Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

Month: January 2016

Why you’re afraid of setting a goal

Choosing is hard. But to move your business foward, you need to set goals and work towards them. But what if you don't have a goal? What if you can't seem to narrow it down and pick one? Last week Lynn asked me, on Periscope, "What if you're afraid of setting a goal?" I know Lynn's not alone, because last week I worked through the Map-Making Guide with The Starship. The first step (spoiler alert!) is setting an endpoint for the map – the specific, measurable goal you want to reach in the next 3-6 months. It was this step, the most obvious starting place, that caused the most distress. In this episode, we'll discuss why it's hard to choose a goal, and how to do it anyhow. More at TaraSwiger.com

Choosing is hard. But to move your business forward, you need to set goals and work towards them. 

But what if you don't have a goal? What if you can't seem to narrow it down and pick one?

Last week Lynn asked me, on Periscope, “What if you're afraid of setting a goal?”

I know Lynn's not alone, because last week I worked through the Map-Making Guide with The Starship. The first step (spoiler alert!) is setting an endpoint for the map – the specific, measurable goal you want to reach in the next 3-6 months.

It was this step, the most obvious starting place, that caused the most distress. In this episode, we'll discuss why it's hard to choose a goal, and how to do it anyhow.


How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.


Get Realistic (while dreaming big)

It is possible to dream big and still set realistic goals for yourself. Allow yourself the time to make a big, huge dream - and then take the all-important step of boiling it down into what's most important and how you're going to accomplish that important thing next. More at TaraSwiger.com.

I confessed a few weeks ago that I hadn't really started planning yet, because the start of the year was crazy-busy for me.  Well, I finally got around to it! I looked at all I wanted to do this year (I use Leonie's workbooks to spark a LOT of ideas for this!) and I started to plan out the next year – what I'm going to implement behind-the-scenes (yay systems!) and what I'm going to launch and offer (yay classes!).  After listing it all, I looked at the calendar (this is a key step! don't forget this): When would I do it all?

It's at this point that I had a realization. I mentioned this epiphany on Periscope Monday and got a lot of “OMG! Me too!“, so I bet it applies to you, too.

I can realistically do about half of what I “planned” to, if I want to do it well and enjoy my life.

Due to the unrelenting limits of time and space… I just don't have time to do everything I want to do, right now.

Now, let's be clear, I CAN DO IT ALL… just not all at once. (You too, by the way.)

So I added some space in. I stripped my list down to what I really want to do first, and added IN a bunch more writing time (which is both what I want to be doing with my time, and the thing that helps the most people, most effectively.)

I wanted to share this revelation and subsequent adjustments with you for two reasons:

  1. I bet your plan for the year (if you haven't made one yet, that's ok, there's still time!) could use a second look. Have you tried to shove too many things in too small of a time period? How could you make your plan more doable? (The more doable your plan is, the more likely you are to DO it, and accomplishing a plan builds confidence and momentum which makes the NEXT plan even easier!)Maybe you need to break the big goal down into the next three months. Maybe you need to remove the not-as-important things and just focus on what lights you up AND is most directly related to the Mission of your business. Maybe you need to just get to work.
  1. I wanted to be honest with you – THIS is what it looks like to build a business you actually love. It involves planning and work and always paying attention to how you're spending your time. Are you planning to do things you're THRILLED about? Are you spending time on the most VALUABLE projects? Are you in alignment with your Mission? It's OK if you fall out of alignment sometimes, as long as you readjust when you notice.

Your turn!

What are you planning for the new year? Have you taken time to  map out each step and put it on your calendar? Do you need to revise your plan to make it more do-able?

If so, that's OK! Don't let that hold you back from doing the work and moving forward!



The 8 Best Books for your Creative Business

There are so many great books for creative business owners out there, but everyone needs to read something different, depending on where they are in their business journey. Today on the podcast I'm sharing the 8 best books I can think of for every stage of business. Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast90/

What are the best books for your creative business?

Today I decided to share the best books for your specific situation. Listen in to find out what I suggest for where you are in your business journey!

