In today’s episode we are throwing it ALL the way back to the very first episode of this podcast!
I share a little about my goals and dreams for the podcast and my own business journey (up until that point!).
As I said at the time: “I want you to know you're not alone, in whatever it is, that feels like a struggle in your creative business: making money, finding motivation, being consistent. More than anything, I hope you like it. I hope this helps us connect in a new way and help you feel supported, encouraged and part of this great community of amazing makers.”
You guys, I have been self-employed for TEN YEARS, this week! That is really unbelievable to me, because I had no idea what to expect when I quit my dayjob to make yarn full-time. I have learned so much, struggled so much, and had weird unexpected successes (like improving my credit score, and earning a lifetime achievement award at Midwest Craftcon?).
Today I want to look back on it with you, and share some reflections that may help you in your own business journey.
I have been running a business full-time, since July 1, 2009. I quit a dayjob in an office, in part because I worked for a state university (an administrative assistant in HR) and the state cut funding, so there was a hiring freeze and a buyout. I applied for buyout and took it (it paid for us to pay off the car, and rent a UHaul to move), because I had grown the business to replace my day job salary most months.
I actually talk more about my business journey in the very first episode of the podcast, and you’re going to hear it again next week! As a celebration of 10 years of self-employment, and to spend more time with my foster kids this summer, I am re-broadcasting older important episodes from the last 5 years of the show. In July you’ll hear some of the oldest episodes that are the most important topics that basically no one has listened to, about launching and fear of success. In August you’ll hear the most-popular episodes ever, most are from about a year ago, and they cover topics like “how to stop seeking approval”, and “the pressure to be perfect”. You don’t have to do anything extra to get these episodes – just tune in each week and you’ll get a new intro from Current Tara, along with a listen at the old musical intro (it was bad!) and Past Tara. Then I’ll be back in September with brand-new episodes!
As I was talking in the Starship about being self-employed for 10 years, Jennie asked me: if you could have a do over, would you change the rate of growth of your business? Would you grow faster/slower/the same?
My answer is always: I wouldn’t change anything because then I wouldn’t be where I am.
Which is kind of an annoying answer, so I really thought about this some more. The thing about my rate of growth is – sure, if I could have scaled to more profit, quicker, especially in the earlier days, that would have been fabulous, I would prefer to skip the years of being really broke and my business just covering the bills. But I would have had other growth-related problems and the fact is, I wasn’t ready to handle those problems until I grew.
One of the truths about business is that your business grows as fast as you do. If you’re expanding your belief in yourself, if you’re setting up systems, if you are confident and assured, you’re going to grow. But if you get stuck, or you leave something undealt with, your business will grow as much as you can until you hit that stuck point. You are always the bottleneck. Whether it’s that you don’t know how to let go and delegate, or you don’t believe in yourself, your business or the mission, or you’re not taking care of yourself, or your running yourself too hard, or you don’t value yourself, whatever it is, it’s the bottleneck.
So, the answer to the question is: Sure, I’d prefer that my business grew faster if that meant that I was growing and developing faster. But I couldn’t skip over learning what I needed to learn. So let’s talk about what I have learned:
Rule #1: Figure out how you make money.
I know this seems obvious – you make a sale, you make money. But do you? What’s the amount of profit on that sale? (I teach this math in the class Pay Yourself, which is only available in the Starship program, you can learn more about it at taraswiger.com/starship)
The next question is – how do you make a sale? What do you do that generates a sale almost every time? Or maybe you do a thing 5x and you make one sale?
This is really the first thing to figure out, before you’ve got your whole marketing plan, before you commit to whatever every day for the next year, test it out: What do I do that results in a sale? How often do I have to do X thing to get one sale?
Start to look at what you want to buy (for yourself or the business) in terms of what you’ll need to do to make enough sales for the profit to afford that thing. This is where all my early growth came from. I would want to do a thing (like a big craft show across the country). How could I afford the trip? I’d have to sell X skeins, so I’d have to Y listings on Etsy, followed by Z emails (emails were the thing that generated sales). And then I would do it.
Now, over time you need to be consistent in doing the things to generate the sales, so you have an idea of what you can regularly make. But to scale up or push yourself out a plateau, challenge yourself to make a certain amount of money is a certain time and hit it.
Again, I want to stress, this is not a long term path to consistent income, but you HAVE to have this knowledge to scale or become consistent with the RIGHT stuff.
Everything is figureoutable.
There is no question I can’t answer. There is no problem I can’t overcome. As long as I think of something as a mystery (or something someone else is just “naturally good at”), it’s always going to be a mystery. The good news: I always figure it out. Always.
Taxes are serious, but not excuses
Don’t be scared, have a plan.
I get soooooo annoyed when people are afraid to make money because they’ll owe taxes. You should HOPE your business owes taxes – that means you were profitable! If you want your business to be sustainable, it’ll be profitable and you will owe taxes. So I’ve always been HAPPY to owe taxes, but I haven’t always had a good plan for PAYING for those taxes. I didn’t plan well, and I owed taxes. But you know what? It’s actually not a huge deal (as long as you file on time and always talk to the IRS). Everyone I’ve ever talked to at the IRS is super friendly and helpful, so it’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to take seriously.
I can trust myself – I am my best business resource.
