If you're like most creative entrepreneurs I know, you've probably developed a habit of multitasking, trying to force way too much into a few hours of work. Your crammed schedule probably means that sometimes you miss out on important or meaningful activities because you're too focused on putting out fires or dealing with the urgent instead of the important.
Been there. Done that.
What I've learned, though, is that poorly-managed schedules contribute to stress and puts you frequently on edge. Like I tell my clients, if it's not scheduled, it's stressful. But packing your calendar too full is just as painful! In fact, overloaded schedules have contributed to an increase in anxiety among the working population. Here are a few ways to delegate tasks and loosen up your tight schedule.
Yeah. you've probably heard this one before. It's not enough to just set goals, you have to make them a priority for your resources. At some point in the year, you'll get busy with several activities that compete for your attention and resources. taking time to regularly prioritize your goals helps them keep from slipping off the radar when urgent items crop up.
Narrow down your annual goals to quarterly and then monthly milestones. When you do this, your build your own blueprint for your daily and weekly activities. When you know what you're aiming for, it becomes easier to break through your plateau and continue toward your dreams.
Monitor a typical day in your work life. Time surveys aren't the most FUN thing in the world, but they can really open your eyes to where the minutes go during your day. Plus, if you survey multiple days (or even a week), you can start to spot trends and patterns in your behavior. I typically crash after lunch and need a mind break. I'm also pretty dang productive between 6 and 9am - but I need that time to get my own head straight BEFORE I start on client-facing work. So I don't typically see clients before 10am during the week. In your time survey, you may identify tasks that are not IPA, and could be delayed, delegated, or deleted.
You might remember your mother reminding you to get your school books, bag, and uniform ready for the next school day. That reminder is still useful today. My husband puts things by the front door so that he'll remember to take them when he leaves for work in the morning. No morning scramble to gather his things, he just wakes up, collects the pile by the door and is on his way.
You can do this with your calendar, too. Take a look at what you've planned for tomorrow and see what you can prep tonight so that you're ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Saying no is sexy and you can do it without being a jerk about it. This one can be tricky if you are a recovering people pleaser. There are plenty of ways to say no with class and authenticity. Imagine a typically busy day that requires your utmost attention and dedication. Just then, a colleague, a friend, or even family, decides to call on you to help out with a task. You know you have to say no due to your tight schedule. Resist the temptation to overbook yourself and create more stress.
Be honest. If you don't want to do it, tell them you have other plans and can't help this time. Even if those plans include sitting in a chair watching Netflix after a long day, it's nobody's business but your own how you're using your time. If you'd normally help, but you're booked solid, say so. "I'd love to help, but I'm booked this time."
Avoid commitments that do not align with your priorities. Just because it's an emergency for them doesn't mean it's a priority for you. Will some people get upset? Maybe, but that's about them, not you.
Whether you choose theme days, or chunk tasks into different time blocks each day, there is no "right" way to block your time. Time blocking helps you right-size your expectations around what you can reasonably accomplish in a given time period. It also helps you stay focused. IF you've got a block of time in your day for marketing tasks, use THAT time for marketing tasks.
A caveat: when you are first starting to use time blocking, there will be some trial and error. I recommend padding your time blocks so that you have two spaces in your calendar for each task type. That way, if life happens and you can't stick to your time block on a given day, you've got a plan b time that you can get back to that task. Be compassionate with yourself until you find a groove that fits your style.
Sometimes there is nothing else you can do to free up your schedule than to offload tasks. Phew! What a relief! Begin with deleting the things that distract you from your goals. Next, try automating repetitive or bulky tasks and creating process docs to systematize recurring tasks that your support team can take over.
You don't always have to hire an employee, but if you do choose to hire team members, check with a professional about employment laws in your area. They can accurately calculate salary and other benefits - like insurance, retirement, and pto accrual. What is pto accrual? Paid time off accrual involves calculating and scheduling your employees’ banked hours for vacations or sickness leave. Don't create more work for yourself when you hire help. Outsource that to an HR or payroll professional.
When it comes to recovery and downtime, doing nothing IS doing something. Healing, rest, and recovery are important parts of being human. Resting does not mean you are being lazy. Without enough rest, your body starts shutting down. Catch a nap, read a book, optimize CBD products from the cbd Black Friday deals, or just close your eyes. Take a purposeful period to recover your energy and mind.
When you relax, your brain tends to remember things you may have forgotten due to work pressure. Stepping away from your work helps you come back to it with fresh eyes. A monthly "mental health day" can be a great way to shake off the stress and act like a re-set button.
Sticking to a schedule is not all about you. One of the things I tell my clients is that you train people how to treat you. Your family, your support system, and the team you work with can't honor your schedule if they don't know what it is. Sharing your schedule with the people who matter most helps reduce distractions. It helps them know when you are available so they can make plans with you and keeps you on track. An easy way to do this is to record your schedule on a shared online calendar.
There are plenty of online tools you can use to reduce the number of meetings you hold. Slack channels, email, even text messaging can get the questions and conversations you need to have handled without having to pull an hour (or more) of your day into the time suck of a meeting.
If a meeting is a must, make sure it's meaningful. Understand the goals of the meeting going into it, and come prepared to work. If you're leading the meeting, make sure attendees are clear on what's expected of them so that you can make the most of the time you're together.
Plan, do, evaluate. Are the plans you've made working? Great! Keep it up. If not, it's time to course correct. What needs to change? Make it happen, monitor the results, and keep course correcting as you go.
Remember: you always have a choice. The power to set (and honor) healthier boundaries, create an environment that supports your success, and free up your tight schedule is in your hands.
Need help reclaiming your time? Level One of the Creative Freedom Incubator is now open for enrollment. Get the support you need to achieve your dreams!
So there's this show on Netflix that my youngest son has taken to this summer.
Canada's Worst Driver. Well, after several seasons, they decided to round up the worst of the worst for a final season:
Canada's Worst Driver Ever.
I won't spoil it for you, but these drivers are absolutely frightening, sad, and hilarious. What really struck me was how some of the simplest instructions were completely lost on these folks.