 This topic was suggested by Ana on Periscope. I broadcast these podcast recordings a whole week early, on Periscope. If you’d like to get early access, follow me at Periscope.tv/TaraSwiger. I also publish a video version of this podcast on YouTube along with a new lesson every week!




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.

How to read over 100 books in a year

In 2015, I read 100 books - everything from comics to classic lit to business & home decor how-tos. If you want to set a big reading goal for yourself, in this post I'll help you do that. More at TaraSwiger.com.


In 2015, I read over 100 books. Books ranging from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic to War & Peace. I read Louise Hay and Jane Austen. Business books, creativity books, a big handful of novels and even more graphic novels. I finally got caught up on Buffy. I discovered and read everything by Rainbow Rowell. (You can see all the books I read in 2015 here. Only one rule: No judgement.)

And this isn't the first time. In 2012 I read 100 books and shared my experience here.

If you've been reading my blog, this is no surprise to you. I post my reading lists every month (you can find them all here) and the question I always get is “How do you do it? How do you read so much?” So that's what I'd like to share with you today: How I read 100 books in 2015 (and how you can read more, if this is one of your New Year goals!).


Before we dive in, I don't have to convince you of the value of reading, do I?

It's not just fun and relaxing, it also teaches you a new way to look at the world and introduces you to ideas, characters, and ways of living you never would have encountered. Yes, even novels and comics.

Business and creativity books can give you insights into your own business and inspire you to grow and experiment. They can also just straight up teach you something you don't know (that's why I read a book on webinars). Fiction can open up your worldview – what do other people think? How do they live? What are you assuming is “normal”?

This helps your business too. It's easy for us to believe that everyone is like us, and therefore, the thing we do isn't special. This mistake is the #1 reason people undervalue their work. Everyone is NOT like you. Their brain works in totally different ways. They have different values. They live in different worlds. Fiction can open you up to this. (Also, and I can't stress this enough: FUN. Your business needs you to relax and refill the well of your creativity. Reading someone else's creativity is a great way to do this.)

With that in mind, here's how to read more this year:

Know your why.

Do NOT resolve to read more just because I do. Read more because you want to, because you have your own awesome reasons. Your reason can be anything, but before you pick your number, think (or write) about why you want to read more. My reasons have shifted over the years. In 2012 I wrote: “The real reason I set the goal is that I love to read. Love it! But I often tell myself not to. Instead, I should be working. Or I should be reading something better (catching up on blogs, news, the latest marketing advice). But after an intense 3 months of non-stop writing to finish the book,  I decided to give myself permission to just read. As much as I wanted!”
In 2015 my reasons were a little different. I love to read (that's reason #1) and I found myself doing a lot more blog reading and Pinterest-surfing at night in bed. That just keeps me awake. Instead, I want to be reading something then (this is when I read fiction, because my brain is too tired from the day to read something think-y). And in the mornings, with my coffee, I was scrolling through Instagram, but that distracts me and gets my day focused on other people instead of my own priorities. So instead, I read (this is where the business-y, creative, and self-helpy books go).

The numbers don't matter.

Forget about the “100 books in a year” thing and focus on what YOU can do. How much did you read last year? Can you increase that by 5 books? Can you double it? (That's how I hit on 100 books – in 2011 I read 52 and I wanted to double it.)

But setting a number helps.

It doesn't matter WHAT your number is, it only matters that, if this is one of your goals, you quantify it. This will make it easier for you to celebrate your successes and make you more likely to read.

Turning simple permission (you’re allowed to read!) into a big crazy goal, lifted my passion into something important. It suddenly mattered that I get to read every day, it was a priority! If I hadn’t committed to the big number, I would have continued to question each reading session: shouldn’t I be doing something else?

Track your reading

Keep track of what you read. You'll find it comes in handy when someone asks you for a recommendation and it'll inspire you to read more. Seeing the list grow is weirdly satisfying. Also, it's the only way to know if you're meeting your goal or not! I use Goodreads for tracking my books. I only occasionally write a review or use any of the social features, I just use it to remember what I want to read (anytime I hear about a book I like, I go to GoodReads and mark it “to read”), and mark what I am reading, then move it to “read” when I finish it. And this brings us to the next tip:

Have a long To Read list.

