I’ve made it no secret that 2017 has been a crappy year for me. Some of that’s work-related, though work has been more affected by problems I’m dealing with rather than causing them. Focus has been hard to come by, and motivation even more so.
But that doesn’t mean I get to sit on my hands and do nothing, waiting for things to pass. If you have a shitty day, sure. A bad week, maybe some time away is what you need. But when everything around you starts to feel like a perpetual clusterfuck, and when there’s no end in sight, what are you supposed to do?
You keep going.
Maybe not in the same way you used to. But you keep moving forward just the same.
That’s what I want to talk about today – how to keep making progress even on those days, or weeks, or months when you just don’t give a damn for one reason or another.
Getting Your Priorities Straight
While I’ve dealt with things and tried to find renewed direction this year, I’ve had to reprioritize things in my business. That means some initial goals were put off so I could focus on getting from one day to the next while keeping the core business where I want, and need, it to be.
For me that meant taking a “quiet” approach – much less blogging (which I’m finally trying to change again) and instead focusing on freelance clients and behind-the-scenes work (admin tasks, platform moves, server work, some redesigns… things like that).
That’s one option. If you’re struggling, you can work with existing clients and quietly pitch them new projects. You’re allowed to step away from your blog for a while, or social media, or whatever you need a break from.
Figure out what’s most important… what’s going to keep your business going and inch you towards your goals. Then focus on that and say “to hell with the rest” if you want to -- other than client deadlines of course, which are always a priority.
Ease Into Commitment
The main reason I backed off of blogging to focus on the freelance work for a while is that it requires more of a commitment. And with the things affecting me largely being external these days, I never knew when I’d have a good day or a bad one.
So even though I haven’t been posting on any of my blogs much, I’ve still been writing posts whenever I have time and energy -- on those good days. This way I’ll have a stockpile of evergreen material ready to go when I do come back. I can write about timely issues as I see fit. And I’ll have ready-to-go content to fill in the gaps on bad days.
You can do this as a one-time thing like I did. Or you can make it a part of your routine. Spend a day or two each month writing as many posts as you can, then schedule them throughout the month. This not only helps you push past days when you just don’t want to be bothered, but also if you’re sick, planning to travel, or have other commitments that will need more time than usual.
Admittedly, I’ve wanted to get back to regular blogging for a while now. But these past few weeks have been particularly rough. I wasn’t sure I had it in me to force the level of commitment I’d need.
So I started small, re-working my overall blogging plan so I can put more emphasis on web publishing and less on client work to get back to a better balance. I also filled in for someone else temporarily.
Lori Widmer is a good friend, so when Paula Hendrickson mentioned she was taking a bit of time away from her blog for her own personal reasons, offering to lend a hand made sense. I could help Lori out, keep her blog updated while she was away, and committing to doing that for someone else was much easier than committing to doing it for myself at the time.
It also proved to be a nice break from my newish routine, and while I'm far from being out of this everlasting funk, it did nudge me in the right direction.
If you want to read those posts or download the resources I created for her, you can find them below:
- Freelance Writing Rules (and Why You Should Break Them)
- The Necessity of Change
- Goal Planning Worksheets for Freelance Writers
So if you find yourself at a point where you just don’t care or don’t feel all that motivated and you’re struggling to move past a slump, sure… you have to suck it up. But you can ease back into things.
Pick one thing to push yourself on – existing clients, your blog, a particular marketing tactic, perhaps creating a new product to sell to your client base. One thing.
Commit to something small enough you know you’ll see it through. Then work your way back to “normal” one step at a time.
Do Something Drastic
I know… I know. This sounds completely contradictory to what I just suggested. But the baby-step approach doesn’t work for everyone. And it doesn’t always work in the long-term. That’s the case with me.
Starting small was the right option in my case. But I’m not the kind of person who can operate that way for long. I might not have found a new purpose to keep me feeling fundamentally driven yet. But in easing back into things on the blogging side, I’ve realized how much I don’t feel like myself anymore.
And frankly, I miss the “old” me. Slowly easing into things isn’t going to get me there again. I know I need bigger, more drastic changes. That’s how I do things when I’m at my best. 2016 was depressing as hell. 2017 has been a miserable drain in most days. And there’s no friggin' way I’m going to let that carry into next year. So it’s time for bigger changes.
Maybe that’s what you need to do. Maybe not. A new market or specialty. Drastic changes to your services or rates. Making a move of some sort. Dropping a huge client who makes you miserable. Starting some big new project...
If you don’t feel like what you’re doing now is what you really want to do… if it doesn’t make you happy… do something else. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that.
I’m lucky. This sudden ambition to make big changes, both business and personal, coincides with the start of fall.
That’s always my best time of the year. It’s also usually when I make huge changes or decisions for the upcoming year, both related to my business and personal life. So that in itself is a small dose of me getting to feel like “me” again.
If you’d like to take stock of your current situation and see what changes you need to make to reach your goals or adjust your own plans like I'm doing now, check the last link I gave you above. The two free worksheets I released on Lori’s blog can help you re-think your goals and your path forward. Even if you’re not struggling with motivation right now, it’s important to keep yourself on-track.
In the meantime, what would you say to a fellow writer struggling to keep going? Have you gone through that yourself? How did you push through it? Are you more of an “ease back into things” type or do you feel more motivated by big changes? I’d love to hear your tips and stories in the comments.