Mompreneur Monday – My Core Values

If you do any reading about business at all, you’ll run across tons of folks talking about how everything revolves around your core values and you have to define your values and everything about your life and business has to reflect your values.

No pressure or anything.

So this whole values thing has been on my mind since Stationery Academy. And it keeps coming up in webinars I attend and books I read. (P.S. Click on those links to attend an awesome webinar and read an incredible book!) So while I believe my core values have always been in my heart, I think it’s time I really connect with them. Out loud. In writing. And of course–on the internet.

First, the process. How do you figure out what your core values really are? The first step is to take a look at how you spend your time and money. Not how you think you should spend your time and money, but how you actually live in your real life right now. This is a scary process because in my dream world I spend my time and money on important things like family and world peace. In my real life, I spend more time on facebook and more money on coffee than I care to admit. But push past the embarrassment and shame and know that whatever values you are spending your time and money on are okay. They’re values. They can’t be bad or wrong. At first glance, I’m embarrassed that sometimes I lose an entire morning to just emailing friends. But then when I dig deep into why–it’s because I value my friends. I value connecting with them and spending time talking to them. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Another game you can play is “Which matters more?” There are a ton of lists of values out there–just lists of words you can look at and cross off the ones that don’t matter until you magically end up with the 5 that matter most. Except that when you’re doing it, you’ll eventually get to a spot where you still have 20 words and you feel weird crossing any off and saying you don’t value honesty or teamwork! So when you get to that spot, the trick is to pick two words on the list and ask yourself, “which matters more?” You’re not creating a list of all of your values here, you’re trying to narrow down your core values. Your top 5 hills to die on. Your “They can take away our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” values. (If you’re Braveheart. And if one of your core values is freedom.) So while yes, I value teamwork.,I love teamwork, and I believe in teamwork, if I have to imagine my life without a team versus my life without the ability to create, I value creativity more.

This is not a ten-minute game. This may not be something you whip out in an afternoon. Let this question sink in. But write about it, too. Your gut will probably lead you to a top 5ish. And as you ponder it and come back to it over the course of 6 months, my guess is your answers will be generally the same as what your gut told you in the beginning.

And now, my top 5!

Creativity – When I look back at the moments I’ve felt most alive, it’s when I’m creating something new. Drawing when I was little, writing, doing crafts, painting, designing invitations, even creating a business. When I was teaching, the lessons I designed myself were the most fun and the most effective. (And losing my freedom to be creative in my lesson planning ultimately lead to my career change!) Creating a little person has been my greatest accomplishment.

Connection – When I first made my list, Family was first and then Friends. But my list was too long. So I had to consolidate! (Tricky, aren’t I?) But the truth is, when I really ask myself what it is I value about my family and friends, it’s the ability to connect with them. And I value that in so many areas of my life. One of the best parts of my job is connecting with each customer in a really personal way during an exciting time in their life. I’m that weird girl who talks to strangers in line at the grocery store. I just like to feel connected to other humans throughout my day.

Entertainment – For a long time I felt guilty about this one. I had a friend who cancelled cable so her family could afford to buy only organic food. And that’s great. That’s what she values. My family spends time and money on tv. Not because we value tv necessarily, but because we love to be entertained. We love laughing at sitcoms and being thrilled by dramas. We also love going to concerts and plays and movies. It’s just something we enjoy together and because I value my family, I value the things we enjoy doing together!

Surprise – So this is a bit of an odd one. But I love surprises! I love being surprised and surprising people. I love it SO much, it’s one of my core values. It’s truly thrilling to me to surprise someone I love and I feel like the element of surprise is something I crave in my daily life. When I look at my invitation designs that have been the most successful, they’re the clever, unique, surprising designs. I think because I love surprises so much, I put more of my heart into those designs and they’re just better!

Growth – I’m a bit of a self-help junky. Well not just self-help, but any type personal and professional development! Webinars, how-to books, classes, workshops, if I could just learn for a living, I would! I enjoy learning about a lot of things (which is why it was super hard for me to pick a major and why I insisted in a dual-specialty for my master’s and why I make drastic career changes) but what I enjoy learning about most is how I can improve in whatever I’m doing at the time.

And if I were to sneak a 6th value into my Top 5 it’s… Beauty – Not in a superficial way. Just in the sense of appreciating when I’m surrounded by beautiful things. I love pretty things and I love that I can create pretty things for people. Life should be nice to look at.

Keep in mind this is my list. Yours will be completely different! We may overlap a value or two, but your list is yours and there’s no “right” list that’s better than yours.

So, you’ve made your list–now what? And now the toughest part of all. Living according to your values. Yes, I said that one way to discover your core values is to look how you currently spend your time and money. So you’re probably living your values already to some degree. (If you find you’re never ever ever making time for something, the truth is you probably don’t value it that much. There’s nothing wrong with that! Just means you need to do more work to figure out what you do value.) But even though your values are a reflection of how you currently live, you probably also want to live better by connecting with those values more often and more deeply.

It doesn’t have to be a big, overwhelming thing, though. In fact, it can be fun! Like when I’m choosing a gift for someone, I can ask “What will surprise them?” or “What can I create for them?” I get more out of the experience by connecting to my values, and I think it results in a better gift for them too. When I’m emailing customers, I sit down with the intention of “I’m going to connect with each person in my inbox today,” and all of the sudden a business task becomes fulfilling. As I build my business, I continually ask myself, “How can I connect? How can I create? How can I grow? How can I entertain? And how can I surprise?” The result is I’m building a business I enjoy working in and a brand that reflects who I truly am.

Your turn! What are your core values? Comment below!

Finding Purpose and My Aha! Moment

Lately I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis. Nothing major, just one of those “What is my purpose in life?” kind of crises. You have those from time to time, right?

When I was teaching, purpose felt easy. I knew I was helping people by teaching. I was shaping the minds of America’s youth for goodness sakes! I could see the difference I was making, the lightbulbs turning on. I have always felt drawn to teach. Leaving the teaching field was a very difficult decision because I knew I was leaving something that I was good at and something that mattered.

Nevertheless, I knew it was the best decision to make for the time. I knew I wanted and needed to be home for my daughter more than I needed to be in the classroom. And I am so grateful that I’ve found a way to work, be creative, and be home for her. I know that I am still helping people–I’m providing something they need and in a beautiful way. I hope (and I hear) that I’m doing it in a way that makes the invitation process easy and fun. When my customers write and tell me they cried when they opened their invitations, I know I’m doing something good for the world.

But is it enough?

I just feel like there’s so much talk about “finding your purpose,” and running a business with purpose, that maybe I’m not purposeful enough. I mean is my true “purpose in life” really in paper and envelopes? Is providing couples with clever designs and a great experience enough of a purpose? Is raising my daughter the way that I am enough of a purpose? Aren’t I supposed to be doing something more?!

So then a couple weeks ago I stumbled across Jess Lively’s website. At first glance, I was like, “Ok, this is kind of like everything else. Live with intention, be present in the moment, uh huh, I get it.” But something kept drawing me back. And I saw she was hosting a free webinar about how to write an “intention.” Guys–I love free webinars. I just love learning and I love free. Free webinars are made for me. I can’t always devote the time to actually watch them, but this one happened to be on a Tuesday morning and worked with my schedule, so I signed up.

And it was great, I’m intrigued by the idea of “intentions” vs. “goals” and I suggest you read her blog and sign up for her classes if that kind of thing interests you. But what really stuck out to me wasn’t even really part of the class. It was just this simple statement: “Your purpose is to serve others in the present moment.”

I’ll be honest, the first time she said it, I actually blew it off! I hear plenty of people talk or write about serving and there’s something that just feels a little fake about it. Like a little holier-than-thou or a little look-at-me-I’m-being-selfless. I actually said to myself, “Ok yeah, that’s her purpose but not mine.” But one of the participants in the webinar asked a question later and she came back to it. And very bluntly said, “Your purpose is to serve others in the present moment. That’s it. That’s purpose. Your purpose is not your career. If you’re an artist and your hand gets blown off, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a reason for living anymore.” She went on with other examples, and it all started to really sink in. And it didn’t feel fake anymore. It just felt… simple.

Your purpose is to serve others in the present moment.

That’s it. It’s that simple. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. It doesn’t have to include how you’re going to serve others. In fact, she went on to say you can wake up and say “How do I want to serve today?” and that really resonated with me too! Not, “How can I best utilize my talents to make the biggest impact possible in the world.” Just, “How do I want to serve today?”

So I’ve been trying it on for the last week. Because it’s totally like me to be struck by something seemingly amazing and then 2 days later I’m over it. I thought about giving it a few more weeks until I shared, but I can’t. Because I feel like this has changed my whole perspective on why I’m doing what I do, and I think it can help you too, so why hold back?

