It’s the things we do on our own that matter.
I love a useful brainstorming workshop, a team of creatives, an editor, graphic designer, mentor and coach and generally being set up for success. But I’m a freelancer, and a one-woman show except for a hand full of collaborators who I wouldn’t be without but who have their own exhausting mission to complete.
So, I could moan about how hard it is; I could spend all of my time copying popular tactics. Or, I could recognise that it’s the things we do on our own that matters.
I’m not being entirely self-centred here because the stronger we are in ourselves, the more we can help others. If we can keep going in the face of uncertainty, grow while everything around us is stalling, be an inspiration to others when others are fearful, then isn’t that a good thing?
In this age of digital marketing, we sometimes get roped into our own hype. We start to believe that if we don’t share our wares and we’re not seen regularly on our platforms; if our digital presence ceases to be visible that we will fade away.
But the truth is that our public face is the easiest one to keep visible. We work so hard to convey our confidence, certainty and expertise that it becomes a simple mask to wear.
The real work happens when we’re all alone.
The boxer or athlete gets up at the break of dawn to train. At higher levels, they’ll have a coach but to get to that level they’ll be relying on their determination. Saturday night when their friends are sitting down to eat or drink together, they’ll be eating or doing something that will maximise their training the next day. Real work is what they do on their own.
It’s the additional two hours a writer gets per day when they’re not posting on Twitter of Facebook.
It’s the influx of ideas we receive when we read a good book; inspiration, disguised as a book.
It’s the same with all of us that are trying to achieve something that lies outside a pre-defined framework such as full-time employment.
I love courses, and workshops and being mentored and guided but I don’t always have the money for it, and when I seek refuge in it I tell myself off for looking out for the safe ground all of the time.
When the universe favours the brave surely we’ll get some bonus points for the work we’ve done on our own — no one to push or to incentivise or to guide us. Just blindly putting one foot in front of the other.
I’m not great at pushing past distraction all of the time, but I’m just going to have to find a way to force myself to thrive under my own guise. I can’t afford a course right now and reading ten articles on productivity a day is going to impede my creation time.
Here are four of my tactics for making sure I’m focusing on the things I do when I’m on my own.
Why am I so addicted to social media? Because it’s easy, that’s why. It’s easy to scroll through a few tweets, easy to send a reply to a friend or even create a post.
That’s okay but if I’m going to allow myself to wallow in simple tasks, I’m going to pay it back with some challenging work too.
Remember the value if easy is not high. No one gives a shit about the easy things you do — we’re all at it.
Difficulty comes with a degree of discomfort and sliding back into easy stuff like social media is a natural reaction from your brain. Challenge this and set yourself one difficult task per day and then ramp it up to 2 etc.
Perhaps you can even tip your current easy to difficult ratio by starting with one thing per day. It doesn’t have to be to do with your work.
What about cooking, or doing the plank, or reading a chapter of a dense textbook. The reward for persevering with something difficult is always exponentially higher than the relief you’ll get from succumbing to a distraction.
There’s still time to start something difficult today.
Visualisation is a technique that executive coaches use on their clients; sometimes athletes and other times high performing business people. My boyfriend uses it to master sports like snowboarding. I’m not great at it, but I know it works when I do try.
Visualise what your success looks like to you. Is it winning a fight, or winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, or is it uttering your first line of dialogue in another language?
See it, write it down — have it!
Without a coach, we’re on our own for the first two activities, but we can do it because it’s the things we do on our own that bring home the results.
High to Low-Level Planning
Following the advice above; what’s the next step down from success and the step after that etc.? Work it down in excruciating detail to what you can do today to get you there.
Be careful who you tell too because most people think that hard things are too hard to try.
Be different; be the person who gets there on your own.
Do For The Sake of Doing, Not Just Being Seen
This is a big one for me. Do things for the sake of doing them — not to be seen doing them. As a writer, I need to publish a certain amount of work, but when audience numbers start to dictate my output, then I’m losing my uniqueness.
We’re potentially facing a long period of isolation and solitude, but we can make the most of it. Be your executive coach and start focusing on the quality things that you do when you’re on your own.