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Archive of ‘Explore YOUR Business’ category

The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the news  on Fridays – you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

I promise #craftcation15 isn't all beaches and sunrises, but waking up to this is the first (& the most photogenic) example of the awesomeness.    PS. Remember! #StarshipBiz closes today at 9p PDT. An online community full of smarties like fellow Craftcat
This is the moment Baby Mari realizes how ridiculous I am. (Look at her face!) @j_fetz recognized years ago.

One last beach-y photo now that I've landed in rainy (but warm!) Tennessee. Had to pull over for these flowers next to the beach. #taralovesadventure
Friday Night Party Night in the Swiger house
Delighted to find everything is blooming! #foundwhilerunning

I am so grateful for…

  •  SPRING! Tulips! Flowering trees! YAY!
  • Getting back to work after weeks of adventuring
  • Finishing taxes! So glad it’s all done.

The Finds:

I’m reading:

In case you missed it: 

  • I’m all about getting real with what’s possible in your handmade business. So in the next few months I’ll be sharing real stories, YOUR real stories of what you’ve done and what that means. Please share your numbers here (no matter how small or weird, your numbers are going to encourage someone. I promise.) Totally anonymous. More info on the project here and in this podcast episode.

What adventures have you had?

 

 

The Real Numbers Project

Real Numbers Project

Confession: I’m obsessed with reading income reports.

It was Abby who first introduced me to the idea when we met for coffee (she pointed me towards Pinch of Yum’s) and a few months later she started doing quarterly reports. Since then I’ve found them from all kinds of businesses. Some are impressive, some are informative, but all of them are educational. Instead of talking about “success” and “growth”, they show you the real facts on the ground. I’ve considered sharing my own, but that wouldn’t be very helpful to you, because your business is totally different than mine. (You sell a product you make by hand, right? I sell words and education. Our models are different, so the numbers are different.)

But there’s something here, right? Something that could serve you and inform you and help you feel not-so-alone … if we could find income reports that actually relate to what you do and that are relatable in their scale.

So let’s do it together.

I’m going to do a series on Real Numbers of (creative) Entrepreneurs – with real numbers and data, from real businesses. In order to do this, I need to collect the numbers – YOUR numbers. But I want this to be totally honest and easy, so it’ll be completely anonymous. All you have to do is fill this out. There’s no spot for your email address or your name, so no one will know it’s you.

And then, I’m going to share it with you here, in the newsletter and on the blog. Not as statistics, but as individual case studies. I’m going to show you what other makers, just like you, are doing – how they’re doing it, what works for them and what doesn’t. It’s my hope that seeing this broad array of ways-of-making-it-work will help you feel not-so-alone, and  help you stop comparing yourself to all those super “successful” businesses that are in a totally different place than you.

But this only works if you share your numbers (no matter how tiny they are). There is nothing to be embarrassed about here – your numbers won’t be shamed or judged – they will serve as inspiration and encouragement for your fellow makers.

To make this happen, I need your help.

Fill this out in the next 48 hours: http://goo.gl/forms/pZmH1xP4bg

Don’t know your numbers? You need to. Seriously, for your business to grow, you need to know the very basics of your income and expenses. It’s not hard, and you can start with this advice. Pay Yourself walks you through this math.

And keep your eyes peeled for the Real Numbers series – it’ll be coming your way, soon.

PS – Got creative business-y friends? Share it! 

What do creatives REALLY make? How long does it take? @TaraSwiger is collecting real numbers. Add yours here: http://goo.gl/forms/pZmH1xP4bg

{Click to tweet}

 

What I’ve learned about marketing since writing the book

What I've learned about marketing

I’ll be honest with you, this week I am deep in writing content for the new class, and I can think of very little else…so that’s what I’m going to tell you about.
(The class is a kind of read-along + deeper dive into my book. It’s closed, but you can get the book here.)

