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Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

Exercise Your “Done” Muscle

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

 

Recently I chatted with my client Bethany about her problems getting things done. She seemed to make little progress on what she said her goals were. She would start a project then get distracted by something else. Or she would start a project, then think another project sounded more exciting and she would shift her focus. And, often she ended up caught because she missed deadlines. Then she felt worse because she let people other than herself down.

As we talked about this, we hit on a number of reasons that were at play: procrastination; the need to be perfect; distractions by other things, aka Bright Shiny Object Syndrome; failure to prioritize. You may have others.

So how can you get the right things done? Here are nine tips for exercising what I call your “done” muscle.

1. Get clear about what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Once you have clarity around your goals and/or a particular project, it is much easier to move forward. As you work, keep your eye on the prize. This will help you make progress.

2. Break your project down into manageable tasks. When you look at a goal or a specific project, it can seem overwhelming. If you can break it down into bite-size pieces, it is always easier to see how you can accomplish it.

Read more…

Grow Your Business With a Business Journal

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Business Journal

 

One of my favorite practices as a creative arts entrepreneur is to keep a business journal. As the leader of your business, you have so many hats to juggle that it helps to have a place to track those ideas. It also helps you make decisions about where to grow your business and yourself.

I find that my clients who keep a business journal, find it extremely valuable, a real difference-maker in their businesses. This is true regardless if journaling is done in a pretty book, on an iPad, or with our weekly Success and Strategy Summit tool.

Have you been putting off journaling for your business? Here are six reasons why you should start:

Read more…

7 Steps for Success After a Workshop

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Creative Arts workshop success

Last week a wonderful group of creative arts professionals from across North America joined me for our annual Creative Arts Business Summit. They spent three days working on, rather than in, their businesses. They learned new social media strategies, ideas for improving SEO, and how to manage a booth at a retail or trade show. By the end of the three days, they all left with a revenue plan for the year as well as a 90-day plan to move forward.

When was the last time you attended a workshop, returned excited only to get stuck with what to do first? I know it has happened to me. So much on my list and a sense of overwhelm happens. How do you figure out where to start? Here are some thoughts that will work whether it is a business workshop or an art workshop.

1. Make a list of the top five ideas you got. This could be to update your Facebook page or to add a new technique to your tool box. Pay attention to those that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line or business growth. Once you accomplish these five, you can always go back to your notes.

2. Prioritize the ideas/strategies and set deadlines. You need to determine when all the tasks/to-dos need to be done for the goal you set to be completed. For example, if your idea revolves around a trade show that takes place in four months, you can create a schedule backwards showing when display materials and class materials need to be shipped. Do not forget to build in a little extra time. And, you might find out that not everything on your list will get done, so focus first on those activities that have the greatest impact on your business results.

3. Make a daily schedule. Take time either first thing in the morning or the night before to plan your day. Then take daily action toward your goals. How you work toward your goals will vary. You may like to work on one project to completion or divide your day into large blocks for different tasks.

4. Create and use systems if possible. If your idea is to finally start to send out a newsletter, look for ways to systematize it with an online mailing system and to post it in social media automatically.

5. Not everything on your list will get done. Remember the 80/20 rule. Twenty percent of your activity results in 80 percent of your results. Concentrate on work in the 80 percent; that is where your ROI (return on investment) will be.

6. In addition to picking your top five ideas, also identify five people with whom you will want to connect with going forward. These people will help you stay accountable and keep progressing.

7. And, finally, let go of perfectionism. This is a hard one for me. One of my mentors says to work to “good enough.” It might be that you set a timer for some of the tasks and what you accomplish in that time is “good enough.”

Bonus tip: One of my favorite resources for getting things done is Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. The book’s title references a quote from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Brian goes on to offer his own two rules about “frogs,” your most important task. “The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. The second rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.” So when I have lots on my plate, I look for the frog and start there.

How do you handle all your big ideas when you get back from a workshop? You may have some tips or entertaining analogies of your own. If so, I would love to hear your thoughts, questions or suggestions. Share it below or on our ICAP Facebook or Google+ pages.

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WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE?

