Overwhelm. Procrastination. Too many ideas. Piles of paperwork. Half finished projects. Overwhelm. Creative Stagnation. Overflowing inbox. Workspace spreading through the house like an oil slick. Stuckness (<<< yes that's a word). Gahness (<<< not actually a word, but you know what I mean). Overwhelm.
Does any of this resonate with you? Year after year, I seem to start the same way - full of vigour, far too many ideas, eager to do this and implement that, make this and finish that. I always, ALWAYS want to start something new. Idea explosion and inspiration overload!
Come March, and I'm all puffed out, having been overwhelmed by a mountain of ideas, plans, tasks and 'to do' lists that have now become lost amongst invoices, junk mail and bank statements.
It's back to the grind, and I'm lost in piles of paper and 'inspiration', always trying to catch up (catch up to what, I'm not sure), and never feeling on top of things. Hello October, and I realise the end of the year is nearing (fast), I vaguely remember some of the plans I had and feel remorseful that I never got around to doing much of it this year (again), and then get swamped with everything that happens pre-Christmas that I don't even have enough brain space to think about it.
January. I'm like hey, just rinse and repeat.
This does not have to be! So I designed a plan, a business 'cleanse' if you like, that can be done even if you're not feeling like any of the above, but especially if you are. I'd recommend doing it at least three times a year.
This is like going to a Chiropractor for business. Getting everything 'aligned'. Your business, your commitments, your goals, your dreams, your vision. Clearing out the blockages in your creative and intellectual arteries. Decluttering your physical and digital surroundings. Removing toxins. Enhancing clarity. Restoring balance.
Let's do this.
EXTRA FOREWORD: Don't be overwhelmed by scrolling down this entire post and thinking "OhMyGoodness". I'm not here to create overwhelm on top of your overwhelm. I've broken it up into chunks, into manageable daily tasks. Just focus on one day at a time. Ready? Set....
DAY 1 - PROCRASTINATE. I MEAN, DO THE HOUSEWORK.
Picture this: You have a 5,000 word essay due in a week's time, or, you have accounts to get ready for your accountant, or, you have a proposal to write for a client. What do you do? Chances are, you start cleaning windows, or completely re-organising the linen cupboard that's been annoying you for 8 months, or decide that cleaning the bathroom is a much higher priority. No? You complete the task at hand? I take my hat off to you! You are good and focused!
But did you know that procrastinating by doing somewhat menial tasks can be necessary for productivity? Getting rid of little jobs that are nagging at you in the back of your mind, sorting out those piles of things that torment you every time you walk past, and you think "I need to sort that stuff out someday". The first step in #creativebusinessdetox is to unclog the 'arteries' in your physical surroundings, the things that, unbeknown to you, may be causing creative blockages.
Having a good de-clutter and clean out is a positively amazing way to boost your productivity and unleash your creative thinker. Sometimes the solution for a creative or planning blockage is to forget about the project for a while, let your mind rest, and simply let your subconscious complete its "procrastinating" - WITHOUT FEELING GUILTY. As these annoying and frustrating blockages are being cleared, your mind almost has permission to engage in creative or thinking activities. Crazy right?
Do you want to know the place where I come up with my best ideas, where I compose 2000 words in my head with ease, and where I get loads of 'eureka' moments? It's not while laying on the beach. It's standing at the foot of my bed, while I'm folding Mount Washmore. Serious. (Almost) every time. I fold a lot of washing.
I hereby give you permission to procrastinate. Go and do two or three of those nagging things that you are just bursting to get sorted. Give yourself permission. Therefore, go forth and conquer thy linen cupboard.
Also, drink a glass of water. It's good for you.
DAY 2 - DE-CLUTTER YOUR DIGITAL SPACE
Your computer. Your phone. No doubt you spend a lot of time using both. Get them running smoothly and you'll majorly reduce frustration!
Clean up your computer files! Delete unnecessary photos, files and downloads. I take a million trillion photos before deciding on one or two to use. Get rid of all the junk, the blurry shots, the stuff that doesn't work. Get rid of baggage.
Organise your folders. Sometimes you can end up with so many it's overwhelming. Archive older ones into years if that works for you. When creating new folders, try to label them for easy and quick recognition, and add the month and year to the label. Get rid of random files that aren't in subfolders, by finding where they fit, creating a new folder for them, or deleting them. EVERYTHING needs a folder. Random things floating around, don't work for me!
Clean your computer desktop - even a crammed and cluttered digital desktop can be counter productive, and a frustration. Create a folder for screen shots that clutter your desktop, the ones you need - and delete the rest. If you have a Mac, you don't need your programmes on your desktop, make sure they show in the Dock. Folders to have on your desktop might be Business (containing subfolders of your branding, press, business documents, social media etc), Current Projects, Inspiration, Templates and Photos. Time to give yourself a fresh new desktop background.