To write the lessons, I’m reading through the book that I wrote 3 years ago and well, to be honest, it’s awesome. I am thoroughly enjoying myself (I crack myself up) and am totally inspired to say a million more things, deeper and more specific things about it (which is good, because that’s what the class is!).
Luckily (well, it wasn’t luck, I planned it!) the book doesn’t dive too deep into any particular tool (because I knew they’d become outdated) and instead focuses on foundations of an effective marketing plan. But there’s so MUCH I’ve learned in the intervening three years. I have worked with hundreds more small businesses. I have seen some Captains’ businesses quintuple in size, and others (even ones I used as examples!) blink out of existence, because the makers burned out or just found something they wanted to do more (which is great!).

Here are the additional lessons I’ve learned about marketing:

  • New content is king. No, everyone doesn’t need a blog, but everyone does need to give their people something new to share – whether that’s new images, new posts, new events, or new products. You can systematize this so it doesn’t drive you crazy, but you can’t ignore it.
  • Ignore everyone else. I think I say a version of this about 100 times throughout the book, but you know what? Working with more students has taught me that you need to hear it another 100 times before it sinks in. IGNORE EVERYONE ELSE. Their success, failure, decisions have nothing to do with what’s going to work for you.
  • You stand out from the competition by not only focusing on your sparkle and your people (which we cover!) but also by building a business YOU want. Because, you see, you’re going to want a different kind of business than everyone else. So you’ll make different decisions, use different tools, show up in a different way. By doing this, you’re going to have a business that looks and feels different. I’ve seen Karen do this beautifully with Gentle Clothing. She got clear about her North Star, and then built it right into the business and she ended up with something totally new and fresh.
  • It’s all about feelings. (Really!) How do you want your buyer to feel? How will your product make her feel? Take THAT and infuse it everywhere – your website, your descriptions, your photos, your emails, the way you write your contact page! The book actually has a worksheet about this in Chapter 4, but over the last three years I’ve become 100x more addicted to this idea, as I’ve seen it work over and over for clients (and my own business)!
  • The more you can strip away your I-don’t-want-to-fail or I-don’t-want-to-look-stupid, the faster you’ll do work that matters and that stands out (and that sells). This is just a fact of life and it’s true in every arena.

If you’re feeling stuck or confuzzled or not sure where to start, start here. Start with what you want from your business, how you want people to feel, and keep giving your people new things to share and talk about (uh, and then share and talk about them!).

PS. The class is closed, but you can get the book here. Everyone aboard the Starship gets the class, so sign up here if you want to be notified when that reopens.

Are you doing what matters? Here’s how to know.

are you doing what matters

What are the last 5 things you did for your business?

I don’t mean big crazy things, but the very last 5 actions you took.

Now zoom out – what were your big goals for 2015? What had you planned to work on this quarter?

Do the actions you recently took have anything to do with the big goal? Can you see how they fit together?

Or are they totally unrelated? Are you spending your working time reacting or distracted?

What about today’s to do list and plan? Is it related to your goals?

As we wrap up the first quarter of 2015, it’s the perfect time to check in on what you’ve done (celebrate it!) and realign your daily actions into a plan for what you want.

If you find yourself doing a lot of unrelated stuff that has nothing to do with your goal, don’t beat yourself up, just take the time to reset. There are lots of ways to reset. You could:

  • Revisit your map (if you made one) and mark off all the things you did (and celebrate!) and pick 2 of the next steps to do this week.
  • Write down your goal and brainstorm the VERY next action you could take towards it.
  • Tell someone what you’re going to work on next (accountability makes it much more likely to happen!)
  • Schedule a time to work on your goal, in the very next 2 days. Put it on your calendar.
  • Take a dance break…then sit down and get to work.

Need help getting clear about what actions will move you towards your goal? Want to make a plan for getting there? Need accountability?

The Starship provides exactly this..and it’s now open! Make a plan, choose the best actions, and be held accountable when you beam up here: http://taraswiger.com/help/starship-adventure

Boarding this quarter is super-short and it closes on FRIDAY. Join here.

