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Month: April 2020

306: Seasons in your Business

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?

I recorded this episode over a year ago, when I was a brand-new mom, but it's so appropriate for what we're ALL going through right now – a completely new season in our life and business. So we're rebroadcasting it (it will come automatically to your podcast app if you've subscribed), in hopes that it will help you feel some peace about where you are right now.


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!

305: Finding Enthusiasm in Uncertainty

How do you find joy and enthusiasm for anything when everything is turned upside down? That’s what I’ve been thinking about this past week. 

As you know if you’ve been listening for a while, my fundamental business belief, what shapes everything I do and how i work with makers and designers, is that your business will thrive and YOU will feel best about it when you follow your enthusiasm. What do I mean by enthusiasm? I like the definition:  intense or eager enjoyment or interest.

You can follow your enthusiasm IN your business, by working on projects you love, letting go of expectations about what you “should” do, working with the kind of clients that you prefer. You can follow your enthusiasm outside of your business by allowing yourself to work on non-business projects and filling up your enthusiasm well with things that seem completely unrelated (for me lately it’s reading, and making bookish videos, which you can find on YouTube. Other times it’s been quilting or knitting). 

But with everything uncertain and stressful and all the change…how do we find any enthusiasm? 

 

I don’t know about your COVID situation, but mine is full of…obligation and responsibility.
Basically, we’re all having to do a lot of things we don’t want to do, or that we’re not prepared to do, or that are just hard. 

On top of that, you have your business – maybe it is doing just fine, maybe it has lost some of it’s sales channels, maybe you’ve lost all your working hours, when you would work on it. 

So does the idea of enthusiasm and joy really have a place in our current situation?

In my experience, yes. 

Not because things aren’t hard or we’re going to pretend everything is great. But because now, more than ever, you need to take care of your best business resource, and your family’s most important resource – your well-being. A key ingredient to your mental and emotional well-being is doing things that are just fun. That you get excited about, that brings you joy, or just interests you. 

But how do you tap into that enthusiasm?

I have a few suggestions. Not all of them are going to work for you, but I want to challenge you to try each of them, until you feel some spark of joy or even interest:

 

 

  • Start with the mental health checklist.
    I shared this in episode 285  You can listen in the that episode for the full list and explanation. The short version is – there are some easy things you can do every day that studies show are the most effective at maintaining mental well-being. Do them daily, even when you feel low or overwhelmed and you’ll feel a bit more human.

    • Wash your hands and face (good advice right now!)
    • Wake up at the same time everyday (really important for managing depression),
    • Take your vitamins and meds
    • Move your body
    • Say No when you need to.  
  • Do a thing that used to bring you a lot of joy, that is completely useless. When I say useless, this isn’t a judgement – I mean anything that doesn’t directly benefit anyone but you. There’s this pressure now (maybe always) to be using this time to very useful – to bake bread, to sew face masks, to educate our children 8 hours a day, to start that project you’ve been meaning to start or finish that project that you never found time for.
    I want to challenge you to do something OTHER than all that, just for the joy of it, for like 20 minutes. This might be video games or reading a novel or sewing or knitting (something not for your business) or painting or baking or yoga or talking on the phone with your friends.
    For me this is reading novels (Check out my YouTube channel for videos on what I’m reading lately) and playing legos and printing my photos.

 

 

  • Play a game.
    Not because your kids want to or to spend “quality” time, but just for the fun of it. It could be video games (I am loving Animal Crossing!), a phone game (Two Dots!), a card game (we’re trying out Uno with the kids) or a board game (we like Catan for the whole family).

 

  • Go outside.
    We got this $10 chairs for the porch and they are the best investment. Even if it’s for 10 minutes, being outside with a blue sky and listening to the birds chirp or watching the squirrels run around is the best thing ever.
    If art relaxes you, get a $5 box of chalk and draw over every surface you have access to for 5 minutes.  
  • Dance Party.
    Blast your favorite music and dance. Alone or together, this is my #1 mood booster, yet I’m always forgetting to do it.
    If dancing isn’t an option or your favorite music isn’t very danceable (Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill), so I highly recommend you look up old music videos from your favorite bands when you were a teenager. This has brought Jay and I HOURS of delight in the last month, and explaining MTV to the kids is….challenging.  
  • Watch YouTube videos or listen to podcasts about things you’ve wanted to learn about.
    Not because “now you have the time”, but because learning is a great way of sparking some enthusiasm for other things you have to do. Learning new things is inspiring, even when it’s hard.  
  • Make time to listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos.
    Not even to learn, just for fun. If you have a favorite show on any platform – make sure you’re making time for it. For me, this is slightly different than watching a TV show, because the podcasts and videos are made by real people – living their real lives right now. It’s not slicked and produced – it’s more like connecting with friends. 

