Balancing Dreams and Reality: A Solopreneur’s Journey Continues

How to Avoid the Trap of Over-extension

How many times have you been full of enthusiasm for the New Year? Resolutions and goals are optimistically made, which fall by the wayside, one by one. There’s always next year, I suppose.

Disclosure. I use an AI assistant when writing. The assistant may suggest outlines, topics, or subtleties I had not thought of. The actual writing is all human me.

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Winter Reflections

Every winter, towards the end of the year, we plan the goals we wish to achieve the following year. At the start of January, we begin to implement them.

This winter, it hasn’t been possible for me or my business due to our recent kitchen renovations. We are already almost a month into 2024, and I’m also ‘almost’ ready to plan for the year. Better late than never.

As a solopreneur and a creative, I must manage several life streams to keep everything on an even keel. I wrote about this a couple of newsletters ago.

The Pursuit of Balance: Managing a Multi-Stream Life

Now is the time to implement, well, almost the time. It will be next weekend before I can get my head down, but at least I can begin to get my thoughts in order.

Grounding Ambitions in Reality

The most important lesson learned from last year is to be careful not to over-extend myself or be over-optimistic. Otherwise, the planning is worthless. Any goals, such as the year ahead, must be realistically achievable in the appropriate time frame.

Four main areas need to be managed and coordinated:

  1. Servicing my existing contractual obligations.
  2. Marketing and growing by company.
  3. Creativity.
  4. Personal time.

Most people don’t consider planning their personal and private lives, but then most people only have a day job to think about; outside work hours is private time. Sometimes, I miss that lifestyle, but not much.

I started on this complex path very late in life, but at least I’ve started. As long as I do my time management practically, I enjoy the buzz when a goal is completed.

The first area to be managed, contractual obligations, doesn’t require anything more complicated than reserving four fixed days a week, Monday to Thursday.

If you commute, you must be careful not to fill your evening with too many tasks. Travel time may be unpredictable, so if you must plan tasks, ensure they are doable if you are late home.

That is, try to be pessimistic about what is achievable, not optimistic. If you complete everything and you still have energy, you can always make a start on the next day’s activities.

Cherishing the Personal Realm

Our professional obligations are important; we need to pay the bills. Your private life is just as important. It’s not only about having time to recharge and relax; it’s also about having quality family time, which, to be honest, I’ve tended to neglect until now.

Last weekend, and again this one, I helped out with my wife’s catering business. I wrote about this briefly in the previous newsletter. This afternoon, it was a family lunch. In the spring, we’re planning a family long weekend.

Physically Tired, Mentally Wired: Exercise, Meditation, and Creativity

Until very recently, I’ve tended to resent these family gatherings as wasting my precious time. What a fool. These small things are what keep us grounded, and they help us to hold everything in its proper perspective.

For a creative, they’re a constant source of inspiration, but where I fail is listening to the conversations. I still tend to filter them out and retreat into my thoughts, which is a wasted opportunity.

Cultivating Creativity Through Discipline

These last two months have been chaotic as far as my creative endeavours are concerned. But that is in the process of being changed for the better.

My solution is time-blocking, which sounds easy to implement. But all the time-blocking strategies in the world won’t help without a hefty dose of self-discipline.

The intention is to have separate time blocks for a plan A and a backup plan B. Thus introducing some flexibility. If, for whatever reason, A planning is no longer possible, I can jump to B planning.

No stress or frustration anymore; I’ll be content to go with the flow.

The time I need to write this newsletter will be concrete; no more Sunday evening rush to get it out.

I’ll put aside the largest chunk of time for my long-form writing projects. I’ve several short story ideas I’d like to explore. The fiction book started several years ago will be completed by the end of the year.

I don’t know how much time I’ll need to block weekly yet. But I’m confident I’ll figure it out quickly.

Strategising for Sustainable Business Growth

I’ve felt handicapped by my too-specialised professional network. And it’s this lack of breadth of my network that is the root of months of frustration during the last year.

The central pivot this year is to return to my professional roots. I have a greater chance of winning new contracts by targeting the industries I’m thoroughly familiar with.

The trick will be balancing any new contracts with my existing contractual obligations. I also have to respect the various contract clauses regarding competition carefully.

The marketing and networking for my business must also be planned, no more over-optimistic expectations.

Stop dreaming and start doing.

Optimising with the Right Tools

The applications needed to manage all four life-streams are simple. I’ve been using these applications for a year, so they are completely familiar. There is no need for any distracting learning curves.

There are only two main applications for task and time management, with several other supporting applications.

The main applications are

  • Notion: I’ll need to rework and simplify my Notion database. It’s grown overly complex in the last twelve months.
  • Fantastical: My calendar app. I like the way Fantastical combines various calendars into a single overview.

There’s no need to detail the supporting applications apart from one; Ulysses is my writing application of choice.

Final Thoughts: Embracing Discomfort for Progress:

A short and sweet newsletter this week. I’ve been floundering for several months, unable to settle on any clear, targeted goals. As I said, dreaming and not doing. It’s a typical introvert mistake.

It’s so easy to descend into a safe and comfortable routine, but to get anything done, we need to push outside our comfort zones. The more uncomfortable, the better.

I’m still working out the planning details and the definitive approach. However, I intend to have the fundamentals sorted by the following newsletter. I’ll keep you posted.

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I apologise to my readers for some of the spellings you may feel are incorrect. I was born and brought up in the United Kingdom, and this is the spelling I am comfortable with (Grammarly is happy with it anyway).