Life audit with me, week four

It’s the fourth and final week of our life audit. By this time your home, your habits and your mind should be a little less cluttered. 

Not the whole way, I’m sure. It’s a process, becoming who we want to be. Every day we make progress. And anytime you want to revisit the questions or prompts, you can do so. I made a pretty printable of the whole life audit. It’s available now on Patreon.

Today’s post is different. It’s for those of you, like me, who have a creative business. 

Mind you, this isn’t a business plan. There are so many creative business plans available online. I’ve pinned a few on my Pinterest board if you’re interested. 

No, this is a check-in. An in-depth look at what’s working and what’s not. I do this audit at the end of each quarter since creative businesses change so much faster than traditional ones. So grab a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s take a look at some cold, hard, creative numbers.

Question one. What products or services do you have available right now?

Let’s start easy. What are you currently selling? Books, courses, jade carvings? Make a list of everything you have available for sale.

Now that you’ve got it all down, you should be able to see a few things. Are some of your products or services outdated? Have you forgotten about one product and just not talked about it for a while? (I did this.) Was there a product you meant to have a follow-up to and just never got around to it? Write it all down.

Question two. Where do I make money?

Start by writing down all of the platforms you make money on. Amazon, Smash words, Etsy, directly from clients. Wherever it is people pay you, get it down.

Now, take a look at your income for the last twelve months. Write down how much money you made on every platform.

What ones are doing well, and what ones aren’t? For the ones that aren’t are they not doing well because they’re not a good fit or because they need more effort? 

This can be eye-opening. I realized that I made more money from this little blog than I did from sales of Station 86 books in the last twelve months. I don’t know how to feel about that. But at least now I know.

Question three. Where do I spend money?

Every business costs money. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Write down all the money you spent on your business in the last twelve months, and where it went.

This is crucial information to have. Are you spending your money in smart ways? Are you getting things for your business that you don’t need, or could be bought cheaper? Are you subscribed to any services that aren’t serving you anymore? These are questions only you can answer. And you can’t answer them without the raw data. 

Question four. What are my three highest sources of income?

Do you sell just a ton of bangle bracelets off Etsy? Are you killing it with clients? 

Knowing where you shine helps you work to your strengths. It also helps you see what’s not working, and what might be best to cut loose.

Question five. What projects are you going to be working on for the next 3/6/12 months?

This is where the fun starts. At least I think it’s fun. 

Take a look at your schedule, and make a rough list of what projects you’ll be working on for the next three months. Then, the next six months. And finally, the next twelve. 

Mind you, this is not set in stone, so don’t get too freaked out by this. The point of this exercise is just to get an idea of what you’ll be working on. And the farther away it is, the less set in stone it will be.

Question six. What are you putting out in the next 3/6/12 months?

Take a look at your project list, and see what might reasonably ready in the next year. Because hear me, you need to start advertising ASAP. I mean, I have a true-crime podcast coming out on February first, and I’ve been making ads and talking it up on social media for weeks now. As soon as you know something is going to be ready and can reasonably set a launch date, do it. Then, you can start working backward from that and make a launch plan.

Question seven. What are your financial goals for the next 3/6/12 months?

I know, money. We creatives don’t like to talk about money. But we have to. If we want to have more time to create, we need to make money on our creations. 

Everyone has different goals, but here are some things to consider. 

How much money did you make last year?

Are you coming out with anything new?

How much money are you going to need to spend? 

Here’s the trick to set money goals. You need to be reasonable without being pessimistic. If you set a goal too high, you’ll not reach it and get discouraged. If it’s too low, then you’re not going to feel as challenged. It’s a tight line to walk, and it’s personal. But if you take the time to understand what you’ve done so far, you’ll be able to figure it out.

Question eight. What platforms am I on?

Spoiler: You’re probably on too many. Think about it. If you’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Twitch and Youtube, when do you have time to create content for each of those platforms? If you’re creating consistent content for each of those platforms, when are you creating your work? When are you sleeping, eating, hanging out with your loved ones, taking a shower?

