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228: When you have too many ideas

Every creative person generates a million ideas. And if you have a creative business you need those ideas to keep your moving forward, but sometimes they can get overwhelming. Learn what to do when you have “too many” ideas at TaraSwiger.com/podcast228

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Have you found that whenever you're really busy and you do NOT have the time to work on something, you get a MILLION ideas for it?! I know! Me too!

So what do you do when you have too many ideas? How can keep from losing them? How can you keep creativity flowing? How can you be sure to choose the right one?

When I asked the Starship what topics they most wanted me to cover on the podcast, this came up over and over: What do I do when I have too many ideas?

First, know that you are not alone if you both have times of NO IDEAS AT ALL and ALL THE IDEAS, OMG! That's just a natural part of the cycle. Creativity and business is cyclical, you'll have times of planting, times of harvest, times of a totally fallow field (I grew up surrounded by cornfields in rural Ohio!). The important thing, the vital thing to keeping your creativity healthy and alive is to RESPECT the season you're in, don't try to push it. So when you have no ideas, just rest and get to work on the things you've already planned. When you have ALL the ideas, don't try to squash them down or ignore them.

Now, you can't always work on the ideas you have as soon as you have them! And some projects take a long time so even if you start right away, it's going to be a while before it's finished. So what do you do with all those ideas? You don't want to squash them, but you can't work on them?

The super simple, obvious answer is to WRITE THEM DOWN.

Ideally you're going to write them down in the same place every time, so you can find the list when you're out of ideas!

Here's a few things to keep in mind when writing your ideas down:

  • Put them where you'll find them again!
  • Look at what else you have coming up, and see if an idea fits in to your plan?
  • Does it have a deadline (like a Black Friday Deal idea)?  Does it need you to work on it by a certain time to make it happen?
  • Prioritize what you'll work on, based on what your current goal is, what makes sense for your business, and what you're enthusiastic about.
  • Keep going back to the same list and adding to it, all the time.
  • Review the list regularly! Ideally you'll do this when you're planning and thinking about your goal for the quarter and at the very least every 6 months. Maybe some of the ideas fit with your new goal, or maybe your goal is to implement an idea you still love.
  • Don't be precious about your ideas, you will have a million more. Cross out ideas you're not still excited about!

What I do:

  • If it can be done this week, write it down in my daily journal
  • If I’m not sure when to do it, I add it to a big list in my quarterly planning journal
  • If it has moving parts or a deadline, put it in Asana

That's pretty straight forward right? That's what I thought, so I was confused by the panic that this question seems to elicit in people and I wondered: Why does it upset people to have lots of ideas?

I have a few possible ideas:

  1. It's frustrating to be excited for something and not get to work on it right away. But trust yourself to come back to it, and then DO come back to it, and you'll build up that self-trust, you'll start to believe that you WILL get to what's important, and you'll start to feel less upset about it over time (I can tell you this is true from experience!)
  2. You worry about picking the RIGHT idea. You worry that if you have to pick between your ideas, you won't work on the right one.

I can understand that, but I have a secret for you that is going to totally change your life. Are you ready for it?

There is no right idea. There is no right answer.

I'm serious! If you have an idea for an Instagram Challenge you want to hold and you have an idea for a Black Friday Sale, you know what? Both ideas will go great. Both ideas are likely to grow your business! There isn't a RIGHT choice between the two – pick the one that either makes more sense for your current goal, your current ability and/or your current enthusiasm level. That's it!

One way to look at this is that there is no “right” answer, because no one knows the answer! You have to try it and see!

The other way to look at this is that EVERY answer is the right answer! Taking action, at all, in your business is better than NOT taking action. EVERYthing you do, if you pay attention and learn from both the successes and failures, is going to be progress.

Remember, there are very few things you need to do in your business. They are, in this order:
Have enough products in your shop (that are priced right)
Show up consistently, communicating with your community (where your buyers are)
Reach out to new audiences (like doing a craft show, getting in shops, etc)

Within those areas, you're going to have a goal or a focus – pick the idea that aligns with that current goal.

And above all, trust yourself!
You are going to have more ideas!
You are going to implement the really great ideas.
You are going to move forward.

Don't let too many ideas keep you from taking action. Take action, and you'll get more ideas.

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.

224: How I dramatically simplified my business

If you’ve been in business for awhile, it might be time to do a spring (or autumn) cleaning. Learn how I simplified my business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast224

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I dramatically simplified my business this summer. Today I'm going to share what I did and more importantly, how you can simplify your business in just a few questions (but a lot of heavy thinking).

As you know if you’ve been listening for awhile, we’re getting ready to become foster parents and one way we’re preparing is by getting very clear about what our priorities are.

