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enjoy the holidays

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

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.

282: Get your shop ready for the holidays

image of title

Happy Holidays!

Ok, so I just filled your heart with dread, didn’t I?! If you are a shopper, it’s annoying to see ANY holiday stuff months before the holiday begins, it’s like Live in the NOW, man!… but if you own and run a shop, it is VITAL to plan for your holiday season… starting right about now.

This week I am going to help you make a PLAN for getting everything out of the holiday season that you want to! We’re going to set a goal, creating a vision for what you want out of the season, then we are going to talk about math (very briefly!) and marketing.

This can be your most profitable time of year, but so that it can be your most peaceful time of year! Or at the very least, not absolutely miserable! Your holiday season may start now, or American Thanksgiving and go through the last night of Hanukkah, or New Year’s Day, or all the way through the Epiphany.

Sidenote: I wrote this whole episode and then realized that these steps are exactly what I guide your WHOLE business through in my free masterclass. If you want to go a LOT deeper, check it out at taraswiger.com/foundations.

Let’s dive in!

Your Goal

The first step to creating ANYTHING you want, and especially something with as many moving parts as your holiday season, is to set a goal or cast a vision, what do you want to get out of this season? What do you need to do, and by when?

Let’s get more specific: 

How much do you want to make in sales?

What activities and events do you want to do this holiday season?
(This may be everything from a big holiday show, to offering a Thanksgiving custom order, to buying a new menorah, to cutting down a Christmas tree. List it ALL out.)

What deadlines do you have?
Shipping deadlines:
Shopping deadlines:
Event deadlines:
Other deadlines:

What isn’t on this list but is important for you to do or experience this season?

Now for the most important question: How do you want to FEEL?

Math

The next step is to look at the actual math – calendar math and profit math. The calendar math is pretty straight forward – put all of the dates on your calendar AND put all the deadlines. Now put a star on your list of all the things that are going to take more than 1-2 hours. (You need bigger chunks of time for these things).

Now you have to switch to profit math before we come back to calendar math.

Look at your sales goal – how much money do you want to make (monthly or over the two months, either answer is fine)?

Now, with your current overhead and at the profit margin of each item, how many items will you need to sell to hit this number? (Don’t know your overhead or profit margin? You need the Foundations – learn more at TaraSwiger.com/foundations.)

Once you know that number, you know how many things you need to sell! This is important because first, you need to HAVE this many items. I can’t believe how many shops want to make $1000/month but have less than $500 in stock. Now, if you’re a designer or you sell services, you can do the math – of the things I have for sale, how many of each will I need to sell, and you can skip right to marketing those things.

As a product seller, if you don’t have that many things in your shop, before you worry about marketing, you need to focus on production – MAKE enough stuff.
That’s where we come back to the calendar – how much stuff will you have for each show you have scheduled? How many items will you have by Black Friday or Cyber Monday? I recommend getting your shop STOCKED UP before American Thanksgiving, so you can focus on filling and shipping orders and enjoying your holiday.

Marketing Tip: Focusing on production doesn’t mean you don’t do any marketing, this is prime time to be showing the PROCESS. Show what your studio looks like! Show your pile of products ready for the holidays. Show the day to day of creating.

Back to the calendar – for you to have the amount of items you need by your deadlines, when will you make them? What days are production days? Set a realistic  production schedule, including the fun stuff you want to do this holiday season (in other words, if you want to spend a day baking cookies, don’t plan to spend that day on production)

Stress Free Tip: If you’ve never had a production schedule before, you’re going to find that spending the time thinking about it NOW takes so much stress off the day to day.

Communicate

The key to meeting your holiday goals is communication – with your family, with your customers, and honesty with yourself!

Before we jump into business communication, you need to communicate with your family! What are their expectations from you? What do they want to do together? What are you letting go of?

Reminder: You have permission to let go of any holiday tradition that is not serving you. 

And to adopt new ones that feel better. This will go smoother if you communicate with the other people involved!

If you need to be heavily into production for the next month, let your partner and friends know! Ask them for the support you’ll need in this time!

If you need to label items while you watch Elf with the kids, let them know! (If they don’t have sticky-cookie fingers, they can help!)

Whatever you need from the people in your life, let them know!

Of course this applies to your business too! It can be a real struggle to stay consistent with your marketing communication in busy seasons. But if you want increased sales, this is the time where you need to stay consistent.

