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287: How I use planners in my business – paper planner edition

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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.

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.

Unboxing my Knitter’s Planner! // Weekly Vlog

Today I'm unboxing my new Knitter's Planner, which was a gift! And I announce a giveaway!
Find the giveaway here on Tuesday, Dec 3: http://instagram.com/taraswiger
Join the group here to get daily December videos: http://facebook.com/groups/taraswiger

Get your own customizable Knitter's Planner here: http://knittersplanner.com

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Facebook: http://facebook.com/taraswigerpage

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286: Favorite books: Autumn 2019

What I’m reading Fall 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/podcast286

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It is time for my seasonal round-up of the very best books I’ve read. We’re talking sequels that live up to your hopes, toddler parenting books and of course, mysteries and thrillers.

Usually we talk about building a creative business, goal-setting, marketing, and confidence. But we also love to read and talk about books! For the past 6 years I've shared my monthly reading list on my blog, and since January 2018, I've shared that list on the podcast (Starting in episode 192). I've heard from a lot of you, that you love to talk books with me, so I'm making even more bookish videos and a book club, over at Patreon.com/taraswiger

I also know you’re busy you may not read 100+ books/year, so here on the podcast, I sort through all I read and share my FAVORITE books of the season.

Favorite books of Autumn:

Let's talk about my favorite books that I read from September – November 2019. I'll share these by category, like my fave mystery/thriller, fave sci-fi, etc. But first, let’s look at the stats: I read 21 books, 9 of them thriller or suspense novels, 3 non-fiction books about families, 6 books in three different series. I read fewer books this season than I did over the summer, in part because I’ve been super inspired by my work and in part because I had a lot more disappointing books this season. They weren’t bad; they just weren’t amazingly gripping. But let’s focus on which books I did love.

My fave fantasy series:

Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire.
I read Down among the Sticks and Bones and Beneath the Sugar Sky, and they were both magical and delicious.

Fave parenting book:Lo

Oh Crap! I Have a Toddler by Jamie Galwacki
This is by FAR the closest to my own parenting style of any book I’ve read. And that’s because her philosophy is that every kid is different and that your theories fly out the window once you’re dealing with the kid in front of you. She also advocates for treating children with respect, humor, and natural consequences.

Still loving…

Inspector Gamache series by Louis Penny

I mentioned in our last seasonal round-up (episode 275) that I liked Riley Sagar’s Lock Every Door and Peter Swanson’s Before She Knew HIm that I wanted to read their other books. I ended up reading all of the backlist of both authors and although I enjoyed them ok, they weren’t as great as their more recent books.

I have also been reading the backlist of Megan Abbott, and I love all of her novels.

Book I was completely surprised by:

Fleishman is in Trouble, by Taffy Akner-Brodesser

So many of my faves came from Book of the Month Club.

Remember you can join them in getting extra videos and a Book Club, over on Patreon.com/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.

285: Mental health during the holidays

The holiday season is stressful enough! Don’t forget to take care of yourself in addition to your biz and family and social obligations. Learn how at TaraSwiger.com/podcast285

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It’s mid-November, the holidays are upon us, so I wanted to check in – how are you feeling? REALLY? Are you feeling scrambled or stressed or depressed or anxious? Let’s talk this week about how to stay emotionally and mentally healthy during this busy season in both your business and your life.

I’m not a mental health professional or a doctor. I am your big sister or best friend who is here to remind you to take care of yourself.

If you want to hear more about my own mental health adventure, check out episode 123, where I first opened up about my lifetime struggles and suicide in our community, and episode 153 about a year leater, where I share what was working for me in managing it. I’ve also got a Mental Health Checklist in episode 241.

This isn’t self-care, this is self-maintenance.

Like giving your car gas and changing the oil isn’t extra, it’s part of keeping it running. (I don’t know enough about cars to make this metaphor any bigger, but you get it right?)

These tips are in order of importance for my mental health and based on what I’ve read, I bet it’s important for you too.

Be realistic with your schedule and get it on paper.

Get it all out of your head. Don’t try to keep track of it. And don’t agree to do too much.

This includes in your personal life and your business. It is SO EASY to get excited about holiday promotions and commit to doing big crazy launches and new products and extra shows, but NOW is the time to step back and look at how it all fits in your calendar – do you have the time off you need? Do you have a production plan so you’re not staying up till 3 am every night?

And hey, those handmade gifts you have planned – are they realistic?

The more realistic you are, the saner you will feel navigating it.

Wash your hands.

Getting the flu on top of everything else going on is the worst. The most-effective way to avoid the flu is to wash your hands. I know you know this, but make it a habit that everyone washes their hands when they come into your house. I’m gonna link to my favorite handwash (affiliate link) from doTERRA that isn’t drying and is naturally antibacterial.

