Hitting the Refresh Button (on Life)

We’ve all experienced a slow-loading internet page and the magic that is the refresh button. Or when the computer’s lagging and a little restart fixes everything. Or my personal favorite–how taking the battery out of a cell phone and putting it back in cures 97% of problems (including acne.)

Don’t you wish there was a refresh button for life?

You may have noticed that I haven’t been as chatty as usual. I slipped into a little period I like to call “Bare Minimum Mode,” which was a combination of many many preschool obligations, an increased effort to organize my home, a sudden change in routine with preschool ending, and an unexpected work slump. I felt simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed.

Bare Minimum Mode can be useful–temporarily. I gave myself permission to do only what absolutely needed to be done and took a break from the things that are nice to do, but not essential. I reminded myself that my bare minimum of keeping a business running and raising a toddler is probably more than someone else’s 110%! The danger of Bare Minimum Mode comes when it goes on to long. Once the preschool yearbook was printed and distributed, the closet was organized, and we were settled into our new summer routine, it was time to step up my game again.

The problem was, I couldn’t. I was feeling really stuck. I had let myself slide too deep into the sticky mud of Bare Minimum Mode and I was starting to feel depressed.

Fortunately, a couple very well-timed emails landed in my inbox. Who knew a little email newsletter could have a real impact in someone’s life? But these both seemed to speak directly to me.

The first was from April Bowles-Olin. She and Mayi Carles are launching a 21-day program called Busy-to-Happy that starts on July 1st! It sounds like exactly what I need to screw my head back on in terms of my business! A refresh button for work. They challenged their readers to set a goal and make a public declaration on social media and blogs. So here you go! My slightly grainy selfie holding my declaration to launch a fun and beautiful new line of invitations by August 1st! (And I won’t let those evil gremlins Fear, Procrastination, Exhaustion, or the super evil Facebook stand in my way!)

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Somehow the Universe knew that I needed even more of a forklift to get me out of my slump, though. A few days later I got an email from Sage Grayson inviting me to be a beta tester for her new Life Editing for Beginners program. It starts June 30th, so I was a bit hesitant to sign up for both programs (does an overwhelmed person really need two programs at the same time?!) But I wrote to Sage and she reassured me that the two programs actually complement each other very well. So I signed up right away. Life Editing is going to be my refresh button for my life!

As I get older it feels that time is slipping by at a faster and faster pace. I keep finding myself saying “How is 2014 almost halfway over already?!” I’m certainly not halfway through my goals for the year! I think these two programs will be just the refresh button I need to make the second half of the year AWESOME!

 

 

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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!

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 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.