Now, before you start worrying, my business is a big priority. Not only because it pays 100% of our bills, but because I LOVE IT. I love the podcast, I love helping you guys, and I love what I do.

But, over the 8 years since I started creating my courses and books, my site has just kept expanding and expanding and I have kept added new stuff (something every 6 months or so!) without editing anything down and looking at it all in one go. So if you’ve been business in a while, your business might need a spring (or autumn) cleaning as well! I’ll share what I simplified my business into and will suggest some questions that can help you simplify if you need to.

My mission: Help women make empowering decisions in their income, their enthusiasm, and their emotional help.

First, I identified my favorite bits + my long term goals:

My mission means I really just want to do two things:

  • Helping people build businesses (Starship and mentoring through my doTERRA business)
  • Helping people take care of themselves via emotional wellness.

I most like to:

  • Write
  • Talk
  • Create community and culture that encourages support and friendliness.

Second, I got  clear on what are the BEST ways I can do those things:

(I did this with the help of Joeli, of JoeliCreates.com, who does 1:1 sessions if you need some clarity.)

  1. Podcasts allow me to communicate important, helpful stuff clearly
  2. Instagram gives me interaction and connection and allows me to provide daily bits of encouragement.
  3. My classes are MOST helpful when they build on each other, when you're focusing on what matters, as opposed to one-by-one, so I put them together in the Starship Program.
  4. Community is my favorite place to be and let's me go deeper with clients. I have the Starship Community to help makers and artists and students in the Program, and the Enthusiasm Builders community to help people who have wellness based businesses with doTERRA.
  5. I'm still working on the best way I can help people take care of themselves, via essential oils (ie, in-person classes, webinars, FB groups, etc). I'm measuring the impact, both in the moment and ongoing. So far in-person classes and video consultations are the best, but I'm still experimenting around this.

Third, I stripped all my offerings down to the work that does the two things I want to be doing (helping women build businesses, and take care of their emotional wellness):

  1. The podcasts encourage people, for free. Explore Your Enthusiasm helps you in your business, Take Care of Yourself does it in your self-care. So I do them and then have a system for sharing them (on iTunes, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram)
  2. You can get my classes and my help via group coaching inside the Starship (not open now), and that's it – you can't buy my classes separately anymore (because I'm stripping down to what's most effective)
  3. I don't sell books from my website anymore. My books are the easiest way to get started working on your goals or your marketing, but ME shipping them is the least effective way to get them to you. Amazon is super efficient.
  4. Only 1:1 consultations (which are free!) to help you make a daily plan for self-care and emotional wellness, using essential oils.
  5. Workshops and group coaching for people building a doterra business.

The even more boiled down version is this: I just do a few things now: Podcast, IG, consult with people about self-care and help people build businesses via group coaching – either in SS or for their doterra business.

Questions to ask yourself to simplify, re-calculate your path, or just get some clarity:

  • What is your mission? (Who are you here to help? How do you do that?) (Learn more about your Mission here)
  • What do you long term want to be doing?
  • What actions do you most like?
  • What are the specific ways you do that?
  • What are the most EFFECTIVE ways you do that?
  • What can you let go of to focus more that?
  • Is this guiding you towards where you want to go?

I hope these questions help you simplify your business and I hope you enjoy all that I’ve got here at TaraSwiger.com.

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.

221: Foundations of a healthy business: What you truly need to succeed

When you have a solid foundation in your business, anything is possible. Learn more about the very fundamentals of building a beautiful business at TaraSwiger.com/podcast221

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Where should you spend in your business? What actually matters for a profitable, thriving business? And how in the world do you get there? Today we’re going to discuss the foundations of a healthy business.

Today we’re going to talk about what really matters in your business. Now, these are the foundations, but this isn’t just for new business owners. In fact, if you’ve got your business together and you’re wondering how you can scale it, or make it more profitable, or make more sales, the answer is almost always in these foundations. But before we go into foundations, I want to remind you that Starship is open right now.

The Starship was just overhauled and GOOD NEWS, when you join, you are walked through these foundations, in a series of classes that serve as deep dives into your business. Over the course of three months, you’ll be guided with weekly lessons in these foundations, plus you’ll get access to our community, where you can ask your questions 24/7, our weekly check-in to hold you accountable, and monthly group coaching calls with me – where I will go deep on whatever your question is.

In the past, I’ve just given you access to the classes and told you “take what you need”, but I’ve learned over the last 6 years that the biggest transformation happens when work on your foundations in a specific order, and when you have access to ask your questions, when you’re held accountable and when you get coaching help as you go.

And now, when you’re done with the 3 month program, you can choose to stay inside the community at an affordable price. As I mentioned, we go through the foundations, but the Starship is for a business that’s set up – that knows what it sells and know how it will sell it. Maybe you don’t have sales yet, but you’re committed to this business and to doing the work to make it thrive.