How to balance it? Make a plan!

Decide what you’re going to say, when, and write it out ahead of time. Spend some time in early November writing some Instagram captions, sales emails, blog posts – however you communicate with your people, you can write it out ahead of time.

This is why we have already worked on the calendar – it will now tell you when shipping deadlines are – this is one of the most important things for you to communicate, several times, so your people (who are also busy and distracted) don’t miss it! Right now schedule when you’re going to send shipping deadline reminders (if you’re not sure what to do, announce it 2 weeks out, 1 week out, 2 days and final day. YES that many times!). You may have a shipping deadline for Christmas, one for the last night of Hannukah, or any other date that is important to your people. If you make your items to order, then your order-by date is going to be even earlier!

Once you’ve got your shipping and ordering deadline messages scheduled, look at any other event:

Are you going to be at a holiday show? Schedule your messages about that.
Are you doing a big Black Friday deal, go on and schedule your messages about that.
What else do you want to share about this holiday season?
Do you want to show your item in use during this season? Stage some photos and take them now.
Do you want to share your own holiday traditions? Schedule those posts.
Do you want to talk about your feelings around the holidays? Schedule that!
Do you have weekly content? Be sure to schedule time to point people back to that.

I know this sounds like a lot, but don’t get overwhelmed. The first step is to identify what you want to post when, the next step is to actually get it together (images and writing the words) and the final step is to schedule it (using a tool like Later for Instagram/Facebook).

To be honest, I plan a month or two in advance, but I don’t get my content together until the week of, and for most of my business life, I haven’t scheduled things more than a week in advance. Now that I have toddlers and more chaos in my schedule, I’m needing to get a bit more ahead of it than that, so your particular scheduling cadence is going to be related to your particular life.

To recap, you’re going to get your shop ready for the holidays by: setting your goal and casting a vision for what you want the holidays to be like, doing profit and calendar math so you know you CAN make it the way you want it, and then communicating that to both your loved ones and your customers.

As a reminder, you can dive deeper into goals, profit and marketing plans in my free 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.

238: Staying sane: Let go of holiday expectations

The holidays can be incredibly stressful - especially if you’re running a creative business. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Learn how to stay sane and keep the holidays enjoyable at TaraSwiger.com/podcast238

Are you feeling a little overwhelmed? With holiday fun, holiday obligations and, uh, you're whole business to run? If so, you are not alone. This week we're going to talk about keeping your sanity and having as much fun as possible, while keeping your business going.

We, as a community,  have been talking about staying sane during the holiday season since 2010, when I created the first version of the Holiday Sanity Guide. This comes up every year, because, guys, this season can be HARD. You've got more family responsibilities, more business responsibilities, and on top of all that, EXPECTATIONS of how it should all go. So I wanna talk about that today, how to handle your own expectations while still meeting your responsibilities. And if you're new here, or you're just really feeling the holiday stress, check out alllll the past posts and episodes in a Definitive Holiday Sanity Guide at the bottom of this post.

First, you gotta acknowledge what is making the season hard: responsibilities and expectations. Sometimes we confuse the two, or we agree to unstated expectations, without really deciding if it's right for us or not. For our discussion Responsibilities are those things you really do need to do, or the things you owe other people. It may be that you see your family each year at the holiday, you promised that you would and it is important to you. You have a responsibility to your business to show up the way you promised to show up (whether that's delivering an order or publishing your podcast weekly). Take a minute and write down your responsibilities.

The Holiday season also comes with all these expectations, about what you'll do but also how it will feel. We have stated and unstated expectations for both ourselves and for others (and other people have expectations for us), about both actions and feelings. For example,  maybe you expect that you'll bake a million cookies, or that you'll feel a certain way. OFTEN when I'm talking to someone about why they are stressed or not enjoying the season (or any season), it's NOT because of what they have to do (responsibilities) it's because of how they thought they'd feel (expectations) or the expectations of others.

So how do you deal with this?

Make everything explicit.

Take a minute and write down all of your expectations of the holiday season. (You can do this any time of year, especially if you're doing something very exciting in your business).

  • What do you hope to do?
  • What do you hope to accomplish?
  • How do you hope to feel?
  • Where do you expect to go?

And then meet with your loved ones and ask them what they expect of the holiday season, and of you. This “meeting” can be as formal or as informal as you like. You can do it around the dinner table tonight or you can call each of your sisters or parents up and ask them.

