The Free Planners for February 2016 Are Available from Productive Flourishing

free planners

The free planners for February are now available on the Free Planners page and in our new free content library.

February is Groundhog Month. Feeling stuck? You might be feeling like you’re not making progress on your goals. It’s natural to want to stick your head in the ground and let the voices of discouragement and frustration keep you there. Instead of letting negative patterns take you further away from your goals, try these tips:

  • Look back on this month to really examine your capacity and your patterns. Are you trying to work at 100% capacity all the time? This month, try working at 85% capacity with 100% focus. This will help you stop the sprint/crash cycle that seems to be a natural part of the creative life.
  • Maybe it’s demotivation you’re struggling with. Most responses to it involve frustration, anxiety, and discouragement because we get down on ourselves for “not trying hard enough.” By identifying your particular type of demotivation, you can get back on your feet, form a strategy, and continue on your path of action. Here’s How to Recover from 10 Types of Demotivation.
  • Don’t give up on your resolutions — just let go of the perfectionism you have surrounding them. “Good enough and done” beats “perfect and pending.” Refocus the goals you have for this quarter so you can finish it strong instead of “behind.” That sense of accomplishment you feel from working within your capacity and reshaping negative patterns will help you enter Q2 with confidence. Remember: Progress Trumps Perfection.
  • Lastly, try setting simple, meaningful, actionable, realistic, and trackable (aka SMART) goals. Here’s How to Set SMART Goals.

If it’s a swift kick you need, there’s the Monthly Momentum Call on Monday, February 8th, at 2pm PST. Consider me your professional accountability partner.

Give the free February planners a shot, and be ready for whatever the groundhog has in store for you.

12 Simple Ways to Be Present

12 Simple Ways to Be Present

Learning to be present cures a lot of ails and prevents them from happening in the first place. (Click to tweet this – thank you!)

Frustration, anxiety, regret, and worry often come about because we’re consumed by thinking about the past or the future. Past-focused thinking anchors onto what we coulda/shoulda/mighta done, whereas future-focused thinking latches onto worries and fears of uncertainty.

But we can’t change the past and, as Thomas Jefferson remarked, “How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.”

As with meditation, there are more ways to be present than by lighting incense and sitting in the lotus position. This post explores other ways of bringing yourself back to where you are in this moment, and, gasp!, some may actually be things you want to do. [Read more…]

We Shall Always March Ahead

Every year, I read King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail and sometimes I share my reflections. This year, I added listening and reading “I Have A Dream”1 to the mix as well, since hearing him speak is more powerful than deeply reading his words.

Before I started my annual reading, though, I was thinking about a conversation with my mom the other day and the story she told me about an elderly black woman saying that she still wasn’t free. The woman’s tone and dismissiveness about it alienated the people she was talking to, almost including my mom, who has known her for 30 years and gone to church with her; this woman also knows of my mother’s challenges in raising mixed-race boys in the South.

Wow, we live in different worlds!, I thought. As I reflected on it more, I found more depth to the thought than I had originally wanted to admit. [Read more…]

Clarity, Commitment, and Community: The 3Cs of Successful Thought Leaders

Clarity, Commitment, and Community
The journey from having an idea to being a thought leader can be a long one. Those who walk that path learn very early that having a good idea to start with isn’t enough to keep them going and growing.

As hard as starting is for a lot of people, it’s actually not the hardest part – the hardest part is sticking through the rough middle and the plateaus that naturally come once you start getting your ideas out the door and getting known.

Consider:

  • Your first five posts or articles are hard to publish. The next 45 or 450 aren’t hard to publish, but are hard to generate, stick with, and see through. And turning those ideas into a long-form book is something altogether different.
  • It takes a lot of courage to publish your first manifesto (or minifesto). Making that manifesto one of the foundations of your brand and a compass for your body of work is even more daunting.
  • Launching your first paid product, class, event, or service requires a lot of confidence, courage, and trust that it’ll work. Creating a customer arc that successively educates and uplevels your customers, at the same time that you re-run your offers when they’re no longer fun for you, is a completely different challenge.

Books, brands, and businesses require significantly more than creative excitement and a flash of courage to build. Putting yourself out there in the beginning is hard, AND keeping yourself out there is a different type of hard.

It might seem like I’m saying that the thought leadership journey is all hard. And you might be one of the quickstarts who love starting new things, so the bit about that being hard might not resonate. The journey can be joyous, immensely fulfilling, and, for some of us, the thing we can’t not do. That said, I talk to enough people every day to know that the middle and end of the journey aren’t being discussed enough because so much of the conversation is focused on aspirational entrepreneurs and thought leaders. I’m writing this post primarily for people who are already on the path, and I want those who are thinking about taking their first step to understand the reality of it so that when they hit the hardest part, they’ll know that it’s a part of the journey and not a sign of their capabilities.

