To Be Successful, Be an Expert

Recently I read an Etsy Quit Your Day Job article about a woman who decided not to return to her costuming job after maternity leave, first working as a child care provider and eventually finding herself on Etsy where a sewing hobby turned into a successful creative business. One sentence stood out to me: “On the job, she honed her sewing skills and knowledge of fashion history.”

It does take determination, deliberation, guts, motivation, whatever you want to call it, to create a successful business. But what we talk less about is that it takes knowledge and expertise, and to a greater depth than I think most people realize.

The clearest example is in fiction writing. A fiction writer needs to not only be good with words, have a large vocabulary, etc., but also needs to be at least conversant in whatever subject, place, or time period they write about. At the very least they should read up on Wikipedia about horses, at most they have done enough research to write a thesis on peasant life in medieval England. The finished work is an intersection of knowledge, where parts combine to create a greater whole.

Another example was in a film I watched about smart business practices. In trying to design a new medical bandage, a team was assembled with various backgrounds – not just the doctors who needed the new bandage, not just the industry leaders whose businesses created similar bandages, but also the less-obvious choices such as a makeup artist who was experimenting with new forms of applying latex to create face prosthetics. The completely different background but same kind of goal gave a completely fresh perspective to the product idea and led to some interesting possibilities.

That’s where we polyentrepreneurs are ahead of the pack. By refusing to settle down to any one industry, medium, hobby, or interest, we have the potential to combine knowledge and expertise across disciplines to produce products no one else could dream of.

Working Music

I have different moods on different days/hours and usually need music to match. Here are the top three artists/YouTube channels I usually cycle through.

Lindsey Stirling: Perfect for when lyrics would be distracting (though a few of her videos do have lyrics), Lindsey’s violin playing and interesting combinations of styles of music are a great, upbeat, creative-encouraging background music. The only drawback is that I frequently find myself pausing my work to watch her beautiful music videos. Check out Elements or Roundtable Rival. Lindsey herself is a great example of a woman determined to create her own career with the diverse talents and interests she has.

Postmodern Jukebox: I can’t get enough of the new twists on and old-fashioned remakes of current, popular songs, “Royals” and “Burn” being two particular favorites. Many of the songs are upbeat but they also have slower ones for a more contemplative mood.

Mika: This man is just so delightfully strange. Another case where I have trouble not watching the music videos; Blame it on the Girls is perhaps my favorite overall song and Underwater is a good, lower-mood choice.

Silence: Sometimes there’s really nothing better than quiet.

What do you like to listen to while you work?

Productivity Tip: Don’t Fall Under the Computer’s Spell

I’m sure it’s happened to everyone: you sit down at the computer, full of determination to finish a specific project but wanting to check on Facebook first. Two hours later you’re still on the internet and have lost the will to do much of anything.

This happens to me every day, sometimes multiple times. It turns out that for me the computer is not only a time-waster (in addition to being an excellent tool, of course) but is also a “downer,” something that can suck away my willpower within minutes and ensure that I get nothing done for hours or even days at a time.

The problem is that I also need my computer – about 90% of my homework and business work require it, and most of what doesn’t I’ll spend in front of the screen anyway (watching Netflix while making jewelry, for example). Your percentage may not be as high as mine, but I’m sure you face the same dilemma: how do we take advantage of the wonderful tool technology can be without allowing hours and days to be sucked away unproductively?

  • Open a work program/site first, saving your Facebook and Pinterest and what have you for after you’ve gotten in a good hour or so of work (you’ll be much more likely to return to work!)
  • If you don’t need it, turn the internet off.
  • Have a clear to-do list of simple but important tasks and keep after yourself to keep crossing things off (I love using HabitRPG )
  • Get up every hour or so to stretch
  • Play music that inspires (but doesn’t distract)

How do you keep yourself on task when the computer beckons?

Productivity Tip: Is This the Best Use of My Time?

Productivity for Polyentrepreneurs: is this the best use of my time?

Walking on the beach is always the best use of my time. Now if only there was a beach nearby…

Polyentrepreneurs don’t just have full plates; they have plates piled high enough that others around them shake their heads while giving an appreciative (or disappointed) “daaaaaaaaaaaang.” And while we wouldn’t have it any other way – most of us can only be productive if we’re working on five projects at once – it can be a bit of a struggle to keep up with everything.

One of the best tools I have to keep the plate from spilling all over the floor is a simple question: “Is this the best use of my time?”

I try to ask myself this throughout my day.

“Is scrolling through Facebook again the best use of my time?”

