One of the things I love most about being an entrepreneur, and specifically about the online business lifestyle, is that I have so much control over the direction of my life.
I'm not bound by location, make my own decisions, create my own schedule, choose my own income level, etc - there are SO many perks!
One of the best perks though, is that I have the option to make dramatic lifestyle changes anytime I please. If I want something, I'm in a position to MAKE it happen, whether that's more free time (or more specifically, something that fills that free time) or more money - or, fill-in-the-blank.
Maybe I want to take a random vacation, buy a car or close on a home. I simply look at my options and figure out how to make the amount of money I need - and take the steps to earn it. That's not something I could do if I had a traditional job and earned the same paycheck no matter what - and I'm grateful for that.
Whether you're in this same position yet or not, that's what you're working toward: financial freedom, creative freedom, complete control over your lifestyle & future.
All of this sounds great, right? Unfortunately, instead of prioritizing our ideas to achieve a very specific objective, we're often paralyzed by our ideas - or simply overwhelmed with the sheer number of them! I've been in that boat myself for the last couple of months, and finally had a breakthrough this week...
I'm sure you can relate...
It has names like "information overload" or "analysis paralysis". But whatever you call it, I was working through it like a mad woman. So many ideas, and each idea has it's own set of ideas, and these ideas get jotted down or recorded in a variety of places - on paper, a sticky note, on a white board, in Evernote, on the palm of my hand even (which is stupid considering how often I wash my hands -lol).
So what do you do?
You do a Brain Dump. You do a brainstorming session. You get all of your ideas in one place and organize and prioritize them to death. All the while coming up with new ideas, sparked by the ones you're already trying to tame, and before you know it... your brain simply implodes and malfunctions and you're staring at a big fat mess of ideas that all seem to blur together!
No starting point. No ending point. Just endless ideas, and tasks that go with those ideas. And complete overwhelm on how you're *ever* going to accomplish it all.
Especially when your days already seem so full...
Taking a step back from the drawing board...
I decided to give my brain a much needed rest from the chaos, and took a time-out on the back deck with a hot cup of coffee. The biggest thing perplexing me being how I was going to get it all done, and even where to start. That's when I asked myself three very important questions:
- How do I spend my time?
- What's working and what's not? (And why?)
- What else can I outsource?
Keeping a "Time Log" works wonders for me. Especially when I get into one of these creative "idea phases", or when I'm in a massive planning session for the year ahead. Or really, anytime I find myself NOT achieving the things I most want to achieve, and want to regain control over my time & productivity.
A time log is as simple as it sounds: you just log your time. It works best if you keep a notepad (or use Evernote) and jot down everything you do throughout your day for three straight days. It's incredibly enlightening. Right away you'll start to see where you're most productive, what's wasting time unnecessarily, or things you're doing that you could easily (and inexpensively) outsource.
The time log worked, and answered Question #1. Which brought me to Question #2 - I looked over the things I do each day, and decided what was a total waste of my precious time - and what I was doing right. Which brought me to Question #3, which I promptly took care of.
Where I was, Where I am, Where I'm headed...
Through this entire process (which was dragging out *entirely* too long), there were times I was being unreasonably hard on myself. "After all, self, you know this stuff inside and out. You've been doing this for almost 15 straight years. Get it together already - you have no excuses." (etc -lol)
After berating myself for days (um, weeks) on end about where I was NOT, and why, it finally occurred to me how foolish that was. And counterproductive, no less.
I can't recall what it was exactly, but something sparked a memory of my past. I found myself thinking back over the last 10+ years, which turned into a "lifestyle timeline" type daydream - a reality check about where I was, where I am now, and where I intend to be next (which I'm very excited about, by the way!).
Having a strong vision of who you want to be (ie, what you want your life to be like, specifically) is one of the keys to actually turning that vision into reality.
You have to be able to see it, feel it, smell it (?, lol), and most importantly - believe that you can ACHIEVE it. It's not about CAN I do it, but HOW can I do it?
I've been fortunate in two things: 1) having that strong vision, and 2) having experienced the vision-to-reality transition already (more than once).
I know I can do it. Whatever "it" is. I've done it before.
So, being overwhelmed like I was with all of my grand ideas, that line of thinking (which again happened on my obviously magical back deck) brought me to my next question: "What exactly did I do to get where I am?"
Surely the answer to that question would also be the answer to how I will get from where I am, to where I want to be next. Right? Right.
The answer, as usual, is pretty boring:
I did the tasks. Not great big monstrous undertakings mind you, but those boring little mundane tasks. One task at a time. One day at a time.
That's how I got things done. That's how I went from broke to vision=reality. It's kinda the same way you raise children. You can't have a baby and turn them into beautiful well-balanced young adults overnight. It takes a couple of decades. And a lot of exhaustion, emotion, doubt, and yada yada yada.
Thankfully nothing I currently want to achieve is going to take me 20 long years. Though I do look at my 20 year old son and think, "man, what an achievement!" I mean, he is one handsome fellow with a brilliant mind and an exciting future!
I did good there.
Back to the point though (sorry, proud mama moment), the things I want to achieve are fairly easy. In fact, I can accomplish everything I currently want to do in 12-18 months. Nice! (and much easier than raising a man child -ha!)
It was a nice reminder that it's just a string of tasks. It's not an overnight job. It's not something I can get done today, or even this week. Heck, this month even!
Whew - that really takes the pressure off...
Choosing my Top 3 Priorities
So I came back to my desk, and back to my massive Brain Dump with all it's little ideas and tasks - and my unsuccessful attempt (so far) to prioritize it without having a total meltdown... and I looked at it from a different perspective.
I decided what my top three priorities were for the next 12-18 months.
What do I most want to accomplish. And why?
(That "why" is incredibly important. It's what pushes you forward day after day, no matter how far out your goals seem in your mind.)
I listed those three things at the very top of my Brain Dump.
Talk about simplifying! Everything else is either a task that relates to one of those priorities, or something that can wait. Period.
Then I made a decision, based on my past experience with what got me where I am today: being consistent and persistent. That decision was this: "I will do at least one thing every single day, for each of my three highest priority goals."
Pretty simple, huh? It really is. Planning is easy. Brainstorming is easy. DOING is where most of us fall short (myself included at times). Maybe because the tasks seem as boring and meaningless as changing the toilet paper roll. But you know what? Each small task takes you one step closer to the end result.
To state the obvious: NOT doing the tasks takes you nowhere.
Planning time is over. I have my goals sitting squarely in front of me. Now it's time to do the boring work - or do the boring task of outsourcing the boring work.
One day a time is what it takes. And for me, what has always worked best, is to do those priority tasks FIRST each day.
Start your day by knocking out the one thing (or in my case, three things) that will take you closer to your goal. Even if it only feels like you're one centimeter closer - it's that daily consistent action that will get you there.
It's how I got here. And it's how I'll get there.
And it will work for you, too.
Sure, a "magic pill" answer would be nice.
That's what we all want, right? The truth though, is that the tasks are simple. It's easy enough to "do the work". The hard part is in choosing your goals, and staying on track toward those goals. There are so many options and so many ideas! We absolutely must prioritize our true goals, our biggest desires, put everything else on the back burner - and focus 100% on making it happen!
Alright, enough rambling for today. I have to get back to work, and I'm sure you do as well. I hope this proves useful as you analyze your own "master idea list", and prepare to buckle down with an awesome Action Plan for the year ahead!