Golden Goals series: Cyan Ta’eed of FreelanceSwitch on taking on more than you can handle

This is one in a series of interviews of notable bloggers in the Zen Habits Golden Goals series.

Eden Creative Communities co-founder Cyan Ta’eed is a woman of many talents. After working as a freelancer and running her own design agency, Cyan went on to help start a Flash community and more recently to grow the record breaking FreelanceSwitch blog where she dispenses advice, tips and help to other freelancers across the globe.

1) What would you consider your greatest achievement in the last few years? Feel free to add other achievements or goals if you’d like.

As it has only been relatively recently that I started really taking on reaching my goals, it has made the last few years a very exciting time with many achievements.

There have been so many things that I’m delighted about — I married an amazing man, I became a vegan, I started exploring my spiritual side, I made a connection with some truly wonderful people who also happened to be my clients, I worked with charities, and I feel as though I opened myself up a bit more in general!

The biggest professional achievement for me has been in starting Eden Creative Communities. With Eden we have been building two online communities — FlashDen and FreelanceSwitch.

It has always been our intention that we create online resources with a strong community element (hence the name of the company). It’s practical in a sense — for example if you have a forum on your site you get an amazing insight into your users. But it also makes a website so much stronger and connects people from totally different backgrounds. I don’t quite know how it happened but we have had the most amazing people seemingly drop in our lap. The result is that our communities are full of individuals who are warm, supportive and community minded.

To use FreelanceSwitch as an example, I have been barraged with emails from people suggesting resources for the community. Not for them. For the community. FlashDen on the other hand simply has the nicest forums I’ve ever been involved with. The guys on there are just wonderful people, plain and simple. This community helps one another and they collaborate in the most positive ways. I don’t quite know how we managed it, but being partly responsible for such a positive thing is absolutely fantastic. And being able to make a living doing it is even better.

I am also very fortunate to be in a position where I can do something I love every day, and do it with some fantastic people. I currently work with my husband Collis, brother-in law, and close friends. I get to keep the people I love around me all day long, and it is a very supportive environment to work in. We’ve had to take some big risks to make that happen but it looks like we pulled it off!

2) What was the key to achieving that success for you? Was there one thing, or were there a number of factors?

There wasn’t any one thing. There was a great deal of good luck and a lot of hard work. Something that made a huge difference to me was doing the Landmark Curriculum. It’s tough going and I can’t speak for other people’s experiences with it, but I found it to be a powerful experience. It helped me realize to the core of me that I could achieve anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. Not just intellectually know it but really know it. To truly understand that you are entirely responsible for your life and that there is no one else to blame is a very exciting thing once you get your head around it!

3) What are the essential habits that you’ve formed to help you achieve your goals?

I walk to and from work every day with Collis (it’s a short walk but at least it’s something). As we work together we can discuss what we’re up to and brainstorm new directions on the way.

I take a day off every week to think and get my energy back.

I write a new to-do list every morning, and mark the items in order of importance and urgency.

I read and read and read about the subjects I’m interested in. Some women buy clothes or shoes — I buy books.

I’m also working on meditating and visualizing regularly.

4) How often do you think about your goals, review them, and take action on them?

That is largely to do with how I happen to be feeling at the time! If I’m feeling fantastic and focussed then it might be every couple of weeks. If I’m feeling fuzzy, unmotivated and a bit low I know I need to take some time out and refocus my energies. I am lucky to be married to the most enthusiastic man in the world, who is only too happy to sit in a coffee shop with me discussing the future. I think everyone needs someone who takes all their crazy ideas seriously!

5) Describe how you overcome failure, how you pick yourself back up if you are struggling, and how you motivate yourself if your enthusiasm is lagging.

For me that goes back reminding myself that I believe that I alone am responsible for everything that is going on with me. I have the power to change anything I want if I’m willing to work hard enough for it. So it really is a matter of whether I am willing to do what needs to be done when problems arise! Knowing that means that I have no excuse to be a victim.

I’ve also realized my moods are very closely linked to how I’m eating. If I eat well (ie. Lots of raw fruit and vegetables and no wheat), I feel well. If I eat badly (white bread with soy cheese and faux-chicken) I feel bad. It scares me to realize just how closely my moods reflect the food I eat! So I find that if I eat well it is far easier to be in a positive frame of mind.

I also know that sometimes a day off will do me a world of good. Because we work for ourselves taking days off is both easy and hard. There’s no-one to answer to when you suddenly have the urge, but there’s also no-one to be responsible for the work except yourself.

6) Could you describe your productivity system and any productivity tips you have for people?

My productivity tip is perhaps not the most practical but it works for me!

Here it is: Take on more than you can possibly handle. I readily accept that this is many people’s idea of hell and that most people spend their time trying to get rid of projects. I just can’t help but get excited when I hear about a great project, no matter how impractical it might be for me at that time. If I’m excited about it I’ll somehow find time for it. But the fantastic side benefit is that I’m quite productive out of necessity and never bored!

Others in the Golden Goals series: