• Advice

A simple check-in strategy to transform your "problems" into solutions

“I don’t have problems, I just have solutions.” But as a freelancer, I often hit the day looking at the swath of events in terms of problem-problem-problem. That networking call? A problem. Worrying about balancing time between self-care, appointments, friendships, coffee shops –

Personally, I do marketing and branding for small businesses, pen product reviews and white pages for specialty food brands, review theatre, and create curricula for schools and families dealing with both food-allergy awareness and strategies and liberal arts education. If that isn’t a wide enough array of “problems”, I also do nutrition consulting, and meal plans, for kids with celiac disease, diabetes, and food allergies.

Occasionally, I take on a graphic design gig. I like to plug in some creative writing and poetry to small markets in between.
I have a lot of problems. I worry.

I worry I don’t get enough done. I worry I’ve missed something. I worry that I have too many balls in the air. I’m only one person. I have too many problems.

Or – do I have solutions?

It struck me like a sack of bricks a few mornings ago as I lay in bed, just waking, that every event and challenge and gig in my life was a circumstance. My response to that circumstance was not my problem -- my response and choice to take it on was my solution.

I was flooded with a curious lightness. Relief.

But you’re probably saying what? Solution? Are you off your nut?
Nope. I was not, and am not, buried in problems. I had, and am making, choices every day – and choices are free! (Even if freelancing isn’t.)

This last week or so, I’ve recovered a double portion of serenity (and productivity) on a simple check in each hour. I call it a Serene Scheme. If you find yourself feeling buried in problems, these 3 check ins throughout the day – the reframing the circumstances in your work-life flow through the lens of solution, not problem -- might get you out of a rut. If it was as deep as mine, that could be a life-saver.

Did I choose this gig?

If yes: Good. If no: Why am I doing it? Is it paying? Is it a favor for someone? If no: Why am I doing it?

This week, I had two “gigs” cross my radar, and both came under the second if. They also both came under the third if.

So I kicked them off the curb. I felt guilty for 20 seconds.

FOMO, or, Am I avoiding something else?

If yes: What is it? Can I address it directly?

Sometimes, I take on too much, or take on things I don’t value simply to be busy. Our culture makes work and busyness the acceptable addiction, and being needed or being run ragged are both situations of freelancing, young professional-style virtue.

…Except, they aren’t virtuous. They aren’t healthy. Neither busyness nor being needed are, in themselves, goods.

So am I working, worrying, or accepting a time-drain or time-commitment simply to be busy?

I have many times, often out of FOMO – fear of missing out: IF I DO NOT DO EVERYTHING THAT CROSSES MY PLATE… "I’ll never get another chance”; “I won’t be able to pay the bills”; “It’s not okay to say no.”

No. It is okay to say no. And I’m not missing out by letting things go. I am, in fact, missing out on my life when I fill it so full of work, unexamined tasks and time-commitments, that I can’t consciously choose my goals, what gives me creative joy, the relationships I engage in.

What is it I’m avoiding? What am I “solving” by feeling trapped/buried? What do I need?

On this 3rd, I personally found that framing my day in terms of problems was an old habit, and an attitude I had seen modeled. Making the consulting call at 9am into a problem gave me an excuse for bailing, and bailing allowed me to avoid my fear of failure, and my fear of failure was allowing me to avoid the challenge of being successful.

Because being successful is a challenge, and my aptitudes and talents are often more out of my control than my failures.
I know quite well how to bail: Who doesn’t? But being successful and working with a team – that’s vulnerable! I could lose something. So ultimately, my mental obsession with problems comes back to trying to hold onto an elusive sense of control. Trying not-to-lose-out on something I value – but that’s my solution: To fail on my own terms.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in my long term plan. In fact, it guarantees my fears will be reality – and then I will really have problems: no life, no gigs, and no income.

1-2-3 Breaking It Down:

Once I pulled the pattern into my conscious thought, and tweaked my verbiage, seeing my choices as solutions, not as problems, the problem solution wasn’t one I wanted to choose, or needed to choose.

How did I sort out a few real problems though? Try this: If it has a solution, it’s a problem. If it’s already the answer to a question or a circumstance, it’s a solution – even if it’s making you feel miserable.

So in finale, whatever your problems – or, er, solutions – as a freelancer, you have the flexibility to reframe them. These 3 check-in questions have kept me on the energetic wave of proactive relief and freedom this week. Moreover, I’ve made choices more consciously, worked more productively, and let go of gigs that were draining – or truly problems – more easily. Because I was on top, solving – not victimized underneath, dissolving.

I don’t have problems. I just have solutions. But now, I have a lot better solutions.