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productivity

How to get back to work after a break

Now, I’m just back from time offline, and I’m following it up with family visits and the holidays, and it’s hard to get back to work, you know? I’ve found it’s very easy to slip back into just doing the daily grind, doing exactly what I was doing before… but motivation is a bit harder to replace. So how do you get back to work after taking time off? Listen to my tips at TaraSwiger.com/podcast135/

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The Starship, my online community for makers and artists who want to become their own business expert, is open right now. It has access to all of my classes, a 24/7 forum where you can ask your questions, a weekly live chat where we hold you gently accountable and give you immediate feedback, and an Accountability Partner Program, where you can be matched up with an accountability partner. Check it out here: https://taraswiger.com/starshipbiz

Now, I’m just back from time offline, and I’m following it up with family visits and the holidays, and it’s hard to get back to work, you know?

I’ve found it’s very easy to slip back into just doing the daily grind, doing exactly what I was doing before… but motivation is a bit harder to replace.

So how do you get back to work after taking time off?

Links mentioned in this episode:

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.

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How YOU Get Stuff Done

How do you actually get done the things you need to do for your business? Are you more likely to do something if you "owe" it to someone else, or if it's something you personally want to do? Or, maybe, do you rebel against the idea of a To Do list altogether? Learn more about your own tendency and how you can use it to get more done - including a FREE resource guide! - at TaraSwiger.com/podcast122/

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

How do you actually DO what you want to do in your business?

Do you need to understand WHY you're doing it?

Do you need to be held accountable?

Or do you rebel against anyone telling you to do anything (even when you really want to do it)?

This question fascinates me, because it's at the heart of why some people build their business quickly and others struggle along without ever taking much action. This has been such a popular topic that I thought we'd revisit it this week for the podcast. Make sure you read to the bottom in order to get your FREE guide to getting stuff done for Questioners, Obligers, & Rebels!

When I talk to makers and artists who are frustrated that their business hasn't grown, it's very rare that they have NO idea what they should do. Instead, it's that they aren't taking the actions they feel they need to take, they aren't doing what they want to do.

The best explanation I've ever found for WHY some people struggle to get stuff done, is in Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before (it's all about habit change, and working on your business really is about habits). She defines the Four Tendencies, as a reason for why some people get stuff done (or change their habits, or work on their biz) and others don't.

I've talked about this before on the podcast (listen in here), but this comes up so often, I wanted to revisit it.

According to Gretchen (and backed up by my own experience working with hundreds of makers and artists), we react to expectations (ie, people telling us to do something), in one of four ways. The way you react to expectations tends to be consistent across your life.

Upholders:

These people do everything that's expected of them, easily. They both meet external expectations (other people telling you what you should do) and internal expectations (things YOU want to do). I have met very few Upholders, and I think it's because they don't seek out biz support – once they know what to do, they just do it.

Questioners:

These people (uh, myself included) don't care to meet external expectations unless they understand WHY. But they have an easy time meeting internal expectations… if those expectations are built on understanding the rationale behind them. In other words, we questioners can do anything if we can turn it from external expectation (you telling me to do something) into an internal expectation (I understand why, and now WANT to do it, because it makes logical sense to me).
These people need to know WHY they are doing anything in their business (“because experts say so” isn't enough). Because I'm a Questioner, I create all of my classes and books for Questioners – I don't tell you what to do, I tell you why something will benefit your biz, then I give you a bunch of questions related to your business, so you can see how to do it in your OWN way. This is why I've built the Starship experience to start with you getting clear on your goals and your path – so that you decide what you want to learn and what you want to do next, and feel motivated to do the work because you can see how it fits into the bigger picture.(According my unscientific study, about 1/3 of the Starship members are Questioners)

Obligers:

These people (maybe you?) have a pretty easy time fulfilling external expectations (if someone asks you to do something, you will), but have a tough time fulfilling internal expectations (say, working on your business, just because you want to). In fact you may fill your days doing things others care about more. So you feel frustrated that you never seem to make the time to work on what matters to YOU. Ugh, this is frustrating.

The solution?
Get someone to ask you about what you really care about.
In other words, externalize those internal expectations.
You can do this with a group (like the Starship), where you tell us your goal and then check in as you work through it (this is why we have the weekly live check-in and forums) or with a single person (an accountability partner). After learning that about 2/3 of the Starship members were Obligers, I upped our accountability-providing, by creating the Accountability Partner Program – you just fill out a short form, and I match you with a partner. The two of you work together to decide when to check-in and then you simply tell the person: This is what I'm working on, I'm going to be done with it by X date. That, alone, can suddenly make you feel like you “owe” someone and so you work harder on your business!

Rebels:

These people tend to feel constrained by any kind of expectation. They tell me (we have a handful in the Starship) that “As soon as I write something down, like a goal or to do list, I suddenly do NOT want to do it.” In fact, creating a schedule or a must-do list is going to ensure that a Rebel never does anything.

The solution?
I'll be honest, I have been thinking about this for over a year and quizzing any rebels I meet. Gretchen doesn't offer any solution in her book, and I had a hard time coming up with one. Joeli is a self-described Rebel who has made MASSIVE momentum in the last year of her Starship membership (you can get her full story if you sign up here) and she says what works best is making a big list and then picking, each day, what feels fun (instead of telling yourself you HAVE to do something that day), and setting goals that are more about paying attention and learning, than about measuring. (For example, set a goal of “noticing what already works in my business.”) In other words, for Rebels, taking the pressure OFF is often a good motivator for working harder (but if you already feel bad about how little you get done, this might feel REALLY scary). This is why we focus, in the Starship, on finding what works for YOU and giving yourself permission to not do what other people tell you “have” to do.

So how do you get stuff done?

I hope you see that the answer lies not in forcing yourself to work in ONE way, but in finding what works best for you. No one of the above is better than the others (although I think we all secretly wish we could be Upholders!) – the key to productivity is acknowledging your tendency and then setting up your work day and expectations in a way that works for you.

If you think that more accountability, question-answering and a community of encouragers would help you in your business, check out the Starship – it's opening next week! 

Sign up below to get a FREE guide to go with this episode!

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.

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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.

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An Important Distinction: Tasks vs. Projects

taskvsproject

Ever since I started preparing for my class on getting more done, I’ve been obsessed with what holds people back from doing what they want to do, or feeling good about their workday.

One of the biggest frustrations people have is that they just can't seem to get through their To Do list, no matter how hard they seem to focus.

After hearing this again and again, and looking close at what they actually PUT on their To Do list, I think I've discovered the problem:

There is a difference between tasks and projects.

A BIG DIFFERENCE.

It’s the difference between you feeling awesome and you feeling awful.

I go into detail about that distinction in my class, but I want to make sure you *get* it.  No matter what system or process you use, you need to distinguish between a Project and a Task.  

 

The difference between Tasks and Projects:

A task is a single thing that you can do in one session. A task might be labeling your products or making a single item.
A project is bigger and includes multiple tasks. It might be designing and printing new labels, or making enough items for a craft show.
(Answering a few emails: a task. Getting to Inbox Zero from Inbox Million: a project)

 

This is where a lot of people get overwhelmed. They try to work on big projects, without breaking them down into tasks. And for some people, this works. They don't have to think through breaking it down, their brain does it automatically. But for many makers and creatives, you can only see the big project and try to tackle it all at once. This is a recipe for overwhelm and feeling bad about your workday.

The solution: Just recognize the distinction!

Look at your list right now – is it full of projects?

Take a minute and break each project into its tasks!

P.S. If you want to be sure that you're breaking down the most important projects (the ones that will move you towards your bigger goal) into tasks, and that you actually DO all the tasks, check out the Map Making Guide. It walks you through this process, and includes an e-course, so you're prompted to work towards it, a bit at a time, over the course of a week.

Get More Done: a sneak peak at the CreativeLive class

getmoredone

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If you are listening to this episode as it’s released, on August 19th 2015 – first of all, thank you! You’re awesome. Secondly, if it’s between 9am and 4pm PST, go to CreativeLIVE.com right now and click “watch live!” and you’ll be able to watch me teach! Live!

