Are you stuck between two really great ideas? Wondering if you have to choose or if you should just do them both at the same time? How could you choose between them?
Today I’m going to help you answer one of the BIGGEST questions I get about creating do-able plans for your next goals: Do I have to pick just one and how the heck do I do that?!
In my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. Then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. For the last two weeks we’ve talked about how to stay on top of those To Dos, so they actually get done.
But this week we’re going to back up and answer the question: How do you even pick the next goal? Especially when you have several projects that all look like good options?
This question came up in the monthly coaching call inside the Starship Program (learn more at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz) and it’s one I know we all deal with. So let’s break it down – do you need to pick just ONE goal? And if so, how can you decide?
I get this question ALL the time, because my Map Making process involves making a really detailed plan for ONE goal at a time. So the short answer is yes, in order to make a detailed plan and get it accomplished, you need just one goal.
Can you work on more than one goal at a time?
Well, it depends.
What’s your time frame?
Over the course of a year, you’re going to be reaching a lot of different goals.
Over the course of a week, you will get distracted if you focus on too many at once.
This is why I set the timeline in the Map Making process for three months. That’s a good amount of time to set a goal, work on it, adjust your path, and learn quite a bit about what the project requires. It’s a short enough time frame that you won’t forget what you’re working towards and you won’t get bogged down in doing the same thing, and still a long enough time frame that you can see some real progress.
It also depends on the kind of goal you have.
There are income or sales goals.
There are habit goals.
There are KPI goals.
There are award goals.
For example, most makers I talk to want to get more consistent with their social media. That is something you can do while you’re working on a sales goal. I’d encourage you to make the goal more measurable, like “I want to post on Instagram 5x/week”. You’re going to do that alongside a lot of other stuff.
And still, I recommend you let that be your ONLY goal for at least the first month as you get used to it.
Why focus on just one at a time:
You’ll be focused (this is one of the main benefits of setting ANY goal)
You’ll know what to do next and how to prioritize
You’ll see faster progress
You’ll learn faster and can change it up
The sense of accomplishment will keep you going.
If you want to learn more about setting the right-sized goal, check out episodes 191 on stretch goals and episode 91 on why you’re afraid of big goals.
So you want to narrow it down, but you’ve got two really great ideas.
Perhaps you’re debating, as one of my Starship Captains did: Should I focus on increasing my online sales or my wholesale sales?
Or: Should I focus on my email list or Instagram? Should I self-publish a book, or sell more patterns to magazines?
First, some good news.
Any goal is good.
Anything you commit yourself to, make progress on, and learn from, is going to improve your business and your life. You’re going to be in a better place in 3 months than if you didn’t pick anything.
So take some of the pressure off, ok?
Now, when it comes to choosing a goal, I like to ask Captains two questions:
Questions to ask to choose the next right project:
What is closer to money?
Where is your enthusiasm?
What is closer to money?
This is one of my favorite questions, because it’s gonna get you fast results: What is the project you can work on that is closest to making money?
For example, if you have products in your shop, selling one of them is the absolute fastest way to make money. If you have customers, having them buy again is closer to money than finding new buyers. Self-publishing your finished pattern is a lot closer to money than pitching it to publishers.
You feel me?
However, lemme warn you that you can not build your whole business doing just what’s closest to money, because it will wear you out and not necessarily take you the direction you want to go. You want to balance choosing quick-money options with long-term right-direction goals.
But I’m really disappointed at how many people say they have a business but NEVER do the thing that will make money – instead they focus on metrics that look good – like more instagram followers or more prestigious partnerships.
If it’s been a while since you focused on SELLING your thing directly to the people who want to buy it, then I’m going to suggest you pick whichever project is closer to money
Where is your enthusiasm?
Here’s the thing: most people who tell me they can’t decide between a few options, it’s because they are piling up the SHOULDS.
Well, I SHOULD do this. A REAL business would do this. I don’t have as big an Instagram following as that person, so I should improve that.
No, no, NO.
Our aim isn’t to build A business, it’s to build YOUR dream business.
Which goal is aligned with what you’re most enthusiastic about?
Are you LOVING working with your newest retail shops?
Are you throwing confetti every time you get a response to your newsletter?