Then it hit me that creative entrepreneurs have similar issues in their business.
So I'm doing a a Creative Freedom live episode on my Facebook Page, to share the 3 biggest lessons from Canada's Worst Driver Ever that apply to creative entrepreneurs. Here's the replay:
Resources from the episode:
Now that the new year and my birthday are both behind me, it's time to get back into the swing of things. This weekend, I'm auditioning for The Voice (third time's a charm, right?), and we're still rolling full steam ahead on new episodes for Creative Freedom Season Three. If you've got a question you'd like to see me tackle on the show, reach out and let me know.
One of the questions I get asked all the time (at least once a week) is "how do you manage to do so much?"
While it's true I get things done, "a lot" is relative. It's been mostly just me behind the curtain, "hustling" for years (and I've paid the price for that), so I've had to learn how to create a maximum impact with minimal effort. Despite accomplishing much, there are still dozens of things each week that don't happen for me. It can be debilitating to think about what you don't accomplish, but you'll get more mileage out of every day (and do less in the process) if you keep these tips in mind:
This is just a "highlight reel" of what I cover in much more detail in Dreamblazing (which now includes The PEACE System!). It'll get you off to a strong start and help you keep the ball rolling through the year as you move a head on your deepest dreams and desires. Ultimately it comes down to focus and discipline, but that looks different for each of the creative types. When you implement these steps, you'll find more clarity and ease in each day.
I've managed to right-size my to-do list over the years (with tons of practice), and bluntly, saying "no" has been the critical piece to the puzzle.
"Nope. Not gonna do the dishes today."
"Well, I didn't want to take a shower anyway."
"No, I'm not going to sleep until it's done."
If you're on the "hustle and grind" track, you probably know the sound of that kind of "no" very clearly. But there's another side:
"While I'd love to have lunch (so you can pick my brain), I already have a full calendar (a play date with my kid)."
"Sorry. Investing in your five-figure training sounds awesome, but it's not in the budget right now, and no, I'm not going into debt for you."
"No way, Jose! I'm not taking on another job for 'exposure' until my cash flow improves."
"I can't today. This is my day off."
It's another case of ruthless honesty. When you get clear on what really matters to you - in life and work - you have a filter that helps you say yes to more of the right things and no to other opportunities that pop up on your radar that sound sexy, but will distract you from your real goals. But beware, each creative entrepreneur type needs to say no to different things.
Linears need more white space, time off, and personal focus. Very often, they neglect themselves in a drive to reach a result. Not cool. Chaotics, on the other hand, need more stability and (believe it or not) predictability in their schedule - in a way that works for them. Shiny object syndrome can derail their plans quickly (if they even made a plan in the first place), and it's easy for their "go with the flow" behavior to keep them putting out fires instead of looking to the long term. Fusions can get bored even if they're making solid progress. Repetition and routine are important, but can get tedious, so it's important to have space for celebration, time off, and exploring new ideas (while staying on budget).
Creating a list of priorities at the start of the year helps you know what you're driving toward. I teach my clients to set one annual goal in each of the 5 Key Areas of Success, plus a second fitness goal for mental health. Then, they rank each goal in order of importance.
Before you start scheduling plans for the year, you'll already know which goal is the most important. That way, when goals start competing for your time and attention (and they always do at some point), you'll already know which one gets priority. You can take emotions out of the equation and stay focused on the real priority in your life and work. It's easier to say no when stuff pops up that may be fun but isn't in alignment with your top priorities.
Once you've got your priorities worked out for the year, you can break them down into quarterly milestones. What action steps and sub-goals need to be achieved in order to keep you on track to achieve your yearly goal? Some may be ongoing or will require more time to complete than others.
Be clear on your expectations. If your goal is to make a million dollars, you can't assume you'll make $250,000 each quarter. Chances are good you'll make the bulk of that money in the last half or quarter of the year, because of all the other things that have to be in place first.
Same with weight loss. If you've struggled to lose weight for years, it's absurd to expect you'll miraculously start losing 10 pounds every month so that you can be down 100 pounds by the end of the year. The first quarter of the year will likely focus on building habits - and there'll be a lot of falling off the wagon you'll have to deal with. But as the new habits start to stick, you'll start to see faster progress and the avalanche of results - which again, will likely happen in the latter half of the year.
In my opinion, this is a big reason why so many people ditch their resolutions. Aside from not writing down their goals at all, that is. They plan their goal all neat and orderly, assuming they'll stay motivated and make steady progress toward their goal.
That's not how goal attainment works for most of us. Despite the best attempts of most Linears, success is rarely a steady, incremental thing. There's a lot of plot twists, leaps forward, steps back, re-tracing of steps, and then we get forward momentum once we figure shit out.
You'll want to review your goals and priorities quarterly because even the best laid plans can go off track when "life happens." Moving to Nashville was not my top priority at the beginning of 2016. By Summer, however, my priorities shifted when we filed the divorce papers. Nashville then became a top priority for me, so my other goals had to shift.
New episodes of Creative Freedom didn't get done because I had to pack up all my studio gear. The podcast was delayed, but the items that were most important still got checked off my list. Sometimes you have to rearrange your priorities to accommodate your top priority. It happens more often than you might think.
This was something I learned as a direct sales leader that I've used in my own organizations and with all my clients ever since. If you make time for it on the calendar, it has a greater chance of getting done than if you try to squeeze it in between meetings or when you have some "free time" - ha! What's that?
In short, every little thing that's got to be done to achieve your goal needs to be on the calendar. If you're delegating it, then you need to add a follow-up date in your calendar. Chaotics will reel against all this minutiae, but I'm here to tell you that until it becomes first nature, you'll want to create the habit of scheduling everything.
Whatever you use to track your to-do's is fine, just make sure the long-range stuff gets on the calendar. If you're writing a book and you leave it open-ended, that project will keep getting pushed down the to-do list in favor of other more pressing needs (putting out fires). If you want that book done, carve out specific time blocks in your calendar to work on it - and give yourself a small deadline (like completing the first chapter by the end of February). This will create the optimal amount of pressure to help you double your results in less time. Too much pressure, and you'll crack (especially if you're a Chaotic), but just enough of a deadline often primes the pump to get moving. You might even find that you want to finish it sooner because it's taking up so much time on your calendar. Without that visual, getting that chapter done might drag on for months.