Randomly throughout the day, instead of asking myself, “What should I be doing?” or “What needs to get done?” or “What would give Olivia the best possible childhood?” or “How can I grow my business?” I’m just going, “Hmmm, how do I want to serve right now?” Do I want to serve my family by making them a delicious meal? Or serve a client by putting her at ease in the middle of her wedding stress? Or serve Olivia (and myself) by playing at the park for an hour?

There is something magically freeing about this. I dare you to try it for a week. I’m finding myself enjoying more moments and feeling more confident in how I’m choosing to spend my time. Just by saying okay, I’m here to serve–we’re ALL here to serve–in some way. And that the way we choose to serve doesn’t really matter. We can change our minds daily or build a career around one way to serve. We can serve our own children or children around the world. Even serving ourselves from time to time helps the greater good! That “purpose” doesn’t have to be some hidden gem we try to uncover with workbooks and workshops, it can just be to simply serve.

I am not Supermom!

A few times within the last couple weeks someone has said to me, “Wow, so you’re like… Supermom!” And every single time, it stopped me in my tracks. While it’s flattering to think that I hold some sort of super power that allows me to juggle orders in one hand while snapping onesies with the other, mostly I just feel… like a total fraud! I am no Supermom. I am the farthest thing from it. I do not have my shit together. (Sorry if that offends you beyond belief and you have to stop reading because I said “shit!” My new theme is being real and the real Emily is a little rough around the edges.) If anything, I’m looking around at all the other moms, wondering how they manage to get multiple people dressed and out of the house before noon. Wondering how they can play and play and play for hours without turning on Dora or Daniel or Doc McStuffins. Wondering how they fit grocery shopping and laundry and dishes in along with work and birthday parties and toddler swim lessons. Everyone looks like they have it more together than I do. So who are you calling Supermom?

Don’t get me wrong. I am proud of the choice I’ve made to leave the security of the classroom and run my dream business. And I feel beyond fortunate that I get to do it all from home so I can be with my wild little red head. I wouldn’t trade this life in for anything! (Even if I could go to work in a beautiful office where real adult-sized humans get to interact and drink coffee and then pee in private.)

But when I say I am running a business out of my home and making a living and caring for a toddler, please don’t mistake that for me saying I’m doing it all. I am far from doing “it all.” Working while parenting doesn’t make me a Supermom. It makes me really really tired!

Last week was rough, you guys. A combination of some bad luck, some bad timing, and some bad planning left me feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, behind on everything, running in a thousand directions, and falling very very short of Supermom. And the scary thing is–I’m looking at another crazy week ahead. I can see it, but I don’t know how to stop it. Because the truth is–while I may have some handy planning tips to share, and while yes they DO help me from losing my mind most of the time–I still struggle with the things we all struggle with. Fighting overwhelm, prioritizing, saying “no,” being present. I struggle to make time for myself, my health, and my marriage. I give everything I have to a little person and a growing business and there’s not much left of me at the end of the day. And that’s something I want to change, but I don’t know how. I know that I need some help so that I can be happier and healthier. Whether that’s in the form of an assistant or a housekeeper or a babysitter (or all three?) I don’t know. I do know that as scary as it is to admit that I don’t have it all together–it’s really not fair to anyone to pretend that I do.

I don’t want to be a Supermom. Well yes, I do. I want to be everything and do everything and still have time to laugh and play. But really, I don’t want the pressure of being super. I don’t want that kind of title. I don’t want to be admired, because people on pedestals aren’t usually offered a hand. I’m not saying I’m helpless and want to be pitied either. I just want–I just want to be friends. I want to be on the same field as every mom–the moms who run businesses and the moms who run households. I want for us to see that we’re all struggling and I want for us to help each other out a little. I want to push past the jealousy and the feelings of inadequacy and the guilt and the “How do you do it?” and just see each other as women. Women who are all fighting a great fight. Who are all trying to be the best version of ourselves and who are all failing pretty miserably behind the scenes.

So please, stop calling me Supermom. Stop calling ANYONE Supermom like they’re somehow doing more than you or doing it better. Stop thinking that anyone else has it all together while your life is falling apart. I think we’re all falling apart in some way or another. And really–all moms are super! No matter how we came to be moms or how we choose to parent, we are raising human beings! That alone is pretty damn super.