If you’re feeling panicky, splash with your face with cold water. This does something to your nervous system and resets it.

Wake up at the same time.

I once read a mental health researcher say that we would understand more about mental health diagnoses if we thought of them as circadian rhythm disorders. The worst thing for your mental health is to get too little or too much sleep. You can’t always control this by going to sleep at the same time, but you can control getting into bed at the same time and waking up (and getting out of bed) at the same time.

This is very important if you’re changing time zones.

If you want to hit the ground feeling good, start to shift your bedtimes before your trip. Since I’m usually flying west, I just get up really early while I’m there, go for a run in the morning and then go to sleep early (my family never minds, but it’s harder to do at a conference).

Have a hard time falling asleep? I have a few favorite tips: 

  • Take a warm bath and get in bed with lots of blankets for 20 minutes. A study found this was effective at reducing depression! It’s my favorite!
  • I never read business books in bed. The more boring the better.
  • I use essential oils and supplements to help me sleep. My go-to is Copaiba, which works on your nervous system in the same way CBD oil does but more effectively (and without all the risk of weird additives).

Take your vitamins and your meds.

Everyone I’ve ever met who takes meds for mental health doesn’t want to take medication. They want to go off it. But friend, the holidays, or any time when you’re traveling, seeing more people than usual, or even just shipping way more products than ever, it is not the time to change your medication.

Move your body.

I know, I hate to go out in the cold, but just focus on getting your steps in and not sitting all day. I use my watch to tell me to stand up every hour, but you can also set a timer on your phone or computer.

Say no when you need to.

Seriously. One of the keys to staying mentally stable is to not overdo it, and this is the season of overdoing it. Everyone does and seems to be proud of themselves for doing too much and being “busy”, but let’s start a (quiet) revolution of NOT doing everything, of telling people no, of staying in and resting when we need it.

Your assignment –

Pull out your December calendar and look it over. Put everything in it that you’ve committed to. Look at your production calendar (if you haven’t made one, make one, we talked more about this in episode 282, getting your shop ready for the holidays).

Ask yourself: 

  • What do you need to say no to or cancel?
  • What looks good and exciting?
  • Where are you feeling enthusiasm? Where can you do more of that?

Come tell me how you are staying well this season, on Instagram. I’m @TaraSwiger and I would LOVE to hear from you – DM me what you are doing or what you learned from this episode.

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the States and I am sharing my FAVORITE books I’ve read this season. Be sure you’ve subscribed and tune in to get ideas for what you’ll read over the holidays.

I wish you a peaceful and enthusiastic week and happy holidays.

Links* to my favorite products:

For sleep:

During the day:

*These links are affiliate links, which means I earn a percentage of the sale when you purchase through my link. I am NOT recommending ANY other brand of essential oil, because they are not food-grade safe, nor tested to the same level of purity, or with the same sustainable practices as doTERRA. Don’t buy cheap oils at Walmart and expect to have similar results.

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.

284: You have more than enough time

If you run a creative business (or even if you have a full life) time management is critical, because the secret is you always have time for the things that are important to you (you just don’t have time for the things that aren’t). Learn more about finding time for the things that matter to you and your biz at TaraSwiger.com/podcast284

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You have more than enough time. Yeah, I know, it feels like you don’t have any time. But today we’re going to talk about why you believe that and how you can change it.

Today we’re going right into tough love territory

I know it feels like there's never enough time. With kids and work and starting your business, it can all be super-overwhelming. Since becoming a parent, I have learned that it can be shockingly hard to even find time to take a shower. I get that.

You believe you don’t have time because it FEELS like you don’t…

  • You don’t have time to work on your business.
  • You don’t have time to invest in learning how to make your business profitable.
  • You don’t have time for marketing.

You believe you don’t have time because:

  1. You haven't already made time for it.
  2. You have never done anything like building a business before – so how could you possibly have time for it?
  3. You may not know anyone who is doing it. In fact, everyone around you is probably saying they don't have time to do anything.

But are you them? Do you spend your time in EXACTLY the same way?
Surely you know people who tell you they don’t have time to cook, but maybe you always do find time. Or you have friends who don’t have time to read, but you do find time.

You are not them and that is why you can find the time, even if they can’t.

You’re right, you want to be realistic and honest with yourself.

But let’s also be honest with yourself about the reality:
You KNOW you don't have more time than anyone else. You KNOW don't have time to waste.
Your belief that you don’t have enough time is distracting you from seeing the time you do have, and using it effectively.

Is it true that no one, in your exact situation, has never found the time to build their business?  No, of course not. We both can think of dozens of examples of women who have.

