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289: How to decide on your next goal

Choosing your next goal is vital to having focus in your creative business, which is how you move forward. Learn more about how to choose your next goal at TaraSwiger.com/podcast289

Are you stuck between two really great ideas? Wondering if you have to choose or if you should just do them both at the same time? How could you choose between them?

Today I’m going to help you answer one of the BIGGEST questions I get about creating do-able plans for your next goals: Do I have to pick just one and how the heck do I do that?!

In my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. Then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. For the last two weeks we’ve talked about how to stay on top of those To Dos, so they actually get done.

But this week we’re going to back up and answer the question: How do you even pick the next goal? Especially when you have several projects that all look like good options?

This question came up in the monthly coaching call inside the Starship Program (learn more at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz) and it’s one I know we all deal with. So let’s break it down – do you need to pick just ONE goal? And if so, how can you decide?

You can find a worksheet to help you apply what you learn in today’s episode here.

Do you need to pick just ONE goal?

I get this question ALL the time, because my Map Making process involves making a really detailed plan for ONE goal at a time. So the short answer is yes, in order to make a detailed plan and get it accomplished, you need just one goal.

Can you work on more than one goal at a time?

Well, it depends.

What’s your time frame?

Over the course of a year, you’re going to be reaching a lot of different goals.
Over the course of a week, you will get distracted if you focus on too many at once.

This is why I set the timeline in the Map Making process for three months. That’s a good amount of time to set a goal, work on it, adjust your path, and learn quite a bit about what the project requires. It’s a short enough time frame that you won’t forget what you’re working towards and you won’t get bogged down in doing the same thing, and still a long enough time frame that you can see some real progress.

It also depends on the kind of goal you have.

There are income or sales goals.
There are habit goals.
There are KPI goals.
There are award goals.

For example, most makers I talk to want to get more consistent with their social media. That is something you can do while you’re working on a sales goal. I’d encourage you to make the goal more measurable, like “I want to post on Instagram 5x/week”. You’re going to do that alongside a lot of other stuff.

And still, I recommend you let that be your ONLY goal for at least the first month as you get used to it.

Why focus?

Why focus on just one at a time:

  • You’ll be focused (this is one of the main benefits of setting ANY goal)
  • You’ll know what to do next and how to prioritize
  • You’ll see faster progress
  • You’ll learn faster and can change it up
  • The sense of accomplishment will keep you going.

If you want to learn more about setting the right-sized goal, check out episodes 191 on stretch goals and episode 91 on why you’re afraid of big goals.

So you want to narrow it down, but you’ve got two really great ideas.

Perhaps you’re debating, as one of my Starship Captains did: Should I focus on increasing my online sales or my wholesale sales?
Or: Should I focus on my email list or Instagram? Should I self-publish a book, or sell more patterns to magazines?

First, some good news.

Any goal is good. 

Anything you commit yourself to, make progress on, and learn from, is going to improve your business and your life. You’re going to be in a better place in 3 months than if you didn’t pick anything.

So take some of the pressure off, ok?

Now, when it comes to choosing a goal, I like to ask Captains two questions:

Questions to ask to choose the next right project:

What is closer to money?
Where is your enthusiasm?

What is closer to money?

This is one of my favorite questions, because it’s gonna get you fast results: What is the project you can work on that is closest to making money?

For example, if you have products in your shop, selling one of them is the absolute fastest way to make money. If you have customers, having them buy again is closer to money than finding new buyers. Self-publishing your finished pattern is a lot closer to money than pitching it to publishers.

You feel me?

However, lemme warn you that you can not build your whole business doing just what’s closest to money, because it will wear you out and not necessarily take you the direction you want to go. You want to balance choosing quick-money options with long-term right-direction goals.

But I’m really disappointed at how many people say they have a business but NEVER do the thing that will make money – instead they focus on metrics that look good – like more instagram followers or more prestigious partnerships.

If it’s been a while since you focused on SELLING your thing directly to the people who want to buy it, then I’m going to suggest you pick whichever project is closer to money

Where is your enthusiasm?

Here’s the thing: most people who tell me they can’t decide between a few options, it’s because they are piling up the SHOULDS.

Well, I SHOULD do this.
A REAL business would do this.
I don’t have as big an Instagram following as that person, so I should improve that. 

No, no, NO. 

Our aim isn’t to build A business, it’s to build YOUR dream business.
Which goal is aligned with what you’re most enthusiastic about?

Are you LOVING working with your newest retail shops?
Are you throwing confetti every time you get a response to your newsletter?

Yeah, you might not be enthusiastic about the WORK involved in your goal, but are you enthusiastic about the end goal? Or some part of the process?

Then go with that

You are going to have the MOST progress and grow the fastest by looking at what you’re genuinely enthusiastic about,and following it.

