So, maybe you've been wondering where I've been since January. Or maybe not. If you're not wondering, it's probably because you know me and you know I've been busy working on all sorts of awesome things that just haven't directly involved blogging over here at Pink Spark Creative. If you don't know me and have been wondering, well, sit back and let me get you up to speed.

First of all, if you've read the blog you know that I hate excuses. I mean, really what is an excuse anyway. It's usually pretty lame and doesn't even come anywhere near close to explaining why something didn't get done or turn out how it was supposed to or whatever. So I have no excuse for not blogging for the last 8 months. I do have five draft posts that I have started... <EXCUSE! Ha!

Since I am coming clean about my lack of focus with this blog, is there something you'd call your "it's been awhile"? I bet it was that vegetable garden you thought was an awesome idea in February. Is it a weedy mess of overripe tomatoes and hidden squash? I'll give you a pass. Make an excuse! Who has time for all that weeding and watering and picking and eating of the vegetables? Nobody. Seriously. Or maybe your, let's just call it "IBA" is that Etsy shop you opened 6 months ago but haven't listed anything. Or could it be the workshop you want to teach but you haven't even created an outline. I get it. We don't get to everything. And we make excuses. But the excuses just make us feel worse.

Excuses make you feel like a failure. Am I alone here? When I would make an excuse it would just make me feel worse than I already did, so why did I do it. Because it's easier than being honest. I mean, let's be honest here. If I don't answer an email right away or get a quote back to a potential client in like 5 minutes, I might say "Sorry I took so long to respond, but I've been weeding my overgrown vegetable garden all day". What I should say is "I don't care enough about having you as a potential client, so I am going to make an excuse so you feel sorry for me and I can go back to my weeding." What? Yeah, that's what excuses really sound like. What about being honest?

Start first with being honest to yourself. Don't make excuses to yourself. Hungry? Ate a cookie. Don't say to yourself it was only 100 calories. Say, I ate a freaking cookie. End of story. No excuse. Own it. Try it. Go eat a cookie. I'll wait here.

Now incorporate the honesty into everything you do. Here's a personal example. Yes, it involves riding a mountain bike. #SorryNotSorry I was riding with two of my lady friends and couldn't get over an obstacle. I tried three times. It wasn't working. Rather than make an excuse - I'm tired, it's hot, it's hard, I'm weak. I simply said, "I'm not trying hard enough". Not an excuse, but an honest statement. Let me tell you how that made me feel. Fantastic! That's how I felt. I was honest to myself. I was honest to my riding partners. And I have complete control over changing the result when I attempt that obstacle again. It wasn't a defeating statement like "I'm weak" would be. 

Next, practice turning an excuse into an honest statement. When you feel yourself starting to make an excuse...STOP...and turn it into an honest statement. It will probably feel really weird and people might think there is something wrong with you, especially if you stop talking mid-sentence, but hear me out. Here's an example. You're late to a meeting. Simple. Happens all the time. To other people. Right? Anyway, this time it happens to you. You know why you are late. You were lollygagging around on Facebook and checking out Instagram when you should have been putting on your pants, so you left the house 15 minutes late. Instead of stating the obvious, "I'm late" or making a lame excuse, "Traffic was backed up to Idaho", be honest and say "I have crappy time management skills and love looking at photos of strangers cats more than I love this wonderful job". Maybe not that honest. But you get the point.

Lastly, take some time to figure out why you are making excuses. If you make a lot of them, this is very important. If you are an occasional excuse maker there is probably something wrong with you and you'll never figure it out. But seriously. Seriously. Look for patterns in your behavior. Analyze why you repeatedly make the same excuses, like tardiness or time management. When you identify the cause you can work on a solution. It can take some time. And it will take some effort, but you can do it if you don't make any excuses.

