Last week I finished reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben. Although this is by no means a new book (it’s been out since 2009), I finally made some time to finish it. I always thought myself as fairly happy, but this book was a real eye-opener. Am I happy? Not to say that I am unhappy, or dissatisfied with my life, far from it. But there is definitely room for improvement – just like there was in Gretchen’s life.

The funny thing is, happiness is something we all seek. No wonder there are so many quotes about happiness (happiness is not the destination, it’s the way anyone?). All the spiritual masters have something to say on the subject and it has become a routine question at parties. “Are you happy with the new job?” “Are you happy with your new home?” “Are you happy?”. We dutifully answer something along the positive lines. But let’s get real here how happy are you happy?

Much of our happiness come from the things we do on a day to day basis. On some level, we all know this, but reading Gretchen’s book made this abundantly clear. Most of her resolutions weren’t world shocking and didn’t involve a life changing ordeal, they were small resolutions that together made a great impact. The Devil is in the details.

So love what you do every single day, but also do what you love. As entrepreneurs, we are lucky because we are doing what we love. We choose to do what we love and now we get to do it every single day. But at times, it’s easy to forget that. We too have tasks that we don’t want to do, but still have to do. Those tasks linger on our to-do lists, they take up energy, and every time we look at them we are reminded (often with regret) that we still haven’t done XYZ.

Unhappy vs Happy

There is a saying amongst writers: they do their best work when they’re sad, depressed and down. And for the longest time, I found this to be true. Writing served as a cheap form and useful form of therapy. Beautiful sentences formed from my dark thoughts and novels rolled from the tip of my fingers. However, I also found the opposite to be true: you do your best work when you’re happy.

While not every one of use aspires to be a novelist, we still have to get up in the morning, show up and do the work. Which is all well and good, but who wants to get out of bed in the morning when you feel like the whole world is weighing down on your shoulders? That’s right. Nobody. I wouldn’t, and I confess there have been times where I felt so unhappy that I just stayed in bed, or -the horror- watched Netflix all day. Result? Nothing got done. Goodbye, productivity.

I’ve come to realise, and Gretchen’s book anchored this belief, that happiness is the key to getting things done. There will always be things that you don’t want to do. Difficult clients you need to handle, inboxes that get flooded with messages of stuff that needed a reply yesterday, or even that nagging task that’s been on your list forever.

Will it get more enjoyable to do those things? Probably not, but when you have the mental energy to tackle those things, it will get easier. But first, I would suggest that getting happier is a great place to start.

How happiness will help you smash your to-do list

Start with defining what is happiness for you

Do you know what makes you happy? I mean really happy. Not the idea or the feeling that something is supposed to make you happy, but honest to God happy. If you do, that’s great! Make sure you do a little bit of that every single day. Do it at the end of your day to finish the day on a high note, or do it at the start so you start you the day of feeling wonderful and positive.

Have no idea what happiness is for you? Go explore! This is a fun challenge and will surely teach you a lot. Explore different hobbies, different ways to plan and schedule your day until you find that one thing (or more!) that makes you excited to jump out of bed in the morning. If you find that, then make a point of doing it every single day,

Define what you don’t like

This is a bit of a ‘duh’ no brainer right? Nope! You would be amazed how many people don’t define what they really don’t like doing and then end up doing it a lot during their days and weeks. Such a shame! Because they will spend their days stressing out about something they don’t like, while they could have that same mental energy to do something that fired them up. So define what you don’t like, and then minimalise it as much as possible. Outsource it, stop doing it, but whatever you do, don’t let it use up that precious energy.

Eliminate clutter

Let’s get real here for a second. How many things are on your to-do list? I mean for real. How many of those things are things you are actually going to do? I think if you look closely you will find there are several items on that list that have been moved several times and are things that you will get around to eventually. Are you really? Because those tasks on my list are usually the ones that just never get done and the ones that I end up scrapping altogether. Be serious when you look at your list. Are there things on there that eat away mental energy because you keep thinking ‘oh I still haven’t done XYZ’. If there are items like that (and I bet you there are), look if you can get them done this week. If you can’t or start moving them again, see if you can scrap them all together. Either way, find a way to eliminate the clutter on your to-do list.

Go where your passions/strengths are

Another ‘duh’ item and again one people often overlook. Do you know what your strengths are? Do you know what comes more natural to you than to other people? I mean really, this is one of those cases that it concerns things that are so natural to us that we really don’t think about them. Planning was one of those things to me. I was so used to being organised and have all my ducks in a row, that I didn’t realise it’s hard for a lot of people to create a great day planning. It took a lot of time before I started to realise that planning is one of my core strengths and that I can use that to help people.

So this week, pay close attention to the things that you do. See where your strengths are, what do you love doing and most importantly, what are you really good at. Now, make a point of dong that more often and start using it to help people. I bet you everything that it’s going to make a huge difference in your productivity and your feeling of happiness as well.

So what’s on your list for this week?

When it comes to organising your business, there are a lot of tools out there to make life easier. However, they all claim to be THE tool that you need and before you know it, you have subscribed to tons of tools that you don’t need, don’t work for you, or have no idea how to use. Just when looking at to-do list programs there is so much choice, how do you know which one to pick? And how do you stop yourself from switching systems every time something new comes out?

Go beyond business tools & create your own system

Get to know your system

Before anything else, before subscribing to any program or tool, find out what works for you. How do you like to keep track of your to-dos? What’s the best type of diary or calendar for you? Forget what everyone says are the best tools for a minute. Really sit yourself down with a piece of paper and scribble down the system that works for your business, or if you’re lacking one, how you would like it to look.

It’s super easy to get stuck in the mindset of thinking ‘ooh everything feels so unorganised’, and then end of searching for that one perfect tool that solves everything for you. So I’ll let you in on a little secret: there is no one right system or tool. There is only what works for you. And tools are there to make your system work better for you.

So how do you find a system that works for you? Here are few ideas to get you started:

Sit down and create a to-do list. Just sit down and create a to-do list. Forget about what you think should be the best system for you, and list down your to-dos in a way that come naturally to you. Do you like long lists of things that need to get done? Do you like daily lists, or do you like adding things to a weekly or monthly calendar so you can see everything at a glance?

Look at your workflow. Just for a day or two, record your workflow. How do you get things done? What do you start with? How long is your attention span? How easy is it for you to find things? Do you have things you like to do on a specific time?

What kind of work do you do? Now this might seem like a rather obvious one, but it’s not. As a designer, you might do most of your work either in Photoshop, Indesign or even on Squarespace. Each of these has a separate workflow and it will take different tools and systems for each line of work. For instance, I’m a writer and a blogger, so naturally most of my work is text related. Therefore, I tend to do most of my work either in Evernote or Google Docs, which means I have to set up my laptop to complement these programs. Sames goes for designers, you need to set up your laptop so you’re not constantly searching for your files. Make it as easy as possible to access your work with as little clicks as possible.

To find out more about finding out your system, download the worksheet and get a grasp on what works for you!

So now that you have your system clear, it’s time to…

Find tools that work for you

A word of caution here. I really mean finding tools that work for you. You can invest all you want inexpensive tools, but if it’s not working for you, you’ll end up not using it (trust, me I learned the hard way). So make sure the tools you invest in are the ones that fit with your system. Plus these tools are free, or really cheap!

To-do lists

Asana – You can create collections, assign tasks and (my favourite!) few them on a calendar. This is perfect for scheduling your tasks for the entire week. This is free.

Wunderlist – A perfect basic to-do lists. You can create lists, collections and set date reminders. This comes in a free and paid version.

Trello – This is perfect when you have tasks that move through several phases. You can always see at a glance where a task is up to. You can also create teams and add members to your team. This is free.

Finding files

Google drive – This is perfect if you use a lot of different devices and want to keep working. If you have a Gmail/Google account it’s easy to access the files from anywhere. This is free.

Flash drive & external discs – Need to backup something? (old client work, or just some photos you don’t want to lose), I highly recommend this. I have my photos stored in two external places, just to be on the safe side, I do not want to lose those! There are several options to go for here, to fit any budget. (Extra tip: label your external drives so you always know which ones you need to grab!)

Folders – Any computer or mac comes with a filing system. Make sure you create a flow that works for you and fits with the way you work. The trick is not to bury files, or to create a dump zone, but rather to store files in a way to make sure you can always find them again.

Dropbox – Need to backup something of share something with someone? Dropbox is perfect for that. It’s easy to add to any computer or device. But you can also add permissions and share files with other people. This comes in a free and paid version.

Workflow

Freshbooks – A neat accounting and bookkeeping tool. It allows you to keep track of your expenses as well as sending invoices (and keeping track of who paid)

Hello Sign – If you work with a lot of contracts with your clients, this will sure save you time. With this, it will only take you a few clicks to sign your contracts – no more printing and scanning! This is a paid program.

Strict Workflow – Based on the Pomodoro technique, this little plugin gives you 25 minutes of undisturbed work and helps you create a good workflow and balance between work and breaks. This plugin is free.

Stay Focused – Need to bring the big guns and really get down to business? This is a more advanced version of the previously mentioned plugin. It allows you to ‘go nuclear’ and block everything. Perfect if you really want to get your head down and focus. You can also set a maximum time you spend daily on distracting websites. Reached that time? They get blocked for the rest of your working day. This plugin is free.

General programs

Evernote – My go-to program, and the heart of my business and personal life. I start with creating everything in Evernote. It holds my research, my canned responses, but also my first drafts and a large folder with recipes. You can structure Evernote in a way that works for you – best program ever. This comes in a free and a paid version.

Google docs – Perfect for client work or shared work. Great when you want to share something with someone. Plus you can access your documents from any devices. This is a free program.

Toggl – Need to track your time for a client or just want to get more insight into how much time you’re spending on something? Then Toggle is for you! I love this little time tracker and it’s super easy to assign time to clients and projects. This comes in a free and a paid version.

Need more inspiration? Download the worksheet to find out what works best for your business, or grab the resource guide for a few more handy tools

So which tools work best for you? And how do you make your life easier? We’d love to know and would love it if you share some of your favourites in the comments below.

Garfield hates Mondays and most (not all!) people with day jobs frequently agree with him. But for us girls bosses Monday is another start of a week doing what we love. So how do you start your week with a bang and make sure you get a ton done? Each week an awesome girl boss will share her Monday Morning habits to inspire you. This week Ashley from The Party Girl shares hers!

Ashley_Annawithlove_HiRes-Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?

Hi! My name is Ashley and I’m the girl behind The Party Girl Blog + Party Shop! The Party Girl started as a place for me to be creative and avoid burning out while I was at college, and then I couldn’t stop! I love coming up with new ideas to help make every day feel like a party, so the blog became a place to share recipes, printables, party tips – anything that made celebrating simple. It’s since grown into an online Shop where I sell handmade party props (like cupcake toppers, cake toppers, greeting cards, and more!).

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How do you start your Monday Morning? And what time do you get up?

I’m actually so lucky because I work from home, so I just get up and get started. I usually get up around 8am so I have time to play with the dog for a bit and read over breakfast.  I try to settle down with a tea at my desk and start going through my email at about 9am.

IMG_2260What is your favourite way to plan out your week?

I’m neurotic, so I have about five million different planners. I have a planner I use for my regular day job, so tracking meetings, projects, reminders, etc., and then I also have another planner I use specifically for The Party Girl, where I keep track of blog project ideas, tasks, webinars, markets, that sort of thing. I also use a calendar on my phone to keep it all in one place on the go. I try to spend some time at the end of each day noting some projects to start the next morning – I find it helps me shut down and get out of work mode, which can be tough when your work is just a room in your house!

Do you have a Monday Morning ritual? Is it different compared to other days of the (working) week?

My Monday’s aren’t usually different, but I think that’s again a “work from home” perk. Or maybe a curse. I’m the national coordinator for a charity event in Canada, and so I oversee organizing committees across the country. That means working with volunteers who work on the event outside regular business hours, not to mention time zones. So that means a lot of emails come in over the weekend. If I’m busy during the weekend, Monday mornings are usually pretty busy sorting out anything that has come in, but if I’m not busy I’ll usually tackle them as they come, so my Inbox is never too crazy.

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How did your week planning change over the years?

I think since I started working full time (I graduated last winter) the biggest change has been tracking tasks and projects. Whereas before I used to just use a weekly planner to jot down deadlines or high-level projects, I realized that it was easier and kept me more on task if I tracked individual checkpoints, like “follow up with Edmonton RE: proposal” or “email Rachael Save the Date design draft”. Being a bit more detailed takes up more room, but it’s easier to check off those items. At the end of the day, I feel way more productive too!

What planning system do you use? And do you prefer paper or digital?

I’m a hybrid, so I have my two paper planners, but then I have my calendar app that keeps me organized on the go. I think there’s something to be said for both – I like having the day laid out in front of me on my open planner, but when you’re in a dinner meeting and someone asks you to set up a call next Thursday, it’s a hell of a lot easier to get out your phone than it is your giant leather bound planner!

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Which planning app or program is something you can not live without?

I’m obsessed with the Simplified Planner App from Emily Ley. It’s so pretty but it’s also very functional – I can sync with my Google Cal (which I use for work) and my iCal (which I use for everything else) all in one place, plus it has space for To Dos where I keep track of tasks and a Notes page where I jot down reminders. Plus you can change your theme colours, which is always fun.

What is the most important planning lesson you’ve learned?

Have a Top 3 for the day. My planner has a section where I can keep track of my top three priorities for the day, and honestly, it’s a lifesaver. It’s a great way to make sure you don’t forget about your biggest projects.

Can you share your number one planning tip?

Give yourself a buffer between appointments, always. I always go by the 15/10 rule. So I generally leave myself 15 minutes between meetings (calls), but then I tack on an extra ten just in case. It’s saved me countless times.

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Where can we find you, your website and your social media accounts?

My website is www.thepartygirl.ca. You can find my Blog and the Party Shop there. You can also catch me on Instagram & Twitter @bythepartygirl. I also have a Facebook Page.

When I was in uni I would sit still for hours on end and try to cram all the knowledge in my brain, just in time for the exam. I would think that if I sat still for long enough and forced myself to go through everything, I would be prepared for my exam. It always worked, so this seemed like the best way to study for an exam. Naturally, when I started my business and my to-do lists started to grow, I used the same approach: sit down and force myself through it until it was done. Raise your hand if you tried the same and… well, failed.

Somehow it’s programmed into our genes to think we need to power through a task and don’t do anything else until it’s done. This pattern started when we were very little and we weren’t allowed to move on to another task until we were done – we weren’t allowed to get up from our seat at school unless the lesson was done or if we hadn’t finished our task. So it’s no surprise we force those same rules on ourselves now that we’re older. But all these forced rules aren’t helping you get more done. In fact, I bet you my (delicious and large) mug of tea that they are doing the exact opposite.

Imagine yourself sitting at your desk, you’re trying to write a blog post, or a part of your course and you’ve been at it for nearly an hour. You need a drink, you need to go to the bathroom, your glass of water has been empty for a while and you’re tired of sitting in the same position. But you don’t get up. You force yourself to keep going, to finish what you’re doing, because then and only then are you allowed to get up and get whatever you need. But let’s get real here, does it help you to get more done? To get to a finished result quicker? Nope, definitely not.

Get more done take regular breaks

There have been studies that say your brain needs 23 minutes to get back to a task after a distraction. Bad news if you’re a multitasker and constantly switch between tasks. The result? Your brain tries to focus on everything and you will switch tasks well before you’re brain is op to steam to handle dive fully into it. In the end, you’ll end up doing only one thing: trying to focus.

You power through, determined to give your brain a break and to keep focused. But that drink… And the bathroom keeps calling too… There is no way your brain can stay focused with the distractions calling out to you like that.

