8 Mistakes you should avoid when creating a Flat Lay

 

 

Have you ever started creating a flat lay for your business, only to discover that you can’t manage to make them look like you had in mind- but you don’t really know what you’re doing wrong?

Today is your lucky day, because in today’s video I will show you the mistakes you need to avoid when creating a flat lay for your business- and what to do instead.

 

 

Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

This video is a collaboration with landscape architect Margalida Nadal, who will show you how to arrange flowers in a flat lay so they look their very best.  Margalida has an amazing youtube channel with plenty of tips for your garden – so if you speak Spanish, go check it out after this video.

Let’s begin!

So, what is a flat lay? A flat lay is a photo of a desk or any collection of objects taken with a bird’s eye view- or in other words, from above. Flat, because that’s how all objects look from that view (there’s nothing tri-dimensional  no objects out of focus, no background other than the one where the objects lay. They’re very popular on Instagram because they’re relatively easy to take with a phone camera and you don’t need funny lenses to do so.

They look easy- but if you’ve tried to take one yourself you may have realized they’re not so much so. So, to help you out, I’ve compiled the most common mistakes I’ve seen online-so you can avoid them, and simple easy solutions you can put in practice today.

 

Mistake Number 1: You don’t have a strategy behind your flat lay

This is the number one mistake most people make. Having a strategy means: you know in advance where you want people’s eye to go, what you want them to focus on, what feeling you want to provoke in them when they see your photo and how and where you will be using the photo.

You are a smart ladyboss, you make sure you know this before you begin:

  1. What do you want to showcase: A product? Lifestyle? Some object you want people to identify with you.
  2. What feeling do you want to evoke: Fun? Ease? Aspiration? Comfort? Cozyness? Joy?
  3. How will you use the image ? Will you add text? Will you crop it in several different images? Will you overlay blocks of color?
  4. What objects that you have around your house speak about you, about who you are, about your values, about what matters to you? Could you add these to your photos?

 

Taking a few minutes to answer these questions will help you create faster and with ease photos that enchant your customers and grow your business.

 

Mistake Number 2: You don’t have a clear focal point or you’re not using it correctly.

The biggest mistake. This is when it’s not clear in the photo what you should focus on, or the most important objects are away from the places where the eye is naturally drawn.

You need to decide what you want people to notice FIRST when they see your photo, and place that object in the right place for that to happen.

What’s the right place? Here are a few examples:

Center: The easier one, where the rest of the objects frame the object in question and direct the eye to it. 

Rule of thirds: draw two horizontal lines and two vertical imaginary lines in your background and place important objects in the intersection between two lines. Movies and series do this all the time (show framing of Outlander). 

ONE NOTE: If you are creating a flat lay with negative or white space where you are planning to add text, consider text your focal point and style accordingly.

 

Mistake Number 3: There are too many objects distracting from the focal point

I love props. I adore them. Scouting them, buying them, styling with them. But the key with props is to use them STRATEGICALLY, to direct the view and to say things that you can’t say with words. Objects denote luxury, coziness, spirituality, fun, child-like joy, or your heritage..and pretty much anything you want to say, and, as such, are powerful assistants.

But when they clutter the image, they detract from your focal point (and remember, the focal point is what brings sales!) . Cluttered images are overwhelming…and an overwhelmed person won’t buy.

Allow the eyes to rest….and when in doubt, remove until what stays feels  just right.

 

Mistake Number 4: The lines in your flat lay take the eye away from your focal point

Remember those foam hands with pointed fingers that were everywhere in 50’s adds? Or those images of a woman pointing at text?

The objects in your flat lay need to act like those fingers, they need to be like arrows pointing at your focal point.

So here’s what you need to do:

1) Take a look at the shape of the objects you’re planning to include in your flat lay and make sure that they’re directing the eye where you want them to. Example: pen, post its, erasers, spoons.

