The year's midpoint is a good time to pause and review whether you're headed in the direction you want to go.
Taking Time to Review and Plan
As recorded and published this episode of the podcast, some important milestones have arrived:
- July 1st was the three-year mark of The Productive Woman podcast (my three-year “podiversary”).
- This week is the one-year anniversary of launching The Productive Woman Community Facebook group (and the group has grown to over 1000 members as of this week).
- 2017 is half over.
As I typically do mid-year, I recently spent some time thinking about the past months and giving some thought as to what’s to come.
I encourage you to consider doing something similar. In the hope that it might give you some ideas about how to do it (and why), I thought I’d share a little bit about what I did, how I did it, and some of the thoughts I’ve had as a result. It’s not too late to have a retrospective and introspective look at the past six months and the six months ahead.
What My Mid-Year Review Looks Like
My mid-year review is not as in-depth as the review I do at year-end, but mid-year is a good time to pause, check to see if I’m headed in the right direction, and make adjustments if needed. I wanted to look at what’s working, what’s not, where I am on track, where am I off track — both personally and professionally.
I look at what challenges I face and brainstorm possible solutions, but I actually start by looking at what's working and some of the highlights of the year so far. Whether because of my personality or my legal training or a combination of the two, it's easy for me to notice where I fall short, so I intentionally start by looking at the highlights and successes, big and small, and actually acknowledge them and write them down, so I can go back and look at them and remember good things are happening.
Tools I Used for My Review
I started with my bullet journal and my calendar. I flipped through both to remind myself of what’s happened so far this year. Then I pulled out my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. Using a note-taking app (I mostly use Notability, but I also like Goodnotes), I simply journaled by hand my thoughts about the year so far and some ideas for the remainder of the year.
I love using these tools because I can curl up in a comfy chair and write as if I were writing on paper, but I don't have more random pieces of paper to keep track of and it's saved digitally forever.
This year instead of just “stream of consciousness” journaling, I decided to do some focused, guided journaling. I used Lisa Jacobs’s mid-year review questions from her Market Your Creativity blog (this post and this one). These are the questions I used from her site (but definitely check out her posts for more information and her answers to the questions):
- What feels good about the first half of 2017? What’s clicking?
- What areas of your life or business are feeling out of sync?
- What do you want the rest of the year to feel like? What would you like to see take shape?
- What will you need to do to make that visualization come true?
- What would you like to stop doing? What’s eating up your time, making you feel bad, or not contributing to your best life in any way?
- What activities, products, actions, or ideas are working for you this year?
- What was your best creative business payday? What products or services are selling well? What actions bring subscribers, fans, and followers?
- What isn’t working? What’s costing time and money without generating a return?
- What do you want MORE of in the second-half of 2017?
- How might you change your approach going forward?
(Again, these questions are quoted directly from Lisa's posts I linked to above.)
Lisa is a business coach, but the questions are valuable for us all; I mostly used them to look at my life overall rather than focusing only on business.
Using these tools and this process really made me think about the changes that have occurred over the past year.
A Look at What Has Changed
My daily routine has changed drastically. This spring I left my former law firm, where I went into an office every day. Now that I've changed firms, I’m working mostly from home.
I’ve been trying to build a daily routine that I can sustain and that nurtures my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
I try to include exercise (for all the reasons we discussed in episode 136 – Making Time for Exercise). Usually that's half an hour on the treadmill, but I try to get outside when I can. I'm trying to drink more water (I subscribe to Hint water.)
I’ve implemented a ritual for the start of my day at my desk. When I first sit down at my desk, I light a candle (I get 2 new candles each month from Making Light), read a few Scripture verses or a chapter from a book that inspires or encourages me, and journal a few sentences using a pen and notebook I like. I spend only a few minutes doing this, but I like how it helps me start my work day feeling calm, positive, and centered.
I’m also trying to pause for lunch away from my desk–a big change from my previous lunchtime habit. I used to always eat at my desk, if I ate at all.
I try to get outside every day, even if it’s just to walk to the mailbox in the afternoon.
I also try to stop what I’m doing so I can talk to my husband when he comes home.
I’m also trying to do something creative each day. Right now that includes spending a few minutes practicing lettering. I get ideas from YouTube videos, and I'm using Tombow brush markers and a Rhodia pad for practice.
I’m also working to build an evening routine that serves me better. That includes turning off the computer and closing my office door at the end of my work day so I’m not tempted to come back in and work more. I try to have dinner with my husband and our son if he’s home, read something relaxing or enriching, and then go to bed at a reasonable time after setting up my bullet journal for the next day.
Changes in the TPW community
One other thing that has changed over the past six months is that The Productive Woman community has grown. The Facebook group has hit the 1,000-member mark, and I love watching that and being a part of the conversations as much as I can. We are also now in the second half of the 12-week spring Mastermind session.
We just launched our Productive Woman Community book club. We're currently reading Carson Tate’s excellent book, Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style. I’ve already had to pause many times while reading to highlight something or jot a note, or even just re-read a section and think about it.
What are the challenges?
My review identified several challenges I'm addressing to stay productive. For instance, now that I'm back living in the country, I’ve had continual difficulties with internet service. That's incredibly stressful because I rely on the internet both for my law practice and The Productive Woman tasks. This has been a real challenge! I recently switched to a new internet provider that I hope will work more consistently.
