6 Steps to Staying One Step Ahead

Blessed are those who can stay one step ahead.difficult tasks

I can see it coming like a runaway train – and I know I need to stay one step ahead of it – or get off the tracks. But, when it comes to closing year-end business, getting off the tracks isn’t really an option. This time of year can be daunting. The financial books need to be ready for the tax preparer and we want to have a clear demarcation of the end of 2014. If we don’t – how do we know if we’re doing better in 2015? Remember all your audacious goals for this fresh, new year? We don’t need to trip on the debris of last year while grasping for the gold ring…know what I’m sayin’?(click to Tweet).

There’s so much more to being in business for yourself than just creating. You wear many hats sometimes, too many. There are tax returns to file, marketing to get done, inventory to keep, expenses to keep track of and really –

All. I. Want. To. Do. Is. Paint.

But, alas, the privilege of following your passion comes with a price. It’s time to pay the (cliché) piper. I know how this is done, so let’s break it down into easy steps – sort of an analgesic to the pain. Sometimes, the thought of EVERYTHING that needs to get done is simply excruciating. So much so, we may find ourselves with “Analysis Paralysis” and do nothing at all. Taking these 6 steps, which help to create new productive habits can make it much more bearable, successful even. Here we go…

1. Use your freakin’ calendar. That’s right. You know how to do it. When you schedule lunch with friends, art shows or trips to your favourite supply place, you don’t miss those deadlines and probably even look forward to those events. Use your calendar to get your affairs in order. Block in a couple hours a couple days a week and get it done. Once in your calendar, you have no excuse for missing events…even those that make your skin crawl. Use the calendar!

2. Create systems to get and stay organized. Creative people can be…well…messy. Not all of us, but some of us. Use colourful file folders, a flow-chart for electronic stuff and special dedicated places to keep important documents. Whatever turns your crank, use it to entice yourself to follow the system Remember to use the rhythm of the day as part of your system as well, tackling demanding tasks at peak energy times. 

3. Do regular maintenance. Periodically assess the workings of your inventory system – Lori McNee pointed me to a nice one called Artwork Archive. Do maintenance on your tech savvy skills to avoid time-sucking work-arounds; keep your saw sharp by scheduling classes to bolster your skills. Don’t be caught under a pile of endless rubbish at the end of the year…check in with yourself regularly and do the maintenance. There will be less of a load later.

one step ahead

4. Start early – do not procrastinate. This probably should be #1, but I procrastinated. Anyhou – The stress of being FORCED to do things you don’t want to do by waiting until the deadline looms, makes them even more distasteful. Don’t gulp the hemlock. Sip it slowly. Put on happy music, serve your hemlock in the finest stemware and savor it daily – you’ll build up a healthy tolerance. (Okay, so you know not to REALLY drink hemlock, right? It’s poison and it will kill you. Doing these distasteful tasks will NOT kill you. It’s all a metaphor, silly). Learn more about managing your time here.

5. Seek assistance if you’re stuck. If you get stuck in the mud you’ll end up wasting time, feeling forlorn, digging a deeper rut and you’ll probably end up with “stuff” all over your face. Who needs that hassle? Why would you request a kicking when you’re already down? People are generally happy to help you, if you ask. You’ll find some resources here as well as many other places. Don’t become a victim of yourself – Ask for help!

6. Reward yourself. Celebrate the successes. Just writing this is making me a little edgy, so I could use a glass of Pinot. After you do your good deeds, give yourself a little love. Chocolate, cheesecake, new shoes or some fancy art markers. You decide, but make it good.

I hope you’ve benefitted from my passive-aggressive rant. We all have to put our big panties on and get this sh*t done, even though we don’t enjoy it. From a personal standpoint, I’ve found more reward slogging through this sort of codswallop than knocking down the duties I adore. Hopefully, you will, too.

Don’t trip. Just stay one step ahead,

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Michelle Andres is a writer, artist and coach who nudges, nay, shoves, her clients in the direction of their dreams, Writer, Artist, Coachhelping them to overcome non-productive behaviours and enjoy more success in their lives. 

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