2): Use hands to draw attention to the most important objects by holding them or framing them

 

Mistake Number 5: The composition is not balanced

You either have too many objects on one side or none at all. Remember: The Human eye likes symmetry, so unless you’re creating a flat lat to act as a frame or partial border, make sure there’s balance in the number, position and height of your objects…

Which brings me to the next point…

 

Mistake Number 6: Some objects are out of focus

In a flat lay all objects should look crisp and sharp. You should be able to quickly visualize everything in them- which is why they’re so great to photograph with your phone camera

But in order for all objects to be in focus, you need to take care of two very important things:

1) Have the right camera settings. If you’re shooting with a DSLR, make that your aperture is higher than 4. I shoot flat lays at 7 or above (depending on the lens, the sharpest aperture varies). Lower numbers are great for close ups because they blur the background, but terrible for flat lays.

 2) Make sure that all objects have similar heights.

Want to use flowers in your flat lay? Trim them! I cut the stems super tiny and put mine in a small glass of water (the tiny ones from Ikea). And always, always, always, set the focus on the most important object (your focal point).

 

Mistake Number 7: Whites are not white

This is the trickiest one, especially if you shoot with natural light, from a window that doesn’t reach the floor. Have you ever seen flat lays where objects that were supposed to be white look yellowish or blue?

This problem is called white balance. Some times, it’s easy to fix, sometimes it’s not.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Adjust white balance in your camera, and use custom white balance. The way this works is you shoot something very white first, so the camera can understand what constitutes pure white and adjusts automatically the color afterwards.
  2. Adjust white balance in post production. I correct minor color problems in camera raw, for example
  3. If all the above sound too complicated…choose backgrounds in another color. I promise you, there will be much less to adjust and you can add some personality to your flat lays.

Greys, blues, wood and pink and great options. Look at your brand colors and choose backgrounds that will make your products pop!

 

Number 8: Your flat lay lacks personality- or has a personality other than your own

 

You are a business woman, and as such, your flat lays (and all your photos) should promote your business and help you sell. The way to do this is for each and everyone of your photos to contribute to telling your brand story.

They should showcase your brand personality, remind people of who you are, start conversations.

Lots of people fall into the trap of the “luxe lifestyle” photo and end up choosing images that have nothing to do with them, their message or their target audience and end up alienating prospective buyers.

When you choose stock images or create your own, make sure your best friend would recognize YOU in them.

Think:

what do you talk about in your blog and social media posts?

What objects remind you of defining moments in your life and career?

What objects could act as anchors of your message and your personality?

What objects reproduce the shape of your logo?

 

Got it?

 

These were the mistakes you need to avoid when creating a flat lay and what to do instead.

If you liked this video, subscribe to my email list below because many more are coming!

See you soon, with more videos to help your business grow beyond your wildest dream

PINK M

Want photos that look like you- and no one else?

Click here to book a call so we can discuss your needs 

How I create [Calling the Muse]

Have you ever wondered how people do what they do? How bakers create their cakes, how designers come up with gorgeous logos, how photographers photograph? And no, I don’t mean backstage footage or photos (which is also fascinating).

I mean what comes before: the process that leads to an idea being born.

The rituals that help us conjure the inspiration, call in the Muse.

 

I’ve shown backstage videos and photos of my work and I’ve created step by step tutorials many times too. But I’ve never talked openly about the process that leads to my photos being a certain way.

A part of it is science: I know about color theory, design principles and I know my camera well enough to make it do what I want it to do.

But the crucial part, I must confess,  is magic.

Not the magic of card tricks or flying wizards, I haven’t joined Howgarts yet (the damn owl refuses to bring me a letter).

The magic of calling in and opening myself to the creative energy and allowing it to show me the way.

I have a series of rituals that help me be in the right mood for creating, and today I wanted to share with you one of them: Creating my amulet mixed art painting.

I learnt this process from Jo Klima‘s beautiful course AMULET and it has been a fantastic way to let go of blank photo card paralysis (like white page paralysis, but for photographers). And since then, whenever the fear of starting a new project settles in, I know I can exorcise it with a bit of paint.

The process is simple, and highly intuitive and it seeks to create an anchor, a reminder of our intention. To declare our openness to divine inspiration and divine guidance. To call in the energies we want to play with, intentionally and consciously.

It’s not about knowing how to begin a project, it’s about feeling our way into it, one brush stroke at a time- which is why it works so beautifully. It shuts down the mind, and opens the heart.

It starts with a paint and paper and dirty hands…

It continues with glue, and glitter, mantra music and marker pens…

And by the time I’m done, resistance is gone and taking the next steps of a new project are easier, because it feels like I’ve already begun. 