It might not be strategic but all of my best moves have been following my enthusiasm.

  • I did plan to start a podcast, but I started it in one week and it’s been one of the best things for my business.
  • I did not plan to start a Facebook group right before Thanksgiving, but it’s been an amazing place to be – I LOVE meeting and approving new people who apply.
  • I did not plan to create a worksheet for this podcast episode, but you know what? I’m feeling it!

If you go with your enthusiasm, you’re going to be more likely to follow through.

So that’s how I decide on a project – commit to following through on ONE aim in the next three months and then ask yourself – what is closest to money? What am I most enthusiastic about? Drop all the shoulds, and go full speed to what you want.

I created a worksheet to help you answer these questions, you can grab it here.

Wishing you an enthusiastic and peaceful end of year!

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.

288: How I use planners in my business – Asana edition

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How do you keep track of all the moving parts in a recurring or upcoming projects? What if you’re waiting on other people to do their part before you can do your part? I do this with project management apps, so today we’re going to make it a bit less overwhelming and how to pick the software that will help you.

This week I’m answering the question that occurs after you make a map – how the heck do I keep track of all the moving parts?

You see, in my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. Then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. But after you have that big list of what you need to do and the order you need to do them in, then what? How do you make sure you don’t forget the stuff that comes LATER?

And that’s where a lot of us get stuck. So for the month of December on the podcast, we’re having a series on planning – the actual figuring out what to do each day and week.

Last week we started by talking about how to keep track of the current week and how I use paper planners for that. Today we’ll talk about task management software to keep track of ongoing or recurring projects. Next week, we’ll talk about how to pick your next big project. And we’ll kick off the new year with an episode on January 1, about planning your best year yet.

I started using digital planning tools when…

I started tracking to-dos digitally in my business, (especially recurring projects like marketing and this podcast), when I hired my first virtual assistant (VA). The easiest way for me to communicate what I did for each project, and to make sure we didn’t miss a single step, was to put it all in a checklist. What I learned right away is that having it down on a checklist made every single task so much faster to do, not just for my VA, but for me too!

There’s a whole book about this – The Checklist Manifesto. Basically, knowing exactly what to do next saves you time, it saves you energy thinking of what’s next, and it saves you mistakes.

We started out using Evernote, but soon we moved to Asana. Evernote was great at having a checklist, but it didn’t make any reminders or prompt us to do the next step.

If you’ve got ANYONE else in your business, even if they’re just super part-time (my VA started at 2 hours a week!), you definitely need some way to communicate tasks, deadlines and checklists. It’s going to give you peace of mind when you can SEE that they’ve done each part of the task, (and you will save time by not having to talk about every single thing, every single time).

Now, if you don’t have anyone else in your team, you can still use project management software to keep YOU on top of things.

Do YOU need digital planning tools?

Here’s how to decide:

First, know your projects.

I have Starship Captains start by listing ALL of their projects – onetime things they’re working on, recurring projects, the steps to their social media posts, anything they do or plan to do in a month.

Then you can split it down into “repeating” and “one-time”.

How many things do you have to hand back and forth to someone else?

Second, ask yourself – how do you keep track of the repeating tasks now?

Maybe you have a paper system that works great (I put my first marketing plan on a post it and just kept the post it on my computer screen).

Or maybe you’re forgetting half of every repeating task, or it’s taking you twice as long to remember – in which case, a checklist would be SUPER helpful. You could do the checklist manually or digitally – whichever you’re more likely to see.

Third, how do you keep track of next steps for one-time projects? Is that working for you? Would you prefer to be reminded of deadlines or next steps?

Captains use project management software to keep track of production, including wholesale orders and show prep. (If you’re in the Starship Community you can ask about how exactly they organize it all!)

But WHAT tool do you need?

If you’re current tools aren’t working for you, then let’s look at some digital options.

Now, before we go any further, I really want to stress one point – NOTHING WORKS UNLESS YOU USE IT.

Sometimes we get all wrapped up in finding the “perfect” tool or the one other successful biz owners use, but none of that matters. What matters is if YOU use it or not. The tool that will work best for you is the one you regularly use, put information into, and actually look at.

There are so many options for To Do list apps, I’m not even going to get into all the specific options. What you need to know is that a checklist app like ToDoist is different from a note-keeping app that has checklists like Evernote or GoogleKeep, which is different from task management software.

I’ve used Evernote and I currently use GoogleKeep to keep track of notes on the fly and checklists related to my personal life. I like that I can save documents, links, checklists, everything in one place. This was great when I was starting – my VA and I created a folder in Evernote for Standard Operating Procedures (we called it the Flight Manual) for everything – from checklists to launch plans, to project mapping.

But project management software takes it to the next level by letting you create TASKS. You can give those tasks deadlines, you can create a checklist under the task, and you can set the task to repeat!

