Organizing your life and achieving your goals means taking advantages of all the opportunities that life throws at you. Sometimes, though, life doesn’t want to just hand you things–you have to find them yourself. Or, in some cases, you have to position yourself to be in the best place to catch opportunities. And never let them go.
The examples used in this blog post will be mostly writing-based, but the strategies can apply to all kinds of goals.
1. Find your people.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s in real life or online, but find them. Join a Facebook group. Find a Meetup.com gathering. Cruise hashtags and participate. Follow blogs. Take a class. Join a club. Whatever it takes, find your people. When people love a thing, they want to share the thing–and that’s how you will find new things.
For example, I’m in the Facebook group 10 Minute Novelists. Tons of people are always sharing new resources, competitions, and more–not because they get anything out of it, but because they love it.
2. Find your calls to action.
Somewhere out there on the Internet, there’s a website that collects opportunities for whatever you want. For writers, there’s NewPages, DuoTrope, and The Grinder, among others. For gym rats, there are 30dayfitnesschallenges.com and Pinterest boards. For students, there are tons of scholarship websites or your school website listing organizations and events. All it takes to find a database like that is a little googling. Then when you have time, go back and sift through for new things you can try.
Everyone hates this word. I hate it too. But I don’t mean that you have to talk to strangers (although that might help)–I mean social networks. Facebook groups, Twitter and Instagram hashtags, Pinterest boards, WordPress blogs–all of these are overstuffed with opportunities and ideas. For example, I found out about the #AtoZChallenge through someone I follow on Twitter. Pinterest supplies me with tons of writing prompts and articles on craft and blogging. Browsing hashtags on Tumblr led me to find the planner community and things like bullet journals, the Passion Planner, mildliners, and washi tape–stuff I now use to plan out my life daily. Remember: an idea is just as much an opportunity as a paying gig. It’s an opportunity to learn–and possibly to change what you are doing to achieve your goal.
4. Sign up for the newsletters and trade publications.
As a writer, I’m signed up for the NewPages and Submittable newsletters, as well as publications on craft such as The Writer and Writer’s Digest, and I follow Tumblr blogs that catalog calls for submissions. As an obsessive organizer, I’m signed up for the Leuchtturm1917, Moleskine, and Passion Planner newsletters. As a student, I’m signed up for scholarship newsletters and I receive registrar emails about upcoming campus events. Many of the databases that exist to catalog opportunities send out period information about new opportunities, which is half of the work already.
5. Semi-frequently google stuff.
When the word “find” is involved, so is Google. Periodically mess around on Google and other databases related to your goal with different keywords. You might be surprised at what you find.
6. Pay attention to your locale. Reach out.
Look around you when you go out. Is the local gym running a special? Is the tutoring center on campus looking for tutors? Is there an event going on downtown relevant to your interests/goals that you could help put on or present at?
Keep an eye on the things happening in the physical world around you. When you see a deficit that you can fill, fill it. Even if there’s not a deficit, if you think you could improve something, offer to.
Last April, I interned with Georgia McBride Media Group. I saw that their publishing company, Month9Books, was accepting submissions for an anthology in March, and when I looked into the company, I found out that they are based relatively near my hometown. GMMG wasn’t advertising for an intern, but I figured I would offer myself anyway–and surprisingly, GMMG took me on. It wasn’t a paid internship, but I definitely learned a lot from it, and it’s an awesome resume builder. Sometimes, you make your own opportunities.
7. Volunteer, if you can.
You are developing your skills for a reason: use them for good. Teach your couch potato friend how to develop a workout plan. Lead a study session for a class. Offer to proofread or beta read friends’ creative work. Help mock up an itinerary for an event in your community or school. Don’t wait for someone to ask; offer.
When you use your skills to help others, people notice. They recommend you to their friends or they tell coworkers how helpful you’ve been. You get a good reputation in addition to experience. And when someone sees an opportunity relevant to your talents, they think of you and even pass it on. Several times people have asked me or referred friends to me when they need a piece of writing (usually an essay) proofread. None of it is paid work, but I’m building up a portfolio of work and of favors to call in.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. I’ll be back tomorrow with the letter G.