Mostly-New Year's Resolutions (only 10 days late!)

I don't generally do New Year's resolutions--why can we only improve ourselves once a year? But really, the new year is a great time for reflection, and a natural time to want to make some changes from the way things went last year.

My resolution for this year can be summed up in one word: Focus.

A couple years ago I was introduced to the concept of having multiple passive income streams--rather than getting all your money from one source (a 9-to-5 job, for instance), diversify. Find many separate ways to earn just a little bit of money with little to no ongoing work.  Build up enough of these income streams, and you'll have enough money to pay the bills, and enough time to work on what you really love.

This relatively simple advice completely changed the way I thought about work and money. I'm a natural multitasker--I'm never happy working on just one project at a time, so this seemed like a perfect approach to me. It was only in the last couple of months, though, that I've started making a serious effort to implement this advice in my life.

So far I haven't been terribly successful. I've been doing a lot of work and seeing little to no income. I've felt pretty discouraged at times, because I have a million and one projects I want to work on, and I can't see how I'll ever have enough time to even try them all, let alone make a decent income from them.

Recently I stumbled across this article, and the piece I've been missing clicked into place. It's so simple, it's absurd I didn't think of it on my own, but I guess sometimes you just need someone to beat you over the head with the obvious:

**There is absolutely no sense in spending a few hours a week on each of several projects keeping them all inching forward little by little. The trick to both finding focus and making multiple streams of income is to work on one thing at a time, and work on it until it is at the next plateau. If a project is first starting out, do whatever it takes to get it to the point that it has a life of its own. That may mean just getting it to the point that you can share it with potential collaborators or customers, or it may mean getting it to the point that it can start to generate income. Once a project has started earning revenue, let it work for you passively while you work on something else.**

What I've been doing is total multitasking--working on everything at once, and finishing nothing to my satisfaction. It's no surprise I'm not seeing any income yet. What I need to do instead is work on one thing at a time, still juggling multiple projects, but sticking with each one long enough that it won't suffer from my absence.

Take my Etsy store for example. I started off with recycled yarn, got a few skeins listed, and then discovered my huge box of crafting supplies. I decided I should sell off some of the crafting supplies to boost my sales and feedback on Etsy, so I got to work on that. Then I got into making baby clothes out of recycled thrift store stuff, mostly finished an outfit, and abandoned it to work on the Kindle cases. Despite spending hours unraveling sweaters, sorting and photographing supplies, and sewing tiny clothes, I have a box full of items that aren't earning me any money, because they aren't even listed on Etsy. Meanwhile I spent most of last night doing research for yet another new product I'd like to make.

That's just my Etsy store. My life is full of these little projects; I'm always trying to work on them all at once and then wondering why they're not going anywhere.

So, how to achieve focus? Well, here's where I guess I need to make the individual resolutions.

  • Reread Getting Things Done. The GTD system is fantastic, and I fell completely off it. I'm honestly not 100% sure it'll work for me anymore, as my workflow for creative and crafty projects is fairly freeform, and I have a hard time imagining breaking, say, the making of a Kindle case into discrete steps. But if nothing else, the book is full of you-can-do-it pep talks that could help me out on this resolution thing.
  • Get all the various project ideas out of my head and onto paper. This is related to the whole GTD thing--I need to get them written down so I can stop devoting brainpower to remembering them and start devoting it to realizing them. More importantly, though, I need to classify each one as a money-maker (this will actively make me money), a traffic-builder (this will send traffic to my money-makers), or a hobby (I'm just doing it for fun).
  • Prioritize. At any given time, my primary project--what I'm spending the largest chunk of my time and brainpower on--should be a money-maker. Traffic-builders are valuable, but they're useless without money-makers. This week, I've spent entirely too much time futzing around on deviantART because it's a traffic-builder, and not nearly enough time on unraveling sweaters and making Kindle cases.
  • Cut down on the multi-tasking. Stick to the GTD philosophy of taking things one step at a time, and incorporate the above advice of taking each project to the next plateau before moving on. Just for starters, I can finish listing all my yarn and supplies before unraveling any more sweaters. And finish unraveling all my sweaters before starting any new Kindle cases. And finish listing all the yarn from those sweaters before working on any new projects.
  • Bake more bread. Homemade bread is yummy!

And that's it--while I have a million and one different projects to work on, as long as I stick to this basic framework, I should be able to manage them, and start turning them into genuine income streams.

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