Weekly-ish notes on navigating big change

holiday sanity

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.

184: Sane Holidays: 3 questions for the busy creative

The winter holiday season can be the busiest and MOST profitable time of the year in your creative biz. But it can also be the most overwhelming, and least enjoyable time of the year. Learn how to have a busy, profitable, enjoyable, and sane holiday season at: TaraSwiger.com/podcast184

Welcome to your busiest, and potentially your most profitable time of year! And…also potentially the LEAST sane time of year. If you are dreading the holiday season and busyness and scramble, I wanna help you get you ready to have a killer season and fantastic good time.

As we leap into Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, I hope this collection saves a bit of your own sanity.

On CraftyPod:

On Karina Dressess:

I gather all my favorite sanity-saving posts on this Pinterest board (new articles are added all the time!).

Don’t forget to sign up below to get access to Holiday Sanity Guide in the Black Friday Bundle!

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.

The Definitive Holiday Survival Guide for Creative Businesses

A guide to everything I've written on how to balance life, work, + family during the holidays. On TaraSwiger.com


Over the last six years of leading Holiday Sanity (now only available aboard the Starship or Lift Off), I’ve written quite a bit on surviving – even thriving – during the holiday season. With the beginning of the season, I wanted to share a bit of what works for me.

If you're spending the holiday season planning for the new year, be sure to sign up here to learn more about my program that will guide you to the best year ever in your biz!

As we leap into Hanukkah, Solstice and Christmas, I hope this collection saves a bit of your own sanity.

Need to take an extended leave from your biz? Check out my course with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches: Take a Break (without breaking your biz!)

On other sites:

I gather all my favorite sanity-saving posts on this Pinterest board (new articles are added all the time!).


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.

Holiday Survival for Introverts

How to survive the holidays as an introvert

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the States, so it's the perfect time to talk about how to survive the family-filled, party-going holiday season, as an introvert.

In this episode:

  • How to use your introversion as a superpower for enjoying the holidays.
  • Overcome any introversion guilt or shame.
  • Feel good and refreshed even if you spend more time than usual with other people.

Links mentioned

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.



A Thank You Gift: pay what you can for Holiday Sanity.

Pay What You Can for Holiday Sanity

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy official beginning to the holiday season!

To thank you for reading, replying and spending the year with me, I'd like to make it easier than ever to get some Holiday Sanity into your life.

For the entire weekend, Holiday Sanity is available for what you can afford to pay. Just click here, fill in your price, and you'll get your copy via email next Monday.

Here are all the details:

1. Holiday Sanity is retired for the year on December 2nd. Since it comes with a four week Stay Sane course, I want you to get the full experience before the holidays are over. The Kit (along with the Pay What You Can pricing) ends Sunday night. If you miss it, you miss it.

2. I will STILL give $5 to My Very Own Blanket for every Kit sold. My Very Own Blanket provides handmade blankets to kids in foster care. I love this charity + I'll be donating $5 for every kit, no matter how much you pay. If you pay $5 then the entire price of your kit will go to the charity. (If you pay less, I'll be paying the remainder out of my own pocket.)

3. Your Kit will be delivered to your Paypal email address on Monday, December 2nd, by 5pm EST. (My Number One + I are offline all weekend.)

4. Ordering is simple – just click here and fill in your price. The is Kit is normally $29. (Note that Paypal won't accept a payment of $0.) I will be back online to answer any questions on Monday, December 2nd. (Please ask your question via email, not on Twitter or Facebook, so I'm sure to see it!)

5. Wanna pay more than $29? Fantastic! Your generosity will go help cover the donation to My Very Own Blanket + will spread the Sanity to women who weren't able to afford to pay.


Thank you for exploring with me this year! I wish you a weekend full of peace and sanity.




Wanna share it with your friends? Feel free!

Just click here to tweet about it or


The Sick + Tired Holiday Survival Guide

Sick + Tired Holiday Survival

I'm dedicated to helping all makers have a happy and sane Holiday season…but I know it's extra-hard if you're sick, tired or sad. Not only do you struggle to have the energy to do all the things, you might also be feeling guilt or disappointment about not being able to do everything you want to.

Today I'm happy to  bring you the perspective of a Starship Captain who has been there, and helps others get through it. Vanessa Laven was diagnosed with cancer in September of 2010, and as she shares in our conversation below, she was going through the worst of the chemo during that holiday season.

(If you can't see the above video, click through.)

Watch our conversation to learn: 

  • The key to making the most of the season, no matter how you're feeling.
  • 3 things to help you enjoy the holidays
  • What to say to someone who is struggling/sick/sad during the holidays (How to avoid the sad head tilt.)