Now, let’s talk about what those foundations actually ARE!

There's so much you *could* focus on, but there are a few areas where, if you focus, you can dramatically improve your results. They are:

  • Clarity of your own biz dreams (as opposed to what other people have or want)
  • Honesty about where you ARE
  • Breaking down the gap into goals, and the goals down into actions
  • Profitability (you gotta know your products will make money)
  • Marketing (someone's gotta buy your work – marketing is how you communicate with those buyers)

These can be split up into 4 main areas:

  • Mission and Mapping (everything from big-picture to this-month goals)
  • Profitability
  • Marketing
  • Effectiveness (not just doing things quickly, but doing the right things, and feeling good about your workday)

Here’s the good news: Just knowing that these are the areas that matter can help you defeat the “OMG WHAT DO I FOCUS ON” overwhelm. You can just come back to this list: Which area needs work? And then work on it!

(Not sure HOW to work on it? Or where to start with each area? This is what I teach in the Starship.)

What’s super cool is that these areas actually all build on each other – you can’t get a clear picture of your marketing if you don’t what your mission is and you don’t want to do marketing until you KNOW your item is profitable. And you can’t reach your number goals (which we talk about with profitability) unless you actually, ya know, share your work with the right people, using the right language.

In other words, working on ONE area is working on ALL areas. It’s like a fractal. Everything you do is reflected around your business. When you work on how you want to communicate with your people, you’ll see the same words and feelings show up in your Mission. Or… exponential:   working on one area improves that area (and often improves sales), then improves the other areas, which improves sales.

When I got really clear about my Mission – what I wanted to do in the lives and businesses of makers and artists, my marketing became so much more clear. From the words I use, to the topics I talk about, to the images I use. I suddenly know what to say, because I know what the end goal is; I know what I want my work to do in the person’s life. And that has improved my sales – it doubled within a year of getting ultra-clear!

So how about you? Which foundation of your business needs work right now?

As you think about that, you may feel really frustrated that you’ve wasted your time on other things, that you didn’t focus on the main foundations and instead got swept up in figuring out the perfect hashtag for your photo – that is ok! We all do it. We all read a blog post or listen to a podcast that is about a specific tactic and without asking “is this what matters to my biz right now?”, we dive into learning about it and trying to implement it.

A while ago a few friends started talking about  Facebook ads. So they’ve been talking about it in our group and I have to admit, even though I KNOW advertising isn’t where I want to spend my energy right now, it was tempting! It’s so tempting to work on something that’s outside of my strategy.

On the other hand, a lot of makers tell me that they’ve avoided thinking about ANY of this. They just make their thing, put it in their shop… and hope it turns into a business.

And you know what?

If that’s you, you’re not alone either. That is absolutely where to start. You haven’t done anything wrong if you haven’t started working on profitability or marketing yet. There is a tiny tiny percentage of artists who just make their work available and it all sells out. They don’t have to do any marketing and the numbers magically work out.

But those are the unicorns. And you may be a unicorn, but if you have big dreams for your business, I don’t want you to waste your precious life waiting around to find out.

Instead, I want you to do the work that makes your biz successful, so that you KNOW it will be. So that you don’t have to rely on outside circumstances, or being “discovered” or wait for someone else’s approval before you build the business you want.

And how do you do that?

You build each of your foundations. Here’s a few things that each foundation needs.

For the foundation of Mission and Mapping, you may need to:

  • Define your dream biz
  • Get clear on your Mission
  • Identify your assets and support
  • Choose a goal
  • Create a plan to reach that goal.

For Profitability, you may need to:

  • Know your numbers and how to get them.
  • Identify the profit margin for each item and your Break Even Point
  • Variables to experiment with

For Marketing, you may need to:

  • Improve how you talk about your work
  • Make it easier for strangers to find you
  • Look at how you build a relationship with potential customers
  • Identify how customers buy + make it easier for them
  • Work to keep customers happy and coming back

For Effectiveness, you may need to be:

  • Doing what matters each day
  • Keeping track of all your tasks
  • Streamlining all of your recurring tasks
  • Getting the level of accountability you need in order to get it all done

So which one of these, in your business, needs your focus? Which one of these matters MOST for you right now?

If you want to work through each one of these and discover everything I listed for each one, join us in the Starship, it’s open now and it closes in a week. Learn more at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz

In the new Starship, we cover every one of these foundations, and we explore your answers to these questions: What are your goals? Who are your people? What is your ideal workday like? And instead of feeling overwhelmed about figuring it all out at once, you work on each area, one at a time, over the course of three months.

And all along the way you have support, encouragement, group coaching with me, and accountability.

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.

220: How do you keep going when everything is GOOD?