Yeah, you might not be enthusiastic about the WORK involved in your goal, but are you enthusiastic about the end goal? Or some part of the process?
Then go with that.
You are going to have the MOST progress and grow the fastest by looking at what you’re genuinely enthusiastic about,and following it.
It might not be strategic but all of my best moves have been following my enthusiasm.
I did plan to start a podcast, but I started it in one week and it’s been one of the best things for my business.
I did not plan to start a Facebook group right before Thanksgiving, but it’s been an amazing place to be – I LOVE meeting and approving new people who apply.
I did not plan to create a worksheet for this podcast episode, but you know what? I’m feeling it!
If you go with your enthusiasm, you’re going to be more likely to follow through.
So that’s how I decide on a project – commit to following through on ONE aim in the next three months and then ask yourself – what is closest to money? What am I most enthusiastic about? Drop all the shoulds, and go full speed to what you want.
How do you keep track of all the moving parts in a recurring or upcoming projects? What if you’re waiting on other people to do their part before you can do your part? I do this with project management apps, so today we’re going to make it a bit less overwhelming and how to pick the software that will help you.
This week I’m answering the question that occurs after you make a map – how the heck do I keep track of all the moving parts?
You see, in my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. Then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. But after you have that big list of what you need to do and the order you need to do them in, then what? How do you make sure you don’t forget the stuff that comes LATER?
And that’s where a lot of us get stuck. So for the month of December on the podcast, we’re having a series on planning – the actual figuring out what to do each day and week.
I started tracking to-dos digitally in my business, (especially recurring projects like marketing and this podcast), when I hired my first virtual assistant (VA). The easiest way for me to communicate what I did for each project, and to make sure we didn’t miss a single step, was to put it all in a checklist. What I learned right away is that having it down on a checklist made every single task so much faster to do, not just for my VA, but for me too!
There’s a whole book about this – The Checklist Manifesto. Basically, knowing exactly what to do next saves you time, it saves you energy thinking of what’s next, and it saves you mistakes.
We started out using Evernote, but soon we moved to Asana. Evernote was great at having a checklist, but it didn’t make any reminders or prompt us to do the next step.
If you’ve got ANYONE else in your business, even if they’re just super part-time (my VA started at 2 hours a week!), you definitely need some way to communicate tasks, deadlines and checklists. It’s going to give you peace of mind when you can SEE that they’ve done each part of the task, (and you will save time by not having to talk about every single thing, every single time).
Now, if you don’t have anyone else in your team, you can still use project management software to keep YOU on top of things.
Do YOU need digital planning tools?
Here’s how to decide:
First, know your projects.
I have Starship Captains start by listing ALL of their projects – onetime things they’re working on, recurring projects, the steps to their social media posts, anything they do or plan to do in a month.
Then you can split it down into “repeating” and “one-time”.
How many things do you have to hand back and forth to someone else?
Second, ask yourself – how do you keep track of the repeating tasks now?
Maybe you have a paper system that works great (I put my first marketing plan on a post it and just kept the post it on my computer screen).
Or maybe you’re forgetting half of every repeating task, or it’s taking you twice as long to remember – in which case, a checklist would be SUPER helpful. You could do the checklist manually or digitally – whichever you’re more likely to see.
Third, how do you keep track of next steps for one-time projects? Is that working for you? Would you prefer to be reminded of deadlines or next steps?
Captains use project management software to keep track of production, including wholesale orders and show prep. (If you’re in the Starship Community you can ask about how exactly they organize it all!)
But WHAT tool do you need?
If you’re current tools aren’t working for you, then let’s look at some digital options.
Now, before we go any further, I really want to stress one point – NOTHING WORKS UNLESS YOU USE IT.
Sometimes we get all wrapped up in finding the “perfect” tool or the one other successful biz owners use, but none of that matters. What matters is if YOU use it or not. The tool that will work best for you is the one you regularly use, put information into, and actually look at.
There are so many options for To Do list apps, I’m not even going to get into all the specific options. What you need to know is that a checklist app like ToDoist is different from a note-keeping app that has checklists like Evernote or GoogleKeep, which is different from task management software.
