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Welcome to my second productivity report! If you missed the first one I published last month, you can read it here. November threw me for a bit of a loop, but I’m glad that happened because it illustrates even more why it’s so important to stay on top of your goals. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, here comes life…. Enjoy this month’s compilation, and let me know what your takeaways were in the comments below!
After being on the road for so long (5+ months of backpacking took its toll…), I was excited and somewhat relieved to be back into my normal routine during the first half of October. Little did I know it wouldn’t last long.
November was supposed to be a calm and quiet month with no travel plans in sight, but the Universe felt differently and shipped me off to India. My parents-in-law are in the process of moving and required some help, so my husband thought it would be a brilliant idea for us to celebrate Diwali there this year. And why not? I suppose. November is an appropriate month for spending time with family, and we didn’t have any solid plans for Thanksgiving anyway. Plus, when of your core values is “family first,” you don’t have much of an excuse to say no. So…off to India we went at the end of October, and we ended up staying all of November too, shuttling back and forth between Chennai and Bangalore.
I love being in India. This time of year, the weather is pretty nice overall (even though it’s monsoon season). It’s not overly hot, and not cold enough for a jacket – just how I like it. That meant I could pack light, which was good. You see, every time I go to India, I return with a few extra bags. I mean… it’s THE place for sparkly outfits and hand-crafted jewelry, so… can you blame me? 😉
This spur-of-the-moment trip really highlights how wonderful it is to have flexibility built into your business. When my husband brought up the idea, I only needed to make a few smaller considerations in order to be able to say yes.
The first one was looking at the number of upcoming business projects for November, and whether or not I would still be able to deliver. You tend to end up working less on a trip like this (because family is around), so I wanted to make sure that I’d still be able to meet my commitments, and after reviewing them, I was confident that traveling wouldn’t interfere with any of the logistics.
Next, I had to think about other areas of my life. How could I re-work already scheduled appointments and coaching calls, especially in a different time zone? Fortunately, I didn’t have any major issues there either. Most of my current clients are in Europe, so the time zone would actually be better for me. Those who were in the US were flexible enough; smaller tweaks were enough to fix any discrepancies. With a helpful neighbor to water our plants and check on the house, we were all set to go.
Flexibility is the one goal you absolutely need on your entrepreneurial agenda. There’s nothing more important when you are a small business owner, especially if your core values match mine. When I started my journey, I knew I’d be in it for the rest of my life. When you’re lucky enough to be successful for that many years, things will inevitably happen. There will be moments when you have to step away, and for that to work, you need flexibility.
I can’t tell you the worth strong systems hold in my life, and how much I value them. My whole life is fueled by them. Everything I do is possible because of them. My flexibility relies on them, and no money, fame, or fortune can hold a candle to flexibility. Believe that.
After last month’s surge of energy, I thought I’d take it a little easier in November. Well, that didn’t happen… or did it? It’s funny how I was unsure until I defined what I meant by “taking it easy.” As you’ll soon find out, I managed to put more hours into work, but I felt much better about it. My definition of “taking it easy” actually correlates more to my home life than to my work life. Fascinating, isn’t it?
In retrospect, it’s obvious why I was more productive this month over last month. When I’m India, I don’t have to manage any aspect of the household. There’s no cooking, no cleaning, little laundry, and very dishes to wash. I don’t have to run errands or drive anywhere. I’m taken care of by a full staff of lovely people who work for my family members, and they handle everything with precision. Besides that, I also have a different personal routine. I spend less time on my devices, sleep more, and work in shorter sprints. In short, I feel held. When I’m there, I am held…in a way that just doesn’t exist in my world over in the States. That brings me to my point.
As entrepreneurs, we manage a lot. We wear a lot of hats. And for us to improve flexibility within life and business, we need full transparency on what that is, how it happens, and when. Being relieved of all household chores was actually just what I needed for November. This month, I worked less than usual, but ended up producing more content than ever – while feeling more relaxed. So yes, I guess I did take it easier. You don’t realize just how much brain space meal planning etc. takes up until you don’t have to do it. Phew.
If you feel overstretched in your business, it’s very likely the cause of having to manage something else at home. Ponder what would make your life easier, and let’s figure out a way to make adjustments. Your next hire does not need to be for your business. It could be someone to help you handle any part of your household or family life, for example a cleaning services, a nanny, or someone to help you mow your lawn. You won’t believe what a difference it makes to have that type of help.
In November, I completed a total of 5 projects; 4 for my business and 1 personal one. That surpassed my goal of three, so yay… mission accomplished! I did make some adjustments though. In my last productivity report, I toyed with the idea of taking on more home improvement during November, but that clearly had to wait since I wouldn’t be home at all. I’ve now rescheduled that project for late December instead, so I can start the new year with a fresh new home gym.
November was an exciting month because I had a few larger projects that challenged me to new heights. I delivered the initial build of a custom Notion setup for a wonderful foundation, which turned out so well that I now feel compelled to upgrade my own Notion space… again 🤣. I also completed a private research project that pushed me to acquire some new skills, and that’s always fun. And besides that, two of my new trademarks came through. They had been pending for a year, so it was nice to finally wrap them up. I’m still waiting for the last one, which has been published, but isn’t quite in the clear yet. Still, lots of progress.
