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254: How to plan in uncertain times

Running and growing a creative business smoothly depends on a fair amount of planning. But how can you plan for your business when something in your life is causing a lot of scheduling uncertainty. Learn more about how I do it, and the tips I have for you at TaraSwiger.com/podcast254

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How can you plan for your business when everything in your life is uncertain? When you’re not sure where you’ll be next week or next month? You may be great at planning normal life, but what about when there’s a family illness, a new baby, a new job, a big move, a divorce, or just the uncertainty of life?

Let’s talk through how to ride these waves of uncertainty.

As you know, I’m in a really uncertain season of my life as a foster parent. Heck, as you listen to this, my whole family may have changed shape (again!).

How can you plan for just running your business or growing your business when everything is so uncertain?

Week to Week

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Make a list of what is the core function of your business and what has to be done to make sales. Ruthlessly cut everything else.
    Remind yourself that this is just for now. For this season. Things will change, you’ll have more certainty and then you can add back in all the not-mission-critical-top-priority stuff.
  2. Each week, look at what’s ahead on your calendar and what you need to do this week on top of the usual, and find the time in your week.
    Go on and schedule the chunks of time for work, in whatever system works for you. Something flexible, like Google calendar or post-its on your paper planner.
    Even if you never wrote down work times in your schedule before, now is the time to do it, because you want to first identify those times when you can work (your freaked-out brain will tell you that you NEVER have time) and then not MISS them. You always want to make sure you’ve got enough time and if you truly don’t, you get to recognize that now, when you’re planning, so you can adjust your expectations.
  3. Change your mindset to value flexibility. Your past focus may have been productivity, so this may be an adjustment. If you’re in a time of uncertainty, something may come up and you’ll need to move the work you had planned. You’re going to be productive if you can be flexible and if you’re not all or nothing about your work times. (This has been a real struggle for me.)
  4. Work when you can, manage expectations, and give yourself credit for getting ANYTHING done.

You’ll notice that this comes down to two skills you have to practice: flexibility and managing expectations. You’ll need to let go of what Past You got done. Embrace the constraints on New You and celebrate what she’s able to do, even in the midst of all this uncertainty.

And lemme tell you, that, for me, was the hardest part. Not comparing Mom Tara with what Past Tara could do. Not just because Past Tara had more time, but because Mom Tara had a lot more on her mind and had a hard time focusing.

Long Term Planning

Now, what about planning long term projects, like applying to craft shows or traveling to events? This is definitely something I’ve struggled a LOT with. Should I plan that trip if I may not be able to go? I skipped out on a trip to Europe, which was paid for except my flight, because I thought we’d have a kid in our home. Well, we did not have a kid in our home and I was in the middle of mourning the loss of our first placement. Should I have planned it anyhow? I’m not sure. I still don’t know if I made the right decision or not, but I’ve decided to just let it go.

Should you apply to that craft show if you may have to stay home?

The truth is, I can’t tell you what you should do.

You need to make your own decision based on your own comfort with risk, canceling and regret.

Take into account:

  • How comfortable you are with having to cancel.
  • How upset you’ll be if it ends up you could have done this event and then didn’t do it.

The fact is, you may need to adjust how comfortable you are with cancelling. For years, I have followed through on every webinar plan I made. If I said I was going live next Wednesday, I’d do it. But the changing foster placements meant that I either had to NEVER plan another webinar, OR I had to just accept that I would plan things and not follow through. Since a free webinar getting cancelled doesn’t hurt anyone, I’m fine with that. But I won’t be selling anything I can’t follow through on, because I’m not going to cancel what you paid for (although I have had to reschedule some things!).

So you have to think through this for yourself. Are you OK with applying to a craft show you need to cancel on? Will you be more upset if you don’t  apply but it ends up you could have gone? These are hard decisions, but just keep in mind: You will be ok no matter what.

I hope this has helped you think through your own plans, and that if you’re not in an uncertain place right now, you can come back to this episode when you are. If you are in an uncertain place right now I just want to tell you that I am proud of you. You are doing a good job. I’m sorry you’re going through this and I believe in you. Your business will be OK.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

253: Q+A with my husband!

Working with your partner has some incredible perks, and some tricky parts. Listen in while my husband and I answer your questions about work, life, and fostering at TaraSwiger.com/podcast253

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Ever wonder what it’s like to work with me?  Or to work with your spouse? Today we, both Jay and I, are going to answer your questions!

Jay has worked in my business on and off for years, and in the last few years we have had a lot of new adventures – from working full-time in my business, to pursuing his dream to open a comic shop, to fostering babies!

In this episode we answer questions about guilt, what it’s like when one of us gets to follow our dream (and the other doesn’t), the hardest part of working together full-time, how Jay feels about me being in the limelight, the best part of foster care, why we rent, and the real work Jay has had to do as we make huge changes in our life. And yeah, we talk about how the patriarchy feels some kind of way about a husband working for the wife, and why we just don’t care. We wrap up with our advice for couples who want to work together.

