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It’s already time for my third productivity report! I am really enjoying pulling these together, and I hope you enjoy reading them too. My biggest takeaway this month? Connections – all the way! If you missed the first two, October’s report is here, and the one from November is here. This month was such a lovely wrap to an amazing year, and I can’t wait to see what 2024 has in store!
Going into December, I felt a sense of closure, and I was excited to wrap up the year. My month was full of travel, fun, and quality time with friends and family. It was the perfect way to end 2023.
I returned home to the US from India on December 3rd, and I made it back just in time to catch Mariah Carey’s Christmas concert at the United Center. I had bought those tickets long before I knew I’d go to India, and I wasn’t sure I’d make it back in time. Should I sell the tickets? Nah, I thought. Let me take a chance. Surprisingly, it worked out just fine. I did end up taking an Uber straight to concert hall from the airport, but it was worth the extra effort. With a few minutes to spare, I was able to ring in the holiday season in style and kickstart my week.
We stopped over in London on our way home. It’s is one of my favorite cities in the world, so I take every opportunity I can to spend time there. Between Convent Garden, Notting Hill, Kensington, and all the other amazing spots, how can you not love it? I’ll be heading back there at the end of January, and I literally cannot wait. My daughter is considering going to college there and her school of choice had a portfolio day that weekend, so decided to break there for two days in order to attend it. That’s also how I managed to stay awake at the MC concert. Had I flown directly all the way from India, the journey would have been too long for adding on that little adventure, but fortunately, our stopover had refreshed me.
Another home away from home for me is Los Angeles. The majority of my friends live in California, so it’s another place I visit regularly. I spent mid-December there, and got a nice break from the winter cold. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to see this time around, but it was still a productive trip. I attended a really great event for one of the foundations I regularly support – the Heal Los Angeles Foundation, and I got to meet a colleague in person for the first time. I talked future collaborations with several people, and I did lots of planning for the upcoming year. While I was in town, I also did some fun photo shoots, and… if you watched the video for last month’s productivity report, you saw me record it from there.
On my home, I made a quick pit stop in Nashville to see another long-awaited concert – the Jacksons. They were supposed to hold that concert in April, but it had gotten rescheduled. Since I had had conflicts throughout the year, that worked out well for me, and I could finally catch one. I’m a huge fan of the Jacksons (yep, since 1984), and they have always been so kind and generous to me, so getting to fangirl for a bit was fun.
Despite so much travel – again – I arrived home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I ended up working on the house at the end of the month, and I finished that home gym project I mentioned in October. I also had plenty of time to review what I had enjoyed about the past year, and that’s always enlightening. It’s amazing how much family time, connection with friends, travel, and fun collaborations dominated my 2023. If you then also consider the fact that I’ve also been happier, it’s not hard to put two and two together. There’s a correlation there. To be continued in 2024. 😉
The previous paragraph leads me to this past month’s takeaway, which is this: the more fun you have in your business, and the more you get out and connect with people, the more positive energy you reverberate. And the more positive energy you exude, the more comes back to you. Some will call that Karma. I don’t know if that word quite sums it up, but nonetheless, I believe in it. It fuels growth. The difference seems intangible at first, but I can assure you that the results are real.
Making real, meaningful connections is so important in building your brand. Why? Because the one type of marketing that never fails you is the power of the referral. When someone refers business to you, they’ve already done the heavy lifting. The trust is there, and you don’t need to do much selling. Not to say that everyone is a shoo-in, but close rates tend to be so much better among referred prospects. That’s just the way it goes.
I remember getting a call from a client in 2017 who said she had referred me to a neighbor. Sure enough, I got that phone call, and her neighbor became a client. Then, that neighbor referred me to her neighbor. That person referred me to her best friend, who – you guessed it – also lived in the same neighborhood. For two years straight, I was the official digital organizer for Palo Alto. It was fun to see how that happened because it was so easy to keep the pipeline full simply by word of mouth. Everyone loves to hear about someone’s “best-kept” secret, and wearing that badge can do you a lot of good.
How do we best connect with other people? By sharing experiences and having fun together. More fun equals closer bonds, which then leads to more referrals, which then leads to more sales and better profit margins. This is why it’s so important to enjoy your work and believe in it. That’s why having a positive, go-getter attitude is something that can’t be replaced. People can feel the passion, and want to be around it. It’s magnetic.
The best thing you can do for your brand is to live joyfully, enjoy your craft, and be fully aligned with your business model. Someone else made the same observation in our most recent Quarterly Planning workshop. This is the reason why we need to evaluate both our personal lives and our professional lives together as one, so that they can exist in harmony. It’s not about trying to divide business and pleasure; it’s about trying to integrate them better. How can they co-exist without stepping on each other? There IS a way, and you just have to find it.
With that in mind, what experiences can you share with clients and potential sales affiliates this coming year? If you haven’t already put some thought into that, take a moment to brainstorm ideas. Not only will you have some things to look forward too (which, in itself, gives you an energy boost), but your referral train will hugely benefit from it. I mean…who doesn’t want to enjoy life more? Right? Be magnetic.
December was an incredibly productive month for me. I didn’t complete all the projects I thought I would complete, but I made significant progress in my marketing and sales engine. This month was my highest grossing month this year. It’s easy to assume that the only factor that drives sales is direct marketing (meaning going live on social media, writing emails, etc.), but indirect marketing can be just as effective… hence this month’s takeaway. Networking with new connections and reviving past connections often leads to great results, even if you don’t see those results instantly. They do come – it’s just that there is some lag time. You just gotta be patient.
In December, I completed a total of 8 projects; 6 for my business and 2 personal ones. Once again, that surpassed my goal of three projects per month, so… yay me. It was an exciting month because we wrapped up the rollouts of my two new programs for entrepreneurs – Creative Systems Architect, and Mindful Monday Mapping.
Creative Systems Architect is my systems and operations program for designing your digital business universe with all its workflows. It teaches my 6P formula for choosing the right systems and shows you how to pull it all together. It’s a game-changer for streamlining operations, and we’ve had some amazing feedback on it.
Mindful Monday Mapping is for higher-level entrepreneurs…those who already have systems in place, but who want to learn how to scale, get better at project management, and create a shorter and more productive work week for themselves. It teaches my signature CEO reflection routine (a.k.a. MMM framework) for leveraging the time you have available and optimizing results. Another game-changer for those who want to better integrate life and business.
My favorite project this month was completing the project I hinted at back in November – my home gym setup. You can read about that here if you’re interested in the deets on what I did and how I went about it. It felt really good to work on the house after spending so much time on the road this year, and I think it turned out great, if I do say so myself. Perfect? No, but more than good enough to start. Having a brand new space for my mindfulness and movement routines kicked off the year nicely.
Space planning and home organizing is so underrated, but oh so powerful. Feeling out the energy of a room and what it needs to come alive is an energizing process, and the endless possibilities that come with a clean slate is magical. I really enjoyed the space planning process because it was physical. As a former residential organizer, it brought back memories of when I organized kitchens and closets. There’s nothing that beats the fun of a digital environment for me, but every now and then, I wanna get my hands dirty too. More home improvement projects to come next year.
During December, I worked a total of 81 hours and 30 minutes, which rounded up (and spread out over 4 weeks) comes out to just over 20 hours per week. I had budgeted 30 hours per week for 2023, so this was slightly under target for the year, and that’s great. It’s no doubt due to the holiday season. One note to make though is that I didn’t track ALL of the fun I had this month, for example going to those concerts. They may someday lead to a referral or other sales opportunity somehow (because I met friends there), but since they weren’t business meetings or pertinent pieces of active projects, I didn’t feel the need to track those events. I have a few more examples like that, and it’s one of those grey areas that happen when you mix fun into your business. Given that I had 40 hours of extra time in the bank, not the end of the world.
This month, like last, also felt light and airy. Again, I think that having so much fun and seeing so many friends really contributed to that feeling. Most of the month didn’t feel like work at all, and because I had a ton of location switches, photo fun, and collaborative meetings, I remember that the most. I think Jim Carrey said it best: “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on something you love.” Work equals fun when you’re lucky enough to do what you love, so please go for it.
My projects broke down fairly efficiently this past month, but I spend more time than I had planned on Creative Systems Architect (21%). I had only budgeted 20%, so I went over by a little, but that’s OK. Even if you’re great at projecting time estimates, you sometimes don’t get it completely right. That’s why it’s so important to not just track your time, but actually look and reflect on the results afterwards. That’s where the lessons are; if you don’t process those takeaways, you’ll miss the lesson that was meant for you.
In December, I took 4238 photos. Why so many? Well, between going to events, meeting friends, and doing photoshoots, the clicks kept on coming. And I loved every minute of it! Memories are so important to me, and I want to make sure I share as many of them with friends as possible.
I deleted a fair amount – 1206 photos were removed in total. Most of those were outtakes from the photo shoots that didn’t make the final cut. That still meant that I had over 3000 photos to keep (3032, to be exact). But that’s not where it stopped… Due to my travels in November, I didn’t organize last month’s photos, remember? It had to wait because I wanted to use my big iMac rather than my laptop, so I had to adjust my December goal to included the 300+ photos I amassed while in India. Final count? 3364 new files went into the archive.
Normally, it takes a moment to organize thousands of photos. However, I’ve been organizing photos professionally for over a decade (and I teach it as part of my product suite), so my workflow is pretty impeccable at this point. Though I teach plenty of different programs, I use Adobe Lightroom as my digital photo hub (with a few plugins) to keep it all straight. Winning shots were batch processed pretty easily and didn’t need much metadata, just like the event photos. The majority of my time consisted of culling, selecting the best photos of those that had been shared with me, and running facial recognition to add keywords. Easy peasy.
I haven’t yet decided if my step goal for 2024 will be different, but for this year, I had decided on 5000 steps per day. This month, it went fairly well. Being on the road helps, and Los Angeles offered me plenty of opportunities to walk around. Balboa Park to the rescue. I’ve mentioned the weather before. That’s a big thing for me. Well, California was nice and sunny, so out I went, and because of that, I did much better than in November.
In December, I walked 141,331 steps. That breaks down to almost 4600 steps per day. So close, but not all the way. The stats don’t lie. It was still a vast improvement over November, so I can’t be mad at it. Continuous improvement is the name of the game. We’re getting closer and closer. Once again, the data may slightly skewed because I use the Pacer app to track my activity, and I didn’t always have my phone on me. I’m going by steps that were officially logged.
December went OK in terms of home-cooked meals, though I’m using the “home-cooked” very loosely this time. Since I spent a lot of time in LA , I got a few quicker meals from Trader Joe’s over there, for example noodle cups. They’re quick and easy to have on hand in Airbnb’s because you only need hot water and you’ve got a snack. Normally, I don’t eat that stuff, but I had a few commitments that didn’t allow me anything fancier. I did have a couple of orders out, but I just made the goal with 75.3% in the bag. Good enough, I’d say. Could it be better? Sure. And I think January will be. 🤞🏻
The goal I have set for 2023 is to finish one book per month, whether in print or by audio, and distill what I learn by writing out my takeaways.
This month, I read my colleague Tiago Forte’s The PARA Method: Simplify, Organize, and Master Your Digital Life. Nothing new here since I actually teach Tiago’s PARA Method quite often; it’s a wonderfully simple technique that fits a lot of different organizing styles, so if you’re not familiar with it, I highly recommend that you check it out. It merges wonderfully with my Mindful Monday Mapping framework, so students in my program get to hear about it a lot.
I’m glad to see that the book is out because previously I had to refer people to Tiago’s website and popular blog post on the topic, but I didn’t feel like it got the time it deserved that way. It’s a lot easier now that we have an official book to refer to, so well done Tiago for releasing that! Congratulations! 🎉
Towards the end of the year, I had several catch up calls with some really fun people – some old friends and some new!
This month, I chatted with Beth Swanson Verdun, a fellow organizer and the owner of Beautiful Views by Beth. We have been colleagues for many years, and she’s also taken my Searching Sweden course with great success. We don’t get to see each other a whole lot in person, so it was really nice to catch up.
Another person who took me up on my FIKA with Caroline offer was Milagros Parra Castro, another fellow organizer and the owner of Pictures with Magic. We have collaborated on resources for a segment of my clientele, including the Spanish version of my course La Fórmula de Organización. Though my Spanish is decent, nothing beats having a native speaker in your pocket.
I also go to chat with Nancy Olsen for the first time. Turns out, she’s been on my mailing list for a while and just completed a fun organizing project on her own. It was so nice to get to celebrate her achievement with a cup. I love hearing about organizing success in all forms!
December marked the end of an era for my business as we discontinued our family history branch completely. For the past decade, I have been providing family history services and teaching genealogy alongside of photo organizing. It was fun, but also challenging because I was essentially running two different businesses. They fueled each other, which is why it worked, but something finally had to give. The interactive version of my online course Searching Sweden: Finding Your Swedish Ancestors in Online Archives ended on New Year’s Eve. Our students had amazing results, and the course is still available for purchase going forward, but only as a self-study version. Overall, it was a huge success and a very fulfilling project, but the time had come to let it go, so that I could focus forward on another endeavors.
It’s so important that we pause and reflect back on the things we have achieved to let us feel those accomplishments fully. I truly believe that this is a major factor in making motivation stick. It’s so easy to keep moving the goal post and not notice your progress, so actually letting that progress sink in is key. When you do that, you realize just how much movement is present. It’s kind of like being on an airplane (yes, I had to do a travel metaphor! 😆)… you know you’re moving at lightning speed, yet you don’t feel it. The only way you notice it is if you look out the window and see how far you’ve come. That holds true in business too, which is why reflection routines are something I constantly promote. Not only do they enable you to stay better engaged, but they also give you opportunities to course correct, and that is massive.
Having the right hubs and tools in your business setup makes a world of difference. You have to be able to run everything seamlessly, and that only happens when you have intentionally designed your universe. There is no right and wrong because every business is different, but there are some solutions that far outweigh the others. Hence the following list.
Here’s my list of great things that made me more productive this month:
This month, I thought I’d pay homage to one of my favorite travel packs: One Organic’s Instant Jasmine Tea. This is a great option for when you have longer trips to take and you need to fit a lot of tea in a little bit of space.
Thank you so much for reading this report! I hope you enjoyed it. Please remember that productivity is very personal, and you DO NOT have to track the same metrics that I do. Your goals and metrics could be quite different from mine, and that’s OK.
If you’d like to understand where you should be focusing your attention, join us in an upcoming Quarterly Planning Workshop to identify your own goals.
Hi there! I’m Caroline, and I’m here to help you get organized and be more productive, so that you can live better and have time for what matters.
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