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!
Celebration is SO important for the health of your business. In today's episode I cover the big reasons WHY you need to stop and celebrate and also HOW to celebrate (no, it doesn't need to cost money.) If you look back at 2018 and can't remember what went well or how your business did, tune in to make 2019 a better year.
The answer is science: Our brains are wired to have a negativity bias. We notice the negative (bad sales day, unmet goals, cranky customers) MORE than the positive. We give negative feedback more mental weight than positive feedback. Which is why it's easy to look at your business and remember what went wrong, but harder to remember what went right.
Making a BIG DEAL and celebrating your successes gives some weight to the positive – it helps you make a memory of the good.
Because here's the thing – one day you are going to feel run-down or overwhelmed or just cranky about your business and when you look back and wonder “should I keep going?”…if you don't have any positive memories (of celebrating good things), you're going to think there's no reason to keep going. You may slow down your business or stop altogether. You'll feel more burnt out.
Celebrating protects against burn out, it protects against negativity bias, and it leads to your success… because success is built on not quitting. Keep going.
How to celebrate?
It helps if you decide when you set a goal how you're going to celebrate the goal.
A few ideas:
Tell people! The people who love you and care about you want to celebrate with you! Let them in!
Make yourself something you enjoy but don't have often – whether this is a special dinner, dessert, or just take a bubble bath, do something that brings you joy!
Invest in yourself or your business – take that class, buy that book, set aside time to plan.
Here's to a celebratory 2019! I'll be celebrating all along the way in my IG Stories, so be sure to join me there!
How can you plan to have the best year? Not just get everything done, but have a year you actually enjoy?
It is both important to reach the goals you have set, and enjoy your time. What’s the point in building a business if you aren’t enjoying yourself?
You’re never going to feel like you’re done in business.
You’ll always be changing, growing, setting goals. THAT is what building a business is. So be sure that you enjoy the process of moving towards the goal, as much as you think you’ll enjoy actually reaching the goal.
A couple tips as you sit down to do your New Year Planning:
1. How do you want to feel?
How do you want to feel as you work on your goal? How do you want to feel when you reach your goal? (Check out the Desire Map for more on feelings + goals).
You can bring these feelings into your planning – how can you feel this feeling RIGHT NOW?
It can be hard to plan, if you feel scared or compressed. So before you plan, get in a great mood.
2. Make a list of the things that make you feel how you want to feel.
Don’t worry about how it integrates with your work, just make the list! You’ll start to generate ideas for how this will integrate with your work.
3. Review what worked last year.
You aren’t starting from scratch, you already KNOW stuff! Remember what you learned last year, what worked and what didn’t, and be sure to apply it to this year.
4. Narrow it down.
Everything is not equally important. Pick one thing that will help you feel the way you want to feel. Pick one thing that will make the biggest impact (first domino). And do that first.
Need help getting clear on where you want to go and then turning it into an actionable plan? Map Your Business guides you through all of the tips above, and you end up with a doable plan, followed by monthly review and quarterly goal-setting.
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!
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!
Welcome to the new year!
This is the time of year when everyone is thinking about their plans and goals and what they want to create…and with that comes a big dose of self-doubt.
“Well I've never done that before.”
“I failed to hit a goal last time.”
“I have never set such a big goal!”
Today – how to start FRESH – how to move forward on your goal no matter what happened last year.