Thank you to listeners who asked their question:

Are you following me on Instagram? Be sure you are so you can ask me questions for my next Q+A episode!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

252: Get your confidence back

Confidence generates forward momentum and forward momentum generates confidence. But what do you do when you don’t have confidence or momentum? Learn how to get your confidence back in your creative biz at TaraSwiger.com/podcast252

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I’m gonna be honest: For years I have been teaching about confidence, here on the podcast, at conferences. So I was surprised to find: I had totally lost my confidence. Today I’m going to share how I lost it and how I’m getting it back. Hopefully it will help you locate your own confidence.

First: What do I mean by confidence? Let’s define it here, because it’s easy to misunderstand. And I’ll be honest, I meet a lot of women who say they can’t move forward until they’re more confident and in my work, I’ve just found that’s not entirely true. You are probably confident ENOUGH to at least do SOMETHING.

So let’s define it: Confidence, in the terms I’m talking about, is what psychologists call self-efficacy – you have the power to do something. You believe you can do it and affect the outcome.

It’s NOT believing you can do EVERYTHING. You may be confident in your cooking, but not have confidence in your business. You may be confident in your writing, but not in public speaking.

Another thing: Being confident doesn’t mean you feel confident ALWAYS.
It is NOT feeling amazing all the time. Feeling like you can do anything, feeling totally fearless.

For more about what confidence is and isn’t, check out episode 126: What Confidence is and isn’t.

You probably have enough confidence about SOMETHING, to take it and apply it to your business. Even if you don’t feel amazing all the time, you can take the next step.

Here’s the thing: Confidence is a spectrum. You’re not “confident or not confident.” Some days your more confident than others. Your more confident in some areas than others. And depending on life, and business, and the results you’re getting, you may slide around the spectrum.

In my case, I entered adulthood pretty high on the confidence scale – I worked hard, I got good grades, I made stuff happen (like a scholarship and a happy marriage). I went through bouts of self-doubt, but I pretty much never lost my belief that if I REALLY wanted something, I could make it happen. I may be slightly delusional, but this delusion let me take action that made stuff happen.

And here’s the thing: I wasn't confident that everything would be great, I was confident that I would be ok. I was confident that I could try and still be OK. I was talking to a friend with a similar background and a successful business and she said – my definition of OK was very basic. As long as I wasn’t living at home again or in an abusive relationship, I was OK.

That’s what has led me to do everything I’ve ever done in my business – to start selling yarn on Etsy when Etsy was brand new, to quit my dayjob 10 years ago, to start helping other people with their business soon after, to publish two books, to encourage my husband to quit his day job, to start a new business – it all has been based in the core belief that I would be OK. So I may as well try, right?

Then, we were hit with disappointments: infertility (which has been bubbling away in the background for a decade), we weren’t able to buy the comic book shop, I suffered my longest ever bout of depression, we had two kids we LOVED leave our home.

While we had the foster kiddos, I took a step back from work. And when it was time to step back into work, I was plagued by the constant doubt: Can I even do this?

I think a lot of self-doubt came from the period of depression – it sucked away all sense of action, of ability, of efficacy. I physically felt like I couldn’t do anything all day, my brain was foggy and it was very hard to do anything mentally, and emotionally, well I mostly just cried or felt numb. So when I was feeling better and the depression lifted…my sense of self was beat up. The depressed Tara, who didn’t have physical, mental or emotional energy became real to me. I started to believe she was me.

At the same time, I knew she wasn’t. I knew Get-Things-Done, 6 Figure Business Tara was the real me, but when I would dream about plans and goals, I was trying to imagine Depressed Tara doing it and…I couldn’t imagine it.

The basis of my confidence (which had been “I’ll be OK no matter what”) switched to “But what if I can’t do it? What if it doesn’t work out?” That hard part is, I didn’t really know this happening. My first clue was back in September when a business friend said “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be at X goal next year!” and I was like “Maybe, I don’t know” and he was like, “Wait! That is not the Tara I know.” I went back to my room and cried because my friend was right. That is not the Tara I have been.

The next clue was just a few weeks ago, when I was at a conference and the speaker asked us to think about what we wanted to get from the experience, and I realized: I want to feel confident again. I did some journaling and I realized that it’s not that I need a better schedule or a different office, I just need to BELIEVE that things are possible again. That I can work towards my goal and whether I reach or not, I’ll be ok.

The good news: Once I realized it was the problem,  I know how to get it back. I have TAUGHT how to get it back!

I’ve shared all of my story of losing my confidence with you, in hopes that you may see some of yourself in it, that if you are feeling wobbly, you’ll recognize it. Now let’s talk about how to get it back (or get it for the first time).