We make it big and scary. But nothing is as risky as we think. There are always other options if it doesn’t go well. And just like everything is figureoutable, what I know for sure is that I always figure it out. I can trust myself in any situation, I will be ok. I will make a good decision. Often there is no “right” decision, so I just need to trust myself and then COMMIT to whatever I decided.
I am my best resource and that means my #1 job is to keep my business resource (aka, me) in the best condition possible. This isn’t about a size or “clean eating” or anything full of shoulds and shame. This is about feeling what I feel, giving myself permission to feel how I do and need what I need. It’s sleeping enough, drinking enough water, journaling, and asking for help when I need it. It is prioritizing Peak Tara over everything else in my life. Yes, even kids and Jay, because THEY deserve Peak Tara too, they would rather I asked for a night completely alone instead of NOT asking and biting their heads off all night. (I just double-checked with Jay and he confirmed this is fact). Which every new challenge in my life, I have to learn this anew!
I certainly don’t have everything figured out, or even most of it. But I am proud of myself for keeping my business thriving and above all, for growing myself and creating something I love. I wish each of you the joy of looking back at what you’ve created, for however long you’ve been working on it, and knowing you still have so much ahead of you. That it is ok that you aren’t where you thought you should be.
Thank you so much for being here and being part of what I’m doing for however long you’ve been here! Whether it’s been for the 13 years of my biz or for the 5 years of my podcast or you just tuned in for the first time! Thanks for listening and have an enthusiastic week!
How do you balance business and family? How do you balance alone time with together time? What if you just need to be alone to work on your business but you feel like you should be with your family? Today, I'm going to give you a super honest answer. Ya ready?
So let’s start by being honest about balance: it’s not real. Or at least, this ideal goal of work-life balance, where you’re always happy with how much time and energy you’re spending on each area of your life and it always feel balanced and equal – that ideal is not a goal worth pursuing, if it even is possible.
Why? Because life is full of curves and changes and YOU are not balanced. What you want is not balanced. When I talk to you about balance, what you tell me is that you want the projects you care about to get more energy. You want to feel like you’re connected with your partner and kids. You want to feel enthusiastic and in the flow with your work.
You don’t want to give 50% to family and 50% to work and then where is your self-care and FUN going to come in? You want to give 100% to your family when you’re with them. You want to have 100% energy to work on your dream, when you do it. You want to be 100% in on girls night or the novel you’re reading or the nap you’re taking. Right?
The goal isn’t to have everything perfectly balanced. And if you keep pursuing that as a goal, you’re always going to feel like you’re coming up short. I’m gonna suggest that your goal may be, instead, to be fully engaged and enthusiastic about most of what you’re doing with your day, and to have the time to spend on the things you care about.
But first you have to get really honest with yourself (just like we talked about last week). Take an assessment of your life – where are you spending your time and your energy?
Start by identifying the categories of activities: What takes up your actual time? If you’re not sure, track your time for a week – every hour write down what you’re doing.
I’m gonna share my list with you, but yours will be different of course:
Cleaning and life-admin (dishes, vacuuming, making meal list, talking to Jay about finances/parenting/etc, scheduling stuff, going to meetings)
Being a loving mom to the kids in my life (hanging out with past foster babes, hands-on care of new foster babes)
Loving partnership (anything with Jay that isn’t managing our life – we eat dinner together, talking about our day, going to movies, going on trips)
Work (podcast, doTERRA, IG, emails)
Reading and learning and entertainment (novels, non-fiction, listening to podcasts, watching biz trainings)
Joyful movement (walking, dancing, running, lifting)
Community (hanging out with friends and family, coffee dates, texting with friends)
In a life that feels full and enthusiastic and satisfying, I don’t want all of these things to take up the same 10%. I want to be fully present for them, when I’m doing them (well, life admin stuff can be distracted with listening to podcasts!) and when I’m not doing them, I want to let go of them.
For me, and a lot of you, the problem isn’t that I’m not doing what matters or that I’m doing the wrong stuff, it’s that I’m kinda always thinking about the other categories no matter what I’m in the middle of. For working moms, it may be that you’re thinking about your kid’s cough when you’re working. Or you’re thinking about your next IG post when you’re with your kid. And I’ll be honest. I don’t know how to stop that. I know that having boundaries around your time (like I talk about in my Time class, at TaraSwiger.com/time) can help keep everything from bleeding together and overwhelming you. But it’s also natural that you’re going to think of other things.
What helps me is to know: It’s ok, I HAVE TIME for that later, I don’t need to do it now. It’s having peace of mind that I do have time allotted for everything so I don’t have to keep obsessing over it right now, now is the time for X.
And this is how boundaries and deciding your day before you start it can really help. Yes, you’re still gonna be distracted by other stuff in your life, but knowing that you have time for both will really help.
After you took a look at your categories, look at where you’re spending your time. And then decide where you want to spend your time, not forever, just *this week*. What categories need some love and attention? When can you give them that? Block it off in your calendar, or put it on your priority list for that day. There’s a book Pick Three, where the idea is each day you don’t have to do everything, you can just get to three categories, and rotate the three you work on.
I don’t totally agree with that theory because you never really get a break from life admin and mom-ing and being in partnership. But you can decide which days or hours those categories will get your undivided attention. Like maybe Monday you are focused on work and life admin, whereas Saturday you take your family to the library and park and really PLAY with them or you go out to the movies with your friends.
