When we posted on our Instagram about still struggling with certain areas of our business, we asked you what you struggle with. A lot of you said planning and focus. This made me think of one of my favorite podcasters, Elise Blaha Cripe of Elise Gets Crafty. She's been EXTREMELY organized and strategic about how she's tackled her product and making. So it was a natural progression to design a planner based on what she's learned over her different product projects. We asked her about the planner and her advice to people who struggle with planning and focus.
Q: Introduce yourself!
A: hiya! I'm Elise, a blogger and small business owner. I live in San Diego with my husband and our toddler daughter.
Q: Why is focus important for a small business owner? And maybe when should people cut themselves some slack and embrace distraction?
A: Honestly, I think focus is the #1 for a small business owner or anyone that is trying to steer a team, work with a partner or work solo. To me, focus is about knowing your overall mission...what's the goal? The big goal of course, like where you want your business or project to head and then the smaller goals, like what you need to accomplish on your to-do list today and this week.
Knowing where you are headed and what you need to do can help you sort through your priorities and know which opportunities are worth chasing and what should be turned down. Having a clear plan can also make it easier to figure out what exactly is on your to-do list too. Sometimes, it's easy to get distracted or hit a wall in a project simply because you're unsure about what step to take next.
A huge part of staying on track is knowing what's important for the day and getting that out of the way first. Then, absolutely, leave yourself time to brainstorm, play and wander. Success is not about the constant "go, go, go" but it is about being able to crank through the important stuff before you go through the never-ending pinterest, facebook, instagram cycle "just for a second."
Q: How have you achieved focus in your business?
A: I've been working for myself for five years and it's just in the last year where it became clear what I really want to be doing with my online platform and business. That seems like a VERY long time. ;) This whole time, I have been plugging away... streamlining processes, getting better at saying "no," feeling braver about saying "yes" and working hard at cutting out some of the hassle and distractions that can creep up. I think it boils down to getting more experience. You learn a lot that first year of business and then you continue to learn as you go.
Q: Makers have SOOO much to do. What are the best ways to focus when you are a business of one and EVERYTHING is on your plate?
A: Pick your battles. I mean this in every way. You can't do everything. Full stop. So don't try. It's going to fail or it's going to be moderately okay. Don't strive for decent in 100 areas, strive for awesome in two areas. Don't try every social media platform. Don't offer a product in 10 colors. Don't offer extreme customization AND out of the box product. Or at least don't do all of that the first day.
Add just one thing to your plate at a time. Get REALLY GOOD at running that One Thing and then consider adding another. Hire out what you HATE doing - (taxes, shipping, packaging, whatever).
And last. Schedule. Schedule. Schedule. Set a time to deal with email and only deal during that one hour each day. Assembly line where you can and streamline everything you do as much as possible. Be realistic about your expectations and do your best to not-over commit. ;)
Q: Focus is often about priorities...how do you figure those out?
A: Great question. I can't tell you your priorities but I can imagine that they will become clear for you early. I think in a customer based business (when you're making to sell), the customer is priority one. Especially online when a bad review can break your business. I do my best to serve current customers before trying to find new ones. If I can't keep my current folks (who are buying product from me right now) happy then I don't have time to go out finding potential customers fortomorrow. Know what I mean? So it's important to me to always be sure that I can meet demand, respond to emails and ship product promptly.
After that ... money of course is a priority. Making money, saving money, putting money aside for taxes... all of this is huge. Figuring out new product or new ways to market current product is key.
Q: Is this planner for creatives? Why would they need a planner?
A: It's not really for creatives but it IS for anyone who's ready to stop talking about their goals and get to work on their goals ... which I certainly hope is many creatives. I designed it to be the planner I want to use but couldn't. Minimal "fluff" and tons of space to work and write. It has space to prioritize your three big action items for the week so you can focus (there's that word again) on them. It has space to break down large projects into smaller tasks. It's motivational and inspirational without trying to compete with your own ideas... which I think is key.
Q: Anything else?
A: Just that I love handmade. Put your heads down. Work, work, work. Trust the process
Q: Where can people find you?
A: Here's my blog and I'd love to connect via Instagram. You can learn more about and order GET TO WORK BOOK, my planner here. I also host a weekly podcast for creative business owners called ELISE GETS CRAFTY.
How do you plan and get focused? Let us know in the comments!