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!

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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!

IMG_0006

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!

Reach Your Dreams Part 1 – Monthly Goals and Planning

monthly planning for moms and entrepreneurs

I think one of the biggest challenges running a business–especially one from home–is that there’s no set schedule to maintain or road map of where to go. It’s all in your hands. (And that’s one of the greatest parts, too. But it can also be daunting to be the boss of oneself.) I think it’s easy to slip into a spot where we’re working at our businesses all the time and never working on our businesses. Emails need to be answered, orders need to be fulfilled, add mouths to feed and butts to wipe, and there’s not a whole lot of time or energy left for business building.

This winter, I looked back at my year and noticed that I barely added any new designs to my collection. I came back from Stationery Academy bursting with ideas to refine my workflow and improve my customer experience. I have pages of ideas of blog posts sitting in journals and on post it notes. Scads of sketches and ideas for innovative products. That’s a lot of potential sitting around waiting for the world to see it. And it’s all waiting on me to take it out of potential-mode and release it to the world.

Every business expert/guru/sage out there will tell you that in order to succeed in business and life, you must give time and attention to high-priority, low-urgency tasks like creating new designs and testing new marketing strategies. Spending our lives putting out fires, bouncing from one urgent task to the next puts us on a surefire road to burnout. And I found myself on a high-speed train headed straight for Burnoutsville and I had no idea how to slow down, let alone turn around.

So how did I get out of firefighter mode and get into creation mode? I planned better. And then I did better. If we wait until we’re in our day, we will always choose the urgent task (the email in front of us, the toddler pulling on our leg, the order that is due today) and the business-building tasks, personal-care tasks, and growth tasks will go by the wayside. So we have to plan ahead.

I love to read about productivity. (Reading about it is so much easier than actually being productive.) And pretty much everything I’ve read falls into one of two approaches: A top-down approach in which you figure out who you are at your core, what your priorities are, and what tasks have true meaning for you, then plan your to-dos accordingly. Or a bottom-up approach in which you collect all of your nagging to-dos, sort them into categories, prioritize them, and then plug away to check things off.

Either approach is fine–great even! But if you’re anything like me, you’re super gung-ho when you start implementing a new strategy, and then real life gets in the way and you never get to stage 2. So for me that meant I was having these great little quiet mornings drinking coffee and pondering my true purpose in life… but never getting to the point of implementing tasks that align with that purpose. So I’d switch gears and try a bottom-up approach and have these great days of answering all my emails and going to bed with an empty inbox… but never getting to the point of creating time for higher-level priorities and goals.

So what’s a busy business girl to do? Is there any productivity system or strategy that actually works? Yes! Any of them can work actually. You just might have to switch your focus. For me, I had to move my focus from the top and from the bottom. I had to focus on the middle. I was spending so much time on my “top” (defining my core/values/passions, etc.) that I wasn’t getting anything done. Or I was spending so much time getting little things done that I wasn’t doing anything with meaning. But for the last couple months I’ve tried out a different start point–and it’s working!

My secret? Planning my month. Over the next couple weeks I’ll also share how I plan my weeks and my days, but it really hinges on planning my month. Now I’ll be honest–I think this works best when you do have some bigger, over-arching goals (whether you like to do goals for your year, six months, or even just three). But leaving it at big goals is too daunting and usually the goals are too big or too vague. So whether you have big goals written down or they’re just sort of in your mind and heart, the key is picking some manageable goals and tasks for the month. A month is long enough to accomplish some real stuff, but not long enough to put things off for when you “have time.”

If you’re at the stage where you really don’t know what your big goals are, I highly recommend Lara Casey’s goal setting strategies. Here’s the link to the last step, which has links to all of her steps. I also use and love Whitney English’s Day Designer and the front pages are all about defining your core and setting goals for the year. There are a ton of great goal-setting activities, workshops, and books out there. (Tell me your favorites in the comments!) Pick one, make some goals, and then stop dwelling on this stage and move on!

HOW I PLAN MY MONTH:
Step 1 – Plan to Plan: This is a little gem I get from Whitney English. It seems so simple, but it really was a missing link for me. I can do all the reading and thinking I want about productivity. I can know exactly what I need to do to make things happen. But while I’m busy fighting fires and potty training and filling orders and answering emails, I forget to actually set aside time to fill out my planner or set goals! So I have to plan to plan. Like I actually put it in my planner! I pick a day–I like weekend mornings when everyone’s asleep, but you can pick whatever time/day works for you. I set aside about an hour each on the last Saturday and Sunday of the month to plan the upcoming month. (I split it between two days because inevitably someone will wake up early and require something of me. If I luck out and feel confident with my plan after an hour on Saturday, awesome! I can sleep in on Sunday or use that time for something else.) So I want you to open your planner, calendar, to-do-list app, whatever you use and find an hour near the end of the month that you can set aside just for planning. Write “Plan my month” in there right now!

