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Text on picture of cute hiding cat: How do you tell when you're avoiding things and when it's something to put your heart and business into?

How do you tell when you’re avoiding things, and when it’s something to put your heart and business into?

Last week I shared details of the pattern of avoiding something with an exciting new project.

It can sidetrack you from doing the work in your business that you need to be doing.

This week I said I’d share how to recognize this pattern.

Sidenote: a project can be almost anything you do in your business that is multiple steps. It might be a marketing plan, program, class, or any number of things.

So, how do you tell when it’s a project or idea that allows you to avoid other things, and when it’s something that you really should be putting your heart and business into?

It can be difficult to differentiate because it can feel the same at the beginning of both types of projects.

One question to ask yourself is, “Why do you want to do this new project/idea?”

One answer to look more into is, “I want it to be easier” (your it might be any number of things).

Sometimes making things easier is a legitimate reason. 

You might be adding a needed system to your business to make it run smoother, or you recognize you’re spending more time and energy on something than you need to be.

Sometimes making things easier is legitimate, but isn’t actually a priority.

Moving your email marketing system from your current system to a more expensive and robust system might be something you’ll need to do when you get to a certain point. Still, if you’re not going to be using even half of the features, it’s probably best to wait a bit.

Other times making things easier is a way of avoiding something in your business.

If things are falling through the cracks and lots of important tasks don’t get completed, you can decide you’ll only focus on that one big project for a while. However, without the skill of knowing how to keep track of the things you want to accomplish in your business (this is a skill, most of us aren’t born knowing how to do these things), you’ll feel even farther behind after the project is over and you still have all that other stuff to do.

This is the pattern for most answers to “Why do you want to do this new project/idea?”

Some of the reasons are legitimate, some are legitimate but not a priority, and other reasons allow you to avoid things.

At one pivotal point in my business, I realized that I was hopping from one great idea to another to avoid learning essential business skills by telling myself that this new thing would quickly bring in money. It never did.

I needed income, and it felt like nothing was working.

I did what I tell my clients to do; I took a step back and evaluated what worked and what hadn’t worked.

The good news was some things worked that I didn’t realize.

The bad news was that skill that I was avoiding was holding me back in almost everything else.

I created a new project for myself that made learning and using that skill a priority. I knew it wasn’t going to make me immediate money, but not learning and being comfortable with that skill was costing me a lot (and later, I invested in a program build on that knowledge).

I still found myself evaluating this project periodically because I kept wondering if this was my new distraction. It wasn’t.

Here’s why I knew the new project wasn’t a distraction:

  1. It helped me build and exercise a skill that I needed to move forward in my business. 
  2. I knew it wasn’t prudent to move forward with any other projects until I completed this one.
  3. I had clear goals and tracking metrics created to track my progress.
  4. I gave myself more time to set it up and do it. This didn’t mean I waited months. In reality, it meant instead of going from idea to release in 2-3 weeks, I did it in a little over four weeks (in this case, that extra week really did make a big difference).

If these things had been present, it might have been a distraction:

  1. If I do this, it will make all my other problems disappear (the magic pill or magic wand type of solution).
  2. The feeling of I must do this thing now, while the idea and motivation are fresh. If it’s a good idea, it will continue to be a good idea even when the idea/motivation is no longer fresh.
  3. I’m ignoring a skill I know I need to learn.

Doing the project was uncomfortable. It pushed against my comfort zone, I was learning something that doesn’t come naturally to me, and many days I was not motivated to keep going. 

Next week I’ll share what I did that allowed me to complete the project despite the uncomfortableness and lack of motivation.

Are you wondering if your new idea or project is a distraction or not? Bring it to the Your Productivity Break meeting on Wednesdays at 1pm Central (join the FB group, Productivity for Women Entrepreneurs, for the details) or send me a private message.

Text on picture of quilt: What situations in your business might resemble this pattern

What situations in your business might resemble this pattern?

There’s this pattern I see in myself and some of my clients.