The painting above marked the beginning of a project I’ve been dreaming about for some time and that I’ll be birthing into the world in the next few weeks.

I used red, orange and turquoise to call in creativity, passion and free-flowing communication. I called in the energy of Goddess Fortuna, so it’ll prosper and the help of the dragonfly, to connect me with the best ideas within me. I called on the Earth to anchor this project into reality, Fire, to bring it to completion, and the Moon, to imbue it with divine feminine essence. I called on Mars for strength and courage and Jupiter for blessings.

I saged the room before beginning, lit a candle to illuminate the way, and played one of my favorite mantras while I painted.

I’ll tell you more about this project and the rest of my creativity conjuring rituals in my next blog posts.

And now, let me know: how do you create? 

 

PINK M

Want photos that look like you- and no one else?

Click here to book a call so we can discuss your needs 

How to create GIFs in just a few easy clicks

Have you ever scrolled down social media and seen one of those funny photos with moving parts or text and wondered how they’re created?

Have you ever wished you could create images like the the one below,  with animated parts that catch your attention the minute they appear on your news feed?

 

In today’s blog post I tell you why you may want to create gifs for your promotions (they’re catchy! they attract attention easily! they’re fun!) and, more importantly, I’ll show you step by step, how to create them. It’s fast and easy, I promise.

And the best part? I’ll show you how to create them with and without Photoshop, so there are no excuses.

Ready to get started? Click play to learn how to do it.

 

 

And if you’re wondering how you can use Gifs in your marketing, here are some ideas:

  • Create announcements (like the one I created above)
  • Advertise promotions
  • Show product variations (for example, different colors of a t-shirt)
  • Show different products, like a mini portfolio
  • Show all products included in a bundle
  • Show step by step photos of a DIY or tutorial
  • Show different steps of recipe making
  • Show what makes your service special (example: everything you include in your packages when wrapping your product and how it looks when finished).

The possibilities are endless- let your imagination fly!

 

Now it’s your turn! Tell me in the comments below what gifs are you planning to create first.

And if you liked this video, please share it!

 

WANT MORE VIDEOS LIKE THESE?

I created a series of video tutorials to help you maximize the power of your marketing images. If you have run out of ideas on how to promote your business with photos, or lack the technical know how on how to implement some of them, this course is for you!

Check the full list of videos (23 in total!) in the link below and start using your photos to their full potential!

7 important things we can learn from the Oscars

I love movies.

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by them…and not just what I saw but by how they were created. I loved watching behind the scenes, documentaries, and searched far and wide for backstage photos so I could imagine what it would feel like to be a part of that magical universe.

And I loved watching the Oscars.

The glamour, the show, the host’s humor, the perfectly choreographed dances, the stunning stage decor…everything seemed so magical, and who doesn’t love magic?

Since I live in Europe, watching the Oscars is out of the question because of the time difference, but I still enjoy checking the lists of winners when I wake up and, sometimes, I catch the final part on TV, if I wake up early enough. It’s my little ritual.

This year, we woke up to the news of the now infamous best movie blunder. I turned on my phone to check the list of winners on CNN, and I saw a big article announcing La La Land as the best movie, and a big red alert saying there had been a mistake and Moonlight was, in fact, the winner.

Twitter was on fire. And as the hours passed, we came to see the full video and to read several accounts of what had occurred and why it had been possible. Which lead me to this post, because so many lessons from what happened  are applicable to online business.

So let’s begin:

  • Work Unplugged

The main question everybody was asking as soon as the mistake was uncovered was “How on earth could this happen?” Oscars are highly rehearsed, and everything is known to be planned to the second, so how was it possible that a wrong winner was announced?

The answer? The most common type of distraction: Social media.

The media reported the accountant in charge of handing the card to Warren Beatty had been tweeting heavily from backstage minutes before doing so and was photographed focused on his phone.

If you’re an entrepreneur working from home, like I am, you’re no stranger to the lure of social media. And you also know that, in order to get things done efficiently and in time, you need to shut it all down when you work. This is a lesson I learned from productivity queen Mayi Carles in her wonderful Life is Messy Bootcamp, and one without which I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all.