Step 2 – Review goals and pick a focus (or three): I have ten big overarching goals right now. Ten is a number that works for me for the big picture. I have goals in all the areas of my life: mother, wife, friend, business owner, and just as a person. But I can’t give all ten equal attention each month. There just isn’t enough of me and there aren’t enough days. I’ve realized this after spending a few months working on these ten goals, there are some I’m actually making progress on and others that continue to go by the wayside. So I’ve started picking a “top three” for the month. Three goals/areas that are going to take priority above the others.

For February, I’m focusing on my health/fitness, my marriage, and creating new invitation designs. It doesn’t mean I’m not working on other things like being a joyful mother or improving my workflow (or keeping up with Mompreneur Monday posts!) It just means these are areas that need attention and I want to focus on them this month.

Step 3 – Write some actionable tasks to accomplish this month: Here’s the good stuff. Goals and values and hopes and dreams are all great. But in order to make real progress toward any of those, we have to take action. Start with your top 3 and ask yourself “What actions can I take this month that will help me toward this goal?” These can be small tasks or larger projects, but they should be something you can finish and check off before the end of the month. (If they’re too big to do in a month, then what steps can you finish in the month?) Here are a few of mine:

  • Plan and go out for a date night
  • Try one new workout activity
  • Complete the first assignment for Hand Lettering Class
  • Clean Olivia’s room
  • Create a questionnaire for custom design clients
  • Prepare materials for taxes and make appointment with accountant

You can see that I still include tasks and projects that aren’t directly related to my top 3–and that’s ok! The top 3 goals are shaping the first tasks on the list and there’s still room for others.

Step 4 – Write actionable tasks to accomplish weekly – Some goals require repetitive tasks. I could say for the month, “Design 4 new invitations.” But I’ve known myself for over 30 years now and if that was my task, I’d be looking at my list on February 27th going “How can I design 4 invites by tomorrow? Not happening.” Instead, I have “Design one new invitation” as one of my weekly tasks. Here are a few others:

  • Plan meals and buy healthy food
  • Write a love note
  • Play date adventure with Olivia
  • Write Mompreneur Monday post
  • List two items on website

Step 5 – Write actionable tasks to accomplish daily – Some of our goals are really habits we want to form. And this is where daily tasks really help. The key for me is to not write too many. It’s challenging for me to incorporate even ONE new task into my daily routine. I use Lara Casey’s Powersheets for my monthly plan and there’s room for 5 daily tasks/goals on there. That is the maximum I think anyone can handle! And I’ll be honest, I’m usually doing pretty well on 2 or 3 of them and the others don’t get checked off as often. But I’m trying to embrace the whole “progress not perfection” idea. My daily tasks are:

  • Do yoga, walk, or move
  • Eat power foods
  • Design my day
  • Tidy for 10 minutes
  • Turn off my phone and spend real time with my family for at least an hour

Step 6 – Put it in your planner. The first few times I tried monthly planning, I stopped after Step 5. I kept my sheets in my pretty binder. And forgot to look at them for the rest of the month. You can imagine how many tasks got checked off. (I’ll give you a hint, it’s less than one and rhymes with “hero.”) I have to have something right in front of me if I want to actually remember to do it. I actually have to have it in front of me in 3 or 4 places. I have to make it impossible to ignore. So I tape my list right in front of me at my desk. I see it a million times a day. And when there’s a lull or a moment of “Hmmm, what should I do right now?” I look at my list and see if there’s something I can do right at that moment.

This month I took it a step further and planned when in the week or month I’d like to work on my tasks. (I was finding myself on Fridays trying to do all of my weekly goals and it was a little manic.) Picking a day to work on something helps alert me if I’ve planned too much and prevents me from putting everything off until the end of the month. So I plan to blog on Mondays and Wednesdays, list new items on my website on Tuesdays and Fridays, and work on new designs on Thursdays. Date night is planned for Valentine’s Day, I blocked off time on the 21st to watch the first part of my online hand lettering class, and cleaning Olivia’s room was the perfect snow day activity this weekend. Due dates give tasks more umph and importance. Spreading them out through the month makes them more manageable.

Step 7 – Look at the whole month and rearrange as necessary. I also take this time to make sure my calendar is up to date with orders that are due, appointments, and social engagements. After all, it’s these everyday obligations that tend to be the reasons to put off working on our dreams and goals. If I see that I have too many orders scheduled to go out the same day, I see where I can spread those out and I don’t plan to spend hours on a blog post like this one. If I see a stretch of a few days without an order due, I make sure to plan a goal-related task like designing something new or organizing a section of the office so that I don’t just piddle that time away on little tasks that don’t really matter.

