Text on picture of lit bulb on desk: How do you plan for your creative work?

How do you plan for your creative work?

How do you plan for your creative work?

Someone asked me this a couple of weeks ago.

My default answer comes in a video by Craig Benzine (aka WheezyWaiter) many years ago where he said:

If you want to create something and you’re not feeling inspired, take a closer look as to why that is, or just ignore it and start doing stuff.

Craig Benzine

I think that’s true.

I also think there’s something to be said for taking inspiration when it comes.

Each week I have a rough idea when I’ll write my article.

Sometimes I’ll have an idea for the article before that time comes.

I used to write down a sentence or two and save the idea for my article writing time.

Then the time would come, I’d look at the note and write a brilliant article. Well, that’s the intention, but it very rarely happens that way.

What actually happens is: I look at the note and have no clue where I wanted to go with it.

Now, when inspiration comes, I’ll take about 15 minutes to write out as much of the idea as I can. Then, when my article writing time comes, I can polish it up.

There are still weeks where I sit down to write, and I’m not inspired. No ideas appear.

Sometimes I move on, sometimes I write about not having ideas, and last week I shared two articles from earlier this year that you might have missed or need to read again.

I guess you could say, sometimes not having inspiration can be the inspiration for something. 

How do you plan for creative work? Share in the comments below.

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.

Quote image: "If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster." - Stephen R. Covey

You can’t meet your expectations without a plan

Next week starts the second half of 2020.

It’s a natural time to review the last six months and update your goals for the next six months.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about this (ironically, while on a break during my paid group’s all-day mid-year planning meeting).

The author shared that he was readjusting his expectations for the rest of 2020, but not planning because he didn’t know what the rest of 2020 will bring.

I was on board until the second part.

I understand the idea behind what he shared: 2020 has had many unexpected things that resulted in many of us making significant adjustments to our second quarter plans.

The temptation is not to plan for the third and fourth quarters to avoid this frustration and stress.

It reminds me of this quote:

If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.

Stephen R. Covey

Here just some of what I’ve seen happen when my clients don’t have a plan (this happens to me too):

  • Programs or courses that they don’t need are purchased and only half completed.
  • They feel frustrated because they don’t know their priorities, so they don’t know the most important things to complete. Instead, they have a bunch of stuff that feels like it needs to be done NOW.
  • They’re disappointed when reviewing the year because they didn’t make as much money or work with as many people as expected.

Planning and having goals is an integral part of having a business.

It gives you a roadmap to follow.

Let’s say you got in your car in the Chicago suburbs and expected to go to New York City but didn’t plan your route. Instead, you figured you’d drive East and probably get close.

One of two things will happen:

  1. You end up East, but hours away from New York City.
  2. You’re near New York City, but it took you a lot longer than anticipated.

If you plan your route, then your trip will go much smoother and faster. 

You might need to make adjustments based on road construction, accidents, or other things, but you’ll still get there faster with your adjusted plan.

The goal might change slightly as you go. Maybe instead of getting there on Monday, you arrive on Tuesday. Or you decide that New York City isn’t where you want to be right now and you choose to visit Columbus, Ohio instead.

The same goes for your business.

Your expectations might give you a general direction to go in, but without a plan, your business might not end up where you wanted it.

Take the time to both set your expectations AND plan for the remaining six months of 2020. Adjust as needed each month and you’ll be a lot further at the end of the year.

After all, you can’t meet your expectations without a plan.

If you need help or direction for setting your expectations and planning, comment below and let me know. We can set up a time to talk about how I can help you with that.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #134 / Frustration, lack of productivity, & an announcement

Frustration, lack of productivity, and an announcement

Frustration

I’m so tired of the emails telling me how to spend my time or how to market my business during this “current crisis.”

I told my husband yesterday that I think I’m going to have to avoid the promotions tab of my email because it makes me anxious.

I’m frustrated by the “join me for this multiple-day training featuring these very knowledgeable people.” Or even the “I’ve decided to do a special training on x to help you navigate the current crisis.”

Some of them are very easy to say no to or ignore.

The ones that frustrate me are the ones that I’m interested in, but my week is not full of all this extra time to watch these videos/trainings (that will also expire in 24 hours SO WATCH THEM NOW). 

It’s just making me more anxious.

So, I’m permitting myself not to check that folder every day. And generally, I’m someone who likes to stay on top of ALL of my emails.

If you need permission to ignore the email that stresses you out, I give you that permission.

Lack of productivity

I talked about it a bit last week that I need downtime and space to process things.

This means that I’m not getting as much done as I usually would each week. 

Paradoxically, this is the most productive thing I can do for myself.

A couple of weeks ago shared a quote from John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars): “Taking care of myself and others is the productivity that matters most right now.”

It’s very true. I also shared Partners In Health’s (PIH) 10 mental health tips. You can find their article here.

Take a look at their list and do what works for you.

An Announcement

The things I’ve shared today are a slightly different version of what I’ve shared in the last three weeks. And I’m feeling a bit like a broken record.

One thing that’s helped me handle my frustration, stress, and lack of productivity is having conversations with small groups of people. 

I can interact, or not, as I feel like it and it makes me feel less alone (and it’s PIH’s first tip: Use technology to connect) and that I’m still a community that’s beyond the boundaries of my home.

This might be helpful to you too.

So, I’m putting Productivity for Solopreneurs on hold for now.

Instead, I invite you to join me for an online meeting (via Zoom) at 1 pm on Wednesdays.

Here’s the tentative format:

  • Share one good thing from your week (personal or business)
  • What do you need/want right now?
    This is to support you and is not the time to share who your ideal client or referral partners are. Instead, share what support/help you need, personally or professionally.
  • Q&A
    Have you ever wanted to pick my brain? Or wanted to know what others ask me when they want to pick my brain? This is the perfect opportunity to get your questions answered or learn something from someone else’s question.
  • We’ll keep the first meeting at 30 minutes.

Head over to the Facebook group Productivity for Women Entrepreneurs to find the link to join us next week.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to Getting Things Done #134

https://youtu.be/nZl8f3VQ0y4