 

A plan for sharing your work (+ a peek at my first marketing plan)

So what's your plan

Last week we talked about how to sell something:

  • Identify the person who will love it and buy it (I call this your Right Person).
  • Figure out what she cares about and why she buys your product (in the beginning you’re guessing; as you get more sales, you’ll ask her directly).
  • Explain how awesome your thing is, in terms she understands.
  • Go where she already is and talk to her there.

I heard back from lots of you that you KNOW you should be doing this, but it just feels overwhelming and like a lot to keep track of.

But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, all these pieces can fit together into one plan, that you implement day in and day out, without worrying too much about it.

Yes, it takes time, energy, and commitment to set it up, but once you have it…it just works. You know what to do, every day. You’ll continue to test it, improve it, and work it…but first you have to have it.

This knowing what to do thing feels AWESOME. It helps alleviate so much of the doubt and second-guessing you’ve been struggling with. It focuses your working time. It allows you to be consistent, which builds trust with your people, expands your reach, and – yes – leads to more sales.

This plan for reaching people is called….a Marketing Plan! (Imagine that!) Remember: Marketing = any communication you have with your people. So this is just a plan for reaching your people on the regular.

My first marketing plan was scribbled in my day job office, on a post-it note I kept hidden under my keyboard, circa 2007. It said:

  • Post one new picture to Flickr each day + add to groups (the days before Instagram!)
  • Tweet picture (ask for help naming?)
  • Reply to 3 new people (Flickr, Twitter, knitting blogs)
  • One new Etsy listing/day
  • Blog 1x/week
  • Email list every month (new yarns)

You see, your marketing plan can be as big or small as you need it to be. I added new stuff to the list all the time to see what might work, but knowing the absolute minimum kept me focused when things got busy. What you can’t see from the list is the time I spent finding my possible customers (knitters who knit with handspun yarn…which was harder before Ravelry!) and figuring out what groups or tags would help my yarn be found by more people. But once I did that … I just followed the plan.

To make your own marketing plan (that actually works, and isn’t a waste of your time), you need to:

  1. Know what makes you and your thing sparkle (stand out from everything else).
  2. Identify who some of your people are, what they care about, and where they hang out.
  3. Choose the methods you’ll use to reach them.
  4. Put it all together in a plan that you implement, day in and day out.

 

If you’d like guidance and a clear path for making your own plan, check out Craft Your Marketing. In this 6 week e-course you will identify your sparkle, find your people, choose your tools and then make a simple, post-it worthy marketing plan that will bring you more fans and more sales. You don’t have to do this alone. I’m here to help with audio lessons (and enhanced transcripts!), worksheets, and FUN.

If you don’t know what you’re doing TODAY to connect with your people (or who they are or what to say), I hope you’ll join me in class: http://taraswiger.com/craft-marketing/.

 

PS. This class includes a signed copy of my book, so I’m closing registration next week so I can get the book in the mail to you in time!

How do you find your people?

how do you find your people

The past few weeks we’ve been learning how to talk to your customer — but talking to her is just one part of the process. To actually SELL your goods, you need to:

  1. Identify the person who will love it and buy it (I call this your Right Person).
  2. Figure out what she cares about and why she buys your product (in the beginning you’re guessing; as you get more sales, you’ll ask her directly).
  3. Explain how awesome your thing is, in terms she understands.
  4. Go where she already is and talk to her there.

The thing is, the first three are all about you doing the work, alone in your studio/office/kitchen, thinking and working and guessing. You can spend hours, days, months just thinking and guessing about your Right Person. You can even put some stuff in your shop with the descriptions and photos you think will speak to her. You can write blog posts aimed at her.

But that’s not enough. It’s not enough to stay in your own world and hope that she finds you.

But I can hear you now, you want to know: HOW?! 

It’s entirely dependent on what you sell and who you sell it to.