“Is flipping through the newspaper trying to interest myself in articles I didn’t read the first time the best use of my time?”

“Is continuing to practice this song that is frustrating me the best use of my time?”

Note that this question doesn’t just apply to obvious time-wasters; it also applies to work being done in the wrong order or with the wrong mood. Also, realize that “best use of my time” doesn’t always have to mean “work;” when you’re frustrated by a project or at the end of a long day sometimes watching TV or playing computer games really is the best thing for you to do.

For the next couple of days, try asking yourself “is this the best use of my time?” as frequently as you remember to. Write the question on a note near your computer, put it on your to-do list, even set alarms on your phone to remind yourself. If the answer is “yes,” then good job! If the answer is “no,” take immediate steps to turn the answer into a yes – switch projects, close the internet window, or go take a walk.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Things Every Polyentreprenur Needs to Thrive: Challenges

See the full list of needs here.

LimeLanePhotography_backtoschool_960px

This is my first week back at university after a long and sometimes busy but sometimes incredibly laid-back summer. I made so many plans for business things to do in the summer, but most of them never happened (though, to be fair, a huge rush order did happen so it’s not all a wash). The week before going back to school I started panicking about how I was going to have time for everything – how could I possibly keep the business running while also participating fully in my time-intensive major? – but now that school has actually arrived I’ve just been strongly reminded of how much I thrive with challenges.

Challenges to time.

Many was the summer day where I spent the entire day in front of the computer while my boyfriend was at work. I was ostensibly working too, but on most days I saw a little bit more of Facebook, Cracked, and computer games than I did of my Etsy shop, blog, or bracelet supplies. I would even wander mindlessly from website to website looking for something interesting rather than get to work. But now that I’m in class several hours a day and need at least 2-3 more hours a day for practice and homework, it’s like the whole vast internet has nothing to interest me. With a full plate and to-do list, I kick into high gear. There’s not a moment to waste. And when I go to bed, instead of being disgruntled about how little I got done and waking up already stressed and depressed, I go to bed satisfied and wake up fired up for a new, packed day.

Don’t be afraid of a busy schedule. As long as you’re dealing with your days head-on rather than hiding in overwhelmed shame, it’s likely you will not only get through it but become excited about all that you’re getting done.

Challenges to talents.

I really struggled in my choir class last year. One of the reasons for this was because I was among the more advanced singers. I just wasn’t being challenged. This not only made me a little annoyed with my fellow singers but also made had me dreading the next several semesters – with nothing to reach for, no growth, I wasn’t invigorated and therefore choir became a chore I had to get through to get a degree. However, this year I’ve been accepted into the university’s top choir. So far we’ve only had one rehearsal, and an unusual one at that (it was actually the callback) but I have already shed my frustration and anger in joy at how much more alive I feel in this class. Standing in the room as we all sang together nearly brought tears to my eyes, and I have difficult pieces, multiple concerts, and – so exciting! – a trip to Spain to look forward to.

Don’t let yourself plateau; it’ll breed frustration and unhappiness that will seep into other areas of your life. Find ways to challenge yourself, to learn and to grow; keep yourself on your toes and you’ll find yourself looking forward to your days.

Challenges to self.

I have a tendency to be dependent. Part of this is because I’ve had to be; I’ve been working through some mental issues over the past couple of years that have required the help of a very patient boyfriend, some wonderful understanding friends, and on two occasions professional help. But yesterday, as I prepared for the choir callbacks, I was alone – my boyfriend graduated last year so wasn’t on campus, I haven’t yet made friends in my major, and my sister doesn’t have a phone right now – and began to panic. Normally when I have a panic attack I run to my boyfriend, and while he does a wonderful job of helping me get through them I always go through a small pity-party as the attack winds down because, yet again, I’ve had to get help from someone else instead of being strong on my own. But as I pulled out my phone to text him, the thought occurred to me – this has happened before. I know what to do. So instead of texting I put on a guided breathing app, and ten minutes later I was fine. The realization that I had taken care of myself was nearly overwhelming (in a good way) and I spent the rest of the day with a boost in confidence and the knowledge that I really am a strong, independent woman.

Getting help from others is great and at times even necessary, but don’t let it cripple you. You can only blossom if you’re the one driving this thing. Make your own decisions, trust your own intuition, and realize just how amazing you are.

