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Welcome, dear reader, to my first monthly productivity report! Besides all the other content that I share online, I wanted you to have this behind-the-scenes look into my life and business, so you can see how I make things work. Perhaps it’ll generate a few ideas for you? Let me know if you stopped by here, especially if you enjoyed a specific part of this compilation. I’ll be back again next month with new adventures in all things organizing & productivity. Until then…
For years, I’ve read income reports published by content-creating colleagues, and they’ve always fascinated me. I’ve loved getting an inside glimpse into their businesses to learn about their growth, struggles, and wins. It’s not only inspiring to follow along on the journey, but educational as well.
Inspired by these transparent entrepreneurs, I’ve decided to publish my own reports; however, since I’m an Organizing & Productivity Coach, I’ve decided to create productivity reports instead of income reports. Sure, finances are fun to follow, but they’re only one aspect of your business success, and there are so many other statistics we can learn from when we want to create our ideal lifestyle.
I promote holistic productivity, which means that I show my clients and students how to achieve better work-life balance, taking into account not only their businesses, but their personal lives as well. What affects you at work isn’t just work, so we need to look at everything in order to get an accurate picture of the status quo. Otherwise, how can we improve it? There needs to be full transparency.
These reports adheres to my Quarterly Planning trifecta framework, which includes your physical world, your digital world, and your internal world. Join us in an upcoming workshop to learn more about it. The first session is always free!
This report also adheres to all the principles I teach in Mindful Monday Mapping (my high-ticket program thats shows entrepreneurs how to create a shorter work week), Creative Systems Architect (my systems & operations course), and The Bookend Approach to Productivity (my mini-course on how to up-level your daily productivity).
I live and breathe my methods, and as you’ll see in these reports, they work. Read my takeaways for fun; read them to learn – whatever approach you take is fine with me. I just hope they inspire you as others have inspired me to share.
So… without further ado, let’s begin.
Going into October 2023, three strong words came to mind: 1. Growth, 2. Transparency, and 3. Authenticity. This year has been absolutely transformational in all of these aspects, which is why I’m so happy to finally have hit publish on one of these reports. This concept is something I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now, and I’ve given myself a year to decide on how I want to go about it. Time well spent for sure.
The goal is to put out one of these reports a month, not only for myself, but also for you. Why? Well, we all learn from each other, and a big part of my CEO routine (Mindful Monday Mapping) is to learn from my mistakes. Putting these reports out into the world not only lets me track how I’m doing in terms of hitting my goals, but it also gives me a reason to showcase what I have learned in the process, so that you might glean some insight from that. I believe in continous growth. I believe in transparency. And I believe in authenticity… but as I’m sure you’ll find out for yourself soon enough, living that statement is far from easy.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my business over this past decade is that I haven’t shown people enough of what’s going on behind the scenes. Actually, to be completely honest, I haven’t shown enough on the front end either. I’ve coached my clients, completed my projects, kept my head down, and worked in solitude most of the time. Sure, I was sitting in some beautiful places, but nobody knew that. I was working on some major things, but again, nobody knew that. Projects have come and gone. Collaborations have been few and far in between, and though I’ve learned plenty from it all, I haven’t shared any of those takeaways with the outside world.
Transparency was one of my biggest a-ha moments from completing my Q4 planning in 2022, and that’s why I’m so excited now. This has been a long time coming. The goal? To stop telling, and start showing. I want to let people see what I do and how I do it rather than just “giving advice.” It’s time to lead by example. I know my methods work because I’m good at what I do, but it’s hard to convince people of that when you don’t let them see it work. Lesson learned.
Growth, transparency, and authenticity are three key pieces to remember in all situations – whether business or personal – because that’s what creates a connection. But it’s scary to let people in. You have to be ready for it. In the past, I don’t know that I was. I needed to grow into the person I am today first, and that was a healing process that I needed to complete on all my own. My own hero’s journey, if you will. I am ready now, so we’re finally doing this.
Welcome to my world. Enjoy the visit.
October of 2023 was my first month back in office full-time, after having spent the last 5 months working only part-time from the road. May to September of this year were spent nomadically (mostly backpacking through Europe), and I had decided to be really present for my daughter’s benefit. As such, I worked no more than a few hours per week, and only did the bare minimum. My systems did the rest. It was by far the right decision, but it also made me really hungry for more, so I was excited to settle back into my normal routine.
