40 Things That Aren’t Allowed on Tuesday

  1. Telling everybody it’s Monday.
  2. Robbing a bank and using the proceeds to fund your drug smuggling operation.
  3. Ignoring the law of gravity and floating around on the ceiling like they do in that one scene in Mary Poppins.
  4. Covering yourself in Reynold’s Wrap and storing yourself in the refrigerator.
  5. Putting on a nice suit like you’re a Jehovah’s Witness and going door to door asking people, “Have you ever considered the possibility that the universe was created by a malevolent God for the sole purpose of tormenting humanity?”
  6. Standing in the middle of an interstate highway and causing a traffic jam that stretches back for miles.
  7. Swallowing enough LSD that you literally disappear into an alternate dimension and nobody on this plane of reality ever sees you again.
  8. Going for a walk and saying to every dog you see while you’re out, “You’ve got such a beautiful human. Just look at that shiny coat, I can tell you take good care of her. Is she spayed?”
  9. Spitting in the faces of random passers-by as you go through your daily routine.
  10. Taking your phone and calling every single number in the phone book, just so you can leave obscene messages on their voicemail.
  11. Making your next door neighbor into a hamburger.
  12. Handcuffing everyone in the world to the nearest desk, so none of them can move or do anything at all without your explicit permission.
  13. Finding one highly self-conscious and anxiety-ridden person to mercilessly laugh at at random intervals. (Because if you pick the right person they’ll wonder what they did to get laughed at, and since they didn’t do anything they’ll fasten on the most particular little behaviors to avoid. So over time you’ll get them so confused that they’ll start acting seriously weird and neurotic, all through their excessive attempts to be normal.)
  14. Use a few boxes to make a believable fake of yourself to sit at your desk while you spend the whole day getting sad drunk at a bar and end up passing out sometime around three in the afternoon.
  15. Taking a shotgun and shooting the birds around your neighborhood.
  16. Setting everyone you know on fire and laughing at their screams as their skin melts and they beg you for mercy.
  17. Volunteering with the Suicide Hotline and asking all the callers, “Have you ever considered the possibility that the universe was created by a malevolent God for the sole purpose of tormenting humanity?”
  18. Whacking attractive women over the head with a club and dragging them off to the nearest semi-secluded area.
  19. Sending postcards to starving people in the Third World and asking them to make a small monetary contribution to fund your excessive and resource-destroying lifestyle.
  20. Having a political discussion that you don’t immediately regret.
  21. Ordering a stack of twenty quarter pounders at McDonalds, then waiting until they show up. After this, you open each of them one by one. Then you sigh, put on your best faux-polite face, and say, “I’m sorry, I ordered these without cheese.” (Actually, that one is completely allowed on a Tuesday.)
  22. Sneaking into all of your neighbors’ homes just so you can steal their salt-shakers.
  23. Picking one person and repeating everything they say back to them all day long.
  24. Taking those quarter pounders you bought from McDonalds, sitting on a park bench, and throwing the burgers at joggers as they come by listening to Lorde on their headphones.
  25. Buying a handful of tiny gerbil babies, going to Starbucks, and dropping the hairless gerbil babies into people’s drinks while they’re not looking.
  26. Dialing up 911 and asking the dispatcher, “Have you ever considered the possibility that the universe was created by a malevolent God for the sole purpose of tormenting humanity?”
  27. Standing on the airport runway with your thumb out, trying to hitchhike.
  28. Telling everybody in the world exactly what you think of them and what you’d do to them if you could.
  29. Finding a calm, peaceful state of mind where you’re generally okay with yourself and with other people.
  30. Taking every dog that barks at nothing and every cat that exists, strapping them to a rocket ship, and sending them up into outer space where they’ll never be able to bother you again.
  31. Rounding up every magazine editor who’s ever lived, locking them up in a cage, and telling them that the last one standing gets to live.
  32. Hiring a specialist with a very large mouth to serve as your personal toilet.
  33. Finding everyone who has ever gotten between you and what you want, setting them up in glass coffins, and letting them breathe the last precious air they have while you dangle the key that could let them out.
  34. Dressing as Santa Claus and walking around the local mall asking children, “Have you ever considered the possibility that the universe was created by a malevolent God for the sole purpose of tormenting humanity?”
  35. Building a time machine, going back to the moment of your conception, and shouting, “No, stop, for the love of God will you please stop it!”
  36. Hacking into every computer in the world so they all displayed one simple thing: a black screen that’s empty except for the words, “I’m sorry.”
  37. Eating all of the oranges in the world and burning down all the orange trees so that nobody in the whole world will ever be able to have oranges again.
  38. Crushing the spirit of every other human being in the world so they all become mindless automata just waiting to execute your every desire.
  39. Building a tower to reach to heaven so you’ll never have to touch the surface of the earth again.
  40. Making a mousetrap big enough to catch the whole earth so you’ll never have to have it scurrying around in your universe again.
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Friday Musings: Frank Herbert’s “Dune”

 

So: Friday is here. I’ll be honest with you: after this week’s three-part series on case studies I don’t have anything in particular to talk to you guys about. I’m still tweaking the format on this blog, so I’ll probably let my mind wander and start waxing philosophical for a little while.

 

But while I’m on the subject of blog formats, do you mind if I ask you a question? How do you like the way I’ve arranged things this week?

 

I’ll be honest, I kind of like it. Start with a motivational piece on Monday, follow that up with a three-part series that looks into a topic in-depth, and then a kind of relaxed editorial-type piece on Friday.

 

It’s a pretty fun format for me, but the main thing is that I want you to like it. So if we could have a conversation about that I’d sure appreciate a few user suggestions.

 

So, let’s see. What is there to tell you about?

 

I’ve just started rereading Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. I’m not sure if anybody still reads those, but I’ve got a lot of cherished memories of reading them back in middle school, so I’m looking forward to revisiting them.

 

Now, when I say I’ve just started rereading them I actually mean I finished the first book yesterday. It’s definitely the best out of the bunch, and if you haven’t given it a read yet you should do yourself a favor and pick it up.

 

I know some people balk at the thought of reading Dune because it’s science fiction, and I really can’t blame anybody for that. I mean, let’s not kid ourselves here: there’s a lot of bad writing in the science fiction genre. Science fiction writers aren’t exactly known for their glittering prose and their nuanced grasp of character, either.

 

But Dune is different there. Sure, it doesn’t have the psychological depth of, say, Dostoevsky, but it’s more concerned with world-building, social structures, and ecology than with that kind of psychological nuance.

 

So while the characters in Dune may seem a little off, I think the important thing about them is that they’re caught up in systems. Whether it’s the political balancing act between the Guild, the Bene Gesserit, and the Imperium, or the desert planet Arrakis (known as Dune) itself.