My favorite project this month – hands down – was updating the controlled keyword vocabulary on my blogging platform. Yep, you heard that right. Not for my photos… but for my blog! You might be surprised to hear it, but if you’re into blogging as a way of generating traffic, you NEED a controlled keyword vocabulary for it. Search engines have to index your site without conflicts, and visitors need to be able to find things fast, so there’s no way around it. It has to be top notch. Mine needed an update, so I got that checked off my list.
Photo organizing isn’t really any different from SEO (Search Engine Optimization). After all, it’s all just different forms of content that needs to be managed well. If you’re good at one, you’re good at the other too. Having it well organized also enables me to outsource certain categories in the future, should that become necessary. I don’t foresee me outsourcing blogging anytime soon (it’s one of my favorite forms of expression), but you never know…
I’m flirting with the idea of creating some smaller workshops on how to keep organized with controlled keyword vocabularies for your blog, in your email marketing, and more, so comment below if that’s of interest. 😉
During November, I worked a total of 119 hours and 55 minutes, which rounded up (and spread out over 4 weeks) came to about 30 hours per week. Unlike last month, this was spot on target, which surprised me.
Last month, I worked much less, yet it felt so much heavier. This month, I worked more, but it felt a lot lighter. Yes, there were one or two longer days where I had lots of meetings, presentations, and coaching calls, but overall, the workload was spaced out more evenly this month. It just goes to show how much your environment shapes your reality.
With the home stuff off my plate, time opened up so much. I found myself with more ideas than usual, more energy, and it felt so easy. It really was what I needed this month, and even though traveling so much came with its own unique set of challenges, I can say that it was totally worth it.
If we look at how my hours broke down, we can see that the majority of my time were spent maintaining my current offers and areas of operations (18% admin work, 16% content creation, 8% active marketing, and 31% courses and coaching). That is close to the 80/20 rule I wrote about last month, but not quite all the way there. Why? Because the projects I took on in October still lingered around and weren’t completely wrapped. I spent more time than usual (22% and 6%) on those projects in order to get them closer to the finish line. Fortunately, my environment facilitated those sprints. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
When you travel, your camera roll blows up. 📸 🤣 There’s so much to take in, so many new experiences to capture, and of course, extra sharing between family members. That’s exactly what happened this month.
Not surprisingly, I came back from India photographically richer than when I left: I snapped 977 new photos of my own, which I then culled down to a final 257 to keep. Most of them were from Diwali celebrations and photoshoots, but some were just everyday moments that I found funny. Lately, I’ve been taking more of those, so that I can create photo books of what a “regular” day looks like. It’s easy to think that photos are only meant for special events, but those are so rare in my family that I think it’s a lot more interesting to document what happens day-to-day.
Besides my own photos, I commissioned the scanning of some older family photos. My husband’s uncle had some older albums that we hadn’t seen before, so we took them to a local scanning service to get them digitized. I could have done it myself here at home, of course, but we wanted to leave the albums with him and not bring them over to the US. I also got some great photos from my brother-in-law, who arguably is the only person in my family more excited about camera gear than me. Between those two sources, I added another 300+ photos to my collection.
Enjoy a select few of them in the story below!
November was a great month for memories, but none of them got organized. Goal not met, but that’s ok. I culled and edited on the go, but since I prefer to organize on my large iMac in my home office, that piece had to wait. Sometimes, we have to defer goals if they can’t be met, and this is a great example of that. Travel is a valid circumstance to work around because family time is higher on my priority pyramid than organizing work. I’m adding these new photos to December’s batch, and by putting another three hours of organizing time to my schedule at the end of the year, it’ll all get sorted out.
My goal for 2023 is to walk 5000 steps per day or more, so that I can be at my best, get enough fresh air, and maintain my health. Every other month, I’ve been close to hitting that goal, but two words come to mind for November: Epic fail. It wasn’t the weather this time, but it definitely had a little something to do with my environment.
Your environment will make or break your goals, and to succeed, you have to curate it – actively. Last month, I mentioned how it’s harder for me to stay active when we’re in Chicago compared to Sweden; well, it’s even harder in India. Over there, we’re in what can only be described as a gilded cage. We have everything we need, except the freedom to move around as we want. We stay in an apartment complex with limited grounds, and going on into the streets just isn’t feasible with the amount of traffic that exists. Safety is an issue and the air quality isn’t great, so we are chauffeured around pretty much everywhere. Because of that, we end up walking a lot less. If anything, we walk around anytime we go to the mall, but we don’t just go often enough to make a dent in the goal.
