Thanks 2016. It's been weird

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2016 is coming to an end and I, for one, will be glad to see the back of it. Many of us feel like we are facing an uncertain future on a grand scale and are experiencing anxieties about our personal path to success. For all its ups, life as a creative business owner is often trying, frustrating, lonely and a struggle.  Ultimately knowing that we’re doing the thing we love keeps us going. But does it have to be that hard? For many years I supported biotech start ups and research institutions as a consultant and writer.  A series of events led to me moving back to my home town of London after a very long absence and the decision to follow my creative drive. I’ve been fortunate to meet many talented creative people over the past year and I’ve noticed a lot of similar stories and patterns.  Often times being a creative means working in isolation, and that is not always easy.  I want to create a safe place for creatives to come and read about issues that affect us, be it finances/business, the creative process, life hacks and personal development. My experience has given me many insights I’d love to share and I’d love to learn more by hearing your comments and suggestions about what issues matter to you?

Let’s go

To get the ball rolling into 2017 I thought I might start with some goal setting. But not the painful, I’m not going to enjoy this, New Year’s resolution type of goals. These are going to make your life easier! I’ve broken it down into four steps.

Step1: How do I want to live in five years time? Find pen and paper, yes real analogue writing materials, and write down how you want your life to be in five years time. Now before jumping into this, take a moment to think about it. People vastly overestimate what they can achieve in a year and vastly underestimate what they can achieve over ten years. Think about the life you really want to live. How much do you actually want to be working? How much do you need to earn to support the life model you envisage? How important is gaining significance and recognition in your field a factor? What aspect of the work that you do, is what you want to do more of? Once you’ve identified all the things that really matter to you, try and summarize them into one sentence and let that be your five year goal. Even if you think it’s not reachable by then, write it down anyway and put this paper to one side, but at hand.

Step2: Write a ‘Must do’ not a ‘To do’ List. The trouble with ‘to do’ lists is that we often mistake what MUST be done with what we’d LIKE to have done. Truly, there are never enough hours in the day for all the wants. Sticking strictly to a ‘must do’ list means that you have itemised all the obligations you have to your business or craft, your health, your family, your friends etc. Do not be tempted to add ‘nice to haves’. Only include things that are essential to keep your life and business running and moving forward. This will also help you focus on the key elements. Now actively schedule those actions. I recommend keeping a weekly calendar that you can update. (Obligations can be fun too – make sure you also schedule in your calendar things you’ve decided to do that you enjoy). Making a ‘must do’ list means you will almost certainly accomplish those action items and that will leave you with a sense of achievement, success and moving forward. A to ‘do list’ is almost never accomplished and leaves you with a sense of failure and non-achievement. Once this practise becomes routine, many tasks are actually completed more quickly and efficiently. And you never know, if there is time left over, why not do one of those things you always wanted to do but never got around to.

Step 3: Take Action. This is where the real magic happens. Whenever you get stuck, experience fear, or have to do something you really dislike, call back into your mind your five year vision.  Really relive that picture of your ideal life in five years time. Remind yourself that performing this task will move you closer to your goal. This isn’t some abstract chore but a step on your journey. I can’t tell you how long I’ve procrastinated about writing this blog, but it is moving me along my journey and guess what, I love doing it! Once you’ve committed to performing your task, try and really focus on the job in hand.  Be as present in the moment and your task as you can. Another good tip is to do the dreaded tasks first. Getting those out of the way first thing is the best way to enjoy the rest of the day.

Step 4: Celebrate. We’re all very good at punishing ourselves for all the things we don’t do and forget to praise ourselves for the things we do. This is especially true for women who all so often have real issues with self esteem. Every time you complete a task on your ‘must do’ list, take the time to celebrate and praise yourself. If you succeeded at Step:3, you should be able to vividly relive the experience of performing that task. Now add to that experience in your mind the sense of achievement in accomplishing it. Self praise is significantly more effective in staving off depression than praise from outside. And as important as praising yourself, don’t criticise yourself. Imperfect is better than unfinished. If you accomplish a difficult task, allow yourself a pat on the back for getting it done. Don’t go back over it in your mind nit picking and looking where it could have been better or noticing all the flaws. It’s finished. Job done. Cheers!

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat 😉

This time next year you’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished.

I really hope this exercise will help you get and keep aligned for a great 2017. I’d love to hear about your progress if you try this exercise or your thoughts on this in the comments box below. How do you stay motivated and focused? What issues are important to you?

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