Is your brain full?
After three days of amazing sessions and concentrated networking, most CFC 2013 attendees headed for home with their heads spinning. We each left with such a wealth of inspiring insights and new contacts that we felt ready to take on the world.
But as any CFC veteran can tell you, the culture shock of returning to your daily routine can quickly distract you from the idealistic goals you set at the end of the conference. Below I’ve listed seven easy ways to make sure you stay motivated and on track.
Didn’t get to go to CFC this year? You can still use these strategies to create some of the same benefits attendees enjoyed (and prep for CFC 2014), especially if you get the session recordings [we’ll post the link soon!] or participate in the CFC LinkedIn group.
- Write your goals down. This isn’t as trivial a step as it might sound. The mere act of transferring what you want from your head to a piece of paper gives your ambitions and desires greater strength. Start with the three goals you wrote on your postcard, then add any others you want to work on in the next six months. Don’t just type them into a computer file that you save and forget: use your favorite “low tech” medium, whether you jot them down on a blank page of Crystal Reynolds’ “Creatives’ Cupboard” notebook or create a personal work of motivational art. Whatever you choose, post your goals somewhere in your office or studio where you’ll see them regularly.
- Make your goals specific and measurable. Defining what you want to accomplish as precisely as you can makes it easier to track your progress and achieve what you set out to do. “I want to do more marketing” isn’t nearly as effective as “I want to publish a 2,000 word newsletter on schedule every month.”
- Tell others about your goals. Just as writing your goals down in step 1 makes them easier to remember, telling others what they are, and making a spoken commitment to achieve them, will dramatically increase the chance that you’ll follow through. If you’re a habitual procrastinator, an accountability buddy may be just what you need. If you didn’t leave CFC with one, follow up with someone you met or try posting a message in the Creative Freelancer LinkedIn group.
- Don’t try to do too much at once. I left San Francisco thinking about at least five major changes I want to make to my business. (There are many more in my notebook, but they don’t all come to mind as I write this at 5:46 a.m. on the red-eye flight home.) I’m not going to try to accomplish them all overnight, and neither should you. By the time you read this, most of you will be back home dealing with all the work and administrative tasks you put on hold while you were away, plus the daily routines of running your business. Many of you have also returned to find kids, pets, spouses, local networking groups, and other responsibilities clamoring for your attention. Keep your goals realistic and pace yourself gradually. For large or time-consuming goals, such as building a new website, break your goal into smaller tasks you can achieve gradually over time.
- Treat your CFC goals like a high-paying gig. Schedule the time you spend working on your CFC task list the same way you would make appointments with your best client. Put it on the calendar at a regularly reoccurring time and make that time sacred. For best results, turn off your smartphone ringer, Email, and all social media. Make a commitment to accomplish at least one task that gets you closer to your goal each time. Scheduling this work at a consistent time—whether it’s 15 minutes a day, every Tuesday morning, or whatever—is the first step toward making ongoing progress. It doesn’t take long to form a routine habit that will carry you through the natural ebb and flow of enthusiasm as your daily grind reasserts itself.
- Check your notes. That red book you found on the table when you arrived? It’s your second memory. Don’t stick it on a bookshelf or bury it on your desk when you get home. You may find cryptic references that no longer make as much sense as they did at the time, but it will also help jog your memory about things you thought you’d forgotten.
- Follow up. Stay in touch with the new contacts you met at CFC. Check in with them periodically in the months to come to see what goals they’re working on and how their progress is coming along. They can help you remember insights that didn’t make it into your notes and provide you with different perspectives. Try collaborating with likely partners if opportunity permits, but even if it doesn’t, remember that you are not alone.