The first part of this is knowing yourself. If you’ve been paying attention to how you work, what your strengths are, how you work best, you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on, if you paid attention when things were going well. So that’s the first step – build your confidence from who you are. Build it on your strengths. In other words, stop paying attention to who you WISH you were and what you wish you were like. That’s going to keep you in a self-doubt spiral of constant comparison.

How I am doing this: This may sound crazy, but I make a list of my strengths. What am I good at? What do I KNOW I can do?

The next step is to take care of yourself. You’re not going to feel good if you don’t have what you need. Part of this is eating, drinking enough water, sleeping enough, but it’s also filling up your inspiration well. For me this is listening to certain podcasts (I share them in episode 248) and reading books.

Confidence comes from action. DO something every day.

If you’re waiting around to do something until you feel confident, listen to episode 131: How to Take Action, without waiting around for more confidence.

Here’s the good news: you’re already DOING things every day. Really! So write down what you want to do (be easy on yourself!) and be sure you add things that “don't count” to your To Do list. Did you feed your child? Did you feed yourself? Did you get dressed? Brush your hair! Huzzah! You are accomplished!

How I am doing this: I noticed that when I just let myself rest and didn’t do anything (or rather, didn’t mark stuff off a list), I just felt worse. It made me feel like I couldn’t do things, so everything was so much harder to start doing, even after I felt better. (It’s harder to get started than it is to keep going). What I needed was to make myself do one thing, that had a real impact, every day. And most importantly, write it down, so I had the satisfaction of marketing it off. I had fallen so far off of my planning, that I started over with a new planner (You can watch a video about how that’s working for me here).

I started feeling better about my ability to do stuff, but there was still some stuff I wasn’t doing each week, stuff I put off for, seriously, over a month. The answer? An accountability partner with the very same goal and focus. We check in by 10am each day with a list of two things we’re going to do and again by 10pm to say if we’ve done it. Just knowing someone else is waiting to hear if I did it makes all the difference. A friend of mine is super strict about her partners – if you miss a time, or you don’t do what you said you would, you have three strikes. After three strikes, you lose your partner.

Celebrate

A huge part of confidence is remembering that you HAVE done awesome stuff and you WILL do awesome stuff again. Some suggestions for getting in that frame of mind:

  • Practice accepting compliments. Don’t follow-up up a compliment with all the reasons it’s not true.
  • Better yet, remember the compliments – put them in a folder, print them out, heck, someone on Instagram illustrated her compliments.
  • Tell your loved ones – “I need help remembering that I’ve done awesome things. Can you help?”
  • List all the things you've overcome.
  • List all the things you’ve accomplished.
  • Look at these lists as often as you need to!

I hope this helps you move forward in your business! Remember to take care of yourself, take action, and celebrate each tiny step.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

251: What I’m Reading: March 2019

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follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list with me on Facebook and find all the posts here.

(The usual disclaimer applies.)

What I'm reading:

Links:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

250: Q+A: schedules, toddlers and why we do foster care

Running a biz and parenting are challenging in and of themselves. Combine the two together and you’re bound to run into questions and sticking points. Listen in for this q+a episode all about scheduling, parenting, and fostering at TaraSwiger.com/podcast250

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In celebration of my 250th episode, I’m answering your questions!

Last week I asked my Instagram followers to ask me question and I will answer them today! We’re going to talk about how to stick with a schedule, how my schedule has changed with a toddler and how we decided to do foster care. If you’re not following me on Instagram, I’m @TaraSwiger and I share more on all these topics every single day in my stories, along with my knitting and sewing projects and my reading list,  so go follow and then comment on my last post to say hello!

The questions I answer in this episode:

From @bandofweirdos: Congrats, that's a ton of episodes! I so admire your consistency 💜 Maybe you've already talked about this but: do you have any tips around getting yourself to stick to a schedule? Or are you naturally like that? I love planning it all out, what I'll post when on social media (and now youtube), what products I will release then… amazing at planning, and then letting myself push the dates all over the place. :p Thank you oh wise scheduling jedi.

@bcastiel asked: Congrats on 250 episodes! Here's my question, how have you rearranged your work schedule, now that you have a two-year-old to look after? I know how focused and organized you are, so I'd be interested in seeing what adjustments you have made.

And finally, from @marymac1218: What made you and your husband decide to become foster parents? What are your top 3 most used essential oils and why?

Thanks for these questions! If you enjoy this podcast, please celebrate with me by subscribing on YouTube or your podcast app, and then leaving a review! On iTunes, click the stars and write a short little bit about what you like, and on YouTube, give the video a thumbs up and leave a comment! This helps people like you find the show!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

249: When to quit

How do you know it's time to quit? Sometimes when something isn’t working in your biz that means it’s time to quite, but sometimes it means it’s time to keep going. Learn how to tell the difference at TaraSwiger.com/podcast249

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How do you know it's time to quit? Should you keep plugging away when it’s not working? Should you just try harder? Or is it better to quit? This week I’m going to tell you when it’s time to definitely quit.