Track what you want to read (I use GoodReads, but you could use a note on your phone or your notebook, as long as you can easily find it and add to it) and add to the list constantly. Every time you hear a great interview on a podcast, mark the book to read. Every time you hear a recommendation (next week on the podcast I'm sharing the 9 best biz books!), add it your list! Every time you come across a mention of a book in the book you're reading, at it to your list. This is why I've read so many random or woo-woo books – when more than 5 people I respect recommended a book, I read it (or at least start it). If I want to understand how smart people think, I gotta read the books they read!

(This, by the way, has led me to  some really amazing insights in books with terrible titles that I wouldn't be caught dead reading. This has also led me to discover that a lot of male entrepreneurs recommend books filled with war or sports metaphors that are utter drivel.)

Have enough books

The biggest thing that slows down my reading is not having enough books in the house. It doesn't matter if I'm into what I'm reading, if I don't know what I'm reading NEXT I drag my feet. (Never mind all those books on my Kindle.) This is where the library is a beautiful thing – I take home about twice as many books as I actually read. But that gives me variety and choices.

Read short books

Ha! This isn't a real piece of advice, but it came up when I was talking to Ruth and Joeli on Twitter. Obviously, you're going to read fewer big books… but what matters is that you READ WHAT YOU WANT. If I hadn't read so many graphic novels (which take between 2-10 hours to read, depending on the book), I'm sure my numbers would be lower. That said, it's YOUR reading, it's YOUR fun. Any book you choose “counts”. If I hadn't read War & Peace and Emma, I'm sure to have read more. (I have a shelf called “comics count”, to remind myself that i'm allowed to read whatever I want. There is no reading police.)

Give yourself permission to read what you want. And stop when you want.

There are no awards for reading the right books. Or for finishing a book.
Read what you want, when you want, and quit when you want.
There’s no guilt, no pressure. Reading is something I love to do. So if I don’t love reading this book, I remember that it’s not me, it’s the book. So I stop.

This applies to everything.

These lessons aren't just for reading, they apply to every area of your business. Set goals, track them, have lots of options at the ready, and above all, give yourself permission to focus on what you enjoy and what's working, and stop doing all the stuff you think you “should” be doing.

How can you apply these lessons to your own goal this year?

If you want to read more, what tip are you going to start applying now?

Mission, Strategy, Tactics

What do you want from this year? How are you going to get it? Let's get clear by using the framework Mission, then strategy, then tactics. More at TaraSwiger.com/podcast89/

What do you want from this year? How are you going to get it? Let's get clear by  using the framework Mission, then strategy, then tactics. 

Back in September I wrote a post about this, about the necessity of stepping back and looking at the big picture. That post prompted so much discussion and questions and has come up again and again in conversation, so I wanted to dive even deeper into it now, as we're all thinking about what we want from the new year. I want to fully explain this framework, so you can use it not only as you plan your year, but also as you work on ANY project or have to make any decision in your business.

If you've been feeling frustrated in your business, about its growth, or how you're spending your time – this might be the problem. If you feel like you scramble back and forth between things, without seeing traction in any of them, this might be the problem.

The solution is simple: You're going about it in the wrong order. In this episode you'll learn the right order to plan your actions, and be more effective. 



How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

What I’m reading: January 2016

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 in the comments and find all the posts here.

What I read

  • Emma, by Jane Austen
  • A Curious Mind, by Brian Grazer. So good! Brian has spent his life holding “curiosity conversations” – once a week he talks to someone interesting and is just curious about them. I love the idea and the book inspired me to be more curious with everyone I meet.
  • Knit Wear Love, by Amy Herzog. I enjoyed this book about changing your sweater pattern to match your personal style.
  • Design Mom, by Gabrielle Blair. A gorgeous book, that gave me some ideas for our new place. But I couldn't get over how she always refers to her husband by his full name (Ben Blair). Every. Time. Distracting, but beautiful!

What I’m reading

What I read last January.
And in January 2014.

What are you reading?

50 Things I loved in 2015


Last year I shared a list of everything I loved in 2014 and it was so much fun that I decided to do it again, as part of my yearly review. It's so much fun to think back through the tools I discovered or the experiences I had that are particular to this year. What are your favorite parts of the last year?