Cue the Pomodoro technique. Here you set a time for yourself and you work for a limited time, take a break and start again. In this case, you work for 25 minutes, take a break for 5 and then go back to it.

The reason behind this is that the attention span of an average person is 25 minutes. After that, it will get harder to stay completely focussed. The best thing to do in that case is, in fact, to get up, stretch your legs and get a drink or go to the bathroom. Now this might sound like it’s a contradiction the previous statement, but when you get into the flow of this work system, your brain knows that those 25 minutes are work time and it will get easier to focus and stay focused. Result? You get more done.

Another really great benefit of this is that you can ‘trick’ yourself into saying ‘oh it’s only 25 minutes’, so it doesn’t feel like you’re buckling up to do something major that will take you all day to complete. Because let’s be honest, that can feel a pretty daunting, and will feel like you have to climb Everest while you’re at it.

Giving yourself time to get up, stretch your legs gives your brain (and eyes) the much-needed rest and reboot to go back to the screen and continue working. It’s almost like a mini-reboot. You can grab yourself a new cup of coffee or tea, colour a few lines in a colouring book (my favourite), write a few lines in your journal, check social media, call your mum – whatever you feel that will reboot you in a few minutes.

So don’t deny yourself a break, and create a schedule with regular breaks and I promise you it will boost your productivity (and yes, creativity too!) in a positive way.

Do you know that feeling when you open up your inbox and it’s just… overwhelm? Unread emails, messages that needed a reply, well, yesterday. And the constant steady flow of newsletters with cool information, offers and other fun things you frankly never get around to reading. It just feels…. Frustrating.

I remember that place all too well. It used to be like that for me every time I opened my inbox. Every email that got hauled in, I kept. You never know when you’d need it, right? I even kept every ‘thank’ and ‘ok’. Back then email was still something special. Something that wasn’t spam or just another photo from a family member was a rarity. But what to do if your business grows? How do you keep sane?

That’s when I stumbled across Leo Babauta’s post about inbox zero. I read it in awe, he had nothing in his inbox! It seemed like a myth that couldn’t be obtained. But I decided to try it. I sat myself down and deleted all the clutter that was bouncing around in my inbox. Going through every single email, I made a choice whether to keep it, bin it or archive it. Most of the emails went straight into the bin. I was left with a pile of emails that then got sorted into several folders. And there it was… the mythical inbox zero. It lasted a good five, okay, ten minutes before it was gone, buried again under newsletters, emails that needed replying and even some good old fashioned spam.

So now what?

After playing around, and trying dozens of different things, I came up with a system that works for me. But let’s back up a second and start at the very beginning so you can get that same email peace as well.

Embrace inbox zero (+ how you can do it)

Declutter your inbox 

Set some time aside, turn off the Google conversion function and dive head first into clearing out your inbox. There is no easy way to say this, but it just has to be done. Out of all the tasks, this will take up the most of your time. It’s the same as redecorating your house – first, you get rid of stuff you don’t want to keep, and then you can begin with building your dream house.

Sort & archive

When you have a pile of emails that you want to keep, you to sort them into different folders. Make sure those folders make sense to you, and that you will be able to find your emails again when you need them. For instance:

Clients
– Name of client A
– Name of client B
Etc.

Alternatively, you can have a folder specifically for personal admin, and one for your business admin. Split these up in special folders for each quarter of the year to make it even more organised. Just make sure that everything has its place and that there’s a place for everything. This will make it easier when new emails come in as you know exactly where they need to go.

Bundle the newsletters

I love newsletters, some can be super inspirational! However, not every newsletter is. That said, a lot of inspirational newsletters all at once can still create a pretty full inbox. So I’ve started using Unrol.me. This service gives you the option to unsubscribe, or to collect your newsletters in one daily email. Still all the fun, and none of the clutter.

Assign a time

Now that you have a clean inbox, what do you do with the emails that come in? Start with assigning a time in which you will reply to emails. It’s so much easier to sit down and reply to a bunch of emails in one go than it is to stop what you’re doing reply to one email and then get back to work. Some even say set a time in which you read your emails as well. I only do that when I really have to get down to business. Otherwise, I just leave my inbox open.

Snooze

Sometimes there are emails that need a little time before you can reply to them. You need to check your calendar, check with your co-worker or just need to look into something. Whatever the reason, sometimes you just need a little time. That’s why I love the snooze option in Google Inbox. I just snooze an email until I have the time to reply or deal with it and then it just pops in my inbox at the time that I can reply to it. This works also perfectly with invoices, or date specific emails. No wonder the snooze option is my most used feature in Google Inbox

Sort your emails 

Once you’ve replied to your emails, or dealt with them, sort them into their respective folders right away. Don’t wait to do it, just drag and drop. That way you will only have emails in your inbox that you need to deal with or need your reply. In a way, your inbox will act as a to-do list. And when it’s empty, it will make it much easier to sign off. Plus imagine how free an empty inbox would feel.

Delete emails once a month

Once a month set some time aside to go through your inbox. Delete all the emails you don’t need. Short thank you emails or emails about scheduling appointments (and the appointment has been and gone) can easily be deleted – no need to keep those. Everything you don’t need, that doesn’t contain valuable information or sentimental value, can go. This way you keep your inbox clean, clear and away from overflowing once again.

