This is one of the coolest things to happen since I started blogging... an amazing artist and reader, Lucky, embroidered my portrait!
Well me and baby kitty and my favorite vintage sweater!! It's just too much awesome. Part of Lucky's 365 project, the super talented Canadian artist embroiders a different portrait each day around different themes, and this week was her blog crush week. I'm so so thrilled to be included, it's surreal!
Check out some of Lucky's other amazing portraits below and on her blog. She has got some serious embroidery skills man, it's like she can draw with floss! I'm so impressed.
Hope you all have a great weekend!
With Thanksgiving tomorrow, we wanted to talk a little about gratitude today. I think we all know how powerful gratitude can be- if we focus on all that is wonderful and incredible about our lives, rather than what we don't have, it opens us up to feel more joy, more fulfillment and abundance in our here and now.
The more you can bring gratitute into your everyday, the more happiness and balance it will bring into your life. It can become a deep well to pull from when you experience pain, fear or uncertainty- drop your bucket into that well of thankfulness for all that you have, and it can help you get through anything.
Lately I've found myself feeling grateful for so many things...
Grateful for quiet moments and deep breaths,
for dark days of pelting rain and hunker-down brain-storms,
for days when light pours thru the windows, beckoning me outside
Grateful for every shade of yellow and Japanese Maple red,
for rakes and straw and the duckboots that we found at Goodwill,
for worn-in wool cardigans and falling-apart fingerless gloves
Grateful for time to connect with those I love,
for weekends I wish would never end, good-news phonecalls,
for laughter over dinners, just one more beer and walking with arms locked
Grateful for breakthroughs, shifts and momentum,
for big thinkers and gentle encouragers,
for the guideposts that continue to lead me down this twisted and narrow path
I'm ever so grateful to be walking.
To help manifest more gratitude in your everyday
One of the guided meditations I listen to is about manifesting gratitude in your life. At the end of it, David G, the meditation guide-man, asks some questions that have really helped me realize and open up to all that there is to be grateful for in my life. And I thought they could help you too!
Ask yourself these 5 Q's to get your gratitude rolling- try to find at least 3 answers to each:
Give yourself permission to relish in all that is good in your life, and be grateful for it!
And while we're at it, I'd be remiss to not tell you all how grateful I am for YOU! For all of you who read my words, comment, interact and share with me here in this space- you are my backers, you are my supporters and you're all such an important part of the happiness I have in my life. I am so thankful for each and every one of you. Happy Thanksgiving all!
I've been self-employed for over 4 years and for the bulk of those years, I've been struggling with trying to figure out how to "manage" my time. Lose the boss and other people's expectations, throw in that you're now trying to live and work in the same space and it can be really hard!
Some days, it's hard to get stuff done. Other days, it's hard to pull yourself away from work and remember to eat. Some days, you wake up bursting with energy! Others, you wish you could call in sick and lay on the couch watching Netflix instant shows all day...
It's an ebb and flow. Everyday is different, yet we expect ourselves to adhere to these crazy schedules and plans and deadlines no matter how we're feeling. And then we get mad at ourselves, and start to doubt ourselves, when we can't seem to keep up. And we overwork ourselves to the point where we desperately need a break.
Uh-uh. Not a good way to run your own business.
Finally this year, I got tired of it. Tired of beating myself up over every unanswered email. Tired of being a mean boss to myself. Tired of trying out every productivity method in the book just to be able to get more work done. What about getting some life done?
I was tired of feeling like I didn't have any control over my own time, or room to have any fun. I mean, isn't that why we work for ourselves in the first place? To be able to choose how we spend our time?
So now, I choose to lose the rigidity of my schedule, and my own expectations, and allow more freedom in my days.
I've finally chosen to structure my worklife in a way that feels more intuitive and free and fun! And it has the added benefit of helping to make me a whole lot more productive too! Here's how I was able to make some changes in my schedule for the better:
Track your time
I tracked my time from wake up to bedtime everyday for a week- everything I did during the day, from pitching to emailing to making coffee to hugging the cat, I wrote it down, even if it was for only 5 minutes.