Clarity, Commitment, and Community Get You Through the Middle

Once you get going, what keeps you going is the right mix of clarity, commitment, and community.

Clarity is split two ways: clarity about your concepts and clarity about your purpose. It’s not that you have to know exactly what you’re talking about and exactly why you’re doing it, but getting clearer on both as you move along the path is the aim. Besides, in the marketplace, it’s not what you know that’s most important, but what you can clearly communicate with others. There’s no use in being the smartest person in the room if no one can understand you.

Commitment to the long game of sharing your body of work with the audience you’re developing helps you work through the middle when you’re thrashing or have hit a plateau. Commitment creates trust and focus and sets the bedrock for community.

Community not only is required for you to get business and brand lift, but also makes the journey easier and more fulfilling. “Community” here has several layers: it’s a mix of your pack, your audience, and the broader ecosystem your venture sits in. As much as the myth of the solo creative is propagated, the truth is that the majority of successful creatives (including thought leaders) have conspirators, supporters, patrons, champions, readers, and fans. The success of creatives is tied as much to their communities as it is to their own brilliance and work.

Three Areas of Focus, Three Questions for Each Area

Clarity, consistency, and community. You get it, but knowing isn’t doing. Here are some questions that I hope will help spur you to action.

For Clarity:

  1. Have you identified and (publicly) shared the 3–5 foundational aspects of your body of work?
  2. Have you reflected on your purpose for developing your body of work, both for you and for your readers? (Where’s the spark?)
  3. Are there any aspects of your work that need to be minimized or abandoned so you can focus on developing the core components?

For Commitment:

  1. Are you sharing your work consistently or at the frequency you like? If not, what needs to change? (Displacement is real.)
  2. Is there a project that you started that needs to be prioritized and moved from the “someday/maybe/when-convenient” bucket to the “active project” bucket?
  3. Which of your previous ideas or offers needs more attention? When will it get the attention it needs?

For Community:

  1. Among your creative pack, whom do you feel most drawn to reach out to? When will you do it?
  2. Which customers, readers, or students do you feel the most drawn to engage with? When will you do it?
  3. Is there any work that your influencers and/or colleagues have done that you feel drawn to read, share, or discuss with them?

I’m providing the nine questions above not so you’ll do all of them, but so you have some options. Better to pick one and do it today or this week than to pick more and do none.

Which of the three C’s – clarity, commitment, and community – is your strong suit? Which one needs some additional effort?

If you’re in the early stages of the journey, choose one of the C’s and one question to focus on today. If you’re well on your way and are ready for some help in getting through the hard, keep reading.

Join Me and Jeffrey Davis for Our Aligned Thought Leader Webinars

Jeffrey and I are hosting free webinars tomorrow (December 18) and on January 14th. Tomorrow’s webinar focuses on the question of whether to prioritize your book, your brand, or your business. We’ll discuss:

* The five myths that are keeping authors from being successful
* The three paths to publishing that can help you prioritize what to work on first
* The critical questions every thought leader needs to answer to make sure they’re on the right track

We’ll be doing Q&A for 30 minutes following the webinar, and I’d love to answer any questions you may have.

Click here to register for the Aligned Thought Leader Webinars

You might also like Jeffrey’s recent post, Your Book, Business, or Brand – Which comes first?

The Productive Flourishing Free Planners for December 2015 Are Available


Productive Flourishing Free Planners - December 2015

The free planners for December 2015 are available on the Free Planners page and in our new free content library.

If you’re used to downloading your planners from the Free Planners page, note that some of the planners are now in the library. The move to the library allows us to more coherently and easily share the planners and how-to content rather than having content sprawled all over the website.

So, for this month’s focus …

What still needs to get done before the end of the month? An even better question to ask is what still needs to get done that you can realistically complete in the first two weeks of December?PF_planners_250x250 The final two weeks of the month are often occupied by holiday festivities and a general brain-break that’s hard to escape, anyway.

Even if you don’t plan your work this month, having a plan for all the other things that need to get done in your life is a great way to start getting more organized and feeling more accomplished. And remember, life will “get in the way” — you have to make time to make time.

Make the most out of these few precious work weeks we have left of 2015. If you’d like some support, take advantage of the Monthly Momentum Call this December 14th.

Have a great month!

