How to Deal With an Unending Shift in Priorities (#27)

Posted by in Prose on Fire

Do you ever feel like even when you’ve figured out what you’re doing next, life decides to throw a wrench in your plans?

At the beginning of the year, I had this incredible plan to build my business in 2015. It felt so right and I was so confident in it. I lined up my collaborators, my editors, and more, so sure I could bring my vision to fruition.

Then, I got engaged on December 31st at about 11:30pm, and my entire plan went out the window. (I was incredibly happy, but also a bit panicked about a new part-time job of planning a wedding in an already aggressive schedule.)

I scrambled a bit, trying to salvage my plan, thinking that I could definitely do at least some of what I wanted still. I could plan a wedding AND build my business.

Recently, my fiance told me about his vision to buy a large chunk of property in the country and move out of the city—and the window completely shut on my plans again.

His vision is gorgeous, long-overdue, and the right one for both of us—and I fully, 100% support him. But to do so, I have to change my strategy again. Because dreams take money. “Could you start making some more, please?” he asked. “Soon, preferably?” He was right, of course—I probably should have always been prioritizing making more money. I tend to look a bit more long-term than that.

There are a lot of problems that come with ever-shifting priorities:

1. You spend a lot of time re-prioritizing –

As an author, I always have a million projects and each has both long-term and short-term value in varying quantities and currencies. Every time my goal shifts, my projects have to shift too. That means I spent two weeks doing something that isn’t going to pay off until a year from now.

2. You have to say “no” to things you’ve already said “yes” to –

It’s easy enough to shift my own priorities, though it can be frustrating in the short term. But it’s much harder to tell someone that you don’t have time for them or their project until further notice. In a world where most people don’t follow through, energy and enthusiasm for collaborations dies quickly. A “no for now” often sounds like a, “not happening ever.”

3. Fear takes over –

I’ve had a harder time in the last few weeks focusing on what truly needs to happen in the next several months. I don’t know if I can make things happen fast enough, and I don’t know if I’m working on the right stuff. I can’t predict what resources I’ll need in the future and whether plans are going to change again. I’m worried about the opportunities I’m going to miss because the boat is leaving with or without me onboard. Am I making the right decisions? Will I regret this?

Right now, I’m truly in one of the happiest periods of my personal life, but in order to enjoy it I have to find a way to fit my business around all the changes happening. Here’s a bit of what I’m doing to help myself deal with the transition:

1. Do something every day –

Amy pointed out to me recently that it doesn’t matter what I work on first, it matters that something gets done every day. I was obsessing over what to do next when really, it’s like looking at a messy kitchen. You start with a dish and keep going from there.

2. Choose a goal that will help you most –

Have you listened to Serial Season One, a podcast series about a murder case from fifteen years ago? Adnan Syed, the man convicted in the case, has an advocate named Rabia Chaudry who has gone on a publicity tour to talk about the case in the aftermath. One of her interviewers asked her, “Do you feel bad about stirring all this awfulness up again—for the victim’s family, for the key witnesses, for the prosecution?” She replied that she didn’t, because her priority had to be her family friend and the man convicted, whom she wholeheartedly believes is innocent. She can’t be an advocate for everyone!

I found it so interesting that she didn’t struggle with the ethical dilemmas of the case because she knew what side she was on. For me, I know what side I’m on too. My fiance and his priorities are the most important to me of everyone involved. I can’t be worried how my parents and friends feel about me moving away, how my business partners feel about me putting a pause on projects, or even how I feel about holding off on passion projects to work on the projects that will earn more money in the short term. Right now, the goal has to be money + meaning, and I have to prioritize projects that I love AND that will earn money.

3. Leave as many doors open as possible –

Every time my priorities shift, I feel like I need to inform everyone that no, this isn’t going to go as I planned or originally said. But often, that’s not the case. I don’t need to quit things or burn bridges or stop living my life as it is. Although I hate living with uncertainty (as most people do), I know that it’s better to keep my options open in times of big change. As of now, not much is official, and the best thing I can do is keep my head down and keep working until I know something for sure. Hopefully as more and more decisions are made, I’ll have more information to make a smart decision about what I should be working on next!

It’s not easy to build a business when life continues to throw curve balls at you… but I am trying to enjoy the transition rather than fight against it. It helps to remember that I’m building my business in order to enjoy my family and friends and life, and not the other way around.

What do you do when plans change?

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