Holding Yourself Accountable, Part One
Photo by Jayel Aheram.
Permit me to start this article with a confession: I have the attention span of a gnat. Which means that biggest f-word in my life is “focus.”
So, how does an easily distracted freelancer like me get anything done during the workday? Part of the answer lies in the question. Instead of working in an office that’s full of attention-grabbing things like talking coworkers, ringing phones, and the aroma of popcorn popping in the break room, I work at home by myself.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m “home free” when it comes to distractions. There are plenty of things that can cause my mind to wander off to Timbuktu. On a daily basis, my two saving graces are:
- My “Gotta-Do” list. It’s not a “To-Do” list. Those aren’t strong enough for distract-o-matics like Yours Truly.
- My Daily Accountability Questions. There are only two of them. And I don’t consider the workday closed until I’ve answered both.
Let’s take a look them…
The “Gotta-Do” List
It’s easy to load a “To-Do” list down with things like “rearrange the files” and “research software for recording sales.” Which can lead you into lovely, time-sucking distractions like rearranging your furniture and researching the computer on which you’ll install that new software. And that’s a big problem.
Then there’s the problem of not getting the important things done. This happens when you’re dutifully marching through your “To-Dos,” but you’re not any closer to finding new clients or working on projects for your existing clients. Not to mention the fact that there were things that you really had to accomplish this week, but it’s Friday afternoon, and you still haven’t done them.
The difference between a “To-Do” list and a “Gotta-Do” list is (here comes that f-word again) focus. When you get into “Gotta” mode, you’re listing things that you absolutely have to get done today. I find that nothing concentrates the attention like deadline pressure.
Here’s a peek at my “Gotta-Do” list for today:
- I’m working on a website for a client who just received some good publicity. He’s tough to reach, so I sent a congratulatory e-mail to inform him of the project’s status. Hope he responds. I’ve been trying to get a hold of him since we met briefly on Monday.
- Another client’s website went live last week. Her organization’s board of directors meets on Monday, so I need to check in with her before the meeting. Did that this afternoon.
- I met with a prospective client yesterday, and at the end of our meeting, I promised to send a website design proposal today. Started working on that proposal yesterday and e-mailed it this morning. Check that job off the “Gotta-Dos.”
- Freelance Switch just ran an article on selling stock photography. It was a good reminder, because I have some pitches to send out to potential stock buyers. Doing that throughout the day.
- Speaking of Freelance Switch, I need to get this article written!
- Tomorrow morning, I’m giving a talk to a group of Tucson photographers. So, I fired up the laptop and prepared the talk. I also gathered up some promotional materials to take with me – some of those photographers could become clients.
Note that the emphasis is on doing paid work and bringing in more of it.
The Daily Accountability Questions
After a long day of “Gotta-Doing,” it’s time to wrap things up. I don’t consider my workday closed unless I’ve answered the following questions:
- What did I do to make money today?
- What did I do to bring in business today?
The first question relates to paying work that I already have in the house. And, as you can see from today’s “Gotta-Do” list, I’m pretty light in that department. The ongoing project (Item #1) is for a client who’s hard to reach. And the other paying project (Item #2) is done.
So, time to put some oomph into answering the second question. Hence, today’s “Gotta-Dos” place quite an emphasis on making sales – submitting the design proposal (Item #3) and pitching the stock photo sales (Item #4) – and marketing (Items 5 and 6).
The Daily Accountability Questions don’t require War and Peace answers. You’re only writing about one day, after all. But do make the effort to answer them. Over time, you’ll find yourself identifying business problems that you didn’t know you had. (Time to solve them!) You’ll also find yourself noticing good things that you weren’t aware of before. (So, reward yourself!)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to wrap up this day up. It’s DAQ time for this freelancer, and after I’m done, I’m going to a party. (Yup, I’m rewarding myself.)
And that’s how you hold yourself accountable on a daily basis. In my next article, I’ll show you how to do so on a weekly basis.