Step 8 – Be patient and forgiving with yourself. The first time (or first 5 times) you try this you’re going to plan too many things. More than you can realistically finish. I don’t know anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit who has too few goals, so I won’t even entertain the possibility that you have too little planned for the month. But even though I never end a month with all my tasks checked off, I do accomplish way more than I ever did before I started monthly planning. So when you start to get discouraged, look at all you have accomplished. Then look at what you haven’t and ask yourself “why?” Was it too lofty a goal for the month? Was it specific enough? What did you do with your time instead of that task? Are you planning too many things to realistically finish? Maybe the tasks that keep not getting checked off need to become your focus for next month. Or maybe they aren’t really that important to you and don’t need to make an appearance for a while. You’ll get a sense in your heart of what feels right and what doesn’t. And you’ll do even better at this next month!

Whew! This is a long post! Thanks for sticking with me through the whole thing–I promise that if you follow these steps, next month will be your most productive one yet! Stay tuned, because next week I’ll tell you how I plan my week and after that I’ll share how I plan my day!

Share with me! What goals are you going to make progress on next month? How will you plan to make them happen? Comment below!

Happy October!

It’s October! I can tell because Christmas decorations are filling the aisles of the grocery store and I don’t know what I’m going to be for Halloween yet. Plus I have an immediate craving for pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin beer. When the leaves change and I start buying sweaters, I’ll know it’s autumn for sure!

There are good things in store for Fresh Paper this month! September was my chance to let my brain process everything I learned at Stationery Academy. I’ve been doing some soul searching and working on my “core.” (My values, my passions, the things that make me feel alive! Not my abs. I should work on that core too.) One month of randomly working on things here and there is enough, though–it’s time to get serious. Here’s what’s going on with me this month!

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I’m working through Lara Casey’s Power Sheets. If you have some goals to set (and who doesn’t?) you need these. I don’t know Lara personally, but I know some people who know her, and I’m super grateful that I came across her Power Sheets. I suffer from what I think every creative entrepreneur suffers from–BigIdeaItis. I have a lot of big ideas. They all rattle around in my brain and have a big party up there. Then they get tipsy on champagne, pass out on the couch, and forget to go to class. Follow through is not my strong suit. Sometimes I even get to the goal-setting stage, but then what? Life gets in the way, orders get in the way, my dreams go by the wayside. Lara’s Power Sheets give me a place to do the core work I desperately need to do to move this business in the direction I want it to go. She’s also walking me through goal setting and then gives space to keep track of progress! There’s just something great about a good workseet that helps keep me focused on the task at hand more than using a journal. And everything comes hole-punched to put in a binder (I’m using my super fab Stationery Academy binder so that all of my businessy goal stuff is together.) And it’s just FUN! I read business books and time management books and goal books often. But… most of them are written by men. Not that I have anything against men! It’s just… they’re usually writing for other men. For business men. Who work in toddler-free offices with water coolers and colleagues and button down shirts. Their needs are different than mine. Lara Casey is a creative entrepreneur with an adorable kid. So we’re pretty much soul sisters, even though I’ve never met her. I’m sure we’re going to be super awesome friends.

fresh paper new website preview

I’m giving Fresh Paper a website makeover! I thought about waiting until I was done to announce this, but I can’t hold it in! This decision is two-fold. First of all, it’s necessary. A couple months ago, my current e-commerce platform did an “upgrade.” Since then, there have been several bugs making the site function less-than-optimally. (Customers! Do not be alarmed! You will still be able to place your orders safely and securely! But if you run in to any trouble at all with checkout, feel free to email me so I can help you out!) It doesn’t look like those will ever be fixed. I never want my customers to feel frustrated when shopping, so it’s time to switch platforms. (If you are a business owner and would like to talk with me about e-commerce and how I chose a platform, feel free to drop me a line!) And secondly–I’ve been wanting to update my “brand” ever since I got back from Stationery Academy. I’m not doing a major “rebranding” or anything, I just want to clean things up a bit and give my site a look that speaks to what I’m all about–celebrating our fun, bright, and bold lives! So this is happening! I’m working day and night to move everything over to the new platform and I plan to launch the new site by Halloween!

I’m introducing a new product! Should I tell you what it is? Should I keep it a surprise? I can’t decide! Ok, I’ll give you a hint. It’s based off a “fan favorite” from my facebook page and it sticks to the fridge! I think that’s enough of a hint for now. But I’m super excited about it, and I can’t wait to show you! Stay tuned–I’ll be announcing pre-orders sometime in the next few weeks.

I think those are my big updates for October! I’ll also be buying new jeans, searching for cute rain boots, getting a hair cut, and possibly trying a pumpkin spice latte. I love fall. Well I love every season! I love fall because it means change. Leaves change, the weather changes, and I feel like big life changes always happen in the fall. It’s a good reminder that change will happen with or without us, so we might as well embrace it. I’m taking charge of my fall!

What’s on your list for October? What great things do YOU have in store? Let me know in the comments! P.S. I’ve been keeping up with my daily yoga! Are you giving yourself 10 minutes a day to do something just for you? If so, how has it changed your day?