 

One thing that struck me about the book on this read-through was the overwhelming way the planet Arrakis almost becomes a character in the book. The planet almost seems actively hostile to human life.

 

How’s that? First off, the entire planet is a desert. (If you’re a Star Wars fan, it might interest you to know that a huge amount of the inspiration for the planet Tatooine came from Dune.) Life on Arrakis revolves around the lack of water.

 

And when I say it revolves around water, it’s impossible to overemphasize that point. Water is so scarce that the wealthiest people on Arrakis are the ones who sell water. In some communities, water literally functions as money.

 

Out in the desert, the desert-people called the Fremen wear what they call “stillsuits.” These stillsuits are pretty much skintight full-body suits that recycle all the water a person loses. That includes water lost through sweat, through breathing, and even through (let’s say) waste processes. It’s all precious, and it all gets immediately recycled.

 

Water is so precious that when a Fremen dies, he or she isn’t buried. The Fremen put their dead into a device to reclaim their water—because the human body is 70 percent water by weight. They have a saying: “The flesh belongs to the man, his water to the tribe.”

 

So that should tell you how precious water is on Arrakis.

 

I could go on about the many other ways that Arrakis is hostile to human life, but I think you get the basic idea. It’s no picnic.

 

Not to mention the giant sandworms…

 

So if Arrakis is such a miserable wasteland, why would anybody choose to live there?

 

That’s the real question, isn’t it? The answer: the spice.

 

Spice is the most precious substance in the universe. Without it, the entire Imperial economy would grind to a halt.

 

The gigantic Guild ships that run all commerce between the stars can only function as long as they have their supply of spice.

 

The Bene Gesserit with their psychic powers can only exercise their control through the use of spice.

 

Anyone with the money to afford spice eats it regularly because it allows people to live incredibly long lives. (Of course the downside to this is the fact that anyone who becomes dependent on the spice needs to have it or else they’ll die.)

 

As important as water is on Arrakis, that’s how important spice is for the Imperial economy. And Arrakis is the only known source of spice in the whole universe.

 

That alone should give you an idea of what I’m talking about when I say the novels characters are nested in multi-level systems. The systems of power on Arrakis are dependent on water, but the systems of power in the Imperium as a whole are dependent on the spice.

 

On this read through, I kept noticing those dependencies. It would be easy to read Dune as an extended meditation on the Law of the Minimum.

 

The Law of the Minimum is only mentioned in the novel once, but its influence is ever-present as the drama unfolds. Lady Jessica states the Law explicitly: “Growth is limited by that necessity which is present in the least amount. And, naturally, the least favorable condition controls the growth rate.”

 

That’s the water. That’s the spice. That’s the fulcrum on which the feints within feints within feints of the Dune universe turn. Access to what’s most precious is the most important factor in the many power plays and political machinations of the saga.

 

Of course, Dune is a big, complex piece of work, and I’ve barely even begun to scratch the surface of what’s in there. With Dune, Frank Herbert created a complex world with a compelling story. It would be easy to delve into the minutiae of the work for hours and hours, but unfortunately I’ve got other work to do. I hope you’ll give Dune a read if you haven’t before.

 

As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com.

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How to Keep Motivated

Motivation is a tough problem.

 

It’s a perennial problem too, because as long as you’re alive you’re going to have that nasty little piece of you that wants to curl up and die, or at least go to sleep and never wake up.

 

You’re going to have to wake up early.

 

You’re going to have to do things that make you uncomfortable.

 

You’re going to have to face your fears and push through the part of you that wants to give up.

 

And none of that stuff is fun. None of that stuff is easy. None of that stuff makes you feel some overwhelming happiness at all you’ve accomplished—or at least not often.

 

More often than not, you’re not going to feel up to it. You’re going to feel like sitting on your butt and eating candy bars far more often than you’re going to feel like doing anything useful.

 

But guess what? You’re going to keep doing it.

 

You know why? I’ll tell you why.

 

You’ll keep going because you know the best part of you expects you to keep going.

 

You’ll keep going because you know you’ll be able to get where you want, as long as you keep trying and keep finding the best way to win.

 

You’ll keep going because you know how great it will be when you’ve shown the world what you can do.

 

But that’s not the main reason you keep going. Those are good reasons, but they’re not the big one.

 

What’s the big one? It’s this: you’ll keep going because you’ve got your pride. You’ve got that thing inside of you that’s more than you, and that won’t let you give up. You’ve got to keep going, because the shame would kill you if you gave up.

 

So keep moving. You’ll make it.

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Why Your Small Business Needs a Social Media Strategy

Believe me, I know how it feels to read that headline. It’s a real pain if you’re not tech-oriented.

 

Let me level with you: I considered softening it a little. I thought about saying something like:

 

“10 Reasons You Might Consider a Social Media Strategy”

 

“10 Reasons You Could Think About It”

 

“10 Reasons You Might, Maybe, Possibly Get Some Value out of a Social Media Strategy, Someday

 

But none of those titles seemed appropriate. Social media strategy isn’t something you might want to consider. It would have been misleading for me to say any of those things.

 

Social media strategy isn’t just an option. It’s not something you could just as easily do without. It’s something your small business needs, and I’m here to do help you get it.

 

So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

  1. Most Small Businesses Fail Within 2 Years

I’m sure you’ve heard that number before. You knew that before you started your business, but you started it anyways. You’re not afraid of a little risk.

 

But when it comes to neglecting social media, we’re not talking about a little risk.

 

When it comes to doing a “good enough” job on social media, we’re not talking about a little risk.

 

When it comes to falling behind the trends, we’re not talking about taking a calculated risk. We’re talking about leaving the road to going under wide open.

 

If you were going to start a restaurant, wouldn’t you need a good refrigerator? If you were going to start a moving company, wouldn’t you need a moving van? If you were going to start a construction company, wouldn’t you invest in the best tools?

 

Social media is just as important. Neglect it at your own risk.

 

  1. 52 Percent of Millennials Discover Products and Services Through Social Media

Well that’s all well and good, you say. 52 percent of millennials can just go ahead and find products and services through social media.

 

Fair enough. If you’re rolling in business already, I can see how that wouldn’t matter to you. You don’t need any more business, and you’re confident the competition won’t snatch your customers.

 

That’s wonderful. I respect that, and I envy you your success.

 

If that’s not you, though, I want you to think of all the opportunities you’re passing up by not getting in on the social media game. I don’t know who it was who said “You can’t be competitive if you don’t compete.” But whoever it was, was right.