Not sure how much time you need to complete the project? Work backwards. This takes longer, but it's worth the clarity it provides. For unwieldy projects, I use mind mapping to get clear on all the elements of the project, and then get as detailed as I can on each step toward the goal. Only then can I see which step needs to come first, second, third, etc. Once I know the first step, I put it on the calendar. If it's a task, I put it on the to-do list as well, but it's important to block out time for accomplishing your to-do's or they simply won't get done. It's one of the reasons I still put "shower," "lunch," and "laundry" on my calendar. If I don't, I'll fill that time with something else and those things won't get done.
I've been writing about this for a few years now, but the research shows that SMART goals are broken. But D.U.M.B. goals are a different story. When you are taking action on things that are doable, understandable, meaningful and believable, it's much easier to stay the course. I've seen it bear out time and again in my own life as well as with my clients.
It's easier to focus on what really matters when what really matters to you is your focus. It sounds like a paradox, but it's not. When you focus on what matters to you, you naturally stay more focused. It's what I call the "video game effect". My boys all love video games and when they start playing, the world around them falls away. World War Three could be going on outside, and they'd never know because they are engrossed in their game. They're focused like a laser on what matters to them. And God forbid you try to interrupt them - if you can interrupt them at all.
For most of us it's not a question of focus, it's a question of what we're focused on. When you can invest more of your time, energy, and resources into what really matters for you, it's naturally easier to stay focused. Plan your year around what really matters to you and you'll have a natural advantage when it comes to achieving those goals.
Join us in Dreamblazing. It's more than a planner. It helps you define your goals, get them in priority order, and lay out a path to achievement. If you want to be more confident, have more clarity, and be focused this year on what really matters, give yourself the gift of Dreamblazing.
When I was a kid, I was told that Black Friday was the biggest shopping day of the year, and was so named because it was the day that many retailers finally posted a profit and came out of the red and "into the black".
It's not true, of course, since the phrase is only about 50 years old, but many people I've asked offer the same explanation.
"Black Friday is the day when retailers become profitable."
It always bothered me to think that a store had to wait until the tail-end of the year to see profitability. How can you function for 10 months of the year without making a profit?
Sadly, I see creative entrepreneurs do it all the time. The struggle, the shame, the push-push-push of trying something - anything - to bring in money. And very often, it's Thanksgiving weekend (Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday) when they finally see some cash.
The way it happens, though, is all kinds of wrong. So wrong that, this year, I decided to opt out and NOT send any type of Thanksgiving greetings. It was hard for me because each year I like to do a give-back campaign around my book, The Secret Watch. Thousands of people have participated over the years, and it was hard to NOT do it.
But not this year. I just couldn't bring myself to be part of the marketing mayhem that this week has become.
My friend Leesa Renee Hall posted on Facebook the other day, bemoaning what she calls the "#gratitudespam" emails filling her inbox because of Thanksgiving. Leesa's Canadian, but that didn't stop the marketers from ruining the spirit of the American holiday anyway:
"This time of year, I like to reflect on how grateful I am for the life I have. I'm grateful for you. Without you, I'd be homeless, and I like my big house on the beach and my vacations to Hawaii. Thank you for being a loyal customer and buying my crap. Because it's awesome. And speaking of awesome, be sure to watch for my Black Friday email, because my offers are SO amazing THIS year that you'll pee your pants. Forget standing in line at the Apple store Friday morning. Get up at 3a.m. and wait for my email with baited breath because you know my shizz is off. the. HOOK!"
Or something like that. #GagMe
I'm all for expressing gratitude. Some folks do send emails that are just an expression of gratitude. I got an email from someone I barely know saying how much I meant to her as a loyal subscriber. It felt phony because I was a new subscriber, but I'm sure her long-time readers appreciated the sentiment. There was no pitch, no promise of something amazing on Black Friday. Just a simple thank you.
It was buried amid so many sales pitches, that it was hard to take it seriously.
Yes, I'm a little cynical, and the reality is that when you say "Thank you" and follow it with a request to buy your stuff, it feels fake. It feels forced. It doesn't feel genuine in the least. You seem desperate and pushy. It's as if you couldn't afford to let one email go out without making an offer.
So the crappy emails continue to pile up as more marketers try to pry your hard-earned cash out of your hands and into their wallets.
I enjoy sales, discounts, and getting a great deal as much as anyone. My favorite purse is an Italian leather number that I got at a yard sale for $3. I was giddy for a week after that find! But I feel bad for the creatives (who already consistently over-give) that are discounting their Great Work because "it's Black Friday". They're bringing in money, but it's not sustainable - and it's not always profitable.
I rarely offer sales or discounts because of what I call "the Lane Bryant dilemma".
They've pretty much trained me to NOT buy anything at full price, because there's always a discount, coupon, or sale right around the corner. And many times, I can use it for the clearance rack, so why would I EVER pay full price? All those pretty clothes just sit on the rack until the sale rolls around, which I know it inevitably will.
In the mean time, I look at all those clothes and think they're WAAAAAY over-priced, so why buy them?
Lane Bryant has trained me to de-value their products.
I see it over and over again this time of year. I know several creative entrepreneurs who always make some kind of crazy low-ball offer "in honor of Black Friday". So I wait. I don't buy. They've trained me to wait for the super saving spectacular that is Black Friday - or Cyber Monday.
Instead of discounting your regular offers, why not do something remarkable? Create something exclusively for this selling season, and when the season's over, it's gone. Like the "McRib" or "Pumpkin Spice" everything. Limited-time offers don't have to be price-sensitive.
On the other hand, you could show real gratitude and just give something away. Again, not like a clearance sale, but do something special. A free concert, or digital wallpaper, or some other truly free offer that shows people that your gratitude is real. You don't bring a hostess gift to Thanksgiving dinner and then ask your host to pay your mortgage. You bring a gift because you want to show your affection (and gratitude) for the person receiving the gift.
That's what I'm doing this year.