Finish your day with an empty inbox 

Last but not least. I try to finish my day with an empty inbox. This is a great way to feel like you crossed everything off your list for the day and you won’t find any unfinished business in your inbox when you start you a new day. Just fresh new messages. Plus to be honest, ending the day with an empty inbox just really makes me feel relaxed.

So how do you deal with your inbox? Do you have a system in place that keeps you from feeling overwhelmed with the flood of messages coming in? Or do you just wing it? 

To help you gain more ground when it comes to mastering your inbox, and to give you a kick start in getting organised I’ve created a tools list. You can download it in the freebie vault.

 

What would you do if you had an extra day? Well, you better have an answer ready, because next week you really will have an extra day!

So what the heck is a leap year?

Leap year happens every four years. Normally it takes the earth 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds to travel around the sun. Slightly more than our 365 days, so if we didn’t do a leap year, our calendar would be off by 6 hours every year and after 100 years, this would add up to 24 days. That’s why we add an extra day to the shortest month of the year. February.

So, great news – we literally saved time to create an extra day. It’s almost like saving up your plus hours for an extra holiday, but better.

So what can do you with that extra day? Here are some ideas:

  • Binge watch series on Netflix (Downton Abbey anyone?)
  • Spend an entire day in bed, catching up on some much-needed zzzs
  • Planning a day outside
  • Going for a run
  • Make that painting you’ve been dying to make
  • Read through your unread magazine stack (you know you have one)

Sounds great right? However, this extra day falls on a Monday, so a lot of us just need to rock up on their day job. As for the girl bosses amongst us, maybe you can use that extra day to actually make a difference in your business.

We all have all those tasks we really want to get to, but never seem to really get around to. Clean out your inbox, really get all your to-dos down and plan them in, or how about to finally put all your paper administration in binders and update your digital files while you’re at it.

So here’s a thought. What about using this extra day for all those tasks you normally don’t have the time for. Schedule no appointments or deadlines on the 29th of February, turn off your phone, ban Facebook for the day and dive into all those tasks that never get done. This is your official, once in four years catch up day.

Leap year make the most of your extra day

So here are a few tasks that really can (and will) make a difference in your business to get you started:

  • Catch up on your paper administration
  • Update all your digital administration
  • Clear out your inbox (and delete emails older than two months without important information)
  • Clean and clear out the files on your computer, archive everything you don’t use on a daily basis (tackle Evernote too while you’re at it)
  • Clean and clear out your desk
  • While you’re cleaning and clearing everything out, write all to-dos that spring to mind down and plan them into your calendar later
  • Check in with your 2016 goals. Are you on track, what works and what doesn’t? Do you need to change anything (if yes, brainstorm about this, and plan it in your calendar)
  • Check in with your to-do-list and assess all items on there using these guidelines
  • Create a content plan for your blog…
  • … and brainstorm post ideas
  • Create a plan for you social media accounts
  • Go through your website/blog and update information if needed
  • Finally, read up on all those interesting business blogs you have saved
  • Assess your to-read pile and pick one book to read this evening

But mostly, use this day to take a step back and get yourself and your business organised. Some people see it as an extra day they have to get to the office. We girl bosses can see it as an extra day to make sure we’re on track to following our dreams and reaching our goals.

Which one would you choose?

It's leap year! What will you do with your extra day this year?

Running a business is the coolest thing in the world. You get to help people every single day, but sometimes you need a little help yourself.

So today I have something short and sweet for you: a resource guide with the tools I use to run my business every single day (and some I really can not live without). Best thing? You can also download it and keep it as a reference!

evernoteEvernote

This is by far my favourite program. I use it for just about anything and it syncs to my phone and tablet, so I always have an up to date version of my work. I have a folder for every client and articles I’m working on so I don’t have to waste time finding anything.

 

asanaAsana

This is the first thing I open when I start my working day. I love their calendar option and it lets me see at a glance what I need to do and when. I also love the different projects and have split up my work over several projects in several different colours so I can see what kind of job is on my list fast.

 

togglToggl

When doing client work it’s important to know how long each assignment takes me. This helps me to give a great time estimate to the client and makes sure that I won’t over- or under-price my services. Plus, it helps me put together a great time management plan (which, let’s face it, everyone needs in their life!)

 

Google_Docs-300x284Google Docs

When Google Docs just came out I wasn’t a fan – at all. Why would I want to use something like that, store things in the cloud? I was happy with Word thank you very much. But now… I love it. I use it with every single client, or to send out guest posts, plan a trip with friends and family. It’s such a great, simple and versatile tool. Plus it’s great for turning documents into PDFs.

spotify-300x300Spotify

I cannot work without music. It’s almost safe to say I can’t do much of anything without music. I do my shopping with it, I listen to it when I’m running or working out and it’s great to listen to when I’m writing blog posts, or anything really. I have special playlists for every kind of job. I can honestly say it’s the best 5 Euros spend every month.

 

fitbit-300x284Fitbit

Since I work from a laptop, I spend most of my days sitting. So when I noticed that sometimes I just don’t go outside, I got myself a Fitbit Charge. It motivates me to get out more, get moving and be more active. Numbers and motivate me and I love hitting my targets. So this was really beneficial for all my overall fitness.