Reach Your Dreams Part 3 – The Day to Day

When I started this Reach Your Dreams series a couple weeks ago, I thought I’d just go through my steps of monthly, weekly, and daily planning. Then as I planned each day over the past week I realized that one of my biggest truths as a mom and business owner is that every day is so different. And that really, I don’t have a magic method for planning each day. What I do have is a slew of tips that help me be more productive and make consistent progress toward reaching my dreams. And I am thrilled to share those tips with you!

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Tip 1 – Write a “Top Three” for the day: This is the one change I’ve made this year that has exponentially improved my productivity, focus, and clarity. It seems so simple, but it is so powerful. There are days that are going to have a million small tasks to complete and others that will be consumed by one big project. But every day I ask myself “If I only do three things today, what do they need to be?” Then periodically throughout the day I check in on my progress toward those top three. When there’s a lull and I know I should be doing something–it should be a top three thing. When I’m overwhelmed and doing too much, I pause and look at my top three and do one of those first.

It’s not always work-related. In fact, I really try to make sure only one or two of the top three are work-related! I need to constantly remind myself that being a mother is also a job–and really my top priority. So often one of my top three is an adventure with Olivia or a reminder to take a time out and just be with her.

Remember your top three for the month? The goals you’ve been working on? How do your top three for the day match up? They don’t have to be perfectly aligned every day, but if you’re noticing that day after day your top three is consumed by tasks that don’t have anything to do with those goals, I highly recommend reserving at least one spot per day for a goal-related task.

Here are a few of my “Top Threes” over the last couple months. (Yes, sometimes taking a shower is in the top three! If you are the parent of a toddler, I know you feel my pain on that one.)

top three from day designer

Note: I owe all of this brilliance to Whitney English and her Day Designer. The concept of the top three is all over the place, but having a space for it right there in my planner has made it so much easier to actually implement. On that note…

Tip 2 – Invest in a planner you love: I know, I gush about the Day Designer pretty much every week. The truth is, you can make any planner work if you use it. And no planner will do the work for you. Over the last twenty years I’ve tried every planner I can get my hands on. Paper planners, Palm Pilots (remember those?), little monthly planners that fit in my purse and huge daily planners that take up my entire desk. My phone has so many productivity apps on it, I don’t even have room for Candy Crush Saga. But it wasn’t until I bought the Day Designer that I actually started using my planner. So what’s the difference? Well for one, the layout is pretty close to exactly what I need. But I think a huge part is that it was a bit of an investment for me. Not the most expensive planner I’ve ever seen, but certainly not a $10 planner from a big box store either. I made a conscious choice (after about a year of hemming and hawing actually) to invest in it and now I don’t want it to go to waste. The fact that I paid good money for it motivates me to actually use it.

I could go on forever with the things I love about the Day Designer (I actually just deleted four paragraphs of gushing), but the point is not that you need this planner. The point is to find a planner that will work for you. Find something that makes you want to write in it. Whether it’s a beautiful cover, a funny comic on each page, or even just a special pen–find something that gets you excited to write in your planner and you’ll be way more likely to use it.

Tip 3 – Everything takes twice as long as it should. This is just a (depressing) fact. It’s magnified when you have kids. So instead of fighting it, just embrace it. If you think it will take you an hour to go grocery shopping, block off two. Want to spend 30 minutes exercising? Plan on an hour. If you have the luxury of an uninterrupted 8 hour work day, only put 4 hours worth of tasks on your list.

I know what you’re thinking, “I just need to be more productive. I need to get more done in less time.” Well that’s an awesome goal and I wish you the best of luck. But when I find myself racing from appointment to appointment, trying to do three errands before nap time and finish four big orders during nap, I get half way through my day and crash. It’s almost impossible for me to be productive for the rest of the day and I end up frantic and stressed out and tired. When I’m overly generous about how much time something will take and plan lots of time to complete tasks, I find myself moving more gracefully through my day with lots of energy in the afternoon to continue being productive. And if you do get your tasks done early, awesome! Then you’ve built in time for relaxing or you can look at your list and squeeze in one more goal-related task.