All my subscribers are getting an invitation to a free webinar in December where I'll walk them through the pitfalls of planning for each of the 3 creative entrepreneur types. Each type has strengths and blind spots when it comes to planning your year, and if you rely only on your strengths, you may discover you're not moving forward on your dreams and goals the way you planned. The answer often lies in your blind spots. This webinar will help you see them, deal with them, and plot a course for a successful 2017.
And you won't have to buy anything to make it work.
If you're not already on the list, you'll need to get registered to join us. For those of you already on my list, an email is coming with more specifics. I'm not trying to be mysterious here. I just haven't decided what day to teach this webinar yet. When I do, I'll send out the email. It's that simple.
I am truly grateful for you. Not because you're my fan, a reader, a subscriber, or because you've bought my stuff. I'm grateful for you because you matter to this world. It wouldn't be the same without you. Your life, your story, and who you are matters. If I get a chance to be part of that, well, fantastic, but you don't need my products and services to continue to shine your awesome light into the world.
Thank you for being you. Keep it up. #ThatIsAll
"You can't win if you don't play."
Mom used this sentence to justify a lot of behavior when I was a kid: learning to ride a bike, auditioning for plays, joining the cross country team (I took 11th place in the city meet). And yes, mom played the lottery. She had a winning streak where, with a little help from technology and lottery dream books, she won several days each week for a few weeks. Naturally, those words rang through my head every time I was faced with a risk-reward decision.
Until this week.
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you may have already heard about how I found this lottery ticket on the ground while I was on a field trip with my kid. I thought it was trash (LITTERBUGS! ARGH!), so I picked it up to throw away when we got to the car.
But when I saw it was a lottery ticket, I figured I'd check the numbers when I got home, just in case.
I won the BIG money, honey! TWO WHOLE DOLLARS! WOO HOO!!
Every morning, I sit down to do The PEACE System (a process I created to help clear my head and prioritize my day). Because field trips can be stressful - particularly with a special needs kid - I made a point of setting the intention to look for miracles.
Frankly, a well-behaved child would have qualified as a miracle in my book. I certainly wasn't expecting free money to fall at my feet. But hey, I'll take it!
I asked for (and was looking for) a miracle, and I got it. And the kid behaved, too!
You've probably heard stories about people who say "I won the lottery and it changed my life." Never did I think I'd be one of those people, since I don't play the lottery.
But winning those two bucks most certainly changed my life. If you want to test out your luck as well, you can go to sites like 바카라 사이트, for example.
"You can't play if you don't win" is a double-edged sword. In a way, I did "play" because I picked up the ticket and cashed it in. But in a way I didn't play, because I didn't actually buy the ticket. It wasn't even given to me (in the traditional sense). And the person that dropped the ticket probably thought it was a "loser" because they played $10 and "only" won $2. They lost money on the deal.
But from my perspective, I was $2 richer!
The last 18 months have been arduous and hard for me on a lot of fronts. At some point, I probably faced down some depression, though I was never clinically diagnosed. I've done a LOT of questioning my worth, my value, and why I'm really on this planet in the first place.
Two dollars won't even buy me a soda at my local restaurant, let alone pay my rent, but it was a sign. A clear sign that miracles are there if we are looking for them. I know that sounds kind of mystical and metaphysical, but it's true. I found that money because I was looking for it.
Well, I was looking for a miracle, and I chose to see this "win" as a miracle.
You have to have your eyes open and show up.
You have to be willing to go for what matters to you - even if it seems unreasonable. Even if it seems impossible. If it's in your heart to have it, you have to be courageous enough to show up for it. And keep showing up consistently.
In that respect, Mom was right: you can't win if you don't play.
But she was also wrong. I won without playing "the game" (by society's rules, at least). That little lottery ticket opened a Pandora's box of questions about the "teaching" that's been passed down through my family for generations. The "lessons" and "stories" that, in a previous era, had to be true for survival no longer serve the person I'm becoming in this era of creative entrepreneurship.
In the past, if you didn't "play by the rules", you wouldn't be taken seriously, and you probably wouldn't even get a foot in the door, let alone win. There were gatekeepers, expectations, and unwritten "rules" that were foisted on you by your industry, society and "the world". These rules were designed to keep certain people out, and to protect the survival of others. You had to play their way, or you simply couldn't play.
Now, you have a lot more latitude to define success on your own terms and not just survive, but thrive. You can create your own career, doing what you love, and make good money doing it - without selling your soul. That's the entire premise of how I help my clients!
Those old stories that once served to protect, inspire, and motivate me, had been holding me back from the life and career I was meant to have. I couldn't see that until I won the lottery.
What thoughts, beliefs, and stories do you hold as true, that might actually be limiting your success without you even realizing it? Untangling those beliefs and thought patterns can be tough, but the rewards far outweigh the risks.
But here's the other thing that rattled my brain. I won $2. Winning anything was contingent upon someone else. Somebody else played the game, bought the ticket, left it on the ground. At least three other people walked right past the ticket before I picked it up. In short, I had no control over the outcome. All I could do was be in the right place at the time of the miracle.
Miracles are awesome, and they can feel magical. But they are, in many ways, unpredictable - even if you're looking for them. You don't know when they'll arrive, or in what form, and sometimes it's hard to know if it even is a miracle until well after the fact. Sometimes the worst thing that ever happened to you is actually a blessing in disguise... a miracle you won't see until years later.
In life, we can wait for others to open doors for us, or we can make a plan and get sh*t done. (Tweet This)
Waiting around for miracles is the snail's path to success. Can it happen? Sure! I just won the lottery, for crying out loud! But, I only won $2, because that's all the ticket was worth. Someone else got to dictate the terms of my success. I could only win what they played and paid for.
I don't want someone else to dictate how successful I can be. I don't want someone else to have that much influence over my success journey. I mean, I won't turn away blessings when they show up - even the $2 variety - and I'm not going out of my way to play the lottery, either.
I know I can't control everything - and some might say that control, like safety, is an illusion. But if I set an intention and follow it with consistent action, I'm going to move the ball further down the field more often than the guy standing around, waiting for a winning lottery ticket to fall at his feet.