This is really great if you:

  • Have a project that needs to be done in the exact same way every week or month (like my podcast!)
  • Have a project that is waiting for other people (knitwear designers who use editors, test knitters, etc.)
  • Have a project that needs to be paced out (you need to do step 1 by this date, step 2 by this date, so step 3 can get done by a big deadline.)

Using a system for these things:

  • Keeps you on a schedule
  • Takes it off your mind so you’re not trying to remember all the steps before you’d done the next step
  • Prepares you to scale up and do more and bring people on who can do parts of it
  • Helps you visually SEE all you do, which makes you feel accomplished and proud

Where to start with digital planning?

I recommend most people start with the steps I mentioned earlier – listing the projects you have. And then, making checklists first. Use something like GoogleKeep or Evernote and keep all your checklists together.

Once you start to see that you want something to reoccur or repeat, you want to assign just part of the checklist to someone else, then put those checklists into tasks and projects inside a project management program.

How I do it

Now, I’ve filled this episode with tips for you to figure out what will best help you and with steps for you to follow, I know you will still ask what I use and what I do, so I’ll share my process with you, in hopes that it will inspire you to get going, and not worry about being perfect!

I’ve been using Asana for years. It’s totally free and it has all the bells and whistles I need. The initial set-up took a bit of time, and I had to train myself and anyone who works with me to actually USE it regularly, but I’ve been building tasks in it one at a time, and it is a lifesaver.

For my weekly projects like this podcast or my weekly emails or blog posts:

  1. I think through the task and add every single tiny step to the task (like a checklist)
  2. I run through DOING the task once using the checklist and I add anything I forgot
  3. I set the task to repeat

I’ve learned through the years that if a task has more than one person who’s working on it, I CAN assign subtasks to different people, but it’s easiest to just create separate tasks for each person and then put them in the order they need to be done. For example, I write and record this podcast episode, that’s a task. Jay has a task to edit it. Holly has a task, once it’s been edited and uploaded to take all the pieces – the transcript, the recording, the video, any links and put it all in the blog post. That’s one tasks with quite a long checklist, because the blog post has a lot of moving parts, and she can’t do any of them until we’ve done our part.

Now, even if I didn’t have Holly, I would still use this task, to remind MYSELF of what all the steps are.

And what’s great about this is now I can hire anyone to do the task. I have to teach them the software involved, but the task even gives me a checklist of what software is involved in all the steps. It was much MUCH harder to start working with people when I had no checklists.

Now, when I have a new project, like I started a Facebook group recently (join us! It’s free: fb.com/groups/taraswiger) – I put that in Asana too. Often I’ll talk out the project with Holly or Joeli inside Asana, then I’ll start to put the task list together. Then I keep adding ideas as I have them, then I assign it to people and pace out the due dates so the final project is done when I want it done.

The Facebook group is actually a great example, because I’m the only one that worked on it, and yet I still created tasks to mark off as I went because I was learning from a few different sources and wanted to keep all my ideas in one place and then be sure I actually DID them.

So that’s how I use project management software in my business to both plan and be sure I follow through on my plans.

I’d love to know what apps and tools YOU use and how you plan… and guess what? You can come tell me in the group! Come over to facebook.com/groups/taraswiger  to join makers who are growing in confidence AND in profit, just like you! The group is limited to those who have a creative business, so if that is you, please come join us!

And remember to tune in next week where I’ll be sharing how you can choose between all the projects you’re excited to create in 2020.

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.

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

When you run a creative business, keeping track of your projects & to-dos is VITAL to getting anything done! Learn how I use paper planners to help me keep track of my week at TaraSwiger.com/podcast287

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How do you turn your to-do lists into a plan? How do you know what to do every day? How do you fit your work around non-work appointments and responsibilities? This is what we’ll talk about this episode.

This week I’m answering the question that occurs after you make a map – how the heck do I follow through on this every day?

You see, in my book Map Your Business and in my Starship Program, you begin by getting clear on your big vision. And then you set a goal and break it down into steps and actionable to-dos. But after you have that big list of what you need to do and the order you need to do them, then what? You can’t get it all done in a day or two, you have to continue to work on it over weeks.

And that’s where a lot of us get stuck. So for the month of December, we’re going to have a series on planning – the actual figuring out what to do each day and week.

Today we’re going to start by how I use paper planners, and next week we’ll talk about task management software. As we near the end of the year, we’ll talk about how to pick your next big project. And we’ll kick off the year with an episode on January 1, about planning your best year yet.

If you’ve followed me on Instagram or YouTube, you know that I started using a real paper planner in 2019, in part because I’m having more meetings than ever thanks to foster care. I’ll talk about how I use it in a minute, but first let’s talk about what I used to do that worked really well.

