Don't Just Prepare For Crisis, Prepare For Opportunity
Preparation matters not only in times of crisis but also in moments of opportunity. When we position ourselves to succeed, we'll have more leverage to maximize the opportunities when circumstances align perfectly. This happened to me this past August when I logged the third highest amount of hours since I began freelancing full-time in 2014.
Normally, I'll cap my hours in a given month at 130 and give myself a few weekdays off of work. Instead of this hard cap, I chose to take the extra time and work more hours in the month of August. As a result, I logged 148 hours, 18 beyond my top tier monthly goal.
My primary goal in doing this was to get ahead of the curve. In surfing, the objective is to get ahead of the wave so the surfer can ride the wave (instead of being crushed by it). Getting to this point is difficult, especially as the waves are larger. It requires training, practice, and perseverance. But once the surfer gets there, the ride is a wonderful experience (or so I hear). In the same vein, my goal right now is to get ahead on my freelancing income (by logging extra hours).
In contrast, I felt I was getting beat up by the metaphorical waves earlier this year. In January I hit my goal, but in February I was fifteen hours short. As a response, I worked extra hours in March to make up the difference. In April I was short fourteen hours so I made them up in May. You can see the small pattern taking shape. I was making up shortages, and I no longer want to do this. Now it was time to expect those shortages and get ahead of the game by making proactive leaps forward. Since I was able to log my target number of hours in June and July, I leaned into the opportunity in August to get ahead.
Getting Ahead Of The Wave
A current goal is to turn the dynamic around where I'm logging extra hours ahead of time so I don't have to log them after the fact. I've reset my baseline as a way to minimize my risk and alleviate my stress. It's one thing to work extra hours, it's a whole different weight to feel forced to do so. Buying a house in April and a van in July added a few extra layers of a financial obligation on top of our student loans. The pressure is on, but I see it as a valuable experience in discipline as I'm continually getting more focused and less distracted. The downside is less margin for error, and this a big reason why I'm driving towards getting as far ahead as possible. Once we've paid off our van in a year, we'll be able to channel those same payments towards our student loans and finish them off. Lord willing, we could pay off all of our debts within the next twenty-four months.
Working It Out
Another element of getting ahead on my hours is working off the hours that have already been paid. When I invoice my clients, payment is due within ten days. Sometimes clients will pay early and other times if they've committed to a larger amount of time for the month, I'll get payment before I've finished logging the hours. While this is great for cash flow, it means I've got to work that time off before I can work new paying projects. In a sense, I end up owing my clients this time. As a result, unless I'm directed to throttle my time, I'll work through it as efficiently as possible. By working the extra hours in August, I was not only able to get ahead financially, but I was also able to start September with fewer rollover hours. This positions me better for the future both financially and margin-wise.
What About You?
If you feel like you're always having to play catch-up as the waves crash in on you, it's a good time to reflect on what you can do to get ahead of the curve. By tracking what we're doing, setting a clear goal, and pro-actively working towards that goal, when the opportunity arises, is critical to making this happen. Prepare yourself for the opportunity, and when you see it, go after it hard.