Just to illustrate the difference, here are the stats: In November, we walked 46,262 steps. That’s down over 77,000 steps from last month, and it breaks down to about 1500 steps per day. Ouch. That’s mostly us meandering around the apartment. Once again, the data could be slightly skewed because I didn’t always have my phone on me (I use the Pacer app to track my activity), but it’s clear that we were way off target. It’s on me for not being diligent enough in finding a good solution, but given my priorities and time zone challenges this month, I made that choice on purpose. Had I intended to stay more permanently over there, I would have been more adamant about finding a solution right away.
Your environment shapes who you are, unless you take charge of it. Consider that in your home and work life. If it’s holding you back in any way, whether its through clutter, poor lighting, bad seating, not enough ventilation – whatever – fix it! It makes a world of difference. Knowing how poorly we did on steps this month gives me newfound resolve to get that home gym up and running next month. My restless legs are excited for the change.
This month, I hit my target of eating at least 75% of meals at home. We came in at just over 77%. The funny part is that I didn’t cook any of them, so does that actually count? Yes, I’d say. Outsourcing is a perfectly valid approach for when you need help maintaining your systems. In this case, a staff member cooked delicious Indian food every day, and all I had to do was enjoy it.
Speaking of how the environment shapes you, I lost a few more pounds during my month in India. Seven to be exact. Think about that. Despite NOT walking the normal amount (really – not trying at all!), I made a noticeable dent in my health goal. It was all due to those healthier home-cooked meals. It’s a good reminder of how the diet in a certain place also contributes to your reality. American food makes losing weight hard. Indian food makes it easy. South Indian food is fairly low in calories overall, so as long as you watch your carb intake (and don’t go with fried stuff), you can’t help but lose weight. Imagine what would have happened if I had also been better at getting my steps in…
We did go out a few times, especially during travel days. Shuttling back and forth between Chennai and Bangalore left us no other options. We also enjoyed the buffet service at Leela Palace Chennai and the JW Marriott in Bangalore, among a few other local places. I need a little variety in my life, so it was nice balance.
The goal I have set for 2023 is to finish one audiobook per month, and distill what I learn by writing out my takeaways. I find that this process lets me cement my learning into real action. This month, I made good use of my Audible membership during my long flights, so I knocked that goal out of the park. Though several of the books I listened to were good, the one I want to highlight is “Exactly What to Say” by Phil M. Jones.
I really enjoy Phil’s books because they get right to the point and they’re actionable. He presents them in bite-sized chunks to make them digestible, but the funny thing is that they’re short, so you don’t necessarily need to break them up. This one clocked in at only 1 hour and 15 minutes. You might think that – being so short – it doesn’t hold much content of substance. Au contraire. It’s all substance. There’s no fluff at all. That’s been cut out. Within the first 3 minutes of this book, I already had several powerful takeaways, and overall, this book gave me more gold nuggets that any other recent read that I can remember.
In this particular book, he talks about the “power of words” and how making small changes in your wording makes a huge difference. I’m a big fan of small steps, as you probably already know, so this was right up my alley. Being good at selling means moving people with words, and that is really important for someone with my business model. When people don’t see you face-to-face all the time, you have to be able to communicate well.
This books gets a solid 5 gold stars from me. Pick it up if you have the chance.
The time zone difference between India and the rest of the world was a wee bit challenging this month, though it worked out particularly well for all of my UK clients.
This month, I chatted with Lisa Tonjes Moritz, a fellow photo organizer and the owner of Hope Organizing. We have been colleagues for quite some time, but somehow never had a chance to connect one-on-one. She took me up on my FIKA with Caroline offer, which was nice.
I also chatted with Micki Jones, a longtime follower and course student of mine. She called in from a cabin in the woods somewhere in the middles of Texas, which was fun. She’s currently on a long travel adventure through several states along with her pup, and also decided to take me up on a cup. Fun!
This month, I also caught up with several other fun folks who shant be named at this time, but that doesn’t matter. Clearly, these cuppa catch-ups are resonating with people, so I’m gonna keep going with them. I’m really enjoying the connections. Next month’s slots have already filled up, and I can’t wait to see who I’ll be chatting with… I don’t look at the bookings until the same day to keep it a surprise!
This month, I’m celebrating the success of my first ever collaboration with Anna Murray of Patternity, a dear friend and client. Ever since we met and started working together some years ago, we’ve known that we’d be collaborating at some point. This era is now upon us, and we have some great ideas for 2024 and beyond.
Between my systems mindset and Anna’s eye for patterns and design, we know that there are some special projects in store for the world. Thank you, Anna, for your friendship, wisdom, creativity, and brilliance. I cannot wait for these new collaborations to fully take shape!
BTW, if you don’t already follow Patternity over on Instagram and other platforms, be sure to check them out! Their image archive is truly remarkable, and who doesn’t need MORE creative inspo?
Another month on the road; another case study for why having the right hubs and tools are so important. Without being able to run my business seamlessly, I couldn’t possible have ventured out and enjoyed myself with my family… but I sold more in November (being away) that I did in October. Go figure.
Here’s my list of great things that made me more productive this month:
This month, I picked up several new teas. Being in India, how could I not? It’s the chai capital of the world, and rightfully so. One of my favorites was Sublime‘s Mellow Mango. Check it out below!
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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