It all started innocently enough…
As the fourth quarter began, so began the push to plan. All businesses review, revise, and plan for a New Year’s course to better success, right?
Well, if you don’t, you should. Even if you’re a business of one. Definitely.
But, getting back to planning, how do you start?
Well, if you’re anything like me, you have a list of things to work on, adding up all year. Always looking to improve, your lists and ideas are here, there, or everywhere. A plan is an apparent necessity!
So, now is a good time to gather and review all those notes! Not only is this a perfect chance to look at your big picture, but it’s also an opportunity to gain clarity, prioritize things, and set a fresh focus to move your business forward.
At least that’s what I was thinking, while rethinking my Social Media Marketing Strategy, for the New Year. But, of course, that only made me think more and more, and start doing research, too. One thing tumbled to another and another. Building.
To organize the multi-levels to plan strategically for additional SMM outreach, I put together this handy SMM Checklist you can check out now and use, too.
Spinning in Circles is Like Chasing Your Tail
Look, I’m pretty determined to do well as a content creator, strategist, marketer, and writer. Ideas are me. Multi projects surround me and make me excited to wake up every day. But.
Overwhelm rears its ugly head—and fast—and the whole point to getting organized and scheduled for a New Year of business success seems, well, daunting.
I realize the importance of taking steps to move forward. Productivity. Not just the planning but, the doing.
So does James Clear, as he illustrates here for you:
But if you really want to take a hard look at blocking your time and allocating your time resources, check out Joanna Wiebe’s letter to self I mentioned in my last post.
I love Trello for organizing but, admit I’m still always looking for ways to organize my Trello loving self even more. Kristi Hines shares her expertise, giving you an entire content management process using Trello, in this Social Media Examiner article.
And while organizing and planning are absolutely necessary to propel your business towards goals and objectives; it’s action—you know the productivity you make by staying in motion—that brings plans and schedules to life.
Without action, goals are useless, and plans are dreams. Your valuable time, thoughtfully allocated or not, becomes lost. Wasted.
The thing is, if you’re thinking about your future business plans, priorities, and best operations and scheduling possibilities, you’re already ahead of things.
If you want to create your best results to reflect your preferences and make the highest use of your valuable time, then you understand that success doesn’t just happen by osmosis.
Business success takes work. It takes a plan. And a way to produce that plan and make it a reality.
Strategy to Execute
Sometimes planning is the easy part, and; executing, not so much.
So I set out in earnest to take planning for Write Mix for Business (and myself) seriously for the New Year. As you know, this means documenting.
Yep, writing it down. Setting goals and KPI’s. Reviewing the big picture and fine details, alike. Measuring and analyzing.
Big work. Bigger than I thought. Luckily I discovered a workbook.
I need a workbook!
I think as I dig into planning, “this documented strategy, editorial scheduling, social media marketing upgrade, and content plan developing stuff, really is work.” Disclosure: it doesn’t feel like work for clients but, for my site and biz, ugh!!
Anyway, Leonie shows up, big time, just in time. Leonie Dawson’s Shining Year workbooks and planners are something unique, like me. They’re fun, colorful, and creative, too.
But, don’t mistake Leonie’s fun spin in completing the workbook as taking away any tiny piece of the serious business content she maps out to explore and then make it uniquely yours.
Like Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute insists on the benefits of a documented strategy. Leonie opens her workbooks by illustrating her agreement:
But Leonie takes things further, suggesting that writing down goals isn’t enough.
What? Everybody else says written strategies work best. Yep. It’s true, but I agree with Leonie, there IS more to it than just writing it down.
Look Back Before You Look Ahead
Start with a review. List where you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to be. This helps give you clarity, measure progress, and offers cues for where you excel or lag behind.
For me, the suggestion to review before planning and scheduling forward was enlightening. For one thing, it turns out; I’m not a total loser:)
Forcing myself to review, starting with things done well, was completely shocking.
Wow. I’ve made some big milestones in moving my business forward, after all.
I guess sometimes we are so busy working, we miss the details of our progress. And, that’s why this review thing turned positive, and quickly.
Writing out all year’s accomplishments, shining moments, and goals reached, gave me a little boost in spirits. I’ve been busy.
Looking at social metrics, site metrics, and visitor demographic metrics, year-to-year, was another insightful enlightenment.
For example, the highest interests of the bulk of my visitors, male and female, are business and marketing. Perfect. That’s been the main direction and cornerstone content of this blog. Intent and audience are finding each other. Hooray!
Then I received my yearly “report card” from Grammarly, and I’m not sure what the standard is for writing and content creators, but it seems like nearly two million words is a lot of writing!
Take a look:
Whew, good thing I love words!
I don’t think I checked all my work on Grammarly but, I do think this was my first full year of using the app for improving writing. Still, it seems like a lot of writing to me, I’m just saying…
Here’s more of what Grammarly had to say:
Thanks for making my day, Grammarly. I guess I have been doing something. And is it just me, cause, it feels like 0.04% mistakes percentage is pretty smoking awesome. But, who knows? I know I’ve checked a lot of crappy first drafts on there so, I’m sure surprised:)
Oh, and from Medium, I got an end-of-year “Report Card” too, which is fascinating because I just started on there. Besides 634 Followers, it gave me these stats: 577 minutes reading; 167 stories read; 11 recommendations…
The point I’m making is, seeing some actual stats gives you a little clearer picture, numerically, to measure what you’ve been up to.
And maybe, helps put a little skip in your step on your way to your new shining year! Yep.
My social media progress gave a little lift, too, but I’ve certainly been working hard on that front to make it so.
I’ll share more about my social enlightenment later, but for now, I invite you to connect with me, if you haven’t already.
I’m pushing my LinkedIn channel, starting this year, for the first time!
Anyway—the truth is, realizing I was ready to level up and do Social Media Marketing, not just experiment like I’ve been, was a biggie big catalyst for me to do more planning.
I began to see and understand how intricate and essential an updated strategy is, and needs to be.
But, beyond a written strategy, a plan of action to go with it is the change agent I see as making this approach different and set up for gaining better traction.
Get Your Action On and Plan to Wear it Daily
Do you get the main thing I’m saying? Planning and strategy are necessary and good but, without execution through a step-by-step plan of action, you simply won’t get to where you want to go.
But, breaking things down to determine the steps to complete an action to complete a goal or to achieve a result means digging even deeper. Whew.
Seriously, by December 1st my head was spinning.
Because I’m trying to do my best to conscientiously put together a strategy that makes sense for my business. And, this plan needs to find traction. Tall order.
The year hadn’t even ended, and I was feeling tired and overwhelmed. Will I ever move to where I want to be? Is it even possible?
Well, I’m no slacker, so I kept plugging away. Researching, checklists, wishlists, and more. Then, one day my Leonie Biz Workbook arrived, and my spirits began to lift.
The message as soon as it arrived was, why not make planning and strategy, action plans and to-do lists, fun? My other work always is.
Here’s Leonie’s take on how she uses her workbook,
They are the love letter from my highest self to get me through the year ahead, birthing my dreams, staying the course, making my life my own…”~Leonie Dawson
Heck, it was as early as November when HennekeD of Enchanting Marketing published this post reminding me of the fun and creativity in what I’m so blessed and lucky to be doing.
In December when her To-Do List for 2017 (which is truly the best one I’ve seen) came out, I knew that fun and work have always mixed for me!
I don’t think she’ll mind me sharing it again, (and I mean AGAIN) so here you go:
A Plan in a Plan
It’s like kismet for the last couple months, because one after another, my favs (and inspirations along my writing journey) are all endorsing my “work hard but make it fun” motif, and help add to it, too!
I begin chiseling out plans of every size and shape. Color-filled, yes. Serious, absolutely.
The thing is, when I started to get my Workbook Planners from Leonie going—by looking through them and thinking about things she’s asking you to do—a lightbulb gleamed brightly in my head! (The shining part hit me, I guess.)
Because I understood, that by taking time and making an effort to honestly review, analyze, face, consider, and strategize in the right way, success can happen. And, this reviewing and contemplating part makes all the difference.
I finally hit on one big factor to ignite work as I move forward and for making an updated business plan and strategy. It’s sort of a big cumulative thing like a funnel cloud blowing and gathering but, it’s also an attitude of action-taking and breaking down goals to the smallest details and steps needed to get desired results.
Prioritizing and rethinking what’s important to get you where you need to may mean a mindset shift. Giving yourself more “scheduled” approaches in your thinking, like blocking project times, adopting methods to practice, adjust, and level up, are all part of the process.