I have more legal work than I expected. I was looking forward to bringing my practice down a notch, but so far I’ve had plenty of legal work. I don’t like to let people down, so when I have a ton of work my temptation is to skip the morning routine and self-care, and work straight through lunch, so that is a huge challenge for me. I know how important health and well being are, but it's so easy to bump self-care to the bottom of the list (or completely off the list). It's crucial to make time to do the things necessary for physical, emotional, mental health, such as eating well, resting, time for fun, or whatever serves you.
Small things make a huge difference. We work so hard that we can forget to make time to enjoy or experience the life we’re working for.
One of the things I realized in my bullet journal review is that in my mood tracker I almost never use the color I assigned to joy. I had plenty of days where my mood was peaceful or grateful, but almost never I could mark down that I felt joyful that day. Awareness is the first step, and I’m now intentionally looking for ways to incorporate activities that bring joy and laughter.
Another challenge is the tension between wanting to accomplish things, to achieve worthwhile goals, to make a difference, to leave a legacy, and also needing time to relax, restore, and to enjoy life. There is that urge to check things off the list, versus just being. The tension between achieving and resting is always there — to let myself just be, and not measure the value of a day in how much stuff I got done.
Part of the challenge comes from that fact that in both my law practice and The Productive Woman, it's just me.
When I take a day off from my law practice, not only do things not get done, but I earn no money.
Similarly, when I take a day off from The Productive Woman tasks, there’s no progress made in creating new content or responding to listener emails or interacting with the community on Facebook. I’ve made a decision to make this a very personal business, and if I take a day off, then no one else can take care of the things that need to get done.
I have to constantly come back to first principles when I’m running myself into the ground. I have to intentionally pause, evaluate what I'm doing, and ask myself those fundamental questions:
- What do I want?
- What matters most?
- Whose life am I building?
There are so many things I’d like to do for and with this community, but I have to remember that time is finite, that I’m only one person, and I could work all day every day and still not get it all done. (Maybe that's something you need to remember, too?)
What I’m thankful for
The other value of this mid-year review is a reminder of all I have to be grateful for. I've reached several milestones, both personally and professionally. I’m so grateful for the things I’ve learned and the people I’ve met as a result of three years with The Productive Woman.
I’m grateful for every woman who’s taken time from her life to talk with me on the podcast for our collective benefit.
I also appreciate every listener, especially those who take a minute to write me an email or post on Facebook and share a bit of their lives with me.
A big thank you goes out to my husband Mike for the music and the support, and for making me laugh.
Also to Jenny Hamson, who created the artwork for the show.
I also want to thank Daniel J. Lewis, for taking a chance on a new podcaster and welcoming The Productive Woman to his network, and for his support and encouragement for the past three years.
Looking forward to what's next
I am looking forward to creating more episodes of the podcast in the months (years?) to come. I have some really great guests coming up that I’m excited to talk to and share with you.
New TPW mastermind groups will start in the fall, and I'm already talking to some women I'm really excited to be working with in those groups. I plan to host only two mastermind groups this fall–I want to focus my time and energy on only ten women who are really committed and motivated, who want to make progress and encourage others in making progress in making a life that matters.
We've just started the Book Club and I’m looking forward to that. I hope to do a LIVE video chat toward the end of the month outside of the Facebook chats.
I'm working on creating a goal-setting workbook that I hope to make available to you, and I’m considering plans for an in-person planning retreat. I’m not sure if there would be enough interest, but I’d like to get 10-15 women together to spend time setting goals and developing their plans for their own lives that matter. You can email me if you are interested.
Lessons to ponder
Going through this mid-year review process has highlighted for me some important truths.
First, change is inevitable. We can fight it or learn to deal with it in a healthy, intentional way. There have been a lot of changes in my life, and change is never easy for me, but I’m learning the value of accepting it and finding healthy, positive ways to deal with it.
Second, self-care is important, and there is time for it. I just had a conversation for an upcoming episode with a guest whose physical health requires her to take care of herself. This is a lesson for all of us that if it was necessary, we could make a way to do it. Well, it is necessary. It is so important for us to make that time.
Finally, I keep coming back to the importance of awareness and intentionality. We cannot make a change in our life for the better until we are aware of where we are and what needs to be changed. Then it takes intentional thinking and intentional action to make those changes and move ourselves in the direction we want to go.
What do you think?
Do you take time mid-year to check on your progress and feelings, and adjust plans for the rest of the year? I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below or in The Productive Woman community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Links:
Announcements & Reminders
- Don’t forget to check out our sponsor, altMBA, by visiting altmba.com/productivewomen and see whether this new approach to leadership and management education is right for you.
- Thank you to our sponsor, FreshBooks. Be sure to check out the 30-day unrestricted free trial they're offering TPW listeners by visiting at FreshBooks.com/WOMAN. Please enter “The Productive Woman” in the “How did you hear about us?” section.
- Visit the Work With Me page to learn more about TPW Mastermind groups (new groups forming soon for the fall) and personalized one-on-one productivity coaching. Questions? Email me!
I would love to have your help!
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- Join the conversation at The Productive Woman on Facebook.
- Your feedback matters to me. Please share your comments, questions, or suggestions.
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