Feeling Overwhelmed? 5 Things to Do NOW

messy-desk-big-pile Ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed? (HA! Is that even a question? I don’t know a single mompreneur who doesn’t feel overwhelmed at least most of the time.) I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The difference between successful entrepreneurs and the rest of the world isn’t that they don’t get overwhelmed. It’s that they experience the overwhelm and push past it. Here are a few quick tricks to get un-overwhelmed and move on with your day:

  1. Empty your inbox – I used to think inbox clutter was just a sign that I was “making it.” No. Inbox clutter is a sign that I don’t know what the f to do with my emails. Taking “Get Stuff Done Like a Boss” on Skillshare totally changed my mind about using my inbox as a giant to do list and file cabinet. “But how will you remember all that important stuff in your inbox if you don’t leave it there, Emily?” Simple. Write it on  your actual to do list or file it in an actual file cabinet. These can be physical or web-based (evernote is a great virtual file cabinet for all those articles that you’re going to read “someday”) but they must be something other than your inbox.So if you have 20-30 minutes, go through your inbox and clear the clutter. I start at the bottom (oldest email) and work my way up. In general my emails tend to be: *Questions/Inquiries – If it’s a question I can reply to in under 2 minutes, I write back. If it’s an inquiry that will take a little longer because I need to explain something, find links, gather photos, etc., I need to write the action in my planner. *Order Notifications – Time to write the order on my order clipboard and put the next action item (usually personalizing a proof) in my planner. *Articles and Newsletters – I’m a newsletter junkie. I sign up for tons of newsletters and I really enjoy reading them! But I also don’t have time to read them all the moment they come in. So when I’m clearing my inbox I open each one and glance at it. If it looks boring, delete. If it looks really really interesting, I save it to evernote to read later. *Real Action Items – for me, these are usually responses to a proof I’ve emailed to a client. So I need to make a revision or send an invoice or write back with a ship date or do something. It’s been a big revelation for me that an email sitting in my inbox is not a task. Seeing the email may remind me I need to do a task, but when I get too many emails, I start to not really see them anymore. I lose track of the important ones and it’s all a sea of tos and froms. So! Out of the inbox! Into another system! I’ve found that all I really need is to be able to access the email again for the information. I use gmail, so I can search for any email really easily. I write the actual action item along with the client’s name and then when it’s time to take action I search for the email to get the info I need.
  2. Clear your workspace – To really clear my workspace is like a 90 hour project. But when I’m feeling overwhelmed and stuck, it’s often when the piles are out of control and taking over. Even 10 minutes spent recycling stuff and clearing off a little space to work makes a huge difference. The key for me is to be okay with not doing it all. Just cleaning one desk or just dealing with trash or just putting the pens and scissors away can be enough!
  3. Drink a glass of water – Water is like a magic potion. Chances are if you’re busy, you’re probably also dehydrated. Most people just don’t get enough water in their day. Feeling tired? You’re probably thirsty. Got the munchies? You’re probably thirsty. Want to hide in a cave and ignore life instead of open one more email? You’re probably thirsty. Take 2 minutes to fix yourself a glass of cold water and enjoy a little reset to your day!
  4. Do the task you’re dreading – If there’s something hanging over your head like a guillotine, avoiding it won’t make it go away. Chances are if you just DO it, you’ll feel so much better for having it done. This isn’t rocket science. I know you know this. But if you’re sitting here reading my blog instead of doing what you need to do–you need me to tell you to eat the damn frog.
  5. Get out and play – Turn off your phone, turn off your computer, and just go outside and play for 20 minutes. Whatever that looks like to you–if you have kids, play with them! Build a tower, shoot some hoops, color. Think you’re too old for tag? You aren’t! Don’t have kids? Play anyway! Don’t spend forever trying to think of something that would be fun and not make you look like an idiot, just go out and do something! (Build a tower, shoot some hoops, color!) Playing is rejuvenating and will remind you that you’re alive! Best cure to overwhelm ever.

All of these are relatively quick in-the-moment momentum boosts. None are cures for prolonged overwhelm. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your life day in and day out, you probably need to make a bigger change than just drinking a glass of water. I know. I’ve been there. And we will talk about that in weeks to come! What about you? What do you do to get going again when your mountainous to do list/inbox/desk pile seems too daunting to cope? Comment below!

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!

Mompreneur Monday – I want to hear from you!

Happy Monday! This is one of those weeks. One of those booked-calendar-no-breathing-room-gotta-get-it-done weeks. So today’s post is short. Super short.

