Soul-Sucking or Soul-Stirring?

A good friend of mine had to let one of her best friendships go.

They’d had a good run. But recently, things got hard. This friend was dragging her down with negativity and selfishness, constantly putting my friend in the position of cheerleader. Worse, she stole my friend’s joy about her own happiness and success. This left no room for my friend’s own needs in the relationship.

The whole deal just became a chore.  My friend left their meet-ups sad, cranky and tired. Like a black cloud had descended upon her. It would take her days to recover.

That, my friend, is soul-sucking. Something that literally sucks the life right out of you.

We all have soul-sucking relationships, not just with people but with behaviors and tasks, too. Maybe yours include doing your books, binging on unnecessary purchases or sweets–both of which you know you’ll regret later– just to make yourself feel better, writing blog posts…or cleaning the toilet.

Soul-sucking is not always obvious. Sometimes it disguises its clever self as need, ambition, progress or even love and commitment.

  • The social media you religiously post with a sigh because you think you have to do it to promote your business.
  • The many “pick your brain” coffee dates you commit to because you can’t say no.
  • The client who pays a ton of money but fights you at every turn…and doesn’t appreciate you.

We often confuse soul-sucking for soul-stirring. We confuse difficult work, anger, drama or resentment with passion. (TWEET THIS!)

Why? Maybe because we believe that anything that keeps us busy moves us forward.  That, if it’s difficult, it must be worth it.

And from personal experience, I once believed a very toxic, soul-sucking relationship was soul-stirring because it was dangerous, unpredictable and volatile. I mean, fireworks, right? Surely that’s love! Except all those sparks only burned me over and over again.

What does soul-sucking look and feel like?

  • You approach it as an obligation rather than a joyful necessity.
  • Time stands still when you do it or are with that person. It seems interminable.
  • You would never do it if you had a choice.
  • Stomachache. Anger. Regret. Dread. Shame.

But what does soul-stirring look and feel like?

  • Time flies by and you’re in the zone.
  • You get more creative, innovative and energetic.
  • You feel alive, tingling, and utterly free.

If you feel overwhelmed, take a thoughtful look at how you spend your time–and with whom you spend it.

Here are some tips for banish soul-sucking behaviors from your work and life:

Maybe you’ll find that what you thought was good for your business….or soul….is actually killing it, little by little. 

It’s time to recommit to the good kind of soul drama!


How to Make Good Habits Stick: A Chat with Sarah Von Bargen

Have you ever committed to a productive or healthy habit only to have it all fall apart and revert back to status quo within a month, a week….or an hour?

Yes, I’m talking about that daily afternoon scone I said I would give up forever, but by 2 pm had already scarfed down. Please don’t judge.

We all have. We’re human.

It’s so easy to talk about productivity habits, or “hacks” (I abhor that word when used for anything other than computer espionage) but it’s an entirely different thing to make them stick.

Which is why I was thrilled to talk with the charming and wise Sarah Von Bargen, lifestyle blogger at and creator of the Make It Stick Habit School.

Sarah graciously spent some time talking to us about the mental game of why we flake out on good habits, how we can ensure we don’t, and which habits have worked for her in running her business more efficiently and profitably. (Hint: Steal these!)

We talk about everything from procrastination to guilt to time management to, heck, healthy habits for content creation, analyzing your analytics and networking. And how to make them such easy habits, that your day will feel strange if you DON’T do them.

The best habits are things that are incredibly fast and very, very doable. (Tweet this!)

If you feel like your work or time is running YOU more than you are running it, please grab a notepad and click below to enjoy this video:

YouTube video

Highlights include:

How to be successful without getting overwhelmed:

  • People who were simultaneously successful and not overwhelmed are people who put good business habits on auto-pilot…Because they put these good business habits on autopilot, they removed the stress from it. 2:48

What causes us to abandon good habits so quickly:

  • If you are constantly looking outside of yourself for solutions, buying things you don’t use, procrastinating and over researching, you are going to have a hard time moving forward 7:52
  • If you can associate the physical feelings, stress headache or stomach aches, with these bad habits, you will develop a distaste for them. 11:20

Sarah’s success habits that can work for you, too (P.S. Llama farm is optional, but seriously, why would you want it to be?!):

  • In a perfect world, you will know your best work times. So if you know when you’re most strategic, you can block out your calendar for these habits. 15:45
  • I swear up and down by writing retreats. Once a month, I go to the same Airbnb, and I do 90% of my writing in 2 nights…I still write every day, but the bulk of my writing is done in two nights at this llama farm in Wisconsin. 17:49
  • Being a happy and successful business person is knowing your strengths, knowing your weaknesses, outsource properly and knowing what success looks like for you. 21:27

Powerful business success habits that you can start TODAY:

  • [Networking emails] You have to do it so often and so much that a) your day feels weirdly incomplete if you don’t do it and b) you send so many emails that you loose track of who does and doesn’t respond. 24:53
  • Once or twice a month, look at your website analytics to determine where your traffic is coming from and what things you are publishing are the most popular. 28:12
  • Updating old blog posts and re-promoting them. 29:40 

What good habits are you committing to? Drop me a line over on Twitter or the Facebook page and let me know!