A System in Your Plan
If you’re not into the colorful hippie style I’m working with for plan making, try John Lee Dumas’ Mastery Journal, which touts these features:
(Note: exactly some of the points I’ve hit on, too, only with less color and a more sophisticated—dare I say, less fun, styling.)
Morning routine: The Mastery Journal will get your day off to the right start.
Four daily sessions: Timed sessions where you have ONE focus.
Daily self-evaluation: Evaluating your strengths & weaknesses is critical to your success.
10-day recaps: Amplify what’s working, adjust what’s not, and establish your 10-day productivity and discipline scores.
Win tomorrow today: End each day knowing how you are going to WIN tomorrow.
Daily affirmations: Positive mindset is KEY.
Inspiring Quotes: Hand-picked quotes from JLD to inspire you daily.
and SO much more…
Besides the lovely charity element I believe is part of trying JLD’s productivity and entrepreneur’s fire-starting planner, he’s all about the exact trio I’m talking about!
Use these three things to make all the difference in the world, going forward:
Part of what discipline means in my new big picture strategic planning approach, is possibly THE most important component of all.
Good. Because the turning point is a factor we so quickly forget. This one thing changes the game from a hope and pray scenario to one of guaranteeing results…
Remember this part: Check Your Progress!!
Why? Well, because keeping an eye on your progress means keeping an eye on your goals and objectives.
Keeping an eye on progress allows you to fix problems as they happen instead of later, make adjustments for improvements as you go, and keep your focus on what’s important, and what you still need to do.
It gives you a keener awareness of all the moving parts to know where you actually stand, so you’re not guessing. And, keeps you on track and moving forward, overall.
Checking progress and tracking actions helps with accountability. When you remain accountable, even to yourself, you’ll see better results.
If you’re not checking off actions and staying accountable, you’re more likely to lose your way and not accomplish what you want in your business.
Here’s the thing. Feeling overwhelmed again? Pressure building, instead of disappearing as we talk “planning?” Yep. I’m with you.
So, I came up with a little twist on things to make me want to produce the results I need and be sure those action steps are part of the process.
Take a Step Back
For one thing, I regressed. Yep. My best friend, Carole Robinson, (talented photographer for my home page pics and other work) was a help in this diversion because she sent me colored pencils and a book to color before Christmas. Fun. Surprise. Paper and pencil and NO keyboard. (You like my mermaid at the top of this post?)
Then I remembered I like writing things down. Do I remember how to write with a pen? I began filling out and reviewing my workbook. Making lists. Checking things off. With paper! Oh, my goodness. Paper feels like a good thing. It sinks in my head as I go.
Hey, maybe paper IS the real killer app as this BBC story points out and I see some parallels with myself as I read.
So, as I keep reading, writing, listening, and learning as I go, you’ll see more inspiring ideas from others I’ve incorporated into my take and working Plan of Action. Feel free to borrow ideas and make them your own, too.
Inspiration grows, you see, so in working with my strategy and an action attack for business and personal goals, you’ll see touches from others, sparking my workflow.
Let Inspiration Grow
If you need a spark, particularly for fresh ideas, a new spin, or a glittering take on creative work, or just need a flicker to light the way to fun in work, check this out by everybody’s favorite biz writer coach, the enchanting Henneke.
How I missed this, I’ll never know, but funny I happen across it right at a time that’s simply perfect.
Creativity within structure—my Henneke theme—makes me more excited and set for making this a winning year. Sharon Hurley Hall and Sonia Simone will factor in, too, you’ll soon see.
Ready for an inspiring, fun, deadly serious, business strategy?
New Twist for Productivity Mixed with Creativity
Flip your plan by instituting a way to continually and consistently practice, contemplate, and improve your craft as part of your new action steps.
For example, as a content creator, this may mean practicing writing or drawing skills, or maybe it’s business and marketing you need to continue to develop, or software, or social media skills, or whatever it is…
You want to level up. Not just do but, do better, instead.
Alter my suggestions to fit any particular business or your personal style but, mainly I’m attempting to incorporate a little fun and creativity into a solid business strategy.
My idea is to create a useful way to get things done and keep ideas flowing while staying accountable and kicking business butt this year!
Focus and deep work are at the core of everything for me this year.
Yet, these three components, to get it done, throw fun smack in the middle of my action plans and you can do the same.