Here’s the thing I hope you’re absorbing from this: There’s no way to do it “right” and for a lot of us driven Type A types, that’s SUPER annoying. We want to get it RIGHT. We want to spend the right amount of time with our family, we want to have the right amount of time for our business, we want to have a clean house).
But the awesome thing is: there’s no one right way…which means you can’t get it WRONG. You can only keep experimenting and figure out what works for you RIGHT NOW. What works for you this week? What does your family need? What does your life need? What does your business need THIS WEEK?
And guess what? You’ll have another week next week where you can shift your focus.
I know this is something a lot of you really struggle with, and that is getting in the way of you enjoying your business or life. If that’s you and if doing the exercise in this podcast still isn’t helping you bring a sense of enthusiasm and calm to your life, I highly recommend working with someone to help you through it, someone who can help you identify what you want to change and then hold you accountable for changing it. My friend Joeli Kelly is who I talk to and she is a certified life coach and has spots available now. This isn’t an ad, this is just a real-life recommendation. If you need more help with this, go to JoeliCreates.com to get an expert help. Tell her this episode sent you, so she’ll know how to help!
When I asked on Instagram what the most-pressing issue in your business was, I got one answer over and over and over: TIME. Time to do everything you want, time to grow your business, time for a business after the day job, time to post regularly, there's just not enough time.
This week we're going to talk about how to have enough time, no matter the season of life you're in.
Before we get into today’s lesson, I want to tell you that I’m doing a free workshop answering your questions on how to use my favorite tool for motivation and productivity and feeling better: essential oils. You can sign up at TaraSwiger.com/eo.
If you are like most of my Instagram friends, you constantly feel there's never enough time. Just not enough! Between life, and family and maybe a day job, and growing a business, let alone adding the things you want to do – like exercise and reading and going out with friends – there's just never enough time!
And girl, I feel you. When we had the 2 year old and she was home with me 24/7 for a month with doctor appointments and social worker appointments, or after that, when we had to go to 3 visitations a week and getting her to school 3 days a week, it felt like I never had enough time. Especially to rest, take care of myself AND to get work done.
So, unlike naive Tara of the past, I'm not going to tell you it's just about prioritizing and finding the time for the things you really want to. I'm going to tell you that it's hard and that there's no easy answer.
I mean, I feel like I could end the podcast here. It's hard and there's no easy answer.
But… there are ways to work with the time that you have, to be MORE effective with the time you have. And there is a way to reframe the issue, that makes it all a little less hopeless. So let's dive in, knowing that there's no easy answer.
Start with honesty
The first thing we gotta do is a little tough love: Are you really being honest about the situation, you priorities, and your capabilities?
For example, for the first month Honey was with us, my priority was settling her into our life, it wasn't really working on my business. So that priority got my time and energy. And if I'm being honest about my capabilities and the situation, the fact is the first MONTH of being someone's mom is not really the time to try to be productive at work. In the US the average maternity leave is 6 weeks, but in Europe it's 6 months to 2 years. So I truly don't have the capability to figure out how to be effective with my time during my first months of motherhood, but it's not because I suck, it's because that's just how it works, for many women – we need the time to adjust.
Will I need the same amount of time to adjust to our next placement? I have no idea. Become someone's mother and getting them settled in your house, is the same no matter how many kids you've had, but maybe I'll be better at it because I'm more experienced? I have no idea! What I do know is that I need to give myself grace for not being immediately effective, and not instantaneously working out the perfect schedule that balances motherhood and work.
Your situation is different, but you also need to look at it honestly – what is TRULY your priority right now? If you have a sick partner or parent or you are struggling to heal, it's likely that your business isn't a priority. And that is OK. Go back and listen to episode 245 about Seasons in Your Business. It's ok to be in a season where you just can't spend as much time as you like on your business.
If you're feeling frustrated that you don't have the time to work on your business because you need and want to prioritize something else right now, I want to encourage you that you don't need more time, you need a mindset shift. You need to realize that you are CHOOSING something else right now and that it is the RIGHT thing for you. You are not being tossed about by the winds of fate, you are choosing. Just recognizing your own choice can be empowering, and can make you feel more capable of spending the time you do have more effectively.
Now, you might be wanting to argue and say – no, I didn't choose this situation! I didn't choose this! No, you might not have chosen the situation, but you are choosing to spend your time on it. You could choose NOT to spend time with a loved one that needs you. You could choose to cut people out of your lives, instead of allowing them to take up your precious life. But instead you're choosing love and kindness or care.
Or maybe you feel stuck in a situation you don't want to choose. Perhaps it a day job you hate, or your stuck doing things that someone else asked you to do, but you do not want to prioritize them. You have two options:
You can choose to the see the reasons why this is the right decision for right now (ex. you need the day job money to fund the startup for your business. Elizabeth Gilbert calls this being your own patron. I did this for years as I started up and I highly recommend it. Having another income takes the stress of your business)
You can say no and stop doing the things. If you truly don't want to be doing them, stop doing them. Sure, this might be a complicated process to extract yourself from, but you absolutely can.
You see, when we say we don't have enough time, I think what we really mean is “I don't like my choices and the necessary sacrifices”.
I get that, but…we have to live in reality.