 

  1. Social Media Links Count Toward SEO Authority

If you’re already knee-deep in content marketing, you’ll know all about this. If you’re not, let me give you the short version.

 

SEO (search engine optimization) rankings determine your site’s rankings on search engines. Now, why does that matter? It’s because if you rank well for SEO, your site will be on the first page of rankings when people search “restaurants in my city” (for example).

 

If your site shows up on the first page of a common Google search, you can rake in the traffic.

 

So regardless of what else they might do, links to your site on social media will increase your overall SEO rankings. And when you combine that with the possibility of massive shares, you can change your rankings fast.

 

  1. Social Media Allows for Real-Time Customer Feedback

There are two reasons why this should matter to you: the first reason is because it’s very good, and the second reason is because it’s very bad.

 

Why’s it good? It’s good because a happy customer can engage with your brand’s social media presence. They can reply to your posts, share your content, and spread good feelings about your business. They can even leave positive reviews on any of dozens of online review sites.

 

Why’s it bad? You probably already know.

 

It’s bad because an unhappy customer can do just the opposite. They can spread terrible things about your brand and drive people away. They can leave terrible reviews that make it harder for you to get people in the door.

 

So if you want a shot at encouraging the good and doing damage control on the bad, you’ve got to be in the game.

 

  1. A Well-Run Social Media Presence Can Drive Massive Traffic

Just like with the SEO, a strategic social media presence can encourage people to visit your site. If you can draw their curiosity and get them to click a link to your site, you’re halfway to earning their business.

 

Notice: I said a well-run social media presence can drive massive traffic. I’ll talk about this in more detail later, but a bad social media presence can be worse than no presence at all.

 

If you can create an inviting feeling of community around your website, you can draw the kind of business you’re looking for. All it takes is a little time and strategy.

 

  1. Potential for Viral Growth

I mention this one because a viral post is the most beautiful moment in a social media marketer’s life. There’s nothing better than seeing thousands (or even millions) of people encountering and enjoying your post.

 

The viral posts are the most satisfying. Often, they’re the ones who introduce the most customers to your brand and get the most traffic to your site.

 

But they’re only possible because of constant effort and methodical growth strategies. A lot of trial and error goes into learning the customer base and finding out what they need. The viral posts are glorious, but it’s the months of tedious work and strategizing that get you there.

 

  1. The Competition is Already Here

If you’re still hesitating, just remember that if you’re not getting your share of that 52 percent, your competitors already are. I’m sure they appreciate the way you’re leaving the field wide open for them.

 

Social media is no secret. Even if you don’t have a dedicated social media strategy, I’m sure you’ve already got a few accounts on some of the bigger sites. You’ve seen the ads on Facebook. Heck, you’ve probably even bought something on Facebook.

 

The competition knows what they’re doing, and they’re not just going to let you catch up. That’s why it pays to get a solid strategy on your side.

 

  1. Bad Social Media Presence Takes More Time Than Good Social Media Presence

Now, you might be thinking you can just let one of your employees take care of some social media presence in their down-time.

 

Maybe they could. Maybe they keep up with the latest strategies and the latest techniques. Maybe they know how to encourage post engagement and how to build a reliable brand.

 

But I don’t think that’s likely.

 

I think it’s much more likely that they’re wasting your time and theirs with an unsystematic approach that’s not calculated to give your business any long-term benefit.
A worthwhile social media strategy takes time and experience. It’s worth your while to talk to a professional.

 

  1. Top of Mind Appeal

If you’ve convinced your customers to follow you on Twitter (or Instagram, or whatever), you’ve gotten their permission to show up on their feed on a regular basis.

 

That’s a big responsibility. It’s an obligation to give them good content that they can either use or enjoy. It’s an obligation to give them something valuable.

 

But it’s also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to build a relationship between the customer and your brand, even if they don’t immediately become a customer. It’s a chance for you to earn their business, and it’s a chance for your brand to be the first one they think of when they enter your market.

 

And that just might be the best reason to develop a social media strategy.

 

  1. Find Your Strongest Fans

No matter what industry you’re in, your business is going to have fans.

 

These will be the people who regularly engage with your content.

 

These will be the people who share your content.

 

These will be the people who let you know what it is about your brand that makes it so great.

 

It’s a great way to learn about what your business is doing right, and it’s a wonderful source of encouragement when you’re not sure what to do next.

 

As long as you’re sure to give them something special, they’ll be there. And as long as they’re there, you can be sure your social media strategy is headed the right way.

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How Freelancers Should be Using Cold Calls

Before you ask—yes, I’m saying you should use cold calling in your freelance business. I’m saying it’s the best decision you could make for your business, and you won’t regret it. I’m saying the results are going to be worth every bit of pain or awkwardness the process could cause.

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You hate cold calling. You can’t stand cold calling. You think about the idea of cold calling and your stomach gets queasy and your knees get weak.

 

Believe me, I know the feeling. Cold calling is one of the least fun things you can spend your time doing. I hate cold calling. But it’s my go-to strategy when I need clients, because it gets clients.

 

You wanna know why that is? It’s because the fact that you’re willing to make cold calls shows you’ve got a lot of guts. It shows you’re serious about your freelance work. Why’s that? It’s because everybody hates cold calling. Even the people who do it every day hate cold calling. They just do it anyways.

 

Why should you do cold calling? Simple: you should do cold calling because the best freelance work doesn’t get advertised. The best freelance work doesn’t show up on a job board. It’s not on Craigslist. It’s in the businesses themselves, and it goes to the people who are willing to go seek it out.

 

So I’m here to give you the scoop on how you can find the work that’s worth getting. I’ve got a few tips for you, as one who’s been there before. Just remember: cold calling isn’t a big deal if you know what you’re doing.

 

The fear you feel when you think about cold calling isn’t because cold calling is some dangerous, scary process. It’s not even that you’re worried you’ll be humiliated or it’ll be awkward. It’s that you don’t yet know what you’re doing. Learn what you’re doing, and you’ll be able to do it without fear.

 

So the first step is to know what you’re doing: you’ll want to define your goals for your calls.

 

Do you want to go from a cold call to an immediate sale on a $10,000 project? That’s not likely to happen.

 

Do you want to figure out if a business ever uses projects in your niche? That’s a little more likely.

 

Personally, I go in with three simple goals: 1) make sure the person I’ve contacted is the person who can hire me to write for them, 2) get an email address where I can contact this person, and 3) get verbal permission to contact them about writing projects in the future. There’s no need for any complicated process to do this, and there’s no reason to get anxious about this.

 

When you’re selling freelance work to large companies, they generally know if they need you or not. They’ve probably already got a set of freelancers they routinely hire, so the goal of your call really only needs to be to get your name in the running. It might take a little while, but if you can get verbal permission to send an email and keep an email conversation going a while, you can make a deal eventually.

