motivation in a calendar

I have a friend who keeps track of how many days in a row he runs over a mile. If he has an exceptionally busy day ahead, he plans a run around midnight so that he would have at least one mile on each side of the start of the new day. He kept his first run streak alive for well over a year, then when he missed a day, he started over again. I’m not sure where he’s at right now, but in November he posted on Facebook that he had run 574 days in a row. That is so impressive! I marvel at his commitment, and it has inspired me.

I live in Minnesota, and in the winter, I put my road bike on a stationary trainer and “ride it to nowhere”. I hate it. It’s boring and miserable. As a mom of two busy kids who also works full time, I knew that I’d be setting myself up for failure if I tried to shoot for a ride streak. Instead of trying to keep a streak going, I decided to set my own goal and my own way of tracking it. I thought I’d share it here for you, in case it helps you set a new routine and achieve a goal you’ve set for yourself.

I decided that my goal would be to ride my bike to nowhere on most days. That’s kind of a vague goal, I know, but I was shooting for 4/7 days per week. (I’m a realist, so I decided I’d forgive myself if I didn’t make the 4/7 during a week as long as I made up for it in following weeks and hit the bike most days of the month.)

I am a visual person so I needed a visual way to track my progress. I went online and found a free printable calendar that had the whole year on one page, similar to this one I designed for 2019:

On Task Calendar - Yearly

Then I got an ultra-fine tip marker in a super fun color and put a small X through the dates that I rode to nowhere. It was so satisfying to see the weeks and months fill with X’s, and it helped keep me motivated. Days without X’s stood out, and served as an in-my-face way to remind me I had missed a day or two… or three, and it was time to get back on the bike.

So, as we get ready to start a new year, rather than referring to our aspirations for change as “resolutions”, which have a reputation of failing after few weeks, let’s refer to them as “goals”. Then let’s measure and track our progress!

If my simple system fits for your goals, please feel free to download, print, use, and share the calendar I created to keep you on task. It’s yours! (If you have any trouble downloading it, just comment below with your email address and I’ll send it your way.)

2019 Printable Calendar

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If my system helps you, I would love to hear about it! Or share the goal-tracking idea that has worked for you! If you have a system and want me to create a handy-dandy tool for you, let’s talk about it!
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cover photo credit: pixabay.com

create a clean slate

I love fall.

I love the gorgeous leaves, the crisp air, the crunch under my feet as I take a long hike… I love all of it. Not so much the pumpkin spice… you can keep that. I realize it’s an unpopular stance to take, but I MUCH prefer apple cider. Anyway…

I have a new reason to love it, and I’m taking a new perspective on it. After hearing of Rachel Hollis’ #Last90Days Challenge, I started thinking of fall as wiping the slate clean. The world is shedding the skin of summer, preparing for the quiet repair of winter, before moving into the rebirth and renewal of spring. What if we did that with our lives too?

Let go of the idea that because we have space to grow, there must be something wrong with us right now. -Rachel Hollis

Basically, the idea of #Last90Days is to be intentional in our lives during the last three months of the year, instead of just riding it out to get to the new year before we decide to make changes. It’s easy to just coast, or even to just “survive”, as we navigate the holiday season (which seems to start earlier and earlier each year). This challenge is designed to change that and set new habits BEFORE New Year’s Resolution season. Then maybe in place of resolutions that fail after the first few weeks of the year, you’re setting goals… and the behaviors that set you up for success are already in place, so you’re more likely to achieve those goals.

So, instead of just keepin’ on keepin’ on this fall:  I am motivated to use these last 90 days intentionally. I’m going to wipe my slate clean and focus on the areas of my life that need quiet repair, so I can head into 2019 better equipped to reach my goals. I have personal goals that include changing my mindset, increasing water and decreasing sugar intake, and being more present. I have professional goals within my business that could sure use that mindset change to boost the probability of success. I’ve already seen some wins as a result of my mental shift… and I’ve already dropped the ball once (or twice) and had to remind myself that it’s ok to fail as long as you pick up and keep going.

Will you join me?

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I would love to hear if you’re going to spend the #last90days making intentional growth as well! What are your focus areas? Comment your intentions and SHARE the idea with your friends – we’re more likely to keep promises we make to ourselves if we are accountable to someone else too.