Here are my new action plans for making progress, building useful ideas, inspiring creativity, and practicing fun in results inspired work:
- Reading Scrapbook 2017
- Poetry Playbook
- Ideas Building Library
Reading Scrapbook 2017
I keep track of my fiction reading but, what about nonfiction and business reading? Hmm. Why not track that reading, too?
Come to think of it, why not write or “track” a little more, no matter what the read? What if using this technique enhances my work in a bunch of ways?
For starters, it may make anything read more memorable by making you think about it afterward to plop down some quick notes, or main theme, for example.
You’ll practice: documenting, writing, thinking and more, while creating a scrapbook filled with possible points of inspiration you can refer back to anytime.
Start with the facts:
*Notes & Doodles
*Reviews or Overview of Work
Main Idea: To keep a running list of titles read while adding personal touches.
How: Creativity and writing exercise to stretch imagination and record impressions from works read as you go.
Why: To keep a running record of reading, first. Which I do anyway, but here’s the twist.
Not only will I keep track of the pile of books I read (which I mainly do so I don’t start reading the same thing over again, then realize I already read it) but, I’ll include business books now, too. And truthfully, I think this will help remind me of at least the main gist of even the fiction I read.
Hint: Maybe something from the business reads will show up on my site in 2017. Hmmmmm.
Even better, I plan to add a short comment, story synopsis, or review for each book. This will be a great reminder for what I liked or not, or learned, loved or hated, even.
Or maybe I’ll jot down a favorite quote or just say something I think about after experiencing the book. Hmm. Guess we’ll see how this goes.
The very best part of this idea, which okay, I totally outright stole from Leonie Dawson, is the journey this will take me on over the year.
Want to try it?
It also fits perfectly with Sonia Simone’s challenge of committing to regular exercise. Exercise, that is, for combining your creative brain with productivity and structure to strengthen your content creation skills and abilities, consistently.
I love adding a reading component to this tactic! It fits perfectly with the idea of strengthening your writing and creative content by stretching yourself, combining reading/research, creative flow, and regular writing practice.
You can do this just for yourself.
As Sonia reminds, “…to sharpen your skills and perfect your craft, schedule some time to play with words.”
At the end of the year, depending on how much and what kind of reading you do, your Reading Scrapbook may showcase an interesting and exciting story.
Certainly, it will reflect you in some ways. And maybe, it will be filled with ideas and inspiration you never imagined. A treasure.
Read. Write. Create.
Therefore, it looks like generating a Reading Scrapbook for 2017, whether it’s just for me or I share any of it, is one stress-free method to try out. And maybe, help forward my passion and determination to create compelling content and grow my freelance writing business in the coming year.
Important Note: Make it fun!
Have you thought of incorporating some stress-free, creative “exercises” within your strategic planning framework?
I’ve been a poet since 2nd grade. Not kidding. I remember the exact poem if you want to hear it:
Ice is nice
And has no mice
To crawl about
The floor so white
And in the night
The ice stays white
Ice is always nice
I was big time into ice skating, what can I say? I used to have dreams all the time (as a child) of ice skating everywhere I went. Like down the halls at school, or at the Mall, or instead of walking home from school!
I’ve written a lot of poems over a lot of years, sometimes spitting them out day after day after day, with other years of none. Hmmm.
I’ve written a lot of them for people and for occasions.
I’m an upbeat person. Glass is at least half full, nowhere-to-go-but-up kind of girl but, when I think about it, some poetry writing came from somewhere deeply sad, deeply deep.
Still, a release of heartache dressed in creativity feels good, somehow. Some of the outcomes may be some of the best work. Yep.
In an odd way, my poems—a whole group of little ditties I did—are the catalyst leading me to write, professionally.
Poems are My Favorite Smorgasbord of Words
I was having a LOT of fun and doing a LOT of playing with words when I first got an iPad—as a HUGE unexpected gift!
Everything tumbled from there! A funny story, maybe I’ll tell someday, but back to now. (Hey wait, did I just figure out an iPad is what started my writing career?)
See, the thing is, I like poetry and actually, I’ve always enjoyed writing it. In many forms, too.
I was always so sure, but especially after I saw Adam Sandler’s movie, Mr. Deeds, I’d write for Hallmark someday. Hey, maybe I still will:) You never know, and maybe never say never works sometimes.
