One of my clients recently commented that with all her responsibilities she felt like she was juggling a lot of balls in the air — managing the shop, its employees and its inventory, her charitable obligations and her responsibilities with two young kids at home plus her husband.
Can you picture yourself there?
I certainly can. At any given time I have content to write or deliver related to ICAP and our Members’ Studio, lectures and workshops to prepare for events where I am speaking, coaching calls with clients, planning for upcoming events or launches, not to mention the various balls I am juggling as a wife, sister, aunt, friend, and homeowner or any other volunteer position I might have. It truly could make you dizzy.
And, I know your life is not any different than mine or Beth, my client. How do I, and you, manage to juggle these responsibilities and not succumb to the falling balls? Here are some tips.
You have to get a handle on what you are responsible for in your life, so start writing. Create a list of your responsibilities and relationships.
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?
This week a fabulous group of creative 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, how to build and nourish customer relationships, plus lots more. By the end of the three days, they all left with a tremendous support network and 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.
If you kept a list of the ideas you got at the workshop, it’s probably lengthy. We have an “Aha” page plus insight pages for each of our workshop days at CABS included in a workbook. I know everyone ended up with a lot more than five ideas.
The topic of tolerations seems to come up every once in a while with my clients. Tolerations could really be called “energy zappers.” They are those situations, problems or things that are really solvable, but that you let stay unattended. Those tolerations bug you on occasion, and you think they are just a nuisance.
What happens when you ignore them? Sure, you can put up with a few items, but most of us let the list grow. And, you start to compromise on those items. You know, maybe that stack of old magazines on the floor is not really that bad. The problem is that you start to desensitize yourself to all the good around you. And your energy gets zapped.
So, how do you get control on those tolerations? First, admit you do actually have some! For starters, make a list of what you are tolerating. It shouldn’t be hard to come up with 20, perhaps more if you get started listing them. So set aside 15 minutes and start your list. You might even do this walking through your house or office. It might be the dead plant that you think will suddenly grow shoots. It might be the clutter you live with. It might be your kids’ socks that never seem to leave the family room floor. It might be the stack of library books you have got in the car you are meaning to take back. It might be something your spouse always says that you that you live with rather than create waves. It might be the dishes in the sink. Look at all areas of your life: your business, your home, your car, your environment, your habits and behavior, and the habits and behavior of those you interact with.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
2. Consider your short- and long-term goals.
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:
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.
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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.
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Do 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:
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.