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Fresh Squeezed 006: When things don’t go as planned
Sometimes, despite all our efforts, things don’t go as planned. Shocking, I know!
This Fresh Squeezed email is supposed to go out on Tuesdays at 7am. I didn’t make it happen this week. I’m sure I could have, but I prioritized other things knowing the repercussions of pushing this back were more palatable than those of other deadlines, commitments, and self-care. Life happens. 2020 happened. When I make conscious choices and accept responsibility for them, I have much less stress. Try it, you might like it. 😀
Looking back at 2020, focusing on those things within my control, it was a pretty good year. Sure, all sorts of crazy things happened beyond my control, but other than choosing how I react to those things, there is not much sense in dwelling on them.
Using the questions from last week’s Fresh Squeezed as my guide, here are my 2020 highlights (good and bad), and some insights gained that will influence my 2021 planning:
What am I most proud of from this year? What memorable project, assignment, or goal did I complete?
1,000+ icons project
I partnered with my colleague Everett McKay of UX Design Edge to design over 1,000 icons for a software application used in the mining industry. I’m not certain of the final icon count, somewhere in the ballpark of 1,300. I actually have over 6,000 related files and more like 1,500 icons including variations and revisions. It was a massive project with my role spanning January–July. How does one produce 1000+ icons? One at a time — like eating the proverbial elephant. While it might sound tedious to some, it was great for me. I scheduled about 4 hrs a day, 4 days a week to work on it. Usually, with a break or two to stretch, check email, and return calls. I’d sit here quietly working on them until the time was up or I reached a good stopping point so I could then turn my attention to other tasks.
Mindset Mondays with DTK book
Released earlier this year, this project was two years in the making. It began as an idea I brainstormed with author David Taylor-Klaus who then launched it as an ongoing weekly Facebook live series. David and co-author Laurie Schiers wrote the book based on the series and I worked with David to design the book. It was fun collaborating with his eldest child Bex and their wife Alicia to develop the illustrations for each chapter. The book has been produced as a hard cover with dust jacket, a paperback and for Kindle and other e-readers. A book like this is a big design project. Sure, you could make it less fussy and do it quick and cheap — but how often do you create something like this? I love working with people who know and value the difference. That’s when you go looking for someone like me. When you want something that looks and feels substantial, of quality, to match the level of what is contained inside! dtkcoaching.com/mmwdtk
Becoming a consistent content creator
Contrary to the evidence, I don’t love writing. I do love creating. This year I challenged myself to produce content more consistently. It started with Content Creators Planner, committing to alternating with Kim who would produce our weekly newsletter and I’m finishing the year with my 7th issue of my weekly Fresh Squeezed emailed. I did pretty well — and recognize I am more challenged for time than discipline (because of my client load combined with my own businesses), but I’m beginning to enjoy the process and am looking forward to creating more audio/visual forms of content, not just writing.
Content Creators Planner
Still an evolving and wild ride. Despite some ups and downs we are still happily chugging along. Lots of bumps in the road with sales dips and a revolving door of Facebook ad agencies, but all great learning experiences. We’ve taken over control of our ads management and stripped it way back and are currently building it back up as profitably as it’s ever been. Not quite back to our prior ad spend yet, but increasing steadily with good returns. contentcreatorsplanner.com
Surreptitiously turned Kim Doyal into an essentialist
Apparently it is infectious. And it works. Accomplish more by doing less. Seriously, a no-brainer. As a result, we are getting even more focused on what exactly we WANT to do with Content Creators Planner and planning accordingly for 2021 and beyond. kimdoyal.com
The Smartist Way™ Framework
The proof is in the pudding and my Smartist Way Framework really works! I’ve been iterating on it for years in my client engagements. Recently I have also been sharing various TSW templates with clients to do some of the work themselves, guided by me, and lo and behold, it is really working. Using it has also yielded some of my easiest, fastest, and most profitable website design/builds which was an unexpected bonus for me. A few notable examples are: Individual Fitness, and LiFT Learning and of course Kim and I use it for Content Creators Planner.
What’s a goal I gave up on this year (or fell short on)? Am I glad I did that because objectively it wasn’t my highest priority?
I wouldn’t say I gave up, but I definitely didn’t make time for or focus on Live Love Dogs® or making art. On one hand, it is a conscious choice because I can only do so many things. On the other hand, making art is in my blood and I have a need to create and will be making time for it moving forward. And Live Love Dogs has so much potential, just not my highest priority at this time.
The Smartist Way course creation is one of my greatest frustrations and one of my biggest goals. I didn’t stick to my timeline because I prioritized client work and immediate income instead — which was probably smart since 2020 was a crazy unpredictable year and turning down paying opportunities seemed like an unnecessary risk. That being said, I am definitely focused on it and consider it a top priority for my 2021 planning.
What did I try that didn’t work out, but the process of trying it moved my thinking forward in a helpful way?
- Lots of experiments with Content Creators Planner – Kim is fearless where I am more plodding and methodical. It’s a great combo and together we jump in faster and try lots of things. Taking back control of our Facebook ads management from agencies has helped up regain control over our profitability.
- Various time blocking approaches for my week – The big takeaway is kind of a “duh.” I have too much on my plate. I am always trying to improve how I block my time and I’m convinced my scheduling is still not really working because I have too much to do and timelines need to be extended from the get-go… that and I need to take on less all the way around.