Because of the space/time continuum you simply can't do everything all at once. So every decision to spend time on one thing means your sacrificing something else. That is just a fact. The sooner you come to embrace this and accept it and make decisions accordingly, the better you're going to feel. Will you be happy all the time with the available choices? No! But studies show that just by recognizing that you DO have choices, you'll be more empowered and will make better decisions.
That's the framework you need, the lens you need to be wearing when you look at your situation.
I want you to look at your situation again. Ask yourself the tough question:
What is my real, desired priority in this season? What is my capability? What choices am I actually making in each day?
This shows you your real-time priority – the things you actually do prioritize.
How do you spend your day? Is it on what matters to you?
Maybe you need to stop doing some things, maybe you need to quit some commitments.
And maybe you need to accept that right now, in this point in your life, you only have 2 hours a week to work on your business. Or you have 30 minute on your lunch break each day. That's not a bad thing. There isn't a “perfect” answer here.
If you feel like that's not enough, then you need to stop comparing yourself to what other people are doing. Stop looking at the girl who has 10 hours a day to style her instagram. Spend your time doing you work, not comparing it to other people.
So the first step is honesty, the second step is a reality-check (where are you actually spending your time) and the third step is acceptance and effectiveness.
You see, you can't focus on being more effective if you don't first accept your real life situation. If you keep making plans and lists for a 8 hr workday and you have a 1 hour workday while the kids nap, you're always going to end up disappointed and you'll feel behind and like you're never doing enough.
So accept the real workday you have and then work to be effective within that.
Use the time you have effectively
Now, I could talk for hours on how to be effective with your time, and guess what? I have already done that! I put my best tips for effectiveness, with a big workbook to apply to your own workday, with 6 hours of professionally produced class on CreativeLIVE exactly on this topic! Go to TaraSwiger.com/time to take that class. It'll help you apply it to your own workday, to become more effective and productive with whatever size workday you have.
And if you’re issue is balancing the time you have? We’ll talk about that in next week’s episode.
How can you plan for your business when everything in your life is uncertain? When you’re not sure where you’ll be next week or next month? You may be great at planning normal life, but what about when there’s a family illness, a new baby, a new job, a big move, a divorce, or just the uncertainty of life?
Let’s talk through how to ride these waves of uncertainty.
As you know, I’m in a really uncertain season of my life as a foster parent. Heck, as you listen to this, my whole family may have changed shape (again!).
How can you plan for just running your business or growing your business when everything is so uncertain?
Week to Week
Here are my suggestions:
Make a list of what is the core function of your business and what has to be done to make sales. Ruthlessly cut everything else.
Remind yourself that this is just for now. For this season. Things will change, you’ll have more certainty and then you can add back in all the not-mission-critical-top-priority stuff.
Each week, look at what’s ahead on your calendar and what you need to do this week on top of the usual, and find the time in your week.
Go on and schedule the chunks of time for work, in whatever system works for you. Something flexible, like Google calendar or post-its on your paper planner.
Even if you never wrote down work times in your schedule before, now is the time to do it, because you want to first identify those times when you can work (your freaked-out brain will tell you that you NEVER have time) and then not MISS them. You always want to make sure you’ve got enough time and if you truly don’t, you get to recognize that now, when you’re planning, so you can adjust your expectations.
Change your mindset to value flexibility. Your past focus may have been productivity, so this may be an adjustment. If you’re in a time of uncertainty, something may come up and you’ll need to move the work you had planned. You’re going to be productive if you can be flexible and if you’re not all or nothing about your work times. (This has been a real struggle for me.)
Work when you can, manage expectations, and give yourself credit for getting ANYTHING done.
You’ll notice that this comes down to two skills you have to practice: flexibility and managing expectations. You’ll need to let go of what Past You got done. Embrace the constraints on New You and celebrate what she’s able to do, even in the midst of all this uncertainty.
And lemme tell you, that, for me, was the hardest part. Not comparing Mom Tara with what Past Tara could do. Not just because Past Tara had more time, but because Mom Tara had a lot more on her mind and had a hard time focusing.
Long Term Planning
Now, what about planning long term projects, like applying to craft shows or traveling to events? This is definitely something I’ve struggled a LOT with. Should I plan that trip if I may not be able to go? I skipped out on a trip to Europe, which was paid for except my flight, because I thought we’d have a kid in our home. Well, we did not have a kid in our home and I was in the middle of mourning the loss of our first placement. Should I have planned it anyhow? I’m not sure. I still don’t know if I made the right decision or not, but I’ve decided to just let it go.
Should you apply to that craft show if you may have to stay home?
The truth is, I can’t tell you what you should do.
You need to make your own decision based on your own comfort with risk, canceling and regret.
Take into account:
How comfortable you are with having to cancel.
How upset you’ll be if it ends up you could have done this event and then didn’t do it.
The fact is, you may need to adjust how comfortable you are with cancelling. For years, I have followed through on every webinar plan I made. If I said I was going live next Wednesday, I’d do it. But the changing foster placements meant that I either had to NEVER plan another webinar, OR I had to just accept that I would plan things and not follow through. Since a free webinar getting cancelled doesn’t hurt anyone, I’m fine with that. But I won’t be selling anything I can’t follow through on, because I’m not going to cancel what you paid for (although I have had to reschedule some things!).
So you have to think through this for yourself. Are you OK with applying to a craft show you need to cancel on? Will you be more upset if you don’t apply but it ends up you could have gone? These are hard decisions, but just keep in mind: You will be ok no matter what.