 

You’re also going to want to write a script. This takes care of a lot of the fear factor as well, because if you can get what you want to say on paper, you don’t have to worry so much about getting confused or tongue-tied. So go ahead, make a script, and get ready to make some calls!

 

Now, when you dial that number, the most likely thing is that nothing happens. The second most likely thing is that you’ll hit a gatekeeper. It’s probably the corporate receptionist who either will or will not allow you to get through to the person you actually want to reach. (There’s an art to getting past gatekeepers, but this isn’t the time for that.)

 

When you reach the gatekeeper, just ask to be passed along to whoever’s responsible for freelance writers (or graphic artists, or web designers, or whatever you happen to be).

 

If you get through, one of two things are going to happen: either you’ll make it to the person you wanted to reach, or you’ll get an answering machine. If you get an answering machine, leave a message (that you’ve prepared in advance) and move on. That’s one call down.

 

If you get the person you’re looking for, just go through your script as calmly as possible. There’s no need to say anything much more complicated than, “Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a freelance writer. Does your company ever work with freelancers?”

 

(Granted, you can get as complicated as you want, but remember to keep yourself driving toward your goals.)

 

Simple enough, right?

 

Now, I know you’re still probably not all that enthusiastic about the idea of getting yourself through this process. Making cold calls still probably sounds like an awful ordeal, and you’d probably rather not even be thinking about it right now, let alone seriously considering doing it.

 

So ease yourself into the process. Give yourself a quota of calls you have to make today. If you really want to ease yourself into the process, go ahead and tell yourself, “I’m going to make five calls today.” Five calls today, ten calls tomorrow, and fifteen calls the next day. Before you know it, you’ll find a total that works for you.

 

All you need to do is dial that number and be ready to speak. If you call five times and get five answering machines, you’re done for the day.

 

Another thing: I know some people feel a little icky about the whole idea of cold calling, because it can feel like you’re intruding. We’ve all had the experience of getting interrupted by a telemarketer, and we hate to do that to anybody else.

 

So remember: you’re not a telemarketer. You’re a professional freelancer, making a business call, offering your services to another business. Call with pride. They’ll be able to sense it.

 

If you can’t shake the feeling that you’re bothering somebody, keep this in mind: if they were dead set against talking to you, they could have just as easily let the voicemail take it. You’re fine.

 

Just remember: you can do this. The resistance you’re feeling against cold calling is the part of yourself that you need to overcome.

 

The part of yourself that thinks you’ll die if you have an awkward phone call is the part of yourself that you need to get rid of.

 

The part of yourself that thinks you’ll break out crying if a stranger on the other end of the phone line says something mean to you is the part of yourself that’s holding you back.

 

What’s the worst that could happen? A stranger will say a few nasty words to you and tell you to never call the company again. (That doesn’t happen often.) You can handle that. You’re strong, and I believe in you.

 

Remember: the best freelance gigs don’t get advertised on Twitter, or LinkedIn, or some online job board. You’ve got to make the call if you’re going to get the work.

 

And if that’s not enough to motivate you, just think of how happy you’ll be once you’ve made your call quota for the day. That feeling of relief at the end of a calling shift is worth every minute of trouble.

 

One more time: you can handle cold calling. You’re strong, and I believe in you. Good luck.

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Freelancers: Stop Being Terrible

If you’re new to freelancing, you’re probably sick of working for free. You comb all the usual job boards, and what do you find? A race to the bottom in pricing, where you shoot out as many emails as you can in the vague hope that maybe somebody will get back to you.

 

And when somebody gets back to you it’s almost always a canned response that looks like this:

 

Recipient:

Thanks for your interest in The Unspeakable Horror at the Center of Everything, Inc. Kindly spend the next week working on this unpaid sample we probably won’t accept. There are twenty-nine billion other applicants, and they’re all much more experienced than you. But if we happen to pick your sample, you’ll have made it to step two of the nineteen-step process leading up to a contract writing assignment at $5 an hour.

Kindly eat shit,

Brittany Smith, HR

P.S.: If you don’t pretend to be happy about this process, we’ll send our henchmen out to strangle you in your sleep and force you to watch while they rape your wife repeatedly. Cheers!

 

It’s frustrating. In fact, it’s downright infuriating. Those first few months, you can end up working harder than you’ve ever worked in your life and still end up making far below minimum wage. That’s why most freelancers give up before the first few months. Or at least it’s one reason. You wanna know the real reason?

 

They’re dumb. They repeatedly try the same old things that don’t work, and they’re surprised they don’t make progress. Don’t be dumb. Do this stuff instead:

 

  1. Avoid the job boards

Everybody’s tried the job boards. Whether it’s Upwork, Fiverr, ProBlogger, BloggingPro, Indeed, or something else, everybody’s tried them. Everybody knows they’re soul-crushing.

 

There’s a big, ugly, dirty secret about those job boards, and I’m about to spill the beans on them. If you’ve been in the business for any length of time you already know it, but here it is: nobody posts a well-paying gig on a job board. Those things turn into a race to the bottom so quick it’ll make your head explode. Not recommended.

 

Think about it: how do these things work? New freelancers try them out because they don’t know any better, so there’s always a never-ending stream of newbies going through the pipe trying to get lucky. And any time anybody slips up and slaps a decent gig up on the board, it goes straight to the top dog with twenty years agency work and five years freelancing experience.

 

So here’s the skinny: you gotta get smart, and you gotta take charge of your selling process. Don’t doom yourself by taking what looks like the easy way.

 

  1. Get a professional-looking website

There’s a lot packed into this. I’ll focus on the website here in this post, but what I’m really talking about here is getting your sales funnel set up. I could write a thousand posts about how and why to set up a sales funnel, but the basic thing is this: you have to strategically set up systems that will (eventually) allow you to passively draw potential clients your way.

 

That means building an email list. That means SEO. That means guest blogging and social media outreach… all of which I’m going to talk about some other time. You can worry about that stuff later. At the beginning, you’re going to need a website.

 

It needs to be something you’re happy to have representing you to clients. When you’re prospecting online, your website is often the first thing people are going to see from you. It’s important to make sure it represents you well and makes clear you’re somebody clients will want to work with. Don’t be afraid to shell out a little cash to get a site that sparkles. It’ll more than pay for itself in the long run.

 

Be sure to include a portfolio, an “About Me” page, and a “Hire Me!” page. You’ve got to consistently keep putting out the message that you want work. It’ll show up eventually.

