I’d been talking about relaunching my website for more than three years and—with a boat-load of help from my special friend and tech-savvy guru Angel Madison—I finally did it. Why on earth did it take so long? Honestly, it was simply a matter of having the time. I’d sacrifice personal goals (and there are plenty) for the sake of other commitments, but I realized I was doing more harm than good and resenting myself for it. I don’t think I’m alone. Here are five ways I now approach developing my freelance illustration business without feeling overwhelmed.
1. Make an appointment.
Carving out a spot on the calendar at least once a week (and sticking to it) to implement my goals has made a significant difference in my business growth. During my appointment, I might add five new contacts to my newsletter, set up one or two posts for instagram, update my Etsy shop with one new item or send out a select postcard mailing. As a result I’m less stressed and feel good knowing I’m moving forward, even if it’s at a slower pace than I might like. It’s easy to add more spots to the calendar, but never let them go beyond 30-45 minutes at a time. Whatever doesn’t get done is saved for the next appointment.
2. Reign in the ideas.
If like me—notorious for scribbling thoughts on scraps of paper and constantly losing them, or struggle to keep them organized—opt for a pocket-sized notebook instead. Big planners make me feel like I should make big lists which piles on pressure, thinking I have to get it all done pronto. No thanks! My faves are little hardback booklets that open flat, come with a pen and secure closed with an elasticated ribbon. TIP: Taping loose notes to the pages keeps ideas together, and rolling the list to a clean page every day makes you feel like you’re getting sh*t done—yaaas!
3. “Just do the next thing on the list.”
Those are the words of wisdom from my super agent Rachel Orr who utters them every time I feel overwhelmed. I’m paying them forward to you along with “Pants on one leg at a time,” “Walking a thousand miles begins with one step” … you get the gist.
4. Small manageable tasks (SMTs) are the stepping stones to your big intentions.
It’s great to have sizable goals—submit a picture book dummy to a publisher, launch a new website, start a company, renovate the kitchen—but those can’t happen in a day, so don’t even go there. Break the biggies down into smaller action steps. What are all the things that need to happen first to achieve that one major goal? Make a list, book time on the calendar and begin. One. Step. At. A. Time.
5. Are you moving towards your mountain?
Aside from contracted, or already committed upon projects, I let go of items on the list that no longer served purpose to my business goals. Author Neil Gaiman gives one of the best commencement addresses I’ve ever heard at Philadelphia’s University of The Arts in 2012 where he imagines his goal—to support himself through his writing—as a mountain in the distance and determines by what means he will reach it. As long as he’s always moving closer to it, he’ll be alright. So, on the days when you’re feeling challenged, tired, indecisive, overwhelmed, stuck or faced with unexpected opportunities, assess where you are in relation to your mountain and know that as long as you keep moving towards it that you, too, will be alright.