I’ve been working for myself for more than ten years. I’ve tried every productivity technique under the sun. I’m constantly working on my personal growth.
But I haven’t yet found a way to know if I am doing enough.
When you are an employee, at least there is an external decision-maker. Someone sets the deadlines, approves the deliverables, determines working hours.
The larger the independence, the greater the responsibility. It also happens to employees.
And when it comes to personal growth, you should never expect someone else to set the requirements. If you want to improve, every day ends with a fat question mark. Have I done enough for my growth?
You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.
If you are fortunate to live in a first-world country, you have endless opportunities. You only have to choose your way.
In my life, I practiced photography, guitar, singing, computer programming, writing, speaking, creating videos, teaching in-person, teaching online, coaching, improv theater, many sports, cooking…
I like learning and doing all those things. Each one could become the focus of my life. Each one could make me money.
But to excel I have to choose one, maybe two. I must forget about the others. At least for some time.
So, the first step is to accept my finitude. Only then will my “enough” have a chance to become reasonable.
Goals don’t work
A long-term vision can act as a powerful motivation. Short-term goals (monthly, at most) help you manage your time.
But longer-term goals are dangerous. We are bad at predicting the future. And there are too many factors outside our control.
So we can’t rely on goals to decide if we have done enough.
Comparison is unfair (and inevitably wrong)
Success stories, best practices, industry averages: they sound like good benchmarks, right?
They are even more dangerous than goals.
Comparisons can only be incomplete. You’ll never know every detail of the story. Often, you know only the highlight reel. Struggles, failures, uncertainty are glossed over.
Is there a solution?
I won’t ever get rid of this nagging feeling. But I’ve found a way to limit the damage.
First, I study my reactions, thoughts, feelings. I learn to know myself.
I know I’m ambitious. My “enough” is high. So I reframe my evaluations accordingly.
Then, I manage my time and energy this way:
- I have a long term vision (being able to work only on things I love while earning enough to do what my family and I want)
- I set short term goals, often incremental, not absolute (e.g., keep growing my Youtube channel month over month)
- I devise systems that get me closer to the goals (e.g., publishing a weekly video optimized for my target audience).
Finally, I review my actions and their results weekly. Then I adjust the systems accordingly.
This way, I can fix my mistakes and adapt to an ever-changing world.
Do you also always have this annoying question in the back of your mind? How do you deal with it?