When I shoot photos, write blog posts, or do any other type of creative work, my wifi is off, my phone is shut down and all extra tabs in my computer are closed. Working distracted is unproductive and leads to avoidable mistakes.

Whether the eyes of the world are in your work or not, do yourself a favor and get off social media when you’re working.

 

2. Good design is user friendly.

If you’ve seen the blunder video, you’ll have noticed how confused Warren Beaty looked when he opened the envelope. Everyone thought he was being funny, and creating suspense but, as he clarified later, he was confused by the text in the card and wondering whether what he had was right.

If you’ve seen the way the Oscar cards were designed, you may have noticed the category was written in tiny font at the bottom, and the name of the category was printed on gold over red in the back on the envelope.

Pretty? Maybe. But definitely hard to read.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Marbel Canseco is that design needs to be practical, strategic,  user friendly. If an older person without glasses and hell lot of pressure on them, at the end of a long night,and under stage lights can’t find important information quickly, or read text, there’s a problem. Take a look at this article to see how better design could have saved the Oscars.

The lesson here, I think, is not to assume that because we can understand something, everyone can. Not to presume that because we can find information in our website, others will be able to do so to. Take a look at your analytics to see if your visitors go where you want them to go. Ask your grandma to find your contact details in your site. Ask your dad to find how to book a call with you or hire your services. If they can’t do it, possibly neither will potential clients. A tweak here and there can save you tons of money.

Need more help? Marbel and I talked about this in this episode of Cult of Hybrid.

 

3. When in doubt, ask questions

When Moonlight was announced as winner, Warren Beatty took the microphone to explain what had happened. When he opened the envelope, he saw that the card said “Emma Stone, La La Land”, so he took a long pause, looked at Faye Dunaway and showed her the card. She gave it a quick read, and announced the wrong winner.

How many times have you been in a situation where you felt something was wrong but felt embarrassed to ask a question? How many times have you felt afraid to appear dumb, unprepared, and instead of raising your hand and bringing it up to the right person, you kept silent?

I know I have, many times. Stepping up, specially when under pressure, can be hard.

But what this teaches us, I believe, is that it’s better to follow our gut, and ask clarifications before things escalate. We can always smile and apologize afterwards. Make a joke. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

And if it sounds too scary, this episode from Marie TV can help.

 

4. Own up to your mistakes

On Monday night, my husband and I sat down in our living room to see the Oscars ceremony re-run. When the Best Movie award arrived, we noticed that three persons had given their speeches before the mistake was corrected and the right winners were announced. We looked at each other and wondered aloud why it had taken so long…they could have been off the air before the problem was rectified.

The answer came later in the media: the accountants from PWC panicked and had to be pushed on the stage to verify and correct the mistake. And as a result, they’ve been banned from any future ceremonies.

We all make mistakes. Some may be minor, some are bigger. But the rule of thumb, and the most important thing to remember is that, when we do, we need to own up to them, make amends and rectify as soon as possible. Especially when others may be affected by them.

Whether it’s forgetting a meeting, delivering work that is not to the client’s expectations or failing to deliver on what you promise, the rule of thumb needs to be to apologize and make it right as soon as possible.

Do whatever it takes to make it right, because relationships are more important than anything else. Relationships move our businesses forward and a bad reputation can kill it really fast.

And if you’ve let people down, here’s Marie’s advice on how to come back.

 

5. Things can change at the last minute, so don’t lose hope. 

If you’ve been following awards season, you’ll know that La La Land had won pretty much everything until last Sunday. It was the big favorite, which is why no one was surprised when it was announced as the winner for best movie.

And yet, 7 minutes after the announcement, everything changed. 

This reminded me of something Denise Duffield Thomas always say in her Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp: Stay in the room. Things may change at the last minute, but you have to be there, present, doing the work.

It reminded me of so many times in my life when I thought things weren’t going to get better, and yet they did. The solution came. The miracle happened.

Because miracles do happen. But we need to stay in the room to catch them when they do.

 

6. When the tide turns against you, be grateful & be graceful. When the tide turns in your favor, be grateful & be graceful.

When people realized who the real Oscar winner was, two beautiful things happened:

  1. The producer from La La Land took it upon himself to rectify the mistake as soon as possible, with the whole cast of La La Land honoring the winners and congratulating them both onstage and backstage. From the moment the mistake was realized, they didn’t make it about their hurt feelings: they made it all about honoring Moonlight.
  2. The Moonlight director celebrated beautifully, without bashing anyone for what had happened- even though he had every right to do so.

