BRAID CREATIVE & CONSULTING
is branding & business visioning
for creative entrepreneurs.

I think artists are typically pegged as being eccentric, messy, and unorganized when it comes to their space, their creative process, and how they do their work. But when it comes to creative entrepreneurs who have turned their passion into profit, organization is essential – in fact some of us pride ourselves on how organized we are.

Kathleen here. I spent last week in Palm Springs at Designer VACA with a hundred designers who are not only creative, but super organized – so much so, I started to think my own perceived organizational skills maybe aren’t as fine tuned as they could be after all! As a small team working together here at Braid, our methods for staying on top of everything (some automated, some more old-school, like good ‘ol post-its) have served us well up until now – enough that people often ask how we manage it all. So today I want to share how we stay organized, plus some new tools, tricks, and tips I’ve learned about, but haven’t yet tried, that could help us (and perhaps you, too) get even more streamlined in our daily grind. 

ORGANIZING EMAIL
Here at Braid Creative we use Gmail. There is a lot of functionality built in like folder, labels, and tasks – plus extras in Google Labs like canned responses and multiple inboxes. 

At Designer VACA Jessica Hische gave us her secret to maintaining a zero inbox and that is to 1) download all your emails and respond to them offline. That way you can’t get sucked down an internet rabbit hole while answering emails. And 2) Stop using “unread” emails as a to-do list (guilty here) and instead read the email, respond appropriately, and add any actions required to your actual to-do list. 

PROJECT MANAGEMENT
We use a combination of Google Docs, Google Calendar, and our magical chalkboard wall to keep track of our clients, project workflow, and to-dos. It’s a system that works for us but I wonder if we couldn’t automate it a bit with some project management tools. Here are a few that were recommended to me by other designers: 
Asana 
Basecamp 
Solo 
17Hats 
Evernote 

TASKS, TO-DOS and TIMETRACKING
Admittedly, I’m still a fan of a post-it note stuck to my desktop to keep track of my to-dos but because we’re a team of four and growing every day it’s best if we can all see each other’s tasks. Also, we bill per project and not hourly (read Breaking the Time Barrier if you want more info on that) so we don’t typically keep track of our time – but now I’m seeing how measuring how we spend our days could be good for redefining our roles and distributing our to-dos. So here are a few apps for keeping track of tasks, to-dos, and time. 
Trello
TeuxDeux
Solo
RescueTime 
Self Control (just in case you need help from distractions)  

CALENDARS and SCHEDULING 
Here at Braid we have no less than two or three meetings a day – and with clients from all over the world we’re juggling a lot of time zones. My calendar looks a bit like a jigsaw puzzle at times and I think it’s the place where I could use the most automation. Here are a few apps for that: 
Calendly 
TimeTrade 

ORGANIZING FILES AND STORAGE 
Cloud storage is where it’s at – but our designer Kristin always says if it’s not backed up three times it’s not backed up. So be sure to invest in a good external hard drive and back that shit up! Here are some cloud options: 
DropBox 
Box 
Google Drive / Docs (apparently you can use it just like DropBox!) 
Amazon S3

JUST ONE NOTEBOOK
Okay – so if you’re like me and still like to put pen to paper a good way to stay organized is by keeping everything in one notebook. I actually observed my friend, illustrator and designer Becky Murphy using just one notebook for sketches, lists, and note-taking. (Meanwhile, I was scribbling ideas on the hotel notepad, a random moleskin, and with the notes app on my phone.)  

VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS
The biggest tip I learned for getting organized is to hire someone else to do it for you. It’s great to have organizational systems and administrative processes in place so you can easily hand off tasks to a virtual assistant, but if organization isn’t your thing a virtual assistants can help put those systems in place for you. It’s good to know exactly what tasks you want a virtual assistant to help you with – whether it’s bookkeeping, managing your email, calendar, web maintenance, or even managing your social media and marketing. My new friend Kyla Roma recommends Virtual Miss Friday. 

What are your favorite ways to stay organized? Let us know on Facebook! 

If you need a little help shaping up your blog, social media, or even everyday words- our next Braid ECourse, Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You is now open for registration and will be in-session October 17 - 26. Learn more and register here. 
 

Need more Creative Coaching? Check out my DIY Coaching for Creatives email sessions. It's $40 for 4 weeks of how to live-what-you-love content delivered straight to your inbox. See if it's a good fit and sign up here.

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Kathleen here and today I want to admit that work, life, the blend, and the balance has managed to kick my ass this week. Back-to-back client meetings, planning for the future of Braid Creative, creating content, coming down from a big talk and already prepping for the next – it's the good kind of stress that I typically thrive on. But then add to the mix 1.) a nocturnal baby with a stubborn fever, 2.) my own symptoms of unrequited wanderlust, and 3.) a serious case of “never-enough-time-itis” – and I'm melting down. So even though a big part of my work is coaching other creatives through the work / life hullabaloo I'm still susceptible getting stuck, scattered, and spread thin. 

