Friday, January 17, 2014

Creating Success from the Inside Out: The Hidden Benefit To Planning

As a project manager of multiple projects at any given time, I need to be organized.  So, I have a system in place that works well for me.  This system allows me to keep track of everything that needs to be done in a way that it's not all floating around in my head driving me crazy.

However, flip to my jewelry business and my organization and planning would be shameful to any project manager, including myself.  Since I'm generally wearing my creative cap when doing business tasks, I tend to let my passions and imaginations take me away into the clouds.  Until recently, I had a system for tracking all the things I want to try, sites I want to explore, designs I want to create but no long term plan for doing any of it.  Whenever I had time to sit down at my bench and work on my business, I would right then try to figure out what I was going to do - Make items? Photograph pieces? Add items to Etsy? Reach out to a blog?  Try that new technique?  Eeek! I would get overwhelmed and not make good use of my time.  

That's why I wanted to share with you my new planning technique that has given me my freedom back, pulled me out of overwhelm, given me a sense of real purpose, and basically changed my life!  This technique is not novel, but just something I hadn't followed through with before.  If you lack planning and organization in your creative business, then I hope this technique will help you, too.

1. The first thing I did was sit down and figure out my goals for the year for my business, made fun and enjoyable by using Leonie Dawson's 2014 Create Your Amazing Year in Life & Business Workbooks and Calendars. I really got clear on what I want to achieve this year and put dates by which I want to complete each one.  

2. I looked at each goal and wrote down step by step on a piece of lined paper what it would take to complete it, even if it was a simple project with only 2 or 3 steps.

3. I decided set days each week that I would dedicate to my business.  Before, I willy-nilly worked on my business whenever I felt like it.  Now that I was going to plan for REALS, I needed to make some concrete and consistent commitments to myself.

4. I took Leonie's monthly calendar printouts (you could use any monthly calendar, iCal, Google Calendar, etc.) and input each individual task from step 2 into the calendar and played around with it until it felt realistic and worked with the overall completion dates I was aiming for.  At this point, I crossed some goals off my list because I realized it was just not realistic for me to accomplish everything in the time I have to spend.

Here are some quick tips for this planning stage:
* Think about how long, realistically, each task will take as you place it in your schedule
* Don't put too many tasks into any given day - you will get frustrated if you can't get it all done
* Think about which days you will have more time to spend and schedule the more difficult tasks for those days
* Yes, you have to schedule some tasks that are not fun at all to accomplish - try to pepper those in with a task that is SUPER fun
* Leave some days with little or no planned tasks to allow you some flexibility in case other tasks take longer than expected (and also to provide room for those spur of the moment ideas you just have to explore)
* Input your intended vacations into your planner - if you don't know when you are going to take time off, at least leave some placeholders throughout the year and you can adjust later

5. Lastly, I bought myself a cute planner at Barnes & Noble that I love and I input all the planning information from the monthly printouts into this planner.  This allowed me to take that extra adjustment step needed to get to a comfortable plan.  

Harmony Chakra Bracelet by Anjali Creations on Etsy

Honestly, now that I have my plan for the year, my mind is so much calmer.  Instead of constantly thinking about what I want/need to do next, I just look at my planner to see what's coming up and I just have to focus on that.  I know what days I'm working on my business and on those days I sit down and get those tasks done.  I don't have to worry about the next project that I have planned to start in March because it's all planned out and will be waiting for me when the time comes.

Have your own planning techniques?  Do tell in the comments below!


Jess Schleicher said...

This is so funny, because I'm currently filling in my workbook from Leonie too. I love it. The planner and workbook have made things run smoother for me for sure!

Marilyn Perez said...

Any excuse to buy a cute new planner! =D Seriously, I am the same way, I am super organizer and an overzealous planner EXCEPT when it comes to my jewelry/blog. I'm terrible. I go through phases when I get on the ball and I fall off. I always need structure in my life but for some reason it's harder to apply when it involves anything creative lol! I downloaded the workbook too. :) Thanks Lisa!

Audrey Lodato said...

I'm guilty of all the same crimes...

Lisa Walbridge (Merry Alchemy) said...

Glad you guys are into Leonie's planners. I love them!