Tip 4 – Think of your day in shifts. I love the idea of scheduling tasks for specific times throughout the day. And I think that works great for some people. But my schedule is not always predictable enough to really make that work. So instead of assigning tasks to really specific times, I break my day into “shifts.” This was awesome when Olivia was younger and took two naps a day. I played with her, ate breakfast, and answered emails in the morning, printed invitations during her first nap, ran errands or went on play dates mid-day, printed more invites during afternoon nap, then made dinner and enjoyed some family time, and answered more emails and sent proofs to customers after she went to bed. It’s been over a year and a half since I had that schedule and I still miss it! But even with one nap (or even if you don’t have kids or have kids who don’t nap) I can break my day into shifts. It’s just easier to think about “what can I get done in this two hour block of time” than trying to organize the entire day all at once. My shifts these days are early morning, mid-late morning, lunch time, Olivia’s nap (when I cram a ton of work into two hours), evening, and after bed. What I fill these shifts with varies from day to day. I schedule a lot of work tasks during the two mornings she’s in school and I schedule play dates and errands for non-school mornings. A lot of emailing and design work is still done at night–but that’s something I’d like to change. Your tasks and goals may vary day to day too or you might have a pretty solid routine, but either way, thinking of your day in shifts can really help you schedule when you’re going to get things done.

Tip 5 – Remove temptation. You know how hard it is to stick to your health goals when you keep a bowl of m&ms on your desk? Well it’s just as hard to reach your life goals when facebook, instagram, and pinterest are constantly promising us delicious distraction and social connection. I feel like social media is even more tempting for those of us who work from home. Working alone is so isolating and being online gives us a sense of belonging that we crave. And that’s great–I’m a big fan of social media and using it to make real connections with people. But when I find myself clicking on that little camera icon in between every invitation I cut… well I’m not making connections, I’m just wasting time.

I do not believe that learning to resist temptation is the key to productivity. We have enough on our plates that are challenging–let’s try to make things a little easier on ourselves! Take the damn m&ms off your desk!!! There’s a brilliant app for mac called Self Control and it will block any urls you want for an amount of time you determine. Block facebook, block pinterest, hey you might even need to block your email for a while! Since there’s nothing similar for iphone that I’ve found you have to get a little more creative there. I start by not allowing push notifications from tempting apps. I’ve silenced all notifications except the phone actually ringing so that I’m not hearing dings and buzzes every time I get an email. And then I try to put my phone somewhere other than my desk when I’m working. It would be great if I could turn it off, lock it in a safe, and hide the safe at the bottom of the ocean. But being a parent often means you need to be accessible if there’s an emergency. And I would just die if something happened to Olivia at school and no one could get ahold of me. So keeping the ringer on with the phone across the room works pretty well for me.

Tip 6 – Celebrate along the way. I think we all find ourselves with plenty of un-checked items on our to do list at the end of the day, and it can feel defeating. But I find when I shift my focus just a little bit to the things I have accomplished, it propels me to accomplish more. So pause a few times in your day to acknowledge what you’ve done. Even if it feels like nothing, it’s something. Did you play with your daughter and enjoy her laugh? What a great mom! Did you make a bride’s day when you sent her the perfect invitation design? Hooray! Did you invest ten minutes in yourself to do a little yoga? Way to take care of yourself! Give yourself a little pat on the back, have a little five minute dance party, and then use that momentum to keep doing great things!

Tip 7 – Review and plan for tomorrow. Now, I would love to be a person who thoughtfully plans her day the night before. I’d also love to be a person who sets out her clothes ahead of time and packs her kid’s lunch more than 5 minutes before school. And maybe someday I will be! But while I work on that goal, I try to just do what I can handle before I go to bed at night. Even just 5 minutes reviewing what I accomplished and what I didn’t is really helpful. I can put a few tasks on the next day’s list and feel like I’m waking up with a place to start. I also take a sec to write down something I’m grateful for (again–a piece of Day Designer brilliance!) which helps me kind of put everything in perspective.

And that’s it! I hope these tips, along with my steps for monthly and weekly planning help you reach all of those big dreams and goals! You’re capable of amazing things and I can’t wait to hear about everything you accomplish!

Reach Your Dreams Part 2 – Plan Your Week

Last week we talked about taking our big goals and using them to fuel our plan for the whole month. This is a crucial step, so if you haven’t read that post, start there!

This week we’re going to get a little more specific and plan our week! Monthly planning is how I make time for dreams and goals, weekly planning is how I (attempt to) keep my life together without spinning into a nervous breakdown. It’s also how I make sure that I’m making progress toward those big goals.

meal planner and weekly planner by fresh paper studios

HOW I PLAN MY WEEK
Step 1 – Plan to Plan:
Oh does that sound familiar? That’s because it’s still important. It’s really tempting to put off planning or never do it. But I promise that if you invest just 15-30 minutes to plan your week, you’ll multiply your productivity and get way more done than if you don’t plan. (I can’t promise how much, but even if you get 2 more hours worth of stuff done in a week, wouldn’t it be worth it? What if you could do 10 more hours worth of stuff?)

