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goal chunking: my secret weapon for 2018

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For someone like me, who struggles daily with staying focused on tasks, having systems in place is the only way I will ever accomplish anything. I’ve learned that about myself over the years. If I don’t write it down or map it out, it just isn’t going to happen. Last year, I set very lofty goals for myself, and I thought I did a pretty great job of mapping them out, but I only accomplished 50% of what I set out to do, so I know my systems need work. Don’t get me wrong, some of the things I was able to check off my goals list were HUGE and deserve to be celebrated, but only for a quick minute; I’m all about looking for ways to improve and move forward.

When I took a close look at the goals that I set but did not accomplish, I realized that they all had one thing in common: soooooo many action steps. There were so many things that needed to be done to reach those goals and I didn’t do a good enough job of mapping out the steps. I needed a more clearly defined plan! Another thing I noticed with those goals that required a ton of steps was that if I shifted my focus to working toward another goal, I kind of lost all momentum and never went back to the really big ones. So, this year, I’m really excited to give goal chunking a whirl. I think it’s going to be a better fit for the way my brain works. :)

Goal chunking is basically just mapping out each goal with clear action steps and then focusing on accomplishing all of those steps before moving onto a new goal (within reason, of course; like, my day to day business tasks such as answering emails still take priority). It will take serious discipline for me to train my brain to work this way, but I think it’s really going to be a game changer for me.

Okay, so this is the template I created for goal-chunking, and an example of how I’m using it to map out a really big goal that I’d like to accomplish this year:

The box at the top of the page is where I write in my goal, and the lines below are all of the steps I have to take to achieve it. For example, one of my really big goals for 2017 was to launch my pet photography website. Well, actually, I’m just gonna go ahead and be real here…I’ve been “working on ” this goal for like 5 years, lol. It has been on my list every single year and it never happens because there’s so many steps involved and I lose interest and get distracted. Using the template forces me to give serious thought to what I really need to do to make this goal happen and map it out in a way that is easy to keep track of. Each step is like a mini goal, and I can check them off as I go. Without breaking it down this way, my goal “Launch Pet Photography Website” would be an abstract concept that would literally NEVER happen. This method makes me feel like there’s actually a chance of it happening for the first time ever, and I’m pretty excited about it. :)

What do you think of goal-chunking? Do you think this template would be super helpful for you, too??  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!!


2017: what worked and what didn’t

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Well, here we are. It’s the beginning of January 2018, and I’m working my way through the goal-setting process. Last year around this same time, I had all of my goals set and was already chipping away at them. This year, things don’t feel quite so urgent, and for whatever reason, I decided to give myself the entire first month of the year to decide who I want to be and what I want to accomplish. Last year was a very interesting year for me. I accomplished a lot of what I set out to do, but there’s a lot that I didn’t even come close to checking off my list. We had a good year business-wise, but the greatest strides I made in 2017 were in my personal life.

I learned how to surrender more to the flow of life instead of fighting against it (which is no easy task and very much still a work in progress!!). I became even more comfortable with being a mom, I gave myself some extra space to allow for the unpredictability that comes with having young children, and I settled into a much healthier balance with my two (very different) roles of “mama to Elsie” and “do-all-the-things superwoman entrepreneur.” I just feel better about everything overall, which is probably why I’m okay with taking things a little bit slower this year. Elsie turns THREE in a couple short weeks, which is just mind-blowing. As soon as you start to get a handle on this parenting thing, they’re heading off to pre-school. WHAT. THE. HECK. 

I wrote a post like this last year (here if you want to read it!!), and it was so helpful for me to read it this year and see how far I’ve come since then. My favorite quote from last year’s post was this one:

“When you’re living your life day to day, it can sometimes feel like you’re just stuck in the same place, stagnant and accomplishing nothing; but, when you look back at your life over a longer period of time, you can really see the growth and change that has taken place. We’re always moving forward, even if we’re not fully aware of it.” 

So, on that note, here’s the 2017 version of what worked and what didn’t. :)

3 things that worked really well for me in 2017…

1. I outsourced even MORE than I was already outsourcing. So, here’s the thing about being a hard-working, overachieving, “type A” business owner – you have a TOUGH time giving up control. It’s not easy to outsource your biz tasks because you know that no one will do it exactly the way that you do it. I FEEL YOU. There are still areas of my business that I would never want to let go of, but I’m telling you…when you finally do take a leap of faith and unload just one thing off your plate, you will be so much more effective at your job. Outsourcing is like giving yourself a gift of an extra hour per day (or more!) to work on your business and propel it forward. If you’re sitting there thinking, “Oh, I could never outsource my editing/housecleaning/social media/album design, etc.,” trust me, I have SO been there, but once I saw the difference it could make for me and the opportunities it can open up for advancement, I was ALL IN. Last year, we decided to bring our assistant on for an additional 10 hours per week, and the difference was INCREDIBLE. We did monthly “Strategy Days” to plan our content and it rocked my world in the best way possible. I brought her deeper into my editing workflow and had her take charge of a few more time consuming steps that I didn’t really need to be involved in, and it was so freeing. My eventual goal is to be able to hire our assistant, Rachel, as a full time employee who works 40+ hours per week. 2018 is not the year for that, but 2019 is looking really good. :)

2. We got even more clear about who we’re best suited to serve. We’ve had a pretty good idea of who our “ideal client” is for a lot of years now, but at the beginning of last year we sat down and honed it even further. We got super specific about our core values and made the time to write them down. I kept that page of notes next to my desk all year and it influenced everything from the wording in my emails to my Skype chats with new couples to the stories I shared on social media. Every time I talked to a new couple about the possibility of us being a part of their day, I would ask, “So, what would you say is your BIGGEST priority for your wedding day? What do you want to feel on that day?” And I would listen. Very carefully. At this stage of my career, I’m not that interested in things like the color palette or how many people are in the wedding party. I want to know the hearts behind the people I work with. I want to know what they value most in life, and I want to know the story behind those values. It’s hard work get down to the core of who you are as a business and what you value, but I swear…if we did only one thing right last year, that was it.

3. We automated as much as possible. Automation is everything, friends. The more you can set it and forget it (okay maybe set it and don’t forget to check on it once in a while), the easier your life will be. We put automation to work in several different areas of our business last year and holy cow was it the best thing ever. For the sake of this remaining a reasonably short post, I will give you just one example of how we put automation to good use. If you want 10 million more, get in touch and I’ll talk your ear off!! Okay, so 3-4 weeks before a wedding, we send out our Wedding Day Online Questionnaire. In previous years, this was a task that I put on my calendar individually for each couple and an extra thing I had to remember to do. Last year, I had Rachel batch write the emails and pre-schedule them to be sent out on the correct day and time. It took maybe 2 hours to do this, and then the whole system just ran like clockwork. It was so wonderful I could cry.

Annnnd 3 things that didn’t go as well as I had hoped in 2017…

1. Self Care. Blah. #realtalk This one is ugly and hard to admit, but it’s true. I think I made time for one hair cut the entire year. I attempted to take Elsie with me to yoga maybe 3 or 4 times and that just wasn’t working so I quit going. When things got really intense in the Fall, and my assistant had to go out on maternity leave earlier than planned, I basically gave up sleeping. I would work all night long to make sure I met my editing deadlines. Of course, not sleeping is the best way to get sick, so I caught the flu and was down for the count for like 2 weeks solid. I didn’t hang out with friends nearly enough, and I didn’t give myself much downtime. I had a goal of one date night a month and I think we had two the entire year. Not proud of any of this, but writing it down is helpful. I need to do better. I know the toddler stage can be a very difficult season of life, but I’m SURE I can do a better job of taking care of me. What are your tips for prioritizing self care?

2. Screen Time. It seems like I have a goal of reducing my screen time every single year, and every year I don’t do as well as I had hoped. This is a really tough one for me because I like to feel connected – especially on Instagram. I love my Instagram community, and truly enjoy checking in with them every day to see what they’re up to. I also use my phone to stay connected to my email when I’m on the go because that’s life when you own a business. You have the flexibility of making your own schedule, but along with that comes the responsibility of staying in touch with your clients wherever you are. One thing I did differently this year was to turn off my email notifications and that did help some. I’m one of those people who sees the little red circle pop up on my email app and immediately feels like I have to get rid of it. Anyone else?! ;) Now that those are turned off, I check my email 3-4 times a day when it’s convenient for me and it has reduced my anxiety by a ton. I do sometimes find myself with my nose in my phone when I should be giving Elsie my full attention and I don’t feel good about that. However, here’s the thing…sometimes I hit a point with “mom-ing” when I just need a break from whining or having a kid stuck to my leg, and I escape for a few minutes by diving into pretty IG photos. Or I’ll reach out to a friend and say, “this kid is killing me today,” and just having another mom say that she feels me can make all the difference in my sanity. It’s not realistic for me to severely limit on my screen time, but I know I can find a better balance somehow. If you have ideas for this, please share in the comments!!

3. Time Management. Been struggling with this one since like 1987. Most creative people have ADD. It’s just the way we’re wired. I’ve had to really train myself to work on one thing at a time, but I haven’t mastered it yet. Last year I worked on minimizing distractions by turning off notifications and focusing on one task at a time, but it’s REALLY REALLY hard for my brain to operate this way. I think a lot of the goals that I set out to accomplish last year but did not are the result of poor time management, difficulty focusing, and fear of things not being perfect. It’s so weird because when I’m out shooting, I am LASER focused. I’m totally aware of how much time I have, I move quickly, I know what shots I need to get and how to get them. But when it comes to sitting at a desk and working in an office? Struggle. Bus. I have such a tough time staying on task. One thing I’m going to implement this year to help with that is a new (to me) form of goal setting that I’m going to call “goal chunking.” More on that soon. If I have any fellow ADD creative friends out there with time management and focus tips, please share!!

And that’s a wrap on 2017!  I didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do, but I did accomplish a lot that I’m really proud of, and made huge leaps in my personal growth journey, too. What about you? What is one thing you know you did right and one thing that didn’t really work out for you? Please feel free to share in the comments here or hop over to Instagram and send me a DM. :)

Cheers to growth and change and transformation and moving forward!!  Happy New Year to you, my friends! Thank you for being a part of my journey!