Archive for the 'Workflow' Category

Luck favors the prepared.

I want to share an observation that I fear is going to be too woo-woo. Too law-of-attraction. Too build-it-and-they-will-come. Which I so don’t want to encourage or promote because we all know there is more to life and business than that.

But, once again, there it is.

I worked out better systems and policies and procedures for a particular element of my business. I have answers to questions. I got organized. I am now clear on what I’m doing and how I’m doing it – and can communicate that.

And suddenly, without promoting it at all, there is flow where there was not flow before.


This has happened before. I know this to be a reliable thing. Yet I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling pleasantly surprised by it.

In my head, I remember Cheryl Richardson explaining this phenomena in Take Time for Your Life this way: When you show the universe you’re ready, it will give you more.

Funny, when I look up the quote, it’s actually:

Abundance flows when you trust yourself enough to handle it.

It’s really hard to trust yourself to handle things without some systems. Without getting a little organized. Without being clear about what you are doing and how you are doing it.

I know developing systems isn’t as much fun as your creative work (right beside you, there). But rivers really do need riverbanks in order to flow properly.

So, I invite you – challenge you – to try this for yourself. Pick one small part of your business where you want more flow and tidy it up. Get organized and clear with it – and see what happens. See if luck really does favor the prepared.* Then come back here and tell us about it.

* This is more fun to think about if you picture Edna ‘E’ Mode, super-suit designer to The Incredibles, saying it. Luck favors the prepared, dahlink. (Remember: no capes!)

The power of just two words.

I’m a sucker for good packaging. Color. Design. Copy. Especially copy. It’s hard to write good, succinct copy.

So I was impressed by the copy being used by Target on their new in-store label: a short list of features and benefits followed by a two word summary. For instance, shampoo is “hair-do delight” and dryer sheets are “whiffless lift.”

I was feeling all inspired about using this two-word approach in some way in my own marketing, but wasn’t really sure about how to do that.

Until I read this post from Deborah Weber today all about how she learned to apply the 80/20 rule to a two-word statement that captures your essence. The first word describes the 80% that is your foundation. The second word describes the 20% that distinguishes you. Cool, right?

And that explained why I was impressed but not completely smitten with what Target had done.  “Whiffless lift” is perfect because it describes unscented dryer sheets. But “hair-do delight” on a bottle of dandruff shampoo kind of misses the point. That 20% word counts for a lot.

My inspiration renewed, I intended to follow Deborah’s excellent example and come up with a two-word phrase for my business. But my brain instantly got bored with that and moved on to the idea of using this to name stuff. Stuff with boring labels – like to-do lists and binder tabs and file folders.

Naming is powerful. Give stuff the right name and presto-chango it’s way more fun. And suddenly makes sense. And you want to do it. Like magic, naming is.

So, to begin with, it’s about time for me to update my calendar for the next few months. And all the activities I block out are getting new names. Starting with tomorrow’s “week-end wrap-up.” Booorriinng. Finishing Party? No. Doneness Exit? Nah. Outta-Here Boogie? Now we’re getting somewhere…

Who knew the Pareto Principle could be such a gas? This is going to be fun. Come play along with Deborah and me.

• • • • •


One hot evening last week, I took Max to the river for a cool swim. There are often other people there doing the same thing and among the crowd of dogs that night was one in a life vest. Which made no sense to me until I realized he had three legs instead of the usual four. He was having a grand time! With just a little extra buoyancy, nothing was stopping him from joining in all the fun.

Like that dog, I figure we are all short a leg one way or another – though perhaps not physically.

We all have weaknesses that make it tricky to do the things we love – like swimming after tennis balls on a sunny day with our human and canine buddies (metaphorically speaking, of course).

Thing is, are you going to give up what you love (and need) to do because of some seeming limitation? Or are you going to find yourself a life vest and get on with it?

What obstacles do you need to remove, what tools or guidelines do you need to put in place, to make it easy to do the things you want to do?

Maybe you need a timer.
Or some sticky notes.
Or a binder.
Or a basket.
Or a song.

From the notepad on the fridge to jot down needed groceries, to our his and hers pillboxes (they make us feel old, but they work), to “the mail only goes here” shelf – our house if full of little tools and systems that keep our brains from sinking.

Goodness knows I would drown trying to run my business without my daily sheets.

And I’d never stop thrashing about without my new rituals for taking back my weekends.

Maybe you’re not so good with numbers, time-lines, focus or finishing. Or so you think. But what if all it took was a simple flotation device to keep your head above water and your eye on the ball?

What sort of life vest would make you feel safe?
What sort of kick-board would speed things along?
What sort of inner-tube would support time to just float?
What sort of water wings would help you jump into the deep end?
What sort of beach ball would make it all more fun?

It really doesn’t matter that you have three legs. It just doesn’t.
What matters is not letting it stop you.

• • • • •

Creating personal flotation devices is something we practice in both The True Discipline of Time Management and The Organic Business Manual. Dive in with me this fall and start having fun again. (Note: early bird for OBM ends tomorrow!)

• • • • •

Science vs. Art

When people say they’ve got something down to a science, do they mean they’ve got something down to a system?

And what do they mean when they say they have something down to an art?

Let’s discuss and debate…

It could be staring you in the face.

It’s hot here in Portland. I mean really hot. As in: 100+ degrees. It’s the sort of hot we’re really not used to. We live here and not in Arizona or New Mexico to avoid this sort of thing.

And it’s the annual five days a year when we all contemplate whether or not we should install air conditioning.

But air conditioning is expensive to buy, maintain and use – and seems a huge investment for something you only need a few days a year.

As solutions go, it’s kinda out of proportion with the problem.

In the end, it’s cheaper and easier just to rent a hotel room for a week. Which seems super-deluxe and self-indulgent and all that on the surface, but is really the more sensible and practical choice when you think about it.

And that got me wondering…

What solutions might we be applying to problems in our businesses that are way out of proportion?

What systems might we be creating that are needlessly elaborate and expensive to maintain?

What easy answers are right in front of us that we just aren’t recognizing because we’ve made the assumption they are inappropriate or out of reach?

Work According to the Seasons

I’m a big fan of adapting my work schedule according to the seasons.

Winter is a time for dormancy – to get quiet, listen, rest, repair, and prepare for the return of spring. Spring and fall tend to busy times of creation. But summer? Summer is to be savored.

It’s a time to take a break from so much doing, but not in the way winter is. It’s a time to make shifts that allow me to really enjoy the bounty of it all. It’s a time to play.

[ I mean, it’s just going to ag me to be stuck at my desk on a beautiful warm sunny day, so why set myself up for that? ]

I suppose some would feel more in sync with all that ripens in the coming months by being equally productive. But for me, it’s a time to be nourished and replenished before another season of doing by all the warmth, light, fresh produce, outdoor events, travel, fellowship and fun that is summer.

I’ve just started reading Waverly Fitzgerald’s book Slow Time, which I love so much I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to buy all of her Natural Planners and Holiday Packets (and maybe even make it required reading for my time management course! okay maybe not, just highly recommended).  I’ve more or less intuitively found my way to adjusting my schedule throughout the year, but it’s so great to have found a resource that affirms and expands so intelligently on that impulse, and healing one’s relationship with time in general. Check out her School of the Seasons and be inspired as I have.

How are you making the most of whatever the change in seasons means to you? Instead of trying to pack yet more into your schedule, how can you make adjustments that allow you to really savor the delights of summer?

Order from Influence

More lessons from the garden:

There is a lot of spring clean-up to be done to make our backyard the summer sanctuary I like it to be. In beginning to tackle it last weekend, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by where to start.

I have a favorite spot on the patio where I like to sit in a favorite chair. (Where I’m sitting now, in fact. It’s a little chilly, but it’s such a beautiful morning it seemed a shame not be out here.) So I decided to start there.

With that as my center point I worked outward, in little concentric circles, dealing with what immediately surrounded this favorite spot.

Excellent. (Mostly) clean patio.

Onward to the yard. But, hmmm, the yard is much bigger than the patio. What to do first?

I decided to begin with what I see from this chair, what is in my direct line of sight, working outward to the periphery of my vision. I concentrated on what would most cheer me when I saw it, what would most positively influence my mood.

Yes, it was important to plant the tomatoes, too. But their bed is around the corner, out of sight. So the flower baskets were planted and hung before sowing vegetables. The pond and the surrounding shrubbery were cleaned and trimmed before doing battle with the blackberry that is taking over the opposite corner of the yard (not battle to the death though, those out-of-control berries make really tasty jam). [And, for those of you following along: no, I haven’t finished the rose trellis yet. It’s on the periphery.]

I sorted and ordered my next steps by what would most immediately influence me for the better when I spend time here in this lovely outdoor space. It was a strategy that worked really well. I’m a little surprised by how well. I mean, it seems so obvious. Why didn’t I think of this before? … Doesn’t matter.

What matters is it’s a keeper strategy. And one that I’m curious to experiment with and apply in other areas of my work and life. Because I suspect it can work just as well beyond my backyard.

Third Hand Works

from overwhelmed to ready for anything | organization and time management for people in their "right" minds | administrative guidance for independent creative professionals [more info]



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