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photo cred: Pixabay.com

creating a little motivation

So. You’re low on motivation.

We’ve all been there. When those moments strike, it’s sure easy to come up with why we don’t *have* to do whatever it is:

“I’ll have time tomorrow.”
“I need to think about it more and really get some ideas flowing.”
“I should probably talk to [insert name of anyone even remotely associated with the project] before I get started.”
“The floor isn’t THAT dirty.”

Sound familiar?

There are a ton of tips and tricks out there to get you moving toward your goal again, but it’s always good to have another tool in the ole’ brain box, so I thought I’d share mine.

There might be a million reasons, but I only need three good ones.

Try to think of at least three reasons for getting going on the project/task: one that will impact you immediately, one that will have a short-term effect, and one that will affect you in the long-term.

Let’s take working out as an example. As much as I love riding my bike or going for a hike, I am NOT one of those people who is naturally predisposed to working up a sweat. Sometimes sitting with my feet up, sipping a cuppa coffee, and reading a good book sounds way better. (And sometimes you need to do that too.) But when my brain is throwing out flashcards of excuses why I can’t do it right now (it’s too windy, it might rain, I have to be somewhere in 6 hours and that just isn’t enough time…) I think of my three reasons and usually they’re enough to outweigh my inclination to stay put. So I might think of things like this:

Immediate reason – I always feel better when I get exercise. Or, I’m going out for dinner and I’m certain the Super Fries from Tav on the Ave will wipe out the caloric benefit of this workout so I better bank some sweat now.
Short term reason – it’s a lot easier to stay in shape than it is to get back in shape. Or, I like it when my pants fit.
Long term reason – when I get old, I want to be active and fit, not sedentary and unable to do the things I want to do. Putting the effort in now makes that more likely.

It’s all in your mind.

Most of the time, forcing my mind to think about the benefits rather than the excuses gets me moving in the right direction. Those pesky excuses might still be floating around up there, so I can’t always say I’m raring to go, but at least I can usually get enough motivation to get started. In my experience, that’s the hardest part; once I get started I can usually keep it going. I just need three reasons.

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What trick(s) do you use to get yourself going when your momentum has shifted the wrong way and you’re having trouble getting motivated?

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document design: “boring” but necessary

It’s back-to-school time, and for all who are parents, it means forms. So. Many. Forms. As I was filling out the same forms I’ve filled out each year for 7 years now, I got to thinking about how many businesses and organizations have poorly designed forms, or documents that just don’t take advantage of that small opportunity they have to market to their customer.

Our boring (but necessary) forms and documents are an important place to provide good customer service, and they can be an easy place make sure your messaging is on-brand.

Here are some simple pitfalls to avoid when putting together your more “boring” documents:

It’s Good Enough

When’s the last time you looked at your organization’s documents? Have you been photocopying the same ones for 10+ years? Even worse – have you lost the original so you’re photocopying photocopies? Maybe it’s time to review them, make sure you’re still asking for information you need and use (i.e. still asking for fax number despite not even having a fax machine anymore), and that the document looks fresh and in line with your current marketing, instead of like it’s been in use since the Reagan Administration.

No Branding

This one is simple! Make sure you include your branding on the form/document, including your logo. If the form is something that is printed in color, be sure to use splashes of your branded colors in headings and other design features. I recommend you use a consistent typeface across all of your forms/documents, even if you don’t have an “official” one with your branding. It helps bring cohesiveness into the suite of documents your organization uses, as well as provides familiarity and a kind of comfort for your customer as they move through your processes. Depending on the form and its use, you may also include your address, website, social media, etc., but not at the expense of keeping the document clean and simple.

Thinking about Your Processes, Not Your Customer

When you are developing your forms, think about the person using the form. Who is your typical customer? Under what context are they reading and completing this document: in your office or at their home to be sent in later? If it’s in your office, do they usually have a bit of time to fill it out, or is it just a few moments? When people use the form, do they typically have distractions: Do they have kids with them? Have they just gone through some kind of crisis or are they under stress? Is your service/organization a very small part of their otherwise busy life? (Answer to that last one: probably.) These are all questions to consider when deciding how much content to include and how to design your document.