 

  1. Send out strong (and potentially divisive) emails

There are ways of reaching out to clients, and there are ways of reaching out to clients. Email can be a great tool. There are two approaches for email outreach: cold email and warm email. I’m going to talk about cold email here, but since I know there are some weirdos out there who like warm email I’ll talk about it some other time.

 

Cold email is great, because all you need to do is write a killer letter, send it out, and draw in clients in droves. (It’s a little more complicated than that in the execution, but the theory is pretty simple.) The thing to remember though, is that you need to write something that will inspire people to really want to work with you.

 

That means you’ve got to be willing to take risks. It means you’ve got to be willing to say things and go places most people aren’t willing to go. You’ve got to write up an email people are going to love. But you have to remember the old saying: if nobody hates you, nobody loves you.

 

If you write a cold email that’s strong enough to do the job, you’ll have to write something that’s will make some people mad. People are going to get back to you, responding that you’re too salesy, that you’re too self-assured, you’re too domineering, you’re too cocky, you’re too this, you’re too that. AND THAT’S WONDERFUL!!!

 

If some people are responding to you with visceral hatred, you’re exactly where you want to be. Because if some people automatically hate you and your writing style, that means you’ve been daring enough to write something people authentically respond to. Some people will love it.

 

Don’t hold yourself back. The worst they can do is send you an angry email back, or maybe mark you as spam. But all that’s worth it, because if you resist the urge to hold yourself back you’ll find your people. And that pays off in more ways than one.

 

  1. Try cold calling

Yes, I know. The dreaded words: cold calling. I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, but Geofrey, it’s such a pain. It’s so awkward. Every time I think about it, I think I’m gonna die.”

 

You’re gonna die someday anyways. Cold calling is awesome. Get over yourself.

 

Part of what holds a lot of freelancers back is the fear of rejection. Or the fear of that disembodied voice way off on the other end of the line. Or the fear that the person on the other end of the line will suddenly realize you’re a huge fraud, and everything everybody’s ever said about you was right, and you’re a terrible human being and you should never have been born.

 

Cold calling makes you face all of those fears head-on. That’s one reason you should do it. The other reason you should do it is this: cold calling is the very best weapon in your freelancing arsenal. If you can master the cold call, you never have to worry about going a week without work again in your life. If you can master the cold call, you’ll be able to get customers flocking to you. If you can master the cold call, you can go from no work to BOOM—booked solid for six months—in no time flat.

 

There are two kinds of freelancers in the world: the ones who work for pennies, and the ones who’ve mastered the cold call. So quit your whining and quit working for pennies.

 

  1. Learn how to use social media/networking

Before I get out of here, I want to say that social networking is a wonderful tool for making contact with clients. If you’re not involved in social media groups in your industry, get involved! If you’re not commenting on blog posts in your industry, start commenting! If you’re not using every tool available to you to reach out to clients and draw them in, START USING THEM!

 

Social networking is amazing when it comes to finding resources and knowledge. You’ll be able to learn from people who have been there before, and over time you’ll be able to build up a reputation for yourself. Ask questions. Get involved in your online and offline communities. The more people you know, the more people you’ve got the chance to get to know. Remember: anybody can be a potential client.

 

Whatever the site, learn how to use it and then use it. Don’t take your knowledge and just let it decay in your head. Use it immediately, make a plan, and start applying it.

 

You don’t have time to waste. You’ve got clients to land.

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How Freelancers Can Avoid Being Slimesucking Wastes of Space

Some people love discipline. Some people love the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn every morning, and some people really and honestly enjoy long-distance running. If you’re one of those people, good for you.

 

If you’re not one of those people, it’s okay. I seriously doubt anybody in the world loves all those things.

 

Discipline’s not a fun topic. In fact, it’s about as far from a fun topic as you can possibly think of. Discipline isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy, but it is necessary.

 

Structure is necessary in life, and as freelancers we’re not given that structure externally. (Most of us became freelancers in the first place in order to get away from that awful externally-imposed structure.) But just because you don’t have a boss hanging over your head telling you to be at the office at nine, that’s all the more reason for you to get yourself into your office by nine.

 

That takes planning, and that takes discipline. Whether we’re freelancers or not, we either have to develop discipline or follow our instincts… and if you’re anything like me, your instincts are really bad at leading you where you need to be.

 

When it comes to developing discipline, the first and (possibly) best way to do it is through routines. That means developing a morning routine, an afternoon routine, an evening routine, and a nighttime routine. (In fact, the best thing would be if you could plan every single moment of your life in advance, with no surprises and no twists of fate.)

 

I’m kidding. But it’s not far from the truth.

 

Routines are a necessary part of everyday life. They can be as simple as waking up at the same time every morning or as complex as developing your own system for organizing your day.

 

It’s hard to understand even after you discover it, but when you commit to a routine and follow it, you’ll discover you’ve suddenly got much more time in the day. Why is that? Imposing a routine on yourself forces you to use your time more effectively, for one. It’s a famous paradox that human beings can only be free through the institution of the law. And for another thing, the fact of doing the same thing on a regular, predictable basis is marvelously liberating, because it gets rid of that constant nagging anxiety that you ought to be doing something else.

 

There’s a real peace of mind in being able to set yourself a daily routine and trust yourself to accomplish it. Over time, it builds up a pattern of regularity and predictability, and allows you to feel like you’ve just about gotten life figured out.

 

(And that’s when life sends a natural disaster your way, but that’s not the point.)

 

You can think of discipline as an increasingly complex series of safeguards against chaos. You’ve known yourself long enough to realize you’ve got the terrible potential for chaos within you, so you apply more and more complex schemes to keep yourself from acting on your antisocial urges.

 

Now, I realize I’m about to sound terribly puritanical, but one of the most pernicious things of all is pleasure. And I’m talking any kind of pleasure here. I’m talking drugs, I’m talking sex, I’m talking overeating, and I’m talking you-name-it. The fact is: in the Western democracies, the most immediate danger any of us face is the danger of entertaining ourselves into mediocrity. There are so many opportunities for every conceivable type of pleasure that the human nervous system can hardly contain itself.

 

I’m not saying pleasure is bad. I’m not saying enjoying things is bad. But I’m saying that there’s a real danger of overindulging ourselves to the point of losing control.

 

The thing about pleasure is that it’s not a need, but it’s got an awful tendency to become a need. You start out with a couple of beers, and then ten years later you’re an alcoholic. (It’s not as simple as that, granted, but I’m pretty sure nobody would say you can become an alcoholic without having that first couple of beers.)

 

When the brain gets used to experiencing a certain quantity of pleasure, it starts to need to feel that quantity of pleasure in order to feel like life’s a tolerable thing. And that’s addiction, and that can lead to some terribly destructive patterns of behavior.

