You are working along, making your calls, doing your thing and suddenly you remember something. Something important. That you should have done, but didn’t do. You feel like crap. You are embarrassed. Immediately you sit down and fill out a detailed calendar and numbered to do list so that this NEVER happens again. Then you try to figure out how it happened in the first place.

When I first started freelancing, I kept a calendar, a running list of items that needed to be done, and detailed client lists – even when there were only two clients on the list. After a few months of full time work, I had all those lists and deadlines memorized and was adding clients so slowly it was pretty simple to keep up with new information.

Then last month, I almost missed a deadline. For a favorite client. (Well, okay, they are all my favorites. That’s the beauty of freelancing, right?) Back to the topic at hand: I nearly missed a deadline. For me, even coming close to missing a deadline is simply unacceptable. Usually, I turn things in a day or two early.

I’m not sure that it was complacency or laziness that led to the lack of lists and hawkish concentration on meeting deadlines. More likely, it was just a trough between waves.

Everyone has heard the analogy between business cycles and the swing of a pendulum. I tend to think of the cycles as waves instead. Waves so big that it feels like the world disappears when you’re between them. When you are down in a trough, all you can see are mountains on either side.

All summer, I’ve been in a trough. Writing for the same few clients, with a few one-off assignments here and there, and almost daily writing for a “content mill.” Marketing has been confined to a few email inquiries, a couple of phone calls and praying that a referral will be forthcoming from somewhere.

Of course, I didn’t realize what was going on the whole time. It felt like I was working hard. But it was a half-minded kind of hard work, while the other half of my mind was worrying about the obstacles that needed to be overcome. It was during all of this I quit keeping those lists and nearly missed a deadline.

Now, I’m attending networking events, meeting people, getting new clients, making lists and filling in calendars. I am even looking into the possibility of using sharepoint project management software which would help me keep track of my projects and tasks and further organize my calendars. I feel I am generally kicking my way to the top of that seemingly insurmountable wave. Hopefully, I can surf there for a little while. (That’s the sort of thing that probably led to the trough in the first place!)

Do you follow a pattern of troughs and crests, either in business or other parts of your life? When you are in a valley, do you realize it or is it only when you start climbing you figure it out?

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