I like to start the week with a clear plan and Monday mornings are always crazy, so I set aside some time Sunday afternoon while Olivia’s “napping” (aka jumping around in her bed) to plan my week. You can set aside any time that works for you. It may even take some trial and error to find the right time, so don’t dwell on this right now. Just pick a time you think might work and write “Plan my week” in your planner.

Step 2 – Write down appointments and other time-sensitive tasks: Some parts of our weekly schedule aren’t flexible. So I start by getting a visual of my week’s “framework.” What do I have to work around as I plan the rest of my week? Do I have a doctor’s appointment? A play date? What orders are due? Write it all down. If you already use a planner that has a weekly view, super! If not, use the monthly section of your daily planner. I think it’s important to get a picture of the whole week in one glance. And if you don’t have a planner that you already love, I made a weekly planning sheet just for you! (Click for the download link!)

Step 3 – Rearrange: If there are days that already look too busy, they are. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about that. Orders need to go out on time, some appointments can’t be changed. But what can you move to make your week more manageable? If I have three big orders due on a Friday, is there room to move two of them earlier in the week? If I have a lot going on at the beginning of the week, should I reschedule the toddler play date for the end of the week? I’ve also started to get a sense of my week’s energy cycle. I work in my daughter’s preschool class on Mondays (you don’t see that in the photo because it’s President’s Day today! Free day off school to work on work!) and I come home exhausted. So I try not to plan anything for Monday afternoons except maybe responding to emails and watching business classes online. For the rest of the week I find I like to get as much work and as many errands as possible done early in the week so that I have more free time for play dates and goal tasks later in the week. The more you practice planning your week, the more you’ll get a sense for which days work best for you to get things done and which days make good pajama days.

Sometimes this means changing plans with friends. And I hate doing that. But as I get more practice at it, I’ve found that my friends enjoy me more when I’m enjoying my time with them. If I have a million things due, I’m not fully present and that’s not fun for anyone. So I’m getting better at noticing when my week looks crazy and saying “I’m really looking forward to our drink date Tuesday, but I’m overwhelmed with work right now! Are you free Thursday or early next week?” I try not to do it so often that I get the reputation of being flakey, but even if I do get that rep, I’d rather be flakey and present than distracted and a bad listener.

If you’re smart, you’ll plan with pencil so you can easily rearrange things. But if you’re me, you can’t find a pencil and your planner looks like a hot mess. Embrace the mess! Life is messy, plans are messy. And then print another page if you want to make a new, clean plan.

mompreneur monday weekly planning process

Step 4 – Make time for your weekly/monthly goals: Remember when we planned our month? And we came up with some actionable tasks that will help us make progress toward our big goals? If you’re like me, then on the first day of the month you were super excited about all of these things you were going to do. And then as you got into the daily grind, they fell by the wayside. Taking time each week to plan when you’re going to work on these tasks is one more step you can take to make sure these goals are not getting lost in the sea of everyday life. I plan the weekly tasks first. Then I see which monthly tasks could fit in the week.

This is also when I make sure to plan time for rest. I usually have rest activities like massages and happy hours built in to my monthly goals because some of my Big Goals involve taking care of myself and nurturing my friendships. But I also like to go one step further and make sure that I can spend at least one day a week in my pajamas. This is just something I need in my week–maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. But running a business, raising a toddler, and managing a household are all pretty exhausting. And if I’m not careful, I find myself running around all day every day. Even fun activities can be draining when there are too many of them. So I try to reserve one day to just stay home in my pajamas, watch movies with Olivia, do chores, and get work done. They’re still productive days, they’re just days I don’t leave the house. (It took me a long time to discover I needed this! If you’re feeling frazzled, try a pajama day!)