I hope this has helped you think through your own plans, and that if you’re not in an uncertain place right now, you can come back to this episode when you are. If you are in an uncertain place right now I just want to tell you that I am proud of you. You are doing a good job. I’m sorry you’re going through this and I believe in you. Your business will be OK.
What do you after you set your goal? What if you know what to do but you aren't getting anything done? Today I'm going to answer those questions and talk about how I use a planner.
I know it's February, and most people think about planning and planners and overhauling their habits at the first of the year, but I'll be honest with you: this year I didn't start even THINKING about my new year until January 20th. Between the logistics of a new 2 year old foster placement in my life and the learning curve of toddler parenting, I had no brainspace to spend thinking or planning. And once I started talking about my planning on Instagram (@taraswiger), I started getting questions that I wanted to answer here on the podcast. And hey, these are the questions I'm dealing with right now, as my whole work life is different now that I’m a new mom.
So the real question, for most of us when it comes to productivity is “how do I get done what I want to get done?”
In my experience getting things done comes down to three different parts of the process. At least one part of the process probably comes to you very naturally, and you don't have to even think of it. But another part of the process may not feel natural. You may get frustrated because you have such a clear vision about where you want to go, but your days seem to slip past you. Or you may be a pro at checking things of your list, but you feel fuzzy about where it's all going.
What you need is to identify how you do all three parts and then focus in on where your system is breaking down.
The Three Parts of Getting What You Want Done
First, identify the destination.
Where do you want to go?
If you just start planning your day or setting goals without a vision for the destination, it will be hard and you'll probably change course often and not make a lot of progress.
The clearer you are, the easier this will be, but I don't want you to fret too much over this. The longer you work on your business, the clearer you'll get about your Ideal Destination, and the more you'll know about the business you want. Your vision can evolve as you move along your path.
But you do need to spend time thinking about the aspects of where you want your year or your life or the next 3 months to go. What do you want to have more of? How do you want to spend your time? How do you want to feel? The first section of Map Your Business walks you through this.
Second, map out the steps to get closer to the destination.
Break your destination down into a smaller goal (for the next 3-6 months) and map out the steps you'll need to get there. This is the heart of my book Map Your Business, it has worksheets that guide you through this process 4x a year.
I hear from women every day who are using Map Your Business to get clear about where they are in their business and where they want it to go. (I LOVE hearing from Mappers and seeing your posts on Instagram, so if you are using Map Your Business, please tag me!) But it's not just about SETTING the goal, Map Your Business walks you through identifying what you'll need to do to reach your goal – the mini-goals you'll hit on the way there, and the actual tasks you'll need to complete. When you're done mapping, you'll have a big to do list that will move you where you want to go.
You can't make progress unless you know SPECIFICALLY what to work on.
Third, give the tasks a time and space.
This can be as free or as structured as you like. There are any number of ways to do this, but for many of the makers I talk with, this is the step they're skipping. They may have done Map Your Business and now they don't actually get the tasks done because they haven't set aside the time and space.
The big thing to remember is: this aspect will probably have to change as you grow.
For years, I would have the same set workday, and then just take my map to do list and work through it during the workday. Over time I learned I work best when days have a specific focus, like writing on Monday and recording on Tuesday. Within those boundaries, I'd work on my to do list. Now my whole schedule has been blown up by a 2 year old, so I'm rethinking how I do this.
Here are some ways that work for the women I know:
Have set work hours and just work down your list during those hours.
Theme days: writing days, shipping days, sewing days
Time Block your schedule: look at the blocks of time you have and assign the blocks kinds of tasks (the main thing is to STOP doing that task when the block is over). You may get your family out the door from 6-8, workout from 8-9, work on marketing and photography 9-12, then work on production from 1-3. Then family time from 3-8. Your blocks can be tiny (1 hour) or bigger (3 hrs is probably the max for your focus and attention).
Plan when you'll do what task at the beginning of the week (useful if your schedule changes a lot).
I want you to remember: it doesn't matter HOW you organize time or even how much time you have, what matters is “are you working on what matters to you and to your goals during that time?”
It's possible you have one of the above systems in place (or you intend to) and yet you still aren't working on what matters? Why? I've found that most of us are dealing with one of the following reasons:
We aren't actually working on what we planned to.
Instead of taking photos for Instagram, we're scrolling instagram. Instead of writing the email newsletter, we're looking at our email stats. That's ok! Don't beat yourself up! Just recognize it, identify where you do it, and move on.
We haven't written it down.
I don't know how you'll keep track of what to work on if it's not written down somewhere visible. You can make a pretty planner, you can use Asana, you can just write a list on a post-it, but I've never met anyone who didn't need SOME way of keeping track of what to do next. If you find yourself NOT working during your work time, stop and write down what you'll do next. It may see silly or unnecessary if you've already written it all down, but this is my quickest productivity hack: I just write down the next 2 things I'll do starting…now.
You're not keeping track of all you DO do. Many times I've talked to a business owner who is complaining she never gets anything done and then she tells me about her day and OMG she is DOING SO MUCH. But she's not “counting it”. So start writing down and planning ALL that you do, not just your business or not just the newest goal. Having it all written down in front of you can make you more realistic about the time you have to spend on this new goal and help you celebrate all that you get done!