I have deep admiration for how they reacted because they achieved something that normally doesn’t come easy: the ability to put themselves and their hurt or anger aside and be there, gracefully, for what mattered most: making things right and celebrating art.

 

7. We all doubt ourselves , but that shouldn’t stop us from doing. 

The final lesson I took from this event came from a twitter interaction that derived from Barry Jenkins words when he received the Oscar : “This is proof that not even in my wildest dreams could this be possible. But to hell with dreams, this is real”.

Some people took this as a play on La La Land’s “This is for those who dream”, but he clarified the right meaning of his words:

 

His words reminded me of this episode of Marie TV and about so many conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues.

His words reminded me of the importance of doing the work we crave doing, even if we don’t believe we’re good enough, even if we doubt anyone will ever like it, even if we want to hide under the bed when the time comes to put it out there.

His words reminded me that we all struggle to love ourselves fully and believe in ourselves, no matter how famous.

And that perhaps our job is not to wait until we overcome self doubt in order to create, but to create no matter what, knowing that doubts, and fear and self-doubt are just part of the road

.

 

 

Now I want to know: Did you watch the Oscars? What lessons did you take from it? 

PINK M

Want photos that look like you- and no one else?

Click here to book a call so we can discuss your needs 

5 business lessons from 2016

Last year, as 2016 began, I took a leap of faith and told you my biggest mistakes of the previous year. The blog post, which would become the most visited one in my blog last year, and which landed me a place as Huffington Post blogger, was both an exercise in self-reflection, and in honesty towards you, my readers. And what started as semi-journaling, ended up  guiding many of my actions and decisions.

When it comes to life and business, though, lessons don’t end with the accomplishment of a goal, or the turning of a calendar’s page. A putting 2015 lessons in action required more than just awareness of what had previously gone wrong.

So, this January, as I dreamed and planned the next 12 months and took stock of what worked and didn’t, I started looking for patterns to write this post. And here they are: my 5 most important business lessons from 2015.

May my mistakes help you avoid pitfalls, may the solutions I’ve found inspire you to find your own. More than anything, may we continue to grow businesses and lives we enjoy living, no matter how winding the path or hard the road.

1. Alignment comes first

I could write a book on how the outcome of every single decision in my life could have been predicted by paying attention at whether it was coming from a place of alignment or not. Business decisions were no exception.

Every time  I made a decision from a place of fear, insecurity, or lack, it backfired and I ended up regretting it.

Every time I took on a client despite my gut telling me we weren’t the right fit for working together, it resulted in tears and exhaustion.

Every time I pushed myself to the limit of my resistance in the name of “hustle”, my creativity suffered.

Every time I pushed and pushed and pushed instead of allow, allow, allow the results I achieved were unsatisfactory.

Every time I rushed through important decisions, said YES when I should have said NO, and looked for answers outside of myself, either it all went to pieces, or I did.

What do I mean by alignment? That moment when words flow, we feel inspired to create our best work, ideal clients land at our feet as if by magic and we seem to glide through life, unstoppable, feeling in love with everything, and  blessed by the forces of the Universe.  Those moments of bliss, when we trust and know everything is alright.

Most of my life, I looked for alignment the wrong way: by pushing and working harder. By learning some new technique and practicing a new routine. Maybe I needed a new mantra, a different yoga routine, timing the moon cycles or following X ritual. The whole of it was mental, not intuitive, another item in my to do list…and lack of alignment another sign of my inadequacy.

I know, that there are plenty of people in the entrepreneur world who believe and say that hustling and pushing and hard work are the path to success. What I realized in 2016 is that this is not the only path, and even if it were, it’s definitely not mine.

In 2016, instead of adding another ease-seeking task to my to do list, I sought help to find a better way.  Last April, I started working with Kerry Rowett, from Awaken Kinesiology, to unblock what kept me moving at snail-pace (or feeling like it), and learn ways to quickly get back into alignment when like kicks me down. 