Finally being back home in office gave me a surge of new energy, which was both good and bad. The good feelings were strong, so I was very productive when I worked. I felt incredibly re-energized and motivated. One the other hand, I think over-compensation got the best of me. I had missed my work so much while away that I accepted two extra client projects. Half-way through the month, I noticed that I was a bit more stretched than usual. Not to the point where it was unmanageable, but the discomfort was noticeable. Uh-oh.
Being over-committed was a feeling I hadn’t experienced for a while, so it shook me a bit. I have worked so hard at having a spacious and balanced calendar, and I don’t ever want to go back to feeling stressed, so this conundrum forced me to re-evaluate how to prioritize my time. I thought long and hard about what type of projects (and how many) I actually want to take on, and I came to the conclusion that my instinct has been right all along. I’m at my best when I serve the world through content creation. That is where my attention and focus should be. Wondering if I would have to push off this report until the new year was the push I needed to re-work my calendar for the remainder of the year (+ going into 2024). Writing is a big part of who I am and how I express myself, so I have to make time for it. BIG Distraction averted.
Close calls have a way of waking you up, don’t they?
In October, I completed a total of 7 projects. Two were for private clients, and five were for my business in general.
The goal I set for 2023 was to complete 3 business projects per month (for a total of 36 per year), so we can check that box off. Done. During most months, I have a few projects at different stages, but closing out projects efficiently is a skill that’s very important to me (“finish what you start,” remember?) and three is a good round number to keep things moving forward. Having this in mind – at all times – reminds me to break down projects enough so I can avoid larger multi-layered projects. Even though I can manage larger projects just fine, I really enjoy the momentum from closing out smaller projects faster. You can feel the wind in your sails differently.
Having smaller projects, each with a narrower scope, allows me to focus on completing them thoroughly and accurately. And since a project is really meant to improve an area of operations in your life (or set up a new one), they must happen IN ADDITION to what you already have to maintain. Everything else in your life that exists within a system has to run in spite of your new projects, and that’s where so many people drop the ball. They do new stuff, and forget about the other “ongoing” stuff.
In my courses, I always talk about spending most of your time maintaining your current systems, and only 20-30% on the “new stuff.“ When I say that, many project management rookies gasp… because they realize they’re doing the exact opposite. It’s not unusual. In fact, it’s probably the biggest hurdle that stands in between you and consistency, and to fix that, we have to flip the script. When you have a clear and accurate view of the status quo, it’s easy to course correct and feel confident in your prioritizations.
My favorite and most rewarding project this past month was setting up the systems for this productivity report in Notion (our Digital Information Hub). I did that so I’d be able to maintain them easily going forward. It was so much fun, and gave me such good ROI on my time investment. Now I’m super excited about my overall content strategy because it’ll develop organically from here on out.
The goal I set for 2023 was to work about 30 hours per week. In 2024, that goal will likely be 20 hours, but I didn’t think that was appropriate this year. I was launching three new courses and building out the systems for them at the same time, so I needed the extra time up front. If you’re in content creation, you know just how much work goes into a launch. I thought 30 hours per week would be a nice compromise.
Due to my travel schedule this year, I also knew that work wouldn’t be as evenly spread out as it normally is; 5 months on the road would mean less effort then, but that would also translate to more work in the beginning and at the end of the year. That is also exactly what happened. Some weeks I worked more, and some weeks, I worked a lot less.
During October, I worked a total of 80 hours and 45 minutes, which (over 4 weeks) equals about 20 hours per week. This came in way under target, which surprised me. It didn’t feel like 20 hours; it felt a lot heavier. As previously mentioned, I took on two extra projects for clients, and I think that’s what did me in. I may not have spent a ridiculous amount of time on those projects, but I felt very distracted, and that was enough of a red flag. Goes to show that it’s not always just your time you need to watch over.
When reviewing the pie chart of how I spent my time, it’s easy to spot why I felt distracted. My larger ongoing client project (which will last through January) took up about 7.5% of my time (green). The two other extra projects I accepted ended up dominating my schedule, accounting for about 15% (green) and 13.5% (blue) respectively. That’s time I usually spend elsewhere.
