Prioritizing the Actions that Will Lead to Your Goals

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Does this sound familiar?

You’re putting in a ton of hours to get your freelance business up and running, clocking in time before and after your day job, jotting down business ideas during lunch, maybe even getting out of bed in the middle of the night to tackle just one more thing on your to-do list.  You’re tired, but you feel good — as you should.  You’ve set your sights on big dreams and have been working like a boss to get things in motion.

But are you any closer to your goals?

For example, when I officially started this blog in July, I put my dream out into the universe: to make a full-time living as a freelance writer in a creative and sustainable way.  I started this blog to hold myself accountable.  In my first blog post, I set two very specific short-term income goals:

  • Milestone 1:  Hit $2,000/month by Christmas 2018.
  • Milestone 2:  Hit $5,000/month by one year (July 2019).

Because my goals are income-based, I should be focusing on income-generating actions. When you’re wearing multiple hats, though, it’s sometimes challenging to know which right action you should choose to do next.

It’s so easy to get hung up on all the little details you think are necessary to start and run a new business.  As a solopreneur, you do it all: building and maintaining your website, networking, marketing, and, of course, your paid client work.

The lesson I’m learning time and again, though, is the critical importance of prioritizing (and completing) actions that will help you reach your goals, and fitting in the rest of your to-do list when you can.

I mentioned in a previous post that my social platforms of choice were Twitter, Medium and Pinterest. I have been prioritizing my Pinterest graphics and boards because I know Pinterest marketing, if properly done, can be instrumental in driving traffic to my blog. So even though I know I should update and optimize my LinkedIn profile, it will have to wait until my Pinterest business account is fully set up and ready to go.

While tying content creation to Pinterest marketing is a long term traffic generation goal, I should also be prioritizing actions that will lead to income generation now.  I should be actively looking for leads and pitching ways I can help on a daily basis.

If pitching is a numbers game, then submitting ‘x’ number of pitches should yield ‘x’ number of projects (on average). Conversely, submitting no pitches at all will almost guarantee a yield of no income.

Bottom line: if I want to achieve my income goals, I need to prioritize the things that will generate income.

Being accountable may require uncomfortable reflection.

Sometimes you find yourself concentrating on everything other than the items you know will move the needle toward your goals, and then you find yourself over-justifying your choices.

When I find myself over-rationalizing something I’ve done or not done, it’s often a sign that I’m letting myself off the hook for something important, and it’s likely rooted in fear.

That’s the time to break out your journal and start working things through until you get to the source of your behavior.  It would be easy to keep justifying and rationalizing why you’re not doing the hard thing you need to do, but doing so solves nothing and just prevents you from moving forward.

As we all know, inaction is where dreams go to die.

I’ve gone this route before.  It’s a lonely, soul-sucking, confidence-killing journey, and to think it could have been prevented by just taking action.

2018-09-03 Post (Photo #2) rawpixel-303966-unsplashSo when you get that familiar sensation that something’s off, or that you’re spinning in circles, trust your gut.  Step back for a minute and assess your actions objectively, with honesty and compassion — as you would for a friend. Then hold yourself accountable.

Accountability to yourself is as much about self-honesty as it is staying laser-focused on your goals.

Ask for help.

To a person building what seems an intangible dream, it’s sometimes easy to miss the forest for the trees. And sometimes if you’re too far gone, you can’t see your actions for what they really are.

Having someone you trust and respect check you and hold you accountable during these times is invaluable.  

Fortunately, I have people in my life who’ve been exactly in my shoes and get what it is I’m working hard to achieve.  And because they’re further along in their journey than me, they can sense the spinning when they see it.

Sometimes the quickest way over a stumbling block or setback is to seek outside help.  Reach out to a supportive online community like this one or hire a business coach you trust.

Whatever you do, recognize your fear-based behavior for what it is, and take action to move past it.  Every time you do, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to face the next obstacle.

