02 January 2010

Freelance goals

I don't really bother making new year resolutions - I rarely manage to stick to them (like going to the gym more often - that usually fades away after a few weeks). It's much easier to have goals, especially on the work front. And for a freelance, goals are important. Not vague ones like finding more/bigger/faster-paying clients but specific measurable goals.

I'm not about to lapse into management jargon at this point, with mutterings of SMARTs and SWOTs, but I'm aware I need to make some manageable changes. The upside of freelancing is the flexibility and control you have over your working practices (no boss, no commute, hours to suit...). The downside is that freelancing can turn you into a slob of a hermit with a severe internet addiction if you're not careful.

I'm not planning any work goals yet as the future looks too unpredictable right now. I'm about to become a staffer for 3 months. After that, I may or may not return to freelancing depending on how the staff position works out. And I'm also planning to start up a new journalism venture with a colleague - how hands-on I'll be with that will also depend on the staff position.

So, bearing in mind that I'm in no position to plan anything much concrete workwise from 1 April onwards, this year's goals are more personal.

Get dressed every day
Like a lot of freelances, my daily commute involves a trip from my bed (in my dressing gown) to my desk via the kitchen kettle and I'm frequently appalled at my inability to get dressed until late afternoon (sometimes not at all, if I'm not going out in the evening). Going out to work for someone else should knock that bad habit into touch. From Monday, my alarm will be going off at 6am daily, I'll be hopping straight into the shower, and be dressed and made up with time for an hour's home work before I need to catch my bus.

Do the ironing
Getting dressed, particularly for someone else's workplace, means I'll no longer be able to ignore the basket of ironing in my spare room. Some of it has been sitting there for 6 months. But no more - I need crease-free shirts now. Much as I hate ironing, an hour a week should keep it all under control. Let's hope I can keep it up from April.

Get more exercise
The other downside to freelancing is it makes you lazy. Well, it makes me lazy. I love the gym routine but I don't have one in my neighbourhood. And while I have the noble intention to get outside every day for fresh air and a walk, in practice if it's raining or I'm busy with a deadline it doesn't happen. On weekdays, I may only go out if I run out of ground coffee, need to go to the post office or have a meeting in town. My new commute involves a decent walk to the bus stop and back and hopefully I'll be wearing out the carpets at least a little at my new workplace. I might even shift some of my extra kilos without too much extra effort.

Lose the kilos
See above. I have a specific goal here for the number I want to lose. My eating habits are currently rather erratic. I fuel up on coffee and frequently forget to eat breakfast and/or lunch when I'm really busy. The result is that when my blood sugar plunges I just grab whatever's to hand to refuel. Going out to work should restore good habits - I hate leaving home without breakfast inside me and I'll now get a proper lunch break too. Regular meals (including cooking properly) plus the exercise should help me drop the 2 sizes I plan to.

Get off teh interwebz
I've always been a bit of a net nut, ever since I got my first email account in 1990, but working from home makes it far too easy to spend hours on it every day. My RSS feed has doubled in size in the last 18 months, I find it hard to stay away from Twitter and the Facebook habit I managed to scale back a year or so ago returned with a vengeance in late November. Acquiring an iPhone last spring compounded the problem of being permanently connected - it's rarely more than a metre away from me so I keep checking Twitter, Facebook and my mail. I worked away from home for a week in November and, although I still had my iPhone on the go, I didn't mind ignoring the Twitter stream and was happy to delete large chunks of my RSS feed unread. So I know I can manage without it. This year I plan to read more books in the evenings I'm home, instead of surfing. I'm aiming for a book a week (currently it's about 1 a month).

Take time off
The last time I had a holiday was in April 2008. It was a pleasant week away but left a bad taste in my mouth - not long after my return I broke up with my formerly beloved P. A year ago, I hit burn-out. Despite my best intentions, I didn't take a break. Partly I was too disorganised and partly I was too nervous to turn work down during the recession. What I should have done during a dead spell is take a late-booking flight somewhere and just gone. Lesson learned. I'm in the middle of booking a Mediterranean break for April this very afternoon. And I'll take another in late September. And no, I'm not going to take my netbook with me. I'm sure I can find a net caff just to track my work emails while away. The rest can be ignored.

Get out more
I do actually get out quite a bit in the evenings - 2-3 times a week on average. The problem is that whether socialising or networking I'm usually in the pub. So this year, I'm aiming to go to the cinema more often and also the theatre. I'm starting small with the stage, with the intention of catching a modest 6 performances of whatever. I joined a film club some months ago but went woefully few times. The plan for 2010 is to go at least once a fortnight to the cinema.

And that's it. I'll be tracking these goals over the next 12 months with a full report-back at year-end.

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