If you’re not listening RIGHT at that moment, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at what I’m teaching, so that you can start to have a more productive day RIGHT NOW. If you like what you hear, you can purchase the class here and get anytime access to over 5 hours of videos, the full 20+ page workbook, and a discount to Lift Off!

Imagine that it’s the end of your workday. You close your computer, walk away from your sewing machine, put away your supplies. You take a moment to look back at what you just got done. Instead of feeling frustration, or that it’s never enough, you feel calm. You feel GOOD. You’re proud of what you got done, and you know that it matters – that it is moving you, bit by bit, towards your goal.

That is what I want for you, and that is the aim of this class. So that soon, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, you’ll get done working, and you’ll feel GOOD.

In this episode I share the Three Keys to Getting More Done. 

 

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

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FOCUS: How to get it and keep it

Focus

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Distracted by the internet? Find it impossible to focus? You are not alone.

Today I share 3 of my best tips to get focused on your work, avoid distractions, and keep your focus until you get a project done. This is vital for productivity and making progress in your business and so many of us struggle with it. If you'd like to learn more about getting stuff done, join my upcoming class with CreativeLIVE. It's totally free to watch live on August 19th, and you can sign up for reminders (and get a cool Holiday Sales Forecasting Calculator) here.

 

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

 

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How to get stuff done – part 2

How to get stuff done part 2

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How do you actually get your list of things done?  It’s a balance of knowing what to do and finding the time to do it. This is the third piece of the How to Get Stuff Done series. Find Part 1 here and How I Get Stuff Done here. In this episode, we'll discuss how to find and implement a system and routine that will work for you.

We cover: 

  • The two different kinds of “working time” you need to plan for.
  • My favorite tool for improving focus.
  • How to make each working session productive and efficient.

Want guidance and worksheets so that you'll finally actually make a system that works for you? Join us for Wrangle Your Time, where you'll learn how to put together a system that works for you.

Resources 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.

 

 

How I get things done

How I get things done

 This is the second piece of the How to Get Stuff Done series. Find Part 1 here and tomorrow's podcast episode will be the final piece: How to build your own system for getting stuff done. 

 

Warning:  I am diving deep into how exactly I get things done – from producing a podcast every week to writing my book to creating 18 hours worth of class material. I'm sharing this as an example of how a system can work but please remember that you'll need to find the system that works best for you and your particular tasks.

If you need to make your own system, join us for Wrangle Your Time, where you'll learn how to put together a system that works for you.

Although it doesn't always feel like it, I get a lot done.

There are the every-week projects: this blog post, podcast episode, free lessons for subscribers, a new lesson for the Starship, answering questions in the Starship forums, holding the weekly Starship live chat, and working with 2-3 clients a week.
There are the quarterly projects: Opening the Starship, welcoming in members, writing new content for the launch, doing my own quarterly planning and taxes.
And then there are the one-time projects, (writing a new class, teaching live, writing articles for magazines, giving interviews) and my bigger goals that require me to work on something long-term (like a book proposal or creating everything (whew!) for Lift Off).
And then there's email. I have planning and project-detail emails from Jess, session notes from clients, questions from potential customers (“Is this for me?”), and compliments from readers and listeners (thanks!). I read and reply to absolutely every question or concern or even my-life-is-falling-apart email I get from readers, listeners and students.

I listed this because before I can share how I get things done, we have to talk about the different kinds of productivity I need. I need regular routines for getting the weekly stuff done and I need a separate, set-aside time to work on one-time requests and projects. I need internal-thinking time for writing (usually at the coffee shop) and quiet-house time for talking to clients (usually at home).

Above all, I need to NOT keep all these things in my head. When I don't have some way to write them all down and not lose them, or when I don't trust my system … I go crazy. My head swims. I can't sleep. I get swirly. (Swirly is when you just go over and over the same thing until everything is doom.)