Sort out your BOOKMARKS!!! What a mission. Delete links that no longer are active, or you don't need anymore. Use your browser's bookmark manager to create and sort into folders. I don't use bookmarks anymore. I'm a visual person who needs to see things quickly and clearly, not as a big long list of words. Try out Pocket for visual organisation of your favourite pages (awesome for being able to access from any device), or wherever you can pin the page to Pinterest.
Defrag, do a system clean up, run your anti-spyware (if you have a PC)
Do a BACK UP. NOW. Invest in an external hard drive to do this, AND look into cloud storage. It's a great idea - and means you can access your files from anywhere and any device. And if your hard drive blows up....you're safe (unless the cloud blows up).
On your phone - delete any apps that you don't use, clean out your photo and video galleries of stuff you don't need, or that you have synced/saved to the cloud or other device, organise your home screen, and give yourself a new background image. If you have an iPhone, DO THIS WICKED EXERCISE so that your battery doesn't die so fast!
Drink a glass of water.
DAY 3 - AUDIT YOUR ONLINE HANG OUTS
Your website. Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. Your blog. Google +. Pinterest. Firstly, revisit your 'About' page. When did you write it? Two years ago? Is it still a reflection of who you are, what you're about, and what you are offering to the world? Find your current voice and tell people what you are about. Write as much as you want. People like knowing about the real person behind the scenes. Create a short version for every other online platform that you use, and go through and make it consistent on each. (This is my mission this week!) Make sure your branding, vision, statements, contact details and profiles are consistent across all your online media platforms, and make sure information is current and fresh! Clear your blog and website of anything that no longer fits your current brand and voice. If possible, get someone to give your website and your other one major online space (eg. Facebook) a going over with a fine tooth comb - for grammar, accuracy, irrelevant information, gaps in information, and overall visual appearance (or do it yourself, if you can't get someone else). Decide whether anything needs updating or refreshing.Make sure your links work. Audit your Pinterest boards. Get rid of pins that no longer express your current brand and person. Make sure your titles are appropriate. Drink a glass of water.
DAY 4 - SORT OUT YOUR BITS AND BOBS (AND YOUR HANDBAG)
Studio on a bad I mean normal day
This is kind of a biggie, depending on how much you hoard I mean gather for future projects, and how sentimental you are about 'stuff'. This is where you sort out your stashes of fabric, your boxes of vintage spools, your piles of magazines.
RECYCLE - envelopes, newspaper, old packaging that can't be re-used. You can shred large paper for future packaging, otherwise - get it into the recycling bin. My new rule of thumb is to recycle all envelopes and extra notices/brochures that come with bills STRAIGHT AWAY. Also recycle yucky plastics and unnecessary glass of course!
HOSPICE - a box (or 10) for your local Hospice or charity shop - be ruthless. You WILL accumulate more, and you know it. Things you really don't need. Odds and ends that no longer go with anything, are no longer your style, and that aren't very cool. I had to learn to not be so sentimental about stuff. But I did keep a 'handy things for future projects' box area. TOYS!! There are far too many, it's overwhelming. You may as well sort them out too while you're at it!
CHUCK - anything broken that can't be recycled, given away, or repaired. Pens that don't work. Dried felt tip pens and markers. Falling apart handbags. Empty tubes of paint. Rubbish.
Studio on a good day
ARCHIVE: by law you have to keep business accounting documents and records for a period of seven years, so keep what you have to. Once you no longer need it (if your accountant has signed off the year and accounts filed) - ARCHIVE IT. Put it all into a box labelled 2014 (or whatever year it is), tape it up, store it away, forget about it. The only time you will ever need it is if IRD decide to audit you. No-one said it had to be 7 years of neatly filed records either. Just chuck it in a box and save yourself 8 hours work. Unless you are super efficient and love to file it neatly - again, hat off to you!
Clean out your handbag (or your briefcase, satchel or whatever it is you carry around with you each day). Your shoulder will thank you. And you will feel envigorated.
Drink a glass of water.
EXTRA LOVE: Now here's a GREAT post from Kelly Exeter of A Life Less Frantic on The One Minute Cleaning Rule That Will Change Your Life. Some really great advice on how to deal with the clutter before it happens!
DAY 5 - ORGANISE YOUR INBOX
Time to sort out those emails. Ouch. May seem like a monstrous task. Oh it is. First of all delete spam.
Unsubscribe from newsletters that no longer interest you.
Go through your inbox and delete anything you don't need - newsletters, advertising, spammish type stuff. Empty your trash.
Create folders for all emails - here's mine: Inbox (necessary!), Actioned, Follow up, Orders pending, Orders sent, Receipts/Invoices, Bank, News, Testimonials, Suppliers, Personal. Put as much of your inbox away in folders as you can, but make sure you are vigilant to keep an eye on the folders that still require action. Once you've followed up or responded fully - file it into 'Actioned' straight away! Do you know how good it feels to go from an inbox of 468 messages to less than 40? AMAZING.