 

How to Care for Your Physical Health when Your Plate is Full

1. Eat right. When you go grocery shopping, pick up your favorite fruits and vegetables – stick to ones in season and/or on sale to save money (frozen fruit also works well if you’re a smoothie person). Spend half an hour cutting them up when you get home, and you’ll have healthy snacks and sides for the whole week! When I’m at my best I’m eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables by lunch, and my body can feel the difference.

How to Care for Your Physical Health when Your Plate is Full

2. Drink lots of water. One of the reasons I hate running errands is because I inevitably get dehydrated, which means I get tired, cranky, and don’t want to do anything for the rest of the day! Try to keep a water bottle with you at all times, or at least a full cup next to you if you work at a desk.

3. Take time to exercise. I personally love going to the gym, but not everyone has the time or money – or the inclination. There are lots of ways you can exercise more quickly and cheaply, such as taking walks or doing exercises in your room before bed. I also try to get up every hour or two to do some yoga for a few minutes, which helps me stay focused and alert throughout the day.

4. Get as much sleep as you can. Hopefully you’re getting at least 7.5-8 hours a night; much less than that will start to take a serious toll on you. It can be hard to combat the idea that you need those extra hours, but a you with less sleep is a you with less energy, less focus, and less capacity to work to your full potential. Also, paying attention to the three points above (diet, hydration, and exercise) will help make what sleep you do get more restful.

5. Set aside one day a week, or at the very least half a day, where you do no work. Use this day to catch up on sleep you lost and exercise you missed, cut up your fruits and veggies, engage in a hobby, and whatever else that will have you sleeping well that night and waking up refreshed the next morning.

6. Take care of problems as soon as they arise. This one I know from experience; one particularly bracelet-filled summer I began noticing pain in my wrists which eventually spread down my arms and even affected my right elbow. By the time my wholesale orders were completed things were bad enough to require steroid pills and a six-week break from work, though luckily I escaped surgery or permanent damage. I now do wrist stretches regularly, take breaks, have wrist rests for my computer, and ice my wrists as needed to keep carpel tunnel at bay.

Take care of your body no matter how busy you are. If you don’t take care if it, it won’t take care of you.

Things Every Polyentreprenur Needs to Thrive: Trust in Yourself

See the full list of needs here.

This point, in addition to being its own topic, is also a companion to the diverse opinions post. While I firmly believe in the good of getting other voices and opinions and advice in your head, they can never drown out your own voice.

Every business is different, and a polyentrepreneur’s even more so. No matter how good others are at giving advice, no matter where they are in life, you have the final say in your own businesses – and that’s how it should be. This isn’t your boyfriend’s t-shirt company, your voice coach’s career, or you sister’s dance studio; it’s yours and yours alone. You need to learn to trust your gut – and to know when it’s your gut talking (not your fear).

Do your research.

I mentioned this in the last post too – it’s that important. No matter how good your gut is, if you don’t have all the facts you’re pretty unlikely to make the best decision! Making sure you do research can also prevent you from jumping into something you’re not ready for, or even just confirm your own suspicions/let you know you’re on the right track. Research can also make you aware of other ideas you might not have had before. So track down the facts!

Listen to yourself.

This applies to everything from making day-to-day decisions to deciding what passions you really want to pursue in life. To make the best decisions, I usually first do my research, then take some personal time – meditating, writing lists of pros and cons, talking to my sister or boyfriend; just feeling out the decision in front of me in my mind. Within a few hours I usually have an answer that I come to so organically that I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think it was the right decision – and when using this process I have never regretted my decision!

This point also applies to little thoughts that come into your head at times that you might be inclined to dismiss – thoughts like “I should start a blog” or “I should go back to school” or “I should audition for something.” You may want to brush them off because you don’t want to change, or think you have enough on your plate already, or think that you being able to achieve something is out of your reach, but DON’T. I nearly let fear and complacency convince me to merely finish an English degree I no longer cared about rather than go for the vocal performance degree I always wanted but assumed I wasn’t good enough for – and now, with one year of vocal performance down and three to go, I can’t believe I nearly didn’t follow my dream.

Try things out.

You can never be sure what the results of your actions will be, but instead of letting that uncertainty paralyze you, try things out! Throw yourself into a new project, a new class, a club, or a training series and give it the best you’ve got. Even if you don’t get the result you’re hoping for, if you really apply yourself you’ll almost certainly at least learn something. For example, it was a kind of out-there and eventually a failure of a product that led me to create my popular thin bracelet sets.Things Every Polyentreprenur Needs to Thrive: Trust in YourselfThe bottom line is that your business needs you in order to thrive, and you need to be confident in yourself in order to thrive. Only you can make the best decisions for yourself and your business.