How I remember everything I need to do

Here's what I did for the last 5 years of self-employment:
I keep everthing in a moleskine journal that fits in my purse. When someone recommends a book, I write it down. When I remember a project, I write it down. When I have an idea, I write it down.
Each Monday, I made a “This Week” list. I'd write down my weekly stuff plus all of the one-offs that are particular to this week. I'd look at all my ongoing projects and write down the tasks I wanted to get done this week to make progress. I'd go back through the last week in my journal and add anything to the list that I didn't get done, or that I wanted to remember. I'd check my calendar (Jess books client sessions and adds them to my calendar) and write down anything that's coming up (I keep all time-bound appointments in my google calendar, so it syncs on my phone and computer, but I also write them on my list so I remember to allow time for them). This fit on one piece of paper. 

Each weekday, I'd look at the This Week list and write a list for today. I'd write down just the things I could get done today. In general, I worked on the weekly things on Monday or Tuesday (if at all possible), so that I can work on the bigger projects or one-offs later in the week, with a bigger chunk of uninterrupted time. This also ensures they always get done, and I stay consistent in my online connection. (Here's how I stay consistent with my social media presence.) If a day had a lot of tasks, I'd number the most important, so I remembered to focus on them.

The above system isn't that different from a Bullet Journal (which so many Starship Captains LOVE), except that I'm prioritizing daily, based on what's going on.

I've recently changed this system a bit, and here's what I do now:
If I have my phone near me, I put every To Do in OmniFocus. From adding a book to my To Read list, to remembering to mail letters, to writing this weekly post, I put it all in OmniFocus the moment I think of it. If I'm with someone else or my phone isn't nearby, I write it in my journal and add it to OmniFocus the next day.

Once a day, usually at the end of my workday before I start dinner, I go through the newly-added tasks and assign them “contexts”. Thanks to Sarah, I think of Contexts as the description of what state I'm going to be in when I work on the task.

I use:

  • Home (little things around the house),
  • Errands (when I'm out),
  • Big Rocks (the tasks that will move my most important projects forward),
  • Consistency (the things I do each week or month or quarter, I've set them to repeat automatically, so I add them once and they come back when I need to work on them),
  • Quick and Painless (tiny things like “Finish filling out invoice”).

Contexts are harder to explain than they are to implement – I use them to ensure I'm working on the important things and that I know what I could do when I have a moment (other than scroll through Instagram for the 10000th time). While I'm going through them, I also apply a due date, if I want to be sure and do it by a certain date. Things with a due date (even if I made it up!) are FAR more likely to actually get done!

Each Monday I still make a This Week list in my journal by looking at what's coming up.  I make sure that each piece of each project for the week is in OmniFocus, with a due date. This isn't really necessary, except that I find it clarifying to see everything I'm doing in a week in one place and it gives me a shape for my week. (For example, last week I had a live workshop on Monday that involved a total of 4 hours driving, and then had 2 clients sessions and a vet visit on Tuesday, so I knew I wouldn't do my normal writing days, so I'd need to write on Wednesday and Thursday.)

Each day, I look at my OmniFocus list for the day and pick the 3 Most Important Things for the day (learned this from ZenHabits). If I get nothing else done, I really need to do these. This helps me focus on what's important and it keeps me from getting distracted by the internet. As soon as those 3 MITs are done (sometimes it's done in an hour, sometimes they take all day), I check out my OmniFocus list for the day and start going down it, occasionally taking a break with a Quick and Painless task. (Today it was ordering protein powder from Amazon.)

That is how I remember to do everything, and remembering (and prioritizing) is half the battle when it comes to getting stuff done.

Actually DOING the things.

The most important piece to doing stuff is to HAVE A TIME to do it. Nothing will get done unless you set aside the time for it.


Side note: I cannot believe how many makers I've helped completely change their business growth by just doing one thing: Setting aside time for work. If you don't have a time set, do it. It will change your life. It doesn't matter if you have 1 hour a week or 8 hours a day, just set it aside and keep it sacred.