Please do! Just use it in its entirety and be sure to include the blurb below:

Morna McEver is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals where creative arts entrepreneurs craft business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at http://www.creativeartsprofessional.com.

 

WANT TO SEE MORE ARTICLE LIKE THIS?

See the ICAP blog at http://www.creativeartsprofessionals.com/weblog/

 

 

 

Where’s your third place?

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

ICAP community

Yesterday I went to the post office to pick up some Priority Mail envelopes and drop off a certified letter. In Laytonsville, population 353 at the last census, the post office is the center of the town activities and full of activity. I always see someone I know. Yesterday it was my dentist. I can meet new people, as I did yesterday when I learned about a local dog trainer. And I can find resources on the bulletin board. I left with two cards and a name of a third repair person I could call about some equipment that needs work.

I remember when I lived other places that there was always a place where locals congregated and you could learn all the news. When I lived in Connecticut, it was Luke’s Donut Shop. At our home in Saint Michaels, my husband would tell you it’s the local YMCA.

What is a “third place”? It’s that place where people gather other than work or home and feel a place of community. I’m sure you can think of places you know of, whether that’s the fictional Cheers of TV fame or the local coffee shop.

According to Ray Oldenburg, an urban sociologist who wrote The Great Good Place and Celebrating the Third Place, all third places have the following eight characteristics: neutral ground, a leveler, conversation is the main activity here, assessable and accommodating, has a the regulars, maintains a low profile, has a playful mood, and home away for home. The idea is that people are free to speak their thoughts and opinions freely.

It is easy to see the coffee shop or the local book store as the “third place.” I think it’s also easy to think about the local quilt or creative arts shop as the “third place,” even though it doesn’t technically meet all the eight characteristics. I think it’s about a sense of belonging, and I think that all creative arts and quilt shops foster that. Think about your experience at the local quilt shop and what made you feel like you were part of a community.

If you own or manage a creative retail shop, what are you doing to create that third place community feeling? Here are some of the ideas from shops I know or frequent.

  • Be welcoming. When customers come into your shop, greet them. Ask them what project they are working on. Nothing makes you want to come back like feeling welcome on the first visit.
  • Have a space set up where customers can congregate to look at quilting or art books and/or share their projects. I used to love to go to Borders Bookstore when it existed because I could find a chair to sit and look at a book.
  • Create special events. Look at other businesses outside the industry to see how they create events that draw customers in and make them feel welcome. We are all looking for an experience, a shared experience, so look for ways to create experiences. Disney is a great example here. Another example: in September I went with my neighborhood book club to an annual book club party hosted by author Lisa Scottoline at her home in Pennsylvania.
  • Look for ways to create shared connections. A monthly stash buster club or fabric club is an idea here.
  • Consider a monthly show and tell for your customers. This encourages them to engage with others.
  • Set up a gallery in your shop and showcase different artists. Have an opening reception with a talk from the artists.
  • Serve food. I don’t know a quilter who doesn’t like a beverage and a cookie. In the winter have some hot cider and gingersnaps. In the summer, lemonade and sugar cookies. Some of you may remember a shop called Patchwork and Pies in New York that was owned by Clara Travis. I loved the image of stopping in the quilt shop and picking up a slice of pie.
  • Run a book club that focuses on a particular artist’s work or designs.
  • Host a monthly “sit and stitch.”
  • Think about ways that you can offer your space to other uses in your community, e.g., let the local knitting club meet there, or depending on the size of your town, even an association that needs space for a small meeting. It’s about encouraging community.

I’m sure you can come up with other ideas. Remember that in creating the experiences that lead to your third place, you don’t have to do them for free. I think you can create a sense of community with a bit of exclusivity with a small fee. And, remember that you are never done. Creating your third place is ongoing.

If you are a shop owner, what you are doing to create a “third place”? And, as shoppers, what makes you designate someplace your third place?

Ditch the “To Do” List!

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

 

Time blocking ICAP

 

 

Do you still use your “to-do” list and prioritize all the items on it? According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine by Kevin Kruse, millionaires do not make to-do lists. What they do instead is live by the calendar.

 

What is the problem with making a to-do list? According to what Kruse discovered after talking with more than 200 successful people, the to-do list does not consider the time involved in completing the tasks, so you do not complete what is on the list; it does not let you distinguish between the urgent and important; and not completing items adds to your stress.