Sarah is a writer, blogger, lover of cats and cheese… and creator of online courses that make your life and work happier and more productive. Read her incredible lifestyle blog, which attracts more than 14,000 visitors daily, and find out more about her courses, including the Make It Stick Habit School at Yes and Yes.

Are you Using the Right Marketing Muscles?

Are you using the right marketing muscles or is your progress stalled?

Being an avid Crossfitter (going on 7 years now), I’ve learned a thing or two about getting my head on straight so my body will follow. And how false assumptions can only hurt your progress. 

My fabulous coach (I use more colorful adjectives when she gives me too many burpees) devotes herself to ensuring we understand the intent behind all of our moves, so that we are not just blindly trying to complete reps, but that we do each rep right. Proper form is everything.  

You can do a million reps of an exercise, but if you do them badly, you won’t see results. Period. 

For years, I held on to false assumptions about which muscles should be activated when doing certain moves.  And because of that, I plateaued. Despite lots of effort, I never got stronger, faster or better. And often, I would just hurt myself! 

For example, when you do a deadlift (lifting a weighted barbell from the floor), most people think you use your back or even your arms to a certain extent. You actually need to activate your hamstrings and booty to lift more weight..  

When you do a push-up, most people position their arms in the wrong spot and believe it’s all about arm strength, which is why they quickly fatigue. It’s not about arms, but about tightening your abs and butt. 

When you squat, especially with weights, it’s not about your quads. It’s about your booty and core. 

When you bench press, it not about using your arms. It’s about activating and pressing from your core.  

The epiphany here is that if each rep is perfectly executed, you can actually do less and make more progress than if you do a thousand reps really, really badly. And side bonus: You don’t hurt yourself! 

You’d be surprised how much more weight you can lift and how many more reps you can do when you activate the right muscles.  

The same holds true for your business and brand success.  

If you’re brutally honest, you may find you, too, hold many false assumptions that are halting your progress and keeping you from reaching your personal best – and potentially hurting yourself! 

Sales is not about being pushy, annoying or slimy, it’s about having a conversation. 

Profitability does not come from just signing new clients. It’s about managing expenses and correctly pricing your offerings or you could actually be losing money on every new deal.   

Marketing success is not more effective just because you spend more money, time or effort. More ads, more content, more, more, MORE. It’s actually about doing less, but making sure you’re doing the right things so you get more bang for your buck.  

It’s not about doing more and doing it all badly. It’s about focusing on fewer tactics and making sure you execute them with perfection.(TWEET THIS!)

Ready to learn proper form and technique so you can do less sales and marketing and yet attract more clients, fans and revenue? If so, please check out MOMENTUM Pro, a self-study digital course you will adore to help you focus, streamline and be more effective in generating sales. Sounds good, right?!

Photo Credit: Tech Girls Movement

What Drives You?

08.04.16 What Drives You (Blog)

No one starts a business without a passion for change.

Sure, many people do so to make lots of money, but what they choose to do, and how they choose to do it order to make that money? That’s often based on a problem they want to solve or an opportunity to make people, processes or communities better.

I’ll bet this is true for your business, too.

Knowing what drives you is essential to your success.  (TWEET THIS!)

Let me share a story about motivation.

In 2008, I left Corporate America. My career included successful stints as a Fortune 500 management consultant, a marketer at Discovery Networks, an ad agency executive and several Director of Marketing positions at Silicon Valley tech companies.

Corporate life was great to me. It offered stability, a clear-cut career path, and benefits.

But as my marketing and branding skills grew, as I studied the greats like Ogilvy and as I saw first-hand what resonated with people and what did not, I realized something:

Many businesses forget that they are marketing to human beings.

This is never more true than in the business to business (B2B) space. So much jargon, overblown claims and eye-glazing boredom. No one talks like that!

Were we talking to robots…or to human beings with needs, desires and problems to be solved? Where was the connection? Where were the stories?

I’m a storytelling addict, in all its forms: An indie film. A moving play. An emotional video. A hilarious joke. A persuasive and succinct argument. I truly believe stories have the power to inspire, provoke, entertain, educate and persuade.

Marketing is not about lying to people. Marketing is simply communication, elevating the truth of your story so that the right people–the people who need what you’ve got–can find you and get on board. Truthful communication, where claims are backed up by proof but served with a side of emotion.