Besides that, administrative work, customer service and marketing (12.5% each) were the biggest time entries. That’s consistent with my chosen business model and overall strategy, so no worries there. It’s as it should be. It will be interesting to keep monitoring this over the next few months to see what shifts though, as I spend more and more time marketing and less time on client work. Stay tuned.
As a Certified Photo Organizer, I deal with a lot of photos and memorabilia. You know, the stuff that actually matters. But I’ve noticed one big thing, and that is that many pros find it hard to prioritize their own collections. No matter what profession you look at, that seems to be a trend. “The shoemaker’s children have no shoes,” as they say. I refuse to be that person.
This entrepreneurial dilemma goes back to the whole 80/20 rule and making sure that you actually have helpful systems set up for yourself (not just your clients). The new, more transparent Caroline wants to showcase that it’s possible to get your own stuff done too – because it is. You just have to treat yourself the same way you would treat a client. With integrity, pride, and a standard to be maintained.
I’ve made a commitment to myself and my daughter to not leave my future legacy blank, so the goal I have set is to organize 100% of the photos that I keep every month. That’s the same as in previous years. I love being proactive about this, so that my stories are told and passed on. Keeping that promise to myself adheres with my approach towards Swedish Death Cleaning, and it lets me relate to my students. It’s a win-win.
In October, I took 646 photos, and I deleted 389 of them. I got rid of all temporary snaps, accidental clicks, screenshots, and anything else that didn’t belong in my permanent collection first. Then, I culled the remainder twice. My net gain was 257 new photos. The majority of them (197, to be exact) were from a business photoshoot where I needed a lot of variety, so I decided to keep quite a few. I was able to organize all of my photos just fine using the PRO method that I teach in DPO PRO: The Ultimate Photo Organizing Masterclass, and I was even able to go back and treat a few scanned heritage photos to my PBO method.
I manage my photos in Lightroom Classic, and all of my business photos and personal photos are stored together. It’s my Digital Photo Hub. You can learn more about my workflow in our free DPO Flow workshop. My brand is a personal one, so it would be too difficult to try and separate my personal photos from my business photos. They go hand-in-hand, so one collection makes a lot more sense. That being said, I do have a good controlled keyword vocabulary along with a whole bunch of Smart Collections to stay organized and keep my workflow smooth. I’ve had pretty much the same system in effect since I worked as a photographer back in the early 2000s (sample portfolio here), but back then, I had to separate out client photos instead. Potato, poh-tah-to.
When you have a “desk” job, it’s really important to be mindful of how much you move. In the past, I’ve struggled with getting enough steps in per day, so for the past few years, this has been an area I’ve wanted to improve. I’ve put a lot of focus on sorting this out for myself, and this month was a big test for me. The goal I set for 2023 is to complete 5000 steps per day consistently, regardless of location, and what I really was aiming for was to first establish the habit, and then to supercharge it.
In my hometown, this was a no-brainer goal to meet. When in Sweden, I’m in a fairly rural area with very little traffic, fresh air, and lots of trails. Getting enough steps in is easy in that type of environment. While backpacking around Europe, it was also easy – almost too easy. We put away 20K steps per day without even realizing it. Walking was how we got around each town we went to, and even on the days we were traveling by train, we had enough exercise. Lugging our bags around everywhere (like up a gazillion flights of stairs in all the old buildings without elevators), added a significant amount of strength training to our days. 💪🏻
In our Chicago suburb, however, it’s much harder. They don’t make it easy for pedestrians. There are few sidewalks, few trails, and very few safe crosswalks in our neighborhood, so you have to be mindful of where you go. Looking at the stats, there is a stark difference between the amount of steps I take when in Europe compared to the US. This is obviously based on where I live too. When we rented our apartment in Forest Hills (New York), it was 5000 steps just to get to the subway stop. No problem there. It’s the lifestyle here that’s the challenge. We drive more than we walk, and the area I happen to live could do better. To meet my goal here, I have to be much more disciplined with myself, and make it a point to get out everyday ON PURPOSE. The earlier, the better.
In October, I took 123,660 measured steps, which on average is close to 4000 steps per day. On many days, I was able to cross 5000 easily, but then there was a rainy week where I didn’t get out as much. Other days were travel days, and I was stuck on long flights with little to no legroom. Then there were the times where I completely forgot to bring my phone with me (I use the Pacer app for tracking), so the data is a bit skewed on those days. Oh well. I have a bit of work to do in order to comfortably exceed this goal every day, but it’s also lightyears from where I was three years ago.