I used to be on a lot more platforms than I am now. I’ve got it paired down to ones that I genuinely use, enjoy, and would be on even if I wasn’t an indie writer. 

Goodreads

Twitter

Pinterest

Let’s look beyond social media when we consider your platform, though. Let’s consider everywhere you show up online. For example, when I make this list it includes Ko-fi, Patreon, Amazon, Smashwords, and right here on this humble little blog. 

Question nine. How can you show up better on each platform?

Here’s where we get to the real auditing part of the audit comes in. 

Look at each platform you work with. How are you showing up there? What can you do to make it better? Can you make some nifty graphics to share on Twitter? Take more pictures? Comment on other people’s posts more? 

Make a list. Then, get started making these changes, big or small. Do just one at a time, and track your results. 

Alright, that was a lot. But I hope it helps you have a better understanding of where you are in your creative business. And what you can do to get to the next level. 

There’s one more thing I’d like to suggest. When you’re done with the business audit, mark it in your calendar the next time you’ll be doing one. Make a work date with yourself that you’ll keep like it was a date with your best friend.

You can support Paper Beats World on Ko-fi and Patreon.

Life Audit with me, week three

Welcome to week three of our life audit. How did week two go for you guys? If you have any before or after pictures, I’d love to see them. If you just have any great stories, I’d love to hear them.

For now, let’s move on to week three. 

Menu planning

Stick with me, here. I don’t do a ton of menu planning. I am not a meal prepper. I do like cooking, though. I also like eating. And I cannot be the only person who sits down to write a shopping list, only to forget every meal she’s ever cooked in her life. 

Here’s what I do. I wrote out a list of every dinner I like to make in Trello. I separated them by protein. Then, when I’m making my shopping list, I pull up that menu. Once I’ve made the thing, I put a checkmark next to it so I know I made it recently.

Aside from that, the only meal prepping I do is to double a recipe if it’s something that freezes well. Like meatballs, for instance. That’s something that’s sort of a pain to make, but can be used in at least two different kinds of meals if I have them in the freezer. 

Your lifestyle and family might require more meal planning. But I can’t imagine any less than what I do will be too helpful. 

Papers

Oh my goodness, papers. I love paper so much that it’s literally the name of my blog. But when it comes to the paperwork of life, it’s not my valentine. 

Given that more and more things are virtual I look forward to the day this mountain of paper no longer lives in my house. But until that day comes, let’s sort through this stuff. I spread this project out over the space of two days because it was so daunting. I used a large binder, a three-hole punch, several manilla envelopes, a season of Rick and Morty and a bottle of red wine.

My routine is simple. I hole punch things and put them in the binder with some plastic dividers. Anything that can’t be hole-punched goes into a folder with hole punches.

The biggest question I always have is how long to keep something. Here’s a handy chart I found on The Soccer Mom Blog. 

Keep for one year- Bills, monthly bank statements, monthly investment or retirement statements, pay stubs and credit card bills. 

Keep for three years- statements or receipts for your business, medical bills. 

Keep for seven years- Anything to do with your taxes.

Keep forever- Loan documents, warranties, vehicle titles and personal identification records like your birth certificate. 

Subscriptions

For this one, I’d start by gathering together everyone in the household. Then, make a list of every single subscription service you have. Webkinz, Door Dash, Netflix, Jelly of the month.

Now, do you enjoy those subscriptions? Do you use them? Or are you just paying for something you never use because you forgot about it?

Budget

This is another one that might take some time and family involvement. 

There are hundreds of different ways to budget, and I’m not going to tell you which one you should use. The only bit of advice I’d give is this. If you haven’t already written down your bill due dates in your calendar or planner, do it now. Especially if they’re automatically deducted. 

I enjoyed the book Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry. If you want money advice, go there. This girl has got you.

Desk or home office area

Okay, there’s a good chance your whole home needs a full declutter and reorganization. But aside from the kitchen, there’s no more important place to have in shape than your home office space. Especially if you started working from home this past year. 