Before 2019, I just wrote stuff down in my journal. I kept one journal for everything – work, personal, notes from reading or meetings, to-do lists, etc. Each week I’d look at my goal and make a list of projects for the week – what do I need to do to move that project forward? what do I need to do in my weekly tasks? What else? I’d usually make one big list for the week. When I woke up in the morning I’d look at the list and pick 2-3 things to do that day as a priority. I write down what I will do that day so I have a list in front of me to focus.

I typically spent the first few days of the week doing stuff that needed to be done weekly, and the next few days working on projects. If I didn’t get to something, I’d push it forward to the next week. This worked super well for a long time. When the video about how to bullet journal (the very basic bullet journaling) came out, I thought, “Oh, that’s what I do.” It’s not fancy or pretty but it kept me focused.

And, I should note, during this time I would see photos on the tag #planneraddict and think – who has time for all that embellishment, do those people get anything done?! 

But then my life blew up, aka, I had a toddler. And she had appointments, meetings, visitations, at very specific times. And I never knew if I was going to have the time, energy and focus to do one thing, or twenty things.

So in early January I found myself really frustrated that my list system wasn’t working. I’d forget to open my journal for days. I’d have time to work but not be able to decide what to do because I hadn’t made a list for the week on Monday morning.

I had months of not being productive OR feeling creatively inspired at all. No knitting or quilting or painting. Then I stumbled up The Happy Planner on Instagram, and I thought – hmm, maybe I need to try a different method and feel like I had even a little creative outlet. And the COLOR, I love color. And I’ll be honest, 2 year olds are addicted to stickers and it kinda got me excited about stickers. So I got a Happy Planner on sale and some stickers and it took me a few weeks, but I figured out a way to use the planner that really really works for me. If you want to see the actual pages or process, this is my planning playlist including a number of plan with me vlogs.

The process is very similar to what I did in the journal, but now with stickers. 

First, I make a list of this week’s projects. Then, I look at the appointments I have for the week. I generally add a sticker on each page with an appointment and write the appointment in. Then I make a space for the books I read that week (along the bottom). And I add another sticker or two to make it pretty.

I should tell you that as I record this, the toddlers who have been with me since June just went home, so my week was FULL of appointments. While they’ve been here, some days are pretty much entirely filled with the kids and their appointments. So I can easily fill in Monday-Wednesday’s to do list right away, because those days have specific tasks that I know I need to do first – like write and record the weekly podcast episode, finish up a project I worked on last week, or schedule some social media posts. Then I fill in Thurs and Friday as I go through the week and have to push stuff forward, or I work on bigger projects on those days.

I used to just wake up and choose to do whatever on each day, but with less time to work, I decide ahead of time what I’ll need to do each day, or else things will never get done. 

Once it’s written down, you actually have to do it.

Sometimes this is the hardest part, to make sure your day doesn’t get away from you, that when a pocket of work-time opens up, you LOOK at the list and actually do what it recommends. If this is a struggle for you, the first question is: Do you have time, with boundaries around it, dedicated to getting stuff done? Are you intentional with the time you have? What could you do to create the habit of looking at your list?

Remember – there is no perfect planner or perfect system to make you perfectly productive. Your job is to find what works for you, change when your life or needs change, and keep giving yourself grace while you experiment.

I’d love to know what YOU use and how you plan… and guess what? We have a new free community where you can share your planner and your system with us! Come over to facebook.com/groups/taraswiger  to join makers who are growing in confidence AND in profit, just like you! The group is limited to those who have a creative business, so if that is you, please come join us!

And remember to tune in next week where I’ll be sharing how I use the task management software Asana to keep track of everything for this podcast and my Program.

How to listen

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

Find all the podcast episodes here.

277: Business plans: Do you need one?

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Do you need a formal business plan? If not, how can you plan your business so it’s profitable and successful? How will you measure if it IS successful?

Today's deep dive into business plans comes to you because my Boss-Level Patrons voted that I make this episode this month.

Several years ago I created a video where I shared the process of making the business plan to buy the comic shop that my husband worked at. When I made the video we were in the middle of planning to buy the shop, which didn't end up working out for reasons totally outside our control. But that video is still one of the most popular videos on my channel. So I recently went back and rewatched it and I realized I talked a lot about what we had done, but nothing that was very instructional if you want to make a business plan for your own business. And you know I want to be super-useful to you, so over the next two episodes, I am going to go MUCH deeper into the practical aspects of a business plan.

Today we’re going to talk about when you DO need a business plan and when you don’t, and if you don’t, how to make a plan that will help you reach your business goals. 

Next week we are going to be super-nerdy and go into how to make a traditional business plan, with questions to answer for all the sections and what we actually included in ours. I’m sharing as many of our real-life details as I can, without being in breach of the NDA we signed.

Business Plan v Map Making

We need to start with this: A business plan is related to your goals, and to the map you make to reach your goals, but it is not the same thing. 