This sounds about as thrilling as a root canal, I realize. And tho it seems tedious as you're doing it, it can be one of the most eye-opening exercises you'll ever do. By the end of the week, you'll have a true sense of where your time goes each day, and that knowledge is invaluable.
You'll get to see how much actual focused/in-the-flow kind of work you get done (probably less than you thought) and how much you might be procrastinating or getting distracted during the day (probably more than you thought). You'll see how much time you're spending on high-priority tasks that actually make you money, and how much time you're spending on lesser-priority tasks, like facebook. You'll also be able to see which times of day you have the most energy to put towards work, and which times of day you feel a little slumpy and unmotivated.
Plan around your energy levels
I know that I have the most energy in the morning, followed by a bigtime afternoon slump where I seem to get nothing done, and then I have another surge of energy later afternoon into the evening.
Only after tracking my time did I realize that a lot of my high-energy hours were being spent on lower-priority tasks like email, twitter, web-browsing, researching, etc. And then I'd hit my afternoon slump and still have all these high-priority to-dos ahead of me for the day, and I'd lose motivation and really struggle trying to get them done and stay focused.
So now, I work around my energy levels! I try to get to work on the highest-priority stuff right in the morning when I'm feeling fresh, and then, as I feel my energy start to dwindle thru the day, that's when I'll check email, go on twitter, or start on those lesser-priority work tasks. And in the evening, I usually have energy to work on the more high-priority stuff again.
Give into the slump
When my afternoon slump hits, I take a BIG break. It's like, the Cadillac of breaks- long, luxurious and totally un-plugged. I go outside with the dog, make myself lunch, eat while watching a favorite show or flipping thru a magazine. I get off the computer for a couple hours, remove myself from work-brain completely.
I know that when I used to try to work during that slump, or eat and work at the same time, I'd just end up doing a whole lot of time-wasting nothing and get stuck in that low-energy mode. So now, I give into the slump and use each afternoon to take a bona fide break, relax and re-focus.
Afterward, I feel so much more motivated and ready to get back to work on those high-priority tasks. I've found that I actually get way more important stuff done in the afternoons after taking a 2 hour break, than I used to not taking a break at all. Funny how that works...
Add a buffer day or two
For me, Monday mornings suck for getting any real work done, as do Friday afternoons. I have an "I wanna go play!" mentality coming out of, or heading into the weekend. So instead of fighting that urge, trying to force myself to work but not getting much done- now I use Monday and Friday as sort of buffer days to ease into and out of the week.
On Mondays, I don't even expect myself to work on those high-priority, money makin' tasks. Instead, I use that day to get back into my morning routinue, I prepare for the week, check in with clients, catch up on emails, etc. If I want to take a walk or do dishes or decide to re-arrange the art on my walls, I can do it without feeling guilty because I've given myself that free time to spend doing whatever I need to do to get ready for the week ahead.
On Fridays, I will use the mornings for high-priority stuff, but I try to make sure the afternoons are easy breezy- that's when I meet with friends, go run errands, paint, take pictures, write, relax.
Tuesday-Thursday are my super focused, hard-workin days. I try not to schedule in any other obligations so that I know I'll be able to really focus and get down to business. I get so much accomplished on those days now, more than I used to in an entire week! And if things come up and I don't get as much done as I'd like, I can use those buffer days to find more time.
I think true "time management", and figuring out how to be more productive, is really about discovering how your energy flows and using that to guide you in how to best use your time. You don't need to be the big mean boss-lady to yourself to stay in check- if you feel like you need a break, take one. If you feel excited to work, get the hardest stuff out of the way first while you have the energy. Be easier on yourself.
Make your schedule work for you, rather than working to keep up with your schedule.
Do you ever get down on yourself for not being "productive" enough? Do you notice your energy levels during the day and how they affect your work? Do you take a break on even the busiest days to allow yourself to re-focus?
I was going thru some computer files the other day and stumbled upon one with all my old headers for this blog! I haven't seen the real oldies for years. It's so strange to look back on them now and see how my skills and style and ideas have changed along the way...
