How I’m going to make 2015 more fun and more profitable

I’m going to tell you how five years ago I changed my own life course, and how my life has been getting better and better ever since. By the time you’re done reading this you will understand how to make 2015 a better year in terms of profit, fun, and in moving forward with your career. Three simple steps and two hours a month is all it takes. Ready?

Story time!

In 2009 I was still working in a hi-tech company as a product manager, working with giant clients like Verizon and AT&T. I worked hard, around the clock, and was very unhappy. In the hardest moments I used to ask myself why I’m working so hard for someone else.

I remember one specific company meeting where I just couldn’t listen to anything that was said around the conference table. I looked at my boss’ boss, who was wearing a funny suite, and asked myself: “Is this really where you want your career to go?”

The answer was an easy one: “Good god, no!”

Don’t get me wrong – the money and the perks were amazing. But I never felt at home. My daily life was full of things I didn’t like, and I worked extremely hard for other people. I suddenly realized I’ve been ‘going with the flow’ in my career for years. I had no idea where I was going – I just rolled with it.

That same night I adopted a new habit that helps me earn more every year than I did the previous one, improves my quality of life (for instance lets me take lunch naps!) and makes sure 80% of my day-to-day is made up of things I really enjoy doing (and hey, I’ve still got 20% left…)

This habit is made up of three simple steps, and I’m going to teach you exactly how I do it so that you may try it yourself:

“What’s not right?”

My day is full of emails, client phone calls, long to-do lists and errands. I never have the time and energy to stop and think, “is anything not quite right?” and by the time the weekend comes along (or the recent holidays, which simply came and went) I’m too tired to think about work and career. I just want to rest.

So what do I do? I open my calendar and I set up a meeting for myself – with myself – for two hours, once a month. I give it a fun name like “how to make Lior more money in 2015” or an angry name like “I’m so sick of this already!” – depending on my mood.

I hold the meeting somewhere fun, on the sofa in my balcony or in a cafe I love. I make sure there are no distractions, the phone is on mute, and then I open my notebook and doodle down answers to the following questions:

  • What does my day-to-day look like right now?
  • What does my cash flow look like? Am I happy with it?
  • What ticked me off the most this month? A specific client? A specific task?
  • What did I never come around to and have been postponing forever?

“Where do I want to go?”

The second part of the meeting is the fun part. I try to imagine where I’d like to be – for instance by the end of 2015.

First of all I go through the list I’ve made of everything that’s “not right” and think what I’d like to change. Is there a client I no longer want to work with? Is there a project I’d like to promote but can’t get around to it? Is there a project I can be making more money from? Are there recurring tasks I’d like to stop doing? And also, what would make my daily life more fun? An hour of physical exercise every day? A daily nap? Changing my working space?

Then I allow myself to travel even farther with my imagination. Five, even ten years into the future. I try to imagine what it would be like – how I want my daily life to look like, what I want my financial state to be. How do I want to be seen professionally? As well as other important questions like where do I want to live? What do I want my family status to be?

Start changing my future

So far – the easy part. Thoughts and page doodles. Now we’ve come to the difficult part, actually doing things.

First of all I take a look at the lists I’ve made and come up with ideas for possible changes. Examples of things I’ve tried myself:

“There’s a client I hate”
I can start fading them out by explaining that I’ll soon be too busy with other projects, then gradually stop working for them and use the extra time to find a client I can get along with better.

In one extreme case I really hated, I transferred a client of mine to someone else in the middle of the project, and we settled the payment between us two.

“I’m no good / I hate doing task X”
When I’ve got recurring tasks I suck at, or that bum me out, I think about how I could outsource them to someone else (while paying for them obviously).

I’ve found out that paying someone a small share of what I get for a project so that they take on a part that I hate or am no good at is worth much more than the money I would have made. That’s because it saves you a headache and a real bummer. For example, I hate proofreading, so I use Fiverr or Elance to do that.

“I want to learn a new skill”
Learning something new, for instance coding, takes money, energy and a ton of motivation. These are all things we freelancers don’t tend to have a lot of. So what I do is try and think, maybe I know someone that would want to learn it together with me and we will have fun doing it?

Maybe there’s a YouTube channel that can help me learn? Maybe I know someone that would be happy to teach me in exchange for something I can offer them in return?

Now all that’s left to do is to open your to-do list, your Google calendar, or however else you like to manage your tasks, and add the little assignments whose job it is to change your future. I like to give them meaningful names like “earn more: talk to Anna about the next project” or “my future: look for a coding course”. That way, when the reminder pops up in my calendar, I remember why this task is so important and I don’t just brush it off for later.

Just three simple steps. Make them into a habit and you’ll stop grunting that you’ve had enough or feeling bummed out three times a day. Your future will be clearer and your present will be headed in the right direction.

Set yourself that first meeting already this week and make 2015 more profitable, more fun, and headed where you’d like it to go.

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