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Posts Tagged ‘productivity’

Train Tracks and Getting Things Done

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018


One day recently I was stopped at a railroad bridge and started thinking about what we learned as kids about crossing the train tracks. Stop, look, and listen. Do you remember that?

The next morning I looked at the mountain of work on my desk – as well as those bright, shiny objects across the room – and wondered where I should start. I picked up the task on the top and started to work.

Shortly I became distracted and found myself on the way to the kitchen for another cup of tea.

Back to my desk. What was I working on?

Read more…

Slay the Social Media Dragon

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Do you ever get overwhelmed with social media? So many different platforms to choose from. And, regardless of the platform, they each seems to change all the time. And, when you are on social media, it seems like other people are posting all the time. And, you get frustrated trying to keep up with all this. It’s enough to feel like social media is a fire-breathing dragon.

If you want your business to grow and reach more people, you need to be on social media. That’s a given. However, it’s easy to slay that dragon if you follow some simple steps.

Step One – Consider your audience

The number of social media platforms seems to grow, only you do not need to be active on all of them. Your first step is to figure out where your peeps are hanging out. In all likelihood, they are on the platform you enjoy. So pick a platform, take time to learn how it works, and follow the remaining steps. Once you’ve got the first platform down, you may want to add a second. Remember you don’t need to be on all forms of social media to be successful. You do need to be on at least one.

Step Two – Create categories

If you look at what you post already, you’ll probably find that you could break that content into categories. Consider what you’ve been posting as well as what you want to post in the future.

Read more…

Taking Imperfect Action

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Words IMPERFECTIONAre you an action taker? Actually we are all action takers; what makes us different is when we take action. Do you take action when everything is perfect or do you take action even when it’s not? I know lots of people who wait for everything to be perfect. The website must be perfect before we announce we’re in business. The pattern covers must be perfect before we market the designs. Even as I was writing this, I got a call from a colleague who was asking about a program I was offering. She thought she wanted to offer something similar and had some questions. When I asked when she was planning to make the program available, she sidestepped the question because it wasn’t perfect yet. Perfectionism has its good points. It can also become a dead end.  Here are some things it can lead to:

1. Procrastination and/or indecision. If you need everything to be perfect, you wait for the best solution or the right time. You don’t want to miss it, so you wait and wait.

2. Missing the big picture because you are focusing on the details. It’s like missing the forest for all the trees.

3. Loss of creativity. I think this one is tied into procrastination, because you want perfect results so you put it off. You don’t have “failed creative efforts.” And, of course if you did, they could lead to growth. (Ironically, growth is one of the reasons people want to be perfect.)

4. Perfectionism in the extreme can lead to depression and alienation of relationships.

So how do you work on taking imperfect action? Here are some tips to try:

1. Be aware of why you are a perfectionist and recognize when it rears its head. Know whether it’s good perfectionism or obsessive perfectionism. I think that’s often half the battle.

2. Ask yourself, “What will happen if it’s not perfect?” or even, “What will happen if I don’t have to do it perfectly?”

3. Aim for good enough. I have two signs in my office. One says “Good enough is good enough.” The other says, “Progress, not perfection.” It’s not license to slack off, it’s license to finish.

4. Look at the big picture, i.e., look at the forest not the trees. Prioritize to figure out if all the trees, aka tasks, are necessary to fill in the big picture. If not, get rid of that tree.

5. Learn how to delegate. Once you do this and begin to have faith in other people’s abilities, it becomes easier to delegate. You don’t have to do it all to be perfect. And, it may not be perfect to your way of thinking, but it will be done.

6. Just once, set a goal to do something poorly. What a concept! This is really freeing. Imagine being perfectly imperfect!

7. Celebrate. My clients know I like to have a weekly Success and Strategies Summit. If you’ve managed to let go of some of your perfectionist tendencies, celebrate it as a success.

I love quotes and searched for the perfect (!) quote on perfectionism. In the end, I decided to share the words from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, from her book Bird by Bird:

Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism,
while messes are the artist’s true friend.

So today or tomorrow, please take one imperfect action and share it below.


– – – – – – – – – –
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




See the ICAP blog at



Add a Support Team to Boost Your Success

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I started this series on the S’s in Success three weeks ago. The first “S” was for Self and the second was for Systems. The last “S” I call Support. You can’t build a successful business without support.