When do you know it’s time to quit? When should you just give up on the thing you’re working on? I was asked this question a few months ago and I have thought about it a lot, because this is a BIG question. I have two competing answers when individual people ask me this question.

First, I am a huge fan of quitting. Just stop! It’ll give you the energy to work on something you DO want to do. I stop books, I stop business ideas, I stop launches. I stop all the time and I think it’s fantastic. As a culture we can sometimes romanticize the FINISHING of something…but if the thing isn’t worth finishing, and you’re not going to be glad it’s done, that time is better spent elsewhere. There’s the Sunk Cost Fallacy, which is when your brain thinks “I’ve already spent X time or money on this, I need to spend more to make it worthwhile.”

Second, I think: Don’t quit! You’ve barely started! I see way too many new business owners quit before they’ve given their plan a real chance. Often they quit before they’ve done ANYTHING. They’ve spent a lot of time and energy thinking and they think their way towards “oh well, it won’t work.” But if you haven’t tried: How do you know it won’t work?!

How do you know if you should just quit or keep going?

Well I have a few scenarios in which you should definitely just quit and then I have some questions for you to ask yourself when you’re faced with this decision.

The main thing to remember is: no one else can tell you, only you know if you’re making the right decision. And also, you’re going to be fine no matter what you decide, so don’t spend too long trying to get it “right”.

It’s time to quit when…

1. The strategy isn’t working. (But don’t confuse quitting a strategy for quitting the whole mission.)

You can quit individual strategies, without giving up on the whole mission. In fact, in order to grow your business you’re going to need to regularly let go of old ways of doing things, or plans you have that didn’t work out. That isn’t quitting, that’s adjusting, that’s growing. Sometimes we get frustrated that one strategy doesn’t work (say, posting on Instagram), so we give up on the whole mission (having a business). That’s crazy, there’s a million strategies. In my 10+ years experience running a business and going deep in hundreds of other businesses, you almost never need to quit your mission.

 2. You were doing it for someone else. YOU never really wanted to do it.

Often you will find yourself doing something and you realize YOU don’t want to do it. Maybe you were doing it to make a parent or friend happy. Maybe you were doing it because you thought you should want to do it. Whatever the reason, when this happens, stop immediately.

3. The version of you who wanted this was an old version of you.

Good news! You’re going to grow and change. That means there will be a new version of you. And this new version is going to want different things than the old version. You’ll look around and realize Old You really liked this but New You doesn’t so…quit!

Don’t beat yourself up for changing, don’t beat yourself up for who Old You was, just move on.

Questions to ask yourself before quitting:

  • Have I have given it my best shot?
  • Have I ACTUALLY TAKEN ACTION?
  • Have I taken the level and intensity of action that is required?
    • How do I know what's required? What have other people done?

I’d love to hear from you – what have you quit? How did you decide? Come over to Instagram and leave a comment or tag me in your post, I’m @taraswiger.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

248: My favorite podcasts

I love podcasts, and think they’re fantastic for entertainment or for learning new things. In this episode I wanted to share some of my favorite business, parenting, and generally fun podcasts. Learn more at TaraSwiger.com/podcast248

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I LOVE podcasts. They are the absolute perfect way to learn or be entertained while you do boring or mundane stuff. I listen to quite a few podcasts and I'm always recommending specific episodes to friends. Today I want to share my favorite with you!  I'll cover my favorite podcasts for your business, for parenting (especially fostering and adopting), and just general fun stuff.

This week I'm sharing some of my favorite podcasts. I have been listening to podcasts since 2006! My husband bought me an ipod shuffle (no screen!) for Valentine's Day in 2006 because I was listening to podcasts on my computer (we only had a desktop, no laptop, and obviously we only had flip phones. FLIP PHONES!). Those first podcasts I loved (you can still go back and listen!) – KnitCast, which may have been the first podcast about knitting, CastOn with Brenda Dayne, which inspired the direction of my yarn company, and CraftyPod with Diane Gilleland, who I stalked on Twitter until we became real-life friends and collaborators. (I took her class on podcast years before I started this show and anything good in this podcast I learned from her.)

The landscape of podcasting has changed QUITE a bit since 2006! For starters, you likely know what they are now, and you probably didn't back then. Many of you don’t even listening Explore Your Enthusiasm as an audio podcast, you watch it on YouTube.

When I first started this show back in 2014, I had to explain to interested students what podcasts were and how to actually get them. If you are reading this, did you know you can get it delivered to your phone automatically? If you have an iphone, just go to the Podcast app, search for “explore your enthusiasm” and hit the “subscribe” button! It'll come to your phone every Wednesday morning. If you use a different phone, look in your app store for a podcast app, and subscribe in the same way.

