Find something small to improve each day.

Most of my posts are long, so to add some variety, I’ll keep this one short and go straight to the punchline: Find something about your business to improve each day.

My friend Jordan Halvorsen and I were sitting at a coffeeshop in Nashville, having one of the marathon conversations that make me cherish our friendship.

He walked me through an exercise. “What would you improve about this space?” he asked. I looked around and noted a few things. He added several of his own: straightening up some books, cleaning several surfaces, arranging products on a shelf to be more symmetrical.

The exercise is helpful because it reveals that, if we take time to notice, we can find things to improve. Optimizing our freelance writing businesses seems more difficult than sprucing up a coffeeshop—that is, until we slow down and take a step back.

improve each day

Photo Credit: Matt Sherlock via Flickr

You have probably heard of Jim Collins’s now iconic book Good to Great. In it, he introduces the “flywheel effect.” Many, many nudges over time—think, incremental improvements—transform a decent company into an uber-profitable and long-lasting enterprise.

Ways to Improve Each Day

Your business has a flywheel too, and you won’t have to look hard to find loose ends that need tying and neglected corners that could use a mop. Each task is a nudge, and each nudge adds to your momentum. Enough momentum, and the cumulative “weight” of your freelancing business will propel you toward your desired lifestyle.

I’ll share some of my recent nudges:

  • Updating my Twitter bio (and adding hashtags)
  • Updating my LinkedIn bio (and adding searchable keywords)
  • Writing a new nurture email sequence
  • Creating a new lead magnet to encourage email opt-ins
  • Paying for an SEO audit
  • Strengthening on-site SEO factors, including page titles, meta descriptions, and alt tags for images
  • Doing new keyword research
  • Creating a “template” that new blog posts will follow
  • Identifying more topical posts to write to capture organic traffic
  • Writing new social content
  • Experimenting with new marketing tactics
  • Learning new tricks of the trade related to content marketing
  • Publishing new blog posts
  • Cleaning up my desktop
  • Unsubscribing from irrelevant email lists
  • Setting up email filters in order to cut down on distractions
  • Making training videos for my team

None of these nudges took much time—five minutes here, fifteen minutes there. And no single nudge led to breakthrough. The habit is the important thing. Create a list of improvements. Add one to each day’s to-do list. Nudge your fly wheel. Build momentum.

Your efforts may produce some unforeseen benefits. Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience in January 2011. Here is the abstract of “Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex”:

“Multiple stimuli present in the visual field at the same time compete for neural representation by mutually suppressing their evoked activity throughout visual cortex, providing a neural correlate for the limited processing capacity of the visual system.”

In layman’s terms that means clutter negatively affects your focus. Before you can get more done, you must declutter your work environment: your desk, your desktop, your inbox, and your project management platform.

Decluttering improves focus. Albert Einstein had this to say on the subject: “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

Regardless, find something small to improve each day, and eventually you’ll look up and realize that you have most everything you want. If you get one percent better each day, you will be 100% better in just over three months. Just don’t be surprised when your nudges involve reducing unnecessary complexity. You will start to gravitate toward simplicity.

After all, as Leonardo da Vinci observed, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Do you want to build a profitable business you love?

Duh. Pony up that email address, and you can learn from my failures. You can laugh at my mistakes. You can envy my success at croquet, slow running, and modest bank accounts. Let’s make good money and leave the world better than we found it.

No-nonsense business advice for content writers and freelancers. Served warm with a side of dad jokes.

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