Progress Trumps Perfection

Editor’s Note: I published this late on 11/18, and at the time, we still had the starter theme. BrandId, our design team, pushed this interim theme on 11/19, which was faster than I anticipated.

We migrated this website to a new platform last week, and during the migration, we needed to rock a starter theme. I had people ask me why on earth I would run a starter theme, which, in case you didn’t know, is just not done on an established, live site that gets thousands of visitors a day.

It’s like riding around on a moped while your friends are riding Harleys.

Our migration to Rainmaker had a major hitch to it: our prior theme was so hacked together and contained so much cruft that it wasn’t compatible with the platform. After a week of valiant efforts by the Rainmaker support team, I had to decide whether I was going to push the migration forward without our old design or hold off on the migration until we got our design into a better place.

I decided to drive forward.

Why?

Dehacking and debugging a website theme takes about as long as starting from a clean code base. One of the reasons I wanted to move was to speed the site up. Between the plugins required to keep things running the way I wanted them and the aforementioned hacks, the website was running slower than acceptable limits. So starting clean made sure we weren’t pulling over the very thing that was one of the prompts for the move in the first place.

And since it’s not my first redesign rodeo, I knew that pausing to get the design just right would mean pushing out the migration until mid-January, given the holiday season. So the choice was really “migrate today” or “migrate in mid-January.”

And, most important, if we migrated in January, we wouldn’t be able to start building the resource library, courses, and products that are queued up, too. Realistically, those wouldn’t have been showable until Q2 of next year.

Since I’ve been working on more deliberately modeling my message AND I’ve told people that it’s better to show people what you’re doing rather to hold onto it until it’s just right, it felt out of integrity for me to not do it myself. It’s not that I didn’t have my fair share of fears and hangups, but all of the stories about what you’d think about me were, well, about me, not about you. We can choose which story drives us and I wanted to choose one that’s closer to my values, what matters, and the truth.

If you’re one of my yaysayers, you’ll be more excited about the progress and what you’ll soon see than about the website design anyway. And since you keep the lights on and make this whole thing worth doing, why not focus on you?

But what about the many thousands of people who’ll see the site for the first time? Again, ego aside, they won’t know how the site looked last week since, by definition, they’re new to the site. And if the words and content doesn’t resonate with them, they’ll move on anyway.

Going back to my why, yes, it’s true that part of the migration is so that the website attracts and serves new readers better. But it’s also true that there are a lot of you who have been hanging out for years who deserve more, too. Better to spend the time loving the ones we’re with rather than going out to try to get more.

As I was thinking about writing this post, I was going to say something about the fact that conversions and core metrics are down. But the thing is, that’s not true across the board. Conversions are about the same. Traffic is up. Pages per visit are down.

I’m not surprised by the metrics being down and I shouldn’t be surprised about them being about the same. From a rational point of view, running a bare theme for a few days or few weeks isn’t the end of the world, but from an emotional point of view, it felt like it would be. It’s a big deal to have a live site that gets thousands of visitors every day be under construction.

And yet … it’s not.

There are plenty of people who have fugly websites with great content on them that are doing just fine. Sites go down for a few days and people recover. Hell, through this process, I found out that our RSS feed wasn’t working properly and the emails that triggered off of publishing hadn’t gone out properly since August. Finding the broken RSS feed helped explain some other trends and metrics that I hadn’t been paying enough attention to, and were it not for migrating when we did, I may not have seen that problem until January. That would have been far worse than running a starter theme for a few weeks.

It’s so easy to fight with perfectionism or feeling like we’re just not cool if we’re on our own metaphorical mopeds, but the truth is, progress trumps perfection. Every time. For you. For me.

Some people might snicker, but this moped got me closer to you today instead of four months from now. That’s what matters. (Beep Beep!)

The Free Planners for November 2015 Are Available

PF_planners_250x250The free planners for November are available on the Free Planners page.

Get ready to have the next nine weeks turn into six.

That’s right. November and December essentially have only six work-weeks combined. How many years have you been halfway through November when that realization hit you like a ton of bricks?

Save yourself some serious stress and scrambling by planning for both your life projects and your work projects with this month’s free planner. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner? Plan for that, because the time you ran out of sugar for your pumpkin pie or forgot to buy a new meat thermometer could have been avoided. No one likes those “oh shit!” moments, quickly followed by a panicked look at the clock and the realization that the grocery stores closed an hour ago (or worse–getting all the way down to the store to find a deserted parking lot). You have enough on your plate this holiday season.

Make the most out of these few precious work weeks we have left of 2015. If you’d like some support, join me on the Monthly Momentum Call this November 9th.