 

This all comes back to mental health.
You’ll notice that all the things I listed aren’t hard, but they are all somewhat challenging. The reason is that studies show that having too much completely passive consuming time is not actually restorative to our wellbeing. Yes, by all means, binge on your favorite shows and movies – but don’t count on that as your only form of rest. (One way that a show or movie can also be inspiring is if you create fan art from it, or go on a deep dive to research it or an aspect of it.) 

This can all be boiled down to one word – PLAY.
When things are hard and there is stress and responsibility, just make sure you have some time to play and be playful every day. 

I want to be clear – there’s no judgement in whatever you’re doing right now to survive. Most days I’m feeling good if I can just follow through with the mental health checklist and do ONE thing off this list. When I was sick for a week, I did absolutely nothing. And that’s ok. You’ll bounce back. Your family will bounce back. 

We will bounce back. 

In the meantime, I hope this helps you find a spark of enthusiasm and joy in your day and that you can carry that through all the other things you have to do. 

 

 

 

304: How to Plan in Uncertainty

Welcome to April and the beginning of a new quarter! This is the time where we usually make plans for the coming three months and review the progress we’ve made so far this year but…everything is weird. How do we do that now?

In the Starship this week, we’re doing Map Making – making a plan for the quarter. You can learn more about the Starship here and/or start making your own map with my book, Map Your Business.

I know, nothing is normal right now. 

You are staying home, no one in your home is ever leaving it, you may not be able to get the supplies you usually do, you may not be selling where you usually do, people are buying less because some people are losing their jobs. 

And yet. 

Now is the perfect time to plan the new quarter. 

I’ve actually talked about planning during uncertainty already – back in episode 254, I gave suggestions for how you can plan when YOUR life is uncertain. Add back in episode 291, I shared how I was planning the New Year while my life is so uncertain (as a foster parent). 

Well, guess what? Now you’re joining me in everything being up in the air and nothing being normal!

It’s really uncomfortable isn’t it? 

One of the things I find myself wanting to do is just wait….wait for it to feel normal. Wait for things to be ok. Wait for everything to be how it was. 

Well, that’s not going to happen.
We may very well need to limit social contact for quite a long while until this is completely past. 

But beyond that, life WILL be different.
Some of the people who lost jobs, won’t get the same ones back.
Some businesses won’t open back up. 

I don’t say any of this to scare you, but so that you can be honest with yourself – things have changed and we don’t when or if what we consider normal is coming back. 

What we can do is move forward with what we do know. 

What we can do is embrace today for being today. We can accept our current reality and find ways to live within that. 

And look, I know, it’s scary. Change is really really hard. And never before have we all been going through change at the SAME TIME. It’s so disorienting! 

Waiting until everything is normal isn’t going to work. 

Accepting where you are right now is the only way forward. Now it may take days or weeks or even a month to really feel ready to accept it. To even understand what the new reality is. It’s certainly taken me a week or two to get used to having two girls home from school every day and feeling out what our schedules are. 

 

But once you’re accepting it and through the fog a bit, it’s time to plan. 

 

So how can we plan when we don’t know what’s coming? 

  1. Look at your goals and dreams again. Get reoriented in where you want to go. Ask yourself which you still care about. Which still matters?
  2. Forget the old way of getting there and look for new ways.
    Maybe you were going to do a craft show – what about finally starting that shopify shop?
    Maybe you were going to grow your email list at a craft show, what about creating a PDF download to drive subscribers?
  3. Focus on systems, not outcomes.
    If you find yourself stressed that people aren’t shopping as much now (although I’m not sure this is true? Surely online shopping is surging) – stop focusing on the outcomes of your goals,and focus instead on setting up the systems of your goals. What technology do you need? How consistent will you be? What do you have to do in order to stay consistent? 
  4. Be Realistic.
    Yes, work on your goals, make a plan, but also really practice accepting the time and energy you have. I know I have about an hour a day, as long as my girls aren’t in school. I wish I could do more in my business, but that’s the extent of the time and energy I have.