You’ve had an excellent idea for your business, and you want to make it happen quickly.

After all, this is something that will offer lots of value to your people, and it also promises to result in extra income.

You push the other projects and tasks you had planned for aside and start working on this new thing you’re really motivated about.

But it doesn’t take off the way you expected it to. 

You thought it would be a slam dunk! Instead, you have very few people involved and your other goals, projects, and tasks have taken a hit.

Initially, it looked like you were doing something super productive for your business, even if it was a bit of productive procrastination (head over here for the productive/unproductive procrastination definitions).

Upon reflection, it seems it might have been more of an unproductive procrastination situation.

Next week I’ll share how to avoid it. This week, let’s look at what’s really going on.

If you’ve done this, know that you’re in excellent company.

The reasons I’ve fallen into this pattern are many of the same reasons I’ve seen my clients fall into this pattern.

One reason is I need to learn a new skill in my business (or a new level of that skill) and I cannot figure it out on my own. And rather than finding someone to teach it to me, I come up with a brilliant way that I think might circumvent needing to learn this vital business skill, but it doesn’t work. Now I’m more frustrated because I feel like I’ve wasted a month or more of my time, and I still need to learn that skill.

Another reason is if I’m not getting the interest or engagement I want around something I’m doing. So, instead of looking at what I can adjust or add to have the interest or engagement I want, I do something completely new that I think will result in that interest or engagement. What ends up happening is people are confused about what I’m doing, I still have to promote the new thing (and often I’m doing it the same way I was promoting the other thing), and I end up with even less interest or engagement. Then I’m frustrated and annoyed and feel like I’ve taken five steps backward.

There are lots of other ways this can manifest itself.

The basic formula is:

  1. I want to avoid this thing in my business
  2. I create a distraction that feels exciting and promising
  3. It doesn’t go the way I want
  4. I feel frustrated and further behind
  5. I either repeat the formula OR do the thing I’m avoiding

What situations in your business might resemble this pattern?

Next week I’ll share how to recognize this pattern and put a stop to it.

Text on picture: The to-do list system framework

The to-do list system framework

Last week I shared what a “to-do list” is to me, a system that allows me to stay on top of my business and on track.

This system does have a list of everything that I want to do and accomplish, but that’s not the list I look at daily. Mainly because that would overwhelm the heck out of me, and then nothing would be done (know your limits).

My to-do list system isn’t made up of one list; it’s made up of three. That’s the framework of this system.

This week, I’m sharing that framework. I’ve used this framework for the last eight years of my business. It’s taken different forms over the years, but it always has three pieces.

Everything list

This list is how I will accomplish my intentions and goals for the quarter and month. It’s made up of projects and tasks that need to be completed to stay on track with my intentions and goals. There’s also a place for the ideas and projects I want to remember for later, but they’re not a high priority right now.

Weekly list

This list is what I want to accomplish this week to keep me on track with my intentions and goals for the month. It also has tasks that need to be done each week (like the tasks that go into getting this newsletter to you).

Today’s list

This is the list of what I plan to complete today.

There are more details for each of these lists as they work in my to-do list system. These details include things like format and other information for the day, but those details speak more to what works for me. Those details might not work for you.

If this framework feels like a lot, do the parts of it that feel doable. 

There was a brief period where I didn’t have a today’s list. Instead, I worked off my weekly list.

It worked better than the haphazard system I had before that, but after around three weeks it was clear that it still didn’t work as well as I wanted it to.

I was figuring it on my own and knew that today’s list was necessary for me. But I needed those three weeks to lay the foundation of habits for the next step.

Keeping in mind that your goal is to improve your to-do list system and not make it the thing that you’ll be using for the next two years, what changes do you need to make? 

Go back to the questions I asked at the end of last week’s post for a start.

And whatever you decide to start with, don’t forget to review what’s working and not working for you in a week or two.

Of course, if you want help creating your to-do list system, reach out and let’s talk about it. Just comment below.

