Creatives and solo entrepreneurs are incredibly privileged.
We're able to define our work days, set meaningful goals, and do work that matters.
We've left rigid schedules where we were required to be at a desk during specific hours. We've eliminated the bureaucracy of performance reviews and TPS reports (anyone else an Office Space fan?).
But if we're not careful, we can go to far. We can fail to see our progress. We can miss milestones and think we're failing.
Without SMART goals and regular reflection on those goals, we can run the risk of being busy for the sake of being busy. Remember that cliche, work smarter not harder? If we're not looking at what's on our plates and asking ourselves if it's taking us towards what we want out of life, we run the risk of waking up one day with regrets.
In 2012, a writer I look up to, Neil Gaiman, gave a commencement speech at the University of Arts. There are a few messages that stood out (and still stand out) to me.
- "I've had a remarkable ride. ... The nearest thing I had [to a career plan] was a list ... of everything I wanted to do. ... I just did the next thing on the list."
- "Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be ... was a mountain, a distant mountain, my goal and I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain."
- "It’s been an amazing ride but there were parts of the ride I missed because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on."
Ever since hearing Gaiman's mapping of a goal to a mountain, as I pursue my vision I imagine I'm making my way up a ridge in Costa Rica getting ready to fly via zip line towards the forest canopy.
Be Careful of Getting so Caught Up in the Doing.
When I'm hustling I'm focused on individual tasks. I often miss my progress. Milestones can pass unobserved. Then I'll look up and find myself half way up the mountain versus at base camp preparing for the climb.
At that moment, I stop and I look around. I realize that I'm failing to enjoy the ride. I've created a work environment similar to that of the corporate world from which I'd fled. And I realize, I don't have to work the way I'm working. I have the freedom to chose how I work. When I work. Who I work for.
Adopt a System with Regular Reflection Reminders.
I'd never been a proponent of planners until I met Whitney English at Alt Summit and heard her speak about techniques to avoid becoming overwhelmed. She showed me how she used her Day Designer and I was hooked.
For me the design of Whitney's Day Designer makes reflection and celebration automatic. At the end of each month, is a perfectly placed Notes page on the Month divider. I write my goals for the upcoming month on one side and my progress towards the previous month's goals along with accomplishments on the other side.
Make a Date with Yourself that You Look Forward To.
The first Monday of each month, I treat myself to fresh flowers. I then light a candle, grab a cup of coffee and a treat, and sit down with my Day Designer. For an hour, I have all devices put away and turned off, and I look at where I am versus where I want to be.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
DISCLOSURE: I received the candles featured in this post from Bridgewater Candles as part of my participation in their Party with a Purpose campaign to bring 5 million meals to orphans around the world. NONE of the links in this post are affiliate links. I do not earn revenue or other incentives by including them. My personal mission is to build welcoming communities where no one walks away hungry or feeling alone. With the Light a Candle Feed a Child program, I'm able to decorate my home and help feed children. All opinions shared are my own.