When I started Red Slice in 2008, I was excited. Finally, I could do marketing my way. Truthful. Emotional. Passionate. Human. I vowed to do work I loved with people I liked who were passionate about what they do. Period. No BS.

Honesty was important to me. I would offer tough love to my clients. Constructive feedback. Even if they made a different decision in the end, they would always get the truth.

Why? Three things happened in my early career that shaped this:

One, as a 21 year-old management consultant, I was asked to lie to a client about my age. Didn’t matter that the client valued my work. Today, they call that “managing the optics.”

Two, I strongly advised a client to go one route when she wanted to take another. I was pulled aside by my manager:

Me: But aren’t we supposed to advise the best way for them to be successful? Isn’t that what they are paying us for?

Manager: No, they are paying us to do what they say and not argue.

Three, when asked by a client to make advertising recommendations, I presented several options. There was just too much she didn’t realize she had to first determine. The client complained that I was “wasting her time.” I was asked to do less consulting and simply execute.

Me: You mean, you want me to be her secretary.

Manager: Well……um….kind of…..yes.

Needless to say, these instances devastated me. But they also fueled my passion for my work today.

It’s important to know what drives you. Your unique philosophy. This is what the right customers will find attractive and rally to support.

The same values drove me to create MOMENTUM, my guided program for busy entrepreneurs. Working with me and a kick-ass group of entrepreneurs, you will streamline your efforts by building a unique, useful and honest brand strategy, step by step. Even if you say you “hate” marketing.

We’ll cover how to determine your drive and articulate your philosophy to attract more of the right people to your business.

You will get feedback and support. You’ll probably even get my tough love!

With MOMENTUM, you will learn how to message and share your unique approach as your best secret “client attraction” weapon. You can jump on the wait list and get all the details right here and I hope you’ll join me.

Because like I always say: If YOU are not driven and inspired to promote your work, why should your audience care?

And I promise, that’s the truth.


Photo Credit via Flickr


Fail Fast, Take Action, Set Intentions: How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur with Renee Metty

06.21.16ReneeMetty (blog)

In eight years, I’ve worked with a lot of entrepreneurs. Some more successful than others. The ideas are always good, the passion is always high. But the clients who have made their businesses soar? They all share one common trait:

A bias toward action.

Look up “go getter” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Renee Metty, one of my most cherished clients. I consider her a serial entrepreneur. Renee started a successful preschool in Seattle called The Cove School that was already off and running when we first worked together on an event planning business she wanted to launch. While that business was successful, her heart was not really in it. But what she was passionate about? Mindfulness, presence and creating more balance in the world, like she was doing at her school. So more recently, I helped her launch WithPAUSE, which offers mindfulness coaching, workshops and training designed to help people live richer, deeper and more fulfilling lives, both at home and at work.

In this interview, Renee shares her (not so) secrets when it comes to building a successful business: Failing fast, scoring speaking engagements, setting goals vs. intentions (and which one is better for your business), facing fear and how to focus. Enjoy our chat!

Maria Ross: Welcome to Red Slice, Renee! You are a very successful entrepreneur with at least three businesses (that I know of) under your belt. What I love about you is that you proactively commit to moving your ideas forward. What do you think drives you from idea to action?

Renee Metty: I’m a huge believer of failing fast and I know that nothing happens without action.  Once I have an idea that I feel is viable, then I try it.  I want to see if it’s going to work.  I will say that there’s a huge difference between what I’m doing now and when we met when I was doing wedding planning.  Very different intentions with very different outcomes, and I think they’re directly correlated.

MR:           What do you mean by different intentions?

RM:           When I started the wedding planning business, my intention was basically, “How can I make the most amount of money and work the least amount of time?” (laughs)  It was fun and it was semi-glamorous and I liked the project management side of it, but it was very external.  What I’m doing now is completely driven from the inside.  There is pretty much zero focus on money and strategy. But it’s more about focusing on I can do and how I can contribute and that mindset is what keeps me in flow. (TWEET THIS!) I’m doing something I love and opportunities keep popping up.  I slowed down and listened. I’m paying attention and I’m following my heart to the point where I feel like I’m driving the opportunities in a lot of ways.

MR:           Wow.

RM:           It’s like “Oh, this is where I’m supposed to be right now. I’m going to go with it and see what happens.”

MR:           But obviously you’re taking proactive steps, too. Speaking engagements don’t just fall into your lap, for example.   What has been your approach?

RM:           It’s very general.  My approach is to ask myself how I can add value to a community or society. Then when opportunities pop up, I ask two questions: Is it something I want to do, and, is it something that adds value? Sometimes it’s both, and sometimes it’s one of them.  There are a few conferences I know that are good for networking or just getting my information out there, so I can spread my message. But honestly, the rest do fall in my lap. When I had my first few speaking engagements, I was reading a lot about how to get more. And over and over again, I found the advice, “If you want to speak, speak!”  You’ve got to keep speaking. From one speaking opportunity comes other opportunities. Maybe the underlying thing is that you focus on connecting with people.  I’m talking about less of the networking kind of connection and more about just being open to others, listening to people and staying really curious about where they are and what they want.