But here's the deal... I'm comfortable admitting that I don't feel like I have it all together all the time because most of us don't. Think of the most successful person you know. Even she suffers from insecurities from time-to-time. I mean, I bet even Beyonce has her days! As I get vulnerable with my creative confidants and tell them that I'm burning out they almost seem relieved because "ME TOO!" – from homework battles with their kids to the general pressure of running your own thing and chasing the dream. It can be overwhelming. 

So what do you do when you feel like you've taken a work / life beating? Follow the energy. Let me explain. 

IDENTIFY THE ENERGY LEAKS
First, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Get centered. Now, take stock of what's going on in your work and life. Mentally walk through your day from beginning to end. Where are there energy leaks? For example, how does your email inbox make you feel? Is it draining? How are your client meetings? Do you feel fried after working on a project? How is your sleep? What about your relationships? Do some of them leave you feeling toxic? How do you feel after spending time on social media? Do you feel connected or like you've been caught in a comparison trap? Energy leaks can be big and little – from abusive clients to a broken pen you keep picking up. Try to be honest about the big ones and mindful of the small ones. 

DO MORE OF WHAT GIVES YOU ENERGY
Alright, now that you've identified the energy leaks it's time to pinpoint the things that give you energy. If you're an extrovert you might get energy from coffee with a new friend, a fun networking opportunity, taking a new class, or having a dinner party with pals. If you're an introvert you might gather energy from a good book, a long walk, or meditation. (If you're like most creatives I know you have a good mix of intro and extro-vertedness – so a mix of both may do you good). Now take stock of the work you do – which projects make you feel really good? What kinds of clients do you seem to have the most chemistry with? When it comes to exercise do you feel more restored and energized after a sweaty yoga session, a long run, or some intense crossfit? What creatively energizes you? Do you love writing, taking photos, sketching, gardening, cooking? 

Once you pinpoint what gives you energy start doing more of that. Make it a part of your job description. Do the things that give you the most creative energy first thing in the morning and right after lunch. Develop a new offering or product that utilizes more of what energizes you. Or maybe just keep it for yourself (as a passion project or hobby) but schedule time for it into your day or week. Oh, and the stuff that drains you? Do less of that. Try delegating it to someone else or just don't do it at all. Or at least take a closer look at it and ask yourself "why" you're doing it and how it could be less draining. 

What are your energy leaks? Let us know on Facebook! 

Need more Creative Coaching? Check out my DIY Coaching for Creatives email sessions. It's $40 for 4 weeks of how to live-what-you-love content delivered straight to your inbox. See if it's a good fit and sign up here. 

If you need a little help shaping up your blog, social media, or even everyday words- our next Braid ECourse, Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You is now open for registration and will be in-session October 17 - 26. Learn more and register here. 

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Last week I gave a talk at The Circles Conference, a two-day gathering for designers and artists to learn and get inspired.  Because I only work with other working creatives I decided to use this chance to talk about so many of the patterns I see – the struggles but also daydreams we working creatives all seem to share in common no matter what city we live in. Most of us share The Dream of having a job with purpose, creative fulfillment, and control of our own schedules. But we also share The Fear. The fear that keeps us from creating that dream job, from leaving the day job, from owning our expertise, and the fear that has us feeling like frauds. 

These are painful and relatable fears we have as working creatives – but we gotta push through them so we can get back to work, right? So how do you push through the fears? I suggest the following: 

  1. Get specific about the worst case scenario – what does failure actually look like?

  2. Get specific about the ideal day – what do you really want? 

  3. Make a mantra to help remind you of your dreams 

  4. Make a decision and move forward

You can see more by watching the Circles talk I gave here. 

The questions I got from the crowd were so great. Here was one that really stuck with me:

“How do you know if you’ve made the right decision?”

My answer? Surprise, surprise – it’s get specfic. When you set goals, and get really specific about those goals, you’ll know when you’ve achieved them and you can celebrate your success. Whether that’s a certain salary, a dreamy partner-in-crime, the perfect car, or a big vacation. Be clear on what success looks like so that when you get it you don’t move the bar higher without acknowledging your accomplishments first. 

But as I was reflecting on that question on my road trip back home, I think I was being asked: “What if I look back and realize my decision was wrong?” 

So here’s my answer: 
The decision itself doesn’t matter nearly as much as the act of deciding. In other words, I believe that if you really know what you want and make any decision at all it will move you closer to where you need to be. Whereas spinning in your head by weighing out all the pros and cons and possible outcomes of your decisions won’t get you anywhere. 

So the question then becomes: what do you really want? 

I’ll be writing more about pinpointing what it is you really want in this week’s Letters for Creatives – which you can sign up for here.


Our Braid ECourse Dream Customer Catching is in-session this week but our next ECourse Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You is now open for registration and will be in-session October 17 - 26. Learn more and register here. 

Craving more work / life introspection? You might like to try the DIY Coaching for Creatives email sessions. Sign up to receive 4 weeks of creative coaching content delivered straight to your inbox for just $40 anytime. 


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Braid Creative & Consulting is branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. The Braid Blog is where we share weekly insights and resources for creatives.

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