I’m not surprised (like many seem to be) Bob Dylan was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature because songwriters in my book are most certainly poets, lyricists, and writers. One of my all-time favorite Dylan lines from The Wedding Song is, ” I love you more than blood…” Eminem is one of my favorite word guys; Dear Stan is one intense story he weaves into a rap storm, as one example to prove what I’m saying.
I’ve argued many times with peeps that the first rappers are Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.
Just take a listen to Coyote by Joni, if you don’t believe me.
Dylan inspired me as a young girl to write songs. To spit it. Uh, back then it was to improvise with music. I was good at it! Honest.
See, I love words!!! I may have also wanted to be a songwriter, someday. Now that I think about it, I suddenly remember this.
So, is it time to remember and think about things that inspire you as you go about your year, too?
A Poem a Day
First and foremost, open your mind to creativity in any way you can.
It knocked me over when I realized, I haven’t written a poem in over two years. What am I thinking? Poetry is my favorite word smorgasbord of all!
So “Word Up” everybody, it’s time to splash around in words.
Fun, right? No pressure in playing with words. Here’s a couple more out of my growing collection to help you get in the mood:
Creating poems and twisting words around is super fun. But, until Sharon Hurley Hall (one of my favorite writers, and person) talks about writing poetry in a recent podcast with Jennifer Mattern, I completely forgot how much I truly like writing poetry.
I forgot how much fun it is to play with words and phrases. To write about anything at all as the moment strikes.
Then, copyblogger’s beloved Sonia Simone offers in her recent post, a readers writing challenge—and well, that got me thinking even more. And here we are.
Another point? Some of the best work comes from exercises outside of work. Taking the pressure off of yourself and enjoying your world makes for the most extraordinary and successful work and ideas you can ever imagine.
Ideas Building Library
If you read my blog and posts I write elsewhere, you probably know I am big on looking to folks who I admire, have smarts, and offer lots of goodies I can learn from. So again, for this brilliant idea, I have to offer a hat tip to Pamela Wilson because once again in this post, I am out and out stealing this tip from someone else. More specifically, from Pamela’s brand new book Master Content Marketing, but I’ve only read the first few chapters, so far.
I think Pamela is cool with me sharing this idea and putting it to use before I even get through the book. She’s taught me so much about content marketing over the past year as an “Authority” member while at Rainmaker Digital, already. Also, putting things from the book into action is what it’s all about and, just like with Ann Handley’s book, I find myself applying things as I go.
So, here’s the spin. Collecting ideas and jotting down short blurbs for posts and phrases to use in writing is an everyday thing. If you’re like me, you are constantly clipping quotes, saving URL’s for references, and brainstorming ideas like there’s no tomorrow. This applies to listing business agendas and operations tweaks or marketing ideas as well.
See, having a million ideas is terrific but, finding and using those gems is often a whole other trick. I swear I learn a new thing about using even files and folders better to get my mass of information under control, day by day. But, Pamela makes it so simple.
Organize By Pillar
Instead of using tags by the hundreds or filing topics by the dozens, start by using your broadest topics and organize down from there. So, for my purposes as an example, the seven main categories for my site, as follows, will be my broad (and main) labels for collections of subject matter:
You can organize this in whatever way is comfortable for you, from Trello on your computer or iPad, to sectioned loose leaf folders or a big board sticky note system if you like the paper attributes talked about earlier.
Spreadsheets work well if that’s a comfort zone for you.
Whatever system you pick, the beauty is in concentrating on key topics and keeping ideas and research easily accessible to mix and match and use at your whim. The constant availability of your ideas and data makes this system more likely to get active use, along with offering a way to keep going back to, and building on, an idea until it is ready to come to fruition.
I haven’t decided on the tool or exact way I’m going to organize this effort yet for Write Mix for Business. But, I’ve been testing and experimenting with a new app, Airstory, that just may fit the bill for this new method best. I’ll be sure to tell you more about this NEW content tool and the many special features it offers, soon!
I’m taking a little extra time introducing this last part of my shiny year plan with Pamela’s easy solution to build content assets for my site but, with reason.
Since I’m currently instituting new social media strategies, (did you grab your Checklist at the top of the post?) developing editorial calendars including social and email marketing schedules, and 100 other things, I want to take the extra time and integrate everything, meaningfully.
I’m well on my way. How’re your strategies and plans for a year of sparkle and pizzazz shaping up? Feel free to comment, and thanks:)
Title Visual: Drawing by LeonieDawson.com, Color Penciling by Sue-Ann:)