So, a few days ago, I had a morning self-publishing coaching call with a client, after which I was thinking of heading over to the pool at the gym to do my laps. Now, I’m a pretty disciplined guy when it comes to exercise, but I’m also human, so, if I start getting busy, and time passes, it’s easy to say, “Heck, it’s getting late. I’ll just do it tomorrow.” And tomorrow? Maybe it’ll happen, and maybe it won’t.
So, before I got on the call, I packed my gym bag with a change of clothes, towel, etc. Put my keys, wallet and phone next to it. And changed into my bathing suit, T-shirt and flip-flops. Once the call was done, all I had to do was grab everything and go. Which, I did. Had none of that been “staged,” it’d been far easier to bail on the idea.
What I’d done was create a structure for fulfillment.
The whole point? Make something easy to do and you’re more likely to do it.
Duh, right? Well, yes it is, but I’d wager good money, a whole lot of ideas, campaigns, programs, goals, whatever, that never launched, would have if their creators had set up their own “structures for fulfillment.” The key being this:
Starting is the hardest part.
If you can make the “starting” easy, the rest of the steps are more likely to unfold.
I’ve invoked this idea in TWFW when discussing doing simple direct mail campaigns to keep in touch with commercial writing clients and prospects who are part of your database. You know, those folks, who, in the course of your various prospecting efforts for your freelance commercial writing practice, have told you that, yes, they have needs for copywriters, on an occasional or ongoing basis.
Sure, you could decide you’re going to do a really whiz-bang direct mail package, with a specially designed mail piece, maybe with a folder built in (for various copywriting samples), along with a cover letter, and a few other odds and ends. Sounds swell, but will you actually get it done?
Instead, why not create a postcard with a simple message as a reminder, leading them to your commercial copywriting web site/online portfolio? Given how much easier a postcard would be to create, you’d just be that much more likely to get it done.
So, what’s involved in making one? Well, besides creating it yourself or with the help of some graphically talented friend of yours—with whom, perhaps, you trade services— you might check out an inexpensive online printer.
Places like www.modernpostcards.com or www.overnightprints.com offer you the opportunity to pick a design from thousands available, add your copy front and back, and for probably less than $100, you’ll get 1000 cards (and about $125-ish for 2,000).
Remember one of the cardinal rules of direct mail: Frequency trumps creative. Doing it more often and simply is more effective than doing it seldom and creatively.
If you’ve built up a list of, say, 200-250 prospects you’ve gathered through prospecting, sending a postcard 3-4 times a year to that freelance commercial writing database of yours becomes a remarkably easy and inexpensive process. 250 postcards four times a year will run you roughly, $120 to $200 (depending on size of the postcard—regular or oversize), each time, including postage.
Simplifying it even more is this: You can send the same postcard every time. No need to reinvent the wheel each time. AND, the more your copywriting prospects/clients see that same card, the more they’ll associate it with you. And that’s a very good thing.
And there are countless other examples of establishing “structures” in order to ensure that you do the things you need to, to build your copywriting business.
For example, planning a cold-calling campaign, but dreading the process? If you…
1) Compiled a long list of the right kinds of prospects and phone numbers (think many 100’s, so if you screw up a few—which you likely will—you won’t worry about it)…
2) Set up your week with sizeable chunks of time, earmarked exclusively for calling…
3) Had a quiet space, protected from interruptions/distractions, and…
4) Created a brief cold-calling script modeled on the one in TWFW (p. 127)
…it’d be more likely to happen. All of which underscores an important truth:
Most of the fear surrounding many business-building activities stems from a fear of the unknown. Yet, once you set up your structures, much of that unknown becomes known. And, as such, can no longer be anywhere near as scary.
What are some of the “structures for fulfillment” you’ve put in place for your commercial freelancing business?
Have they made it easier to get things done?
Did you put them in place because you weren’t making things happen?
Any specific success stories around this idea?
