Three Magic Tricks

Tara McEwen
4 min readAug 11, 2021

I’ve sorted through multiple articles on the “secret” to success as an entrepreneur and freelancer — these are the only three getting me through it

Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash

This year I took an unexpected gap period. Roughly four months to be exact, between losing my job mid-pandemic and the day I decided to jump feet first into entrepreneurship.

When you lose your job unexpectedly, or suffer a trauma of any kind, the responsible thing to do is to keep some semblance of a routine. For me this meant waking up to walk the dog, then spend the morning reading newsletters and articles about work, finance and how to work for yourself.

I became a productivity hobbyist and took note of some articles boasting about the morning habits of CEO’s or the three things billionaires never waste money on. Most of it is click-baity brain candy, but there have been some gems buried deep in the content fields that have come in handy as I balance the many different directions I’m heading in.

Progress Over Perfection

I think I first came upon this when I signed up for Noom, a weight loss app that focuses on retraining your brain in addition to your eating habits. The psychological advice was sound and extremely helpful in the first few months of the pandemic.

What I liked most about the program is the spirit of forgiveness. The idea that you’ll slip up, eat ice cream or forget to log a day’s worth of meals is built into the program. At no point did the program demand perfection. In fact it anticipated that some flaws will occur, but that shouldn’t take you off track.

Now I keep hearing it: in the online community where I’m building my first online class, in the gym where I’m making a slow (and painful) return to my pre-pandemic shape, and from my new colleagues at my freelance writing gig.

For years I would keep my ideas to myself, blogs would go unpublished, photos deleted, all because I noticed some flaw. Or felt it didn’t live up to some standard I set for myself. But once I started owning up to these flawed endeavours, and even publishing them, I realized perfection isn’t the goal. Using my voice and platform to get my ideas out and maybe help someone dealing with a similar struggle is more important than something crafted to gain a bunch of likes or “go viral”.

The progress is where the beauty, connection and ideas lie. I now hope I never reach perfection, because where do I go after that?

The Eisenhower Matrix

Admittedly this isn’t as sexy or catchy as “progress over perfection”, but it’s been life saving.

This approach was vital for me when I first started putting my ideas into action. I had spent 15 years working one job at a time. Now I want to have my hands in a bunch of different things, all generating income in various ways and at various times. But how to prioritize all of your projects at different stages of development? Enter the Matrix.

The Eisenhower Matrix is simply a lovely, methodical way of prioritizing all of the crap demanding your attention. You divide things into categories based on urgency and importance and prioritize accordingly.

At the beginning of my freelance journey I prioritized endeavours based on likelihood of paying and whether or not it was tied to a real person. Job interviews and networking with colleagues in the television industry took priority over blog writing. The job interviews would lead to a steady base income. Blog writing simply feeds my soul.

Now I have a freelance news writing job, which means I have a set time of when to prioritize the paid gigs tied to real people. In my free time, I can now devote to networking with media coaching clients. By segmenting these two endeavours, I’m able to triage the mental labor that goes into both. When I’m paid to care about the news, I care about the news. But when my shift is over, I’m free to focus on client work.

This is the magic of the Eisenhower Matrix. Before I found a system to triage the different projects, I was constantly worrying about all of it all of the time. When I was networking and drafting resumes, I worried I wasn’t putting enough time into the business, and vice versa. Now I’m able to meter our my attention, which leaves plenty of room for creative endeavours that might one day need to be placed on the matrix.

Plans Are Written in Pencil

This last bit isn’t so much a new idea mined from thousands of productivity articles, but it’s one keeping me sane right now. I used to say it a lot working on a daily TV show and now I say it building my post-pandemic life.

The freelance news gig is slowly taking over. It’s the end of August and a lot of people are taking their vacations — which means a lot of shifts need to be filled. I’ve worked pretty hard and pretty consistently all summer, but I’m not going to complain. I have a bathroom renovation that could use the OT.

At some point I’ll be able to tell scheduling to limit me to four shifts a week. Maybe less if word of mouth keeps spreading about my media coaching and I get more clients signed up.

Whatever the next few months have in store, I’ve set up a handful of gigs, projects and ideas to keep me afloat. I can dial up or down the attention I want on any of them.

It’s the opposite feeling I had in my last job where I spent 10+ years working hard to be the best. For years I felt cemented to that position and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.

Now I feel free to pursue any creative path that catches my eye. And if it doesn’t work out, well, that’s what erasers are for.



Tara McEwen

TV producer turned media entrepreneur | Media Coach | Dog Mom