With any goal-setting, you want to identify the biggest obstacle in front of you. You want to know what you’re up against. The biggest challenge for me (by far) is the weather. Many months out of the year, Chicago is cold and wet, and I don’t like being cold and wet. It makes it THAT MUCH HARDER for me to stick to my walking routine.
To find a good solution, I’ve been pondering how I can circumnavigate the weather, and still stay active during the colder, rainier, and snowier months. I don’t want to move houses or drive to the gym every day, so what’s the plan? This is the type of problem solving where you have to really understand yourself, so you can be successful in your habit formation.
How can you work with yourself to make things easier, taking into account your preferences?
I do have a membership to Lifetime, for example. There’s even another local recreation center that has a lap track I could use, but I’m not going to go every day. And what if I’m snowed in? Sometimes it’s so cold that I don’t want to venture out at all. What will be my activity then? Hmmm. 🤔
I’ve come to the conclusion that we need a home gym area. Right now, we have scattered spots were we can do some yoga, stretch, etc., but I would like to consolidate all those spots into one purposeful area in our finished basement. Someplace that I can also go to practice breathing exercises and meditation. I think a home improvement project like that will leave me no excuse to skip. It’ll be interesting to see if that actually solves the problem or not. Stay tuned to find out if I go forward with this idea.
The goal I set for 2023 is to have at least 75% of our meals a month to be home-cooked, and for October, I managed about 72.5%. Close, but not all the way. What threw me off? Our travel days. We had several of them, so we had no choice but to eat out at those times. Can’t help that much, so I’ll have to be content with this result, and know that those hiccups will happen once in a while.
For reasons that I don’t wish to share publicly, I’ve had an aversion to kitchens for most of my life. Because of this, cooking was never something I enjoyed, and that is exactly why I have a goal around it. We also have very different taste buds and nutritional requirements in our household, so coming to an agreement on the menu is often difficult. As such, it’s simpler for us to use Grubhub, but I no longer want to overspend on meals. Most of our meals consist of organic vegan and/or ethnic food, so it can get costly to keep ordering out.
Breakfast is the most fun for me, and I enjoy experimenting with new combinations. We regularly have oatmeal, smoothies, and a variety of fresh fruits on hand. We all especially like Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Organic Rolled Oats with Ancient Grains & Seeds. Besides oats, it’s got amaranth, chia seeds, flax, and quinoa, so it’s really hearty. We have it with fruits and sometimes a little almond or cashew milk. We make our own nut milks in our Almond Cow, so we always have that on hand too. Even if we have to make it, it only takes about 3 minutes. That machine is one of the best things I’ve ever invested in, hands down.
My new strategy is to cook lunch and dinner in the morning along with breakfast. It gets the job done when I’m fresh and energized. Then, I can move on with the rest of the day knowing that it’s done, and we won’t have to scramble to come up with something interesting. My approach around this actually evolved from doing the same thing with my exercise schedule. I like to get it out of the way before I start working. Otherwise, the longer the day goes on, the more likely I am to fold. So far, that approach has worked out really well, and it’s all thanks to my newly updated schedule.
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 want to go deep rather than wide on my learning, so this seems like a good goal. If I go out running, I normally listen to music to keep me pumped, but if I go for longer walks, I usually have a new audiobook on hand. I love my Audible membership for this. Reading is fun, but it’s so convenient to listen, especially when you’re out and about.
Since I’m a visual learner, I do notice that I have to re-listen to a few highlights here and there to make them sink in. I used to use the Airr app to log takeaways, but it ended up being too sporadic and cumbersome. Nowadays, I just reflect on each section and if there’s a nugget of wisdom, I create a quick memo to myself in Notion. That works just as well.
This month, I listened to Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz. I picked it up because I’m in the same business of helping people with systems and operations. Cients refer to it once in a while, so I felt like I should know the contents. I expected it to be good, and it was, though perhaps just a little too broad for my taste.
My biggest takeaway was that we definitely need a complete overhaul in the current hustle culture. It was clear to me before, but this book cemented this fact with its stories. Michalowicz describes just how overworked he once was, and how many of his clients felt the same way. Don’t get me wrong – I have definitely felt the growing pains of running a business in combination with running a household, being a mother, and all that comes with it, but I wasn’t in the trenches for very long. I mean… sleeping under a table at the office? No, I’ve never done that. And I never plan to.