If you liked today's episode but you wanna go WAY deeper into productivity and how to plan a workday that works for you, check out my creativeLIVE class, How to Get More Done. It's 6 hours long with awesome bonuses and worksheets and you can find it at taraswiger.com/time.
And if you want to see my own planner system, check out my YouTube channel, my Monday videos have recently been about the systems I have used and how I plan now!
Are you traveling or working for hours in the kitchen or just trying to escape family this week, for American Thanksgiving? Me too, so I thought this week we could take a look at the best of the past episodes. If you'd like me to keep you company during your holiday prep, you'd have plenty to listen to. These episodes will come in handy as you're wrapping up 2018 and planning for 2019. They are the most-downloaded, the most-shared, and the episodes more people tell me totally changed their business or their perspective.
Today I'm going to recap my biggest and best episodes, so those of you who have just found the show know which ones to go listen to, or those of you who have been around for a while can listen again and get reinspired. If you missed these, I really recommend you listen to them, as together they form a foundation of business and life transformation.
These six episodes are both the most-downloaded (each has over 2000 unique downloads) and the ones I truly love the most, which just reaffirmed for me that I should keep talking about what matters most to me, because it matters most to you too!
A quick note: In some of these episodes I talk about the Starship, which was totally overhauled this year and will be open again on Dec 27th. So if you want to learn what the Starship is now and be the first to be notified when it opens again, head to taraswiger.com/starshipbiz and just remember that what you hear me say in past episodes may have changed since then!
Just click on the header for each episode to find their audio, video and written transcription.
This is one of my most-asked questions: How to you get back into business after a break? How can you make a totally fresh start after a bad year, or a bad week, or a bad review? Even if you've never met a goal before, you can start fresh TODAY, and that's what this episode walks you through. You can find it here.
Here’s a dichotomy: You want to listen to your customers and your audience, to give them what they want, to create an awesome business. But yet, needing their approval has you frozen or afraid or feeling kinda needy. How do you balance this?
In episode 189, I break it down for you – how to unhook from needing approval, while still listening to important feedback. This was a HUGE business lesson for me in 2017 and this episode inspired more feedback than any other episode, you can listen in here.
Right in line with not seeking approval, let's get over the fear of disapproval! Are you unsure of your next step, because you’re afraid of the reaction you’re going to get? Are you avoiding rejection, because you want to have the approval and acceptance of your customers and audience? Yeah, me too.
This was a really different episode, in it I shared the lessons from the book How Emotions are Made, by Lisa Feldmen Barrrett, PhD. It helped us understand how to keep emotions from screwing up your business or reacting rashly, by understanding how they're made. The author has done so much research on emotions and the brain and how emotions actually form. Realizing all the pieces that go into making an emotion, can help you understand how to work with your emotions. The big lesson, that emotions are “constructed, not automatic” shifted your perspective a lot, based on the feedback I got. Listen in here.
This episode was written in response to a question I got from the Starship: If Stretch Goals are good, how do you know what the right amount of stretch IS? How much is too much? What is ridiculous and what is a good kind of challenging? This episode helps you figure out if YOU are the kind of person who's motivated by a crazy goal or a doable goal and then helps you set some goals from there. Find that episode here.
This is the episode I refer people to most often, because we ALL struggle with what to say when someone asks us: Why does your thing cost so much? This is so so vital for the health of your business and your mental wellbeing. The more confidence you have when discussing your prices, the more sales you'll make. In this episode we talk about how you can get really confident and grounded in your prices, so you can share with confidence and make more sales. Listen to it here.
So there you go – the Top 6 episodes of the podcast, and the ones that will help you transform your business and your life in the coming year!
Are you ready to dive back into your business after a summer break? Did you take time off for the summer? Or did you just feel less productive because of the nice weather, the travel, the kids home from school? Whether you took a proper break or not, a lot of you asked me: How do I get back to work?
Take a fresh look at your goals.
It's possible your life shifted over the summer – maybe your kids entered school or maybe you entered a new relationship or maybe your had a great moment in your business (like a big show or wholesale account?) that's shifted how you think about your business.
It's normal for what you wanted then to not be what you want NOW. So pull out your most recent goals (you do write them down each quarter in Map Your Business, right?) and ask yourself: Do I still want this? How do I want to go about moving towards it?
Take a fresh look at your days. What worked before might not work now.
When do you have time to work? When do you want to work? When are you most focused? When is the best time to do each task? Would you rather batch types of work on certain days? Or in certain hours?
Take a fresh look at your expectations.
How much do you expect to get done in a day? In a week?
How are you feeling about your productivity? Do you need to lower your expectations? Do you need to shift your productivity towards a more impactful work?
Give yourself grace.
It takes a while to get back in the flow of things. If you are working more now than you have been, you may need to ramp up slowly. Coming back after a break NEVER goes how you plan, so get comfortable with that.
What do you need to be gentle with yourself about?
Now that you've reviewed the year so far, you have probably recognized some things that did not turn out as planned. How do you feel? Do you feel horrible about that? Crushed? How do you handle it when things don't turn out as planned?
They happen. I've heard from a lot of you that you actually skip doing your monthly or quarterly review, because you know you didn't hit your goal and you don't wanna acknowledge it.
But here's the thing: You have to acknowledge where you are in order to move forward. You have to come face to face with both disappointments and triumphs so that you can make an effective plan for what's next. I lead all new Starship Captains through Chart Your Stars before we make a plan or take classes because getting oriented in where you REALLY ARE is the most important step. Nothing can move forward until you know you're starting from.