 

If successful people do not make to-do lists, what do they do? They live and work from their calendars. Yes, they may make a list, but they schedule the time to complete the specific item on their calendar and adhere to it.

 

One of the most successful approaches to this is to use time blocking. This is something that I do and that most of my private clients do.  Time blocking is a method of allocating or pre-assigning time for specific activities throughout your day. It helps me keep my day and life more balanced. I accomplish more because I have structure to my day, I can focus on a specific task with a high value, and I am able to manage interruptions. I am the one in charge of my day. Here is how to do this:

 

1. Review your daily and weekly activities.

 

  • Can you determine how much time you spend on specific tasks? It might be helpful to track your time for a few days so you can see how much time you do spend on those activities. For example, do you check your e-mail every couple of hours and find that you spend at least 15 minutes each time answering them?
  • Do you have like tasks that are spread through out the week, e.g., teaching every day, working with new clients, or taking in new quilts to longarm? Can these tasks be handled on one or two days, so your energy focuses on one activity?
  • Do you have tasks that need attention that do not seem to get any? For example, dedicated marketing time is key for any business. Artists want to spend their time creating and often have trouble reconciling the need to spend so much time marketing. This task is often relegated to the leftover time when it needs to move to the front burner.
  • Do you have uninterrupted time for creative work? Even though we run creative-based businesses, the time should still be dedicated to the task.

 

2. Consider your short- and long-term goals.

 

  • Do you have a big project that needs to be completed? Start with a list of the tasks involved to complete it and estimate how much time is involved for each.

 

3. Consider your own personal work habits. When are you most effective? I’m a morning person, and I know I am more productive in the morning. For me this translates into activities that require brain-power earlier in the day.

 

4. Consider your life values and block time for them first. If you do not block time for your vacation, for your family, or exercise if these are important to you, they will get short shrift.

 

5. Armed with answers to those questions, get out your calendar and begin to block off time for your activities. What most of us do is set appointments with others and that’s what is on our calendar. We then fill our time with items on our goals or to-do list. This system lets you set an appointment with yourself for your work. Once you have shifted to an “appointment” mindset, it is often easier to accomplish tasks on your list. I like to start with the time that has to do with my life values and block that first. With your goals in mind, then put the important tasks first so you will accomplish them. If I do not block time for the key tasks, I can easily spend lots of time on simple tasks, like straightening art supplies or reading the latest quilt or art magazine or checking Facebook or Pinterest. These items don’t move my business forward in a significant way.

 

Here are some things you might like to time-block:

 

  • Quilt intake time on one or two afternoons or evenings a week, rather than spread out at odd times.
  • Time dedicated to longarm or production work
  • Creative time to design
  • Marketing time
  • Bookkeeping, if you don’t have outside help
  • Order fulfillment, if you don’t have outside help
  • Learning time
  • Time to work on blog posts and your communications with clients
  • Writing time if you are working on a book
  • Time to complete samples
  • Time to read and respond to emails (I know you will have times when you need to check for something particular. When that happens, just handle that one item and save the rest for the blocked time.)
  • Time to develop new classes
  • Breaks in your day (This can be crucial if you are standing or sitting at a machine most of your day.)

 

To give you an idea of how I time block my week, I have our ICAP member calls and coaching calls on Tuesdays rather than spaced throughout the week. I block Monday afternoons for work with my mastermind clients. I allot one block of several hours during the week on one day to work on my blog and ezine articles. When I am working on a new program, I block time during each day to work on that. It is a goal with many smaller tasks that need to be completed. I also block out time twice a day for e-mail, so I am not checking constantly. I have an hour each day blocked out for reading or learning something new I can apply to the business. I block out Wednesday afternoons for errands. Because I know that is the day for errands, I try to schedule doctor appointments during that time, and I have already scheduled my hair appointments through the end of the year. And, I block out time for family and self-care first so they do not get lost.

 

I am not rigid with the time blocking, and, of course, I have other appointments to put in. I may have a networking meeting that comes up or the opportunity to go to a gallery opening. Because I accomplish more by time blocking, I am freer to make adjustments.