Kerry and I worked together, 1-1 for 6 months, and after our sessions were finished (because Kerry went into maternity leave), I signed up for her course, Align and Attract, so I could learn how to stay and get back into alignment on a consistent basis.

Every 15 days, Kerry and I met over skype and worked on my goals. She muscle tested blocks, we did EFT, and used a variety of other methods to clear them away. One by one, goals that seemed impossible became possible, doable, and things started to shift.

I honestly owe this process pretty much every breakthrough I had last year, and they were many: I doubled my revenue, I was hired to shoot abroad (case study coming soon), I was sought after for consulting services (which are not even advertised at the moment), I started outsourcing some areas of my work, I became clearer on where I want to go. I lost a crippling fear of the future that had been with me for so long, I only noticed it when, one November morning, I woke up and it was gone.

It was not easy, mind you. It was deep, core work. But by committing to it, and accepting I didn’t know how to do it alone, I committed to myself and to my business, and this consistent coming back to myself paid of.

I had at first wondered whether hiring Kerry had been the right decision. Whether perhaps I should have opted for a business coach, or a marketing coach or something more…tangible. By the end of our 6 months together, I realized why I had been guided to this instead: Beacause when we’re in alignment, the strategies, the tactics, the ideas, the specifics come to us, and the path ahead becomes clear. We become our business advisors.

When we’re able to shut all external voices and listen (really listen) to our inner guidance, everything else falls into place.

2. Keep planning simple and goals in check

I started 2016 like most years: over planning. But in 2016, I took it to the extreme.

Back in January (and don’t ask me why!) I found myself with 3 planners, 2 goal setting notebooks, a binder with printable rituals, a gratitude notebook, a journal, and a notebook for business ideas (the ones that strike in the middle of nowhere and seem so brilliant I just have to write down).

Needless to say, the “system” only ended up making me more overwhelmed. Filling up my to do list was so time consuming that it ended up being a dreadful- and excruciating- task in said list…and as you can imagine, one I ended up avoiding.

The obvious consequence of this was that important personal projects took the backseat, and never got done, while minutiae filled my days. I didn’t make time for what I truly wanted to do, because my priorities were scattered all over the place.  I felt, at times, like that famous scene from The Notebook:

[ I should make a pause here and make it clear that this, in and of itself, is a sign of lack of aligment. And speaking about alignment, as I type these words, this graphic came up in my instagram feed…talk about being aligned!]

This year, I simplified everything: I dreamed and set my goals with the Life + Biz Planners by Leonie Dawson (and I have 3 main goals for the year only).   For daily tasks, I have Danielle Laporte’s Desire Map Planner, daily edition. For everything else, I use a bullet journal (greatest invention ever!).

Leonie’s notebooks and Danielle’s planner are on my desk. Leonie’s, open on the main objectives for the year page (as a daily reminder of where I’m headed). Desire Map Planner stays put next to my computer. Bullet Journal comes with me everywhere.

Having just one little notebook that I can carry with me at all times, and where I can jot down all ideas, to dos, strategies, journaling prompts and check ups means I’ve already accomplished more in one month, with more ease, and without all nighters or working on weekends than in previous years.

Which brings me to the next point…

3. Reduce, reduce, reduce

There’s no point in simple planning if the list of goals is never ending or your project list overly ambitious. Which is what I did until this year…

At the beginning of 2016, I had too many big projects on the pipeline. Whenever I would start working in one, the others would get neglected and when I was fully booked with clients, many important things (like this blog) had to take a back seat.

The worst part was that I felt guilty for not accomplishing more, which in turn impacted my ability to work at peak performance levels (guilt and shame are not catalysts for action, in my case they cause paralysis). And my energy, scattered as it was, affected not just me, but those with whom I shared joint ventures.

By the middle of the year, it became obvious that I couldn’t continue like this, and that if I wanted to reach December 31st accomplishing my most important objectives, I needed to determine what those were, and let go of the rest.

And it was really hard to do so.

It’s easy to let go of what doesn’t work, or the things we don’t like. It’s freaking hard to let go of projects we love, with people I love and who may feel disappointed or even angry by our decision.

And yet, I found that, for me, it was necessary, not just for myself and my business, but also for the sake of those I was working with. Growing any business venture requires work, effort, commitment, focus, time and energy. My scattered energy was causing, not just my own projects to become stalled, but also my shared projects not to grow as fast as they could have. I was stretching myself to the limit and, to make it worse, I wasn’t being of use to anyone.