I’ve used Evernote and I currently use GoogleKeep to keep track of notes on the fly and checklists related to my personal life. I like that I can save documents, links, checklists, everything in one place. This was great when I was starting – my VA and I created a folder in Evernote for Standard Operating Procedures (we called it the Flight Manual) for everything – from checklists to launch plans, to project mapping.
But project management software takes it to the next level by letting you create TASKS. You can give those tasks deadlines, you can create a checklist under the task, and you can set the task to repeat!
This is really great if you:
Have a project that needs to be done in the exact same way every week or month (like my podcast!)
Have a project that is waiting for other people (knitwear designers who use editors, test knitters, etc.)
Have a project that needs to be paced out (you need to do step 1 by this date, step 2 by this date, so step 3 can get done by a big deadline.)
Using a system for these things:
Keeps you on a schedule
Takes it off your mind so you’re not trying to remember all the steps before you’d done the next step
Prepares you to scale up and do more and bring people on who can do parts of it
Helps you visually SEE all you do, which makes you feel accomplished and proud
Where to start with digital planning?
I recommend most people start with the steps I mentioned earlier – listing the projects you have. And then, making checklists first. Use something like GoogleKeep or Evernote and keep all your checklists together.
Once you start to see that you want something to reoccur or repeat, you want to assign just part of the checklist to someone else, then put those checklists into tasks and projects inside a project management program.
How I do it
Now, I’ve filled this episode with tips for you to figure out what will best help you and with steps for you to follow, I know you will still ask what I use and what I do, so I’ll share my process with you, in hopes that it will inspire you to get going, and not worry about being perfect!
I’ve been using Asana for years. It’s totally free and it has all the bells and whistles I need. The initial set-up took a bit of time, and I had to train myself and anyone who works with me to actually USE it regularly, but I’ve been building tasks in it one at a time, and it is a lifesaver.
For my weekly projects like this podcast or my weekly emails or blog posts:
I think through the task and add every single tiny step to the task (like a checklist)
I run through DOING the task once using the checklist and I add anything I forgot
I set the task to repeat
I’ve learned through the years that if a task has more than one person who’s working on it, I CAN assign subtasks to different people, but it’s easiest to just create separate tasks for each person and then put them in the order they need to be done. For example, I write and record this podcast episode, that’s a task. Jay has a task to edit it. Holly has a task, once it’s been edited and uploaded to take all the pieces – the transcript, the recording, the video, any links and put it all in the blog post. That’s one tasks with quite a long checklist, because the blog post has a lot of moving parts, and she can’t do any of them until we’ve done our part.
Now, even if I didn’t have Holly, I would still use this task, to remind MYSELF of what all the steps are.
And what’s great about this is now I can hire anyone to do the task. I have to teach them the software involved, but the task even gives me a checklist of what software is involved in all the steps. It was much MUCH harder to start working with people when I had no checklists.
Now, when I have a new project, like I started a Facebook group recently (join us! It’s free: fb.com/groups/taraswiger) – I put that in Asana too. Often I’ll talk out the project with Holly or Joeli inside Asana, then I’ll start to put the task list together. Then I keep adding ideas as I have them, then I assign it to people and pace out the due dates so the final project is done when I want it done.
The Facebook group is actually a great example, because I’m the only one that worked on it, and yet I still created tasks to mark off as I went because I was learning from a few different sources and wanted to keep all my ideas in one place and then be sure I actually DID them.
So that’s how I use project management software in my business to both plan and be sure I follow through on my plans.
I’d love to know what apps and tools YOU use and how you plan… and guess what? You can come tell me in the group! Come over to facebook.com/groups/taraswiger to join makers who are growing in confidence AND in profit, just like you! The group is limited to those who have a creative business, so if that is you, please come join us!
And remember to tune in next week where I’ll be sharing how you can choose between all the projects you’re excited to create in 2020.
How do you turn your to-do lists into a plan? How do you know what to do every day? How do you fit your work around non-work appointments and responsibilities? This is what we’ll talk about this episode.
This week I’m answering the question that occurs after you make a map – how the heck do I follow through on this every day?
You see, in my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. And then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. But after you have that big list of what you need to do and the order you need to do them, then what? You can’t get it all done in a day or two, you have to continue to work on it over weeks.
And that’s where a lot of us get stuck. So for the month of December, we’re going to have a series on planning – the actual figuring out what to do each day and week.
Today we’re going to start by how I use paper planners, and next week we’ll talk about task management software. As we near the end of the year, we’ll talk about how to pick your next big project. And we’ll kick off the year with an episode on January 1, about planning your best year yet.
If you’ve followed me on Instagram or YouTube, you know that I started using a real paper planner in 2019, in part because I’m having more meetings than ever thanks to foster care. I’ll talk about how I use it in a minute, but first let’s talk about what I used to do that worked really well.
Before 2019, I just wrote stuff down in my journal. I kept one journal for everything – work, personal, notes from reading or meetings, to-do lists, etc. Each week I’d look at my goal and make a list of projects for the week – what do I need to do to move that project forward? what do I need to do in my weekly tasks? What else? I’d usually make one big list for the week. When I woke up in the morning I’d look at the list and pick 2-3 things to do that day as a priority. I write down what I will do that day so I have a list in front of me to focus.
I typically spent the first few days of the week doing stuff that needed to be done weekly, and the next few days working on projects. If I didn’t get to something, I’d push it forward to the next week. This worked super well for a long time. When the video about how to bullet journal (the very basic bullet journaling) came out, I thought, “Oh, that’s what I do.” It’s not fancy or pretty but it kept me focused.
And, I should note, during this time I would see photos on the tag #planneraddict and think – who has time for all that embellishment, do those people get anything done?!
But then my life blew up, aka, I had a toddler. And she had appointments, meetings, visitations, at very specific times. And I never knew if I was going to have the time, energy and focus to do one thing, or twenty things.
So in early January I found myself really frustrated that my list system wasn’t working. I’d forget to open my journal for days. I’d have time to work but not be able to decide what to do because I hadn’t made a list for the week on Monday morning.
I had months of not being productive OR feeling creatively inspired at all. No knitting or quilting or painting. Then I stumbled up The Happy Planner on Instagram, and I thought – hmm, maybe I need to try a different method and feel like I had even a little creative outlet. And the COLOR, I love color. And I’ll be honest, 2 year olds are addicted to stickers and it kinda got me excited about stickers. So I got a Happy Planner on sale and some stickers and it took me a few weeks, but I figured out a way to use the planner that really really works for me. If you want to see the actual pages or process, this is my planning playlist including a number of plan with me vlogs.
The process is very similar to what I did in the journal, but now with stickers.
First, I make a list of this week’s projects. Then, I look at the appointments I have for the week. I generally add a sticker on each page with an appointment and write the appointment in. Then I make a space for the books I read that week (along the bottom). And I add another sticker or two to make it pretty.
I should tell you that as I record this, the toddlers who have been with me since June just went home, so my week was FULL of appointments. While they’ve been here, some days are pretty much entirely filled with the kids and their appointments. So I can easily fill in Monday-Wednesday’s to do list right away, because those days have specific tasks that I know I need to do first – like write and record the weekly podcast episode, finish up a project I worked on last week, or schedule some social media posts. Then I fill in Thurs and Friday as I go through the week and have to push stuff forward, or I work on bigger projects on those days.
I used to just wake up and choose to do whatever on each day, but with less time to work, I decide ahead of time what I’ll need to do each day, or else things will never get done.
Once it’s written down, you actually have to do it.
Sometimes this is the hardest part, to make sure your day doesn’t get away from you, that when a pocket of work-time opens up, you LOOK at the list and actually do what it recommends. If this is a struggle for you, the first question is: Do you have time, with boundaries around it, dedicated to getting stuff done? Are you intentional with the time you have? What could you do to create the habit of looking at your list?
Remember – there is no perfect planner or perfect system to make you perfectly productive. Your job is to find what works for you, change when your life or needs change, and keep giving yourself grace while you experiment.
I’d love to know what YOU use and how you plan… and guess what? We have a new free community where you can share your planner and your system with us! Come over to facebook.com/groups/taraswiger to join makers who are growing in confidence AND in profit, just like you! The group is limited to those who have a creative business, so if that is you, please come join us!
And remember to tune in next week where I’ll be sharing how I use the task management software Asana to keep track of everything for this podcast and my Program.