At some point in the growth of your business, you realize that you need help, that you need to create a team. In my case with the International Association of Professional Quilters, I have an amazing team that supports our growth. I cannot operate this business without this team, and I am grateful every day for them. They include our regular columnists and writers, our art director, our advertising representative, our copy editors, our virtual assistant, our web developers, our printer and mailing house, and more.


When I first started publishing The Professional Quilter, I did much of the work myself. As the business grew, I saw the need to create a team. It had several positive results. It let me concentrate in the areas where I’m really good, and it let me spend time on building the business. It also let me support others who want to work in their areas of brilliance. That left me with more energy for my work. It was really win-win for everyone.

I’m sure many of you are in the same position. When you started your business, you tried to do everything yourself. At the time, it seemed like the most cost effective way to go. At some point, though, you realize that it’s time to bring others on board. I know that it’s often a cost issue. How can you afford someone to help you? If you really look at how much it costs to hire someone for a task, you’ll realize that you can make more per hour working on what you do well than you pay the person you hire. Here are team members you might consider:

  1. A bookkeeper. Many creative people are not “numbers oriented.” Of course, it’s critical that we know how much money is coming into our business and how much is going out. We don’t need to do the daily number inputting. A bookkeeper will, in many cases, work much faster than you can. For many solopreneurs, this is the first person they hire.
  2. A child care provider. On a more basic level, if you can pay someone to care for your children during the day or after school, you’ll be freer to create your product or market your business.
  3. An in-office helper. Quilters have lots of fabric and it gets in disarray. Sometime ago, one of our members asked about staying organized. I suggested that she hire a high school girl to come in once or twice a week and help put fabric away and keep her studio organized. Traveling teachers can also use an in-house helper to create the handout packets or pack the supplies for classes.
  4. An apprentice. This is a great idea for someone who dyes fabric or makes quilts for craft shows. You can have someone complete some of the preliminary parts of the job or work under your direction. A longarm quilter could hire someone to load the quilt or handle pantographs.
  5. Pattern testers, stitchers. Your task as a designer is to create designs and market them. If you have people who can test your patterns and stitch and quilt your quilts, you can spend more time creating.
  6. A virtual assistant. I have used a virtual assistant for three years now. A virtual assistant is your administrative partner. She runs her own business and usually works from her own home. I’ve never met any of my virtual assistants in person, yet I feel confident that they can complete the tasks I have for them. Your virtual assistant will be skilled to handle lots of administrative, marketing or technology tasks. A virtual assistant would be perfect for handling some of the social media tasks or keeping track of your teaching assignments.

I think it’s sometimes hard to take the step to hire the first team member. Once you do take that step, it becomes easier to look for tasks that someone else can complete so you can get your work accomplished. I’ve found over the years that my virtual assistant has helped me look for work she can do, and it’s had a positive impact on my business.

Finding team members can also be a challenge. I think we’re lucky in that as quilters we have a network of other quilters who want to help us. When I looked for help, I advertised in my guild newsletter and found great additions to my team. I’ve also used referrals from friends. Other options include looking for someone in your neighborhood, your local high school or college, your church, the local senior center, even Craig’s List. People with the skills you need are looking for work.

What kinds of support do you have in your business? Where did you find this support? Are there tasks that you could pass along to someone else freeing your time up to work in your brilliance? Take some time this week to look at areas where you can get support and share your results on the blog.

Do you use your iPad for business on the road?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

The following by Gloria Hansen is excerpted from the Spring 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter.

In the past, any time I traveled my laptop, various cables and power cords, an external drive, card reader and other gadgets came along with me. If a year ago someone suggested that I could use an iPad – the tablet computer by Apple announced in January 2010 – instead of a laptop, I’d have immediately dismissed it. I have an iPhone and an iPad seemed just a larger version and something I didn’t need. Then I tried it. I was immediately hooked and realized its potential. In nearly no time, the iPad has quickly evolved from the hip gadget for reading, playing games, watching videos, keeping up with social media and such, to being a serious tool for accomplishing many business functions while on the road or even away from one’s desk. Now when I travel, I often only take it and a couple lightweight add-ons. With planning, and depending on what you need to accomplish during your travels, you, too, may be able to leave your laptop and related gadgets behind.

