Make Plans, Chase Dreams, Live Happy (and with a plan)

Following the theme of Nicole's awesome Time Management Tips post, I have been thinking about my own time management and how to streamline, improve and trim the fat. I want to share with you something that is a game changer for me. It actually came down to something as simple as I needed a new planner. What? YUP!

Although I am a roam the earth free spirit artistic kind of gal, I am also a planner. Shocking right? Well, let me explain.

Ever since I got my hands on my first FiloFax as a wee young up and comer, I have been a fan of the organizer & planner. It serves so many purposes. Not just helpful with dates and schedule but... It is a great place to stash business cards and receipts; it hold notes and numbers and random thoughts. My FiloFax has been around the world with me over and over until it died and finally the last stitch came apart a few years ago. Oh the stories it could tell. And oh the loss I felt.

Sure we are in the digital age and there are apps and tools for workflow. But for me, I like pen to paper. I am a fan of writing things down. I also like to gather my thoughts, spend a few minutes of quiet time and getting grounded. My needs have changed as I began to focus more on my small business, so I looked for planners that did more than just provide a place to write things down. I wanted to PLAN.

In my search I stumbled upon Passion Planner. What is this? I have Passion. I need a Planner. Hmmm..... As I read more & found out about the company (which has a great story you should read here) and the planner I discovered that they use mind mapping to help set a course to achieve goals. WAIT!?!? WHAT???

I LOVE Mind Mapping. How is it that I have never thought of this, but Thank God they did! It makes such perfect sense. I had to get one of these. And let me tell you- if you are an artisan, small business owner, human being with dreams & goals - you will want to get this too.

Granted, at first it is overwhelming. But the word itself means you need more than a notepad... we are making PLANS. In the short time since I have had my Passion Planner I can honestly say my efficiency has improved. My focus has increased. My spirit is lifted. Can a Planner really be the source of this? YES!

Because if you take the time in the beginning to invest and get going with the tools provided in the Passion Planner then it really does remove the clutter and help facilitate success. It is more than just things "to do". By following the Passion Planner layout tools, it has helped me prioritize, remove some clutter and truly come up with the HOW to achieving my goals. I am also a fan of the downloadable inserts. Because.. um.. graph paper :-)

As I gear up for busy season, it is crucial to streamline and be productive & efficient. I have incorporated spending a few minutes with my planner to start my day and it truly has helped me regain some focus I had lost in the clutter of To Do Lists.  I am stoked to see how this continues and mind-map my way to achieving my goals.

And now, OMG - get this- the fine folks at Passion Planner are giving one Stitch & Hustle community member your very own 2016-2017 GameChanger Passion Planner. Um helloooooooo... get in on this. Enter below. Don't wanna wait to win one? You can buy one here

Disclosure: Passion Planner sent me this planner free of charge for the purpose of this review and provided the giveaway. Although this is sponsored content, opinions and review are completely my own.

Cozy Season, Simple Season

As Makers & small business owners, this is our time of year. This is the time we live for... these months leading up to the holidays and all that comes with it. But for us, this time of year brings a unique set of challenges in finding balance and enough hours in the day. I am always interested in how to improve in this area and squeeze as much quality into those hours as possible. I've invited one of my favorite makers, Nicole Knutsen of Naturally Nora Crochet, to share her tips for not just surviving the bustle of the season, but thriving through it! Take it away Nicole...

When I was a child, my grandmother would overwhelm us with loving gestures all autumn long. Family outings, special celebrations, and gifts upon gifts upon gifts. We would find ourselves buried in an avalanche of white tissue paper and golden tinsel every year.

I read a book when I was about eight or nine in which the little girl protagonist received a set of colored pencils in a wooden box as her Christmas gift from her grandmother. This little girl cherished her simple gift and rode home with it in her lap, cradling it like a treasure. That year, I wrote a letter to Santa asking for only one gift, making sure to specify that I did not want anything else. I wanted to feel what the little girl from my book felt-simple pleasure from a simple gift and the freedom to pour out gratitude for a humble holiday. Even as a young child, I felt deep in my soul a longing for that kind of joy.

That simplicity becomes more and more difficult to claim as we grow into adulthood, as we marry and integrate two families, as we commit ourselves to meaningful friendships, as we have our own children, as we start our own businesses. Simplicity and slow living doesn’t just happen, it takes commitment and work.

The demands and expectations of the coming season can overwhelm,  draining the comfort and joy out of all the things that bring us our happiest childhood memories, particularly when you are a self-employed-maker-of-cozy. Your boss can be SUCH a task master! I know mine can.

I am taking some steps this year to make this my family’s most intentional holiday season yet, even though it is also likely to be my busiest season as a maker yet. As I tiptoe carefully into fall, I will be focusing on five commitments to help achieve the humble, joyful season I so desire for my family. Care to join me?

Make a Plan

I recently created my own planner, customizing it to include all the areas of my life I am currently attempting to juggle. In addition to daily tasks, I have an area for my various business needs, including weekly goals for making, designing, writing, photography, and social media. By splitting these tasks up throughout my week and planning goals a few weeks in advance, I know how much work I can realistically bite off on any given day. This has literally saved me from insanity as the season has already begun to ramp up with market applications and collaborations.

In addition to my weekly planner. I keep a very strict daily schedule. I am strictly disciplined about work on my computer-writing, photo editing, and patterning must be done in the two hour window my husband and I plan for when he is home throughout the week, before the kids wake up, or after they’ve gone to bed. This is the only way I, personally, can be fully present with my children, which is top priority for me (this is what works for ME; no judgment here at all if you do it differently!) I allow myself time to crochet throughout the day, as the kids play at home or at a park, while they are at dance class or as we wait for an appointment, but my computer stays closed.

Take Time to Prepare

I am a designer. I want to be creating new designs and writing patterns all the time. I am a blogger. I love writing and sharing my heart and soul to encourage others. But, this time of year, I am specifically setting aside one day a week when I work exclusively on building stock for fall markets. For me, it is so easy to get distracted from building stock. I have about fifteen ideas roaming like free range chickens in my mind at any given time (I know you have NO IDEA how that feels!). Compartmentalizing my various business tasks keeps me moving on the parts I wouldn’t naturally do first.

Focus on People

So far, I have talked about organizing your many to-do’s. It is a constant danger for me to focus so much on my to-do list, that the people right next to me who get in the way of said to-do’s are dealt with swiftly and harshly. This isn’t how I want to live, and it isn’t the kind of mother or wife I want to be. I am working this handmade business life in an effort to spend MORE TIME with the people I love. I must have the self-awareness to realize when the opposite is happening, and the discipline to reverse the effects by refocusing on the folks I’ve been given to care for and the folks I am serving through my designs and handmade items.

Develop a Comfortable Pace

Small tasks done consistently over time add up to very big accomplishments! Treat yourself well by having patience with the pace that works for you. A super-productive day is great; a well balanced day is better. I never feel less satisfied than when I rush myself or my family and the simple pleasures of being together are lost on the highway of life. Take a backroad instead-as Phil Dunphy says, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast!”

Claim Peace

Peace is lost when the expectations we feel from others or ourselves are not met. We feel restless, less-than, harried, and worried. But peace is not a state of being that simply alights upon you-you must be intentional about claiming it. For me, this means letting go of those expectations. I had a goal for September to publish “x” amount of patterns. It didn’t happen. There were days and evenings I could have worked on them and I choose not to. I took my kids to their grandparents or had a date night in with my husband instead. Things went undone. I made peace with myself and let go of the expectation that equates success with productivity. Last holiday season, I had Christmas cards all designed, even printed. They are still unsent, sitting in my desk drawer. I claimed the peace the season is truly about and let go of the expectation that equates an adorable photo sent out in December with familial bliss. Above all the commitments I am making this year, claiming peace by releasing expectations is by fay the most vital.

Plan, and prepare, yes. But I challenge you this year to keep you focus on people, move at a healthy pace, and feel deep in your soul a still kind of peace that will last beyond your busiest season as a maker.

Nicole is the amazing designer and artisan behind Naturally Nora Crochet. Get inspired & follow her on Instagram here.

Do What You Love, Love What You Do

Sunday Reflections:

my happy place: on location

Sunday morning. I'm up early, coffee in hand and sitting here working on my Lookbook and Marketing materials for the 2016-17 season. I couldn't be happier. 