You can show up where your person is in a zillion ways:

  • You can write a post on her favorite blog.
  • Your product can be featured in her favorite magazine, blog, or TV show.
  • Her friend will tell her about your work or forward your email.
  • You’ll vend at the craft show she attends.
  • You’ll comment on HER blog or be in the forums where she chats.
  • Someone she follows will retweet you, or share your FB post.
  • You’ll write an article for her favorite magazine.
  • She’ll search for a product, and you’ll show up in the search results.
  • You’ll meet on social media, in a FB group or Twitter chat.
  • She’ll see your ad (on a blog, on Facebook, anywhere).

You see, not every option makes sense for every business (or buyer). If you try to do them all, you’ll waste your time. If you try to do everything  at once, you’ll be distracted and ineffective.

But if you pick the one that makes the most sense for your business and your Right Person? And you do it consistently, week after week? You are sure to find your buyer and connect with her. You’ll learn so much about your person, where she is and what she wants from you. You’ll also learn where she isn’t and what you’re wrong about.

I can’t tell you exactly what will work for you.

But all of us can answer a few questions to get started:
Who is going to love and buy what I make? (You gotta know this first!)
When does she buy my thing?
What influences her decisions?
Where does she look for information? (What term does she search for?)

By answering these questions, you’ll get an idea of what to try.

And then it’s up to you to do it, to actually TRY something and keep trying it, with consistency.

PS. We’re going to walk through this entire process+ get specific about what you actually DO in the upcoming class, Craft Your Marketing.

How do you talk about your work without feeling gross?

How to talk about your work

How do I describe what it is I do? How do I talk about my work? 

This is the question we nearly all have. (If you’ve figured this out and feel 100% confident talking about your work, send me an e-mail immediately and tell me your secret sauce – vulcan@taraswiger.com).
Even though I’ve been doing this for 5 years (and have been running my own business for over 8 years!), I struggle with how to talk about my work every day. In every sales page I write, in every conversation I have, and in every byline I submit to a magazine or blog.

I don’t know that this question ever goes away, but you certainly can get better at talking about your work. 

For starters, you want to discover what it is that you do that’s special.  I often refer to this as your “sparkle,” because it’s the thing that catches your customer’s eye and attracts them to you. You gotta get crystal-clear on this, so that you’re not being general or vague, but truly standing out from everyone else. I’ve worked with hundreds of makers, and found a very particular sparkle in each of them, so please trust me when I say – you’ve got it. You’ve just gotta uncover it. (There are worksheets for this in Market Yourself!)

Then, once you know what makes your thing special, you want to put it into words that resonate with your customers. You want to talk about what your customers care about. This is NOT going to be the things you most care about (usually), but you can find this out with some thinking and digging. (The recent podcast episode walks you through figuring it out for your business.)

And then, you practice. You do it over and over and over. You describe your work and yourself to customers, to strangers, to your dog. You practice.

When I work with a creative who is incapable of talking about what they do and sell, we are always able to solve it (so don’t despair!) by focusing on one (or all!) of the above.
Either we:

  • Define what makes them special and who they want to work with.
  • Put it into words that resonate with their ideal customers.
  • Talk about how and where they can practice.

The fact is, feeling weird talking about yourself never goes entirely away, but it can get a heck of a lot easier.

As you review the above list, where do you think you need to focus?

 

PS. Need some help? Check out the new class.

What makes a buyer … buy?

what makes a buyer buy

Last week we talked about your motivation. But you know what’s awesome? The exact same framework applies to your customers. So let’s flip the table and talk about what motivates your buyer to buy. 

If you’ve taken my Marketing for Crafters course, then you know how you can use Maslow’s Hierarchy to figure out your buyer’s motivation.
But what about the new research – how can you use that to connect with your customers?

Let’s dig in:

Autonomy: People are motivated to take actions so that they will feel like the Captain of their own ship. 
Some questions to ask yourself (and answer in your communication with potential buyers):

  • How does my product help the user feel like she’s in charge?
  • How does it help her feel one-of-a-kind?
  • What information can you give her to enable her to feel like she’s making a great, smart decision?
  • How can you speak to that Inner Captain in your messaging?