To feel so much more in control of your inbox, give yourself the goal to keep the number of emails in your main inbox to under 50 (or whatever is realistic for you)
Drink a glass of water.
DAY 6 - TIDY UP YOUR ACCOUNTS
Catch up day. Get all your reconciliations done. Do whatever you do in whatever accounting system you use, to get it all up to date. Work out what you can do consistently in this area so that you don't fall behind. Tidy up paperwork for accounts and file.
Don't forget your glass of water (and possibly a panadol).
EXTRA LOVE: I highly recommend Xero Accounting - it integrates with website management, Paypal and other gateways, the automated bank and Paypal feeds are a LIFESAVER, and save hours and hours and hours of data entry. Plus the reporting is fantastic, it's very user friendly, and my accountant can just pop on into the system from his office and do his thing. (And if you click on that link, you'll probably see a video of my beautiful friend Meg from the gorgeous business Tea Pea).
DAY 7 - ASSESS YOUR CURRENT PRODUCTS/SERVICES
Are there products or services that you provide that you actually don't like? Unless they are absolutely necessary for you to stay afloat, why would you keep them? Eliminate anything that kills your mojo, that drains you (emotionally and financially), and stresses you out.
See if you can revamp a product, or add value to low selling product by packaging it with other products. Just try it.
Take a good look at your client feedback, your sales, your enquiries and the talk on your social media channels, and see if there is a recurring theme, find your most popular products, take note of what the people want.
Now is a good opportunity to have that sale for everything that no longer fits your current brand and offering.
Brainstorm new products and services! This is fun! I have a whole new post on this, but just go hard and get it all out on paper. Get inspired and excited.
And yes, have a drink of water.
DAY 8 - ORGANISE YOUR PROJECTS, COMMITMENTS & CALENDAR
I am in the process of designing the ULTIMATE creatives planner and diary. I guarantee you there is nothing out there like it (or prove me wrong, show me! I haven't found one that ticks all my boxes in my endless search for the perfect planner!). Until then, use what is best for you. A large year planner on your wall can make a huge difference. Or perhaps you prefer a digital system (like my husband does). Use colour coding, coloured pens, stickers, highlighters, to organise your projects, personal and work commitments, deadlines and goals. Have a glass of water.
And if you'd like advanced notice of the publication of my ultimate planner, sign up for my mailing list at the end of this post.
DAY 9 - REVISIT YOUR BRANDING
Do you feel 100% confident about your brand and what it portrays? I'm not just talking about your logo, but your whole brand's persona. Your brand isn't the logo that you slap onto everything. It is your entire message to the world about who you are and what you offer. Is it speaking for you properly? If yes, awesome!! Go and have that drink of water :-) If not, now's the time to put a plan in place to revamp it. Get someone else to look at it for you and see if you are getting your message across. Write your story. Your story is an integral part of your brand. Make sure it's being told, and expressed, through the image you are portraying every time someone visits your website, Facebook page, blog. Every time you give a postcard out. Every time you send an email. I don't mean write your whole life story at the bottom of every email, but make sure your brand expresses your message in every interaction with someone, and that it is consistent, loud and clear, and you are proud of it! Engage the services of a pro if this is not your thing. It will be totally worth it. Have a lovely glass of water.
DAY 10 - CLARIFY YOUR VISION
So you've had a big clean up, you've dusted off the cobwebs, you've polished and you've gotten rid of junk. You can now see through the windows, and the sun is shining in! After all of this 'detoxing', you should be able to see things a little more clearly.
CREATE A NEW VISION BOARD (or inspiration board, whatever you want to call it). Whether it be digital, on the wall of your office, on your pin board, or on an A2 piece of card. Create a vision (using images, articles, things that inspire you, materials that make your heart bounce) that represents what you want your business and personal life to be, and where you want to be. Use it to inspire and keep you on track with your vision. Add to it. Remove elements that no longer support your vision. Write letters to yourself and pin them up. There are no rules. It's a very personal experience. It's about what YOU want.
See if you can summarise your vision in one sentence.
And keep this vision in view.
Have a big glass of water!
You're done! How does that feel?! I'm hoping you feel envigorated and excited about where you are heading. And if you're wondering why you had to drink a glass of water after each step....because it's good for you, and I just added that as a little exercise in habit. It's one of many habits that if done consistently, can become a normal part of your daily routine. Is there anything else you would like to do consistently, business wise or personally? Make yourself a little daily reminder, and see what happens.
Have yourself a happy business. And I'd love your feedback if you complete this detox!
I'll be expanding on all this and more in my e-workbook, which I've been working on since forever, which is a guide to create your business plan (which is not actually a conventional business plan). I just used the word business plan there because it's what you think you need. What you need is a vision, and a road map. Make sure you hit SUBSCRIBE below to take advantage of being an early bird.