Before we get into my faves, let's talk about listening to podcasts for a minute – there are some podcasts I listen to every week, but MOST shows, I tend to save up and then binge on. I may spend a whole week listening to one show, and then not listen again for a month. I may completely forget about a show for 3 months, and then it becomes one of my favorites. So when I recommend these shows, I'm not just recommending the most recent episodes, I'm recommending them overall, because I've learned something from them over the years.

And now that I've told you how I listen to podcasts, you don't need to apologize to ME for not hearing my most recent episode, when you meet me in person or send me a DM I get it!

And if you want to hear MY best podcast episodes, check out the episode 234! In it I share the most popular episodes and you can find them linked up at the show notes: https://taraswiger.com/podcast234/

My favorite podcasts for your biz:

I'll be honest, I don't listen to a lot of business podcasts regularly, because I find they distract me from what I need to be working on! I don't need more ideas, I just need to do the work! However, when I do need ideas or inspiration, I listen to these:

Hashtag Authentic – I met Sarah Tasker when she was a student in my Craft Your Marketing workshop in Manchester, England. And then I was blown away when I realized that she is an Instagram superstar and writes an amazing blog. Her podcast Hashtag Authentic is SO good and has amazing interviews with people you don't hear anywhere else. And! Her book Hashtag Authentic just came out and is the best thing ever.

The Goal Digger Podcast – Jenna Kutcher, who has a giant business and started out as a photographer and went viral on Instagram, shares some amazing lessons in this show. She switches between teaching episodes (kinda like my show usually is) with interviews with a really random collection of people. To be honest, I usually skip the interviews because she's had some reality stars on which is…odd, but also some great conversations about diversity in the Instagram world. I tend to pick and choose. My favorite episodes have been about concrete topics like growing Instagram or Pinterest.

Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield – I haven't listened to this show in about a year because I would end up taking copious notes on each episode and learning so much…and I've been in a place of implementing (and healing!), instead of learning. But when I need to uplevel some aspect of my business, I search her archives and listen to the episodes that relate to what I need. That said, a few years ago I listened every single week and  acted on so much of what she taught I think it directly correlated to my business hitting six figures. (No, I haven't taken her classes, but they look great!)

Hol:Fit Talks – Ange Petersen has a multimillion dollar business and is one of the top sellers in doTERRA and she believes it is all about mindset. Her episodes are so encouraging and enlightening, no matter what business you're in.

All Rise Up with Allison Nichols – If you have doTERRA business, you need to be listening to this podcast. I am telling you that it is REQUIRED listening. If you have a different business, you're going to love her interviews and learn a lot about how to be a bold salesperson. Allison is another of the top sellers in doTERRA and I love how unapologetic she is about her ambition and how hard you need to work.

Honorable Mention:  I used to listen to both The Tim Ferriss Show and School of Greatness weekly, but I haven't listened in a few years. I became tired of the interview format. The School of Greatness, does have a more diverse line-up (Tim's show tends to be all white dudes who have giant business, many of which are “intellectual dark web” people). I also have listened to and loved The Life Coach School show, Sounds Like Bliss, Manifestation Babe.

There are two mental health related podcasts that I think are just great:

Jen Gotch is Ok… Sometimes – The first several episodes are required listening if you think you may be dealing with mental health issues. Jen Gotch is the founder of Band.Do, which means she's a super smart businesswoman…and she has bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Hearing her story in the first few episodes was really what I needed this summer.

The Hilarious World of Depression – This is the podcast I didn't know I needed. Each week the host interviews a different funny person and they talk about their experience with depression, how they got treatment and what works for them. It is always heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking and is what you need if you feel alone.

Honorable Mention: Oprah's Supersoul Conversation. I don't think it needs an explanation. It's Oprah and some great guests and some kooky guests.

Parenting podcasts:

Real Mom Podcast – a foster and adoptive mom interviews moms from all backgrounds and although this show is aimed at Christian moms, I think all moms can relate to the stories shared and the real conversations.

Slate's Mom and Dad are Fighting – this is a panel show with 3 parents who answer listener questions and share their own “triumphs and fails” each week. Sometimes they talk about older kids, sometimes toddlers, I always enjoy it and usually listen while washing dishes.

The Empowered Parent Podcast – this is usually a conversation with two parents and is based on the concepts in Karyn Purvis' work and the Connect Child book. If you are parenting a kid with trauma or you're feeling disconnected, there's lots of good foundational stuff with examples in this show (I mostly download old shows and listen about a specific topic, like tantrums, or reunification)

Honorable Mention: The Adoption Connection.