 

If there’s a number one reason why discipline is necessary, it’s because discipline is a safeguard against excessive indulgence. (Remember the old saying about how idle hands are the devil’s plaything?)

 

Another part of discipline is the ability to set goals and carry them out. Having a goal is one step away from having a plan, and having a plan is another step closer to reaching that goal. Having a goal forces you to think actively, rather than passively.

 

Put it this way: if you’ve got somebody telling you what to do, and you do it, you don’t need to understand the underlying vision behind the action. All you have to know is a few simple steps to make the thing work. You’re following instructions and acting passively.

 

If you’re setting your own goals and following your own plan, you’re thinking actively. You’re anticipating obstacles and constantly steering yourself towards the goal.

 

This sounds like a simple, even trivial difference of words, but it matters tremendously. We’re talking about two massively different ways of interacting with reality. If you’re thinking actively, you can encounter life as something where it’s possible to make progress. There is no progress in a passive life, or if there is it’s only something that’s granted to you by luck, or just because you happened to be in the right place.

 

Progress is what separates a disciplined mind from an undisciplined one. If you can discipline yourself, you can learn to discipline the world around you. There’s no control of circumstances without self-control. The great thing about the human race is that they were able to invent straight lines.

 

What I’m saying here is that discipline makes living worthwhile. But I’m not peddling discipline for its own sake. I’m saying that there’s no great achievement without great discipline.

 

True there are sudden, miraculous discoveries in life. I’m not denying that there’s an element of random chance. But genuine, lasting greatness never comes except with constant discipline and striving.

 

If you don’t believe you’re cut out for greatness, try some stricter discipline. You’ll start believing it. You’ll realize that if you can hold yourself to a strict discipline, you can find the way to reach whatever impossible goal you’ve set for yourself.

 

Discipline kills anxiety, eliminates doubt, and forces you to push yourself in ways you never knew you could be pushed. There’s nothing in the world more fruitful or worthwhile, and in the long run there’s nothing more rewarding.

 

One last thing: it doesn’t matter so much what you do, as long as you do it consistently. Stick to the discipline, and it will grow. Pretty soon you’ll find the whole thing much easier.

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How Freelancers Can Stop Being Unproductive Worms

How often has this happened? You wake up in the morning with a million and one things to do. You’ve got emails to send. You’ve got to pitch that great lead from last week. There’s a project you need to put the finishing touches on (not to mention new ones coming down the pipe!). You’re stressed, you’re overwhelmed, and you can’t imagine how you’re going to finish everything.

 

So tell me: how are things going to look at the end of the day?

 

You already know: everything’s fallen apart, and everything you had to get done today has been pushed back. The usual suspects are to blame: Facebook, endless coffee-making, or frantically Googling the mating habits of the Madagascar lemur.

 

Granted, it’s rare that any of us ever manages to waste an entire day. But we’re not as productive as we could be, and sometimes we’re completely unproductive. But I just so happen to have the secret to maximizing productivity right here, and I’m willing to share. So if you’ll follow along, we’ll take a look.

 

Ready? The secret to productivity is: you have to keep working toward your goal, all day long.

 

That sounds like a letdown, and it’s not an easy answer. But if you’ll let me explain I think you’ll like it a lot better. Because there’s a lot packed into that little answer, and I hope you’ll let me share it with you.

 

The first thing is: if you’re going to work toward your goal all day long, you’d better have a clear goal. If you go at it willy-nilly, saying things like, “Well, I guess I need to get some clients this week,” or , “I need to do that project sometime,” you won’t make much progress. It takes a clear goal.

 

Instead of those nasty things, it’s better to say something like, “I’m going to send ten well-written queries this week, and my goal is to close with three by Friday.” Then you know exactly what you need to do, exactly what you hope to gain, and exactly when you plan on finishing. That’s a good goal!

 

The second reason I like this approach to productivity might take longer to explain, but bear with me and I’m sure you’ll like it. Maybe it’ll make more sense if I phrase it like a question: why don’t we work toward our goals all day long?

 

Why not? Distractions.

 

It’s an obvious answer, but it’s true. We’re not productive because we’re so prone to distractions. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be scrolling Facebook, or blasting away at a game, or learning all about those lemur mating habits. This is nothing new. We all know about average, everyday distractions.

 

But there’s another type of distraction that doesn’t get as much press: the distractions that seem useful. It could be organizing your file folders for the tenth time this week, or sharpening all your pencils so they’re exactly the right length and sharpness. It could be brainstorming about a multi-media project you’d like to work on in about twenty years. It’s everything you do with the half-conscious thought that says, “It’s okay that I’m spending so much time on this because it’s still work.”

 

Remember: if it’s not directly helping you reach a specific goal, it’s a distraction. Not work.

 

Well, what of it then? Am I saying we choose to get distracted? No, of course not.

 

Why do we get distracted, then?

 

Isn’t it because we don’t know what to do next? Because it’s not like we’re working along, and out of nowhere find ourselves scrolling on down the Twitter feed with no idea why we’re doing it. (No matter how much it feels that way.) No, it’s that we’re working pretty well, but our work gets us confused, or frustrated, or annoyed. So what do we do? It’s like our brains short-circuit, and we’re off to the Twitter feed because we don’t want to keep thinking about the thing that’s confusing us.

 

Aren’t distractions like that? You feel confused, or overwhelmed, and it makes you want to find something else? It’s not like the things that distract us are all that interesting. They’re just an escape, aren’t they? Distraction is a problem of escapism.

 

So if we’re trying to be productive, the real question is: why do we ever feel like we can’t handle what we’re facing?

 

The answer: the reason we let ourselves get distracted is because we’re not sure what to do to reach our goal.

 

If this sounds weird, think about it this way: when you’re doing great work, don’t you disappear into your work? You forget you’re there, and it feels like the work were doing itself. When you’re at peak performance, you’re not trying to get yourself motivated or make sure you’re productive. You’re getting out of your own way and letting yourself accomplish your purpose.

 

And that’s the point: when you know what you’re doing, it’s not about motivation, or productivity, or keeping your eyes on the prize. You’re just doing it, because you’re wrapped up in the process of the work. You know the goal, and you know how you’re going to reach it.

 

Isn’t that the essence of productivity?

 

What’s this mean for practical productivity? Simple: you need to know exactly how you’re going to start your day, every day. I’m talking about planning. I’m talking about discipline. I’m talking about routines, especially morning routines.

 

It’s easy for a nine-to-fiver to have a morning routine. It’s a necessity when you’ve got a job that requires you to be in a certain place at a certain time. As freelancers, we don’t have that structure imposed on us. But if we’re going to be productive, we’ve got to impose it on ourselves.

