Writer Entrepreneur: Lifestyle Design Part 3

Part Two listed some tools and considerations for turning a freelance career into your perfect life. In this segment, we’re going to look at setting goals. Most people make two major mistakes when setting their goals:

Mistake One: They set short-term goals too high. 

It’s easy to get excited when planning out your future. You want everything, and you want it next week. So you load up the first weeks or months of your calendar with an impossible laundry list of tasks…and then you burn out. You fail to meet your benchmarks, and soon you’ve given up.

Mistake Two: They set long-term goals too low.

After a few trips through the cycle of Mistake One, it’s easy to get discouraged. Once that happens, you lose sight of the incredible power of a year’s worth of incremental progress. To quote Tom Callos, looking at tasks as a “journey of 1000 steps” can make you nearly superhuman.

These two mistakes (Not my work, by the way. I first heard about it from Dave Kovar) can mean living far beneath your personal potential. When you sit down to write out your goals for this coming year, keep some things in mind to help you avoid both.

1. Focus on your most important tasks and goals. Avoid distractions, and promise yourself you’ll cut at least one peripheral, unrewarding activity from your schedule each month.

2. Choose at least one “impossible dream.” If you write a page a day, you’ve written a sizable novel by the end of the year. If you save three dollar a day (the price of a Starbuck’s coffee), you can buy a plane ticket to practically anywhere. Create a framework of small steps over the year and love where it takes you.

3. Push back at least two projects. You’ll get excited and make mistake one when you first write out your goal calendar. Force yourself to move at least two of them into the second and third quarters of 2012.

4. Have a “bookkeeping party” between Christmas and New Year. Schedule a day to pay that last bill, clean out your garage, email that contact — all those little details that would otherwise clutter your early 2012 calendar. It’s also a good idea to schedule one of these days near the close of each month. It keeps you sharp and motivated.

5. Write your goals down. I cannot stress this enough. Write down your goals, and put them someplace you look often. I used to use my bathroom mirror, but I think I’ll move them to my screen saver for 2012.

I hope this helps. Early in 2012, I’ll post my full goal and scheduling matrix as an framework for everyone. In the final installment in this Lifestyle Design series, we’ll talk about the good and bad of freelancing with a family.

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