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Got this great guest post from writer, author and coach Daphne Gray-Grant, with an intriguing take on “To-Do” lists. I must confess, I never looked at it this way, but, when you stop to think about it, it makes all the sense in the world: if you don’t tackle the things that are important, but not urgent, then you’re simply operating in reactive mode. I’m going to put these ideas to work. Enjoy. Thanks, Daphne!
I’ve been addicted to “to do” lists since I was 13 years old. They taught me that putting tasks on a list helps me to remember to do them. They helped me learn that really understanding my priorities makes it easier to say “no” to the things that will waste my time.
They gave me the undeniable thrill of being able to stroke a firm line through a task I’d just completed. And when I started using them for tracking my writing progress, they reminded me that writing is not just about letting my fingers move over a keyboard: it also involves research and phone calls and fact-checking.
But, recently, my “To-Do” list had gotten out of control.
Frequently 30 items or longer, it daunted me every time I looked at it. Instead of inspiring me to action, it made me shiver with dread. One writing job, in particular—some 9,000 words of angst—lurked on it like a mild tooth ache certain to erupt into a tooth so decayed any sensible dentist would call for a root canal.
But, here’s the interesting thing: Because there was no immediate urgency/penalty attached to this job (the deadline was still three weeks away), I didn’t even feel a sense of failure about it. [Aside: Isn’t it easy to let big writing jobs lurk?] Although, of course, I had a growing unease as time ticked inexorably by.
As there are few things I like better than organizing myself (for me it’s like a back massage, a glass of really great red wine and fabulous haircut all thrown into one), I spent a couple of hours thinking about how to make my “To-Do” list work better.
Eventually, I remembered a column I’d written about Steven Covey, and reflected on his four quadrants. Remember those?
(1) Tasks that are important and urgent
(2) Tasks that are important but not urgent
(3) Tasks that are unimportant but urgent
(4) tasks that are neither urgent nor important.
Many people think items in quadrant one should be the highest priority, but Covey argues—and I agree—that box number 2 is actually the most crucial. After all, if you allow the urgent stuff to take control of your life, you’re constantly rushing to put out fires. Only by making time to do what’s really important—for example, planning, reading, writing a book—can you be really productive.
I decided I needed better names for my list—titles that would inspire me. Here’s what I came up with:
(1) Things I Most WANT to Do Today. I liked the way this sounded. Strong, determined. Motivated.
(2) Must Do Today. Here was the note of urgency and a realistic assessment of the time required. I now try for no more than three per day and I really do them. And, by the way, I always do them using pomodoros. This intense 30-minute commitment is like a magic bullet for writing procrastinators.
(3) Quick Things Due Today. Each of these tasks can be done in five minutes or less. As such, I can knock something off the list when I’m between phone calls or wanting to take a quick break after some difficult writing.
(4) Optional Tasks. Quickly, I realized that I should outsource as many of these jobs as possible. I have three teenagers in my home and they’re always eager to earn $12/hour.
I also added a column titled “Personal” for the personal things I need to do during the day and another one called “Meetings” so I don’t forget about them, either.
Did this new system help me get my big writing job done? Sadly, I’d left developing this new list too late for that. I had ended up leaving the job to the very last minute and shocked myself by writing 9,000 words—while keeping up with my other urgent tasks—in four days. It was absolutely exhausting and involved my starting work at 5:30 a.m. and going until 8 p.m., twice.
Since then, however, the new list has worked like a charm. I’m getting more done, sooner. I’m not feeling a clench in my gut every time I think about my “To-Do” list. Best of all, I’m accomplishing more of the things that I really WANT to do.
In short, it’s done more than make me a more organized human being. It’s made me a better writer.
Typically, how long is your daily “to do” list?
What special tricks do you have for getting the really important stuff done, despite the deadlines you have to meet?
How do you stop yourself from frittering away time on fun but (mostly) inconsequential stuff like Facebook and Twitter?
If you haven’t before identified the accomplishments that are most important to you, how might doing so change your writing life?