Stay sane during the holidays
The key to sanity is in getting it allll out of your head and into a plan. The Holiday Sanity Kit helps you do just that, along with a community of supportive Sanity Seekers, and a four week e-course to keep you on track. Find it all here. 

Want more survival tips? Check out the (free) Definitive Guide.

Sign up here to get more on surviving your business adventures, no matter the season.

The Adventures

The view

Every day is an adventure. I share the view, the gratitude and the finds on Fridays, and you’re invited to join in.
You can find all my adventures here, or follow along via email here.

Today's favorite tree! #yayfall #foundwhilerunning
Stella doesn't mind me writing...as long as I don't want to use the mousepad.
The view from today's hike: all of Johnson City.

I am so grateful for…

  • My yearly tradition of picking “favorite” trees became a mini-series of photographs. I am so glad I captured these fleeting moments (all tress pictured are already bare!)
  • I just can't get enough of hearing your Holiday Sanity stories.
  • My town's ONLY coffeeshop has been closed for repairs so I've been working out of the library. It's beautiful, quiet, with abundant  plugs.  (I'm also thankful that the coffeeshop reopens tomorrow so I can return to proper caffeination levels!)
  • Wool provided me with hours of that delightful lost-in-a-novel feeling.
  • My writing project is going splendidly – I finally have a clear vision of what I'm creating.
  • I went to my first ever write-in and I actually spoke with humans! A major achievement for this introvert!

The finds

  • I love reading about Abby and Kim's internal rules for adulthood. It certainly got me thinking about my own rules, and difference between stated rules and unstated (but accepted) expectations.
  • If you want to start selling digital sewing patterns, you gotta read Abby's new book. She sent me a copy and after a quick skim, I can attest that it has everything you need to write the pattern, make it available online, and launching it to the world!
  • Amy's once-a-month Floating Gallery closes TODAY. Get your geek-loving art here.
  • Stacey of Fresh Stitches shares her thoughts on making gifts for those who will appreciate it + Xiane of Three Ravens starts on her own Holiday Sanity adventure. Do you have a Holiday Sanity story? I'd love to hear it!


What adventures did you have this week?



How to deal with your family + maintain Holiday Sanity


Do you dread those family dinners where everyone has an opinion about what you should be doing?


Last week a Holiday Sanity Seeker  asked:
How in the world do you deal with family members who keep making lame suggestions about my business? They're treating me like I'm not capable of doing this myself!
Ugh. I know, this is totally annoying and wish I had a magic wand that I could wave over all family members so they'd just be supportive of your venture!
However, the fact is, we can't do anything to change what someone else says. You can absolutely ask them to back off, but they're unlikely to be able to stop themselves.

You can't change your family, but you can change how you receive it.

In this week's video I share my favorite thing to do when someone gives unsolicited advice.

(If you can't see the video above, click here!)


Just remember one thing:

What a person says is about them, not about you.

Remembering that whatever someone says is about THEM and not YOU is not easy, but I hope it helps you navigate the holidays!
For more help with holding onto your sanity, check out Holiday Sanity.

What do you do with meddling advice? 



Want more survival tips? Check out the (free) Definitive Guide.

Sign up here to get more on surviving your business adventures, no matter the season.


It’s time for Holiday Sanity

Too many cups of coffee later: the Digital Kit is done! Formatted, uploaded, buttoned.  And $5 to Red Cross Disaster Relief. #sigh
I hate to be one of those people that talks about the upcoming holidays and incites panic in your heart. But really, did you know Christmas is only 61 days away and Hanukkah is in only 34 days!?

I honestly didn't know that until I started working on this year's version of Holiday Sanity, my annual Let's-not-get-overwhelmed adventure (now it's fourth year!).

But if you run a handmade business, or are planning to have all the family over to your house, I bet you've already started to think about (or get anxious about it!).

I'd like to invite you to take a deep breath.
You really have plenty of time.
Yes, even if you have a zillion orders to fill and a thousand craft shows to vend at – you have plenty of time. It's just a matter of laying everything out (business and personal) and figuring out when you're going to do what.
And then doing it.

It's simple, but it's not easy.
To help you (and me!) make this plan (instead of just thinking oh, I should do that), I'm happy to have a brand new Holiday Sanity Kit to help. It's got a Guide to walk you through creating a plan, a Playbook to help you keep track of all your favorites (recipes, music, memories), and a gentle weekly email to remind you to, oh yeah, DO the plan you created.

This year, there's a brand new bonus: you can check in, stay accountable, and cheer each other on, with a private Facebook group. If you'd like to try the accountability and brainstorming of the Starship, this is a super-affordable way to do that.

Get the entire Kit, for just $29 here.


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