The first step is configuring your iPad with the “apps” (the trendy abbreviation for an application or program) needed to accomplish your goals. Here are some apps you might consider.

  1. e-Mail and web browsing. These are handled nicely with the included Mail and Safari apps.Working with photos,
  2.  I use the iPad Camera Connection Kit, which comes with two small gadgets that plug directly into your iPad. One allows you to insert your SD card directly and the other provides a USB slot for importing photos from your camera’s or video’s USB cable.
  3.  Working with photos, I use PhotoGene. The $1.99 app works with RAW files. It has exposure controls, levels, crop tools, resizing options and more.
  4. Presentations. The app of choice for presentations is Keynote ($9.99). With it, you can import a PowerPoint or Keynote slide show or create one directly on your iPad.
  5. Credit card processing. Take a look at Square (free). With it you can accept credit card payments. You need a card reader that plugs into the iPad or you can key in the card numbers. While the app is free, you are charged a percentage for each transaction.
  6. Package tracking. Delivery Status Touch ($4.99) tracks package deliveries no matter which carrier was used to ship.

Yes, some of these apps are available for smart phones. Many have been rewritten to take advantage of the iPad’s larger screen and other features. The adaptation helps in making the iPad function as a decent laptop replacement, especially during short trips. Is it for all travelers all of the time? No. For example, if you need to do intensive work with any of the Adobe Suite products, you’ll need your laptop. For complex MS Office documents, you may also be better off with a laptop. Otherwise, with some planning, you can pretty much do whatever you need with an iPad. Besides it being very easy to carry around, it immediately starts up and the battery life is excellent. With the 3G model, you also have Internet access and don’t need to worry about being in a WiFi area.

It’s been more than a year since the iPad was announced, and it has certainly changed the way I work. With its continually growing possibilities, it may change the way you work, too.

Please share your iPad app suggestions and experiences on our blog.

Exercise Your “Done” Muscle

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

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’s 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’s always easier to see how you can accomplish it.

3. Look for where you need help. Just because you have a big project, doesn’t mean that you need to do it all yourself. Remember, it’s 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’s 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 aren’t 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 don’t 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.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Try Time Blocking to Increase Your Productivity

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Did you know that February is National Time Management Month? One way I like to get control of my time use is by time blocking on my calendar. What is time blocking? It’s 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’m able to manage interruptions. I’m the one in charge of my day. Here’s 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 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 don’t 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. 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’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset, it’s often easier to accomplish tasks on your list. With your goals in mind, put the important tasks first so you’ll accomplish them. If I don’t block time for the key tasks, I can easily spend lots of time on simple tasks, like folding fabric and putting it away or reading the latest quilt magazine or checking Facebook. 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 at odd times.
  • time dedicated to longarm work
  • creative time to design patterns
  • 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 member calls and coaching calls on Tuesdays rather than spaced throughout the week. I allot one block of several hours during the week on one day to work on my blog and ezine articles. Because I’m working on a new program, I block time during each day to work on that. It’s a goal with many smaller tasks that need to be completed. I also block out time twice a day for e-mail, so I’m 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 Thursday afternoons for errands. Because I know that’s the day for errands, I try to schedule doctor appointments during that time, and I’ve already scheduled my hair appointments through October. I also block out time for family and self-care, so they don’t get lost.

I’m not rigid with the time blocking, and, of course, I have other appointments to put in. This week I have my local guild meeting and a professional quilt guild meeting.

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.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. This article was excerpted from The Professional Quilter, the IAPQ membership journal. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Get More Done: Try Single-Tasking

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Are you a multitasker? Do you read your e-mail while you’re on the phone and at the same time bind your quilt? We’ve all been there, and I’m hoping to put my multitasking in the past.

According to Harvard Business Review blogger Paul Atchley, studies show that multitaskers are less efficient, perhaps by as much as 40%, than they think. He says that it takes an average of 15 minutes – and I’ve read numbers as high as 40 minutes – to reorient oneself to the main task. Wow – 15 minutes! Can you imagine how much time you waste on a daily basis trying to get back to the task at hand?

If you want to break your multitasking habit, here are four tips:

1. Focus on one task at a time. Atchley says our attention starts to wane after 18 minutes. He suggests that if that happens and you switch to a different task, make notes about the first task to make it easier when you go back. I think that if your attention wanes, it might be time for a quick stretch and then quickly re-focus on the same task.