MR:           But you proactively pursued those initial speaking engagements, right?

RM:           The first one, I did not!  Someone from Seattle Interactive asked me if I thought about speaking. I had already set the intention three months prior that I wanted to speak and share my mindfulness message with others.

MR:           It’s kind of like the whole philosophy of “the things on which you put your attention and focus get done….”

RM:           Without a whole lot of effort.

MR:           Right.

RM:           Honestly, I’m not trying.  I’d say 10 to 20 percent is me trying, but it would be something like “I want to be international” and then someone tells me “Oh, there’s a Montessori conference that’s in Prague this year; you should apply to it.” And then I look into it.  There’s no such thing as luck; as Oprah says, luck is just opportunity meeting preparedness.

MR:           Exactly.

RM:           And so there’s the opportunity, I’m fully prepared to take action on it and when it presents itself, and I do something about it.  But also, I’m listening. I’m paying attention and I’m doing what I love so the right things are coming my way.

MR:           You are such a delight to work with because you hash out your brand and message first, but then take immediate action. When starting these businesses, what has been the benefit of creating your brand strategy first before you build your website or start your marketing?

RM:           I think it’s getting in front of the right people.  Something I learned in my recent coaching certification class, which I love, is, “When you’re saying ‘no’ to something, what are you saying ‘yes’ to?”  And the other way around: “When you’re saying ‘yes’ to this, what are you saying ‘no’ to?”  It helps you prioritize. Something I learned from you is that if you’re writing a proposal or going to a networking event, if you don’t have a brand strategy or an ideal client in mind first, you’re just kind of spinning your wheels. I’d rather put myself in front of 100 people that may actually want my services than 1,000 people where I’m shooting blindly at a target.

MR:           Exactly!

RM:           Then there’s the 80/20 rule. My dad was in business so I’ve heard it for a long time: 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers or efforts. When you understand that, it’s huge! When I went into mindfulness training and speaking, it really was to have a broader reach and know that if I can impact people more deeply, that, even if my reach was broad but I had just a few people listening and coming back for more, then that’s where I really wanted to focus. Which is where the brand strategy comes into play: helping you focus.

MR:           For entrepreneurs who are still in the same place with their business or idea that they were two years ago, what advice can you offer? People that don’t see the results they crave or are sort of flailing, doing a lot of work but not getting any traction?

RM:           I think the biggest thing is seeing if they can get to the core of what they love to do, in general. I’m a huge “list” person so having them make a list of things they want to be doing: where do they want to be focusing their time and energy – and a list of what they are actually doingStart from there to see if there’s any overlap. Then you can go back to the idea of “if you’re saying ‘yes’ to this, what are you saying ‘no’ to?” If you’re doing all these things but you really don’t like doing them, then you’re saying no to all these things you want to do.  I talk a lot about shifting perspective.  I think that is the biggest lesson: you have to shift your perspective and focus on contribution.  What value are you giving whomever, whether it’s your client or society or your industry, and start from there.  That can be really hard because that’s not tied to dollars.

MR:           That’s why many people don’t understand why mission and purpose are part of the brand strategy, but it’s got to start from there.   If you don’t believe it, if you don’t buy what you’re selling, why should anyone else care? They’re not going to be your customers for the sole purpose of making you money; that’s not what’s going to light them up inside.

RM:           And it’s your presence around it.  If you’re super excited about what you’re doing, that excitement comes out.   And it’s infectious.  

MR:           One last thing for you, Renee: Because you’re so action-oriented, it seems like you have no fear.  You follow the principle of failing fast: you’re willing to try it and just go out there.  If someone said ‘Apply to this conference’ and you didn’t have your – pardon my language – s**t together, you’d still apply.  That’s what I love about you. You’re like ‘I’ll figure out the rest later!”  What do you think gives you that confidence or ability to overcome your fear and how would you advise someone stuck in “paralysis analysis?”

RM:           Yeah.  First of all, I do have fear!

MR:           Right!  We all do.  It’s not about the absence of fear, it’s about overcoming it.

RM:           You know, part of my fear was fear of success, which I figured out recently, but I think what I always know that whatever happens is exactly where I’m supposed to be.  They’re not isolated incidents.  I have fear that one day I’m going to bomb some presentation or just go blank or something but I also know it’s pointless to even think about that. People get into that cycle so it’s best to dig deeper and figure out the rationale underlying that fear.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?  How I overcome it is by taking action, because the only way to overcome fear is by taking action and then knowing that any type of ‘failure’ is a learning opportunity.

MR:           Right.  There’s simply an outcome; it’s not positive or negative.

RM:           Exactly.

MR:           It’s an equal reaction, a cause and an effect.  Whatever that effect is, you’re going to learn something from it.

RM:           And more recently, I’ve realized that I’m not attached to any particular result or outcome. That’s huge.  With all this stuff happening for me, more opportunities coming up and saying yes to a lot of things, some people have said ‘You have so much on your plate but you seem so relaxed’. It’s because I don’t attach to any particular outcome and I think that’s where a lot of stress comes in. It’s like ‘Oh my gosh, I applied to this conference, I really want to speak at it!’ and they’re just focused on “Am I going to get it or not?” and then they get the opportunity to speak and then they’re focused on “Are they going to like it, is it going to go well?” and I just don’t think about that at all.

MR:           How do you marry that, or reconcile that, with having goals, though?

RM:           There’s a podcast that I love that I listened to before I had this perspective with Tim Ferris and Leo Babauta and it was their little fun, playful argument about goals versus intentions.  And at the time, I was thinking, “You’re crazy, Leo. I get it but you do need goals.”  I was siding with Tim Ferris but I got what Leo was saying.  Now it’s like ‘Oh my Gosh, I’m on Leo’s side. I have no goals!’

MR:           Totally.  Personal story: I started setting yearly “themes” rather than goals the last few years; I used to be the list person with the bullet points every year in my resolutions: my fitness resolutions, my work resolutions.  It’s probably not the soundest business strategy but I don’t have revenue goals anymore.

RM:           I do think that’s sound.

MR:           Yeah, I think it’s sound when you’re working with yourself; I don’t know if it’s sound if you’re running a 1,000-person corporation! It’s kind of the complete opposite of what I’ve taught about marketing metrics, but it’s this idea of loosely setting intentions: ‘These are the things I want to accomplish.” I now pick themes for the year instead of resolutions and then I back all my actions into supporting those themes!

RM:           Yeah.  The bottom line is, is your bottom line moving?  You know that when you run a business you have to have revenue and profit to stay afloat.  Having said that, if you get super-specific about goals, you may be missing out on other opportunities that could work out as well. You have to be open to the fact that your goal might not be the right goal. With intention, it’s much more open and spacious for almost anything to happen and it’ll put you in the right place at the right time. I don’t have goals.  I feel like anytime I think ‘I probably should have some goals’ and move towards them, it falls apart.  This has been working for me so far and I’m going with it.

MR:           I love it.  And that’s why, honestly, when I do brand strategy work with clients, it’s strategy, yes, but it’s really all about focus. It’s not necessarily, ‘We’re going to penetrate these three markets by the end of the year’ and blah, blah, blah…

RM:           Right. And the difference between intention and a goal, I think, is there is no attachment to outcome when you have an intention, whereas goals are very measurable and there is an attachment to outcomes.  What happens for a lot of people is, how are you responding to those outcomes?  You don’t hit your goals. And if that derails you….

MR:           You’re devastated.

RM:           And it doesn’t help anybody.

MR:           And often I find it’s one thing if you can tell yourself ‘I’m going to set this numeric l goal. I’m going to sell 1,000 books this month.’ However, it’s another thing for you to be able to tell your psyche ‘That’s my goal and that’s what I’m shooting for and anything that I do short of that is still okay because, bottom line, I’m still selling books!”  But I think a lot of people can’t do that for themselves.  They think, if they only sell 950, they’ve failed.

RM:           Right.  And really when I hear that and I look at ‘I’m going to sell 1,000 books’ and if I’m only at 500, that for me is an opportunity to say ‘Why did I only sell 500 and what do I need to do differently if I want to get that number to move?’

MR:           It guides ‘This is where I am’ but I think there’s an emotional aspect to this type of goal-setting where some people can do it and be okay – they know in their head that they’re not actually going to get that number but they’re driving the actions towards it – so whatever they get is gravy.

RM:           It comes to, what is your perspective going in?

MR:           Right. And I think it’s so hard to teach people that.  To tell them to set a goal but hold it loosely so you have something to aim for but if you don’t reach it, it’s okay.

RM:           And there’s an emotional intelligence piece to it because when you have some strong emotional intelligence you’re able separate the goal from your identity. So you’re able to look at it neutrally without equating “less books equals less me.”

MR:           Right.  The goal is actually just there to spur the movement. Like when I talk about the upward trajectory of your brand.  As long as things are moving in the right direction, that’s a good thing.

RM:           Which is why if you can focus on your intention, which is “What are you contributing? You’re contributing value to 500 people!” Not “I only sold 500 books.”  That shift for people to focus on contribution is huge if they can make it, which I know is a tough thing to do.

MR:           Great stuff, RM. Thanks for being here!

What did you think of this talk? What are your thoughts or questions about goals and intentions? How do you best plan for success? Please share below in the Comments!

Fix It!

06.07.16FixIt (Blog)

“Fix it, Mommy!”

My two-year-old repeats this refrain at least twenty times a day. It could be about his toys, or his socks falling down, or some milk he spilled.

“Fix it” doesn’t always mean that something is broken. What he actually desires is for something to work the way it’s supposed to, or be within reach or simply look tidier.

Many times, entrepreneurs or freelancers think their business is “broken.” No one knows who they are. They can’t stand out. They are not attracting the right clients, resulting in nightmare projects or people who haggle on price. Or they are not attracting ANY clients. They can’t get email signups, their sales inquiries are few and far between  – even though there is a lot of goodwill for what they do and they have built a solid reputation.

I never promise to “fix” anyone’s business. No one can do that for you because that’s a big, complex question. If you want to pay $20,000 to some guru who promises that they can, well, proceed with caution.


Because it’s not about “fixing.” Most of the time, I find that clients are offering real value, bold creativity and fabulous wisdom. Nothing is inherently broken.  They’ve got amazing talents, content or wisdom to share with the world.

What they actually need is clarity, because their message or offering is so confusing, the beauty of it gets lost in a less-than-stellar elevator pitch or overwhelming home page copy.

What they actually need is focus, because they are chasing every new shiny promotional object, praying something will work. And most of the time, they are chasing the wrong things that will never work. Once you focus on your ideal customers, where they are, and what they need and focus on doing a few activities really well, you will see great results.

What they actually need is creativity, because they are so busy grasping at everything that the creative well has run dry. The passion is gone.  I’ve so been there, believe me! They are cranking out soulless guides or bland social media posts or boring blogs (if they even have energy left to do these things) that lack the unique and strong voice I can instantly hear when they tell me why they do what they do.  All this busy-ness results in burn-out, not new customers. With my guidance, they reignite their spark to discover that the experiences, stories and passions that they are discounting are actually their greatest brand strengths.

You don’t always need “fixing.” What you may need is an infusion of clarity, focus and creativity. (Tweet this!)

If your business is not where you’d like it to be right now, I’d urge you to stop for a moment. Take stock. Perhaps, like my son, you simply want your business to work the way it’s supposed to, or for your goals to be within reach or that your efforts are more streamlined and tidy!

See if any of these three culprits is actually to blame before you try another tool or switch directions yet again.

Image credit via Flickr

6 Simple Marketing Time-Savers

5.31.16WaystoReduceMarketingTime (blog)

How can I get all of this done?!” is one of the most popular brand and marketing laments I hear from small business owners and solopreneurs.

We all know that marketing and promoting our business can take a lot of time. Time we just don’t seem to have if we want to also have a life.

First and foremost, crafting a strong, clear brand strategy before you start punching through your marketing to-do list can save you BOATLOADS of upfront time…not to mention money, headache, mistakes and dead-ends. You essentially draw the map before you embark on the journey so you know you’re heading in the right direction.

But even then, just writing a blog post or creating a newsletter or preparing a slide deck…..from idea generation to content development to the technical nuts and bolts, it all takes so much time!

Marketing can be exhausting and a total time-suck. This is coming from….a marketer. (Tweet this!)

Maybe we would all have more fun with marketing if each task didn’t take so damn long!

Here are 6 simple but effective marketing time-savers:

  • Create in batches: I schedule “content creation” times on my weekly calendar to work on blog posts, new course materials, or even a new guide. If I don’t do this, I’m distracted throughout my entire week as ideas hit me, or as I use it as an excuse to escape other tasks I should be doing! These times are sacred and I treat them like a client meeting You can focus on cranking out more than one thing at a time and get ahead of your calendar. If you blog weekly, set aside one day every 3 months to create your blog posts all in one sitting. And when those ideas hit you in the shower or while you’re trying to do something else? Simply jot them down in your phone and tackle them when your designated creation time comes.
  • Schedule in advance: My go-to tools are BufferApp to pre-schedule social media posts, WordPress to pre-schedule my blog posts – plus Facebook’s native scheduler within my brand page, as Facebook HATES when you use 3rd party scheduling apps and reduces your post relevance in their algorithm, meaning less people see it in their feeds. Scheduling in advance frees up your time and mental energy. You cross something off your to-do list once every so often and then you’re done.

Related to this, schedule ANY task you need to do on your calendar. I live by this. When it’s on my calendar, I know I have set aside time to do it – and I don’t worry about it at all until that time comes!