 

In the end the reason I think this works is because when you pre-assign the time for a specific activity, you are more focused on getting it done. In a sense, you created a deadline for yourself. And by batching like tasks together in the same block (like the quilt intake sessions), you work more efficiently.

 

Let me know how time blocking works for you. Leave a reply below or leave a comment on the ICAP Facebook or Google+ pages.

 

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WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE OR WEB SITE?

Please do! Just use it in its entirety and be sure to include the blurb below:

Morna McEver is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals where creative arts entrepreneurs craft business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a FREE subscription at http://www.creativeartsprofessional.com.

 

WANT TO SEE MORE ARTICLE LIKE THIS?

See the ICAP blog at http://www.creativeartsprofessionals.com/weblog/

 

 

After the Show

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

aftershowDo you ever go to a trade show, an event or even a show and come back with lots of notes, papers and business cards? Well, I know the answer is yes to that one. What do you do when you get back to the office? Here are some tips to make it easier:

    1. This first tip makes it easier because you do something at the multi-day event rather than waiting until you return. At the end of each day, go back through your notes and mark the top three as far as action items are concerned. Be sure to do this every evening. At the end of the event or the next morning when you are back in the office, look at your list for each day, prioritize and then narrow the list down to five overall. What actions can you take in the next 30 days to move these ideas to implementation? Schedule it.

 

    1. What about the mass of business cards? Ideally you do this as you meet the person, but it is not always possible. I like to look at each card, try to remember the interaction and what next action is necessary. I will write this on the back of the card. It might be as simple as the person wanted to start getting your weekly newsletter. It may involve additional follow-up from you. Whatever is required, take care of it or schedule it.

 

  1. Onto the handouts. I know I come back with flyers for products. Ideally you go through them in the evening and toss what you do not want. I have found that I may not have time for that and they end up in a stack. When I get back in the office, I toss out what I do not need. I sort other materials into what needs more information and what needs action. Then I schedule time to do this.

What are your tips for dealing with events? I know that it is very easy to let the notes, cards and flyers just stack up in the corner without attending to them.

How Is Your Clutter Control?

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

small_4342382904I am really a very organized person. I know where to find what I need. I could say, “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” only that is not quite exactly true.

While I am organized and I know where everything is, I can become someone who is consumed by stacks of this and that. Yes, I know what is in the stacks, but all those stacks are robbing energy from me.

When the space is clearer, so is my mind. When my mind is clear, I will work better. I know this to be true. I also know that once I start working in a clear, clean, cutter-free environment, new opportunities show up for creativity and for business. Why would I not want this to happen?

Last month I decided I really needed to get back in control of my space, back in control of my energy, and I launched a clutter reducing plan. (I think the visit to the used book store where I couldn’t find my way was part of the incentive. I am making it fun for myself. I have got three days a week that will have clutter-reducing activities. They are Toss-Out Tuesday, Weed-Out Wednesday and Throw-Out Thursday. I really only have to schedule a little time each day to reduce what I am saving.

And, I have planned my rewards. In addition to a treat at the end of the de-clutter session, I purchased an orchid to keep on the quasi-desk I have behind my computer. It looks nice in its new space!

It is nice to have the files in a drawer, and fewer files in the drawer. I managed to get rid of quite a lot. I have boxes of books in the garage waiting for a friend to pick them up and deliver them to the Virginia Quilt Museum where they will be sold to support the museum. Old quilt magazines are set aside for another pickup. And, the recycle bin has been quite heavy on its weekly trip to the street. Why was I holding onto this? In some cases, I thought I might need the material in the future. (Wonder if I would remember where it was?) Some I felt guilty about having purchased and not used. Some were pretty projects that I wanted to make. Of course, I have not yet, so I tossed 90% of those, too. Not to mention my tastes have changed over the years.

Will you join me? As you pick a time to sort through what you have, ask yourself some questions. Why are you holding onto this? What happens if you toss it? Will you really even miss it?

Will you join me and make space for good energy in your business and life?

photo credit: Vanessa Penagos via photopin cc

Are You Working Out Your “Done” Muscles?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Done!A lot of us have problems getting things finished. Several reasons come to mind: procrastination, the need to be perfect, distractions by other things, failure to prioritize. Here are eight tips for exercising what I call your “done” muscle.