Random podcasts that got me through hard times:

By the Book – In this podcast two friends read and live by a self-help book for 2 weeks. They choose different kinds of books and share the results. This is a professionally produced show and yet manages to be hilarious and warm, like listening to two friends. When I'm traveling and can't sleep, I sometimes put this on with the sleep timer and I drift off. (Not because it's boring but because I need some friends around)

Dear Hank And John – John Green (author of Fault in Our Stars and a million other very good novels) and his brother Hank Green (author of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing and the creator and business brains of tons of huge YouTube things, like Crash Course) have a weekly YT show called VlogBrothers, which is one of the first vlog-type things I ever watched. Now they have a podcast where they give dubious advice to listener's questions and it is always hilarious and uplifting. This is one I listen to every week within a few days of it coming out, often when I'm in the car with my foster kiddos.

Honorable Mention: I was listening to Layla Saad's Wild Mystic Woman podcast for conversations about anti-racist work, but she recently changed it up and has the new Good Ancestor Podcast which I just downloaded.

There are a lot of other shows I listen to now and again, all of these have been listened to recently: Nerdette, Slate's The Waves, Decoder Ring, Reading Glasses, Reply All, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Beautiful Writers Podcast, Rants and Randomness with Luvvie, NPR's Code Switch.

Now that I've put all these shows in one place I can see some things I'd like to change about my own habits – I'm glad to see I am listening to a lot of shows by women, which is something I purposefully sought to change a few years ago. But I recognize that among those women there isn't a lot of diversity. This year I'd like to change that a bit, so I'm  listening to and learning from people who are different from me.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

247: What I’m Reading: February 2019

I explore my enthusiasm by reading… a lot. Learn all about the books I’ve been enjoying over the last month at TaraSwiger.com/podcast247

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follow my enthusiasm by reading…a lot. And once a month, I share (some of) the books I read last month and the books I intend to read this month. You can join the informal book club by sharing your own list with me on Facebook and find all the posts here.

(The usual disclaimer applies.)

What I'm reading:

Links:

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

246: How to stop being hard on yourself

We can all be too hard on ourselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it DOESN’T help you build a more successful or sustainable business. Learn more about how to change your negative self talk at TaraSwiger.com/podcast246

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Do you find yourself distracted with how you could have done something better? Or sidetracked thinking about the mistakes you made? Are you just too hard on yourself? Guess what? Me too!

Today I’m going to share how I’ve been working on: NOT being so hard on myself so I can move forward!

Now, most of us want to be better, right? We want to streamline, optimize, and improve all the time. That’s great and useful…but not when it comes with a dose of beating yourself over everything that needs to be improved and optimized. Not if you’re getting so bogged down in what’s “wrong” that you can’t shift into action.

This is on my mind because a  few days ago I posted on Instagram Stories, that I noticed that I am really hard on myself when it comes to basically every parenting interaction. I'm always thinking: Oh, I could have done that better…I should have reacted differently…Ugh, I wish I had stayed calmer.

(What sparked this conversation was how I feel about parenting decisions, but we’re going to talk about all aspects of life, and especially your business, so you don’t need to be a parent to learn something! I’m brand new at being a parent, and I think a lot of what I’m experiencing is how it feels to be brand-new and learning at ANYTHING. It certainly reflects the lessons I was learning as a brand-new businesswoman!)

When I posted on Instagram Stories I got a lot of replies to my question about being hard on myself and I want to talk about them with the whole community, because they represent two different ways to look at the issue.

First, let’s talk about what I mean about “being hard on myself”. What I’m talking about is when something happens or you make a choice and you think: I should have handled that better. I shouldn’t have done X. I should have done Y.

Now, that thought alone isn’t necessarily the problem. The problems come in when there is judgement (I’m bad because I did X), when there is intensity (OMG THAT WAS HORRIBLE) and when these thoughts are frequent (if you can’t move forward because you can’t let go of the “mistakes” you made).

For example, one of the parenting things I thought was a mistake, I could NOT let it go. For the whole day I go over and over the morning in my head: What happened? Why didn't I …? Why didn't I..? I should have…

(By the way, I want to mention that if you have intrusive or looping thoughts, talk to a therapist, you can get help.)

So that’s being hard on yourself, and for me it comes in the framework of my Generalized Anxiety Disorder, where my anxiety-brain runs away with itself.

When I posted about it I got two different kinds of replies:

  • Half the replies said: This is what motherhood is! Get used to always feeling not good enough!
  • And the other half of the replies said: here are some resources for negative self-talk. Whether it's challenging negative thoughts or learning to talk kinder to yourself.

And both of these are interesting because they show different perspectives. One says “this is how it always is” and the other says “you can change this”.

I know that part of what “get used to it” means is, I'm not alone. That this is a part of doing anything new, and it's a part of almost every aspect of a woman's life – this constant sense that you SHOULD be better, that you COULD do better and that it's your job to be the absolute best.

Our world is filled with messages telling us: eat better, manage your time better, improve your hair, eyes, waist, kids behavior. Earn more money. Buy better stuff. Tidy up the stuff you do buy.

