'Go-For-Grey' Goal Setting

May 12, 2014

photo by Bonnie Tsang
Combining a full-time job with freelancing and life-living has left me feeling a lot of awe for many of you that make it look easy. You even manage to raise little people at the same time! Like the title of that unfortunate Sarah Jessica Parker movie I survived fifteen minutes of I have to say, I don't know how she (or he) does it

Last week in a client session, we started talking about work habits. I was reminded that small, consistent amounts of work trump occasional herculean efforts, and got inspired to be more intentional about how I make this happen. My overall approach is pretty go-for-grey-- as in try it, tweak what doesn't work, and try again. There is not a set formula or magical app (or business book) that will make this a snap-your-fingers easy task. Instead, you show up and do the work.

Prioritize: Let's assume that neither you nor I can accomplish everything we want to at once. Focus on one thing, and you can add in another later on. 

Decide On What & Why: Get specific. For instance, rather than deciding that you want to grow your freelance work (a big goal), narrow it in. Maybe this means focusing on shaping up your website or work samples, or growing your audience (which breaks down to blogging, or meeting potential audience members via twitter). The 'why' factor can be a great motivator when you're making space for something in your schedule (and its always helpful to get clear on your intentions).

Break It Down: Help yourself out by breaking down big goals into smaller chunks. Rather than 'update my website', write what this really entails: 1) Choose a new photo / 2) Craft new 'about' page/ 3) Update resume/experience, etc... Then, when you get down to work, you know exactly what needs to be done.

Set Realistic Goals: 'Reasonable goals' are less ambitious than those than you might accomplish during you ultimate week of productivity. The idea is that you set goals you can meet, and your success with meeting the goals propels you into more consistency and productivity. If I set the goal of writing daily, I'm bound to fail. If I aim for an hour, 3 times a week, I'll meet my goal, get motivated by my consistent action, and often want to keep writing past my hour. 

Schedule ahead: Sit down at the beginning of the week and decide what you can make space for in your schedule. Write it in as non-negotiable. Remember that a lot can be accomplished in 20 minutes if you do it regularly.

Show Up & Do The Work: You don't have to do your best work, you just have to show up (and avoid procrastinating with social media). When I'm starting a new work habit, the first few days are often agony-- I work slowly. Just keep going.                                                                                  

Know What You Need: This system is 'go-for-grey', meaning that there are no absolutes. While I said that what you schedule should be non-negotiable (as in, you don't lose your studio time because the dishes need to be done), I have an exception clause. Are you familiar with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? It prioritizes things like sleep and eating over, say, creativity. There are times when working on your creative endeavor might not be what you need. For instance, I've been emotionally and physically burnt out over the last couple of weeks. Ridged writing deadlines weren't serving my life. I chose extra sleep, serial television, and family time. I have a feeling I'll be more productive in the future because I took this time. In most cases, your work will be right there where you left it waiting for you!

Tweak As Necessary: If your approach isn't working, make micro-adjustments and try again. Don't completely scratch the plan. Some people like to give themselves rewards for meeting goals; I like to think that the satisfaction of meeting the goal is rewarding enough. It feels good to get things done, right? If you fail miserably (something I don't even believe is possible), try again. Whatever happens, don't let your frustration bring you to a standstill.

Calling all you people who excel at Getting Shit Done: how do you do it? Is there an infomercial-worthy app or trick, or does it merely take lots of practice? 

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