Saturday, 29 December 2012

Reflections on 2012

If you were following this blog at the start of 2012, you will know that, rather than set resolutions for the new year, I decided to give myself a word. 

The word was organised.

(If you'd like to read more about my decision, you can read the original post here)

You may be wondering how I got on with the word: whether the change of focus meant that I managed to keep to my resolution this year. 

I have had a look back over the year and with the magic of hindsight I have to say that it was reasonably successful. After a highly motivated start (Oh, for the love of... boxes and January round-up), the momentum definitely slowed. Sometimes I felt very discouraged at my lack of progress (and occasional down-right failures) but looking back I can feel that something in my attitude has shifted. 

So what areas of my life have become more organised?

My craft supplies, organised way back in January, have stayed reasonably well organised (with a bit of tweaking for new purchases) for the rest of the year. 

My second year's tax return was completed online a full two months before the paper form deadline (and five months before the deadline for the online form). This was a huge contrast to my experiences in January and, although I still had to fight myself to get started, it was much easier to complete this time. I also had the added pleasure of seeing tax deadline adverts/reminders and being able to congratulate myself! I have also set up better systems for organising receipts/invoices and another for recording income/expenditure. I hope that this will save me even more time when it comes to filling in next year's tax return!

I have made a start on decluttering and, although there is still a lot of work to do, I am beginning to find it easier to let things go. I have managed to get rid of lots of stuff but still haven't even started on the spare room!

And what has been less successful?

I haven't found a routine for cleaning and tidying that works for me. I go through phases when I'll stick religiously to a routine and then something will come up. Missing one day discourages me so completely that I tend to give up entirely and then I still have to clean or tidy frantically when visitors are due!

 Schedules also need more work. I have tried several different ways to manage my time this year and none of them have been 100% successful. I have tried Sunday Summits (planning every hour of the week ahead), the Pomodoro technique (writing a to-do list and then working through in priority order in 25min intensive sessions) and writing a schedule each evening/morning for the coming day. Although it is evident that I achieve far more when I allocate my time efficiently, I generally slip back towards days when I don't. Budgets and expenditure records seem to be just as hard to maintain as cleaning rotas and schedules!

Another thing that fell by the wayside this year was my participation in the Pintangle TAST challenge. Although it seemed like a good idea when I signed up, I had not really appreciated the effort that would be involved in completing the tasks each week. When the pintangle website moved, I rethought my involvement, decided that I wasn't doing the challenge for the right reasons and dropped out. This was a bit of a shame but I will continue to develop my embroidery skills at my own pace.

What have I learnt from my experience?
  1. Organisation is a very broad topic - during the year I have thought about most of the following: schedules for my work day, cleaning routines, personal finances, timing, procrastination, decluttering, tidying, business finances and paperwork.
  2. I have very high expectations. I am critical of failure in others but even worse when it comes to myself.
  3. It isn't possible to change everything overnight - some of my attempts at organising something didn't work the first time, often because I was trying to change too many habits at once.
  4. I want to be organised in some ways more than others. For example, I wanted my business finances to be organised more than I wanted to establish a cleaning routine. Hence, I suppose, the success of one project and the failure of the other: the stress of impending tax deadlines far out-weighs my need to have hoovered stairs. Maybe, now the most pressing areas are more organised, I can start work on the next priority.
  5. Some people set an impossible standard. My priorities are my own and I don't need to compare my way of being organised with other people.
A huge thank you to Alida at Your Powerful Mind for her help and encouragement in this (and other areas). I'm not sure I'd have kept up the momentum so long without you!  

How will this affect my 2013?

I will continue to experiment with daily schedules, cleaning routines and budget trackers until I find ones that work for me. I will continue to fight the urge to procrastinate. I will continue to work on my consistency.

This alternative to resolutions has been refreshing and I will definitely be repeating the approach in 2013. It has given me the opportunity to slip for a time and then pick up where I left off. I don't feel that I have "failed" to keep my resolution in any way because I have made progress and never expected perfection. Organisation will continue to be important in 2013, as I strive to raise the bar closer to where I'd like to be, and it will be combined with my resolutions for the new year. 

I have so much planned for next year - I'll be back in 2013 to tell you all about it!

Roll on New Year! I'm ready!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

2012 Lessons

 Another year is drawing to a close. 

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about my business: how far I've come, where I'm going, what I'd like to achieve.

But, mostly, I have been reviewing what I've learnt. 

Just to recap - this year I started selling my crafts on Folksy and Wow Thank You. I participated in 2 on-line Craftfest fairs and 2 real life craft fairs. I now have a facebook page, a Twitter account and a few other social media accounts.

So I have learnt quite a lot of techie stuff...

.... I have learnt how to set up RSS feeds so that when I post on Folksy or WTY, a post automatically appears on my FB page....

.... and I have learnt how to schedule Tweets and FB posts so that they appear when I want them (and not all at once)....

.... and I am beginning to get the point of Twitter although I am still not sure if I will ever find it particularly useful as a marketing tool.

These lessons have been useful but they are overshadowed by some of the things that I have learnt about selling and about myself. These things are what I would like to focus on today.

So here's what I have learnt this year:
  1. People value what I value - I have no reason to apologise for the price of items that take a great investment of time and love. The price I ask is fair and reflects the value I place on my skill and time.
  2. People who cannot value what I make are not worth my worry - even if I were to sell my craft items at a price that just covered the cost of materials, I would still be undercut by poorly made imports. If that's what people want then they will settle for the cheap alternative, but I will not stoop that low.
  3. Giving something away can be as satisfying as selling it - whether as a gift to a special friend or as a prize in a competition - knowing that what you have created has gone to a good home is always a special feeling.
  4. Parting with an object made with love can be hard - this is especially true with the bears: I find that I develop a strong attachment to each little character and it becomes very difficult to part with them. Benny has become part of the family and will now only be used for promotional purposes. Another reason why valuing your wares correctly is crucial: selling them for less than they are worth is soul-destroying.
  5. Consistent marketing produces results - I know, I know, I shouldn't have needed a year to work this one out but sometimes I cannot be told! When I consistently listed new items, blogged, tweeted and posted, I made sales; when I stopped listing, blogging, tweeting and posting I made no sales! Surprise, surprise! 
  6. Selling is hard - it's hard to find your customers, it's hard to convince them they need what you are selling, it's hard not to become discouraged. But no-one ever said it would be easy, did they?
  7. Love what you do - if you create with love, describe with love, package with love and sell with love your customer will also love what you do. What could be better than that?
  8. Make things for me - sometimes I just want to make something for the sake of it. Just for me. And that's OK.
  9. Make someone smile - sometimes it is enough that my bears make someone smile. The chance to brighten someone's day is a precious gift and a worthy goal.
  10. My time is limited - There is only so much time to make things and to develop new ranges. This year I have floundered a little and lost the path. As my OH pointed out recently "Bears are supposed to be your thing... so list some bears!"

Some of these lessons have been harder to learn than others. Some I seemed determined to struggle with even when I could have learnt them quickly from other people. I am sure that there will be new challenges to face in the year ahead but they will not seem so daunting if I can remember how far I have already come.

What lessons have you learnt this year? I'd love to hear about them!
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