I can’t advise more using the Marie Kondo method. Get rid of everything from this space that doesn’t spark joy. Keep only things that are useful or beautiful. If they can be both, so much the better. 

If you don’t have a home office area and don’t think you need one, let me give you some advice. This, again, comes straight from The Flylady. Grab yourself a trapper keeper. Put all your bills and budget info in there. Throw in a calendar, your checkbook, stamps, envelopes. Add in some paper and maybe a planner too. Anything you need to make a to-do list, grocery list, or write out a bill. Include some pens that make you smile. Then stick it somewhere you’ll be able to find it when you need it. Check-in with it once a week, if not once a day. If you can get that together, you’ll be in good shape for the rest of your planning projects.

Goal setting

Now that we’ve cleared away most of the mess, physically and metaphorically, let’s start looking forward. 

I might honestly do a whole multi-part post on goal setting. But for right now, making a goal comes down to two things.

What do you want?

How will you get it?

There are as many goal setting strategies as there are online gurus. But I’ll tell you what works for me. And it comes from a Disney song. Specifically, a song from Frozen II.

Just do the next right thing.

Say you want to write a book. I feel for you. But that’s a giant project. 

You can sit down and map out the whole project if you want. Some people are really into that. Or, you can ask yourself, what’s the next right thing to do to make this happen?

In the case of a book, you might start with carving out fifteen minutes a day to brainstorm. 

When that’s done, what’s the next right thing? Well, you might want to then write an outline or write about your characters. 

Then what’s the next right thing after that? Set yourself a goal to write a certain amount of words or pages every week. 

Then what’s the next right thing after that? 

This works for literally any goal, big or small. 

So that’s it for this week. Honestly, it was a lot. But it feels so good to get all of this stuff under control. I mean, most of the world is not under control right now. But at least we can find our gas bill when we need it. 

Next week, we’re going to talk about auditing your side hustle. See you then. 

Life audit with me, week one

2020 sucked and I’m so glad to kick it to the curb. It was a dumpster fire of a year. And the worst thing about it, the absolute worst, is that I fell into some coping mechanisms that need to stop right the hell now. I stopped doing a lot of good things that I need to be doing again. 

In general, my life is a bit of a mess. I needed a life audit in the worst way. So, in early December I wrote a list of things that needed an update in my life. These were things in my personal care routine, my writing life, my family life and my spiritual life. 

Since I’ve made that list, I’ve done one thing every day to make my life better. To make things run smoother. And I’ve been pretty happy with the results. So I thought it would be a great thing to share with all of you. Because I bet (no judging) that you’ve fallen out of some good habits and into some bad ones too. Let’s get better together. 

I’ve separated each prompt into categories, starting with self-improvement, then home care, money, and ending with business. Each Friday I’ll give you the prompts for the next seven days. I’ll also tell you a little bit about it went for me.

I’m including a whole week in one post for two reasons. One is that I’m working on two major projects right now and I just don’t have time to post every day. But I also understand that everyone has different levels of work on any given day. Some people will have time on a Tuesday afternoon to clear out all their craft supplies. For others that will need to be a Saturday activity. I don’t suggest trying to do more than one activity a day, whatever you do. This is a thoughtful process, you need to give yourself time and space.

That being said, let’s go into week one.

Day one-Your nightly routine

What you do right before bed has more impact on your life than you can imagine. I will die on this hill! It sets you up for a good night’s sleep and a smoother morning. 

Start with writing down what you do before bed now. Do so without judgment. We aren’t doing this to beat ourselves up. We are doing this to make small changes to make our lives better.

Next, write down all the things you’d like to do before bed. You want to be realistic here. I think we’d all like to end each day with a rose-scented bath, full-body lotion, a cup of lavender tea and thirty minutes of journaling. But that’s not happening every night. We just don’t have the hours in the day for it.

So think about instead what’s going to help you the most. What would you like to wake up to? 

When I did this, I came up with the following list.