Will there be setbacks? Most likely. As we all know, the so-called "overnight success" stories usually involve a lot more preparation and hardship than we realize. As Thomas Edison famously said, "opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
I'm no stranger to hard work, although I'd like to be. 🙂
There were other gems of discovery that I'm still unpacking, and I'm sure you could tease out a few lessons of your own from this story, but ultimately, while I welcome all the miracles and blessings coming my way, I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and wait for them. I'm going to keep showing up, sharing my Great Work, and defining success on my terms. Not my mom's terms, or the terms of my ancestors, or even the terms of my fans and clients.
My game is the only game that matters for me. It's a game I'm happy to play, and one I can't lose, because I make the rules.
On Day One of the Creative Freedom Challenge, we're taking a hard look at the biggest reason you're still stuck in energy-draining work, instead of getting paid well for doing what you love.
And it's not what you think.
Most people think the reason they're stuck is because they haven't made enough money yet to make the leap. If you're just getting started and stuck in a day job, that may be true. More on that in a minute. You can be several years into your career as a creative entrepreneur and still find you've created a "job" for yourself, doing things that aren't fulfilling - like putting out fires or picking up dropped balls.
In truth, "not enough money" is not the biggest reason you've stuck with your "job" for so long.
Lack of clarity often shows up in one of two areas:
1. Who you really are and what really matters in your life and Great Work (that's what we'll cover today).
2. How you want to show up in the world (we'll cover that next).
Amy Oscar is a friend and colleague. We met at a conference back in 2010, and she was kind enough to write the cover quote for my book, "The Secret Watch." Amy's building a global following on the back of her book "Sea of Miracles." Her Soul Caller program has evolved from a weekly free twitter chat into a series of courses, programs and retreats. She also does private sessions as an intuitive guide and healer. Amy has thousands of fans and followers around the world (some of them pretty well-known), and yet, with all those clear signs that she was on to something, she still hadn't quit her day job.
For more than 15 years, Amy was an editor for a national women's magazine. She LOVED her job, but as her Great Work through Soul Caller started picking up steam, she still hadn't let go of her day job to focus on her Great Work. Here's what Amy told me:
"I sensed that I'd put an important part of my soul in deep freeze."
She then told me how it took her months to untangle what was going on inside her. Ultimately Amy realized, when she considered her job versus her Great Work, the truth so many creative entrepreneurs face:
"One was always going to have me hiding behind someone else's glitter cape. I didn't just have a message. It was MY message to deliver. So many people are telling this story and each voice matters. Each story resonates. We need them all. Mine was different and it had to be heard."
Making the choice to pursue your creative calling can be complicated. It's not always easy. That's why clarity is so important.
Clarity comes from accepting your truth with what I call ruthless honesty: no judgement. Just seeing the facts for what they are.
Here's how Amy described her watershed moment:
"I was afraid to stand alone. It was never about the money. It was about my willingness to trust the world to love me when it could see me. And not just as a cog in someone else's wheel... It's about the willingness to come out of hiding. To stand in the light and be seen loving what I love. Being what I am. Which doesn't fit into anyone else's idea of what I could or should be or how I might serve their vision. It's about the willingness to step into the image I hold inside of my own heart of what I am.
"I realized that if I was going to be happy - and live a fully engaged, fully present life - I wasn't going to live a normal life. And I finally accepted that. I quit my job because the Soul Caller work was more important to me than a paycheck."
Amy got clear on the life she wanted to live, the Great Work she wanted to bring into the world, and who she would become in the process. When Amy got clear on who she was and how she'd outgrown her day job, she was ready to embrace her "own message to deliver" and share it with the world.
Amy's truth is a common one: more than the ability to make good money at it, the real issue behind making the shift into creative entrepreneurship is a lack of clarity (and perhaps a fear of being really seen).
Look, if a guy can earn a living wage making youtube videos about playing video games or unboxing action figures, there's no reason that you can't get paid well to do what you love, too. But you have to have clarity on who you are and what really matters to you before you can stake your claim on your Great Work and share it joyfully with the world.
Then, you've got to show up that way consistently. Sure, try it on and see how your Great Work can not only serve others, but also yourself. Once you've got clarity on that, you've got to have the confidence to step up and own your message in the marketplace on a regular basis.
But that's the next part of our challenge. 🙂
Today, spend a few minutes thinking about what REALLY matters to you - in your life and work. What are your non-negotiables? When I work with clients, we use what I call the 5 Key Areas of Success as the model for defining success on your own terms. Here are additional resources to help you get more clarity on what really matters and how you want to show up in the world:
Believe it or not, you already ARE a success. It may not feel like it right now, but it's true. Success is a destination, not a journey, and you're already here. Everything you've done (or failed to do) has led to this moment. Until you have clarity on what success looks like for your unique situation, it's pretty dang difficult to feel successful.
If you want to get all the updates in the Creative Freedom Challenge, along with a copy of my Raving Fans Toolkit, you can sign up right here (that box at the top of the page works, too).
What resources would you add to this list? Share your comments below and let's be a rising tide for everyone!
At the beginning of every year, I sit down with my Dreamblazing program and set my goals - then I review them each quarter.
But they also say that "life happens every 6 months" - and here we are at the middle of the year. It's a great time to make sure you're still on track, and if you aren't here's a reader's digest version of my planning process - including a sneak peek into how Dreamblazing makes it easy.
To help you lay the foundation, I've also included the worksheets from the first day of the Dreamblazing program so that YOU can take stock and do a little review of your own - and set the stage for your future success. Oh, and Hall & Oates help me out with a special "guest spot" - sing along if you know the words!
Whether you use my Dreamblazing process you some other method of planning, make the commitment to complete the entire process - especially if it feels uncomfortable. I see a lot of entrepreneurs (creatives in particular) that start planning, and when things get tough or they feel stuck, they quit. It's fine to take a break and come back to it later, just make sure you actually do come back to it later. Dreamblazing is elxible enough to complete in a single
It's hard to know where you're going if you don't know where you are. It's hard to know your trajectory, if you don't know where you've been. A lot can happen in a year. I lost count of all the awesome surprises that happened to me each year, so I started keeping track, and using the "Evaluate and Celebrate" section of Dreamblazing to remind me of just how awesome my life and work can be. That's particularly helpful when I'm in the middle of a funk, or things aren't going as well as I want them to in the moment.