One last thing: we’re in the process of moving to the Rainmaker platform and will soon have a free resource library. The move will help us share more of what I’ve been making in a way that actually makes sense. More coming on that next week, but you can sign up to get notified about the new library on the free planners page.

Letting Go of a Powerful Story Is a Big Deal

A Creative Giant wrote me a celebratory email this morning. After years of struggling on his own with a book he was writing — and many months of getting harassed encouraged on Monthly Momentum Calls — he finally shipped his rough manuscript to an editor.

He wrote:

It seems so silly, because I’m just sending something to someone, but it was kind of a big milestone to hit that Send button.

He didn’t just send something to someone; he let go of a story that he’d assigned a lot of weight and power to, and he’s in the process of writing a new one. Stories drive us so much that letting go of one provides a huge emotional and psychic release.

And it can be really hard to step into the unknown with a new story. This Creative Giant will be stepping into the unknown of having a real book entering the world soon. The fears of building the wrong thing will come up, as will all of the other fears about whether the book is good enough. It’s a natural part of the journey, and knowing that still won’t keep it from affecting him.

His email got me thinking about all of the other ways in which letting go is so much more than the physical actions we do to let go.

Going through your deceased parents’ stuff to decide what matters and what needs to go is so much more than the physical act of sorting through papers, pictures, and baby blankets.

Burying a loved one is so much more than digging a hole and putting a casket in it.

Closing the doors to your business is so much more than hanging a sign.

Finalizing a divorce is so much more than meeting with the lawyer, signing on the dotted line, and putting the envelope in the mail.

Closing the trunk of your daughter’s college-bound car is so much more than the mere act of closing the trunk.

Sitting down the teammate you’re about to fire or lay off is so much more than inviting him or her to sit down in your office.

But in every case, it’s the action that has to happen to let go of the story and to start writing a new one. Our lives are composed of more than mere actions, AND a rich life requires the grit to take those hard actions.

What action do you need to take to write a new story today?

What Counts As Meditation?

People often ask me what about my morning routine. I usually answer that I meditate for 15–30 minutes before I do anything else, but that answer has always been tentative for me because what I mean may not be what people think when they think of meditation. For some, what I do may not “count” as meditation.

I wrote about this on Facebook a few weeks ago and it was the most popular thing I’ve shared in a while, so I figured you might want to see it, too:

What counts as meditation?
I do not sit in lotus
or light incense
or intuit my chakras
or commune with source
I sit in my comfy chair
with my usually-grumpy cat
sleep-purring on a pillow on my lap
My headphones cancel out the noise
and the whirring of my home
Eyes lightly closed
I don’t focus on my breathing,
but my breathing happens at a natural, slow pace
My mind is like a sunny beach with a light breeze
thoughts come and go
the urge to do comes and goes
plans form and unform
People visit me
People I miss, I love and send well-wishes
People I get to see, I love and send gratitude
People who are gone, I tribute
People who hurt me, I send lovingkindness
Because that’s what we both need
No one stays long, but they all stay long enough
I feel whatever comes up
The butterflies of hope
The chuckles of humor
The warm fuzzies of love
The heat of anger
The tears of sadness
I do not analyze the feelings
Or try to have them be something else
They are just there, like the wind and the waves
Forceful for a moment, gone the next
I sip my coffee
and enjoy its rich tones
My sleep-purring cat suddenly love-bites me
and falls back asleep
I set a timer so I don’t lose track of time
but I mostly sit until I’m ready to not-sit anymore
I don’t know if this counts as meditation
I can’t not do it
I don’t want to make it anything more than it is
I carry it with me all day and return when needed
It keeps me whole, ready, and grounded
And that is enough

The Free Planners for October 2015 Are Available

PF_planners_250x250

The free planners for October are available on the Free Planners page. (Click to share this – thanks!)

October is upon us. I hope the prior three quarters have treated you well or, if they haven’t, that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for you.

We’re heading into the receding time of the year, in the sense that October is the last four-work-week month, November is a three-work-week month, and December is a two-work-week month. Even if you’re on your own schedule or don’t celebrate any of the upcoming holidays, the people around you likely will be celebrating them, and that will affect how your collaborators, yaysayers, and customers might interact with you.

So, how are you going to prioritize your efforts in this last four-work-week month of the year? Plan the work, work the plan. You’ve got this.

Click here to download your October planners.

The 2016 planners are available. We still have a few 2015 Essential Daily Planners that we’re including with the purchase of the 2016 Momentum Kickstarter Kit. Grab yours while they’re still available.