It’s easy to find information about what to do when things are going wrong in your business, or when you’re striving towards your goals. But what happens when you’ve reached your goals and things are going well? Learn how to move your business forward even when things are going great at TaraSwiger.com/podcast220

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How do you keep going when everything is GOOD? Or FINE?

What if you met your goal, so you're not feeling super motivated? Or you've gotten excited about a new project? How do you keep your consistency on what's already going well?

Today's question comes from a Starship Captain who asked, “How do you stay focused on the parts of your business that are already going well, when you've got a new project you're excited about?”

I'm going to answer her question in a minute, but first I wanted to tell you that the Starship is what makes this podcast possible. I don't take advertisers and I don't spend a lot of time on this podcast selling my stuff because of the Starship. Also – the Starship gives me almost all of the topics I cover here – either the questions and conversations come up naturally, or I ask the Starship once a month: what do you want me to cover?

If you want to ask your questions and get them answered, the Starship is going to open next week! It has changed up a bit, so if you’d like to be the first to hear about the changes, sign up at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz!

Now let’s get to the question, when everything is great, how do you keep going?

How to keep going:

  1. Systematize everything.

You can systematize and streamline everything (so you have more time to focus on fun stuff!) by…

We talk a lot about this in the course on Taking a Break, we guide you through each step. The course is now only available in the Starship community, you can find out more about that when it opens, by signing up at taraswiger.com/starshipbiz

  1. Decide on the results and the effective minimum dose.

What do you really want to accomplish in the area that you’re not focusing on? What is the minimum you want from it? Being really clear and decisive on what you’re willing to accept from the area of your business but doesn’t have a lot of focus, is so important to your own peace of mind. It’s fine that not every area of your business is your main focus at a given time, but we often beat ourselves up later, once we see the results. So determine the results you’ll be ok with, and don’t fret if things decrease while you’re working on the new thing.

When you know the results that you want, experiment with what is the minimum effective dose of effort required. Answer the question: What do I need to do to get those results? It’s entirely possible you’re doing a lot of things you don’t need to do, to get the exact same results you’re getting. We often talk about doing more and trying more and adding more, but it can be even more effective to reduce what you’re doing, to do less.

The great news is, identifying the results you want and the minimum effective dose that it takes to get those results is SO helpful when you go through a period of time when you can’t work as much on your business – maybe your kids are home from school, maybe a parent is sick, maybe you’re about to have a baby. But knowing what it takes for your business to survive at the level it needs to survive can give you a lot of peace of mind and clarity when you need to step away from your business… or when you just want to go in a new direction or try a brand new thing.

  1. Get accountability

Even if you've been doing it for years, if you feel yourself start to slip, get accountability.

You can do this casually with a friend, or you can do this more officially inside a group like the Starship where we have weekly accountability check ends and accountability partners. But often, when people aren’t doing what they want to do, the easiest solution is just to build in some accountability. Get someone who is expecting them to do what they want to do, someone outside their own brain, who won’t accept any excuses.

I talked more about this is episode 73, how accountability can help you reach your goals

And about how accountability can help you be more productive in episode 122.

I want to end by giving you permission to follow your enthusiasm!

It will lead you in exciting new places and new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to let yourself out of your box and into something new!

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.

215: Goals vs Systems: How to reach your 2018 goal

There’s a big difference between setting your business goals, and achieving your goals. Learn the difference between goals and system and how to achieve your 2018 goals at TaraSwiger.com/podcast215

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You need a goal. And a system.

What if you don't need a goal to do what you need to do? Let's talk about what a goal is good at, and not good at, and get you ready for the rest of the year!

Welcome to the second half of 2018. This is the perfect time to look at the goals you set in January and be real with yourself. Are you truly working on them? Have you made progress? What do you need in order to work on them?

Today we're going to talk about what to do AFTER you set a goal…and we're going talk about some advanced-level stuff – maybe you don't need a goal at all.

A few weeks ago a Starship Captain said, “You know, I can't really think of a goal. I feel like my business is going in the right direction, if I just keep doing the work I know to do.”

YES! That is what it's all about!

See, a goal is not the POINT, a goal is just a tool to help you get what you want.

A goal should:

  • Inspire you to kickstart work you haven't done before (or get more consistent with the work)
  • Clarify the direction you want to go, so all your actions can line up to what you actually want
  • Make it obvious what you need to do and what you need to commit to, to make it happen.

This is why not reaching your goal is sometimes just as productive as reaching it. You can learn from a goal you don't reach. Maybe you learned that your timeline or expectations were wrong. Maybe you learn you don't actually want that goal. Maybe you learn you need a different business model, or you need to work on totally different projects.

The GOAL of a goal is to bring you that clarity, to help you learn the lessons in your business.

