Years of failing to do more of the things I should, and less of the things I shouldn’t, have taught me that resolutions are pointless for me. So, see what you think of my quirky alternative for self-motivation.
It’s largely the self-discipline thing, you see. It’s a variable commodity. When I set up my consultancy 18 months ago, I underestimated how much my own self-discipline would need to move up several gears, without the power of encouraging colleagues around me.
So, to focus my mind for 2018, I made myself a star chart. Yes, a Supernanny style table of eight rows of 10 boxes. Empty, intimidating boxes.
It’s not only seven-year-olds who can benefit from a reward system to change wayward behaviours – it can work for 50-year-olds, too. Especially with the promise of a gourmet gastronomic treat at the end of it.
I made a list of things I was prone to procrastinate about. It was hard to keep the list short, as procrastination is a skill I’ve mastered expertly over the years. Gold medal standard procrastinator, me.
Even writing the list was beneficial in itself as it helped me focus on what was going to be important for my brand and my business. It wasn’t only about what I needed to do to build my business, but what kind of things would define my fledgling brand.
One of the first things on the list was to go to business networking events. I’d never previously been a fan. I shuddered at the thought of representing me and facing the possibility of talking about myself. Give me strength.
It was fine when I could talk about Verdict Communications, where I worked previously. As an employee, networking chats were like acting, hiding behind another character and not having to reveal too much about yourself. But, faced with representing myself, I needed a push.
Surprisingly, that line on the star chart filled quickly, even bringing in new clients. Glistening gold stars with a glowing sense of achievement.
Networking wasn’t my only nemesis. I had a proper little Moriarty collection to deal with. Approaching prospective clients with an idea, or following up on proposals were other lines on the chart. Both had filled me with dread. What if they say no? What if they’re mean?
The daft thing is that very few said no and nobody has been anything but nice. I survived the inevitable rejections or “maybe next year” responses. Ego and self-esteem weren’t beaten to a pulp. It was fine. What was I worrying about?
There were a few lines on the chart targeting the social media minefield. Finding the right balance of the type of content and frequency is a challenge, especially when you are first pacing out your business’s digital footprint. You can easily overthink it when it’s your own voice for your own brand.
I’d seen so many examples of poor content, of mindless drivel, that I had found myself putting it off for fear of getting sucked into too many of the social media clichés. Pets, cupcakes, quotes from Gandhi/Churchill/Twain. You get the picture.
I knew I probably had to be present online, but most importantly, to be authentic for my brand. So social media posting went on the star chart to make sure I didn’t put it off too frequently.
Professional development seems to be the ultimate luxury when you’re self-employed, but I knew that, without the benefit of feeding off the wisdom of those around me, I had to feed myself.
Even if it was only an article or a podcast, it deserved a star. And these have been some of the most valuable stars on the chart. Growing your knowledge for your business can so often inspire you with new ideas for existing or potential clients. Or simply reassure you of your own place in the world.
My next task is the 2019 star chart, which will be slightly different. There will be new hurdles to jump and different demons to banish. It will be harder – as it should be. But the rewards for my business will be greater and my brand will be stronger for it.
So, was I successful for 2018? Yes, the chart is full. It was completed with the final two stars in the last week of the year in the most important of all lines on the chart – new client wins. I’ve earned my culinary reward. If you happen to see Mr Jones and me in one of Hamilton’s fine dining establishments this summer, you’ll know why. Bon appetit.