No excuses. Be honest. Figure out the root cause of the excuse making. That's your assignment, if you choose to accept it. If you don't, then make a good excuse and email it to me at lisa@pinksparkcreative.com. I'll be sure to respond in a week or two with some lame excuse about being too busy riding my bicycle to respond to your email. Or I'm weeding my neighbors vegetable garden. I haven't seen her in a month.

While you're here, pop over to the Success Series page and download the super awesome exercises to get you on track for success in your creative business!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
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When was the last time you said you were too busy to do something? This morning? At lunchtime? Right now when prompted with the opportunity to read this blog post?

We all do it. We all say we're too busy to do this, that or the other. But are we really "too busy"?

About a year ago I started analyzing when and why I would say I was too busy to do something or why I would respond with 'busy' as an answer to how I was doing and decided to make a change. Here's an example because writing this out makes it sound confusing. A friend would ask me to meet for lunch and I would say I was too busy. And then I would be mad because I didn't go spend time with my friend. I mean, at most it would be two hours out of my day including travel time. Now, if I actually had a photo shoot or appointment scheduled that day at that particular time, then I would legitimately be too busy to meet them for lunch. So, was I saying I was too busy because I didn't want to go or because I felt that my time would be better spent doing something else?

I realized I was saying I was too busy because I felt like I was supposed to be working all day, every day to grow my businesses, when, in fact, I wasn't really getting any more work done by not going to do this other thing, like lunch. We say we're busy when what we really mean is (A) we aren't really busy but want you to think we are or (B) we don't want to do this other thing or (C) we didn't plan our day in a way that would allow us to get the important tasks accomplished.

Let's be honest here, those are the only answers when you aren't actually doing work in or on your business. So now if I want to do the thing I've been asked to do, I think about my answer and do a little analysis. So, using the example of being asked to meet for lunch, I would ask myself these questions:

1. Do I really want to go to lunch at this place, at this time, with this person?
2. Will I really get more work done if I don't go?
3. Will I be in a crappy mood for the rest of the day if I miss this opportunity to see this friend?
4. Is this something I really want to do?

Once I have answered those questions, I can make a smart decision that I will be happy with. Too often we use 'too busy' as a catch-all excuse when we really want to say 'no' or 'not right now'. Sometimes by saying 'no' or 'not right now', you save yourself from taking on way more than you can handle and you learn how to set boundaries for your time.

What are boundaries you ask? Well, let me tell you how awesome boundaries are. Once I realized that I wasn't really too busy to do all the things asked of me, I discovered that what I was doing was setting boundaries for myself. 

Choosing how to spend my time rather than letting others dictate how it was spent has opened my time up to opportunities I might not otherwise have been able to fit into my schedule. Saying 'no' or 'not right now' shouldn't make you feel guilty, it should make you feel empowered. Guilt is for people who know they should be using their time better. You, on the other hand, are working towards awesomeness and don't have time for guilt. Start setting your own boundaries with your time and you will soon see that you really aren't as busy as you think.

Please leave a comment sharing how you set your boundaries, share this post with others or let me know how I can help you ignite your spark and grow your small/creative business!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
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So, which one is it? Procrastination or poor time management? Sadly, it's probably a little of both. Most of us fail to plan our days properly. This week I have been struggling and it's because I didn't plan my week out in advance. Admittedly, I had a crazy weekend which was part of the problem, but that isn't a good excuse. There isn't any excuse. I just didn't plan.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go on the road with our local mountain bike club, Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, to generate support for Knoxville to win a $100,000 grant from Bell Helmets to build a super awesome downhill trail. My husband has become the group's official volunteer photographer and I was along for social media support and to be a smiling face. It was a fantastic weekend as we traveled in what is referred to as the #SoKnoLimo from Knoxville to Snowshoe Mountain, WV and on to Washington, DC meeting lots of people and getting votes for our Urban Wilderness Gravity Trail. We also got to do some mountain biking and I rode the downhill trails at Snowshoe for the first time. (More on that experience later...)
Our journey started early Friday morning with some local news spots and then we drove Downtown and our city Mayor, Madeline Rogero, spraypainted the last window before we took off down the highway. I knew I should have taken my Day Designer with me, but I was trying to downsize my belongings so I left it behind in my office. That was my first mistake.