And hey, kids aren't the only thing that make you busy. When I started my business, I worked 40+ hours per week at two jobs, I managed a paint-your-own-pottery studio and worked at the local yarn shop.

When I built my business, I worked as a barista 40 hours a week AND as an office temp 40 hours a week.

And when my business grew to the point I quit my job, I was working 40 hours a week AND taking MBA classes during the evenings.

But, I can hear you, Tara, you didn’t have children back then!

Are you a mom with toddlers? So was Susan of Freshly Picked when she started her baby shoe empire.

Are you a homeschooling mom? So is Katie of Yarn Love and she’s built a six figure yarn business while homeschooling her five kids.

Yes, if you give time to this, to learning and growing, you will be balancing a lot. But balancing a growing business and your life (whether it's a dayjob or kids or whatever) isn't too hard. Having your entire money situation tied to one single employer is to hard.

Wasting the time you spend on your business doing the WRONG things in your business is hard and painful.

But here’s the thing: YOU are in the BEST position to find the time for this. Yes, YOU. Why? Because you are a creative. That means you’re a great problem solver, you can hold lots of stuff in your head at once. You are willing and open to learn (you’re listening to this podcast right now). YOU want more for your business and your life.

That is the PERFECT person who will FIND the time to grow their business. That is the person who will find the time to learn and build healthy foundations.

And hey, maybe you don’t feel like that person. Maybe you don’t feel like you’ve lived up to that potential, and that’s why you are SURE you don’t have enough time to work a program dedicated to growing your business.

But there’s another way to look at it: You don't need more time, you need more focus. You need more follow-through. You didn’t do it before, not because you didn’t have the time, but because you didn’t have the follow-through.

But what if you committed to following through? What if you found resources that helped you follow-through, that took into account your personality and provided the accountability and support you needed?

Could you do it then?

What if you knew that you could learn a few new tools and it would shift how time worked for you and how capable you are of following through?

Here’s a way to shift time:

List all the steps in any project on paper (don’t keep it in your head)
Break it down. Then break it down even more than that.
PICK ONE PRIORITY.  Each week, each day, each hour. JUST ONE.

If you did this, how would impact your year? Your family over the next five years?

What would you be teaching the people around you about what was possible for them? About how they could approach time?

If you don’t change this belief that you don’t have enough time for learning and being effective, how will that impact those around you? How will you see that play out in the next year or five years or decades?

What’s going to happen if you don’t change?

Things are going to stay the same.

You will hear your kids and your friends adopt this belief. They will think they don’t have time to invest in themselves, to follow their dreams, to put in the effort to improve and get better – whether it’s related to business, to practicing the violin, to putting in effort to learn a new art form or medicine or whatever they’re into.

Do you want to keep operating like this, or are you ready to make the time for growing your business, for learning and improving?

If you’re ready to let go of the belief then come tell me over on Instagram and then join me to learn more about the foundations of your business at TaraSwiger.com/foundations

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.

Are you a redshirt or a Captain? // Weekly Vlog

Do you feel distracted or overwhelmed? Let's get clear on what your business needs to grow.

Note: This was first live on FB at http://fb.com/taraswigerpage. Follow me there for more lives this week!

In today's video:
*What it's like to be the Captain of your own dream
*How to avoid the RedShirt Effect
*The mindset shift you need to make before your business will grow.
*What is holding you back.

Get the free Kit: http://taraswiger.com/distraction
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GET MORE:
Instagram: http://instagram.com/taraswiger
Facebook: http://facebook.com/taraswigerpage

Free Defeat Overwhelm Training:
http://taraswiger.com/overwhelm

283: How to make time to APPLY what you learn

It’s not enough to just read the book to buy the course, you have to actually apply what you learn to your business. Learn my best advice for actually applying learning to your business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast283

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You have just read a great business book, or attended a workshop or joined an online class… but how do you get your investment out of it? How do you APPLY what you’ve learned? How do you make sure that it makes a difference in your business and your life?

Today I’m answering a question a Starship Captain recently asked after she read a great book – how do I APPLY this to my business?

You see, I’ve thought a LOT about how to make business education and information applicable. I’ve built it into my courses and program, so that as you work through the Starship Program, you are prompted to work WITH it in real time. We do this through apply-it-to-YOUR-biz worksheets, weekly accountability, chunking the content into pieces, and pacing it so that you work on it in an order that makes sense.

You can learn about how I structure it and WHAT you need to apply to your business in my free masterclass, the Four Foundation Method. Join me at TaraSwiger.com/foundations 

Go Slow

One of the mistakes we ALL make is that we get excited and we rush through collecting information and data. I am a big believer that you can absorb a lot more than you think, and you’ll have access to it when you need it again, so I’m never afraid of forgetting something I learned in a book (this may be a quirk of my own brain. If you need to do something else to cement in your brain, like taking notes, you should do that!).