Example message for artist who sells paintings: Your house doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. You get to decide what you put on the walls. Choose something that communicates who you really are to the world.

How could you apply this to your own business? 

 

Competence (or Mastery): People are motivated to take actions that will help them feel competent and/or skilled. 
Some questions to ask yourself (and answer in your communication with potential buyers):

  • How can I speak to the competence of my customer?
  • What can I provide to make her feel more competent?
  • How can I serve her need for mastery?

Example for a jeweler: Write a series on how to wear your necklaces, or give weekly outfit ideas for what to put with the jewelry – make your reader feel like a master of looking chic (if that’s your brand!).

Example for a knitwear designer: Create patterns that increase the knitter’s skill. Speak to the desire to be a more skilled knitter.

How could you apply this to your own business? 

 

Purpose: People are motivated to fulfill a deeper purpose in life; they want to feel connected to something larger than themselves. 

Some questions to ask yourself (and answer in your communication with potential buyers):

  • What is the larger purpose behind what I’m doing? How can I invite the buyer to take part in that?
  • How can my product enable the buyer to pursue her own purpose?

Example for anyone: Tap into your own business mission and highlight the aspects your buyer will care about. Share that with them and invite them to join it.

Whether your mission is about sharing love or empowering women or keeping handcraft alive or celebrating the geeky, your best customers are going to want to know about it and they are longing to join in and be a part of it

 

What’s your mission? How can you communicate it? 

Hopefully, as you consider your business and answer these questions, you’re beginning to see that, yes, your marketing = talking to real people. People with the same motivation, desires, and enthusiasm as you.

Your job is to communicate the value and provide the information in a framework (speaking to their motivation) that they understand.

The Adventures

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the news  on Fridays – you’re invited to join in. You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

The view

After 20 min of whining & pacing, Raylan accepted the car wasn't a death trap. He then spent a good while facing backwards, watching the back window. #raylanpup
This what shipping a book to every #TSLiftOff student looks like. A HUGE box of pink bubble mailers and rolllllls of tape.
Our view, every hour or two, for the past week. The only way I was able to snap this is that a dog walked by and they both froze. #raylanpup #taralovesmornings
The real reason we got #raylanpup: Beau demanded a pup-chauffeur. #fancydog

 

(It’s all pups, all the time over on Instagram…because I’m truly doing nothing other than working and dog-wrangling. I have hopes for future non-dog activities.)

I am so grateful for…

  • Quiet mornings
  • An increasingly calm Raylan (the new pup)
  • Warmth in the cold

The Finds:

I’m enthusiastic about:

In case you missed it: 

What adventures have you had?

How I get things done

How I get things done

 This is the second piece of the How to Get Stuff Done series. Find Part 1 here and tomorrow’s podcast episode will be the final piece: How to build your own system for getting stuff done. 

 

Warning:  I am diving deep into how exactly I get things done – from producing a podcast every week to writing my book to creating 18 hours worth of class material. I’m sharing this as an example of how a system can work but please remember that you’ll need to find the system that works best for you and your particular tasks. In fact, tomorrow on the podcast I’ll be teaching you to how to build your own system.

Although it doesn’t always feel like it, I get a lot done.

There are the every-week projects: this blog post, podcast episode, free lessons for subscribers, a new lesson for the Starship, answering questions in the Starship forums, holding the weekly Starship live chat, and working with 2-3 clients a week.
There are the quarterly projects: Opening the Starship, welcoming in members, writing new content for the launch, doing my own quarterly planning and taxes.
And then there are the one-time projects, (writing a new class, teaching live, writing articles for magazines, giving interviews) and my bigger goals that require me to work on something long-term (like a book proposal or creating everything (whew!) for Lift Off).
And then there’s email. I have planning and project-detail emails from Jess, session notes from clients, questions from potential customers (“Is this for me?”), and compliments from readers and listeners (thanks!). I read and reply to absolutely every question or concern or even my-life-is-falling-apart email I get from readers, listeners and students.