 

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Making plans is easy. It’s executing the plans where things get hard. Doubt can get the better of you. ‘Am I doing this right?’, ‘this sucks’, ‘X is way better at this than me’, or the worst of all ‘who am I to think I can do this?’. I know I’ve been through all of them at some point in the past year. In fact, I felt it again yesterday when I was running behind a group of girls during running training. Why did I think I could do this?

During this past year, it didn’t matter if I got great feedback from clients, peers or blog readers. The doubt was constantly trying to nibble at my willpower. So imagine this, your great plan is all mapped out, your goals are all written out, you show up in the morning and… nothing. Absolutely nothing. Who do you think you are to do this?

I’ll tell you.

You’re YOU.

To some of you, this might sound like a lot of psychobabble but stop and think about it for a moment. What makes you, well, you? Is it the way you dress, the way you talk? Or the kind of work you do and how you talk about it?

It’s all of that.

There is only one you. You have a vision of the world, what you want to achieve, who you can help and what you can do. Yes, there are a lot of people who can write, knit, draw, or any other skill you can think off. But there is only one you with the unique combination of skills and passions like you. And that is YOU. And your to-do-list should reflect this.

Every.

Single.

Day.

It’s the only way to silence the voice in your head and actually get stuff done, instead of moving tasks to another day because you didn’t get around to it (raise your hands with me if you’re guilty of this.)

The importance of being you

So how do you use this?

Firstly you start with finding out what truly makes you YOU. What do you want to do, what makes you happy? Who do you do it for? How do you see the world? Other people? And most importantly, how can you connect two or three skills and offer something unique to other people.

My amazing friend Kelly is a great example. She’s amazing with needles and yarn. She could have easily knitted just another scarf or jumper. But she didn’t. Instead, she let out her inner nerd and combined the two, resulting in things like this amazing Ewok hat. I can guarantee you there is more stuff where that’s coming from and she’s just getting started.

So look for things that make you unique. Are you a nurse who is making the transition to becoming a VA? Maybe you can look for medical professionals in need of a VA. Or maybe you are a copywriter and you’re great at planning organising. Content management or organising packages could just be your thing (yes, this is a shameless plug). You have the knowledge and skill, so go for it.

Do you need more insight in finding out your unique skill combo? Download your free worksheet here!

So now you have your unique skill combo, now it’s time to grab your planner and get serious. The goal here is to silence the voice that says you’re no good. You want to start your day ready to dive right in and get stuff done right?

Start with listing all the things you feel you have to do and all the things you want to do. Also, keep the answers in mind you gave in the worksheet and be sure to add things to this list that really get your heart pumping (or better bursting out of your chest, because you’re so excited). I strongly recommend doing this with good old pen and paper. Turn off your computer, hide your phone. Put on some good music and get everything out on paper. Leave your inner critic behind here. He’s not invited for this round.

Now you’re going to analyse the entire list of goals you have written out in front of you. Here are a few helping you analyse all the points on your list. This is also included in the free download with this post. 

Figure out the importance of a task

So here are a few questions for making sure you really do things that really help you move forward towards your goals. Start with breaking down your goals into four main categories to give you a sense of priority:

  1. Is it important and on a deadline?
  2. Is it on a deadline, but not important?
  3. Is it not on a deadline and not important?
  4. Is it not in a deadline, but important?

Do or plan the tasks in the first category as soon as possible. It will feel really good to get those out of your hair quickly.

Next, see if you can delegate the tasks in the second category. Can’t delegate them? Bite the bullet and do them as soon as possible. And in the future try to say no to tasks in this category as much as possible.

The tasks in the third category are great, you can just delete all of them. You read that right, just delete them. They are not important to you, your business and there is no deadline. Why bother with them? Good questions to asks in this category are:

  • How many times have you moved this task further up your to-do-list?
  • Is it something you feel you HAVE to do, because of X reasons?

If you can answer those with a ‘yes’, it’s a good indication those are tasks you can leave and use your time for something better and more inspiring.

Now we’re ready for the magic to happen: the tasks in the fourth category. Those will take you towards you towards your goals and will bring you the most fulfilment, so let’s dive in.

Do you have the skills, or do you need help?

Look at your tasks and goals in the fourth category, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have the skills to do this task?
  • Does it use your unique combined skills? Or how can you use your unique skill sets?
  • Does it involve your family and friends?
  • Do you need help, or do you need to hire someone to help you with this?

If you need to learn skills to get things done, plan them in. This can be little things like learning how to upload something to WordPress, or bigger things like figuring out how to set up a webinar. Learn the essential things that you need and want to know and ask for help for everything else.

Move towards your dreams

Now we dive really into it the core. Ask yourself the following questions when you review the fourth section on your list:  

  • Do you want to do it, with all your heart and every single fibre of it?
  • Will it help move your business forward or help you move towards your goals?
  • Is it in line with your business values or your personal value?
  • Does it make you feel good?

If you answer these questions with a full on YES! Make sure you plan these in and make them a priority. These tasks will help you move forward to your goals and be sure to treat them like VIPs. Schedule them, do them and don’t miss them.

You can also download this list a handy worksheet from the freebie vault – you can get access when you subscribe to our newsletter 

If you walk through this list you will be well on your way to crafting a stellar to-do-list that is going to propel you towards your dreams, goals and truly living a life you love.

So what are your main struggles with setting goals and staying motivated? Share them in the comments and I will send you some words of wisdom and encouragement.