I don't think any of us should just accept that we never feel good enough. I think we can accept that there are a lot of messages in the media and on Instagram, Pinterest, and even among friends that tell us NOT to feel good enough. Our world is filled with this message and then we reiterate these messages to ourselves…but I don't want to believe that it has to be like this forever, that I just need to resign myself to this mindset.

Although I know “you’re not alone, this is what it feels like” messages are meant to be encouraging, I just don't want to live like this. It's not sustainable (in this intensity.) Just because the world tells you that you need to be better doesn’t mean you need to tell YOURSELF that you need to be better.

So, I'm moving forward with the belief that it doesn't have to be like this.

Now the second set of responses were: challenge those negative thoughts!

And this was interesting because I was not even recognizing what I'm doing as negative thoughts. It feels more like…hmm, just a running commentary of what could be better. Almost positive like: you could improve it this way! This could be smoother next time! Optimize! Streamline! IMPROVE!

HOWEVER improving and optimizing CAN be helpful…but when the underlying message is “Not good enough! Not good enough!” …that's not helpful or beneficial.

I kept telling myself that these weren't negative thoughts, they were just kind of insistent. Like the messaging of my whole life combined with anxiety leads to insistent, pervasive sense of doom. And then I realized: Wait, if this is anxiety, I know what can help with anxiety: challenging those thoughts and rewriting them. This is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and studies show that it’s one of the most effective therapies at dealing anxiety and depression.

CBT has this concept of “cognitive distortions,” ways that you’re seeing the situation through a distortion. You recognize the distortion, then rewrite the thought without the distortion.

So I checked to see if this “you should be better at X” fits in with any of the cognitive traps. I used my Moodnotes app because it makes it super simple.

Here are the cognitive distortions that applied:

  • Negative filtering: Only seeing the bad
  • Downplaying positive: dismissing positive qualities by telling yourself they are unimportant or do not count
  • All or nothing thinking: it either went wonderfully or was a failure. You either have a relaxed and happy kid or you're failing at it all.
  • Blaming: Blaming myself for anything that happens, even stuff I can't control.

Do you see how these distortions can apply to your own “hard on yourself” thoughts?

Now, I shared all this in an Instagram Live (follow me so you don’t miss any! I’m @TaraSwiger) and my friend Joeli pointed out something big I had been missing. The thought that needs rewriting isn’t just “you should be better/you’re not enough” but the belief that I even made a mistake to begin with.

I’m assuming (wrongly) that any unwanted outcome (with my child or my business) is because of some mistake I made. The other way to look at this is that it's not a mistake. You can't control all outcomes through your actions alone. For example, maybe if you would have done more IG post about your new product, you would have sold 1 more. But maybe you wouldn't have. You can't assume you know the outcome and then beat yourself up over what you don't know.

The thought the rewrite with CBT: It was a mistake that I X.
The cognitive distortions: Fortune-telling, where you believe you know what would have happened.
A rewritten thought: I don't know that it was a mistake that I X. I can try something different next time.

Another thing that came up while talking about this with friends is…depression. Depression lies. It tells you: You suck. This will never be better. It is your fault it's not going better and there's nothing to be done/you can't fix it. Because you suck.

This is a cognitive distortion. And if you have clinical depression, just rewriting your thoughts might not be enough. You may need an intervention from a specialist. I'm telling you this not because you suck, but so you know: YOU CAN GET HELP FOR THIS. Start by going to your primary care physician, your family doctor, and explain what's going on. They can recommend a therapist or an intervention. If you have a therapist, tell them about this.

More than anything, I want you to know that you are not alone and it won't always be like this. If it's hard and you think it's because you suck, you don't have to just accept that truth. If you feel inundated with messages that tell you you're not enough, you're not alone. You can unsubscribe from or turn off some of those messages. You can start to notice when those messages come at you and challenge them right then. (Studies have found that one of the best ways to shift the negative effect of advertising on girls it to talk about what the advertisement is selling right when you see it. I bet this works on yourself as well. “Oh this ad is telling me that the whites of my eyes need to be whiter? It's coming up with another thing I need to fix about myself. Hmm, maybe the whites of my eyes are not as important as the love I show in my life?”).

If you are hard on yourself, you're not alone. Take a breath. Rewrite the thought.

I think you are doing an AMAZING job in your life. You are enough. I hope you continue your day knowing that you are enough and you get to be enthusiastic about your life and your business.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

245: Seasons in business

Everything has a season. This includes your business and your life! Learn more about the cycles and seasons of life and business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast245

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What if you are just not getting things done? What if you just can NOT get things done? Before you start beating yourself up, ask yourself: is this just a season of my life?

Today we're going to talk about how to identify the season you're in, and what to do about, to be both as productive and GENTLE as possible.

My aim is to guide you to living an enthusiasm-filled life…which includes doing work you love, spending time with people you love, and feeling GOOD while doing it.