My book Map Your Business helps you do the process you have to do before you ever sit down to a business plan  – getting clear on where you are, where you want to be and what goals you want to hit on your way there. But it is aimed at helping you make a personal plan for the actions and to-dos you need to do to hit the goals.

A business plan is a document that shows a lot of information and details about your business, the competition and the overarching plan. It may include financial projections. But it actually doesn't have that many actionable steps in it, it's more of a big picture planning document.

So you need both a map to get super actionable, and you can use a business plan to make sure your business will WORK and to keep you in line with the bigger mission.

When do you NEED a business plan?

The short answer:  Whenever you're getting anyone else involved in your business – a partner, an investor, a bank, even a landlord (they may want to see your business plan), you need a traditional business plan. So if it's just you and your hands, you probably don't HAVE to create an official business plan, but having a simplified business overview can help you focus and will prompt you do the research you need to do. In a minute we’ll talk more about what I recommend every new or growing business include in a plan.

If you’re going to ask for funding, from anyone, including family or friends, you absolutely need to follow a tradition business plan.

If you are starting a partnership, or bringing a partner into your business (even if it’s your best friend or spouse), you need to have a traditional business plan, to be sure your ideas, expectations and goals are completely aligned (the process is really clarifying of where exactly money will go!). You also need a partnership agreement, and you need to have a lawyer look over both documents.

If you are investing a large amount of money into your business, even if it’s your OWN money,  I’d recommend a business plan, so you know exactly when you are likely to see a profit, what you’re going to put the money towards, and how you’re going to earn it back. Treat yourself like an investor, and do the math and research to be sure.

What’s a large amount of money? Whatever is a lot of money for you! When I invested into my doTERRA business just a few hundred dollars and committed to start a business (instead of just buying oils as a customer, like most people do), I made a mini business plan, to be clear about how much time I would put it into, what exactly I would do, and when I could expect to hit goals. I attribute that plan and commitment (which I shared with my friend and mentor and she held me too), with the success I’ve experienced in that business.

What if I don’t need a business plan?

I’ll be honest: I started my yarn company by listing some skeins on Etsy, and then a local art shop, and then I did some craft shows. For months I didn’t keep track of expenses or even sales. But it wasn’t really a business. When I got serious about getting profitable (so I could quit my dayjob), I made a post-it note marketing plan and did the math to figure out how much yarn I needed to make in order to make a sales goal. (I teach you how to do this inside the Starship Program, btw.)

That’s not really a business plan, but they were documents that I could work from, and refer back to.

When I wanted to talk to my husband about quitting my dayjob to make yarn full time, I wrote up some notes, which is the most formal business I ever made for that business – it included sales data, profit math, projected sales for upcoming shows, and how much I could make if I had more time (ie, after I quit my dayjob). I also included some marketing goals (getting featured in a magazine, getting accepted into more shows) and some personal financial goals, that we would want to achieve before I gave up my steady salary. This document guided me for the next year or so. Whenever I had a new challenge or a new goal, I have always done something kind of similar.

So for me, this simplified business plan has been vital in helping me see the overall health and direction of my business.

How can you make a simplified (and effective) business plan?

I’m going to share suggestions from the Small Business Administration (SBA), and also suggestions based on working with hundreds of creative businesses.

Remember: Your business plan is a living document. You will use it as you operate your business. You want to have enough detail to help you make decisions, but not so much that you get overwhelmed by it.

The SBA suggests identifying:

Key partnerships
Note the other businesses or services you’ll work with to run your business. Who will you buy your supplies from? What shows or shops will you work with? Who will help you with what?

Key activities
What do you actually DO in your business? What are the methods you use to sell? (Online shop? Craft show booth?) What are the activities involved in having your product there?

Key resources
What do you already have that will serve you? Don’t forget experience, education, skills, even those that you acquired in unrelated fields, like household management, making a website for your hobby, etc. Also include any audience you already have, from personal FB page, your Instagram, your email list, anything.

Value proposition
“Make a clear and compelling statement about the unique value your company brings to the market.” – SBA.gov

What does your item offer your customer? How is that special? How does it make them feel?
(We develop this more inside the marketing part of the Starship.)

Customer relationships
How do you think customers will interact with your business? Is it automated or personal? In person or online? Think through the customer experience from start to finish.

Customer segments
Be specific when you name your target market. Your business won’t be for everybody, so it’s important to have a clear sense of who your business will serve.

Channels
How do you communicate with prospective customers? What tools will you use?

Cost structure
What are your biggest costs? In this section, include your COGs for every product you sell. (Don’t know your COGs? The Starship Program guides you through this math)

Revenue streams
Explain how your company will actually make money. Some examples are direct sales, membership fees, and selling advertising space. If your company has multiple revenue streams, list them all.

That’s what the SBA recommends and if you are starting a new business, I recommend having every single one of those sections filled out if you are starting something new, or investing in your business.

Many of you already have businesses, so I’m going to make an even more simplified version for you. At the minimum you need to have:

Value Proposition
What exactly do you sell? What does it do for the customer? How does she feel?

Target Customer Profiles
Who loves and buys your work? What EXACTLY is she like?

What is your next goal?
(Map Your Business helps with this)

Financial Reality
Before you can make any big decision in your business you need to know where you are financially –

  • What is the COGs for each product?
  • What is your overhead?
  • What is your business break even point?
  • Have your spreadsheet of at least the last year in monthly sales and expenses. (It is much more effective to compare month over month)

Financial projection
Considering what you have planned in the marketing section and the current growth track your on, what will your sales be like in the next six months (per month)? What will your expenses be?

Day to day you may only need to think about the next month or two in projections, but if you’re taking on a big new expense, you may want to project out further, to the break even point.

Marketing Assets
What assets do you already have? (Subscribers, followers, etc) What is the conversion rate for the various channels? What is your current calendar?

Marketing Plan
What will you promote? When? How? What’s your social media calendar? How will you move a customer down the customer path?  (I have a course on building that path here or you can build it inside the Starship Program, after you work on your profitability)

Overwhelmed?

Ok, that’s it. Whew! 

Are you looking at this and thinking, “oh man, that is a LOT of work!”? You’re not alone! I feel a little overwhelmed just talking about it. But here’s the thing – if you’re tired of feeling scrambly, if you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed and without focus, you need to do SOMETHING different.

You need a plan, not just for what you’ll do today, or for the very next goal, but you need to understand the entire health of your business and how it works together. A business plan will help with that. Digging into where you are where you want to go. Being clear about your real numbers. Being strategic in your marketing time. This will ALL help you feel LESS overwhelmed.

Yes, it’s a big project if you tackle it all at once, but you don’t have to! You can do it step by step (this is actually what I DO, I help people walk through it step by step, not so they have some business plan, but so they have the information, the knowledge they need to grow and make decisions).

Not knowing how your business will actually WORK is one of the biggest mistakes I see people make. I am going to be teaching you to avoid this mistake and three more in a free masterclass this week, and we are going to talk more about how you can figure out the data that goes into your business plan. To join me, go to taraswiger.com/foundations. I will walk you through this step by step, you DO NOT have to do it by yourself.

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.

274: How to recover from summer

“It’s so easy to get stuck in the day to day of what you think you should do without it ever lining up with and moving you towards what you really want.” -Tara Swiger Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast274

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Hello! I am back! After a summer of pre-recorded episodes and rebroadcasts, I am back with you in nearly-real-time! Today we are going to talk about how to recover from your summer – whether you took time off, or you got tons of work done, or you did a bunch of craft shows or you went on vacation – how do you get back into it and move forward and reach your goals for the year?

Today I'm going to give you an update on my summer, we're going to talk about how to learn from the summer and move forward, and I'll share some changes I'm making in my business!

First, I have to thank YOU for sticking with me over the summer – for staying subscribed, for sharing the show with friends, for leaving a review on iTunes or comments on YouTube and for those of you who supported the podcast on Patreon – I'm going to be thanking my patrons AND linking them up over the next several episodes. If you want to support the show and get some bonuses every single month, head to Patreon.com/Taraswiger.

Thank you to long-time patron, Jacie of BandofWeirdos. Jacie makes the most awesome geek-inspired pins, patches and I proudly wear my Band of Weirdos pins, Cat Spock and “Slayers Gonna Slay” on my jean jacket.

A giant thank you to long-time supporter, friend, and Starship graduate, Lisa Check of Flying Goat Farm. Lisa is a farmer with angora goats and sheep, whose fiber she dyes and spins into beautiful yarn! If you want to get yarn that is well-loved from animal to needle, head to FlyingGoatFarm.com

I had a summer that NEEDS to be recovered from – on May 30th, two toddlers came to live us, ages 2.5 and 3.5. The sisters are sweet and so loving and they have just flourished. The young one went from quiet and shy to a little chatterbox in the last few months and they are both just so totally fun and silly. ADJUSTING to living with two toddlers has been its own challenge. I spent the first month napping every time they napped or left the house. We're blessed that they were already enrolled in a preschool, and to make the transition as easy as possible for them, we've kept them there, even though it means driving an hour round trip, twice a day.

It looks like they'll be with us until the end of September, they have a court date September 26th, and we'll hopefully know a bit more after that. If you want more updates or to see the very adorable back of their heads, be sure you're subscribed on YouTube, where I share a weekly vlog or your watching my Stories on Instagram, for daily updates.

