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

..::
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!
::..

cover photo credit: pixabay.com

marketing kindness

A while back, I wrote about a generous gift I received from a client. I mentioned then that I had been working on a project for them that truly exemplifies who they are, and now that some time has passed and word is out, I thought I’d tell you more about it.

Frozen Yogurt Creations is a locally-owned frozen treat shop, but it’s so much more than that. Anyone who knows store owners Kelli and Bruce also knows that they see their shop as a place for community and family, for celebration and smiles, and a place to pause and reconnect with those we care about. They are intentional in their decisions – from their marketing to their cheery atmosphere to the gifts they give organizations in the community (which they do quietly and frequently).

I struggle to even call their most recent marketing campaign a “marketing” campaign, because for them, it isn’t about the marketing. They want to change the community to be kinder, and they thought of a fun way to do it that is just… well, I don’t know how to say it other than it’s just so them.

It starts with a business card sized coupon:

discount cards

The idea is that they hand these cards out to family, friends, and employees to give to people they “catch” in an act of kindness, which the recipient could turn in for a free treat.

So then the recipient comes in, card in-hand, and writes down what they did on the back of the card. The card gets added to one of 6 posters that are hanging on the wall, such as this one:

poster/wall art
24″ by 36″ custom poster

Each one of those little rectangles will eventually get covered up with a card, but for now, they each contain a little quote about kindness. The posters hang near the seating areas so customers can read them while they enjoy their treat.

Finally, the do-gooder gets their picture taken holding a sign so Kelli and Bruce can brag about them a little bit on social media, like this:

38933040_2163576540341425_2844245291803082752_n

Finally, they give that person a new, blank card so they can give it to someone else for their act of kindness and keep the campaign going.

So, yes. Technically, this is a marketing campaign. The first Facebook post they did about the campaign got around 150 “likes” and a bunch of shares and comments. Subsequent posts had strong responses as well. People got excited about it, and word is spreading, which I imagine is probably good for their business.

More importantly to Kelli and Bruce, it’s a Kindness Campaign: smiles are being spread during a time in history when maybe the world could use a little extra kindness. That’s their goal; the other stuff is secondary.

..::
What do you think about their campaign? How can your business create a Kindness Campaign, with the heart being in the kindness and the marketing being secondary? What kind of organizational culture needs to be there so customers know it’s genuine and not just for publicity?
::..

cover photo credit: user klimkin on 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?

..::

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.

::..

 

photo cred: Pixabay.com

7 tips to help your designer help you

“Help me… help you! Help. Me. Help you.”

I haven’t seen the movie in years, but I can still remember Cuba Gooding Jr.’s face when Tom Cruise angrily delivers this line in the movie Jerry McGuire. Cuba’s expression goes from beyond frustrated to totally amused as Tom’s character begs Cuba’s to help him do his job. (Oooh I found it! You can watch it here.)

OK, getting to my point:

Every service occupation has ways the customer can help the provider do a better job of serving. Graphic design is no different. Your graphic designer will probably not scream at you like Tom Cruise does in the movie, but…

You can help your designer help you.

Here are some tips for working with your graphic designer so the end result is what you’re hoping for and the process is as smooth as possible:

1 – Answer their initial questions the best you can.

When I work with a new client, I usually pepper them with questions about their organization, their customer, as well as the project. I know that I ask a lot of questions, and I realize that the questions can seem tedious, but I ask them so I learn the mark I should be aiming for. My client’s customers are my customers, so I want to be sure I know who they are. My client’s message is my message, so I want to be sure I know what I’m trying to convey.

Click here for some of the types of the questions I ask.

Put in some time at the beginning. Your designer realizes you’re busy, and you probably just want them to take the project and run, but fully answering those questions can save you time and money later.

2 – Say what you want.

I live in Minnesota: the land of 10,000 lakes and 5.5 million “nice” people… meaning most people don’t really say what they want. This can make designing difficult. Even if you don’t really know what you want, you probably have an idea of what you like, or you know the general direction you want to see the project take. Find inspiration on Pinterest, Instagram, Etsy, Google… look for what people in your field are doing for similar projects and show your designer what you like. I love coming up with ideas, and it really helps that process if the client provides some initial basis to start from. If you DO know exactly what you want: describe it clearly and specifically, find and show examples that represent your ideas, and give feedback along the way.

3 – Give specific feedback.

And while we’re on the subject of feedback, remember to give it and use specifics. Let your designer know early and often if you find things that aren’t quite what you’re looking for. Include exactly what it is that needs to change – is it the layout, colors, images, font choice…? Saying “I want it to ‘pop’ more” or “it’s just missing something” is not as helpful as “I would like a brighter color here” or “I’d like to add another image to this page”. Yes, it’s the designer’s job to design, but the options are endless, so your specific feedback really helps guide the direction. It’s also MUCH easier to make changes early in the process than to rework things at the end, so communicating things you want changed along the way saves you time and money.

Of course, everyone likes to hear what we’ve done well – that’s human nature. So, compliment your designer freely when they’re doing good work too! Say the things you like – again, using specifics – so they know they’re heading in the right direction and can keep building from there.

4 – Have your content ready to go.

If your designer is not helping with the writing and editing of the content, have it  cleaned up and finished before you give it to them. The better organized the content is, the less time he/she has to spend figuring out what goes where and how to best make sense of it all.

To make a minor adjustment such as fixing type-o’s or swapping out a photos is of course no big deal and is expected; but once the text is placed on a page, making major changes to it can really affect a design, and big changes to a design costs you (say it with me…) time and money.  Make sure the content you’re providing helps the designer achieve your goal for the project. For example: if you tell your designer you want lots of white space, visuals, and a clean look with minimal text, then you give them lots of text, it’s tough for them to meet your expectations.

5 – Address their needs as quickly as possible.

As with any kind of project, questions can come up during a design project. Maybe I’m missing a logo or maybe there’s something I want to clarify, and sometimes work can’t continue until that question is answered. The timeline is usually a big part of the projects I get hired for, but I can’t meet the deadline if I’m waiting for a response from the client. When the ball is in your court, remember that the designer may have to put your project aside until you lob it back and they can continue working.

6 – Ask questions.

You hire a designer to provide a service for you, and you should ask questions if you’re unsure of something or want clarification. Ask for drafts, updates on progress, or whatever you need to feel comfortable. You’re spending your money, so your expectations need to be met. And like I said before, it’s easier for a designer to correct any issues earlier in the process than have to re-work the design when it’s close to done, so don’t assume you’re on the same page if you’re not sure.

7 – Be open.

Sometimes having someone outside your organization take a look at how you’re presenting yourself can be the best way to find what you’re missing or could improve! Let your designer make suggestions and consider new possibilities you haven’t explored before. Trust this person you’ve hired. I imagine you’ve vetted them and looked at their portfolio – give them room to work and use their creativity and skills for you! An outside viewpoint could be just what you need to change how you connect with your customer.

Almost all of these tips come down to communication. Keep the communication open and frequent with your designer, and you’re much more likely to see the outcome you’re looking for. The end goal for any designer is for you to be happy with what they’ve created for you, and they can only achieve that if you help them.

..::

How can I be helpful? Do you have questions about working with a designer? Or do you have other suggestions I missed? I’d love to hear from you!

::..

bicycle gear photo credit: user JarkkoManty on 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.

..::

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?

::..