My Day Designer is what keeps me organized. It's a fabulous planner with a page for each day where I can make of list of what needs to be done, with a special section for my top 3 to-dos, and there's a place where I can put appointments or block out time for projects. Without this planner, I am lost. For real. While I was on the road, I should have taken a few minutes and planned my week rather than thinking I would figure it all out when I got to the office on Tuesday. 

Wrong! A shortened work week means you have to fit more activity into less time. It means deciding what is important and what can wait. It may mean that some tasks get crossed off the list completely. Allan and I were already behind with editing and culling images from shoots we had done over the past few weeks, so those deadlines were no longer valid when Tuesday rolled around and it caused me some unnecessary stress. 

Stress. Ain't nobody got time for that. And it often leads to more of one of the topics of this post, procrastination. In my experience, if you don't plan, you get stressed and you end up procrastinating because you haven't created a good plan, with tasks in order of priority, of what needs to get done. Note that I said in order of priority. It's important. Yes, we can all make a list of stuff we need to get done, but if you don't assign any priority (or more to the point, a deadline) you will just stare at that list and do nothing. Are you nodding your head in agreement? Can you recall a time when you felt this very same way? Was it today? Like, maybe right this second...

So, now you understand how failing to plan is one of the ways procrastination sneaks into your life and stops you from doing whatever it is you should be doing. Procrastination also sneaks in wearing the disguise of being busy. This one is my favorite!

I'm too busy. We've all said it. Some of us say it more than others. Try not saying it. Try an honest response. Here's an example so you can better understand how this is really procrastination in disguise. Your friend asks you to meet after work for a glass of wine (or a beer, whatever) and you say you can't because you're too busy. Your friend asks why and you say it's because you have to work through the night to finish a project for a client by noon the next day. Your friend asks why your client wants you to work through the night. And that's when you make up some lame excuse. You do this because the truth is that you didn't plan properly and you procrastinated and now you're stressed out AND you're "too busy" to have a drink with your bestie (or your boyfriend, whatever).

Here's a little homework assignment for you to get out of the lame "I'm too busy" rut. Every time you start to answer with "I'm too busy", stop and think about why you are "too busy". Is it because you've taken on too many projects, you didn't plan you day properly, you took a long lunch, you got up late? Start being honest with why you are "too busy" and a weight will lift from your shoulders and you will feel free of the "too busy" monster! We all have the same hours in a day, how you use them is the key to getting more done and not being roadblocked by procrastination.

So, what's stopping you? Is it procrastination or the other equally annoying culprit, poor time management. As I mentioned earlier, it may be both, but here are some ways that poor time management can be stopping you from reaching your most awesome potential.

As I mentioned above, not planning your day, week, month, year, etc. can lead to problems. Properly managing your time is critical. If I create a realistic plan there is no reason why I can't knock out a blog post, write a newsletter, do a branding photo shoot, ride my mountain bike, eat three meals, drink two beers, watch an hour of TV, respond to email, tweet some tweeps, post a few important tidbits on Facebook and pin some cool places to mountain bike on Pinterest, attend a meeting for an organization with which I volunteer and get 7 hours of sleep. Seriously. I do this almost every day. It's only possible because I manage my time. I don't schedule too many appointments and I guard my personal time like it's a baby gorilla. (We just had two baby gorillas born at the Knoxville Zoo this week, so I have gorilla babies on my brain!)

What does your productivity and time management look like? Hopefully not like a baby gorilla. I mean they are cute and all, but I doubt they can take care of themselves let alone plan their time well. Your homework assignment is to analyze your time management and productivity. Write down everything you do for one week (two is better, but one will do the job if you are "too busy") from the time you get up in the morning until you lay your head on the pillow and go to sleep. Be sure to include what you do from the time you actually wake up and get out of bed and the same when you go to bed. I don't mean anything overly personal, but we're all guilty of checking our phone or playing Words with Friends when we're supposed to be sleeping or getting up. 