  • Create a text-only email newsletter: Being a brand queen, I adore fancy, beautiful email templates. And it makes sense to use visuals if you show products or need to evoke a mood. But, for me, a) it takes more time to create, find images or deal with crazy formatting and b) my audience often reads my emails on their mobile device, which means text is best for reading on the go. My emails still look nice and neat with formatted text, but there are no fancy headers or imagery. When I switched to text-only emails several years ago, I not only saved a ton of time, but my emails became more like intimate letters to friends (like, you know, ACTUALLY sending an email to a friend!) and audience engagement went up. Just sayin.
  • Set a timer for social media: The ultimate time-suck. Even if you follow #2, you still need to get in and interact with your audience on social media – It’s social after all – which possibly means falling down the rabbit hole and linking all over the place for hours on end. Simply set a timer and pop in for 15 minutes every other day or some other interval that works for you. Put this time on your calendar like a meeting if you need to. And make sure you don’t go over your 15-minute mark!
  • Use an online scheduler: If I could get back all the time ever spent trying to schedule a meeting with someone over email, I’d probably add three years to my life. No joke. When you work for yourself, this can easily take 20 emails and 2 hours of your day. Some folks pay assistants for this but you can do it yourself. Investing in Calendly was a game-changer for me. TimeTrade and Doodle are other ones (Doodle is great if you have multiple people you’re wrangling into a meeting).   While not a “marketing tool” per se, can I just tell you how much more time I have for marketing now that I use this?!
  • Outsource: I know this one can get tricky if you are on a budget, but hear me out: If you bill your time out for $100 an hour, isn’t it worth spending that hour on a paying client rather than on updating your website, setting up your email newsletter, writing copy or finding and resizing social media images? What small tasks add up to a big headache for you? What tasks only need your final blessing, not your involvement, to be successful? I posted some outsourcing resources for you in this blog post.

Crave more time-saving tips, sanity savers and realistic goal-setting approaches to avoid getting crushed? Check out: The Juicy Guide to Goal Setting and Time Management: Advice on How to Wrangle Your Calendar and Slay Overwhelm, available right here!

Image Credit via Flickr

Love or Lust? Decide.

Blog-Are-you-in-love-with-your-businessEntrepreneurship…business ownership….freelancing….author or speaker….whatever you call your profession, the bottom line is that you work for yourself.

You are responsible for building your business, marketing it, talking it up, making connections, reconciling the books and most of all, finding work that pays.

It can be hard and joyous.

It can be stressful and freeing.

It can be lonely and empowering.

There is a lot of work to be done and no one else to do it but you. Or, I should say, no one else is responsible for driving it but you.

It takes a certain amount of moxie and momentum to wake up every morning and make your work happen.

So right now, decide:

Are you in lust or are you in love with your business?

Lust is chasing the cute bad boy (or gal) in the leather jacket because he looks cool. You know nothing about him but you dive in headfirst because you think this will be a helluva lot of fun.

Lust is surface. Lust runs hot and cold. Lust is about short bursts of passion and effort. Lust is moody. Lust drains you. Lust bails when things get too messy or hard.

Kind of like starting a business because you think it looks “really fun” and you don’t have any desire to put the time, effort and work needed into it. Or maybe you’ll just work on your business “when you have time,” like you do with your favorite hobbies.

It’s spending all your time building a cool, hip website rather than worrying about the bottom line. It’s randomly advertising or marketing without a sound plan in place. It’s taking get-rich-quick courses to shortcut the work, or failing to budget or plan. It’s designing pretty business cards for months rather than getting out there and hustling for paid work.

Love, on the other hand, is getting to know another person for who they really are, and embracing their soul. You know there will be good days and bad days and you learn how to work together as one solid unit–even in moments when you might want to rip their eyes out. You are committed to every delightful, frustrating, cherished and annoying moment of it.

Kind of like starting a business with eyes wide open, knowing some days you’ll be successful and others you will fall on your face, but always keeping your larger vision in mind. You learn from your mistakes. You study. You soak up knowledge. All in an effort to improve. It’s hard work but you stay steadfast and don’t lose momentum because you are “all in.”

Love is deep. Love is honest, stable and healthy. Love is constant and committed energy and motion. Love fuels you.

I’m not saying your have to run your business for the rest of your life or even that you should continue on if you no longer find joy in it. On the contrary, please, if this is where you are, give it up immediately and do something else that lights you up inside.

What I am saying is don’t confuse lust and love. Lust is a fling. Love is a commitment. (TWEET THIS!)

Love is not easy. Love has bad days. But love is a commitment to forward movement. To momentum. To growth.Love is a sweet promise into which you put your whole heart, come what may, because you can’t imagine doing anything else.

Right now, decide. Are you in love or in lust with your business? And then act accordingly.

Photo credit: Nathan Walker via Unsplash

Craving more entrepreneurial advice and inspiration? Check out my Juicy Guide to Entrepreneurship: How to Energize Your Brand and Squeeze More Soul into Your Business, on sale on Amazon right now for just $0.99!