Step 5 – Review and Reschedule: Hint. If there’s no room for a single monthly goal/task or a single rest, your week is too busy. I totally get that some weeks are just too busy. But take a glance at next week and the week after. If they’re too busy too, you’re on a fast train to Burnout. I’ve been on that train. It’s not a fun ride. So if you think you’re approaching the loading dock, cancel something. Anything. Reschedule your dentist appointment, reschedule your kid’s play date, ask for an extension on a deadline. If you find that week after week you’re getting to the weekend exhausted and carrying a pile of work to catch up on, something needs to change. Maybe it’s time to ask a friend to come over and help fill orders. Maybe it’s time to start saying no to projects that aren’t fueling your passion. Maybe it’s time to hire a housekeeper. Or a babysitter. (We’ll talk later about trades you can make if this seems financially impossible.) But don’t stay on the train and hope it will get better. The only way it’s going to get better is if you change something.

The whole goal of this Reach Your Dreams Series is not to cram more into the day/week/month. It’s to recognize what your day, week, and month look like and rearrange as necessary so you’re making time for things that matter and are letting go of things that don’t. This is really really hard and takes a lot of practice. I am still in the beginning stages of it myself. But I can tell you that every time I say “no” to overwhelm, more good comes into my life. So it is 100% worth a try.

Bonus Step – Plan your dinners: While I’m planning what I’m going to do during the week, I also plan what I’m going to eat. Not every meal and snack and drink and sneaky m&m. That’s overwhelming. Just dinners. Planning dinners for the week saves me from having to make a decision about dinner every single night. And it saves my kids from having to eat pasta 4 nights a week because it’s the only thing I can think of to make. It also saves me from having to run up to the store mid-week to fill in the gaps of the weekly grocery trip. This might not seem related to reaching your dreams, but it’s huge for me. You see, our brains can only hold so much in them at once. And if my brain is having to think about dinner, remember to thaw something, make sure we have all the ingredients, and figure out when to stop working and start cooking, it doesn’t leave as much room for being creative. And if my body is physically going up to the store to buy something because I bought a ton of snacks on the weekly grocery run and didn’t really buy anything for meals, well then I’m not spending that time working on something productive. And if all of my money is going to pizza delivery because nothing’s planned for dinner and nothing’s defrosted, then that money isn’t going toward professional conferences or trips with my family or date nights. So meal planning is a key piece of dream reaching for me! (And if you want a tool to help you plan your weekly meals, check out my meal planner notepads! Shameless plug. But not that shameless. I just want everyone to have life changing meal plans like I do!)

And that’s it! It took way longer to write about it than it actually takes to do it. Remember that you’ve already planned your month, so a lot of this is laid out for you. And you’re still going to plan each day, so you don’t have to get crazy specific. This is just a middle step that helps keep up your momentum so you can make progress on those big dreams of yours!

Happy Mompreneur Monday by the way! You may have noticed that I didn’t title this post “Mompreneur Monday–Plan Your Week.” With each new post I’m finding out how truly universal our struggles/questions/joys/ideas really are. Whether we’re women or men, parents or not, entrepreneurs, students, day jobbers, dreamers… turns out these posts are resonating with a lot of different people! So while I’ll always write from the perspective of a mompreneur because that’s who I am, I may not always title the post that way. I want to make sure this information feels accessible to everyone!

Here are the links if you need them again! Menu Planner Notepads and Free Printable Weekly Planner

I want to hear from you! What are you planning this week that’s one step toward reaching a big dream? Leave a comment for me below!

Mompreneur Monday – Take a Time Out

Hey everyone! It’s Mompreneur Monday and I’m feeling stretched and frazzled and a little unravelled. Olivia has come down with a cough, which kept me up most of the night (more out of worry than anything else. But then also hearing a jarring cough over the monitor right in the moment I’m about to fall asleep… it’s like being electrocuted.) And Monday is the day I volunteer at her preschool in the mornings. I always come home tired from that, but today I came home and wanted to take a mini coma.

But ugh, my inbox is really full! Mostly with great emails that really need to be read and responded to! Customers to thank, inquiries to address, an SSL certificate to install (oh yeah, when you have your own website and no budget to hire a web person you get to learn how to BE a web person!) They’re all important and positive. But no matter how many awesome emails are in an inbox, the fullness can still be overwhelming.

And the house is looking a little disaster-ish. I swear we just cleaned yesterday, but there are four thousand open jars of paint on the table from a project Olivia started, blankets strewn about the couches from MacKenzie’s sleepover, and countless pairs of shoes that have yet to learn to walk themselves to the appropriate room.

And so I really wanted to just not write a Mompreneur Monday post today! But no. I’ve committed to this and I’m sticking it out, no matter how imperfect this post is, it’s happening. (And I apologize that I haven’t really posted much in addition to Mompreneur Mondays. Life’s a little crazy right now. Let’s aim for 2 posts a week in February!)