- Company of One – I never want to advocate for doing everything yourself. I, however, have never had the greatest experience outsourcing. I do have a few wins, but overall my track record is not great. My best outsourcing has come from defining specific workflows and then handing them off to my fabulous VA. Beyond that, I am done trying. Not my thing.
Were the goals I set really that important?
Yes. Without them we wander. Focusing on my projected and actual revenue and profit numbers ensures I hit or come close to my goals and helps me see problems coming before they happen. Same is true for any goal. My problem is that I have too many.
What lessons did I learn?
- Not to over schedule myself. I need more white space. Things take longer than I think they will.
- Measure outputs not just outcomes. Output leads to outcomes. We are in control of our output but not our outcomes.
- Better to disappoint early with a No than to delay that No, or worse, say Yes to something I am not interested in or do not really have time for.
- Things I procrastinate fall into categories:
- I don’t want to say no for some reason but should,
- I don’t really want to do it but have some FOMO,
- In my mind, the task is monumental, when really I just need to start.
- I am overloaded and don’t have the brain space to think it through enough to respond with scope/pricing and am unaware of how much time is passing.
What new habit or routine did I create this year that has had a positive impact?
- Consistent content creation – building email lists, trust and authority
- Measuring my outputs not only my outcomes
- Scheduling less per day and sticking to the schedule
- Reading in the morning, going to bed early/rising early
What did I face head-on this year rather than avoiding?
I still have room for improvement, but saying no, canceling projects I knew I could not complete on time — essentially having difficult conversations. I still avoided plenty but stepped up quite a bit, too.
How did the pace of work, and the pace of progress feel across the year?
I felt overloaded and did not make enough progress on my own stuff. I had to cancel two client projects because I was beyond maxed out, and also had to turn down other good opportunities. I am not interested in building and managing a team, therefore my approach will be to narrow my focus and work on fewer, bigger/better client projects while also continuing to build and launch my own assets.
Where was the majority of my time and energy spent? Am I happy with the way I spent my time overall during this past year?
Working on client stuff and Content Creators Planner. Not really happy about it. I do love creating, but feeling other people’s urgency is stressful. It is also toxic to the creative process.
What areas can I take a step back from?
- Client work – be choosier.
- Make better use of automations, tools, VA and also push work back on clients so I act as the guide, not the do-er.
- Things I don’t like doing: get rid of or delegate. limit the types of projects/engagements I will do and how I do them.
- If it is not profitable it had better have other value or it needs to go.
If I could change, reschedule, or delete, one regular appointment or meeting from my calendar, I would change…
I am pretty good in this regard, but would benefit from always having a meeting agenda clearly defined, sticking to it, and sending follow up action items with due dates after each meeting.
How did I use my spare or personal time? Am I happy about my decision?
- Home/studio improvement projects
- Doing stuff with my dogs
- Family & close friends
I am happy about these, but also not happy I did not make art.
Did I take my full vacation time or allotment? Am I happy about my decision?
Who’s help or support have I been most appreciative of? What relationship was the biggest positive surprise to me this year?
I’m not sure there were any surprises. It’s been such a hard year full of personal losses for many close to me and I hope I’ve been at least a fraction of the support to them as they have been to me when I’ve needed it.
Most of my relationships are long-standing and steadfast ones. I’m grateful to all my friends, family and clients who have stuck with me for going on 28 years in biz this coming June.
Jasper & Sam 🐄 🐑 are my most loyal, constant and hilarious sidekicks. I live and work alone, compounded by the isolation this year presented, they have kept me sane. If you’ve ever Zoomed with me, you have for sure met them as they feel compelled to participate, and loudly.
Two most frequently heard things around here (other than barking):
- Let’s go to work (…stampede down to the studio)
- Let’s go to bed (…stampede up to the bedroom)
Did I give more of my time to others this year than to myself?
Others, no question.
What am I tolerating?
I hold myself to a high standard and yet I seem to tolerate mediocrity and lazy sloppiness in others and it frustrates me beyond belief. Good craftsmanship can carry a weak design or idea. Poor craftsmanship can destroy a great one.
I also find I still sometimes tolerate people who are unappreciative or ignorant of the value of professional design, branding, and marketing consulting. They are shopping/comparing price — as with most things, you generally get what you pay for. I try to avoid these people in my business but still they slip through once in awhile.
When I consider this past year in full, how do I feel about the progress I personally made?
Good, I accomplished a lot, but not really enough. I still feel in the weeds and am not progressing in areas where I want to. Makes me question if I really want to.
How would I summarize the year?
Pretty sure I just did that above. How about this?
Stick it with a fork, it’s done!
What do I enjoy most in my work?
Making things. Visual things. Creating…
What do I enjoy least?
Figuring stuff out and overall planning. (think Gantt charts). Troubleshooting shortsighted technical stuff. People drama. False urgency.
What is most profitable?
Flat-fee design project work; selling something 1:many
Outsourced work that I get sucked into working on. Low budget projects with high-maintenance clients – hard to detect in advance!
Gross Revenue was down but profitability was up – less contract labor and expenses
“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”
~ Doris Lessing
“It turns out that, if you ask yourself ‘Can I keep going?’ rather than ‘Can I make it to the finish?’ you’re far more likely to answer in the affirmative.”
More brilliance from author/artist Austin Kleon
JAN 8-9, 2021
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