This week, I had the opportunity to participate in The Simple Plan, a two-day business planning workshop hosted by Sage Wedding Pros. I've written about this workshop before, but attending it and doing the work involved was a more beneficial experience than I could have imagined. The actual curriculum was interesting and challenging: we spent time identifying our target clientele, determining what sets our businesses apart in the marketplace, planning our marketing and operations strategies, and really digging deep when it comes to finances. Spending two days in the presence of Michelle Loretta from Sage Wedding Pros, as well as the other business owners and professionals in attendance, was also extremely valuable - there's nothing like being able to brainstorm with, and offer feedback to, others who are doing similar work to your own.
I think my two most valuable takeaways from The Simple Plan were (1) identifying a new, unique niche market for my newest venture, Firebrand Messaging, and (2) understanding the secret to determining exactly how much work I need to do to earn the exact income I want to make. I'm a pretty goals-driven person, so having a specific number of client bookings to work toward is tremendously motivating to me. Seeing the reactions of my colleagues in the workshop as they had their own "a-ha" moments was really cool, too - everyone seemed to gain something that was a game-changer for them, and I was really glad for the experience.
The Simple Plan was definitely informative and seriously educational, and for all who attended, it represented a worthwhile investment in their business. There are lots of great opportunities in the wedding and event industry for ongoing education: seminars, conferences, conventions, online courses, and more. I can't emphasize enough how worthwhile it is to take the time to expand your knowledge and develop your skills.
Thinking about what this two-day workshop did for me and my business(es) got me thinking about something else, though: participating in something like this does more than just educate you. It gives you the gift of focus.
I say "gift" intentionally, because I think that, as business owners, we get so bogged down by the day-to-day tasks of serving our clients and putting out fires that we're often forced to sacrifice looking at the bigger picture. Taking the time to dream, to plan, to set goals and create a strategy for reaching them is such an important part of our roles as entrepreneurs and leaders of our businesses, but it's a luxury that often gets placed on the back burner. Having these two days to do nothing but focus on my business and where I want to go in my career was priceless, and I'm so incredibly glad I took the opportunity. I realize that attending a workshop like this isn't logistically or financially feasible for everyone, so I encourage you to consider whether you can create room in your schedule to achieve a similar kind of focus:
- Can you plan a retreat? My WeddingIQ co-editor, Kyle, and I are in the process of trying to plan exactly this: a short getaway to unplug and do nothing but map out our vision for this site and for our other business ventures. This doesn't have to be expensive; consider choosing a date for your "me time" and use an app like Hotel Tonight for last-minute deals on cheap hotel rooms, look on AirBNB for available apartments and condos, or even check Craigslist in your area for last-minute vacation rentals.
- Can you plan a staycation? This is probably more logical for single folks than those of us with kids in our homes, but if you have the ability to reserve a couple of days of peace and quiet at home, you can definitely use that time to focus and plan.
- Can you build focus time into your weekly routine? Perhaps you could choose one half-day per week for dreaming and planning, or even reserve a couple of hours after your partner and kids are in bed. Regardless of what time you use, ensure it's quiet, uninterrupted, and serves no purpose other than to serve you and your future goals.
Once you have some time set aside, consider how best to use it. Here are several things you can do to help yourself focus, dream, set goals and strategize - choose any combination that speaks to you and how your unique brain works best:
- Do a brain dump. Get out every niggling task, to-do item, worry and idea (however crazy it may seem) onto paper or into an electronic file, and out of your head. Here are some how-to's on that subject from Lifehacker, Entrepreneurs-Journey.com, and a truly exhaustive "trigger" list from Mungo's Adult ADHD Blog.
- Create a mind map. If you're a visual person, consider using the strategy of mind mapping to get your thoughts, dreams and goals into an easy-to-visualize format. There are tons of great (and often free) apps for this, but Tony Buzan has a guide for doing one on paper (which is great when you're trying to stay unplugged!).
- Create a vision board. Again with the visualization! Having a daily reminder of your dreams, goals, wishes and wants in your workspace or living space (or both) is incredibly inspiring - I wasn't convinced at first, but now I'm totally a convert. Kyle and I each made vision boards at the beginning of this year, and I'm excited to say that many of the items on mine have already become a reality. Here's a great step-by-step guide from Huffington Post.
- Meditate. I'm probably the least spiritual person ever, but mindfulness and focus are such important skills to have, and can make every aspect of your planning and strategy time more productive. Headspace is a fantastic starter app for this purpose.
- Read, read, read! It's sad that reading has become a luxury that so many of us have to forgo on a regular basis, purely due to lack of time. Your "unplugged" goal-setting time is a fantastic opportunity to catch up on books that inspire you - check out our Shop page for some Amazon affiliate links to books that we, and our guest contributors, have found interesting and inspiring.
In summary, focusing on your business and your goals is a gift that only you can give to yourself, but you have to make the time to do it. Here's to investing n ourselves and taking the next big step toward our success!