So as you can see, I've changed my mind a lot over the last 5 years writing this blog. I changed my business name, my design, my tagline, my income streams, my focus... all likely against the "rules" of how-to be successful in business.
But the change was all centralized around my true interests, the things I love doing the most. And that's what got me started, and what has kept me going in my business all these years- allowing room for change and following my heart, however fickle it may be.
And I guess this just shows that you don't need to worry about having all the answers when you're first getting started, because things are going to change along the way. No matter what.
So just, start.
Get out there.
Take the first step toward doing that thing you've been wanting deep down inside to do.
You'll make mistakes, which you'll learn from. You might be embarrased looking back at your first attempts, but that just shows you've grown.
And where you end up may be different than where you had intended to go, but that's what makes the journey so much fun.
"Dance first. Think Later. It's the natural order." Samuel Beckett
This past summer, when my overwhelm was about to meet my breaking point, I got this urge within me to seek out a psychic. I thought somehow, someway, a psychic would have the answers I needed, and luckily for me, she did.
A lot of big realizations and huge shifts in perspective came from my one little hour with her, but one of the best pieces of advice she gave me, that I can still hear her voice saying is,
"You gotta get out of your head! And to get out of your head, you need to get into your body."
She said, as she slapped the sides of her thighs to drive the point home further. "Does that make sense?"
"Uh huh," I muttered. But what I felt was this surge of understanding come over me, like I had an answer, a tangible way to move beyond my stress. And the solution was here with me all along- in my hands, in my feet, in my body.
Our minds are usually so wrapped up either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, that we get stuck in our heads- playing out scenarios, obsessing over things, trying to sort out all our "to-dos". When all the while, our bodies are hanging out here in the present moment, waiting for us to pay a little attention to them, trying to fend off all the effects from the stress we're creating in our minds...
When we connect with our physical selves, it helps pull us out of our cycle of thoughts and brings us back into right here, right now.
When you're "in your body", so to speak, you'll notice that the have-tos and want-tos start to get awfully quiet. The shouldas and couldas seems to bite their tongues. And suddenly, all of your thoughts are about what you're doing and how you're feeling, in this moment.
As you stretch into crescent pose, or mix a new paint color for your piece, or go pluck vegetables out from your garden, that's all you're thinking about in those moments. Your mind and your body are on the same page, they're aligned.
And that alignment is like a reboot button for your whole system, so that once you turn your brain back "on", you might find its running a little more smoothly, things are clearer. Solutions that couldn't find their way through the clutter of your chattering brain, now have the space to present themselves.
So when your mind is running a mile a minute, you can't focus, or you're starting to play that tape inside your head that does its best to un-convince you of your awesomeness (you know the one), that's when it's time to move into your body.
Get up and stretch. Dance around. Go for a walk. Ride your bike. Do some yoga. Pet a cat. Throw the ball for the dog. Play an instrument. Do jumping jacks. Scrub the shower. Cut flowers from the garden. Raise your arms above your head and breathe in. Use your hands- build something, create something, touch something. Use your feet- jump, run, go.
Get out of your head. Get into your body. See what happens.
"There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if we can only come to our senses and feel it." Elizabeth A Behnke
My little second cousin Kate (who is 14 now and I guess not so little anymore!) is getting interested in blogging and social media and making a living doing something that is not so "status quo" as she said (aw, isn't she smart?)
She sent me a bunch of great questions to get some insight into what I do and why I do it and I really liked this one in particular:
"How do you personally find and follow through on an idea?"
This was my response:
I find ideas by reading, exploring outside, talking to friends, sitting with myself and thinking. I like to try out lots of new ideas because you don't know what you might be good at, or love doing, until you try it! And when I start out on a new project, or art piece or business idea, I put a lot of energy and positivity into it, I brainstorm about it and set my intention to do my very best in following through with it. Not all ideas work out how you thought they would, not all projects get finished, but acting on your ideas can lead to new, even better ones! It's the action, the doing, the exploring that helps you learn about yourself and what you like and what makes you happy.
So now I throw it to you lovely folks, I'm curious to know how do you find and follow-thru on your ideas? How do you make things happen? How do you turn thought into action?