In the spirit of acknowledging those goals-that-don't come true, the disappointments and how hard it is, I'll share a story in my own life, that's been unfolding over the last 3 years. As many of you longtime listeners know, 3 years ago, Jay quit his office day job to work part-time in my business and part-time in the local comic shop, that we intended to buy. We were both super excited – I was proud because this meant that my biz went from being around 70% of our income to 100% of our income. I think this is especially meaningful to me, because SO MANY people assume that my husband has been supporting me financially throughout my business. He has been supporting me emotionally, but my biz income has always been 60% or more of our annual income. This is my own thing I need to work on – I need to not care what people think and the stupid assumptions they make. But, ya know, it felt good to answer the “and what does your husband do?” question with “he works in my business”.
He was excited, because this allowed him to learn the comic shop business, while getting to know the people who would be his customers and build relationships.
But, after 2 1/2 years…it didn't work out. The owner didn't give us what we needed for the banks, when we needed it and it became clear (to me) that he wasn't ready to sell. After 6 intense months of it almost happening, but with lots waiting and hoping, it was official – we weren't going to be buying the shop. This was September 2017.
That was a huge disappointment. And Jay needed to take time to just grieve that (it helps that we know we did everything possible and by the end of the process, we just wanted it to be over). And it totally changed our lives because Jay stopped working 6 days a week at the comic shop and was suddenly home….all the time.
We decided he should wait a minute before getting another job. He could do more in my business, he could travel with me, we'd have such a freer life if he wasn't tied down by hours. It would give him a chance to think about how we could still reach the dream of owning a shop, but without buying THIS shop. And we'd already been living off my income, so nothing there changed. We did have a good time – he went to San Francisco with me in October, then we spent a week with my parents in Oregon. We had a great holiday season without the stress of juggling schedules. (All of our parents require a road trip to visit, so now we could!).
But when it came to just daily work time, I have to be honest. It was really really hard. I need either total silence or coffee shop white noise and Jay is…chatty. And loving. He took such good care of me and our home during those months, but it felt like I was always balancing work with family, even in hours that we both agreed should be about work. My daily routines really slid, and here's the thing – even if Jay said nothing to me all day, it just felt different with him here all day.
But we didn't get much time to get used to that, because in February a friend with a sick kid asked Jay for help with his shop…and Jay stepped in. At first a little, and then a lot. I've talked about it a lot on Essential Enthusiasm podcast (you do listen to that, right?), but Jay is an Obliger. And around April, after months of bouncing between my business and his friend who needed help, he told me: I feel I'm constantly doing what people are obliging me to do and NOT what I need to be doing to move forward on my goal (I know you obligers feel him on that). What he wanted was to feel like he was moving forward on the future comic shop and the biggest thing that would make that possible is MONEY. So although he can support me in tangible ways that will lead to my business growing, he can't directly do things in my business that makes money.
No one can. I get a lot of help, I hire people to do things like edit videos and put together podcast posts, but what that does is free up my time and focus to do the stuff that directly money. For Jay to feel like he's working on his dream, he needs to see the direct result.
Here's another factor: I was having some…not-great-mental health months. One of the lies my anxiety tells me is that I will never feel like myself again. And that by not feeling like myself, my whole business will fall apart. And when my business is 100% of our income? Our whole life will fall apart. I definitely wouldn't say I felt pressured…I loved that my biz was supporting us. But when it came to thinking about growth… I definitely felt a kind of existential dread and that dread took away all of my creativity. I couldn't see all these amazing ways to grow or improve my business, because I was wrapped in “OMG WHAT IF IT ALL FAILS”.
So he decided to get a day job. So that he can contribute directly to our family's dreams. And this isn't going to make any sense for the international listeners, but I just have to tell you, that the health insurance was a deciding factor. Although my insurance is ¼ of Jay’s monthly pay, it’s still less than we were paying before, out of pocket.
I realize for most people, getting a job that has insurance, that pays pretty well for our area, for a person with a BA in history, is ONLY GOOD NEWS. It is such a blessing.
But I'll admit my biz ego was a little disappointed, because this is NOT the direction I thought we were moving. I thought we both would never have traditional employment again. We were going to own a retail shop!
And yet, I have to admit, it's been great. In just the two weeks he's been working, I have gotten so much done! OMG! I am alone for 8 hours every day, which is just so restorative. And even though his job won't be contributing to our bills (we're using it pay off debt + save for the future), it loosened something in my head, it relieved some pressure I didn't know I was feeling and I have been SO much more able to be creative about the next direction in my business. I’ve had SO MUCH clarity in the last 2 weeks, it's just unbelievable.
So, that is our tale of not reaching our goal and things not going as planned. I wanted to share it with you, because I think it's our tendency to look at everyone else and assume they are where they want to be. Or that things are going pretty easily. Or that if they've hit one big goal (like a six figure business), everything else just comes easily. I also wanted to talk about it, because a lot of people dream of quitting day jobs, or even retiring their spouse and I gotta tell you – it's not always fun, easy or fulfilling for both people. Life changes, and what you want changes. Your mission isn't to hit some certain milestone, it's to create a LIFE that you like, and maybe a business (or maybe not!) that supports that life.