    So I’m making a plan for the quarter – I’m looking at the systems and products I want to create, knowing I'll be doing it in about 5 hours a week. I will consider it a success if I use those 5 hours well, to create and publish this podcast, hold the weekly Starship chat and go live in my Facebook group. That’s it. 
  5. Be gentle on yourself.
  6. Along with being realistic, give yourself a break. I HAVE more hours than just naptime – I could get up early or work after bedtime…but I need that rest and recovery. I don’t know about you, but I find myself more on edge, more exhausted, more short-tempered than usual. So don’t make your business and your goals another thing to stress yourself out, another thing you should be doing. 

 

We are going to get through this. THings may not look the same afterwards…but what if that was a good thing? What if you set a goal for the quarter and reached it despite all the chaos? How awesome and grateful would you feel? 

One way or the other time will pass, the virus will pass and there will be shopping and craft shows and retail locations making orders again – will your business be ready for it? 

How to Make Decisions

How  do you decide what to do next? How do you make a decision? My family has a simple question that we ask to make complex decisions and I’m sharing it with you today. 

 I want to talk about how you decide ANYthing in your business (or life) and a quick question I use to make better decisions.
I’m not even going to make you wait, here is the question to ask yourself: Hard now or hard later? 

Over the years of making decisions together, from do we want to get pizza delivered or make dinner, to should we buy a new or used car, to should we rent or buy…my husband and I have realized that making decisions is it’s own skill set. To make decisions together, we need to be on the same page about what matters, what our values are, and where we’re going as a family. 

And there are a lot of ways to make bad decisions! If you just look at the short-term effect of the decision, if you look at what’s gratifying RIGHT NOW, if you make a decision based on a value that’s not really your own…you end up with a not-great result. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter (should we have ordered that pizza), but sometimes your whole future can turn on a few decisions. 

But this is not a marriage advice podcast (maybe I’ll start that next?) this is a handmade business podcast! You make decisions every single day in your business, and I know it is so easy to get stuck wondering “what is the right decision? Does this even matter?”

Here’s what you can do to cut through all the stuckness and get right to what matters: Hard now or hard later? 

What this means is: Is there a way to make this decision that may be hard now, but will make life easier later? Or if I choose the easier path now, will it make more difficult later?  

As an example, let’s look at a decision a lot of us made in our 20s – If I’ve got no money, but I want a pizza or to go out with my friends…should I just get it on a credit card or should I not go out and eat what I have at home? Most of us know that the easier decision is to order a pizza, but we could be paying interest charges on that one pizza for months – it will make the future harder. Or we could make the less fun decision now and have an easier future (with no debt!)

 

A lot of people are raised to (and parts of our culture encourages us to) make the easy decision now and let your future self deal with it. There’s even a  stand up comedian who jokes about making life harder for your Future Self. Screw that guy, let him deal with it! 

So this question – do I want to do the hard thing now or suffer the worse consequences later? 

 

Another way to ask the question is: fun now or fun later? 

Do I want to have short-term fun now, and pay for it later? Or make a hard decision now to make it more fun later? 

Now, this may not be the question you need. When I was talking about this on a Live in my Facebook group, my friend and life coach Joeli made the point that a lot of people in our community have this misunderstanding that life is “supposed” to be hard. That work is “supposed to be” hard. So they make things hard that don’t have to be hard. I totally know what she means because I see it all the time, this mistrust that things can be easy, work can be filled with ease. 

So if that’s you, if you think everything has to be hard, let me flip this question around for you. Next time you make a decision ask yourself: What can I do now to set my Future Self up for success? And how can I make it full of ease and fun? 

 

I used a financial decision as an example, but this can apply to so many thing in your business:

  • Do I want to take the time to schedule my social media for the next two weeks or do I want to have to deal with it every day?
  • Do I want to figure out my numbers and profitability now, or suffer the consequences of selling items at a price that doesn’t actually make sense?
  • Do I want to take the time to identify my market and shape my marketing message or keep trying to do it on the fly and getting more frustrated and disappointed when marketing doesn’t work? 

Do I want to confront this problem now (with a supplier, a customer, a friend) or do I want to leave it alone and have a bigger blow-up later? 

And if you, like me, are still practicing social distancing or quarantine right now, we’re not out of the decision-making loop. Do I want to give my kids another hour of TV and deal with them bouncing off the walls later? Do I want to mindlessly scroll Twitter now and feel unproductive and stressed later? 

Remember, sometimes you need to choose the easy thing. Sometimes you need the rest, sometimes you need to zone out. But the key to building a sustainable business is to give yourself what you need, while still honoring and taking care of your Future Self.