Stop Feeling Guilty and Focus On These Seven Steps…

Peter is an editorial/corporate photographer, working on his own since 2000. He wrote me last week to ask for help with his focus and to find a starting place to improve his situation.

“I’m making a living,” he told me, “But I know I could be more financially secure and more mentally satisfied.” “From following the progress of leaders in my field, I see where I am and where I need to be to be successful. But that gap is so huge for me that the “to-do” list seems too long to even start writing. I feel paralyzed. I feel guilty when I’m with my two young children and not working, and I feel guilty when I’m trying to get something done in the home office. I want to make more money, but I’m not willing to work 70 hours week.”

You don’t have to work 70 hours a week to be a successful professional. 35 hours will get the same result if you are focused. Peter appears to be grappling with two issues affecting his focus: fear and guilt. The fear comes from being overwhelmed by the number of steps we see on the way to our “high diving board,” instead of focusing on just a few steps at a time. The guilt comes from not having clear boundaries between our family time and our work time. Both of these are paralyzing, but both can be addressed, at least to some extent, by how we work.

If you are in a similar situation, are some ideas that might help:

  1. Decide where you want your practice or business to be in each of the next three years and write it down with as much detail as you can.
  2. Even if it seems intimidating, create a “To Do” list of projects you need to accomplish. Put everything down, even if the list is ten pages long.
  3. Go through the project list and find the three projects that could have the most immediate impact on your business. Write these out separately and put the big list away. Then, for each of the three projects, create a “task” list.
  4. Create a master weekly schedule that starts with your family time and time off. Put into the work schedule the things you need to do on a regular basis, a block of time to work on each of the three important projects and a block of time for thinking and planning. Leave open spaces for all of the things that might pop up during the week.
  5. Honor your family time as if it were a major professional commitment. Make an “appointment” with your spouse and children. When you are with them, be truly with them, so there is no guilt. But when you’re on work time, be truly on work time.
  6. End every day by deciding on the six most important things you need to accomplish on the next day. To the extent possible, make sure these get done in the open spaces on your schedule.
  7. Review the “big list” weekly to find and focus on the three most important weekly projects for the coming week.

Before you know it, you’ll be doing the things you need to do and feeling much better about where you are and how you’re spending your time.

Contact me if you’d like some help with this, and in the meantime, keep REACHING…