I listed this because before I can share how I get things done, we have to talk about the different kinds of productivity I need. I need regular routines for getting the weekly stuff done and I need a separate, set-aside time to work on one-time requests and projects. I need internal-thinking time for writing (usually at the coffee shop) and quiet-house time for talking to clients (usually at home).

Above all, I need to NOT keep all these things in my head. When I don’t have some way to write them all down and not lose them, or when I don’t trust my system … I go crazy. My head swims. I can’t sleep. I get swirly. (Swirly is when you just go over and over the same thing until everything is doom.)

How I remember everything I need to do

Here’s what I did for the last 5 years of self-employment:
I keep everthing in a moleskine journal that fits in my purse. When someone recommends a book, I write it down. When I remember a project, I write it down. When I have an idea, I write it down.
Each Monday, I made a “This Week” list. I’d write down my weekly stuff plus all of the one-offs that are particular to this week. I’d look at all my ongoing projects and write down the tasks I wanted to get done this week to make progress. I’d go back through the last week in my journal and add anything to the list that I didn’t get done, or that I wanted to remember. I’d check my calendar (Jess books client sessions and adds them to my calendar) and write down anything that’s coming up (I keep all time-bound appointments in my google calendar, so it syncs on my phone and computer, but I also write them on my list so I remember to allow time for them). This fit on one piece of paper. 

Each weekday, I’d look at the This Week list and write a list for today. I’d write down just the things I could get done today. In general, I worked on the weekly things on Monday or Tuesday (if at all possible), so that I can work on the bigger projects or one-offs later in the week, with a bigger chunk of uninterrupted time. This also ensures they always get done, and I stay consistent in my online connection. (Here’s how I stay consistent with my social media presence.) If a day had a lot of tasks, I’d number the most important, so I remembered to focus on them.

The above system isn’t that different from a Bullet Journal (which so many Starship Captains LOVE), except that I’m prioritizing daily, based on what’s going on.

I’ve recently changed this system a bit, and here’s what I do now:
If I have my phone near me, I put every To Do in OmniFocus. From adding a book to my To Read list, to remembering to mail letters, to writing this weekly post, I put it all in OmniFocus the moment I think of it. If I’m with someone else or my phone isn’t nearby, I write it in my journal and add it to OmniFocus the next day.

Once a day, usually at the end of my workday before I start dinner, I go through the newly-added tasks and assign them “contexts”. Thanks to Sarah, I think of Contexts as the description of what state I’m going to be in when I work on the task.

I use:

  • Home (little things around the house),
  • Errands (when I’m out),
  • Big Rocks (the tasks that will move my most important projects forward),
  • Consistency (the things I do each week or month or quarter, I’ve set them to repeat automatically, so I add them once and they come back when I need to work on them),
  • Quick and Painless (tiny things like “Finish filling out invoice”).

Contexts are harder to explain than they are to implement – I use them to ensure I’m working on the important things and that I know what I could do when I have a moment (other than scroll through Instagram for the 10000th time). While I’m going through them, I also apply a due date, if I want to be sure and do it by a certain date. Things with a due date (even if I made it up!) are FAR more likely to actually get done!

Each Monday I still make a This Week list in my journal by looking at what’s coming up.  I make sure that each piece of each project for the week is in OmniFocus, with a due date. This isn’t really necessary, except that I find it clarifying to see everything I’m doing in a week in one place and it gives me a shape for my week. (For example, last week I had a live workshop on Monday that involved a total of 4 hours driving, and then had 2 clients sessions and a vet visit on Tuesday, so I knew I wouldn’t do my normal writing days, so I’d need to write on Wednesday and Thursday.)

Each day, I look at my OmniFocus list for the day and pick the 3 Most Important Things for the day (learned this from ZenHabits). If I get nothing else done, I really need to do these. This helps me focus on what’s important and it keeps me from getting distracted by the internet. As soon as those 3 MITs are done (sometimes it’s done in an hour, sometimes they take all day), I check out my OmniFocus list for the day and start going down it, occasionally taking a break with a Quick and Painless task. (Today it was ordering protein powder from Amazon.)