One way to frame this is “I'd love to make this season wonderful for all of us, so I'd love to know: What are your expectations or hopes for this season? What matters most to you?

Warning: Be sure you're only soliciting expectations from people you really desire to fulfill expectations of. (Hint: Maybe don't ask your never-happy-with-anything mother in law).

Now! This is really important: You get to decide what expectations you take on! You get to agree, with your immediate family or friend group, what expectations you'll meet and which ones they'll meet. For example, maybe your kids really want a billion cookies but you don't like to bake, so your partner agrees to do cookie baking, or you reach out to another family member who would love to spend that time with your kids.

Or maybe you have expectations of beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree – who is going to do that? Are you going to wrap them all? Do you want to ask for help? Could you maybe lower your expectations about beauty and let your 5 year old wrap some gifts?

The examples I'm giving here are lighthearted, but I know the season can come with some heavy feelings of obligation. That's why I'm suggesting that you first make everything explicit, and then you spend the time to decide what expectation you want to meet and what you don't. Here are three principles for that sorting process.

1. Focus on what matters to you

What makes this season wonderful to you? What drives you crazy?

Filter all the expectations through the values you care most about.

Look back at your responsibilities, are some of them just expectations? Can you let some of them go? Maybe you take a week or two off from your weekly business obligations?

The better you get at filtering things OUT, the happier your season (and your life!) will be.

2. Let go….without guilt

Once you've got your list of what matters, you gotta really, actually let go everything else. I'm serious. Just let it go.

Will you disappoint some people? Yes. That's ok, that's part of life.

Your job isn't to make everyone happy. It's to do your best and you can only do your best if you're taken care of.

I'm going to remind you of one of the first holiday related videos I ever recorded – people's feelings and expectations aren't about you. It's about them. What people say to you or expect of you is about who THEY are. It has nothing to do with who you are. (Yes, they may be pointing it at you, but it's still about them).

3. There is always more time.

You don't have to have all the gifts purchased by Dec 25th, maybe you'll give friends gifts on the 27th? You don't have to reach your business goal by Dec 31, maybe you can reach it Jan 31? Or next spring?

You have more time. The goal of your life isn't to cram everything into RIGHT NOW, it's to enjoy right now (because you might not actually have more time, and wouldn't you rather enjoy this while you know you have it?) and keep growing and learning. So let things unfold, let things go, and know that you can always do the thing when everyone's bored in Jan or Feb or next year.

This process of focusing on what matters, letting go of the rest, and planning in a way that lets you enjoy where you are right now? This is the process of building a business and building a life. You're going to need to do this over and over, to keep realigning with what you really want and where you really want to go. If you'd like to do that in your business this year, and do it in a community with other makers who are making the same decisions and sharing the reality of that journey, check out the Starship. It opens Dec 27th and in it I guide you through figuring out what you want in the New Year, making a plan to get it, fixing your profitability so you CAN reach your money goals and improving your marketing so you can reach the right people. You can sign up to learn more about it Taraswiger.com/starshipbiz

Definitive Holiday Sanity Guide

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.

Enjoy the end of the year in your creative business

How to enjoy the end of the year in your business. You CAN have the kind of holiday season you want, from life + biz. It just takes a little planning! On TaraSwiger.com.

How can you enjoy the end of the year and the holidays, while maintaining your business and your sanity?

This question was asked a few weeks ago on Periscope, and I wanted to dive into a more thorough answer and share it with you here. You can follow me on Periscope to get the podcast episodes a full week before they come out; I'm TaraSwiger on Periscope or you can catch broadcasts at Katch.me/TaraSwiger.

It's the week of American Thanksgiving, which kicks off the holiday season here in the States, with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice and the New Year. If you celebrate even one of those holidays, and you're running a business, this can become a hectic time of year and soon it's already the new year, with all its new projects and excitement.

But I want you to have a sane and happy holiday season. I want you to both have the kind of time with your family or friends that you want AND see the kind of business growth you want. I don't want you to stumble into 2016 feeling fried from the last month of 2015. So here's how we do that.

  1. Decide what you want.
  2. Determine what it will require.
  3. Commit to it.
  4. Do what it takes.
  5. Review and readjust weekly.

Listen in to learn exactly how to enjoy this time and end the year strong and profitable in your business!

How to listen

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

Find all the podcast episodes here.