Text on picture: What did you think of when you read "to-do list"

What I mean when I say “to-do list”, isn’t usually what people hear

I’ve realized that what I mean when I say “to-do list” isn’t usually what people hear.

What did you think of when you read “to-do list”? Type it in the comments below before you continue reading.

Generally, people think of a “to-do list” as the piece of paper with the tasks or projects that they hope to accomplish for the day. Or that list in their head. Or it’s the exhausting list of EVERYTHING that needs to get done.

For me, a “to-do list” is a system.

This system encompasses my intentions, goals, quarterly plans, current month plans, week plans, and today’s plans.

It’s the reason I’m able to regularly send out birthday cards, stay on top of bookkeeping, and a lot of other things.

It’s the reason I have fewer things to do, but the things I do have more impact.

It helps me manage my time and expectations.

This system didn’t appear overnight and solve many of my time and attention problems.

The first version that worked well for me developed over the course of a year.

In that year, there were a couple of ways I kept track of things that didn’t last long, but they were important for me to try. They helped me figure out what didn’t work for me, and what about them did work for me.

This important period of trying things that ultimately didn’t work led me to a system I used for about 18 months. Then it needed to be adjusted.

A system will work well for me for 18 to 24 months, and then I need to tweak something. One tweak was to move my system from all paper to a OneNote and paper combination. Most recently, it was a format change in OneNote.

If your to-do list is one piece of paper with today’s tasks on it or a LONG list of everything, then I encourage you to consider what your to-do list system might look like.

Start by thinking about what you will remember to check daily or already check daily.

Other questions to consider: Is it all on paper? Maybe in a notebook or a binder? Is it all electronic? Does it sync to your phone? Is it a hybrid of paper and electronic? What part lives where? How is it laid out?

It doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s just a place to start and build from.

Of course, if you want help creating your to-do list system, reach out and let’s talk about it. Just comment below.

Picture of label maker with text What labels aren't working for you? And how to change them

What labels aren’t working for you? And how to change them

Does anyone else love their label maker?

I do! I’ve had it for a few years, and even though I don’t use it on a weekly or even monthly basis, I love being able to label things.

Mostly I use it on file folders.

It makes things easy to file and find.

There’s a different label maker that I’ve had for even longer.

I can’t remember not having it.

It can label file folders, but it doesn’t label all of them. And it doesn’t label them in the way that label maker does either.

It’s labels cover so much more. A few examples of the labels it uses are frustrating, boring, annoying, meh, or fun.

It labels my intentions and goals as things like good, silly, unachievable, and doable.

It labels the items on my todo list with words and phrases like ugh, please no, boring, fun, let’s see how this goes, and hmm.

Actually, my goals and projects are sometimes labeled with many of the same words/feelings as my todo list labels.

If you haven’t guessed yet, this label maker is my brain.

It tries to be ever so helpful with these labels, but it can really work me up about things I don’t need to be.

For example, when I was able to stop labeling my bookkeeping as “UGH” and “avoid” and “do something else” it made it a lot easier to do.

I did that by noticing the labels I had given bookkeeping and deciding what labels I would like it to have.

The words that came to mind were “easy,” “quick,” and even “fun.”

The labels your brain puts on things can be harder to remove and replace then labels on file folders.

For me to change my labels around bookkeeping, I thought about what would make it easy, quick, and fun. I wrote down some ideas and started trying different things.

The first things I tried didn’t entirely work, so I made some adjustments. It took about three months to put a loose system in place that makes it pretty easy and quick. I’m okay with it not always being fun. The win is that I no longer avoid it and don’t feel “UGH” about it.

Everything starts with noticing the labels.

As you go through the rest of your week, notice the label you’re applying to your goals, projects, and tasks.

And answer these questions:

  1. Which labels do you want to change?
  2. What do you want to change those labels to?
  3. What ideas do you have about how you might change those labels?
  4. What idea or ideas can you start implementing?

I’d love to know what things you’re changing your labels for and how you’re doing it! Comment below to let me know.