My brother, who works at a tech startup in San Diego told me one time (when I was making about $40,000/year and he was making $60,000), “I don't know why you are so concerned that you do work that is what you want to do with your time. You know you could just get a job that pays enough for you to do the stuff you want with your non-work time.” At first I thought, ugh no, that sounds horrible, but then I realized – in our online biz world we romanticize loving what you're doing with every minute. But even in a business you LOVE you're going to do things you don't like. And as you build that dream? You're going to do a lot of things you don't like. You're going to work hard, you may need to do other work to pay the bills or to finance your art.
By the way, I reminded by brother that I didn't get a BA in computer security like he did, mine is in French Lit. I'm pretty unemployable, and spending time grinding away while making not-much was a long term investment into the business I have today that pays me well, doing what I care passionately about. But that's not the right answer for everyone, in every situation.
To sum up, when things don't go as planned, remember:
Acknowledging what isn't going the way you wanted, helps you get oriented to where you are now. You have to start any plan from where you are.
You are not alone. It's not supposed to be different (it's easy to think “I should already be passed this” “I shouldn't have these struggles” but you’re not the only one who does).
Take time to grieve and to flop about. Try things to see if they work for you.
Notice what's not working for you (like Jay did) and know you can always make a different choice. Sometimes that choice might look like something you didn't think you'd do. That's ok, if it's the right next thing for you.
If something you dreamed of just isn't working for you. That's ok too. You're allowed to change your mind. I thought having my biz employ both of us and having Jay around all the time would be great. I was wrong. Keep changing your dreams as you change.
Don't give up. All of this is just details. Identify the BIG THING you care about, the ONE THING that matters to you and organize everything around that. As long as that is still what you want, let go of all the details and focus in on it.
To help you set goals from this place of focusing on what REALLY matters, I'm sharing a worksheet called “Creating Do-Able Goals”. You'll find it in the form below, just put your email in the box and we'll send it right to you!
When you fill out this worksheet – tell me! Share it on Instagram with the hashtag #exploreyourenthusiasm, so I can cheer you on!
What if you don't need a goal to do what you need to do? Let's talk about what a goal is good at, and not good at, and get you ready for the rest of the year!
Welcome to the second half of 2018. This is the perfect time to look at the goals you set in January and be real with yourself. Are you truly working on them? Have you made progress? What do you need in order to work on them?
Today we're going to talk about what to do AFTER you set a goal…and we're going talk about some advanced-level stuff – maybe you don't need a goal at all.
A few weeks ago a Starship Captain said, “You know, I can't really think of a goal. I feel like my business is going in the right direction, if I just keep doing the work I know to do.”
YES! That is what it's all about!
See, a goal is not the POINT, a goal is just a tool to help you get what you want.
A goal should:
Inspire you to kickstart work you haven't done before (or get more consistent with the work)
Clarify the direction you want to go, so all your actions can line up to what you actually want
Make it obvious what you need to do and what you need to commit to, to make it happen.
This is why not reaching your goal is sometimes just as productive as reaching it. You can learn from a goal you don't reach. Maybe you learned that your timeline or expectations were wrong. Maybe you learn you don't actually want that goal. Maybe you learn you need a different business model, or you need to work on totally different projects.
The GOAL of a goal is to bring you that clarity, to help you learn the lessons in your business.
I wrote a whole book about, and lead people through the process, of setting a goal and breaking it down into a plan because I've found that having a set goal, and then working towards it, is the fastest way to learn from your business.
Setting a goal AND creating the plan makes you:
Get specific about what you need to do
Organize your time so you can do the stuff
Try stuff you might otherwise put off
Create systems so you can be consistent in all aspects: making, marketing, photography, shipping, etc
For MANY of the makers and artists and essential oil educators that I work with, setting a goal and then breaking it down into a doable plan is the first time they've gotten serious about their business. It's the first time they've really looked at what they even want, and what they're willing to do to get there.
Without a goal it's easy to just keep reading articles, researching, wondering why people aren't buying, and then go read another article. With a goal, you have to take action (or you realize you haven't been taking action!).
And here's the cool thing about all this – after a goal gets you taking action, getting organized, creating systems for getting things done…you don't always need a goal to keep going.
In fact, the system itself can keep you reaching your next goals.
In his book How to Fail at Anything, Scott Adams, writes that systems are better than goals. Systems of action, applied overtime, bring about better results that one of goals. When you don't reach a goal, you feel bummed, but when you're working a system – every day that you do the work, you can feel great and accomplished.
What's a system?
Posting on Instagram is a system. My podcast, with it's transcript and free downloads and blog posts and youtube videos and audio version on iTunes – that is a system. I don't have a goal to put out a podcast, I have a system that gets it out consistently
Now, I disagree with Scott, because I think he doesn't address a major issue in accomplishing anything – activation energy. Activation energy is the energy that it takes to START something. What I've found in working with hundreds of women in creating the business they want is that a big, exciting, motivating goal can help you over the hump of activation energy. It can inspire you to spend that energy and move forward powerfully and quickly. A system isn't that inspiring 🙂
But after you're over the activation energy, a system is what you need in order to keep moving forward. A system about when you work, what you work on, how things get done.
Today I'd like you to look at where you wanna go in your business and your goals for the rest of the year – where would a system help make it easier?
I made a worksheet last year about staying consistent that will help you spot these places for systems. You can get that worksheet here: