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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.

The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Holiday Sanity

Definitive Guide to Holiday Sanity

Over the last five 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 official beginning of the season (here in the US) this week, I wanted to share a bit of what works for me.

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

On Design Sponge:

On CraftyPod:

On Karina Dressess:

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

 

 

 

The business tools I use

Writing about the tools I use in my business for tomorrow's post. What do you use?

As you know, my mission  is to help  you build the business that best suits YOU. All of my classes, books and adventures are built to help you discover what's true in your business and what will work for you

This means that although I write about the journey of my own business exploration, I don't do a lot of recommending, or telling you specifics of what I do. It's not that I don't want to share, it's that I don't want you to get distracted by what I use instead of figuring out what works for you.

That said…I love reading these kinds of posts. And there are a few questions that I end up answering via email and Sessions, so I'd like to put all the answers in one place. (This was inspired by Elise's Baby FAQs. If you have a new baby, you should read this).

Keep in mindthis is what works for me, with my specific business. I work with many creatives who use an entirely different set of tools.
(You can ask them directly, inside the Starship – which opens tomorrow. Sign up here if you're curious.)

My website.

My domains are registered with NameCheap. Nathan does my hosting + WordPress pampering. My entire website is built on WordPress. I love it and tell everyone to use it. (Even my mom can use it easily for her site.)

Design

I built my first few websites on my own, with a combination of free WP themes + a couple of edited images (BCB is all me, baby). If you can add some text to an image with Gimp or Photoshop, I highly recommend DIY-ing it until your business can afford to hire a designer. Why? Because you'll want to know how to do absolutely everything in your business.

Even so, there are many  things to keep in mind to make your site as effective as possible. Be ready to tweak it endlessly and make it better and better. I go over the necessary parts in detail in Market Yourself, so if you want more, check out Chapter 4.

That said, at some point, you are going to want your site to match the awesomeness of what you sell. And unless you sell website design, you probably can't do it on your own. Once your business has started to make a profit and pay you, then think about hiring a designer.

The one thing I wish I would have understood earlier?
There's a vast difference between a “website” and a “visual brand”. Getting a website designed does not mean that your company has a visual brand. So if you're totally graphically-thinking-impaired (as I am) – you probably want someone to create a visual brand for you, before you worry about website design (you can always implement their branding into your existing website.)

Right now I'm working with Jessika to create a visual brand and I love her. The main thing is to find someone who's aesthetic truly matches your own and who gets you AND your community. Jessika totally nailed my visual branding in the very first try.
(You're going to see it soon!)

Shopping carts and buy buttons

For the past 3 years I've used a combination of PayPal buttons + E-junkie buttons (with my own button images.) Paypal is quick and easy. E-Junkie is also super-quick and has the added benefit of sending an automatic email with the info you need when you join a class or buy a download. (But it does cost at least $5/mo.)

Next month I've moving everything to WooCommerce, which will also let me send you an automatic download and will have the added benefit of everything being in one place. (This has been the biggest failing of this website so far – there's not a very clear “this is what I sell” space. You can find it all linked here, but that hasn't been effective at communicating it. How do I know? I answer the question “How can I work with you?” weekly.)

However, if you have a product-based business, I suggest you go with something that “manages” your shop for you and is super-easy to add items to. I recommend most brand-new-to-online-selling folks use Etsy. After you get the hang of that and you build up your own audience (through your own site and newsletter), then move over to your own shop, with Big Cartel or one of the other options. There are many, and I haven't tried any of them, so I recommend asking other makers. (We have a thread on this in the Starship.)

Newsletter software.

You know I heartily believe everyone should be communicating with their biggest fans via email (I talk a bit more about it in this podcast). And that autoresponders are the easiest way to get everyone on the same (ready-to-buy) page. I love Mailchimp for managing all of this. I've been with them for 5 (!) years and couldn't be happier. A few of my students found it overwhelming, so they went with TinyLetter which is much simpler.

 

Social media management.

Even though I have a Number One (a virtual assistant), I do ALL of my own writing. That includes the blog, newsletter, and everything I post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Everything you see online is actually me.

I think it's important to get that out of the way, because there seems to be an assumption that people get assistants to deal with social media. And to me, this makes no sense. Social media might be the first place you meet me (either because someone you follow retweets me or tweets directly to something I made), so why would I want that first impression to be anything but personal?

That said, it makes sense to make sure that what I write actually gets seen by my followers, so I use Hootsuite to schedule some Twitter + Facebook posts. It's very simple (and free) and I like that it allows me to share a zillion things as soon as I find them (which is often all at once), without overwhelming you, the reader. It also allows me to share a new blog post a few times a day, whether I'm online right then or not.

Even when I'm posting in “real time”, I don't hang out afterwards to have conversations. Instead, I log on to reply and have conversations when I have the time throughout the day (taking a break from other work, standing in line, etc). This time-shifted conversation is exaclty why I like Twitter! Although some conversations do happen in real time, I don't think anything's lost by time-shifting it.
What is gained is a lot more productive time and keeping my focus. While I love having conversations and connecting (love it!), I can't let it take over the equally-important creation time. To keep it reasonable, I often work with a Pomodoro timer (and go to social media on 5 minute “breaks”) and I have Nanny for Chrome installed. (But I very rarely trigger it.)

E-courses

There is SO much software out there for e-course development…and I actually use a lot of it!
The easiest way to hold an e-course is to load your content into an autoresponder in Mailchimp and when the person buys, send them an email with the sign-up page for the email list. I've used E-junkie to automatically send this email immediately. This is how my Automagical Emails class works.
That'll work for an independent study class, but what if you're holding the class “live” and you want everyone to discuss things? For a fixed-time class with automatic course delivery (you load it in and it goes out on your schedule), I really like Ruzuku. I used it for the last live Pay Yourself and for Explore You and the students really seemed to like it.
Now, that works for a specific timeline of the class, but for an ongoing community (like the Starship), I use Ning – which provides both the forum we use for conversation + a live chat space. You can also use a private Facebook group for this, but I find it a little more difficult to track the conversations and I don't like that things aren't archived and easy to search for. There are multiple WP plugins you can use to create a forum + community on your own site, but I haven't found one that works as intuitively (for the user) as Ning.

 I'd love to hear if you have a favorite?

 

Planning.

Here's the system I use to plan everything from my big years-long goals to my daily to-dos:

At the beginning of each year (and again at my birthday in June), I think through all the high-level stuff, using the Chart Your Stars Guide (available only in the Solo Mission or Starship). I set big goals and try to list all the little things I wanna do.

Each quarter, I use the Star Chart to pick a Destination. This is my Big Focus for the next three months. I use the Map Making Guide to break it down into all the Mile Markers and tiny To Dos. (I also review the last quarter so that I can learn from what did and didn't go well.)
(This is also when I create a content calendar and start filling it in.)

Each month I review where I am and what I need to do to get to my Destination (I send these reassessment questions out to the Solo Mission Starship). I use it to figure out what I need to get done this month. (Often I've already set deadlines while Map Making, so this is already mainly figured out for me.)

Each week, I make a Master List of everything I wanna get done this week. I double-check to make sure there are actions moving me towards my Destination + all the little stuff that has to be done week in and week out. (Blog posts, email ketchup, shipping books)

Each day, I check my weekly list and pick things from it to do today. I write a new To Do list everyday. I try to keep it reasonable (what I could really get done that day), but I find I actually get more done when I have more listed. (When I have few things listed, my brain thinks: Oh, you have 8 hours to do 3 tasks! You should read quilting blogs for a while!) I do star the things that HAVE to be done today and there's NO guilt if other things don't get done.

The actual TOOLS I use to do all of the above:

 

Writing.

 Every (workday) morning, I write, at least 750 words, using 750words.com and a Pomodor timer, while listening to Spotify (usually this playlist). Sometimes I use this time to write blog posts (like this) or email lessons, it's often on a bigger, less immediate project. Sometimes I just write out any problem-solving/thinking I need to do. (But I wouldn't call this a journal or free-writing, as I almost always write with an audience in mind, even if the audience is myself.) If I want to keep what I wrote, I copy it into an Evernote note.

Two to three days a week I have a second writing time, after my Morning Writing. While Morning Writing is dedicated to the writing I might skip once the day gets started (writing for the new book, thinking through a deeper subject, anything that doesn't feel immediate), the second writing chunk is usually devoted to my current projects – my “work” (blog posts, email lessons, class material.) I make the distinction in order to not let the everyday writing edge writing about whatever I'm enthusiastic about, whether it fits into my content calendar or not.

 

Email

I use Gmail for everything. When I have a pile of emails that I don't need to deal with right now (but I will need them in the future) or when my inbox just gets overwhelming, I use the Email Game to sort through them and boomerang messages back to me in the future.

That's basically it, I have no special email skillz. I try to close my inbox when I'm not directly writing or replying, and I set aside time once or twice a day to check it (I get no pings or alerts when an email arrives) for questions from customers. Twice a week I go through and answer everything (or delete it, or boomerang it). I spend a long time crafting useful answers to everyone who writes, so it's important that this both gets my attention and that it doesn't take over my life.

Jess, my Number One.

You already know that I do all my own writing and “showing up” in the online world, so what does Jess do? She makes everything better and she makes sure everything works right.

  • Every week she loads the Explore Notes I write (and the weekly Starship Lesson) into Mailchimp, editing it as she lays it out.
  • When I'm creating a new class, she edits (for clarity and grammar) my written lessons, she turns my questions into a pretty worksheet, she takes notes on the video lessons for a transcript, she uploads PDFs and text to the class space.
  • When I sell anything, she double checks that the buyer signs up for what they need to sign up for (especially important if it's an email-delivered product, like Solo Mission + Starship).
  • She updates autoresponders (like this) with updated info.
  • She notes absolutely all of our systems, so that I don't reinvent it every time (which has made me a zillion times more efficient).
  • When I write a really hard or important post (like this) or guest posts (like this), she'll edit it and give me feedback on where I'm overexplaining or glossing over something important.

(I wrote a bit about this when I hired her.)

In other words, whenever you interact with me, via reading my writing or emailing me your question or taking a class, you're interacting with me. And I have time to write long, thorough (free) answers to 5-10 non-clients every week, while writing 2 email lessons (one for free here, one for Starship members) and 2-3 blog posts each week, creating a new class every quarter, traveling + teaching around the country every few months – because Jess is doing all of the other not-writing stuff. Since hiring her, every area of my business has increased: my own output, my reader stats, and my sales.

How? I'm now focused 100% on doing what only I can do, and she makes sure my work looks (and reads) its best*. (I don't actually work any less hours now than I did before, I just spend my hours on more effective work.)

*She didn't edit this blog post, so all typos are my own fault.

 

Hardware

I recently got a Chromebook and I LOVE it for writing + traveling. It's super-light and I can fit it in my purse. I do 90% of my work on it. When I want to edit docs or videos, I use my very 4 year old Toshiba laptop. I take all photos with my iPhone 4s.

 

 Phew! That's a lot of tools + systems! 

Now it's your turn – what business tools and systems do you use?

If you write about them on your blog, leave the link in the comments!

 

 

The usual disclaimer applies! 

 

How to have your best year ever

BESTYEAR

I'm not one for resolutions. (Whoa, I wrote that post exactly 6 years ago!)
Instead, I create flexible maps to get me where I want to go.

Having a great year is a combination of having amazing dreams and then having supportive, realistic plans to make them happen.*

*Tweet this! 

But where to get started? Take the time to think it through and write it all out (I use Leonie's Workbook + the Chart Your Stars Guide). Take a few days to work through these soul-stirring questions and then…

  1. Pick a word or phrase to guide you. I think of it as a kind of lesson plan for my coming year. My word helps me make decisions, inspires me to explore, and helps me spot the lessons I'm learning.
    In order to be effective and inspiring, your word needs to be intimately related to your North Stars (the guiding values of your life). We identify North Stars in both Solo Missions + the Starship, because they will guide everything else you do – the destinations you want to go, the maps you make, all of it!
    I haven't quite picked this year's word yet, but I signed up for Ali's One Little Word workshop to help me work with it (and play with it) all year long.
  2. Make it doable. Big dreams and lofty plans are delightful, but stuff gets DONE in the daily work of to-do lists + schedules. Make a map (or several) to break your big destinations down into mile-by-mile driving directions.
  3. Make a PLAN for support. Surround yourself with people who know how to do what you want to do and people who actually DO what they want to do. If you don't know many in real life, you'll have to make a plan for finding the support you need. Don't just wait for it to come to you!
    I use the Starship for my support, and I love providing encouragement, accountability, and real-world perspective to the explorers inside.

 

 

I had a year FULL of dreams coming true (new partnerships, new opportunities and most of all – having deep conversations with explorers)…and it all taught me the same thing: Things happen when you believe it's possible and then follow through. 

(Want a peek at my daily/weekly planning after I have the big destination set? Check it out here.)

 

What's your plan for the daring adventure of 2014?

PS. The Starship closes to new members TOMORROW. Beam up here!

 

 

 

How a dream becomes doable

How a dream becomes doable

Now that you are swimming in beaming goals and dreams for the New Year and the holiday spirit is all packed up and put away…the moment of truth has come. How the heck are you going to make those dreams a reality? How are you going to get it all done? How is your day/week/month really, truly going to change to accommodate all the new plans?

The first step (and I know you know this!) is to break it down into do-able mini-goals. Something you can do or reach in 3 months that is measurable and map-able. The Map-Making Guide is my go-to way to break down a big goal into a bunch of smaller steps, do-able to-dos. (Elise has a great take on the difference between goals + to-dos here)

But even when you've made your whole map, plotted how to get from here to there….it's so tempting to stop. You have your big list, so you're all set! But well, that's not quite it.

You're not actually any closer until the to-do's get done.

And while I'd love to think I can fly down my list of to-do's in an orderly fashion…that never happens.Life gets in the way. Products have to be shipped, problems have to be solved, blog posts have to be written.

The only way to make sure the “extra” stuff get done (that stuff that moves you towards your bigger dreams, that's outside of your day to day work) is to make it a part of your normal day.

For most of the map-makers, this means Giving Your To Dos a Date. In the map-making guide we set lifelines (soft deadlines) for the stuff that has obvious dates associated with it, and then you move everything to a to-do list for the week. In other words, we're taking a big goal and taking it down to the exact week in which you'll take a step to get closer.

But then the question is: how do you get stuff done from the weekly level to the daily level?

I have a few things I do each week so I'm working on both my big goals (the map-made destinations) and the usual work of everyday life. This is what I used to write the book, get new wholesale yarn accounts and create my workshops.First, I set some intentions for the week.

What do I want to happen? What do I wish for?

And under each wish, I write:

How it might happen

My commitment to this wish

How I want to feel (or the qualities associated with this wish.)

Then, I make a big list of my projects (this might include movement towards a destination, or work for a client, or just blog posts), and include the to-dos under them.

 

On that list, I might assign a day of the week, or not.

And finally, I write my to-do list for the day. I make each day's list based on the weekly lists of project, going with what feels good and has my enthusiasm.

 

How do you move your big list of to-dos into your daily life?

PS. Before you plan your week, make sure your to-do list is moving you towards to your big, shiny dreams in a strategic way! Start with a map and then plan your week.

 

The Holiday Adventures

Every week is an Adventure..and this is round-up of the view, the links and the inspiration that made it special. You can see all the adventures here.

The View

Beau's new fave spot- the back of the couch, over my shoulder.

Four strips down, 7 to go! #quiltsbychristmas

And now... I have days of this ahead of me. #handquilting #quiltsbychristmas

Still life from a handquilting afternoon.

The finds

 

  • The Internet blew up over Instagram's new Terms of Service. Here's the scary way of looking at it…and here's the less-scary way of interpreting it (short version: YouTube + Twitter have nearly identical language). I'll be on Instagram for the near future, but I'm also on Flickr if you've moved there (with their new app, I'll be more involved in commenting, fo sho.)

 

 

  • This video is my favorite thing of the week, for thinking about how I want to work in the New Year.

 

 

And with that, I'm offline (except for welcoming new Starship Captains aboard) until the new year.

Speaking of, the Starship closes January 3rd. If you're curious, sign up here to learn more about who the Starship is for, and to get to know a few of the members. And if you're hoping to get my book or any support for your biz for a holiday gift? Here's a template for asking.

How to survive the holidays as a Biz Lady

“For the busy Biz Lady, the holiday season is a time of joy (Peppermint mochas! Decorations! Candle light!) and stress (Holiday orders! The post office!). Sanity can be hard to hold on to between filling orders, fulfilling family obligations and standing in the dreaded post office line.

But sanity and profit are possible. It starts with knowing yourself, your business and what you want from the season and then setting expectations (and plans) for yourself and your community.”

Read the rest of my post on DesignSponge.

 

And if you've read that post, you might like

If this is your first time here

Hi! So nice to have you! Get to know me and say hello here. Don't miss the free mini-lesson How To Be An Explorer of your Biz. And, well, start at the Start Here page if you'd like more!

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.

 

A flip through my Holiday planning

 

I can't tell you how tempted I am by December Daily. I love the idea of having holiday-specific books that can come out with each year's Christmas decorations. But with the weekly Project Life, I don't need a whole other scrapbook, ya know?

So instead, I updated my traditional holiday planning guide (I can't believe we've been using it  for 3 years!) with a scrapbook of recipes and decorations.

At the end of the season I'll have a compendium of what I wanted to do and what I actually do. This way, next year I stand a chance of remembering the decorations I wanted to make or the recipes I wanted to try (and which ones worked…or didn't).

To get started, I added in pictures from last year. When we put up this year's tree I'll add an extra page.

I also made notes of what I want to change or redo this year.

 

And I couldn't leave out our favorite ornament! (The Yay sticker comes with the kit.)

Of course, there's also business-y pages in the book:

 And the beloved Giant List of Doom:
Don't let that list scare you! The Guide is all about breaking it down into do-able to-dos and getting it done.
You can see that I altered the standard weekly list a bit, by adding a little right hand column that includes the ongoing stuff I want to do each week (blog, read, run)..and I also got smarter about adding stuff to the week, splitting it into work and play.

As the Holiday Sanity kits are filtering out into the rest of the world, I've just loved seeing how everyone uses it to plan the season.

Here's Amy's,

and Rebecca's List of Doom:

Everything you see in the above pictures (except for my own photos!) comes with the kit:

 

 

How do you organize this busy time of year?

Do you have your own system or are you using Holiday Sanity?

 

PS. $5 from every kit goes to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Thanks to your planning genius I was just able to make another donation, right before hitting publish! Woo!

 

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

Every week is an adventure…and this week was hot air balloons, quiet words, and stacks of books.  Past adventures can be explored here

The View

Epic game of Risk. #fallbreak
And then: the waterfalls.
And now, hiking the Appalachian. #fallbreak
Simpson's Clue. #fallbreak
Andre finds books snugglable

The Delights

  • I've been totally surprised by my very quite introduction of this. Just one tiny tweet (to a half-written page…it's still not finished!) and the response has been…delightful. If you're into it, jump on it.
  • Fitocracy. I'm not sure I can say anything more about this, but suddenly everything that seemed so un-Tara feels do-able + interesting. I blame it all on Lolly.
  • I could not be more excited about (and obsessed with getting everything just right for) the upcoming Holiday Sanity Kit (coming next week! Sign up here to make sure you don't miss it – there'll be a limited number) It's my first ever real-mail business-y goodness, and I'm having so much fun with it.
  • Quilting. Still. Spoonflower is having a Buy 1, Get 1 sale, so I'm finally going to order my first self-designed fabric!
  • I love hearing that I'm not the only one who procrastinates in order to savor an exciting project!
  • Too busy this holiday season with ORDERS to spend time marketing? Here's how to make it last, on Rena Tom for makers, and one for retailers on Vianza.

 

What was your week like? What were your adventures?


Two years ago (exactly!): Planning for non-planners
Three years ago: My photos – in a book!
Four years ago: Slowing

Holiday Sanity and Starships

When I tweeted a link to last year's free guide and was overwhelmed with thank you tweets and emails, I realized I needed to share it again:

It's a quick-to-use, silly little guide with handdrawn lists and goofy metaphors.

Yet, it works.
It helps you get a handle on what's coming next and it makes it all more do-able.

In the Starship, we're doing weekly check-ins on ho and I'm (again) surprised by how much just  a bit of planning + a dash of accountability can improve your experience of the holidays.

So much so, that I was starting to doubt closing the Starship until January.
Last night, after chatting with Starshippers, someone said “Once again, I'm surrounded by smart and understanding people” and there was a round of “yay starship!”s.
I realized: yes, it's easier for me to manage everyone's membership if I wait to reopen enrollment until January….but this is the time of year people need help. And community of like-minded friends. And encouragment.

Thus it's decided: the Starship is now open to new Cadets.

If you're feeling a little worn out, a little apprehensive about the oncoming rush of holiday sales, and holiday shopping, and holiday gift-making, the Starship is here for you:
Community, weekly check-ins, accountability partners, everything we can do to make the holidays sane.
Oh yeah, and access over $500 worth of classes + tools. For 13 months.

Come aboard here

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