The Swede in me wants to take charge of this revolution. There have to be some boundaries somewhere. Luckily enough, I’ve always had a good support system to be able to avoid those types of situations, but it’s clear that not everyone is as lucky. We really need to move towards societal change here because the status quo does no one any good. How can you possibly be at your best under that kind of pressure? I wish more companies would come out of their scarcity approach and see that people do better work when they’re happy and well rested. Oh well. One can but dream.
I place a high value on personal connections. They often lead to great collaborations, and for that reason, I’ve set a goal of having 3 meaningful conversations per month. These chats don’t have to be about business at all. They can be about anything. It’s easy to get complacent and let too much time go by before you check in with a friend, and I’m trying hard to not be that person. This goal forces me to stay on top of my relationships and manage them actively.
In related news, I launched a fun networking effort this month called “FIKA with Caroline.“ It involves jumping on Zoom for 20 minutes with one of my email subscribers, just for fun. When you have thousands of people on your mailing list, but don’t necessarily know who they are, it can feel a little one-sided. This is a way where I can open a few select slots and get to know my followers. I got the idea from fellow content creator Mai-Kee Tsang, who has her own version of this going on.
Here we are celebrating the launch of my new program together:
My former client and current student Connie was the first one to take advantage of this liquid opportunity. We hadn’t spoked in quite a while, so it was nice to catch up.
Here’s we both are, showcasing our fine beverage choices:
Besides reminiscing with Connie, I had some other wonderful catch-ups this month too, including one with fellow Coach Ruth Cummings. The two of us realized that we may actually be in the same town in December, so we made tentative plans to try and figure out how to get together around that time.
I also had a chat with fellow digital organizing colleague (and honorary Swede) Christy Wright, and a few other amazing people who shall remain anonymous at this time. Goal achieved. Connecting better with my audience (while having a mandatory cup of tea) is always on the agenda, so I’m excited to see how this practice evolves over time.
Curious about what tea I had?
Scroll down a bit, and you’ll see the link to buy it + how to make it.
High-achieving entrepreneurs and creatives, myself included, are notoriously bad at celebrating success. We are hard on ourselves to begin with, and then the goal post always seems to be moving forward. Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten was to “stop and see just how far you’ve come” on a regular basis, which is why I now make it a point to pause often. It’s so easy to forget otherwise. Reflection has been such a meaningful practice for me throughout my life; so much so that it’s now a pillar of my program Mindful Monday Mapping. We simply can’t gloss over all our accomplishments without noticing the effort they took. Acknowledging it is massively helpful.
I’ve had a lot of support from colleagues and friends lately, but Claudine Chicheportiche deserves a special shoutout. This past month, I was fortunate enough to participate in the inaugural cohort of her course The Undeniable Laws of Winning, and it was fantastic. I spotted several leaks of energy that had previously gone unnoticed, and I’m now plugging those holes back up. Armed with some of those takeaways, I’m now set for a rock-solid 2024.
I’ll give many more shoutouts in future productivity reports, but October undeniably belongs to me. Doing the hard work for more than a decade is something I’m incredibly proud over, and I want to pause here and see how far I’ve come. It’s been a wonderful journey thus far, and it’s only getting better.
One of the most fun parts of reading income reports by my colleagues has been to learn what products, services, tools, and techniques they use and enjoy. It’s lets you discover new products, and gives you insight to why they’re fun. As such, I’ve decided to also make my own list of favorite things, just like Oprah. My goal is to show you what has made the most impact on my productivity over the past month, so that you may investigate if they’re a good fit for you as well.
Just one note though:
If you’re looking for a new biz hub, I do recommend that you use my 6P formula to make a good, solid decision on that. We don’t want a bunch of digital graveyards floating around online. If you need further help with setups and such, you can always join us in Creative Systems Architect.
Here’s my list of great things that made me more productive this month:
This tea is strong enough to brew twice, or to use for 2 cups of tea, so share with a friend (or go for seconds). Remember to use clean, filtered water, or you won't get the right results!
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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I'm Caroline, a.k.a. "The Swedish Organizer," and I'm here to help you finish what you start. Effortlessly.
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