I was recently asked the question on Instagram: I feel like I'm in a season of my life when I can't get a lot done. Am I alone? Can you talk about this?

First, let me preface today's episode with some background: two months ago I didn't have any kids. We became foster parents last September and on December 17th a two year old girl came to live with us, for an undetermined amount of time. And let me tell you – one of the first thoughts I had about my business, when my head came above water, several weeks later was: I can't believe I ever talked about how to get stuff done. I had NO IDEA what it was like to have a 2 year old at home. It is insane. Especially when you have no warning and you're a stranger to the 2 year old, and they've gone through some recent trauma. But even if you’ve been with them from day one, it’s bonkers.

So here's the truth: I have no idea what you're going through. Maybe you have 4 kids. Maybe you have a sick partner. Maybe you just lost a parent or loved one. Every situation is different, and my situation and way of dealing with things is built from what I need, from what works for me (and sometimes it doesn't even work for me!). So you'll have to take what applies, leave what doesn’t, and find what will work for you.

In my experience, there are several different seasons in every business, that continue to cycle throughout the life of your business:

  • Idea/inspiration – when you start to dream and get inspired and slurp up Pinterest and blogs and videos
  • Creation/exhalation – if you inhaled a lot of inspiration, you need to let it out via creation. This is where you begin to turn your ideas into action, into real projects or relationships or products
  • Working away at what you started – After the initial super-creative part of the process a LOT of our projects have kind of a boring “keep going” part. It’s not new and exciting, but there’s more to be done. This might also be maintenance mode. As Kurt Vonnegut said,  ‘everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.'
  • Rest – sometimes you’ll go right from creating to new inspiration and new creation but a lot of time your field will just need to lie fallow. You may just need to rest before you get another breath of inspiration. This is the time that you may worry that you’ll never have another idea and that everything is falling apart. But it’s just part of the process. Fill up your well and keep yourself healthy during this phase.

So those are the seasons in your business, but there are also seasons in your LIFE. Seasons where you’re actually not going to be in any season of creation or inspiration because you’re putting your attention on other projects in your life. It may be parenting, or a relationship, or getting well. That’s ok. That’s part of being a human!

If you are in a season of not getting stuff in your business done, you are NOT alone. I didn't work for 4 solid weeks. And now that I am back to “work”, my working hours are a fraction of what they were. Not only that but now the part of my brain that was free to think about strategy and business plans is now thinking about temper tantrum strategies and did she have any green vegetables today and is that a rash?

Now, I could be frustrated about that, or feel hopeless about it, or freak out about it (my income is 80% of how we pay the bills…so it's kinda important.)

But this is only a season of my life. Yes, she'll only be 2 years old for a short season. And because we're doing foster care, she may only be with us for a short season. But above that, the overwhelming NEWNESS of everything is ALSO a short season. We won't be in this everything-is-new-and-requires-decision-making season forever. Even after just a month of being together, so much has become easier. We have routines, we have go-to meals, we have regular activities to do together. I'm not saying parenting every becomes EASY or that I'll ever get back the huge percentage of my brain I used to think about my business, but the season of it being THIS INTENSE is fleeting.

And let me even more honest with you – before this season of being a new mom to a toddler, I went through a season of deep depression where I could not get my normal stuff done. Everything was hard. It started with fogginess, then things got physically hard, then hopelessness, then there was just apathy. (It’s real hard to get things done when you don’t care about anything.)

Even though that season was SO hard and I never want to repeat it, it was a season of healing. I needed to learn the lessons I learned in that season. It was NOT a season of ideas, creation or working. It wasn’t that restful (although I did rest my body a lot.)

Now that I’m more mentally healthy and I’m moving out of the intense brand-new-kid season, I’m in a season of transition, where I’m trying to find my new rhythm, my new normal. As much as I would love to just hop back to work-mode when I can work, I’m finding that I need to learn how to transition from mom-mode to work-mode. So this is a season of figuring-it-out. I’m not quite to creation, as I just transition into figuring out how to work.

And I know many of you are in an especially hard season. Maybe it's depression. Maybe you're taking care of a sick family member or partner. Maybe you've recently experienced loss. These are all seasons where your work is just NOT a priority. And hey, that's ok!

We are trying to build businesses that ENHANCE our lives, that bring enthusiasm and joy and connection to our lives, so those same businesses (and our plans for our business) need to allow for that life to show up and take over sometimes.

Are you in a difficult season right now?

If you're not getting stuff done:

  • Is it a season?
  • Is there a timeline?
  • Are your frustrated because you can’t do what you WANT to do? Keep track of your ideas.
  • Stick with the routines that make you feel like yourself (ie, shower, walk the dogs, get coffee)
  • Recognize the season and give yourself grace.
  • Realize when you’re in the NEXT season, and allow the change to happen.

I hope this has helped you navigate whatever season you’re in!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

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