 

Now, the content of the morning routine isn’t the crucial thing. You can go for a jog, meditate, or have your coffee and a cigarette. That’s not the point. The point is that you get up at the same time every day, do the same things, and get yourself ready to go.

 

Because with the morning routine, you’re training your brain that going through this set of activities in this order means it’s time to sit down, get serious, and get to work. Eventually you’ll know deep in your bones that going through this routine means getting ready to take on the world. And with that knowledge, you’ll be ready to go.

 

One last piece of advice: if you wrap up that morning routine by writing out a list of everything you mean to accomplish in your day, you’ll be in good shape. That way you’ll have a clear idea of what you’re going to be doing every moment of the whole day.

 

Productivity is all about understanding your goal and how to reach it. It doesn’t take luck, and it doesn’t take anything but the certainty that you know how to do it, or at least that you can figure out what you don’t know. There’s no silver bullet to maximize productivity. The only secret is hard work, good planning, and the determination to see it through.

 

It takes grit, not luck. But good luck to you anyway.

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How to Keep Calm Under Pressure

The trouble with the world is that it’s got no respect for your peace and quiet. No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter what you do, you’re going to run into uncomfortable situations.

 

Job interviews.

 

Asking the pretty girl on a date.

 

Making arrangements for your funeral.

 

No matter who you are, you’re going to have to face the fact that the universe wasn’t designed for your comfort, and it wasn’t built for your convenience. It’s nothing you did wrong, and it’s nothing you can change. It’s just the way things are, and you’re going to have to deal with it.

 

Part of the good life is forcing yourself to accept that not even the good life is one uninterrupted experience of joy and pleasure. Every silver lining has its cloud, and that’s just something you’re going to have to get used to. That’s what this article’s about: to help you get used to the fact that there are really awful and unpleasant things in this world.

 

So, without further ado, here are a few tips for handling yourself under pressure:

 

  • Think of difficult experiences as lessons

It’s a lot easier to accept and move past bad experiences if you treat them as chances to learn. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as a bad mood, or something as complicated as losing a job. Few things are quite as helpful as writing down what happened and then figuring out why it happened. There are reasons whatever-it-is happened, and if you draw out those reasons, you’ll find you were in control of at least some of them. Sure, it won’t erase what went wrong, but it will allow you to close the book on what happened and move forward with a few ideas of how to prevent it from happening again.

  • Do the thing you’re dreading. (It gets easier.)

Procrastination kills. Whether it’s a homework assignment in high school, a report that still needs filing, or an email that you still haven’t written, there’s something hanging over your head. Maybe it’s something small, like getting your hair trimmed, or maybe it’s something big, like going out on a new career path.

Whatever it is, waiting until the time “feels right” is the best way to make sure you never get it done. Because I’ve got news for you: the time never feels right. It’s always too early, or too late. You always need to do more research, or you’re always too far behind to get started.

The time is always going to feel wrong. So get started now.

  • Break overwhelming tasks into bite-sized chunks

It often happens that you’ll have a task in front of you that you’ll keep pushing off, not because it’s hard or because you don’t know how to do it, but because it’s so big and complicated that you’re not sure where to start. That’s usually a sign that you need to break the job into smaller parts, so you can get some of them done and gradually finish the whole thing.

Some projects take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you do a little bit today, a little bit tomorrow, and a little bit the day after that, eventually you’ll get enough progress going that you can envision yourself completing the job. And once you believe you can do it, you’re halfway there.

  • Make an effort to think well of people

I’ll admit it: personally, it’s a lot easier for me to judge people for what I don’t like about them than to look at them and appreciate what’s good in them.

Now, I know it probably looks weird having something like this on this list, but you’d be amazed by how much this has to do with your quality of life. Usually, people who think badly of other people think badly of themselves. So if you make an effort to explicitly think of things you like about everyone you know (even the ones you don’t like so much), over time you’ll form the habit of being kinder to yourself as well.

  • Remind yourself of everything you can control

When you’re angry or frustrated, it’s usually because you’re fixated on one thing you can’t control. The next door neighbor’s dog won’t shut up. A client won’t answer your emails. Your laptop won’t start. No matter what the specific issue is, the more general issue is that there’s something you would like to control, but can’t right now.

So if you take a few moments to think of the things you can control, it will be much easier to accept the thing you can’t. Sure, you can’t control the thing that makes you angry, but you can control the way you respond to it and the way you direct that feeling. Something as simple as reminding yourself you can control the way your hand moves can be a great way to calm your nerves.

  • Do what you can do now, now! (And leave the rest.)

This is the flipside of procrastination. Sometimes, you can be so worked up for a task that you’ll want to do it before the time is right. In a way, this is an even tougher habit to break than procrastination.

Why’s that? Because once you break the procrastination habit, you can get into this state where you feel like it’s not okay to have any downtime at all. This is the kind of tendency that leads people into OCD and workaholic habits. If you’ve gotten to the point where you can’t put off till tomorrow what needs to be done tomorrow, you should probably dial it back a little. Not every single moment has to be dedicated to achieving your purpose.

  • Accept that some things are permanently out of your control

This one’s a real doozy for you OCD types out there. There are some things you can’t control. And it’s not only that you can’t control them now, it’s that you’ll never be able to control them.

No matter how you scheme and how you plot, and no matter how many motivational lectures you listen to, you’ll never be able to make the sun rise before it wants to rise.

No matter how well you take care of yourself and how religiously you go to the doctor, you’ll never be able to live forever.

Just remember those things and take them into consideration every once in a while. There’s a kind of liberation in accepting the things you can’t change.

  • Try regular exercise and meditation

Now, I’m not recommending meditation as some kind of path to enlightenment or anything. I’m just saying it’s a great way to get yourself adjusted to dealing with discomfort. About two minutes into your meditation session, you’ll want to move so badly you won’t believe it.

It’s awful. And that’s exactly why I’m recommending it.

Beyond the physical benefits of meditation and physical exercise, the psychological benefits are even greater. Making a habit of running a few miles every day forces you to force yourself to willingly make yourself uncomfortable for an extended length of time.

More importantly than the trim physique, you’re exercising discipline when you do these things. And if you don’t have discipline, you don’t have anything.

  • Step out of your comfort zone at least once a day

This is the point of discipline: you want to make yourself into the kind of person who can do anything. You don’t want to be afraid of pain, hardship, and discomfort. You want to be able to make yourself do what it takes to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

And that means getting rid of all the unnecessary and unhealthy fears that hold you back. Now, I’m not knocking fear here. Fear has its place when it tells us we probably shouldn’t jump off a skyscraper. Feeling the right amount of fear at the right time allows us to exercise healthy caution. But excessive fear is a lingering cloud on our days, and it ends in the death of all self-respect.