So now that we're three months in, I'm at the spot where I feel pretty capable of thought, on most days, which is significantly better than how foggy I was all summer. So I've been thinking a lot about how to get back to work, how to move forward.

I know many of you are in the same place. Maybe your kids were home for the summer and so you didn't get as much work done. or maybe you traveled a lot for shows, or for fun. Maybe you don't have any particular reason, you're just ready to move on from the summer and get back to your business.

Plus we're about 4 months from the end of the year, so you may be feeling a bit freaked out about the goals you set and how you're going to reach them.

To start with, we're going to expand on the good. Yes, I am sure that there are a million things you didn't do and a million projects you're behind on. But if you try to operate from a feeling of “behind”, you're going to feel scrambly. (Spellcheck tells me that's not a word, but I've decided it is.) And you can't be productive when you're scrambly.

Let's start by answering the following questions:

  • What went well this summer? (list anything, even things that aren't work related!)
  • What in your work was easy?
  • What were excited about?
  • What new ideas did you have? (You might need to flip through your planner or journal for this)
  • What projects are you excited to work on in the next season?
  • What did you try this summer?
  • What worked well? What didn't?
  • Why do you think that is?

(THIS is the lessons you learned this summer! It is so easy to NOT learn them and make the same mistakes again and again!)

Next, let's zoom out:

What were the goals you had for 2019?
(If you've got Map Your Business, pull that out and look at it. It guides you through doing this every quarter but maybe you need the reminder to  open it again?)

Which of the goals have you already met?
(You may be surprised! Almost every quarter I hear from a Starship Captain who already reached their yearly sales goal and they DID NOT EVEN KNOW IT.)

Which of these goals do you want to let go of?
(Maybe you just don't care about them, or they aren't the direction you want to move in.)

Which of the goals really excite you?

This is your OFFICIAL PERMISSION to let go of all the goals that don't excite you. You may come back to them later, or never. But let them go for now.

Don’t skip this!

You may be listening right now and thinking, yeah, yeah, review my goal, I'll do that later. I need to get back to work NOW. But please, don't skip this. This is a very important step in being productive AND in staying on the right track.

It is SO easy to just get stuck in the day to day of what you think you should do, without it ever lining up with and moving you towards, what you really want.

It is also very easy to get burned out and disappointed because you're not hitting your goals and you don't feel like you're making progress.

Do you know what solves both of these problems?

Regularly looking at your goals and CHANGING them based on what you really want, what's actually WORKING in your business, and focusing in on how you're going to get them.

Then create a plan:

So the next step is to look at the answers to your questions and start to combine it into a plan: how can you work more on what has you excited? How can you reach the goal based on what you learned this summer? What other ideas are you having?

At this point you may be noticing that this doesn't look anything like following someone else's blueprint for your business. Your plans and ideas might look totally weird. And you know what?

THAT is how you build a business that stands out, that doesn't blend in. Learning lessons from YOUR business, from YOUR customers, then applying them to YOUR enthusiasms. It may lead you down a weird path, but you'll be moving close to what will make you feel fulfilled and to a business and product that YOUR people will like.

I did this process myself, and lemme tell you what I came up with!

But first, a giant thank you to long-time Patron, Marrietta of Inner Yarn Zen. She dyes beautiful yarn and when I popped over to InnerYarnZen.com, I noticed that she has yarn advent packages available, inspired by both Game of Thrones AND Outlander!

Now, when I did this process myself, here's what I came up with:

Even in the busiest time with toddlers, it was always fun for me to do a few things – chat live with my Starship Captains each week, read books, watch booktube videos and make videos about what I was reading, or my planner, or whatever struck me. I participated in several reading challenges and vlogged my way through them (vlog = daily or weekly video journal) and it was SO MUCH FUN.

Now, that's only tangentially related to what I do for work (which is guiding and inspiring women to create sustainable businesses and lives around their enthusiasm). But it was following MY enthusiasm and it was giving me energy (I could do more than just nap!), so I gave myself permission to focus on it this summer.

And it's always easy for me to host the weekly accountability check-in in the Starship, which is great, because I love what the Starship provides to creative women, and I want to open it to even more makers and artists this fall. I've got a list of new bonuses I'm creating and tools I'm making for Starship Captains, and I'll be announcing those soon. You can head to Taraswiger.com/StarshipBiz to be the first to find out about it.

So that's one area of my business and focus settled – I find it easy, it aligns with my goals and with my bigger mission. Check!

But what about this area that was so fun and easy, making more videos and talking about books? Is there a way to integrate that more into my life?

One of the things I tried this summer was participating in the reading challenges, and hosting a book club for my Starship Captains and essential oil customers. That went SO well and had such a great participation and feedback I knew I wanted to do it again. So looking for connections and putting it together with some other new videos I want to make, I realized the answer was to host a new book club for ANYONE who wants to join, and give those same people all the weird videos I want to make every month.