Evaluation also allows me to see where I missed the mark and need to tighten my focus - or re-calibrate if a goal is no longer applicable.
In my book, The Secret Watch, I lay out the 5 Key Areas (Faith, Family, Fitness, Fortune, and Freedom) - but the way you define them is entirely up to you - which, again, gives you the flexibility you need to develop D.U.M.B. goals. Hone in on what will give you the most cause for celebration at the end of the next 12 months in each of these areas, then you can begin to set milestones along the way to help you know if you're on track to hit them.
If you're following the Dreamblazing program, you'll pick 6 goals to drive for the year, but you've also got to prioritize them. It's better to do that NOW before there's a conflict, because "life happens when you're busy making other plans" as John Lennon famously said. If you don't prioritize your goals, then when an opportunity arises that pits one goal against another, you'll be forced to choose. In the heat of the moment, sometimes we choose what's urgent, rather than what's really important. Prioritizing your goals gives you a filter to run all your decisions through.
And if you change your priorities later, that's fine too.
It takes a little time to develop a solid strategic plan, but it's worth the effort. Whether you use a tool like Dreamblazing or develop your own method of annual planning, it's important to make the plan. Eisenhower once said that "plans are useless", but "planning is everything" - and I think he's right. While many of my plans go awry not long after making them, the fact that I took the time to actually sit down, clear my head, and focus on what really matters to me keeps me moving in the right direction. It also keeps me agile so that when life throws me a curve ball (and it happens more times than I'd care to count), I'm able to respond thoughfully, instead of react in a knee-jerk way.
Plans may go awry, but planning keeps your head in the game when life throws you a curve. (Tweet this)
As a recovering overachiever, I've learned a thing or two about spinning plates. In fact, some might call me a pro. I can't count the number of times I've heard someone say:
"Damn, Lisa! How do you manage to get so much done?"
"Lisa, you are EVERYWHERE! How do you do it?"
"You seem like you've got a lot going on, Lisa. How do you manage it all?"
The truth is, my days are fairly light. I may have an appointment or two on a given day, but I spend a lot of time home alone, focused on doing the work. Whether that's practicing piano, scripting or filming a new video, or taking my kids to the doctor, I've created crystal clear priorities that keep me on track.
For all the stuff I am doing, I still say "no" to a lot of things that don't mesh with my priorities.
And yet, I'm not perfect. I still manage to say "yes" to enough activities that can distract me and take me off course from time to time.
What I've learned in my years as an entrepreneur and coach is that it's easy to get distracted from your priorities (REALLY EASY). Add to that the fact that very few people will volunteer to hold you accountable to your priorities, and you've got a recipe for overwhelm.
So how do you mitigate overwhelm and keep your business on track? Here are 5 tips to help you create a focus and stick with it throughout the year.
1. Pre-plan your priorities. In my Dreamblazing program, we set your objectives for the next 12 months, and then we prioritize them. By deciding your priorities in advance, you've got a filter you can pass every opportunity through for the coming months. By pre-planning your priorities in this way, you've got a much better chance at staying on task and not getting sidetracked by pop-up "emergencies" or "special opportunities" that don't support your priorities. For example, one year, my top priority wasn't in my business - it was to build a healthier relationship with my son. When I had the opportunity to speak at an event that conflicted with a commitment I'd made with him, I had to say no to that opportunity. Did I miss out? Not based on my priorities. I held firm to what was most important for me at that time. It would have been easy to re-prioritize in the moment - especially if we'd needed the money. But I'd made a decision months earlier to focus on quality time with my son. That decision made saying "no" easier.
Pre-planning your priorities isn't just an annual thing. I use The PEACE System to clarify my priorities on a daily basis. By making sure my top priorities are on my radar each day, I accomplish more of what matters in less time, because I'm not distracted as often.
2. Guard your self-care time. This has been the most valuable lesson of my business career. When lots of tasks, challenges, and opportunities are coming down the pike at the same time, it's easy to neglect your personal time. Everybody wants a piece of you. Everybody wants to pick your brain, get a little of your time, and it all adds up. Next thing you know, it's been days since you've had a shower, and you can't remember when you had any white space in your day.
Not that I speak from experience, or anything.
When I was working as an Admin in the automotive industry, I routinely managed the calendars of six (yep, SIX) executives. I was their sole support person, which meant juggling the needs and priorities of five high-powered, driven, single-minded guys - and one woman who was probably the most driven of them all. Multitasking was my specialty. But self-care was not. I remember the day I came to work in a pair of hose I'd rinsed out and blow-dried that morning because I'd put in so many hours at work I'd forgotten to do my laundry.
Self care is making sure you've got time to see to your own needs. It isn't always about going to the spa and getting a massage - though that's nice, too. It's about white space in your day. The auto industry was filled with people who'd wolf down lunch in 5 minutes - never leaving their desk because of an all-day conference call. I watched these execs turn their offices into sleeping quarters, changing rooms, and occasionally a bathroom (don't ask).
That's what a lack of self-care looks like. I've spend the last 10 years shifting away from that, creating more "white space" in my life so that when a true emergency crops up (like a phone call from my kid's school, asking me to come get him), it's not a Herculean task to rearrange my day. A quick call or an email and I've got things handled.
3. Right-size your expectations. There's a running joke that if you give a man a piece of paper and a list of things to do, he'll use as little of the paper as possible, whereas a woman will fill up that to-do list, turn the page over, and keep on writing. It's easy to find things to do, things that need our attention, and that's where overwhelm starts the slow creep. I don't care who you are, without a small army, it's virtually impossible to clean an entire house, prepare three meals from scratch for a family of four, do all the dishes, take all the kids to all their appointments, balance the P&L statement, create your blog content, do three interviews, create four web pages, host a webinar, make seven sales calls, get in an hour of exercise, take a nap, and be bright eyed and bushy tailed, showered and shaved for your evening out with friends. And if you have a chronic illness or need to take care of ailing loved ones, you have to expect even less of yourself.