Fall has firmly arrived in the pacific northwest and I LOVE it! Colorful leaves and foggy mornings make me feel so giddy, this is definitely my favorite time of year! I'm off to go play with Jen in the park for a little Maven Circle photoshoot this afternoon (if the rain holds, just wait til tomorrow to come like the weather man said you would, ok rain?) Hope you have a great weekend and I'll meet you here next week!
I started off this year saying yes to everything. Well ok, not just this year- I've been struggling as a "yes!" "sure!" "can-do!" -er for many many years, probably since I was kid, but especially since I've been working for myself. Here's a post from May 2009 lamenting on how I'm just not sure how to say no to things and how it leads me to having too many commitments and becoming super overwhelmed.
And I guess it takes me years to get the point and finally learn how to make changes in my life, because that's exactly what happened to me at the beginning of 2011, again. I had just started taking clients for Miss Modish PR and I didn't want to turn down any business for fear that the business wouldn't keep coming (you know how that goes, other freelancers out there...)
So I said yes yes yes to every job, every client and every opportunity that came my way. I scheduled them out as best I could, booked myself all the way out thru the summer by the time February came.
And when you do something like that, scheduling far off into the future, it's really easy to underestimate the amount of time that projects will take to complete. And really easy to overestimate your own abilities to be some sort of superwoman and get everything done.
And when those two mis-estimations meet each other in the crowded hallways of your mind, well, that's when the anxiety attacks and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning start happening.
And to think, it all began from saying yes too many times to too many things.
So now, I've learned a little about saying no.
When it became apparent that my own sanity was at risk because of the situation I put myself in by saying yes to everything, I went on a fiendish rampage of "NO" in an effort to take my life back.
I said no to every new client that inquired. I said no to every super cool project that people asked me to participate in (well, except for one :) I even had to say no to clients that I already had scheduled on my calendar, who had given me a down payment and were excited to get to work with me- that is a totally ugharific thing to do!
Can you imagine the shame and disappointment I felt when I had to write and tell them I couldn't do the project afterall? I felt like I was saying, "Hi. I'm an idiot who severely overestimated my time and abilities and out of fear I said yes to your project, scared that the next project might not come along, but in reality I don't have time to do it, unless I never sleep again, and in order to stop my panic attacks, I'm going to have to send you a refund and call it a day. Okey dokey?"
But you know what else I felt, tailing right up behind those feelings of guilt and disappointment in myself?
Strong, unadulterated and joyful relief.
I felt the weight of the future starting to lift off my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe again, have time for some life again, like I could finally see the light at the end of the busyness tunnel. And the more I said no to things (and started getting more comfortable saying no to things) the more I could see how much the good feeling of taking my time back outweighed the initial guilty feelings.
And I realized, saying no to things helps you access your power (as Danielle LaPorte would say.) Saying no sets your boundaries. It shows that you value your time and your priorities. It's a reminder to yourself that you can choose what you want for your life.
And all of that just has to be worth the icky feelings that sometimes come along with saying no. Right?
Now, when I'm trying to decide whether yes or no on something...
I ask myself:
If the answer is no to any of those things, then I politely say no to the offer. If the answer is yes, than I can wholeheartedly say yes and really focus on the projects that are the most meaningful and exciting to me.
Do you struggle saying no? Have you ever become overwhelmed from saying yes to too many commitments? What are you going to do to make sure that doesn't happen again?
She's sharing some great tips on how to set your boundaries!
I made a little progress on my 12 by 2012 goals this weekend. We donated three huge bags of clothes that we don't wear any longer (and old Miss modish shop stuff) to the Salvation Army. Of course I had to go shopping while we were there too, but I only brought home 2 things :) And although my tiny closet is still busting at the seams, at least it's a little more organized now!
We also bought a new range, to be delivered later today! I'm so excited. We've been needing one basically since we moved in here and had a gift card from last Christmas (thanks Mom!) that we finally used, hooray!
How are your goals comin? I can't believe there's only 9 weeks left til 2012!
ps: isn't it funny, I have only one solid black thing in my closet. And it was a gift! hah!