How to Do Less and Achieve More in 2024Dec 19, 2023
Like most writers, you probably have mixed emotions as we near the end of 2024. My guess is that you’ve had some great wins this year, but you’ve also had some challenges.
One thing we all have in common, no matter what our specific business, is that we want the next year to be better than this one.
As I’ve examined the past year in my business and talked to lots of writers about their experiences, I’ve concluded that most of us wrestle against one main obstacle:
You're trying to do too much.
This goes against much of the advice we hear about running a writing business today. The conventional wisdom says you must do “all the things.” You have to host a podcast, run a mastermind, write a lot of books, do client work, do public speaking, offer online courses, and obsess over a hundred other ways to generate income.
Those are all fantastic additions to your business. I do many of them myself!
However, trying to tackle too many things in your business at once is a mistake. If you try to do everything, you’ll water down your success. You’ll be tired and frustrated all the time.
Worst of all, your customers, clients, and readers will be confused about what you do.
If you want to grow exponentially in 2023, stop trying to do everything. Instead, focus on what truly matters in your business.
The answer is not trying to do more. It’s focusing on doing less but with greater focus. Let’s look at four ways to do that.
1. Determine the #1 thing you want to grow next year.
While the ultimate goal of your business should be creating multiple income streams, you won’t start out that way. If you’re in the beginning years of your business, choose one main thing to focus on right now.
That’s tough advice because we want to do everything. But it’s not realistic. What is the one thing that would make everything else easier if you grew it next year?
For me, it is the Profitable Writer Community membership. I’m pretty well-established in my ghostwriting career at this point. It’s my main source of income. But as my membership income grows over time, I can be more selective about which ghostwriting projects I accept.
It may be something different for you. Perhaps it’s freelance writing, graphic design, book sales, or something else.
Whatever it is, choose the single thing you want to grow, then focus on it with laser intensity.
2. Be brutally honest about where you are most likely to win.
While it’s good to choose an area of focus, you also need to be realistic with yourself. Is this an area where you can have a big win?
Let me give you an example.
I’m an average public speaker. I’m a much stronger teacher and facilitator. I don’t really enjoy traveling. My worst nightmare would be someone forcing me into a public speaking career where I’m on the road much of the time.
I know myself well enough to understand that I’m never going to build a career around public speaking. I’m not great at it, and I don’t receive a lot of pleasure from it.
However, I do get a lot of pleasure from leading a membership group, running a podcast, and writing books for clients! Those are areas where I can have big wins.
It’s essential to know your personality, strengths, and the opportunities before you. That way, you can make the best decisions about where to put your time and energy.
Focus on things that excite you and will produce the results you want.
3. Maintain, eliminate, or defer everything else.
The first two suggestions are pretty easy. This is where it gets difficult because you’re going to make decisions about things you’re already doing (or want to do).
Take a look at everything else in your business. You’re going to do one of three things with each of them:
First, you can maintain. There’s nothing wrong with maintaining something that’s working. Everything doesn’t need to be in constant “growth mode.” If something is healthy but doesn’t need to be your main focus, maintain it.
Second, you can eliminate. If something isn’t generating significant income and it’s not the main thing you want to focus on, stop doing it.
For example, I have decided I won’t offer retreats or a mastermind in 2024. Both were significant time investments but not significant income generators. I enjoy both of those formats for serving writers. But next year I want to put a laser focus on growing my membership.
I also decided to terminate my office lease early so I could return to a home office. After a year in a rented space, it was clear that it wasn’t helping my productivity. So, I’m eliminating that expense. (And paying a decent penalty for getting out of the lease early! But it’s worth it.)
Third, you can defer. If you have projects or goals that are interesting but not essential to your main goal next year, defer them to 2025.
4. Have the courage to say “no.”
This is where the rubber meets the road. You can do all the planning in the world, but real progress in your business happens in the choices you make every day.
As a writer, you’re a naturally curious person. If you’re like me, you get distracted about once a week by a cool new business idea or another book you might want to write someday.
But if it doesn’t fit the main thing you want to grow next year, you must say “no.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t explore your creativity. I hope you make some time each day to do that.
As far as your main income-generating goal for next year, though, you must have the courage to say no to things that don’t help you achieve that goal.
I mentioned some things above that I’m not doing in 2024. Here are a few more, to give you some examples:
- I’m not starting a Substack.
- I’m not trying to book speaking gigs.
- I’m not starting a nonprofit.
- I’m not hosting a second (or third) podcast.
- I’m not writing fiction.
- I’m not attending more than one big conference.
- I’m not writing for large publications.
You might be interested in some of these things. If it helps you reach your main goal, go for it! But be sure to make a list of the things you're not going to do next year.
An old Chinese proverb says, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.” I’d hate for you to get to the end of 2024 feeling like success had escaped you. If you want to avoid that, follow these four guidelines to help you get clear on what you need to focus on during the next year.