So here are my thoughts. My guess is that you, too, are a little overwhelmed right now. Maybe not this minute (or maybe this minute!) but sometime this week you’re going to be overwhelmed. Your house will be a mess and there will be emails to answer and a sick kid needing you. And you won’t know where to start. So I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, and you can try it too.

I’m going to set a timer for 10 minutes. Maybe even 15. I’m going to make myself a cup of coffee. I’m going to put my phone in a different room. And I’m going to read. Or close my eyes. Or write in my journal. Or draw. I’m just going to take a Mommy Time Out and regroup. I need it. I think that when I get to the point where I just feel like I don’t have 10 minutes to spare–that’s when I need 10 minutes the most.

Then I’m going to set my timer for 10 minutes again plan out the next 2 hours. What HAS to get done? What can wait until tomorrow? What will energize me and what will drain me? Who needs me most right now and who is old enough to put their own damn shoes away? And then I’m just going to do things one by one. Realistically, I’ll probably only get like two things done. And that’s ok. That’s two more than if I just sit here staring at my inbox.

We all get overwhelmed. I’ve read a lot about “avoiding” overwhelm and I think that it might just be impossible. I have learned how to plan things better and do things ahead of time and set better boundaries to feel less overwhelmed on a day to day basis, but some days are still overwhelming. So maybe avoiding overwhelm isn’t the answer. Maybe the answer is stopping and saying “Okay, I’m overwhelmed right now, what do I need? What can I give myself for 10 minutes to help with this?” And maybe the answer is chocolate. Yes, I’m almost positive the answer is chocolate.

Mompreneur Monday – On Fear and Failing

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Happy Mompreneur Monday everyone! Let’s start this off with a bang. By talking about the Big Fs. Fear and Failing.

I was humbled and overwhelmed (in a good way) by your positive response to this whole Mompreneur Monday idea. And as I listened to my friends and read the comments on facebook and on my last post, it became pretty clear that the biggest thing holding us back from starting our dreams is fear. And more specifically, fear of failing.

Olivia and I were building the tallest tower the other day. Our goal is to build a tower from the floor to the ceiling. And we’ve come really close, but it keeps falling. So the other day, we were building and building and without warning, it toppled over. I was disappointed. Frustrated that our hard work was sitting in a pile of rubble in front of us. Pondering the physics of these stupid blocks that will probably never reach the ceiling. But then I looked at Olivia. And she wasn’t disappointed or frustrated or sad or angry. She was laughing.

“We’ll build it again! And it will fall again.”

Oh. Good point. “Have you been reading Seth Godin?” I said. (To which she laughed again and said, “No Mommy! I been building blocks!” Silly me.) How could this kid who’s only been stringing sentences together for a few months be so damn wise? We will build our tower again. And it will fall again. And then we’ll build it again! And each time, we’ll learn about what in our structure is failing. And we’ll try something new and get closer to the ceiling. And that’s pretty much how everything in life is. We will try something. And we will fail. And we will try again, but this time smarter. And we’ll fail again. And do better next time.

We can’t really avoid failure. Well we can, but it involves avoiding life and never trying, and having lived that life before I can tell you–it’s not worth it. It’s boring and sad and it doesn’t really make the fear go away (in fact, I think it magnifies it.) So the point is not to avoid the impending failure, but rather to accept it. To try anyway. To see how close you can get to success before your tower tumbles. To embrace the joy as you’re building. To pay attention to what you learn as it’s falling.

When I saw this quote all over Instagram this morning, I really didn’t want re-use it. I wanted to find another quote, or do no quote at all, or write a whole post about diversity and acceptance, or something. But this idea of embracing failure and moving forward anyway has been on my heart and on my mind all week and this is the post that I knew I needed to write today. And this is just the most fitting quote ever, so I’m going with it.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

So there is your task for today. Have faith in yourself. Have faith in your dream. Be childlike in your journey. Know that you are going to fail and take the first step anyway. You don’t have to take all the steps now, just one. Buy that domain name even if you’re afraid your website will fail. Bake a batch of treats even if you’re afraid no one will taste them. Sketch your next dress design even if you’re afraid no one will wear it. List your first card on Etsy, even if you’re afraid no one will buy it. Write a blog post even if you’re afraid no one will read it. Put the next block on the tower, even if you’re afraid it will fall. It will fall. And you will build it again.