That is how I remember to do everything, and remembering (and prioritizing) is half the battle when it comes to getting stuff done.

Actually DOING the things.

The most important piece to doing stuff is to HAVE A TIME to do it. Nothing will get done unless you set aside the time for it.


Side note: I cannot believe how many makers I’ve helped completely change their business growth by just doing one thing: Setting aside time for work. If you don’t have a time set, do it. It will change your life. It doesn’t matter if you have 1 hour a week or 8 hours a day, just set it aside and keep it sacred.


I work 4-5 weekdays (never on a weekend unless I’m traveling and teaching) from 9ish to 4ish. Before “work”, I take the dogs on a long walk, workout, shower, have breakfast, meditate/pray, set my intention for the day (pick my 3 MITs) and maybe read. I try very hard to only turn on the internet after all this, which ends up being between 9 and 10 am.
I have two main ways I think of my working time: Writing Time + Project Blocks. In between these are emails and quick tasks. Writing Time is mostly for the things I do every day or every week (writing free content) and Project Blocks are for doing one-off projects and making progress on my Big Goals.

Writing Time
I try to make my working time as much of a habit as possible, so I always sit down to write first (I try SO HARD to not check email before my writing time). If it’s early in the week, I work on the Routine Writing. If the Routine Writing is done for the week (usually by Wednesday), I write on my bigger projects (paid writing gigs, guest posts, or my Big Goal project). I make sure to write first thing because this is when my brain is freshest. After I get to 1,000 words or have finished what I was writing, I stop writing and head to my email.

Email
When I check email, I catch up on it (remember, I use Unroll.me to keep all of my subscriptions in one place, so the only emails in my inbox are ones I need to take action on). I try very hard to just handle what’s there, reply when needed, and file everything else. If the email is a reminder to do some specific action, I add it to my list and archive the email (so I can find it later if I need it, but so that my inbox does not become a To Do list in competition with my own To Do list).

Project Time
After email, it’s Project Time. Often this involves client sessions, catching up on the Starship forum (I read every post there and answer any questions), editing what I wrote, planning my content calendar, creating a class, updating the site, researching, or scheduling social media. I try to have at least two or three Pomodoro sessions without email or distractions for Project Time.

Reality
Now the fact is that almost no week is “normal”. I teach classes all over North Carolina, which often involves a good bit of travel time. I occasionally have client sessions earlier in the day. If the Starship is Boarding, I’m in my inbox constantly – personally welcoming every new member as soon as they pay. Each quarter I set aside a whole day to plan the coming three months.
But thinking of my time in these two categories helps me be sure my week is balanced and I’m getting both time to write the consistent stuff and to work on the bigger projects. Before I started partitioning my time up like this, my weekly writing and emails were taking over every workday, ensuring I didn’t get much done towards the bigger projects.

When it comes to actually focusing during the work time, I’ve got a few hacks:

  1. I find the most important thing for this very moment and either write it down or if it’s already written down, I circle it, star it or do whatever it takes to say to my brain: work exclusively on this.
  2.  If I find myself getting distracted (ex, the other day I suddenly really needed to look up this song), I set my Pomodoro timer and do nothing else during the next 25 minutes.
  3.  I play music in my earbuds constantly. Embarrassingly pop-y, shallow music. It’s important that it has a driving beat (I type to the beat) and that I can bop my head to it and that I already know all the words. This is my best list, but right now (as I write this) I’m listening to Spotify’s Throwback Thursday list. This is vital to my productivity because it keeps my chattering brain busy so my think-y brain can think and write. (Jay likes to listen to sports radio while he works because his chattering brain likes words.)
  4. I close all other tabs (If I’m leaving a tab open because I want to read something, I save it to Pocket.). I write in 750words, because it’s just blank and I love to see my word count.

And that’s it!

I’d love to hear from you – how do you get stuff done?

 

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