As a creative professional with your own business, setting goals is essential to getting your work done. But when your goals start to overwhelm instead of excite, when they start to limit your progress—something needs to change. You might feel that your work is never ending, and you’re always jumping from project to project but never finishing any of them–that’s probably because you’re juggling too many goals at once.
You’re probably ambitious, with multiple and varying interests and ideas, so having many projects going at the same time is simply part of your creative process.
But if you get to the point of feeling frustrated that nothing is getting done, when your ambition is actually starting to hinder you and get in the way of your success—it can’t hurt to take a deeper look at your creative process and see if there may be a less stressful and more productive way to work.
There are various methods you can use to trim down, prioritize and focus your goals, but here’s one approach that can help you feel less overwhelmed:
List your goals
Take some time to write out a list of all your goals: those that you are working on now and those that you have yet to begin. Doing this kind of list analysis always works better for me on paper than on screen, but you can also use a list or organizing app like Trello. Number the list so you can see exactly how many goals you’ve been trying to squeeze into your life. Keep writing until there’s nothing else you can come up with, and I mean nothing. Shocked yet?
Take a long, hard look at your list
Really soak it in. Anything unexpected or less pressing now that you see it on paper? The whole point here is to visualize your goals physically, outside of your head. Now you can really see what you’ve “got on your plate” and see if it makes sense for you and for your career to have so much going on at the same time. When your goals are always forcing you to think about the future, it’s harder to enjoy the present moment in your daily life.
Rewrite your goals one at a time
Write down one goal per index card or Post-it note until your pile of goals is sitting before you in all its glory. Feel free to color code, add notes, illustrations or any other details that will help you flesh out how this goal fits into your business plan.
Prioritize your goals
Once you’ve got your goals spread out in front of you, it’s time to really dive in and sort through your priorities. You need to ask yourself the serious and difficult questions—think of it like an interview with yourself. Take stock of the goals that you are already working on and those that you haven’t yet made progress on. For each goal, ask (remind) yourself:
Why am I doing this?
Do I have the time to get this done?
Am I still excited by this goal?
Is this still relevant to my business and career?
Based on your honest answers, rearrange your goals, separating those that you want to keep from those that you aren’t so sure about anymore (or never were sure about but were reluctant to give up on). If you’re not honest with yourself here, then this won’t work.
The main idea is to think about what’s important to you, and then choose one goal at a time, or two at most to go back and forth between. If the goal is a large one, break it down into steps and give yourself a timeline and deadline for each step—otherwise you may never actually get it done.
Of course, priorities change, and life gets in the way of plans, so you may have to do a goal inventory every few weeks or months to make sure you’re not slowly piling on work you don’t need or forcing a project that just isn’t working out as you hoped.
As a bumper sticker once very wisely declared, “What you do every day is what you do all your life.” So try to make each day count, set better goals.