So I released them. I released everything that wasn’t a priority and decided to focus on just 3 goals: 1 financial goal, and 2 creative goals. That’s it. No more.

The logical consequence of which is …

4. Say NO

I’m a people pleaser, especially of those I love. This has brought me one too many headaches, and a good deal of overwhelm and exhaustion. I’ve always had a tendency of getting involved in way too many projects because I don’t want to disapoint others.

And because not disappointing others was so important, historically other people’s projects, ideas, and time took precedence over mine, until I exploded and ended up cutting everything off from my plate…only to start again a few months after.

Let’s call it my special blend of sabotage, as Denise frames it in her bootcamp.

The solution, I found, was not in reclaiming my time ex post facto, as I had been doing all these years, but in saying NO from the beginning, when less explanations are needed and there’s less chance of hurt feelings and broken friendships.

In view of my natural tendencies, though, I created a test for me to know when to say yes to something new. Want to use it too? Here it goes:

I ask myself the following questions and only move ahead if I feel, in my gut, a clear YES for all of them

1. Does this project make your heart sing? 

2. Do you know very well the person you’ll be JVing with? Would a contract be written, spelling out clearly from the beginning all responsibilities and other legal matters such as copyright? 

3. Does this project allow enough time for pursuing of your main business and personal goals? (No more than 15% of total time)

4. Have you waited 48hrs since the proposal? I’ve found this one is key because it kills the initial people pleasing impact.

But it’s not just projects I now say NO to. I also say NO to courses, for example, unless I’m planning to follow them and implement them within a month. I say NO to prospective clients that I feel wouldn’t be a good match. I say NO to food that doesn’t give me energy. I say NO to exercise routines that don’t make my body glee with joy.

And by saying NO more, I create space for what I truly want. For the opportunities that make my heart sing. For the work I adore doing. For the moments of idleness, play and recreation that feed my soul.

5.  Nurture thy creativity

In last year’s post, I mentioned one of 2015 big mistakes was that I had stopped creating.

In 2016, I wanted to break this cycle but forgot one crucial step: to nurture my creativity.

Because of points 2 to 4 above, my agenda was full to the core and I felt that all I did was work work work. And when I wasn’t working? I felt guilty for not working, because therewassomuchtodo. So I told myself I didn’t  have time to go on artist dates. That I should limit my reading to business-related books. That I should take advantage of house chores to listen to business podcasts. That maybe I should skip my daily walk in the park and catch up on work since early morning.

And do you know what happened? I became creatively blocked.

I spent full month looking at the blank page in my monitor, unable to write a single word of copy, a single blog post. I couldn’t come up with single photo project idea.

My soul was starved. I couldn’t create because I didn’t have where to create from.

And then came Outlander.

Some time in the middle of November, 4 different and unrelated persons recommended this epic, historical, sci-fi series to me. 4 persons within a week. On that same week, my whole Instagram feed burst with quotes from the books and photos from locations in Scotland. “You should see it”, a friend said, and I felt that the Universe was kind of screaming at me to do it.

So one night, I found episode 1 on Netflix and pressed play. One episode became 6, and I went to sleep at 4 am in the morning. I was so hooked I couldn’t stop watching. I loved everything: the dialogues, the costumes, the scenery,the music, the story, the magic. I binge watched two seasons in a weekend, the downloaded the 8 books in my kindle and read them all in 3 weeks.

And the more I read, the more I watched, the more I allowed myself to do something in my free time just for the joy of it, ideas started to come back. Photo projects began to pop up, fully fleshed in my mind’s eye, ready for me to sketch. Poems, blog posts and copy started to flow. Daily tasks became simpler and more joyful. And I realized creative time is not just made of the moments we produce, but also of the moments we consume the work set to inspire us.

This year, I’ve set aside in my calendar days to create and times to gather inspiration. And I’ve blocked them both in my calendar.

This year, I’m starting my mornings by reviewing my goals and aligning to them. I’m making time and space for what matters most, including iddle times to nurture my soul.

Your turn: What lessons did 2016 leave you? What are you committing to, in your business and life, in 2017?

PINK M

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