I wrote a whole book about, and lead people through the process, of setting a goal and breaking it down into a plan because I've found that having a set goal, and then working towards it, is the fastest way to learn from your business.

Setting a goal AND creating the plan makes you:

  • Get specific about what you need to do
  • Organize your time so you can do the stuff
  • Try stuff you might otherwise put off
  • Create systems so you can be consistent in all aspects: making, marketing, photography, shipping, etc

For MANY of the makers and artists and essential oil educators that I work with, setting a goal and then breaking it down into a doable plan is the first time they've gotten serious about their business. It's the first time they've really looked at what they even want, and what they're willing to do to get there.

Without a goal it's easy to just keep reading articles, researching, wondering why people aren't buying, and then go read another article. With a goal, you have to take action (or you realize you haven't been taking action!).

And here's the cool thing about all this – after a goal gets you taking action, getting organized, creating systems for getting things done…you don't always need a goal to keep going.

In fact, the system itself can keep you reaching your next goals.

In his book How to Fail at Anything, Scott Adams, writes that systems are better than goals. Systems of action, applied overtime, bring about better results that one of goals. When you don't reach a goal, you feel bummed, but when you're working a system – every day that you do the work, you can feel great and accomplished.

What's a system?

Posting on Instagram is a system. My podcast, with it's transcript and free downloads and blog posts and youtube videos and audio version on iTunes – that is a system. I don't have a goal to put out a podcast, I have a system that gets it out consistently

Now, I disagree with Scott, because I think he doesn't address a major issue in accomplishing anything – activation energy. Activation energy is the energy that it takes to START something. What I've found in working with hundreds of women in creating the business they want is that a big, exciting, motivating goal can help you over the hump of activation energy. It can inspire you to spend that energy and move forward powerfully and quickly. A system isn't that inspiring 🙂

But after you're over the activation energy, a system is what you need in order to keep moving forward. A system about when you work, what you work on, how things get done.

Today I'd like you to look at where you wanna go in your business and your goals for the rest of the year – where would a system help make it easier?

I made a worksheet last year about staying consistent that will help you spot these places for systems. You can get that worksheet  here:

Wanna get more consistent?

Enter your email and I'll send you a FREE workbook to develop your own consistency habit (and challenge).

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    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.

    My exact system for getting everything done

    howigeteverythingdone

    At the beginning of the year, I wrote a massive post  about how I got things done, which quickly became the second most popular post of the year (this is the most popular post). But a lot has changed during the last year. I got a new planner, I tried new apps, I hired another team member, (more about how to do that in last week's podcast!) and started using project management software.

    In preparation of my class on putting together your own system for Getting More Done, I wanted to share an update to my own system, along with alllllll the gory details of what I use and why.

    I'm going to break this up the same way we'll build your own system – by looking at the three parts vital to a system.

    Those three pieces are:

    1. Setting aside a specific time to work.
    2. Keeping track of what you need to do.
    3. Doing the work that matters.

    Now, before you dive in, please remember that my business is probably really different from yours. YOU need to build your own system, one that works for your business and your life. I'm going to help you do that in this class.

    My time to work

    I work M-F (never on the weekends.) When I'm not working, I try not to even check my email, unless we're in the middle of the Starship launch and I know I'll be getting time-sensitive questions.

    On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I usually work from the coffee shop, from around 10am-4pm. If I get started late, I work later. On Fridays, I often stop a bit early (2pm or so) and go start my weekend. These days are my time for writing – these weekly blog posts, guest posts, podcast episodes, new classes, magazine articles, a new book – and replying to emails and the Starship forums. On Wednesday at 2p, we have the weekly Starship chat.

    On Tuesday and Thursday, I usually work from home, so that I can do all the things I need quiet for – client sessions, podcast recording, class recording, interviews. I usually work from around 11am – 5pm (which is when Jay's out of the house, working at the comic shop). I used to try to start earlier…but we've got a tiny apartment, and I can't really get away from him, so I just enjoy our morning together. I let these days feel slightly less work-y – I stay in my PJs, I tend to put only 2-3 things on my list: hour-long client sessions on the phone wipe me out, and if I have 2 sessions…that's  all the thinking I have in me for the day; recording podcasts (and broadcasting and answering follow-up questions on Periscope) takes around 2-3 hours.

    As you can see, I don't work 40 hours a week. I've learned, through 6 years of self-employment, that I don't have 8 hours a day of uninterrupted focus in me (I don't know anyone who does – in most office jobs you spend a chunk of the day talking to your coworkers, futzing about online, and walking around getting more coffee. Or was that just me?).