Keeping track of what you do while you're awake will help you see how you are using your time- the good, the bad and the ugly. Once you've tracked your time for seven days you will be able to see some patterns. Are you going to bed really late and trying to get up early only to fail and fall back to sleep and wake up late? Are you getting enough exercise? Are you eating three (or more) meals per day and properly hydrating yourself? Are you getting the important work done or are you fooling around on Facebook and Pinterest? This is an exercise of honesty. Track everything!

The point of tracking everything is important for several reasons. One, you will see where you are spending your time and you will be able to determine if that's where you really want to be spending it. Two, you will be able to figure out where you need to make improvements either in your time management, prioritization or grouping of smiliar tasks. Three, you will discover you are wasting a lot of time on unnecessary tasks. Trust me on that last one. 

Here's what to do next to get better at time management and avoid procrastination. Take at least 10 minutes at the end of each day to plan the following day (or days, for you overachievers). Write down the tasks you need to accomplish, note the priority of these tasks. This is important if you day goes sideways and you might end up with fewer hours in your day than you planned. If you have kids, pets, parents or other obligations, you know what I am talking about. After you have planned your the day(s), take a moment to see what you actually did get accomplished on this day and determine if you could have done better, or if you need to adjust the time allocated for any recurring tasks. Example: Maybe you figured it would take 30 minutes to write that blog post, but you discovered it really took 1.5 hours. (Like this one...)

Being agile with your time management is a bonus. Very rarely will your plan work out 100% as planned. It might be close, but you will always need to be ready to make adjustments. This ability to adjust should also help you avoid procrastination. Instead of saying you don't have time to complete the task, maybe a lower priority task can be moved to another day or it doesn't need all of the allocated time. Be flexible, but know your priorities.

Procrastination and poor time management can be eradicated from your life if you do the homework assignments and follow these suggestions. It may take some time as you work through changing long-established habits and learn to be flexible, but it will happen. And you won't have so much stress. And you will feel better. And you'll get to ride your mountain bike more. Or whatever.

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
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I've been burning my candle at both ends lately so I thought I would take 5, literally, and give you 5 quick tips for taking time for you. Taking a little time for yourself can be a challenge when you love your business and want it to grow, but if you don't give yourself some love, then you're likely to burn out. And burn out means your business is going to suffer, or worse, your creativity.

So, do as I say and not as I always do and follow these tips.

1. Take short breaks throughout the day to get up and move around or sit down and relax, depending on how you've been spending your time. Most often you hear people say you need to get up from your desk and walk around every 30 minutes or so, but what if your works has you standing and bending over a work table? This is when you should just do the opposite of what you've been doing for the last 30 minutes. Just changing things up will reinvigorate your brain and body and get things flowing.

2. Get plently of sleep. I know this can be a difficult one for lots of creatives especially if they are working a full-time job and getting their side hustle up to speed. You work a 8 to 10 hour day and come home to work some more. It's good for your business and for your entrepreneurial spirit, but it's terrible for your body and well-being. Get at least 6 hours of sleep and more if you can. You'll feel so much better and have more focus.

3. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise. Even if you have a rather physical job, you can find 30 minutes for some cardio and/or weight training exercises each day. It can be challenging at first, but soon you will find yourself in a rythm and it will become a habit. Don't be surprised if you feel like it becomes an addiction. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make you feel good. Who does like to feel good?! 

One of the best things about getting exercise, for me personally, is it is often time for me to be alone OR with friends depending on the activity and whether I am feeling intro/extroverted that day.

4. Do something you love each day that isn't part of your creative business. Do it for only 5 minutes if that's all the time you have, but make sure you do it. Maybe you love to cook or have a favorite TV show you like. Maybe you can do two of your activities to make time for you at the same time. I watch a TV show on Netflix while I am getting my cardio in. Sometimes I put it on when I am cooking. Doing something that you love to do that's outside of the work realm is refreshing and will make you happy.