(This is no particular order, I just started listing as things came to me.)

  1. By far the most favorite part of my year, of every year, is getting to work with amazing, inspiring, clever, curious makers and artists. I am honored to be part of their journey. All of the stuff on this list can't compare to the joy my job brings me.
  2. Periscope. If you asked me to name one tool that changed my business the most in 2015, I'd have to say Periscope. Through it, I connected deeper to my current students and (quite a surprise to me!) I found and connected with many brand-new-to-me people who became Starship Captains this year. (You can watch all recent episodes here.)
  3. Jess. She makes my entire life better with her feedback, editing, and smarts.
  4. Working with Jay (my husband) as a team member in my company. Sure, we had a lot of adjusting to do, but it's not only improved our all-the-time communication, it also built our confidence for our next business undertaking. Plus, getting his insight and skillz into my projects makes everything better! (If you like the blog images, or the visual prompts of the Biz Confidence Challenge, or the fact that I now put podcast recordings on YouTube – that's all him!)
  5. Asana! This project-management tool has streamlined all of the many pieces of my biz, and cuts down on back-and-forth that comes from having three hands in just about every project.
  6. Finally finding a planner-system that works for me, that isn't just a notebook. I've been using Filofax + Get to Workbook.
    Tara Swiger's planner
  7. Grants Pass + visiting my parents. For the first time in my LIFE I was able to visit my dad + second-mom three times in the same year. This is by far the best perk of my job, and the highlight of my personal life.
  8. The Biz Confidence Challenge! The idea came to me and I sketched it out in 10 minutes and it started the very next Monday. The reactions + results have been fantastic. The #bizconfidencechallenge hashtag is an inspiration.
  9. Pad Thai. Still my most-favorite dinner.
  10. The entire CreativeLIVE experience. I loved working with their team, and getting the chance to grab a bite with both Abby and Megan.
  11. My galaxy sneakers. There is nothing like having a pair of shoes that you just adore.
    Tara's galaxy sneakers
  12. Craftcation! This was such a fun experience, it totally cured my fear of conferences. And of course having days to talk about life with Kim Werker is always a good thing. Plus Abby! And Blair!
  13. My neon green maxi skirt. And my giant neon pink paper-thin scarf. The perfect traveling clothes!
  14. Raylan! He came into our life in January and almost left us in December (scary!). He was a hot mess of excitement and energy, but through patience and playdates, he's become a snuggly, sweet (still super-curious) member of the family.
    Raylan and Beau on TaraSwiger.com
  15. Charleston! I took a quick 2 day trip there at the last minute, with my mom and her friends, and it was lovely!
  16. Daiya Mac + Cheese and brussel sprouts! I ate this meal about 500 times this year.
  17. TNNA + teaching in Columbus. I got to see so many Starship Captains
  18. School House Craft. The entire conference was fun, but the highlight was getting to know Isaac and Caitlin and Sharon better (and more Kim and Marlo!). In other words, as always, the best part of anything is the people, and I'm thrilled to get to work alongside such lovely people.
    Isaac Watson, Kim Werker and TaraSwiger
  19. Honore Bakery is within walking distance of my friend's house in Seattle. YUM.
  20. Finishing the first draft of my book proposal. And then sending to an agent. It took way longer than I planned, it was super scary, I have no idea what's going to happen… and yet I'm so glad I did it.
  21. Discovering the perfect writing spot! There's a bookstore inside a coffe shop! I ONLY work on the book here, so it's easy for me to snap into focus when I sit down.
    word in the willows
  22. Being on other podcasts. I shared my secret inner warrior (She-Ra, Princess of Power!) with Jeffrey Shaw and talked about launching and confidence with Tiffany Han.
  23. Writing for Yarn Market News.
  24. Red hair! I thought about it for over 3 months and finally pulled the trigger at the very end of the year. It's an ongoing symbol of following my gut instead of focusing on what other people will think.
    Tara Swiger