    But here's the important factor: When I'm working, I'm working. I don't open my personal Facebook. I don't scroll through Instagram. I absolutely don't visit Pinterest or Amazon or play any games. This is my time for work, and I might get distracted replying to a customer email, or researching something, but I try to limit myself to truly work. In that way, my non-work time is 100% NOT work. I play games, read blogs, and endlessly scroll through Instagram and Pinterest in that not-working time.

    If I find myself incredibly distracted and I haven't gotten my 3 Most Important Things done for the day…I change something. I either stand up and walk around, change locations or just stop working for the day. There's no point in forcing myself to sit at the computer if I'm not getting work done.

    Knowing what to do

    All of the working time in the world doesn't matter if you don't know what you're spending that time on! I keep track of things a few different ways.

    Whenever I start any new project, I break it down into  it's individual to-dos. This includes every piece of content, every image, everything. I put these in Asana and assign the tasks to the appropriate team member and give it a due date. Some projects, like launching a new class, have a lot of pieces. Some, like writing my book proposal, have just a few tasks that are all “Write X chunk.”

    But new projects are just a tiny slice of what we do week in and week out. Most of what the team does repeats weekly or quarterly. So we have Asana projects that repeat!

    An example: the podcast episodes

    • I write it and share the transcript with Jess
    • I record the episode + upload it to Libsyn
    • I write the blog post that includes the description of the episode + schedule it
    • (If it's an interview, Jay edits it and uploads the edited audio to Libsyn)
    • Jess edits the transcript
    • Jay lays the transcript out
    • Jess links it on the Transcript Page
    • Jay makes the image for the blog post
    • Jess edits the blog post and pastes the MP3 link into the player software.
    • She schedules (using CoSchedule) the social media posts about it, using what I've written.

    That was actually more complicated for me to write out than it is in Asana. We figured out the steps, put them in Asana, and now everyone's tasks repeat each week on the same day. Repeating tasks cover 90% of what the team works on: podcasts, blog posts, the quarterly Starship boarding, regular review, editing and updating content regularly. I am responsible for setting the direction we’re going, conceiving and planning new projects, and writing and creating everything with my name on it. Jess serves as Project Manager for most projects, as she's the final editor and scheduler..so if any piece is missing, she checks in with the appropriate person. Jay’s the producer – he makes the graphics consistent, PDFs pretty, and the audio/video edited.

    When it comes time for me to start work, 99% of what I need to do is waiting for me in Asana, with the date I'm going to work on it. However, I do a few things to make everything more do-able for me. (As far as I know Jess and Jay just work directly out of Asana and go through their list and check it off. Because I've got to prioritize for the whole team, I need to do a bit more thinking before I dive into work.)

    Each Monday, before I start work, I open up my planner (I use Elise's Get To Workbook) and write down everything I need and want to get done this week. I'll look at Asana and add anything from there. I split it up by project, so I understand all the pieces of each product that need be done THIS week. Yes, most of it is in Asana, but I like having it organized in front of me, in my handwriting, so that I don't have to keep going online to check. The writing process also helps me remember anything I might have forgotten and really embeds this week's priorities in my head.

    Doing the Work that Matters:

    Once I'm tracking all the things that need to happen in my business, and I know what I need to do THIS week, I identify the three most important things I need to get done this week. This ensures that the most important things always gets done, even if something comes up (I get sick, a system melts down, whatever). It also gives me a filter for the week – I can always ask myself if I'm moving forward on the most important things. (I make sure that my goal for the quarter is always reflected in this step!)

    Once I have it all done, it's simple to figure out what to do each day. At the beginning of every work session, I write down everything I wanna do during that session, and then I pick out the 3 Most Important Things. I start FIRST on these things, then work on the other stuff.

    Yes, I am writing down each task a few times (it's in Asana, it's in my weekly list, it's in that day’s list)..but I'm not going for efficiency but effectiveness. The more I write it down, the more important I've made it, and the more likely I am to do it on the appropriate day or week. When I talk to my students about their to do list, the biggest complaint I hear is that they don't get it done because they never look at it. I've set up my system so I'm looking at the most relevant part of my list (what I need to do NEXT) every day.

    The other part is actually getting it done, and my system for just buckling down and working changes with the day. As I mentioned above, I'm sure to only be working when I work (no TV going, no podcast listening, no for-fun internet browsing) and when I'm done working I STOP (even if it's far before my usual quitting time, if I get finished with that days' tasks, I stop work!).

    That helps a LOT – knowing that I only need to focus (I only GET to focus on work!) for a very specific amount of time. But if I find myself distracted (or just avoid-y), there are a few things I try:

    • Close all tabs and turn off all notifications. I have 99% of the notifications on my phone turned off, but if I'm really distracted, I put it in airplane mode and close ANY open tab.
    • Get up and walk around, get water or coffee and stretch. This is like a reset button and it's the quickest way of interrupting a not-productive use of time.
    • Start my favorite playlist. (I write best to bouncy beats)
    • Start a pomodoro timer and commit to working on a MIT until it rings. If I'm working on something really stressful or I'm having a bad day, I promise myself that if I do at least ONE pomodoro session, I'm allowed to be done for the day. I usually get in the flow and don't want to stop then, but if I'm not, I stop and close up for the day. It's important not to try to trick myself, or else I'll never believe it next time, and I'll start taking breaks in my workday.