1. Set out clothes for tomorrow.

2. Make my to-do list for tomorrow.

3. Put on face cream and under-eye cream after shower.

4. Take my medication.

Boom, that’s it. I’ll have clothes in the morning, I’ve put everything out of my mind and onto the page, and I’ve delayed the ravages of time on my face. I can now sleep easy. Your list may look different than mine, and that’s perfect. It’s a personal thing. 

Day two- Your morning routine

Now that your evening routine is in place, it’s time to build on that. What do you want to do in the morning?

Do you want to make time to move your body or read a devotional book? Maybe your day would be so much better if you could just watch the birds out your kitchen window while you drink coffee in peace. 

Whatever goes onto your list, you want to make sure it follows two rules. It should improve your day and be something you have time for.

Here’s my list. 

1. Wake, feed pets, make coffee

2. Do ten minutes of yoga

3. Dress, brush my hair and teeth, do my makeup.

4. Meditate and pull an oracle card.

5. Check in with my planners. 

6. Track my spending from the day before.

Day three- Your afternoon routine

This is what I call my after-work routine, but it could also be an after school routine or a before dinner routine. It’s a list of things that are meant to keep my house orderly. The goal of this list is that it should take no more than 30 minutes.

Think about the biggest problem areas in your home. The things that bother your the most if they build up. The things that smell. That’s my biggest issue. I can handle clutter, but I can’t stand it when things smell.

Here’s my list.

1. Scoop the cat box.

2. Do the dishes. 

3. Do the FlyLady task of the day.

4. Water the plants.

5. 10-minute pickup.

And boom, we’re done. Just like that, the house is in good enough shape for me to make dinner and relax for the evening. 

Day four- Daily task list

Think of this as sort of a chore chart. Certain things need to be done, but they don’t need to be done every day. Things like running the vacuum, taking the garbage out to the curb on trash night. Because I’m a blogger, I also have tasks like writing my weekly blog posts.

Start by writing down everything that needs to be done in a week. Then, decide what day it’s best to do it on. Try to not have more than one task on a day, or it’s going to get overwhelming. So maybe you clean out your car on Sunday afternoon, vacuum your house on Saturday and clear out your fridge on Wednesday. You get the point.

Day five- Plan spiritual activities

No matter your faith there are certain activities that you probably like to practice to observe. Maybe you attend service or perform good works. I like to give donations, help people, read devotional materials. All of these things are more likely to happen if I, you know, schedule them. I’d say they’re probably not going to happen if I don’t schedule them.

If you aren’t someone who considers themselves spiritual, then certainly you have things you wish you did more of. Gardening, reading, things like that. There is something that feeds your soul. Find it, and find time to make it happen.

Day six- Plan what you want to learn

This is where things get fun. What do you want to learn this year? Is there a class you can take for a better job? Do you want to learn a new language, or take an art class? Seriously, there’s no better time to get some education in. I’m taking an ASL class, and I subscribed to Skillshare. I’ve been working through all the writing courses available. But I think I’ll also be taking some hand lettering classes. I love some hand lettering. My bullet journal is going to be freaking awesome this year.

So what do you want to learn? Remember, we’re not in school anymore. There are no required classes here. You can learn whatever you want. How cool is that?

Day seven-Audit your notebooks and apps

This one isn’t as fun, but man did I need to do it. I had a ton of planners and notebooks, not to mention a bunch of apps I used to organize my life. The problem is, I’ve got way too many. Some of them I only used for one thing. I mean, there was one app I used only for a list of twitter ideas. I used another app to remind me when to water my plants. Which is, you know, great if I remember to open it. But if I was the sort of person who remembered to open an app to see what plants needed to be watered, I’d probably be the sort of person who didn’t need an app for that in the first place.

Most of my app info got moved to bullet journal spreads. I still have a budget book and a yearly planner. Everything else got downgraded.

That’s it for the first week. Stay tuned next week for week two of our life audit. And if you share any pictures on Twitter, be sure to tag me so I can see them.

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