Your own processes should also come into consideration of course – you want to be sure the work that needs to be done with the form afterward can be done efficiently. But, your processes should be secondary to the needs of your customer whenever possible.

Too Much Content

Think about the information you truly need. When putting together the content, don’t just throw things on the paper in order to have them; know your purpose of asking for the information. For example, if you ask for birthdate because you send out a promotional coupon to customers for their birthday, that’s great! If you ask for birthdate because that’s a thing that’s on forms and you might use it one day, consider omitting it. If possible, try to pare down the text to bullet points and brief sentences rather than lengthy explanations. Again, think about the customer and how much time they have to read what is included in your form or document.

Poor Design

We’ve all filled out forms or perused documents that have all of the information smashed together, there are no breaks or heading dividing the content into manageable sections, and the spaces are too small to actually write in your answers. This is a chance to provide better customer service! At best, a poorly designed document makes an already annoying task even more so. At worst, your customer will register a negative opinion of the service they are receiving from your organization.


Tying It All Together: Case in Point

When I worked for a local non-profit a few years ago, we had a form each participant had to fill out. We had a problem with many participants filling out the basic identifying information, but skipping some of the essential information we needed in order for them to participate in the program. We spent so much time tracking people down and calling them (often repeatedly), it was a huge drain on our human resources. We decided to do something different.

We talked about who our “customers” were, and what their lives were like. Then, we took a close look at our form and realized the information provided about our program was too wordy and used terms that a new participant wouldn’t necessarily understand. We found that we didn’t highlight the areas of the form that the participant needed to fill out; those parts were crammed in among informational text with little white space. We also realized we could cut out a couple of unnecessary questions.

I completely redesigned the form to significantly reduce the amount of text and call out each of the three steps the user needed to complete on the form. This increased the amount of white space and made it much more clear and usable. We saw a huge decrease in the number of forms that needed follow-up work, so that was good on our end. More importantly, because the forms were more complete when we received them, we could assume that they were easier for the user to fill out, which means they had easier access to our services. It was a clear win-win.


To wrap up, even those boring documents that we don’t think much about are opportunities to showcase your branding and serve your customers better. Give them a little love!

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What success have you had with changing a document’s design? I’d love to hear about changes you’ve made to an organizational document/form that improved your customers’ experiences and/or your processes.

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photo credit: user “myrfa” on Pixabay.com

a push to achieve more

I know a couple who owns a local business. They are clients and friends of mine, and they live their lives in a way that shines light on all who come in contact with them. Their business is a fun one, and they make sure they operate it in a way that aligns with their personal beliefs. They give to community organizations, they smile and engage with everyone who walks in their door, and they truly live what they believe. They don’t do it because they want recognition. They do it because it’s in their hearts.

When I stopped in recently to drop off a completed project (read about that here), they said they had a “proposition” for me. Always excited for new ideas and projects, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to hear it. They “proposed” that I attend Christy Wright’s Business Boutique conference in November, and they would help fund the trip. That’s it. That was the proposition. No return favor, no quid pro quo. Just, “We want to do this for you.” This was weeks ago, and I still do not have words for how grateful I am.

If you know me well, you know I’m irrationally terrified of flying. I also have two very active kids to drive all over the place, two dogs to worry about, and a full-time job outside of this side-venture. It is also VERY MUCH outside my nature to accept help or gifts like this from anyone. I have a million reasons (excuses?) to turn down this most generous offer. But I have one big reason why I accepted it.

It is 100% outside of my comfort zone.

The whole thing: the travel, the leaving my responsibilities at home, the asking someone else to manage those responsibilities, the accepting a gift from someone, the taking a leap and investing in myself and my company in this way… all of it is beyond what is comfortable for me.

So, from my perspective, what they’re giving me is huge. They are not simply encouraging me to attend a conference to learn about entrepreneurship. They are pushing me to grow as a person; they are encouraging me to think bigger, to believe in myself and what I’m doing, and to take a risk. They’re also demonstrating what it means to live fully and completely in kindness and give to others.

Hopefully, the conference turns out to be worthwhile and I learn a ton; I’ll find that out in November. But the impact of this act of kindness has already begun.