I want to hear from YOU! I’m working on future mompreneur monday posts and I’m looking for two things: 1) your questions and 2) your stories!

Your Questions – As a mompreneur (or as a budding mompreneur, or as an entrepreneur who is not a mom, or as a mom who is not an entrepreneur, or as a human being, or as an alien, or as whatever you are today…) what do you want to know? What do you struggle with? What questions do you have? If you could sit down for coffee and just have a friendly chat with someone who knows what you’re going through, what would you ask? Don’t hold back. No question is too big or too small!

Your Stories – One of the posts I’m working on features real life mompreneurs and how they chose their line of work. And I need more stories! So if you are a mom and you are working for yourself, talk to me! I want to hear from you no matter how small or how big your business is! What is your business and how did you get into it? (Were you doing something similar before, but for a boss? Did you discover a new passion after a layoff? Did you calculate each move or wing it?) No matter your path, I want to hear about it!

Please get in touch! You can comment below or contact me through my website (which will come directly to my email!)

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Mompreneur Monday – What’s Happening in April?

Wow, so it’s after 5 on Monday and I’m just now sitting down to write my Mompreneur Monday post. Things have felt a little scattered lately, but not in the classic overwhelmed way–more in a new-things-are-brewing-and-I’m-just-too-excited-about-too-much way! So a bunch of different ideas for posts have been rattling around in my brain and I just couldn’t stop and focus on one tonight. Instead, here’s a mash up of the exciting mompreneur things I’m thinking about for this upcoming month!

The E Myth Revisited

What I’m ReadingThe E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. I told you guys last week about how inspired I was by Jess Lively. Well then she went ahead and outdid herself. In one of her email newsletters, she asked readers to write back and ask any question they want. So I did. And she wrote back! And suggested I read The E-Myth Revisited to help get some extra systems in place in my business to feel a little less overwhelmed by it. At first glance, I wouldn’t have thought this would be a book for me. But wow. Wow. I’m only halfway through, but I can already tell this book is going to change my business and my life. I am not a person who likes to hear that I’m doing something wrong. But Gerber’s style, charisma, experience, and real-life examples are captivating. I never thought I’d be eager to listen to someone tell me I’m doing everything wrong, but I love it! I’m staying up way too late reading every night. So if you’re in a spot where you feel like you’re working too much, or you feel like you can’t separate your business from yourself, or you feel like you’re managing your business on a combination of luck and coffee–this book is for you!

What I’m Focusing On At Home – Cleaning and Organizing! This is something that’s always on my list. But this month it is my main focus. My only focus. Sure, I’ll continue doing great work and aim to be a present wife and mother, but getting my home and office organized will help ALL the areas of my life. Work will flow smoother, Olivia will have more room to play safely, and it will create a space of calm and beauty for the whole family. Plus my birthday’s coming up! So it would be awesome if the house was in order and we could actually have people over to celebrate.

I had a lovely conversation with a lovely mama last week about her new Etsy shop, and afterward she offered some tips for organizing. I told her the trap I fall into is that I’ll clear one surface (my desk or my work table usually) but then it really just shifts stuff to another surface. And then I lose steam and don’t move onto the other surfaces and stuff comes back on to the clean surface. She suggested thinking about steps in a different way. Instead of focusing on one surface, focus on one “layer” if you will. Like all the recycling. Or deal with all of the envelopes.

So today I started! My first goal is to get all of the garbage and recycling out of the house. Garbage isn’t a huge problem in the office, but the recycling! I’m in the paper biz! And since it doesn’t smell bad, it’s so easy to fill a box and let it sit and then just start another box. Today I emptied the boxes. And gathered random paper scraps off tables. And picked things up off the floor. And I got it out. First I just set a timer for 10 minutes and gave myself permission to do only that much. It went by quickly so I did another 10. Then took an instagram break. Then did 25 more minutes! And I’m still not finished (told you–a lot of recycling) so I’ll plug away more at it tomorrow! On this one, I didn’t take before pictures–too embarrassing! But some before and after pictures may be in store for other phases.

New Designs – I’m committing to at least 3 new wedding designs this month! Now that I’ve said it on here and know you’ll be expecting to see them, I have to do it, right? I’m focusing on keeping things fresh, modern, unique, and quirky, with a focus on fun typography and bold colors.

Business Stuff – I’m starting a newsletter! I’m a little nervous, but totally excited about it! I’d be honored if you feel like welcoming me into your inbox once a month! (And then I’ll come back and recap about what I learn about the whole process! You know me.) Sign up for free fresh tips and new product releases right here!