  25. Inside Out. By far one of the best movies I've watched in years. It's sparked conversations with everyone I've talked to about it.
  26. Comics! Especially Jem, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (her roommate is a knitter!), B*tch Planet, and Ms. Marvel. If you don't read comics, I highly recommend getting any of these in paperback at your library and diving in.
  27. Knitting! I finished more knitting this year than I have in years. Mom's sweater, my Blue Sand, Boxy, mittens, Jay's hat, Mom's Pendulum.
    yarn on TaraSwiger.com
  28. Knitting along to the Gilmore Girls. I re-watched it all this year.
  29. Going to afternoon matinees on Friday. The local movie theater does an extra-cheap movie between 4 and 5 pm. We took advantage of it at least once a month, which feels like sneaking out of work early. There were a lot of great movies this year!
  30. Some Starship Captains got buttons made, so they can find each other at events! I was so flabbergasted that they love the community enough to do this on their own!
    TaraSwiger buttons
  31. Les Mis!! For our anniversary Jay took me to see the local community theater production. I cried throughout (and I met a podcast listener, which was amazing).
  32. My new morning routine: Water, quiet time, reading (a book, not my phone), and working out. It's made my mornings so much calmer and more fun. I look forward to getting up!
  33. Taking a full week off at the end of December. I stressed about this a lot, but I knew I needed to recover from the awesomeness (and hard work) of the Lift Off launch. It didn't turn out how I imagined, but I'm glad I did it.
    knitting and coffee
  34. Reading about fitness with the goal of loving yourself and becoming stronger, from Neghar, Jill, and Jen. I cannot recommend their programs and blogs strongly enough.
  35. My library. It's beautiful, has a great view, and is staffed by people I'm becoming friends with!
  36. The CSA – this is the first time in years that we subscribed and it was fantastic.
  37. Writing and recording Explore Your Enthusiasm podcast each week is still my favorite work. And connecting with the listeners via  #exploreyourenthusiasm is a delight.
  38. Reading! I read some of my favorite books ever this year: Big Magic, Man's Search for Meaning, The Confidence Code and dozens more.
    Books on Tara Swiger
  39. My mastermind group. It is full of women I respect and our deepening friendships (and ongoing idea-generation) has been a huge blessing this year.
  40. Finally figuring out Pinterest. Caitlin said about 3 sentences at School House Craft that just shifted the whole thing for me.
  41. Tailwind, for scheduling my blog posts on Pinterest!
  42. CoSchedule for scheduling social media directly from WordPress.
  43. Buffer for scheduling social media from anywhere.
  44. Hiking! We went on a great hike through a new-to-us local mountain with friends, and then went on an amazing hike with my dad in Oregon. After every hike I remember how much I want to spend more time outdoors!
  45. The new Starship site is AMAZING. I LOVE IT.
  46. Hiring Wendy was the best decision I made. The project would never have come together without her. (Plus, she's hilarious.)
  47. This is the first year since I started my biz that my focus wasn't on making new stuff. Instead, I focused on going deeper for my current students and on improving everything. I became more consistent, created a new platform for the Starship, improved and refreshed every single piece of every class, and really nailed the launch of Lift Off.
  48. This was the best year of sales in my business ever. I can't believe I almost completely forgot that. It's just one sign of how much my biz is growing into something I love.
  49. Making plans for 2016! I'll be teaching nearly every month: in San Diego, Columbus, Cleveland, Atlanta, Maryland, and Western Mass. (Want to get updates when I nail down the dates and places? Sign up here!)

What were your favorite parts of 2015?

Marketing Burnout: How to avoid it and deal with it.

Launching stuff, talking about your product for a sustained period of time, is hard. It can be draining to talk about your work, especially when it feels like you're talking about yourself all the time. The result is Marketing Burnout. You're sick of talking about your work. You feel like you're repeating yourself. You worry you're annoying people. In this episode I share three ways to avoid Marketing Burnout and one way to handle it when you experience it.

Launching stuff, talking about your product for a sustained period of time, is hard. It can be draining to talk about your work, especially when it feels like you're talking about yourself all the time.

The result is Marketing Burnout. You're sick of talking about your work. You feel like you're repeating yourself. You worry you're annoying people.

In this episode I share three ways to avoid Marketing Burnout and one way to handle it when you experience it. 




How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

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