    (I have a theory that your productive self is like a puppy, or a toddler. You can't expect her to show up every day and work endlessly, without any fun. But you can ask her to focus for at least 20 minutes, with a break for fun. If you lie to her and never let her have a break, she'll revolt and will never show up when you need her. Taking physical breaks (dancing, listening to music, drinking something tasty) can reset her for another work session, but you can't just push her.)

     

    And that's it! That's how I get stuff done, from the project-planning down to the every-day habits that keep me productive!

     

    If you want to focus on only the work that matters in YOUR business, my FREE weekly planning sheet will help you do just that! Sign up below to download it!

    Get your FREE "Week at a Glance" planning sheet to help you prioritize your To Do list, focus only on what really matters, and Get More Done in your business! At TaraSwiger.com.

     

     

    How to get stuff done – part 2

    How to get stuff done part 2

    Play

    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 to Experiment: Tools + Systems

    The secret of epiphanies + clarity? Showing up with pen + paper everyday. (soy lattes don't hurt either)

    This week, I'm not really here. I'm in the Pacifica Northwest, admiring beaches, rocks and evergreens. And yet, I'm still here. I'm still experimenting every day.

    How?
    Systems! And Tools!

    Remember that Step #3 of creating an experiment is about gathering the support and tools you need?
    For my experiment (and life), I needed tools + systems that would help me collect my ideas (especially since they're multiplying daily), a time + space to write (and write extras), and a way to keep the blog going while I was gone. Here's what's working.

    Tools

    Evernote: I use Evernote for everything: words, pictures, voice memos. If I want to remember it, it goes in Evernote. I use it everywhere: I have Evernote Clipper on my browser, so I can clip quotes or links I want to remember, Evernote Web for a quick addition while I'm working on something else online, Evernote on my iPhone for ideas when I'm away from my computer. Basically, if it's got an internet connection, it's got Evernote (and I pay for Premium so I can see my notes when I'm offline, like when I'm flying!)

    WordPress: My blogging software lets me schedule posts ahead of time or keep them as drafts. All of the posts this week were written as drafts last week, then edited a bit and scheduled. I also use WP on my iPhone to do quick edits (but I don't love it), and I'm trying Blogsy on my iPad during this trip.

    Noon: coffee + Starship chat

    Journal: You've seen it before, it's by my side at every moment of anything. If I have an idea or even a sentence I like but I don't want to stop my writing flow and put it in Evernote (clicking away from a window can be detrimnetal!), I write it down. When I'm having a conversation with someone and I get an idea, I write it down. It just seems less rude to me to take handwritten notes then to pull out my phone and start typing while someone else is talking. I also use my journal to map things out visually or make connections that don't warrant a whole note.

    iPhone: Of course I use it for Evernote and WP, but I also use it as a camera, to take pictures with my iPhone of ANYTHING I see that I want to remember: book titles, a funny sign, something a business is doing right (or wrong). Oh, and I use the voice to text software all the time, to make notes while I'm driving.

    Focus Booster: Perfect for making sure I'm doing some writing, even on the busiest days. Just 20 minutes of writing per day adds up! (This post was written in 2 20-minute bursts) I like to leave the ticking sound on, it keeps me focused.

    Systems

    Catching ideas: This is absolutely the most important system. Without knowing what to write about, I can't write!

    (If you sit down at a blank page everyday, with only the plan “to write”, you will likely be staring for a long time. Knowing what to write about is 80% of the battle (in my highly scientific studies).

    Of course, you already know the tool I love for this is Evernote, and so the system is simple: Write EVERYTHING down. Don't count on memory, don't count of weird symbols. Write the idea out, as much as you have, as soon as you have it. Pull over the car if you have to (or turn it into a song until you can pull over the car.) Write out as much as you have, because you will not remember later.