3 Lessons on Taking a Sabbatical

Blog-LinkedIn-3-lessons-on-sabbaticalIt’s Week 4 of my 3-month break from client work so I can recharge, create and determine my next evolution. If you envision me lying on the coach, eating bon-bons and catching up on past seasons of Scandal, let me correct that falsehood right now:

  • No couch or bon-bons. I’m still Crossfitting, writing articles , connecting, brainstorming, experimenting with some new creative projects and taking a year-long virtual course to amp up my business and create something new. Oh, and there’s the toddler I need to keep alive. Plenty to do.
  • I already caught up on Scandal on my holiday flight home. That show is like candy: so incredibly bad for you, but so delicious, you can’t help myself.

See, I got really burned out last year. I had wonderful clients but new motherhood kicked my ass, and I’m still recovering. Creativity took a back seat to survival and that’s not the way I want to live my life.

What am I learning about taking this break? If you’re itching to do the same but not sure how to go about it, please, grab a latte and sit back, my friend for 3 tips on how to take a creative break (Tweet this!)

  1. Schedule Everything, Even Down Time: When you work for yourself, whether you are actively engaged with customer/clients or not, there is still A LOT to keep up with. Emails, networking, bookkeeping. I could still sit at my laptop for 8 hours a day, while not earning a single cent. Set “work hours” in your calendar, as well as play/thinking/creating hours, just like meetings and stick to them. This includes checking email. While I can easily scan email on my phone at any time just in case Fast Company ever wants to interview me, most things are not urgent and can wait for my designated times. This is a huge relief. But SCHEDULING is key.
  2. Announce your Sabbatical: As I did with all of you, as I did with my network, as I do with everyone I speak to, even potential clients for after I return. The more you clearly set boundaries for others, the less easy it will be for work to “sneak in.” I look at it as “my job” right now to take this time and space, so I honor it just as I would a client commitment. You should honor yourself as your own best client if you’re taking a break as well.
  3. Social Media is Great/Social Media Can Be Poison: While it’s wonderful to stay connected, it’s super hard to take time away when everyone is bragging about their “KICK ASS PLANS FOR 2016!!!!!!!!” in social media. People sport new journals, give you the play by play on their goals, take pictures of their exciting new book launching. It can make you feel like one lazy potato. But stay your course. For me, I have to take this time to rejuvenate my creativity and deliver something wonderful to you (while also feeding my soul) in a few months time. While I am still rolling out my Juicy Guide for Entrepreneurs eBook series (oooohhh…I hope you’ll check them out!), this is a core part of my creative therapy. I really enjoy writing, so taking time to do it is part of why I’m doing this whole “client hiatus” thing! Don’t let wonderful, well-intentioned, super-charged people in your life make you doubt what your mind and soul might really need right now.

Before you think I’ve mastered this whole thing, I’m still figuring out exactly how to truly take a step back and dig deep into my vision for the future…and I have had many missteps. I’ll keep you apprised of things that are working and things that are not.

You need to do what you need to do if you want to be successful and live a full, rich, creative life. No human can keep going, going, going at full volume without burning out. With some planning and focused intention, you can make the space you need to reset, refocus and come back swinging.

Go Get Your Blocks!

StackingBoxes-RedSlice-blogKids teach us the craziest lessons.

My 20-month old son adores playing with these stacking boxes he got from his aunt. Ten colorful boxes adorned with letters, colors, shapes and animals provide endless entertainment. He is just now mastering stacking them from largest to tiniest, but for the most part shrieks in delight when I build a tower for him–only to topple it all down in a fit of giggles.

One day, he was in a particularly ornery mood (days which come more often as he approaches two). He was playing with the “blocks” as I call them (since he can’t quite say “box”) and, per usual, knocked them all down. Huffing in frustration, he sauntered over and scrambled onto the coach to pout.

He then realized he actially DID want to play with the blocks. So he started whining and pointing to them, as if I was his handmaiden and would bring them to his royal highness on his throne.

Mama don’t play that way.

“No, C. If you want your blocks, you have to go get them.”

His response? He cried loudly and, in protest, jammed the square carrying case over his head, looking like a curious little robot. Muffled “harrumphs” emerged from the adorable box-head seated next to me.

You can’t pick your teachable moments.

“Honey, I know you’re frustrated,” I said. “But if you want your blocks, you can go get them–or you can sit there on the coach with your head in a box, kicking and screaming, and get nothing. Your choice.”

He sat fuming for a while, then slyly lifted one corner of the box from above his eye to look at me, grinned and then toddled off the couch to get back to his blocks again.

When you really, really want something–whether to build a business, write a book, speak on stage, act, sing, create, connect–no one will do the work for you, so you have two choices:

If you want your blocks, then GO GET THEM. Or you can sit on the coach with your head in a box, kicking and screaming, and get nothing. Your choice. (Tweet this!)

Photo credit: Maria Ross