5. The last tip for making time for you is to actually put it only calendar. If you take the time to plan out the next day at the end each day, then you can schedule in your YOU time. Just like an appointment! Making time for you is a challenge when you are working for yourself or toward that goal, but if you don't make time for you, nobody else will. Trust me on this. 

So what are you waiting for? Put your YOU time on your calendar right now!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
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How do you keep track of your tasks, to-dos and crap that just got to get done?

I love my new Day Designer planner for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the fabulous section for daily tasks. I have found that making of the things that have to get done each day, and most importantly noting the top three, keeps me on track of my tasks. Here is a visual for you...
This is an example of how I use the task/todo list in my planner. Because it is so long, I have plenty of room to write down everything and even have a separate section for follow up/calls/emails/etc. We'll talk about time blocking next week, but in the meantime, think about how your task tracking is working for you now, and how you might improve it. Leave me a comment with your method!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
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So, how is it? Is your productivity level where you want it? If it isn't, maybe it is time to focus on one task at a time rather than trying to multi-task your way through your day. Not having any focus to your day means you don't have a plan for what you need to and want to accomplish. Some days may be filled with appointments. Some may be filled with creating the handmade items you sell. Some days may be spent running errands. And some days you might just want to have a little downtime to read a book. 

For the last four months I have been using the Day Designer planner to help me be more productive and use my time wisely. For the months of October through December, I used the planner page you can download from the website and then when my 2015 planner arrived, I started using it. Blocking out my time has really helped me get more done in a day AND allow for time for the things I want to do, like working out and spending time with my husband and friends. There is a section at the top of the planner page for the three most important tasks you want to accomplish and this in itself has been amazing at keeping me on task. I can use the section with each hour broken down to plan work blocks and the section on the right is where I make my to do list. Everyone uses their Day Designer a little differently, but the design will work for almost everyone, no matter how they use it.

This is the planner cover I chose! It's called Carrie Floral and it features my two current fave colors- pink and teal!
Below you will see the Day Designer planner page that you can download for free on the Day Designer website. The planner that you can purchase features the same page, but with the date (unless you buy an undated version) and an inspirational quote for each day. Using the planner pages for a few months before purchasing my 2015 planner helped me determine how I was going to use the planner.
Another reason I wanted to share about my productivity solution is because I spent countless hours designing my own planner only to realize it was going to cost quite a bit to print it and the Day Designer was pretty darned close to what I designed.

The other tool/system I swear by is a blogging editorial calendar and I will share about that in next week's Multi-Tasking Monday post.

Just a reminder that multi-tasking really doesn't work and maybe time blocking won't work for you, but don't get discouraged. Keep trying different methods of getting things done until you find the one that works for you!

I would love to know what tools or resources you use to stay productive! Share yours in the comments!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
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Fresh starts. New beginnings. Big dreams. Goals.

A new year always seems to be a great time to get your ducks in a row, review the previous year, see what worked and what didn't, and plan to make the coming year even better than the last. I've been working on a lot of goals and plans for Pink Spark Creative as well as my other businesses and my personal world. Trying to make all of the pieces of my life's puzzle fit together has given me a lot of insight into how to create goals and plans that will work and how to use my time wisely so I can accomplish everything I want to and have to each day, week, and month.

As creative entrepreneurs we do so much more than create- we run our own businesses, have families, volunteer, enjoy being with friends and enjoy hobbies. It can be very overwhelming to keep up with just one of those activities, but figuring out how to make all of them fit into a 24 hour day (don't forget to leave time for sleeping!), can be difficult. Start your year off on the right foot by learning how to set SMART goals, manage your time, create a work/life balance that works for you, and how to focus your time and energy on your business building tasks.

Check out the Success Series to help you achieve your own success at any time!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram