I want?”
If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s that question right there. The key to meaningful action is to distill down the actions you need to take into those that will have the most impact. With that in mind, cross at least half of the things off your list of what you “need to learn” and “need to do.” If you can cut it down to 20% of the original size, all the better.
Your new, shortened list contains the things that will make the most difference, that will move you forward to your goals in the quickest way. By cutting your list, you give yourself permission to focus on the actions that will be most meaningful in terms of getting what you want.
The hard part is done. Letting go is always the hard part. Now that you’ve let go of the things you don’t need to do, you have just three more steps to make this coming year your best yet.
Step 1: Based on your new, shortened list, gather together or create what you need. This may include a new program to develop a skill, a website to connect with the world, or your marketing materials. Determine how long it will take to put these items in place — complete your program, launch your website, create your marketing materials. Be as aggressive as you can.
Step 2: Once you’ve completed Step 1 and put everything into place, set up a system and a schedule to execute the to-do items on your short list. It should be easier to commit to and follow through with because it is shorter than what you’ve tried before.
Step 3: Revisit your strategy often. Review the answers to those important questions. Tweak what you’re doing when needed, always keeping in mind the question “What is the minimum I need learn and do to achieve what I want?”
Most freelancers are over-achievers. We get caught in the cycle of things we should do. The opportunities and strategies are limitless — if you try to do them all, you won’t excel at any. It’s up to you to set your own limits. When you do, you’ll find yourself free to focus on what is actually meaningful. And that’s when big things start to happen.