So chip away at that comfort zone.

  • Remind yourself, “This moment is not unbearable.”

No matter what the trouble you’re facing, remember it will pass. Plan for the future, but focus on the present moment. If you’ve got a headache, the best way to make it unbearable is to project it forward in time by dwelling on how you might have the same headache an hour from now, or tomorrow, or a week from now. Stick to the present.

If it’s hard right now, remind yourself that it’s hard now. Focus on when it hurts, or when it’s tough, and you’ll be able to avoid the worst of it. There’s no single moment of life that’s unbearable. Remind yourself of that when the going gets tough, and the going just might get a little easier.

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How to Improve Your Focus

Productivity is crucial. Productivity is life.

If you’re not productive, you’re not living up to your potential. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s always possible to improve, and you can always get more done. It’s a question of finding and maintaining a productive state of mind. If you can concentrate on what you’re doing, if you can take your mind and really get your head engaged with the task at hand, you can get anything done. With dedication and discipline, you can train your mind to focus solely on the task at hand.

Now, I know some of you might think your work’s too boring or too mindless for your mind to get drawn into it. This is a mistake. The fact of the matter is that if your mind is fully engaged in any activity, it automatically becomes fascinating. It doesn’t matter what the work is. I don’t care if you’re out there cleaning toilets. If your mind is fully engaged with cleaning those toilets, there’s nothing in the world that’s more interesting.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about mental engagement. I’m talking about focus. I’m talking about being present in the moment. And I know that can sound awfully woo-woo, but I promise you it’s as real and concrete as a chain-link fence.

I’m going to give you a few ideas on how to be present in the moment. Some of them might sound a little weird, and some of them might sound a little dumb, but I promise if you practice some of these you’ll notice a difference.

So, without further ado:

 

  • Develop a consistent sleep schedule

Before you ask: yes, that means you need to get up at the same time every day. Ideally before sunrise. Now, I know how much we all love sleeping in late, but if the sun is up, you should be up. Give yourself a bedtime and a wakeup time, and do it every day. Start doing this, and after a while you’ll be surprised when you realize how much time there is in a day!

It takes effort, and it takes discipline, but over time that daily effort of making yourself get up before you have to will add up to a much stronger engagement in the moment. The trick here is that in order to get up and stay up, you have to dig deep and find that part of yourself that cares enough to get up that early. And over time that has a big effect.

  • Create a morning routine

The morning routine is critical. It doesn’t matter so much what your routine is, so much as the simple fact of having a routine. The morning routine gives you a set of actions you can take every day, so it’s almost like it gets you started with your day automatically. Because one of the major problems with waking up early in the morning is that if you don’t know what you’re going to do, you’re likely to end up going back to bed.

But with a solid morning routine, you can count on the force of habit to keep you going long enough to get you over that hump.

  • Remind yourself why your work is important

One of the reasons we can fail to become engaged with our work is because it’s so easy to let ourselves slip into this mode where the work is just something we do to get by. It’s easy to think of work as something that’s being imposed on us by a boss or a client, rather than something we’re choosing to do.

No matter what your work, there will be days when it feels like a burden. But at the same time, no matter what your work, there are good reasons that somebody needs to do it. Remind yourself why you’re choosing to do what you’re doing, and you’ll do a better job.

  • Write down your long-term goals (every day!)

This is another one that has to do with reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you set aside a little time every day to remind yourself of the big picture, you’ll be able to remember why it’s worthwhile to do what you need to do today.

Back in school, there was always somebody else there to give us that constant awareness that what we were doing right now would have long-term effects. But that’s something we need throughout our lives, so it’s well worth the effort to remind ourselves that what we’re doing today matters in the long term.

  • Surround yourself with motivated people

It’s an old cliché, but it bears repeating: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If the people in your life and work are constantly negative and complaining, over time those habits are going to rub off on you. If the people around you are happy and inspired, pretty soon you’ll be infected with their energy. You’ve got to be willing to cut people off if they’re holding you back, and you have to be willing to seek out new friends or a new workplace if it comes to that. Like it or not, the people we interact with have a strong influence on who we become. It’s important to choose our peers wisely.

  • Practice meditation

At the very least, meditation means you’re able to make yourself sit down and stay still for ten or fifteen minutes without any external stimulation. In the age of the cell phone and the internet, meditation is a valuable tool to help the mind avoid overstimulation. There’s such a wide range of possible activities and interactions out there that it becomes important to be able to focus your attention on one thing for long periods of time.

Personally, I’ve got a practical attitude towards meditation. I think of it as a mental exercise that I do because I’m trying to tighten my mind’s focus. So don’t worry: just because you’re practicing meditation, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to subscribe to any kind of belief system.

  • Plan out your day at the beginning

Just take a few minutes every morning to plan out what you need to get done over the course of the day. Similar to the way writing out your long-term goals helps you situate today in the context of your life as a whole, writing out your daily goals gives you a sense of orientation from moment to moment. Plus, having a to-do list is always nice, because it feels so good to cross things off the list as they go by. If you plan your day carefully you can not only get more done, but you can also feel a greater sense of accomplishment throughout the day.

  • Tell yourself “I avoid distractions”

Any time you notice yourself drifting off task, say it out loud to yourself. “I avoid distractions.” It might feel a little strange at first, but it’s crucial if you’re working online, where there’s always the temptation to open a new tab and start surfing.

Just that simple act of telling yourself that you avoid distractions should help tremendously. First off, it trains you to notice when you’re becoming distracted. Secondly, it immediately brings you back to what you’re doing and lets you focus on what’s important. Over the course of a few days or weeks, you’ll find you’re able to focus much more deeply.

  • Schedule breaks

Scheduling breaks ahead of time can have a huge effect on your overall productivity. If you know that you’re going to be able to take a break at 10 o’clock, it helps to quiet down the inner child. Because without a set time for a break, your mind will be apt to keep circling back to the place where it’s thinking, “You know, I wish I were doing something else right now.”

As long as you know when you’re going to allow yourself to take a break, you can reduce those thoughts. You’ll be much more able to get the work done when you’re not worried about when you’ll get away from it!

  • Keep your workspace clean and organized

Of course organization is always important. Not only is it important because an organized workspace is a workspace where you can find everything you need, but even more so because your surroundings have a very real effect on your mental state. If your desk is messy, your thoughts are going to be messy. So if you make the effort to keep that space tidy, you’ll be rewarded. It’s well worth the time put in to have a workspace where you can focus squarely on what needs to be done. In combination with the other things on this list, it ought to help you keep yourself productive and on track for close mental engagement with your work.

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