Striving for Productivity, Efficiency and Happiness

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Creating Productive Habits and Avoiding Procrastination

Developing and maintaining good habits to be productive can be a challenge. On the other hand, it’s easy to develop a procrastination habit. For me, I suddenly feel hungry when I am about to start working on a project I am not excited about. Since I work from home, I wander into the kitchen, roam through the pantry, stuff something in my mouth that I shouldn’t eat (chocolate chips from the giant Nestles Toll House bag has been a recent source). Then, I say to myself, I am ready to tackle the project … until I suddenly notice a new email in my inbox. Two hours later, I still haven’t started that “priority” project. Hello, procrastination, my old friend. Habits For Productivity I recently finished the book, Atomic Habits, by James Clear. I am inspired by books about productivity and habits. It helps to be reminded that other people struggle with maintaining productive behavior, and to learn techniques to be more productive. The psychology behind our actions is fascinating to me. Ultimately, productivity results from good habits. When I employ good habits that result in productivity, I feel great. I feel in control and am happy and proud of myself….

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Friends

Working with Friends: Maintain Your Friendship By Being Businesslike

You have probably read about the dangers of working for friends as clients. Yet, despite warnings, many of us have, at one time or another, discounted or donated work to friends because we are nice and we like to help our friends. In the end, this often turns out to be a bad idea and can damage a good friendship. If you decide to help your friends for free or a big discount, here are 4 suggestions on how to make this work better for both of you. Have a written contract and set limits on what is included in your offer. You may complete the work you offered to do for free or next to nothing, and your friend may come back for more work later with the expectation that you will work for free. You might think your offer was limited to one time, but they may think it is lifetime offer. It can feel awkward to get all business-like with your friend, but having a formal is important to maintain the value of your friendship and your business. Have contract that specifies what you are doing, and a limit on how much time you will spend, the…

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bird's nest Photo from Deposit Photos

Making Decisions in Business & Life

I am in a new phase of life, commonly referred to as “The Empty Nest.” I dropped my youngest child at college last year and am adjusting to what this means for my life and my business, and how these relate to each other. It seems fitting to pay more attention to the decisions I am making on a short term and longer term basis. My approach to decision making has been much more deliberate than at other times in my life, perhaps because I am viewing this as a “fresh start” and most likely my final pass at combining life and business. I have established 3 steps for making decisions – whether decisions for tasks for a single day, or for a week, month, quarter or year. What is the priority? I recently spent time researching and practicing methods for productivity. I implemented some new practices, such as meditation, inbox pause and list making. I also utilized tools such as Rescue Time and Pomodoro breaks. While at the time, I was really focused on these new things, as time has gone on I have found myself falling into old patterns. I don’t meditate as often as I hoped to,…

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What are Your Expectations for Joy?

“Finding Joy” in life and in business has become a trend. I am sure that 40 or more years ago, the concept of being happy in all that you do was not a prominent philosophy. Joy and happiness have become a criteria for decision making, career and job searching, and social interaction. WHAT IS JOY? Joy is defined in the dictionary as “a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.” A google search for “finding joy” turns up The Bible (1 THESSALONIANS 5:16,“Be joyful always”), several blogs and self-help websites, including Oprah’s website and HuffPost, which has an article about joy that states that, “Joy is what makes life beautiful.” There are books about joy, including The Book of Joy which I have been digesting over the past few months in audiobook format. And podcasts, and e-courses and more, like this blog post on No Sidebar by Hilary Barnett, which tells us, “Joy doesn’t just happen. You have to dig for it.” Joy should even guide us when we clean out and organize our closets, as we are told in the best selling book, Spark Joy by Marie Kondo. Joy is also an attitude, a religion, a choice. If I can be…

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Designing Your Life Book on Tara's desk

Year In Review and Website Agency Goals

I have spent the past few weeks looking forward and thinking hard about my personal and website agency goals for 2018. As part of that process, I looked at my review of 2016 to remind myself of what my personal and website agency goals were for this year. This is hard to admit … but unfortunately, I am embarrassed to realize that most of the things I want to focus on for next year are the same as what I wanted for this past year. This means, in some cases, I did not make much progress on what I planned for 2017, and frankly forgot about commitments I made here a year ago. For example, my first goal for 2017 was to Work on my self-confidence and inner “story.” Ugh! Self-esteem is such a struggle for me! I said I was going to use meditation to help me with this goal. Did I do this? Not really. Honestly, I forgot I had set this as a goal for myself this year. Perhaps this is because I have always measured myself against those around me and am never satisfied. This behavior is a challenge for me – more than I thought….

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How to Wake Up From A Professional Nightmare

Setting Client Expectations: Learning and Improving the Hard Way A couple of weeks ago, after receiving a series of hostile emails from a client, I burst into tears. I spent that night sleepless, having conversations in my head with this client who I felt had treated me badly and debating how best to walk away from the project. Now, three weeks later, the project is successfully completed. Communication has lost some of its nastiness and I have made my best effort to make this client happy. A business coach I work with, Maura Fredericks, often reminds me to remove/separate emotion from business. In this case, part of the problem was that the tone of communication from this client was so hostile, I was unable to see past how this made me feel instead of stepping back and trying to understand what was causing the hostility. The experience was devastating for a while, but also enlightening. After my initial feeling that I had been wronged, I started to imagine the situation from the client’s perspective. In doing so I realized that, while I thought I communicated the design and development process to this client, I could have done a better job…

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Why Wait? My Struggle to Be More Patient

As the season of Advent begins, I am reminded that this is a season of waiting. As Christians, we await the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Children anxiously wait for Santa Claus and presents under the Christmas tree. Anticipation can be exciting, but it is hard. [Tweet “Anticipation can be exciting, but it is hard.”] I am not good at waiting. I was brought up by parents who didn’t like to wait – my father was “that guy” in traffic who drove in the shoulder past lines of waiting cars. I am a “Type A” person who likes to get things done in a hurry and cross them off my list. When I was expecting my children, I didn’t hesitate to find out their sex because it was too hard for me to wait! This translates into my life as an entrepreneur, where my lack of patience has helped me forge ahead, but can also cause problems when I respond too quickly to an email, purchase something without thoroughly researching its usefulness, or rush through a job to get it done by a deadline. I recently wrote about using new projects as an opportunity to expand my skills. This…

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Tara Claeys on her bicycle

WordPress Professionals: Are You Cycling in the Big Ring?

Let’s Go For A Ride … When I first started cycling, I was in decent shape after a few years of running. In the beginning, I felt good about my pace and accomplishments. I was riding with some other women, and true to my competitive nature, I felt a need to show off and prove something – at least to myself. I pushed myself up hills with the most effort, thinking that a really tough, strong cyclist doesn’t need to change gears to make pedaling easier. Then one day, while riding with a very experienced cyclist, I was criticized for staying in my “big ring” (high gear) and “mashing my gears.” If you are not familiar with gears on a bicycle, there are typically two sets … one in the front, with one, two or three rings, which make the most dramatic change in effort needed to push the pedals through a revolution. The second set of gears, in the back, usually has more gears, which are used/changed more often for more subtle adjustments. While there are many styles of cycling and theories about the best way to ride and use gears, it is generally accepted that using the smaller ring…

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Scene from movie Limitless

Be Brilliant! Learn Something New On Every Job

In the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper takes a pill that allows him to learn enormous amounts of information almost instantly. I often think about that movie and wish I could take that pill (OK, it doesn’t actually work out that well for Brad in the end … but the concept is appealing!). There are so many things I want to learn and understand. I am a pretty fast learner, but it’s hard to know where to start and there is SO MUCH to learn to “level up”it is daunting. (Special thanks to Tonya Mork for challenging us all to “level up” our skills!)  As a self-taught WordPress website “Implementor” … Designer? Developer? Unicorn? I have learned more than I ever thought I could in just a few years. All without stepping foot in a classroom or taking time off for learning. While I would love to have the luxury of full-time school to learn things soup-to-nuts, my path has been “learn what I need to know as I go.” [Tweet “Learn what I need to know as I go.”] Admittedly, a fair amount of learning comes from failure, as well. I am not afraid to try something, and have seen a few…

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Scene from Stranger Things

Are your Clients in the "Upside Down" from "Stranger Things"?

In a recent meeting where I was training a client to use their new WordPress website, I suggested they keep the “front end” open in one browser tab and and the “back end” open in another. My client was having trouble understanding what “front end” and “back end” referred to. Having just finished the Netflix series, “Stranger Things,” it occurred to me that the front/back end of a website, for a client, might be a bit like the “Upside Down” world in this popular Sci-Fi series. In “Stranger Things,” a group of teenage boys attempts to find their lost friend, who they believe is trapped in an alternate dimension they call “The Upside Down.” They filter their experiences through the lens of their favorite game, Dungeons and Dragons, specifically a location called the Vale of Shadows. Their science teacher describes the alternate reality with a drawing of a tightrope, on which balances an acrobat and a flea. On top of the rope, the dimension has rules, you can move forward or backward. The flea, being small, can travel forward and backward, but can do so on the side or even underneath the tightrope, which he describes as another dimension. In our…

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