And I think that’s enough for one girl for one month, don’t you think? What about you? What’s on your agenda this April? Comment below!

Wedding Wednesday – New Invitation Roundup

It’s wedding wednesday! And it occurred to me that with all the talk I’ve been doing about goals and intentions and etiquette and planning… I haven’t updated you guys on what I’ve been working on in the studio! Here are the latest goodies from my wedding collection:

City Skyline Invitations – I wanted to combine a bold, modern skyline with a fun mix of fonts and a cool layout. This  is what was born! I love that we can feature multiple wedding colors in the skyline for a fun, unique look.

city skyline wedding invitations by fresh paper studios

city skyline wedding invitations by fresh paper studios

Ombré Block Text Wedding Invitations – I love ombré. It’s so hot and trendy right now, it’s hard not to be obsessed. But with a zillion invitations out there featuring traditional text laid out on a watercolor ombré background, I wanted to do something different. So I thought, “why not make the words themselves ombré?” Tada!

ombre wedding invitation by fresh paper studios

ombre wedding invitation by fresh paper studios

Rustic Typography Invitation – These started as a custom design for one of my favorite brides, Shellie! She wanted something quirky and unique with a handwriting feel. A little bit rustic, but a little bit modern. I love what we came up with and now it’s available for everyone!

rustic typography invitation by fresh paper studios

rustic typography invitation by fresh paper studios

Stay tuned! I’m working on some really fun, bold invitation ideas and I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, what would you like to see from Fresh Paper Studios? 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.

Wedding Wednesday – Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Etiquette

Today’s Wedding Wednesday question comes from Pamela!

We are having a very intimate wedding ceremony with just our immediate family back in our home town and then a huge party with all of our friends in our current city. Who can I invite to the shower and bachelorette party? Just those going to the actual wedding, or can I include friends who are coming to the local party?

Hi Pamela! As small, private ceremonies and destination weddings are becoming more popular, it gets trickier to navigate the old “rules” about bridal shower etiquette. It used to be pretty straightforward–if someone wasn’t close enough to invite to the wedding, it would be impolite to invite them to the shower (where they’d feel obligated to bring a gift). But these days as the definition of weddings changes, I think so can the definition of the parties surrounding weddings.

Let’s start with the bridal shower! I think it’s perfectly acceptable to invite anyone that’s invited to the local reception to the shower. Think of your reception as a “substitute” wedding in your city since your ceremony is back home. Your friends are most likely not feeling left out that they’re not invited to the ceremony–they understand and love and support you. And therefore they won’t feel put out or weird if they’re invited to a bridal shower. They’re your friends! They want to celebrate with you!

If you’re feeling unsure about it or are worried it will look like a “gift grab,” plan to have a more casual, no-gifts shower. Like a girl’s day at the spa, a casual brunch, or even a backyard barbecue.

I will give one piece of advice–in order to avoid confusion, make sure you’ve sent out your separate wedding and reception invites before sending any shower invites. A friend who’s not up to speed on your wedding/party plans may misinterpret a shower invitation. But if everyone knows which part of your celebration they’re invited to attend before any shower invites are sent, things should go pretty smoothly.

I also think rules can be bent for showers with coworkers. A lot of times we can’t invite everyone from our workplace to our weddings, but coworkers still want to celebrate and give their good wishes. In many cases, it’s appropriate and acceptable for a close friend/coworker to throw a “work shower” in which all work friends are invited, even if the wedding can’t accommodate them all. (As long as the host makes it clear that this is a celebration in lieu of being with you on your big day!)

Bachelorette Party rules are even more flexible! Gifts aren’t typically a requirement, so parties like this seem less like an obligation and more like a super fun time! Again, I think it’s fair to invite anyone that’s also invited to the local reception. And if there are friends you’d like to join you that aren’t invited to that, it’s still possible with good communication. You can say something like, “Our venue for the reception has really strict size restrictions and we can’t invite everyone we want to. But I know you really love to party and I’d love to celebrate with you by taking some shots off random guys’ abs. Are you in?” If you know someone well enough to stumble around with her wearing a cheap sash that says “bride,” you probably know her well enough to gauge whether she’d be honored or offended.

An alternative would be to call it a “Ladies’ Night Out” instead of a bachelorette party. Just changing the wording takes the stress of wedding etiquette out of the equation and lets you focus on the fun.

The main thing to keep in mind–with this, or with any etiquette issue–is that your friends and family love and support you. They want to be involved and feel included. They want to celebrate with you! As long as you’re clear and loving in your communication with them, they’ll most likely be happy to party with you!