    Writing + Publishing: I already spend most of days writing (whether it's for and to clients, or in the Starship, or materials new classes), but writing for the blog needed it's own space and support. No email, no classes, no client work. And it's not enough (for me) to just plan to do it, I have to have it fit into the flow of the whole day (or everything else will take it over.) What this looks like in practice is that almost every morning goes like this:

    • Get up, get ready, go to coffeeshop (so my house doesn't distract me)
    • Sit down with oatmeal, coffee and journal and get out anything that's in my head – usually a To Do list for the day, plus random stuff (ideas for new products, what I want to make for dinner….whatever is asking for attention, it gets out on paper so it'll leave me alone)
    • Check email for important, urgent notes from paying people (clients or Starship Captains), every other email waits for later.
    • Open Evernote to pick an idea (sometimes I have these schedule, sometimes I just go with the one I'm most excited about)
    • Start Focus Booster (for 20 minutes, followed by a 5 minute break)
    • Open up 750words and start writing. When the time goes off, copy my writing into a blog post (if it's nearly ready) or Evernote (if it's a bunch of scraps).
    • Get another cup of coffee, answer emails (or hang out on Twitter) during the 5 minute break.
    • Set time for either another 20 minutes, or just 9 minutes (depending on how many client calls or commitments I have scheduled) and edit the post so it's ready to post (either the post I wrote that day, or one from the day before), add photos, links, and schedule it RIGHT THEN. (Even if this takes me over the timer, it's important I finish it)

    And that's it. If it's a client-heavy day (Tuesdays) or a Starship filled day (Wednesdays) or if a client is doing something big (like releasing a new video, or going to a trade show), that might be the only personal writing I do all day, and I'm done with it by 10am. If it's a Monday or Thursday (Sacred Writing Days), I'll set the time for another 20 minutes later on and write posts for the future, or work on class materials. I write for clients, so Sacred Writing Days also include 20 minute chunks of writing for them.

    I've laid it all out here nice and neat but the fact is, life is messy.

    Some days a client email distracts me for an hour. The important thing isn't the time I write (but having a structure and a normal time is super helpful) but that no matter what, I write for 20 minutes everyday, 20 minutes that's prompted only by me. Not a Starship question, not a client project, just 20 minutes of writing what I've synthesized from all the other projects.

    Why? 

    Because building a business has to include building something of your own. Reacting to outside stimilus is tempting. It shows up and it begs for your attention. As long as you're looping through responding and reacting, you're not building something of your own, something will last beyond that email, or that one package. Whether your art is your writing, your designing, your drawing or your knitting, you have to have time to express what's in your own head, not what other people are asking for.

    And lest you think 20 minutes isn't enough, it's how I wrote the book in 6 months. No matter what your experiment is, it only needs (your equvilent of) 20 minutes.

    What are the tools and systems are supporting your experiments?

    Unfinished

    Last week I wrote (and thought) a lot about systems, in preparation for the class with Cairene. (That class is no longer available)

    After taking the class, I realized I've been ignoring one HUGE aspect of my systems:

    I'm not done yet.

    My systems are fallible.
    They have holes.
    I make mistakes.
    Last week I just completely skipped over someone's international order, and I didn't find the mistake for over a week. Fortunately, my people are awesome and she was incredibly understanding.
    But I was bummed.

    Of course, you know that I'm wonky (I have a whole manifesto!) , but this isn't just personal wonky-ness…this is something specific in my systems I can fix.

    There's no real point today,  I just wanted to share that things are still unfinished here. And systems are probably unfinished in your business.

    And that's ok.

    We're all learning as we go.
    And we're all in it together.

    If you have something frustratingly unfinished, why don't you share it in the comments and keep me company?

    Systems? What systems?

    Way back, when I first flirted with the idea of quitting my dayjob, all of my business mentors + friends said things like,

    “Make sure you have your systems in order, before you quit. Now's the time to work on that”

    And I thought,

    “Systems? What systems?”

    Systems = the things that you do when X happens.

    Building or having or fixing your systems is simply making those things-you-do make more sense for you. To make space for consistency and flow. It's about bringing consiousness to those systems, which lets you run a business and still live a life.

    But WHAT systems?

    What systems do I already have?
    What systems need work?

    Enough of this philosophy of systems stuff, it's time for the airing-of-the-systems.

    Systems  I like

    (I've worked on and have gotten mildly happy with them)

    • Post-sale  (email inviting customer to my newsletter, note in the package)
    • Shipping (weekly printing of labels, packaging everything (including note!))
    • Inventory (keeping enough unddyed wool that I can always be dyeing, dyeing enough wool so that I can always be spinning)
    • Bookkeeping (monthly downloading of Paypal info, organizing it into income + expenses)
    • Analyzing the numbers (monthly checking it all out, making notes on what worked (and didn't!))
    • Communicating with customers (regular newsletters, Yarn-Love Notes)

    Systems that still need work:

    • Production (keeping it all flowing, keeping a steady stream of new yarn coming out of my studio)
    • Listing (photographing, writing descriptions)
    • Other writing (articles, etc)
    • Rest (remembering to stop)

    What are the systems you're happy with?
    What are the systems you need to work on?

    Tell me in the comments!

    (And if you want to start working on your systems today, join me at 3pm. Get the details here)

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