I work 4-5 weekdays (never on a weekend unless I'm traveling and teaching) from 9ish to 4ish. Before “work”, I take the dogs on a long walk, workout, shower, have breakfast, meditate/pray, set my intention for the day (pick my 3 MITs) and maybe read. I try very hard to only turn on the internet after all this, which ends up being between 9 and 10 am.
I have two main ways I think of my working time: Writing Time + Project Blocks. In between these are emails and quick tasks. Writing Time is mostly for the things I do every day or every week (writing free content) and Project Blocks are for doing one-off projects and making progress on my Big Goals.

Writing Time
I try to make my working time as much of a habit as possible, so I always sit down to write first (I try SO HARD to not check email before my writing time). If it's early in the week, I work on the Routine Writing. If the Routine Writing is done for the week (usually by Wednesday), I write on my bigger projects (paid writing gigs, guest posts, or my Big Goal project). I make sure to write first thing because this is when my brain is freshest. After I get to 1,000 words or have finished what I was writing, I stop writing and head to my email.

Email
When I check email, I catch up on it (remember, I use Unroll.me to keep all of my subscriptions in one place, so the only emails in my inbox are ones I need to take action on). I try very hard to just handle what's there, reply when needed, and file everything else. If the email is a reminder to do some specific action, I add it to my list and archive the email (so I can find it later if I need it, but so that my inbox does not become a To Do list in competition with my own To Do list).

Project Time
After email, it's Project Time. Often this involves client sessions, catching up on the Starship forum (I read every post there and answer any questions), editing what I wrote, planning my content calendar, creating a class, updating the site, researching, or scheduling social media. I try to have at least two or three Pomodoro sessions without email or distractions for Project Time.

Reality
Now the fact is that almost no week is “normal”. I teach classes all over North Carolina, which often involves a good bit of travel time. I occasionally have client sessions earlier in the day. If the Starship is Boarding, I'm in my inbox constantly – personally welcoming every new member as soon as they pay. Each quarter I set aside a whole day to plan the coming three months.
But thinking of my time in these two categories helps me be sure my week is balanced and I'm getting both time to write the consistent stuff and to work on the bigger projects. Before I started partitioning my time up like this, my weekly writing and emails were taking over every workday, ensuring I didn't get much done towards the bigger projects.

When it comes to actually focusing during the work time, I've got a few hacks:

  1. I find the most important thing for this very moment and either write it down or if it's already written down, I circle it, star it or do whatever it takes to say to my brain: work exclusively on this.
  2.  If I find myself getting distracted (ex, the other day I suddenly really needed to look up this song), I set my Pomodoro timer and do nothing else during the next 25 minutes.
  3.  I play music in my earbuds constantly. Embarrassingly pop-y, shallow music. It's important that it has a driving beat (I type to the beat) and that I can bop my head to it and that I already know all the words. This is my best list, but right now (as I write this) I'm listening to Spotify's Throwback Thursday list. This is vital to my productivity because it keeps my chattering brain busy so my think-y brain can think and write. (Jay likes to listen to sports radio while he works because his chattering brain likes words.)
  4. I close all other tabs (If I'm leaving a tab open because I want to read something, I save it to Pocket.). I write in 750words, because it's just blank and I love to see my word count.

And that's it!

I'd love to hear from you – how do you get stuff done?

 

How to get stuff done, Part 1

How to Get Stuff Done 1

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UPDATE: In this episode I mention Wrangle Your Time, which is now available as Get More Done. 

Once you've made your New Year plans and you've boiled your goal down into an actionable plan with the Map Making Guide … how do you actually get your list of things done?  It's a balance of knowing what to do and finding the time to do it. In this mini-series, we'll discuss the principles of being productive (in this episode), followed by a post (about my own systems and routines, and ending with a podcast episode on how to find and implement a system and routine that will work for you.

If you need to make your own system, join us for Get More Done, where you'll learn how to put together a system that works for you. 

In this episode: 

  • How to do  what you want to do and reach your goals.
  • How to stay motivated
  • Choosing the most impactful actions to take

Links mentioned: 

How to listen

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Don't miss the 2nd part of this series – How to Get More Done, part 2!

 

 

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