1. Get clear about what it is that you are trying to accomplish. Once you have clarity around your goals and/or a particular project, it is much easier to move forward. As you work, keep your eye on the prize. This will help you progress.

2. Break your project down into manageable tasks. When you look at a goal or a specific project, it can seem overwhelming. If you can break it down into bite-size pieces, it is always easier to see how you can accomplish it.

3. Look for where you need help. Just because you have a big project, does not mean that you need to do it all yourself. Remember, it is not necessary to know how to do everything, just what needs to be done.

4. Prioritize what needs to be done. This can apply to a specific project or your daily “to do” list. It is easy to look for the quick and uncomplicated things to do each day so you can check them off the list. The problem is you are not really accomplishing what you need to accomplish. What you should be doing is tackling those projects that move you towards completing your goal.

5. Consider the ROI. That’s Return on Investment. You can look at your tasks and see if time spent doing these tasks is worth your time. Maybe you should delegate the tasks or not even do them at all.

6. Finish what you start. Make that your goal. Really look around at how many people actually finish what they set out to do. Many people say they are going to do something and do not ever complete it.

7. Remember good enough is often good enough. Sometimes we spend so much time aiming for perfection that we don’t accomplish our goals.

8. Don’t over-think everything. As the Nike ad says, “Just do it.”

If you have a tip for exercising your “done” muscle, please share it on the blog.

About Those Magazines

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

magazinesAre you really going back to look at the magazines you have stacked in the corner of your bookshelf?

I know from where I speak. I used to have a huge stack of magazines, some read, some waiting to be read. Sure they had great designs in them. Problem was when I wanted to be inspired I had way too many magazines to look through.

So I didn’t.

How about you? What does your stack of unread magazines look like?

All those magazines just take up space in our environment and at the same time rob us of something we really need, like energy to do our work.

So what to do about that stack that you have that just keeps getting bigger? Here are some ideas:

  1. When the magazines first come in, take a quick look through the contents. Neatly tear out the ones you want to refer to again. Store the articles in a folder or binder.
  2. Create an inspiration journal and save particular designs in it.
  3. If you can’t bear to tear into the magazine or don’t have time to really read something, put a sticky note on the cover and mark the pages with content you need to read. After you’re finished, file the articles to save and toss the magazine
  4. Periodically go through the articles or patterns you’ve saved. You may find your tastes have changed. That’s what I noticed, and then I just tossed what I saved. No need to save what no longer interested me.

How about the influx of mail order catalogs? I start by removing the order form. Then as I go through the catalog, if something sparks my interest, I remove that page and paper clip it behind the order form. Once I’ve finished checking out the catalog, it goes into the recycle bin. I place my order as soon as I can so I can toss the extra papers. If I find I don’t order within a short time, I just toss the papers.

Here’s a quote to motivate you to eliminate.

“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” Bruce Lee

Start doing!

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

everythinggiraffeTake a look around your studio or home office. How much fabric and paint are lining your studio shelves? Or packed away because you ran out of room? How many books do you see? Do you house even more on your Kindle?

How much more do you think you need before you can start to create what your heart is calling you to create? I know all about hunting and gathering all the information you can. You think if you learn more, you will know more, and what you create will be even better. You think you are missing that one fabric that will make the difference in what you create, when all along what you need is right in front of you. If you take one more class, then you will have enough to really master that painting technique. And on, and on.

Problem is you don’t need all that. What you need is already right under your nose. The answers to your questions, the missing fabric, the skills, the knowledge; it’s all right there for the taking. You just need to put aside the desire for more and take advantage of what is right in front of you.

How do I know this? Easy. I have been there. I would order a book thinking it might have something I needed, or more appropriately, some bit of knowledge I lacked. Or I put off starting a project because I needed that perfect fabric. Obviously the exploding shelves weren’t enough.

I got in this mode last week when I was working on our new Business Building Program. Funny thing is I didn’t need anything. I just needed to make the decision to start.

So do you?

Stop the hunting and gathering?

Have a little bit of faith.

Sit down and start to create.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

 

 

 

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