What’s one of the biggest secrets to maintaining focus?
Setting, aiming for and taking action on a number.
Number? What do I mean by numbers? Phone numbers? No sir. The numbers I’m referring to are target numbers: those you aim to hit for each month or year in order to stay committed and focused on a particular task or action.
Having worked for myself for the past six years, I can safely say that I’ve never once designated a target number for myself for any month, until recently. This is something I regret. I most certainly wish I had started sooner.
I can also guarantee, that if you do set clear numbers to reach each month, your focus and productivity will improve significantly.
We all have numbers we could be setting and reaching.
Here are four numbers (monthly) that I believe everyone who works for themselves, creative or not, should have written down, and be committing to:
What do you need to earn each month to cover all your bills, savings, taxes, and other expenses, business and personal? In business, this is called breaking even. For you, we’re talking about covering all costs to you each month.
This amount is your minimum income per month (MIPM) number.
Any money coming in each month that goes above that, is profit, and can go towards fun, time off, expanding your business, and investing. But no matter who you are, you absolutely must hit your MIPM number each and every month with no excuses, unless you are ok with cutting into your savings or going into debt.
Work out your MIPM number. You’ll need to find and list out every single one of your expenses.
If it takes a while, it’s worth it. Do it today, and have that number clearly in front of you. Then set about reaching that number in incoming earnings every month through whatever means possible. Don’t go partying or shopping for jeans if it looks like hitting that number for the month is at risk.
It’s an important number to reach each month, otherwise you will flounder.
Your Optimal Number
This is a certain number of target clients that you communicate with over a certain time period in a particular medium. Your target clients are those you have worked with or want to work with.
This is the number that if you were to go below it, you may not receive enough work coming in each month, for example.
This obviously applies more to freelancers, business owners, and the self employed. If you fall into one of these, you would do well to set a monthly optimal number.
You can set the number based on your results in the past. If you feel you need to reach out to ten people each month to maintain the amount of paid work you want or need, then that’s your optimal number. You can go above it, but if you fall below it, you might find your opportunities drying up.
Emergency Fund Number
Earlier I talked about your minimum income number, and how you need to be making sure enough is coming in to cover your expenses. In my view, this should include a savings account, though you can choose to put a portion of your profit into savings too.
Putting away money into your savings is an excellent thing to do, but you can go a step further, and set up an emergency fund or account.
Your emergency fund covers just that: emergencies. Any time you need money to cover something unexpected, whether you break your arm, or your mad cousin needs you to lend them money desperately, you’d dip into this fund.
It’s also extremely handy as a buffer for those of us who are self-employed or run our own businesses. You never know what financial issues come up that you need to deal with.
Rather than adding a certain amount to your emergency fund each month, which you can, focus on maintaining the amount of money that stays in that fund each month.
So if your emergency fund is $2,500, keep it at $2,500. If you take $300 from the fund one month, make sure you top it up by the same amount as soon as you can to get it back to $2,500.
The number you maintain within your emergency fund is your emergency fund number. Decide on a number that is affordable and feasible, but large enough to cover the widest range of emergency possibilities.
Number of ‘Key’ People to Contact
One of the best things you can do is build and nurture your network of people.
Something that can be hard to do is get motivated to go out and make new connections, particularly with people who are of high value to you and the world. These people are influencers, mentors, collaborators, supporters, experts, and so on. These are your ‘key people’.
I don’t need to go into detail explaining how having more of these kinds of people in your life and network will benefit you, but so many opportunities can open up for you in different ways when you do. This includes paid work and new clients, as well as people who can help you succeed.
So begin adding these people to your network (recorded in a spreadsheet, for example) by setting a number of individuals you will contact, each month. How about reaching out to eight key people each month, or more?
This doesn’t need to be about selling or promoting. It’s about bringing value to people as part of your connecting with them.
Perhaps this means making it an aim to meet one new person a week for coffee, and emailing four other influencers and potential mentors, to maintain those numbers. It’s up to you.
Even if you don’t manage to get through to certain people, having the number in place and taking action on hitting that number, via various communication means, will likely bring more valuable people into your network than had you done nothing.
So that’s four numbers I suggest getting very comfortable with. When you do, you might even see your life and business picking up pace dramatically.
Until next time, Red Lemon.
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"Your blog inspires me so much, and helps me feel somehow not as insignificant, despite the plethora of artists around the world."Natalie, artist