There is only one you. You have a vision of the world, what you want to achieve, who you can help and what you can do. Yes, there are a lot of people who can write, knit, draw, or any other skill you can think off. But there is only one you with the unique combination of skills and passions like you. And that is YOU. And your to-do-list should reflect this.

Garfield hates Mondays and most (not all!) people with day jobs frequently agree with him. But for us girls bosses Monday is another start of a week doing what we love. So how do you start your week with a bang and make sure you get a ton done? Each week an awesome girlboss will share her Monday Morning habits to inspire you. This week Angie Grimes shares hers!

DSC_4640Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?

Hello, I’m Angie Grimes, also know as Muse Maven and I provide Inspiration, Knowledge, and Motivation to Entrepreneurs in Business & Life. I am an e-Commerce Strategy Advisor, Business Leader & Tech Advocate.

I’m a serial entrepreneur and experienced strategist that has consulted with many successful eCommerce startups and served as Co-Founder and President of SHOEBACCA.com. Please read my full story here.

How do you start your Monday Morning? And what time do you get up?

I am a perpetual night owl. I get up between 7am-9am, but the real magic happens in the wee hours of the morning for me as I don’t typically go to bed until 12am – 2am.

What is your favourite way to plan out your week?

I like to be organized and for me that typically means creating productivity lists. This allows me to sort all my tasks into an 80%-20% (80% of your outcomes come from 20% of inputs). From there I can ensure that I begin with the tasks that are revenue generating first and work through my list based on financial impact.

Do you have a Monday Morning ritual? Is it different compared to other days of the (working) week?

I meditate every morning before my son gets up. Monday for me is about getting prepared for the week so that I can really execute. There is typically so much pressure to come back to, being off for the weekend. I try to never schedule any meetings or interviews on Mondays. I also, work on keeping my stress down by focusing on catch up and plan for the remainder of the week. I treat Monday like a very tactical day, which creates the strategies for the remaining of the week.

How did your week planning change over the years?

It has evolved a lot over the years. I never used to meditate and I used to do Monday morning meetings with my staff (first thing) and then try to get caught up on email, reporting, financials and overall business health from the weekend. Running eCommerce is 24 hours a day 7 days a week, which is amazing but clearly has its drawbacks as I cannot operate at that pace. I use a softer, kinder, self-care practice now which helps me to focus on working smarter, not harder.

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What planning system do you use? And do you prefer paper or digital?

I have found that for me mind maps create the best highest use of tapping into my creativity. This can be done paper or digital, but I prefer digital. Mostly because I do not care for my handwriting.

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. It’s often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added. Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.

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Which planning app or program is something you can not live without?

I use MindJet for my mind map creations.

What is the most important planning lesson you’ve learned?

Be flexible. As you grow and learn your trajectory changes and you need to be open to self evaluation and adapt to move forward. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are our lives. Enjoy the journey.

Can you share your number one planning tip?

Yes! With every piece of your business and life I have come up with a system that I refer to as RDAA  (Research, Deploy, Analyze, Adjust).

  1. Research – put your facts together, how does it work?
  2. Deploy – once you define your plan, how do you bring it to market?
  3. Analyze – what are the metrics to measure by? are they meeting your goals?
  4. Adjust – this is optional based on your analysis

Don’t just do this process once. You can’t set it and forget it, you need to do this periodically to ensure you are still hitting your targets.

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Where can we find you, your website and your social media accounts?

You can find me at Angie-grimes.com, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Periscope.

Disclaimer: Header photo by Patryk Dziejma.

Monday morning habits with Angie Grimes. How she plans her week using a mind map and sets herself up for succes.

Creative rebel Violeta Nedkova helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses through authentic marketing. She loves helping people, wrote a book to help entrepreneurs get started and always get’s tomorrow’s work done today.

squareCan you tell me a little bit about you and your business? How did you get started?

I am a multi passionate who loves helping fellow creative rebels start and grow their businesses. Being a creative rebel means being 100% authentic and unique in your niche, which both feels good and makes you stand out. What I do now is helping people to start and overcome some mental blocks on the way. Also, my goal for 2016 is to create more products that will help more people do what I did and start a business that they LOVE and see themselves doing in the next decade at least!

I started by… living online for the last decade. I learned everything I could about blogging, marketing, and business while I was also traveling and working to “pay the bills”. I just took my sweet time to get to where I am today.

You started this year and have been working on your business for three months now. How did this go and what have you learned so far?

Regardless of when I started, there was a lot of work that set the scene as it were. When this interview comes out, my business will be about a half year old, which is crazy because so much has happened in this small amount of time. So far I’ve learned that running your own business needs HUGE investment – in time and money – which I suspected, which is why I spent last year saving up every penny I made. I also learned that I need to be patient and remind myself WHY I started this weekly, so I don’t lose perspective or focus on the wrong things.

Finally, I learned that looking at what other people do in their businesses can be inspiring, but most of the time it’s debilitating. A lot of people suffer from this comparison syndrome and some solopreneurs deal with it by isolating themselves from their industry, which I can’t do because I love it! Rather, I try to be happy with what I’ve got and encourage my fellow girl bosses as they evolve.

You started out in the ‘startup growth hacking’ niche, but decided to rebrand. Why did you make this decision and how did you settle on this niche?