For $2/mo you can support the podcast, get at least one extra video each month, and join my book club – where you'll vote on the book and we'll read it together. If you want to support the show for $7, you can TELL me what to add to my own reading list each month, get a shout out on social media, and pick the specific topics I cover on the podcast. Head over to Patreon.com/TaraSwiger to join the book club and get extra videos.

Nothing about this podcast will change – you'll still get new episodes every Wednesday, FOR FREE, and the full transcript here at TaraSwiger.com/blog. And if you subscribe on YouTube, you get a video every Monday, usually a bit of behind the scenes of running my own business. If you support the show, you get extra videos, the book club, and more, but most importantly you make THIS free show more sustainable, so I can keep helping more women craft the business they want, so I can keep encouraging you through hard times, and so I can keep taking time to parent my foster kiddos.

Thank you so much for being here, wishing you an enthusiastic week!

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.

244: Beyond goal-setting: Daily and weekly plans

Getting what you want to do done in your business involves more than just having a vision or checking things off your to-do list. Learn move about the three things that need to work together to get what you want done at TaraSwiger.com/podcast244

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

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 importance of planning for the New Year (and how I do it)

Did your 2016 go as planned? Are you feeling discouraged or sidetracked or thrilled? No matter how your 2016 has gone, you can create a better 2017. Today we’ll hear from a non-planner about how planning projects has made his life better, and I’ll share what I do in my own New Year planning session. Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast136/

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Did your 2016 go as planned? Are you feeling discouraged or sidetracked or thrilled? No matter how your 2016 has gone, you can create a better 2017. Today we’ll hear from a non-planner about how planning projects has made his life better, and I’ll share what I do in my own New Year planning session.

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.

Feeling unmotivated? Here’s how to Get More Done

I hear from SO many people that they just don't feel motivated to work on their To Do list - from the daily small tasks to the bigger goal-oriented projects. That's why it's so important to have a system of identifying your goal, breaking it down, and checking off your To Dos. This week we're revisiting a popular podcast from the past, with an all-new transcript and a FREE guide to go with it! In this episode we’ll discuss The principles for Getting More Done How to stay motivated when you don't feel like working The process I use to make progress on my quarterly goals Want to get more done? Get my FREE distraction-free guide to getting more done.Grab it here: TaraSwiger.com/podcast119/

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Get more goodness and support the podcast: http://patreon.com/taraswiger

I hear from SO many people that they just don't feel motivated to work on their To Do list – from the daily small tasks to the bigger goal-oriented projects.

That's why it's so important to have a system of identifying your goal, breaking it down, and checking off your To Dos. This week we're revisiting a popular podcast from the past, with an all-new transcript and a FREE guide to go with it!

In this episode we’ll discuss

  • The principles for Getting More Done
  • How to stay motivated when you don't feel like working
  • The process I use to make progress on my quarterly goals

 

Want to get more done? Get my FREE distraction-free guide to getting more done.Grab it here.

Check out the other posts + podcasts in this series:

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.

The Adventures

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

The view

Just picked up @bluebirdlegacy's yarn from the fiber mill...and sold every last skein to Purl'sYarn Emporium. Stop in to squeeze it! It is SO GOOD.

Good morning! Will there be coffee? Or pastries?  In line @jcStarbucks.

Yay! Done with the body of #bluesandcardigan! Picking up for the front. #knitting #pluckyknitter #knitstagram

Raylan apologizes for getting up at 5:30 & wants to know if we can go back to bed. #raylanpup #taralovesmornings #butnotthatearly

So much progress on #brandiedcherries! #taralovesmornings

I am so grateful for…

  • Warm weather!
  • I saw the first of the Spring daffodils and it's really the best news all week.
  • Total writing flow. I wrote over 3.5K words on Monday and 5.5k on Wednesday and whoa, does it feel good.

The Finds:

I’m reading:

I’m knitting: 

In case you missed it: 

  • I'm teaching at Craftcation in just two weeks! YAY! If you're in SoCal, please join me! (Or at the very least, let's have a coffee! Drop me a note here.)
  • Think you need to worry about “managing your time”? You don't.
  • Not sure where to start with keeping track of your business numbers? Start here.
  • The Starship will open for only 5 days this quarter. Sign up here to be the first to find out.

What adventures have you had?

Motivation: How to keep yours

Motivation How to Keep Yours

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Now that we know how to get stuff done and how to work towards your big projects, how do you keep doing it, day after day? How do you keep doing the work even when it's not fun?

 

Motivation. 
 

In this episode I'll discuss:

  • The needs that are distracting you (and permission to get them sorted first)
  • The three things your work must have to keep you motivated
  • How to be sure that you don't undermine your motivation

Links mentioned:

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

 

 

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