It doesn't make you a bad business person. It means you're human! Something has to give. Maybe you get a support team, call in reinforcements, or just postpone some happenings for another day. As much as you might like to believe it, NO ONE can do it all (so quit trying!).
Right-sizing your expectations means getting more of the right things done. (tweet this)
Coming down off a multi-tasking high in the auto industry, I had to re-assess what I was truly capable of on a given day. I knew I wanted more white space, more peace and ease, but I was also used to getting a lot done in a day. At first, my to-do lists were incredibly long. Then I let the pendulum swing the other way: no more than one appointment per day. Over time, I managed to find a "groove" that works for me: most days are appointment free, with two days a week dedicated to handling scheduled appointments (coaching calls, doctor visits, etc.) This gives me plenty of white space to stay in creative flow, while also giving me plenty of energy to handle the scheduled appointments during one or two days of the week (and lots of energetic "recovery time" thereafter).
4. Get an accountability partner. My pal Winnie has been my stalwart business buddy for over two years now. We connect via skype almost every week, and together we've launched best-selling books, grown new business divisions, re-branded, and so much more. There's no way I could have stayed the course over the past two years without her willingness to show up and hold me accountable for the priorities I've set for myself. We don't nag each other. We know that priorities change, and we go with that flow. But we're also willing to call B.S. on each other when we're dragging our heels on a project to which we've committed.
An accountability partner provides a powerful level of support & encouragement on a frequent basis. Because you're working together, there's an added benefit that you're going to learn from each other. I count Winnie as one of my best friends - not just because she knows where all the bodies are buried! It takes a certain kind of person to be willing to put up with me, call me on my crap, and still be willing to cheer me on and celebrate my successes. And I get the honor of doing the same for her.
5. Make friends with "no". Get used to saying (and hearing) no a lot more often. When you ask for help, sometimes the answer will be no. Keep asking. It's not always because you don't want to say yes. Sometimes you need to say no because it's not in alignment with your priorities. That's wonderful. Oh, and don't take it personally when someone else tells you no.
I remember coming home from a week-long workshop a while ago. Upon my return, one of my clients called to "fire" me. I was SO happy for them that it kind of threw them off guard. They didn't need me anymore, and while I knew it, they couldn't imagine a different path than they one they'd envisioned with me on it. I had even suggested they replace me with an employee at much less cost, but it wasn't happening... until I left for the week.
That time away gave them clarity to see new possibilities and alternatives that would better suit them and their bottom line. When I picked up the phone and heard "we've decided not to renew your contract," all I could say was "HOORAY! THAT'S AWESOME!" It totally threw my client for a loop because it wasn't the answer they were expecting. I reminded my client that my sole purpose was to help them get profitable and find the path that worked for them. They were finally taking my advice which meant a more profitable direction for their company. Keeping me on wouldn't be in alignment with their best interests, nor mine. So, like Nanny McPhee, it was time for me to go.
Bonus tip: Be forgiving with yourself. In all my years of prioritizing and planning, I still get it wrong from time to time. Nobody's perfect. Even the best laid plans change. Pick a course and stick with it to the best of your abilities, but if something happens that requires a redirect (like your kid going to jail), go with it. When I was a financial advisor, we were taught that "life happens every six months." So rather than rail against it, we made a plan for it. I still do. My Dreamblazing program has built-in check-ins every quarter, to ensure that the priorities you've set are still the right ones for you.
Let me hear from ya! What's been keeping you in overwhelm lately? How do you manage to get more of the right things done? Share your comments below and let's be a rising tide for the entire community.
That's my official goodbye kiss to the first quarter of the year.
How'd it go for you? If you've been through my Dreamblazing program, you've probably already reviewed your milestones and re-assessed your targets for this quarter. Good on ya!
Did some of your goals fall off the radar, or get completely kicked to the curb (mine did!)? Are you on track (or ahead of schedule) for others?
In a recent post, I shared that by the end of January, nearly 35% of Americans have kissed their resolutions goodbye. This far into the year, some entrepreneurs have thrown their plans out the window entirely. Where do you stand?
One of the biggest pieces of advice I consistently offer to my clients is to focus your goals and objectives around YOU: things you can control, measure, or impact. It's challenging to set and attain goals that rely on someone else. But if you're driving toward DUMB goals, chances are good you'll have less flying out the window over the course of your year.
In the spirit of transparency, I thought it might be helpful to share with you my Q1 milestones and report on my results. I use the approach I developed in my own Dreamblazing program and define my milestones based on my 5 Key Areas of Success (Faith, Family, Fitness, Fortune, and Freedom).
This year, my faith goal revolves around my self-worth and how I see myself in the world. To that end, I've built a strategic plan to reach out to and connect with people I admire. One such connection has led to my nomination for the 2015 Rulebreaker awards! I also have been working to strengthen connections with friends and colleagues in my existing circle. My mastermind groups, my accountability partner, and my closest friends have all been instrumental in helping me navigate Q1 with grace, peace, and ease.
I'd say I'm on track and doing better than anticipated in this arena.
My definition of family is probably more loose than some, since my blood relations aren't as plentiful as they once were. Because of that, I've been creating my own family, as it were, by making new peer connections. This is kind of a double-dip from my "Faith" goal, but it's also more about new people, versus cultivating the relationships I already have.
The first quarter of 2015 saw some big and unplanned changes in our home. My oldest, now 18, has passed his road test and is now driving (God help us all). He's had his own ups and downs over the past few months, but seems to be stabilizing with some part-time work and finishing up his schooling. This is a huge relief for me, as I am beyond ready to turn over the role of "Worried Mom" to some other deserving woman with teenagers.
The end of March also marked my youngest's 9th birthday - which means we've got all the birthdays on lock for the year. *wipes brow* Whew! But he's been having an up and down semester at school. So we've been navigating some emotional issues for him on that front.