2. Since I mentioned focusing on a task, be sure to divide your project into doable tasks. Set a timer for the task. I find it easier to focus if I have specifically set the time aside.

3. Eliminate distractions. This could be closing the door to your studio, letting the answering machine pick up the calls, stopping the audible tones of your e-mail. What’s key is paying attention  – again focus – to your task.

4. Stick with it until it’s done and done right.

And, if you think multi-tasking is only a problem today, here’s a good quote from Lord Chesterton, attributed to a letter to his son in the 1740s:

“There is time enough for everything in the course of the day if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”

Good luck single-tasking. And, if you have a tip to share, please post on the blog.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

5 Tips to Start the New Year

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The New Year is two days away. I’m excited about some of the things I have planned. I have some exciting new business programs to announce in the next few months, and I’ve started a coaching program for creative entrepreneurs.

As I look ahead, I can see that I have a lot to accomplish, and I need to stay focused to do that. A lot of you know that one of my favorite planning resources is Your Best Year Yet by Jinny Ditzler, and following her process helps me focus. See the review below.

I wanted to share five tips to keep in mind as you start 2011:

1. Set time for yourself in your calendar. The older I get, the more important I realize that this is. And, I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t take enough time for her or himself. It’s important to find a little time here and there to care for ourselves. We’ll feel happier and stronger inside and this will in turn make us happier and stronger business people. For me, the best way to do this is to make an appointment for self-care in my calendar. One good reference on self-care is The Art of Extreme Self Care by Cheryl Richardson.

2. Set time in your calendar to grow your business. Many of us are solopreuneurs and tend to spend much of our time working in our business when we should be working on our business. Again, the calendar is a great tool. A quarterly business retreat is an option, so is working with a coach. I’ve set time aside to meet on the phone with a Mastermind group.

3. Allow adequate time for marketing. For many, the production is the fun part and the marketing takes a back seat. I’ve had more than one person tell me that she spends two to four times as many hours marketing herself and her product as she does producing the product. Marketing is an ongoing process; you are always marketing. I love this quote from actress Carrie Fisher, “There is no point at which you can say, ‘Well, I’m successful now. I might as well take a nap.'” This keeps me focused on marketing my product.

4. Keep on top of your financials. I know, most people do not enjoy bookkeeping, and if you can hire someone to take it over, that’s great. But watch your numbers. You need to know what’s coming in and what’s going out. What is your ROI (return on investment) for your activities? Your business can’t grow if you aren’t aware of the financials. The Winter issue of The Professional Quilter will include an article on common mistakes small business owners make with their accounting. Watch for it.

5. Remember why you got into business. For many of us, it was our love of quilting or fiber arts and wanting to share our gifts with other quilters. Sure, we work hard at it, and we are rewarded. When times get tough, step back and remember what got you in the business. Maybe use some of that self-care time to make something for yourself. Another quote I like is from Thomas A. Edison. “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”

Hope these tips get you off to a positive start. Feel free to share your ideas with others here on the blog.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

The Power of Five

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

When I was on vacation in Florida last month, I took a water aerobics class. One morning the instructor noted that we only had four months left in the year to accomplish our goals. While she was referring to our health goals, we now have three months to accomplish our other personal or business goals. How close to your goals are you? I know I still have some work to do on mine. One tool I use could be called “The Power of Five.” I’ve probably always used some form of this concept, and Jack Canfield coined it the “Rule of 5” in his book The Success Principles

Simply take five steps towards your goal each day. They don’t have to be big steps; they can be baby steps. For example, if one of your goals is to promote your new pattern, sending a sample with a letter to five different distributors counts as five steps. The steps don’t have to big ones, just ones that move you towards your goal. And, I think that often the small steps get you there faster; they make the goal seem less overwhelming. Of course, to do this you have to break down the goal into specific steps, often referred to as “chunking.”

I use the concept several ways. I have a running list of things that need to be done for a project, and I can decide the night before what I will accomplish the next day. Then I use my calendar to note the five things I did accomplish. That lets me see that I am progressing towards my goal. And some days I don’t get five. That doesn’t really matter as long as I’m taking some action towards my goal. It’s about persistence with one step followed by another step.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

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