The end of the year brings all sorts of looking back. I say, fuggidaboudit. Why? Because the past is done. Whatever it was, whatever happened, has already happened. Past tense. Over. Unchangeable. This is true if you had a good year or a crappy one. It’s done. So, it’s wasted effort to review it over and over again. Besides, as most creatives are wont to do, you’ll likely get stuck focusing on the errors you made and beating yourself up for them. That is massively non-productive. Instead, I suggest you take these probably slow days around the new year to let go of the past and look forward.
Take an afternoon and go to a museum or something equally relaxing and inspiring, something that gets your creative and mental juices flowing. Once in that good mental space, then go sit in a cafe (or a bar, if you prefer) with a notebook (an actual paper one–this is important) and a writing instrument that you love to use (this is also surprisingly important) and think of things to do for your business, looking forward. No editing–just write down any idea that pops into your head about your business and your creativity. Be specific and, this is a big part, focus on things over which you have control. Maybe you’ll come up with ideas for personal projects, or promos, or a new creative technique, or imagine adding a marketing assistant to your business–doesn’t matter. Don’t limit yourself to things you think you might actually be able to do (financially or whatever), but instead just write all things you’d like to do. It doesn’t matter if you have the money to hire an MA or move to Paris, this is just about brainstorming so don’t get hung up with the downside of reality. Do, however, keep in mind that you can only control yourself so writing things like “have a client hire me for a $100K project” is not a good thing to have on your list because that is out of your control (you can market to clients who are capable of offering such projects, but you can’t make them actually offer one).
The next day (yes, sleep on it), look at your list. Separate it into three parts: Doable Now/Soon, Doable in 2015 Sometime, and Doable After 2015. Note there is no “not doable”–everything is (probably) doable…eventually. Rewrite your original list into the three separate lists (again, best done by hand). For example, maybe you had “move to Tibet to shoot monks” on your brainstorming list, but you don’t want to take your young kids out of school or leave them behind–put that item in “Doable After 2015.”
Then, take the items in the first two lists, those for 2015, and figure out how you can do the things on those lists. Write out the steps to achieve each item. For example, if you have “follow undocumented migrant workers in Texas for 1 week” then you’d have items like “contact migrant worker organizations in TX; decide how to shoot/make equipment list; book flight; book lodging or get camping equipment…” and so on. Take these mini-lists and schedule them on your 2015 calendar (you can always move the items later if they need to be changed due to shoots).
The third list, the Doable After 2015 one, you need to look at to see if there are steps you can take in 2015 to facilitate their achievement–that is, steps to help make those items happen sometime later. For example, if you want to go to Tibet as mentioned earlier, you’ll need to save up money. So, items like “starting a Tibet Project savings account” and “saving at least $2000 for Tibet Project” are some things you could do in 2015. Schedule those items as well in your 2015 calendar.
Do all this and, voilà, you have a plan for 2015–a plan to achieve the things you want to achieve. Each step is concrete and doable. And each step will lead you to your goals for 2015 and help you on your way to your longer-term goals as well. These are all individual things you can do–basic tasks–that, when combined, will help take you where you want your business to go. You are thinking about your present and your future, not wasting effort worrying about mistakes you may have made in the past or things that happened out of your control in the past or things out of your control in the future.
Stay focused on each day as it comes, be present, work the items as they appear on your calendar, and you’ll be surprised at how much you get accomplished in 2015. I hope it’s your best year yet.
(in case this article seemed kind of familiar, it’s an updated version/revision of an article I posted in 2008)