Last year at this time I was stressed. Stretched thin. Trying to squeeze hours into already packed days. I was sad that my time to create and crochet was limited to but a few hours a day and I wasn't finding much joy in it at all because my mind was filled with all the things I needed to do. I was canceling and juggling plans and meetings and always running behind.

I had several projects in play at the time: Prepping for the launch of this blog (which is my passion project for a community that I deeply love); launching an extension of the blog: a consulting agency to assist other artisans become successful in their marketing & social media efforts; development of my tech start up (which was my brainchild and baby); designing new projects AND prepping to go back on location for a new show for several months. Not to mention family and home responsibilities.

Then I had the light-bulb moment.

While meeting with the seed money investor for my tech start up, he said something that changed everything. I do not think he anticipated the answer he got, but it was the right one.

my happy place: cozy crochet corner

He said: Michele, something has to give. To move forward you need to be 100% in this. You are spread too thin and before we invest further I need you 100% in this. Skin in the game beyond finance, this has to be your sole focus.

In that single moment, without even needing to think about it I had total clarity. He was right. While my idea and this project was amazing, it wasn't what I wanted to pursue 100% of my time. I wasn't willing to give up my other loves. Other loves which, oddly as it may be, compliment each other and give my life balance.

Look, walking away from my incredibly needed, viable start-up with seed money on the table was not easy. Especially since it fed my inner geek and I truly love the tech & start up community. But it was easier than I imagined and that's how I know it was right and why I've never looked back with regret. The same with walking away from the consulting agency.

I'm a creative. I'm a small business owner. I am not an entrepreneur. And because I know the difference I'm able to invest my time and resources into the places they are needed and the places that will grow. This clarity allows me to have focus which is essential when it is time for the tough decisions. By walking away from those 2 projects I brought the balance and joy back to my life and as a result, my business and this blog are thriving.

This doesn't mean I won't have other ideas and be part of new projects. This just means I have clarity and focus and both of those things feed my passion which leads me to success. But more importantly, it leads me to happiness. I am truly doing what I love and loving what I do!

Are you spreading yourself too thin?  Do you need to cut some projects loose? I encourage you to take a deep honest personal inventory this week. It will change your life like it did for me.

Don’t Just Be Busy: Be Productive! A Simple Tool for Increasing Daily Productivity

Guest post By Alissa M. Trumbull

Sometimes I have these mornings where I’m paralyzed in bed. I can’t move. I won’t move. I’ve spent the night mulling over what seems like 100 things that need to get done the second my feet hit the floor. Instead of getting up and running, my head feels busy and not productive, and I spend the day running circles around myself like a dog chasing its tail.

I know that I, like many others, continually look for ways to increase productivity. Some days are hard: I might have writing to do, errands to run, a vast number of emails to read and reply higher than a preschooler can count, and a job or two outside the house that require me to be dark on social.

A few weeks ago as a guest on #H2HChat, Brian Moran shared what he does to be more productive every day. Brian broke it down for us and showed how tasks on packed days – and the easy ones, too – can be grouped into four categories:

Urgent – It has to get done today. Don’t go to sleep until it’s finished.

Important – It really needs to get done today. Don’t get in trouble for not doing it.

Everyday – The daily routine. Muscle memory items.

Nonessential – If it doesn’t get done today, it can happen tomorrow. It’s okay to sleep on it.

This blew my mind. Such a simple categorization would allow me to provide better structure and more meaningful organization to my day. As a big fan of post-its, I’ve taken to laying out each day since then in these quadrants.

In the same chat, Brian noted, “Today is for execution; planning happens the night before.” So, now I wake up in the morning with today laid out from the previous evening. As my day goes on, I am able to remove items from my digital list. Ideally, I’ve done everything in the first three categories by the end of each day (and god forbid I forget to feed the cats!).

It’s amazing how my overall stress level has decreased and my productivity has increased during the past few weeks as I’ve utilized this new system. I no longer wake up fearing a lengthy to-do list. Instead, the visual division positively impacts my day, allowing me to be more organized, less busy, and more fruitful in my day-to-day activities.

I feel better. My relationships are better. My work is better. My life is better.

ABOUT Alissa:
Alissa is a Community Gardener for BTC Revolutions. Her purpose in life is to help people find their aha moments. She lives in Denver with her husband and their two cats, and gets to see the mountains every day.