Some help if you’re paralyzed by inaction

Sometimes you listen to something so powerful that you just want to share it with everyone.  I recently started listening to Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast (highly recommended by Heather Deveaux of The Freelance Writing School), and I was blown away by this episode below:

If you can listen to the podcast, great.  I think you’ll learn a ton of valuable stuff — likely about yourself.  If you can’t listen but would love to know more, Amy posts a condensed summary of each episode (show notes) on her website. The show notes for the above episode can be found here.  She also includes downloadable transcripts of each episode at the end of her show notes.

For those of you who don’t know, Brooke Castillo is a world renown life coach expert and has hosted her own podcast (The Life Coach School Podcast) for years.  She talks about the power of mindset, and how changing how you think can help you achieve different results.  Interesting fact: Brooke launched her podcast several years ago. The title of her very first episode? Why You Aren’t Taking Action

If you need more motivation…

We can always learn from those who’ve gone before us.  I’ll leave you with these quotes from two people I greatly admire and respect:

Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Photos via Unsplash

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How Podcasts Can Help With Mindset and Productivity [Including My Top Recommendations]

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I’ve written about my love of podcasts here, here and here.

They enable you to continue your career and self-development journeys and tackle the non-business things that need to get done in real life.

Those career-inspiring stories you’ve spent hours reading on your laptop?  You can catch those on podcasts.  Those writing and marketing posts you’ve been devouring?  Yep, there’s a podcast for that.

With over 500,000 podcasts on Apple Podcasts alone, there’s literally a podcast for everybody, in every genre.

Chances are, some of your favorite bloggers and writers have their own podcasts, or at the very least have been interviewed on one.

Another plus? The podcast medium is more flexible, which means those motivational interviews and stories can get really deep.

So while sometimes I’d love to have just another hour or two on the computer, a forced break can be rejuvenating.  Plus:

Podcasts help me get things done.

→  While folding laundry, I can learn exactly how to start a freelance writing business.

→  While whipping up a stir-fry, I can learn ways to overcome fear and self-doubt.

→  While doing dishes, I can listen to empowering stories of every day people like you and me who’ve pushed past great obstacles to create the lives they love.

When I’m cooking or cleaning, I like to connect my phone or iPad to this portable bluetooth speaker. That way I can hear the podcast over the sounds of cooking (or my kids) and, if needed, carry the speaker with me from room to room.

What’s more, when I return to my computer, I can resume my work with a feeling of accomplishment and a freer conscience.

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I use travel time for self-development as well.

I’m in my car for about an hour a day.  If I’m driving alone or just waiting for my kids, I’ll look for podcasts that address my specific needs or worries at the time, whether it be online marketing, social media, or help with SEO.

If I’m in my car, I’ll put my phone on speaker and place it in the cupholder or on the console so I can listen hands-free. Some people like to pair their phones to their cars via Bluetooth so they can listen through the car speakers.

Cool tip: Don’t have a portable speaker? Try sticking your phone inside a large cup or bowl. While not as good as a speaker, you’ll be amazed at the boost in volume. Placing the phone speaker sound down allows the audio to bounce off the bottom. For other cool DIY speaker tips, read this article from Cnet.com.

Need a break from self-improvement?

Maybe you want to use the time away from the screen to break free from work-related topics or self-development.  Maybe you’d like to laugh, listen to sports talk, or find out what’s in the news.

There’s a podcast for that, too.

If you’re new to podcasts or maybe don’t exactly know what’s out there, Concordia University-St. Paul created this really interesting infographic called the The Podcast ExplosionIt gives great insight as to the demographics of the listenership, how and why people listen, and what they’re listening to.

View the It’s a Podcast Explosion infographic from Concordia University St. Paul Online
Source: Concordia University- St. Paul

But the most important reason I listen to podcasts?

Mindset, pure and simple.

They remind me to embrace growth mindset versus perfection.

They remind me to use failure as a stepping stone.

They remind me that true success means sharing– that rising tides lift all boats.

They remind me that all success stories begin with that first courageous action.

They remind me that everyone is afraid–no one feels they always know what they’re doing.

They remind me that nothing is scarier than a lifetime of regret.

Your turn.

Would you like to try a podcast, but aren’t sure where to start?  I created a tab called Podcasts I Love with a list of my favorites.

If you’re already a podcast fan, what are some of your favorites?  Recommendations from colleagues are some of the best ways to learn about amazing new resources.