But remembering a fact is very different than using a fact to create real change. When you want to create a transformation in your business, you’ve got to pay deeper attention than just a quick read. You need to stop and think. You need to take notes or put action steps in your planner.

This is going to seem obvious, but one of the easiest ways to make use of a book or a class is to actually DO the exercises. I know, right? But I know you skip the exercises at the end of the chapter, just like I do! That’s fine if you’re reading a book just for general knowledge or to get an overview of the topic… but if you picked the book up because you want something to change in your business, you need to actually think and work through it. Don’t just speed through.

Dedicate the time it deserves.

Set aside the time

Ok, ok, so you’re going to go slow, you’re going to do the exercises or homework… but who has time for that?

Well, if it’s important to you, if it’s a priority, you do.

We’re going to talk about this more next week on the podcast, but if this is a priority, you need to set aside the time.

You probably know this, but be honest – when you pick up a business book or buy a course do you first stop and ask yourself when you are going to apply it? Probably not, but then we get annoyed when it doesn’t get read and we don’t see a change in our business.

This is a good time to tell you – nothing will make a difference in your business unless you commit to taking action and taking time for it. I was recently told that if the Starship comes with a guarantee that everyone will make a living from your craft, this person would absolutely join.

Well, yeah.

But honey, I can’t guarantee that you will make a living from your craft, because I can’t guarantee YOU will do the work, or that you will even open the lessons and read them, let alone do the homework, let alone make the changes you’ll need to make to have a profitable business.

No one can guarantee your success except for YOU.

Allow for failure (and experimentation)

Here’s the thing: when you try new stuff, it’s not always going to get the results you want. You are going to try things and they’ll fail. This has to be built into how you think about business or you’ll never move forward. If you’re waiting for the perfect piece of advice… you’re going to wait for a long time.

I used to call this the special-snowflake syndrome, but that phrase got politicized, so now I’m calling it the Unique Paradox. This is when every student tells me their business is unique and this doesn’t apply to them. But hon, if every business is unique, then there is no point in you learning any business advice. You know that there are foundations you can apply to your business, foundations that work whether you have a product-based business, a service-based business, whether you sell $4 PDFs or $100 earrings… right?

But you won’t always know exactly how to apply it to work for you, so you’re going to need to open to experimentation, to try, to fail, to try something new.

Often when you apply a new concept to your business, you need to build in time to reassess – is it the concept or the application that’s not working? Can I try it in a different way?

And hey, this is why I build in monthly reassessment into the Starship. Because you have GOT to stop and check in, to see if you’re headed towards your goals or away from them. You’ve got to learn the lessons your business is trying to teach you.

Ask yourself (over and over) : How can I make use of this? What part of this is applicable to MY business, today?

Yes, there are going to be parts of every book or course that don’t pertain to you right now. Maybe it’s something that you will need in the future. Maybe it’s something you’ve already figured out. The key to making it applicable now, is to ignore that and look at what you really can use.

I know this can be hard sometimes. When I first started my first business (making handspun yarn and selling it on Etsy) all the advice I could find about selling in an online shop was for coaches, yoga teachers, skeezy guys selling “internet marketing.” NONE of it applied to my business, but I started to look at the basics of what they were saying – know your goals, know your customers, know your product, know your numbers… and I started implementing that in my business and it worked!

But what I learned as I quit my dayjob and talked to more and more makers about our businesses is that not everyone has an easy time seeing the foundational concepts and breaking it down into do-able action. That is a strength that seems obvious and easy to me, but it isn’t everyone else’s strength. So I started helping makers improve their marketing, finding the direction for their business (and life!) and get more profitable.

But I want you to know – if it’s hard for you to translate concepts from another industry-language or from old-school business terms, that’s ok! There’s nothing wrong with you! You don’t need an MBA to have a successful business. You can work with someone that can help you translate! This is exactly what I do in my Foundations Masterclass (which is totally free) and what I try to do each week here on the podcast.

So if you’re having a hard time applying general business knowledge to YOUR direct business, I have a homework assignment, go sign up for one of the spots in my upcoming Foundations Masterclass at TaraSwiger.com/foundations.

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.

Baking with Toddlers // Weekly Vlog

This weekend we got to bake with our current foster girls AND our former kiddo. We baked, we painted and when we had a day alone, we went to Asheville – Laughing Seed (a great vegan restaurant), Purls Yarn Emporium (fave yarn shop) and Malaprops, my closest indie book store.

What did you do this weekend?

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GET MORE:
Patreon: http://patreon.com/taraswiger
Instagram: http://instagram.com/taraswiger
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