When family stress increases, my emotional eating trigger kicks in, and it takes even more focus and commitment to stay on track. Needless to say, my already ambitious goal of dropping 16 pounds got revised when I was sick for the entire month of February. That's NEVER happened to me before, and dealing with "feeling behind" in my projects only fueled the emotional eating fire. While I didn't hit my revised 8 pound goal, I DID manage to hone in on a couple of trouble foods (gluten, dairy, and soy). Once I got clear, and started steering myself away from them (harder than you might think) I found myself edging closer to that goal. So for this quarter, I'm sticking with my goal of another 8 pounds off by July.
My mental fitness goal for the year is to attend one learning conference. That did not apply to this quarter, since the conference I want to attend isn't until later in the year. Not one to stagnate, however, this quarter saw me doing the research for a new book I'm working on, and participating in a few community groups on Facebook. I've been learning a lot and looking forward to sharing even more during my free monthly webinars.
I'm known for setting rather lofty income goals (though, I'm very prudent with my income projections). Due in part to a month-long illness, but also because of a shift in priorities, my Q1 income fell WAY short of my milestone goal. With the shift in priorities, I was not caught by surprise. In fact, the only reason I didn't revise my milestone was because I wanted to see how close I could get anyway.
Not. Even. Close.
The good news is that every transaction was profitable. Using the Profit First approach, I was able to keep everything on the positive side of the ledger - actually with better results than I did this same time last year. My quarterly profit distribution was also higher than the last quarter of 2014, which was a nice surprise, since it felt like I did less business in this quarter. I made a point to find ease in my business this quarter, which is partly why it felt like I was working less. I also got the delayed payments from Amazon for my book re-launch last November/December, which contributed to the increase in income without added effort. Yay leverage!
What else? I launched an entirely new business development for creative entrepreneurs, and started the process of re-designing my direct sales training program for a late spring launch. I also re-vamped my coaching offerings to make them more accessible and meaningful. With two other projects and a book in the works, I'm fairly confident that this quarter's shortfall will be recovered in the coming months.
My favorite thing about this Key Area of Success is that it means so many different things to different people. For some, it's the ability to come and go as you please, or the financial freedom to travel, send your kid to college, or whatever. For me, Freedom is about being able to show up fully as myself (warts, sparkles, and all) and being proud of how I'm showing up in the world - as both a business coach and a musician. I'm proud to say I've been booked for numerous (PAID) private events this year, and my client list is growing. WOO HOO!
I started 2015 with a goal of finishing my album. The 300 songs project began as a means of honing my skills and getting back on track. Now that we're about 100 songs in, I'm ready to compile a dozen or so of the best tracks and share it with the world in a more finalized and formal package. The hard part right now is just picking the tracks (I'm open to suggestions). Des has already done some incredible work on the keyboard parts, so now it's just about me measuring up vocally and creating a package people feel good about investing in. I'm on track here - maybe even ahead of schedule, which is a wonderful thing to be able to say about a project I've been working on for so long.
Because this goal is nearing completion, I've shifted my focus to planning a possible relocation. Me and the fam are taking a recon trip to Nashville to scout the area, connect with some colleagues, and see what's what. If it looks good, my goal is to be moved by July. If not, we'll stay put until we have more clarity. This is the shift in focus I mentioned earlier - and it's drawn a bit of my personal resources (time, energy, focus) this quarter. With the recon trip upon us, I'll have less resources committed to this project during this quarter, and more in Q3 if we decide to make the move.
It's not always rainbows, sunshine, and Uni-Kitties around here.
There's work - lots of it. Not everything goes according to plan, but that's not what plans are for. I think it was Eisenhower who said "in preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." While I don't necessarily think of business as a battle, I couldn't agree more about the need for planning - even if things don't go according to plan.
There's also fun -a good bit of it. We took a trip to Illinois last month and had a blast at the Lego Discovery Center (that's my 9 year old hangin' with Lego Einstein). We've also traveled a bit around the state, and enjoyed many evenings out with friends and family. In addition to our upcoming recon trip to Nashville, we've got a bunch of other activities in the works for the year.
I don't share this report to brag, but rather to show you exactly how I've built my business (and my annual plan) around what matters most to me. By using the 5 Key Areas of Success and my Dreamblazing program I get CRYSTAL clear on what really matters to me and then do my daily prioritizing with The PEACE System to make a strategic plan and move closer to those goals.
Moving closer to what really matters to you... novel concept, eh? (tweet this)
This is just one way of building a business around what really matters to you. It's the way that works for me. I've used it for more than five years now, and it's the first thing I've ever managed to stick with! Many of my clients have found use in it as well - but I admit it's not right for everyone. Most planners are too rigid for me. I needed more flexibility to work with my creative moods and the typical unexpected happenings that come along with having kids. I needed to develop a framework - like a jungle gym - that I could "swing from" and use in a way that worked for me and what was going on in my life and work on any given day.
How do you plan and prioritize your year? What do you do when your plan goes off the rails? How do you course correct? What are the tools you absolutely love? Share your ideas in the comments!
This week I successfully completed all my planning for January! Woo hoo! I know many entrepreneurs who are still shuffling papers and won't solidify their plans until sometime in the middle of the month - after they've given up on more than half their New Year's resolutions. I've been that person, and over the last couple of years, I've finally managed to hammer out a process for planning that works for me.
That's part of the struggle if you're a creative entrepreneur. There's no one plan that seems to cover everything. If you're a personality-based business owner, it's even harder. You've got to include your personal plans with your business plans, because they tend to overlap. Short of my own Dreamblazing program, I've yet to see a planning system that does that well, if at all.
Yes, finding a groove and getting the planning process down is a hurdle, but once you've got that process down, there are still a few mistakes I consistently see entrepreneurs make when planning their new year. I've even done them myself! Here are five of the big ones:
In my Dreamblazing program, I talk about "pumpkin" goals and "radish" goals. Pumpkins take all year to mature, while radishes only take 20-40 day. Having all your harvest come in at the end of the year makes it difficult to manage - and you can starve the rest of the year. Radish-sized goals give you some bite-sized results that you can manage throughout the year. Those radish goals can be milestones toward your bigger pumpkin goals, too.
Just be sure you don't have (more…)