I wrote an entire article on this because so many people ask me that question! It’s really hard to go from being known for something and “successful” in a particular industry to being brand new and unknown in another, especially if the industries are so different. But I know it was the right move for me because I was unhappy before and the fit between my needs and those of my clients was not good.

For example, you know it’s time for a change when you find yourself in a place where people focus on different values than yours. In the growth hacking world, everything’s about speed, money, and products. I quickly realized I cared more about the people & purpose behind those products, and the fulfilment over the money. Rather than spending years “re-educating” my clients or trying to find a handful of people who shared my beliefs, I chose to find a better fit.

There’s a right place for everyone, you just have to be brave enough to experiment and go for it when you have a feeling you might have found it.

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You say that you help creative rebels/entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses through authentic marketing. What do you mean by that and can you give some examples?

Most people who come to me have NO idea how to start. They are full of fear and doubts, which is normal, I was the same way! They need strategies to overcome these blocks and once they start, I help them grow their businesses in the most authentic way possible. It’s so easy to follow expert advice and try everything, then wake up one day and hardly recognize your business. Worse yet, most businesses are “sameys”, as Marie Forleo says. They’re just no different from the next.

Authentic Marketing saved me because it made me love marketing again and helped me love my new business. As soon as I realized there are many ways to do marketing and that I didn’t have to do what everybody else did, it freed me to look at different strategies from a different perspective and build my own strategies.

In fact, I just put up the Authentic Marketing Blueprint up on my site, for anyone who’s interested, and I’ll be releasing a lot more related content to help my fellow creative rebels. I just love it when I get one of those THANK YOU emails.

creative-rebels-guide-finalYou wrote a book ‘The Creative Rebel’s guide to starting a business’, can you tell us a little more about that?

It must have taken me two weeks to write it, but it took me years to accumulate the content inside. Basically, it’s exactly what I did a couple of years prior to starting this business. I wandered a lot, so anyone reading the guide can save themselves the time and energy and achieve what I did in a few months.

Basically, I outlined the journey of starting a business on all levels (psychological, financial, etc.), separating it into three sections: spring cleaning (overcoming your mental blocks), foundation (the things you NEED before you can start), and finally, construction, where I give some resources and more technical advice.

I would honestly recommend it to anyone who’s thinking about starting their own business. It will help them build it on a strong foundation where they won’t go broke the first months or fail to set long-term goals, avoid faux pas like this.

You sure do a lot! How do you make sure that you stay creative and inspired every single day?

That’s a great question!!! It’s so easy to get distracted or deflated at times, but the way I keep my spirits and inspiration levels up is that I consume a lot of inspiring content. Any time I find an article, podcast or video that could help me and my peeps, I gobble it up and then share it however I can, mostly on twitter and my newsletter.

I also write every single day, which has become more of a habit than a “write when I feel like it” kind of a thing, which automatically keeps me in a creative mood. Writing is an amazing outlet for me, and I’m sure everyone has something similar.

Whatever it is, never let it go. Hold on to it, and add it to your daily routine!

How do you plan your day and make sure you never miss a deadline?

my-logo-NEW-4For someone who abhorred routines for a decade, I’ve grown to depend on my schedule. It helps me stay focused and productive. So I would have different goals every day – Monday is for my weekly, Tuesday for a blog post, etc. I’ll even share my productivity “hack” with you – I always get tomorrow’s work done TODAY.

If I need to publish a blog post tomorrow, I’ll get it to almost ready today. If I’m going to talk to a client, I’ll look at the info they sent me today. If I have a deadline, I’ll try to get the job done a couple of days prior so I have time for finishing touches. That way, I don’t get super stressed at the last minute like I used to do at Uni.

It’s an awful thing to be constantly stressed, don’t do it to yourself!

Who is your biggest inspiration? You’re (not so) secret business crush?

Ha! Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s so not a secret crush because I mention him in all of my blog posts. I can’t even help it, he’s THE original creative rebel. Honestly, I don’t agree with everything he says, but that’s the beauty of it, we’re all different.

You should check out his motivational rants about Mondays and success!

P.S. Once someone told me I sounded like Gary. I took it as a big compliment. 😀

What are your daily rituals when you start and end your day?

I need to work on those a bit more actually. In the past, I have had morning rituals like… I would start the day with an inspirational quote and try to apply the idea during the day. Even just holding the quote at the back of your mind helps.

Right now, I just get up, get coffee, and check twitter. I am a huge believer that you need to start the day with what you love, something that energizes you. For me, that’s twitter and TED talks, although I haven’t woven them into my breakfast yet.

Before bed, I like to pet my cat for like an hour. It soothes me after a long day. I also sometimes repeat mantras just as I fall asleep because that’s when you’re closest to reaching your subconscious mind – drifting in and out of sleep.

We all know who the captain of your ship is! Can you tell I’m a psych grad?

And lastly, what do you absolutely love about your job? What gets you out of bed every morning ready to dive into work?

I love that it’s always different. Even though I have my routines and goals, I always have to learn new things and adapt to new challenges. This is largely the reason I keep changing jobs and passions because nothing is ever stimulating enough.

Well, I have a feeling this one will stick because it’s already evolving. When you base your business on your purpose, it’s no longer one thing or skill. It’s a living being that evolves as you do. My big dream is to get to keep doing it.

Want to know more about Violeta? Check her website, or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook!
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Read the interview with Violeta Nedkova today during your lunchbreak and get inspired instantly