Our Journey Begins

I had hoped to start out this year by sharing some of my goal setting, planning and productivity techniques. I was unable to begin this series of blogs in early January because sometimes life comes at you fast. But I have an opening and it felt ripe and full so here is where I begin.

My yoga teacher has been sharing some Sanskrit teaching each class. A few weeks ago, she shared the first line of a particularly apt tract. The first lines said something akin to, “And now begins the practice of Yoga.” The important point being that every moment was a new opportunity to begin the practice. Every now is another gift, another chance to practice yoga.

I like that idea, a lot.

And so right now, in this moment, I have an opportunity to share my practice with all of you.

How Do You Do All That You Do?

Most folks who get a peek at how I work have been blown away and subsequently have encouraged to me to write more about how I approach productivity. I am constantly refining my tools and techniques, so that at any given moment I am introducing a new idea, dropping a tool or inventing something totally new.

Because I allow my methodologies to evolve over time, I have often tried multiple ways to address the same issue, coming closer to a real solution each time I revisit it.

I have favorite authors, tools and methods that I return to time and time again. Some of them are well known like Covey, the Hipster PDA and Getting Things Done. Some tools are conventional like index cards, moleskin notebooks and a file drawer. Still others techniques are ancient like meditation, shamanic journeying and dream work. I also am almost constantly on the look out for how others in my situation approach these issues, some favorites include David Seah, Merlin Mann and countless others.

So this blog is the beginning of what I hope to be a regular series. Over the next week or so, I will share my process and plans for the year, then each month I will post updates in each area. I hope this helps me with my process and maybe helps others with theirs as well.

And now our journey begins ...

Why Am I Here?

This is the second part of my series on Productivity. To start at the beginning, you can begin here.

One of my favorite authors is Stephen Covey. I assigned Covey’s First Things First for our first Reflections book study. I had read the book many years ago after working with various other time management techniques since the mid seventies. As part of our work that year, I refined my mission statement and defined more thoroughly the roles that mattered to me within my life at that time. The current version of my mission statement is below.

MISSION
• To share my gifts.
• To actively participate in my own evolution.
• To acknowledge divine mystery.
• To experience the joy, sweetness and beauty of life.
• To be willing to touch and be touched by the journeys of my loved ones
• To be grounded in the present moment with an open heart and mind
• To engage in radical self care

I really like my mission statement and it truly speaks to what I feel is my purpose and vision. I review my mission at least twice annually. This is the first one that has stood the test of time. The core ideas have remained unchanged for several years, but I kept stripping out nonessentials till finally it felt just right. I have a feeling this one is a keeper. But who knows. I could change my mind. That is why I review it regularly.

My mission, for me, answers the question, "Why?" Because once I know why, the "What" and "How" becomes easier to tackle.

You may notice that mine combines in one statement my spiritual, emotional, physical, creative and intellectual imperatives. That is intentional. I refuse to compartmentalize my life unnecessarily. Moreover, many of my goals impact multiple areas of my life simultaneously.

It is called synergy. When you can work synergistically, it requires less energy and can feel less chaotic. Next up are my long term goals.

Long Term Goals

This is the third part of my series on Productivity. To start at the beginning, you can begin here.

So after reviewing and updating my mission, my next step was my long-term goals.

I have a file that includes my long-term goals going back at least two decades. Why? Because it helps me to see how my goals have morphed and changed over the years. It helped me to realize what has withstood the test of time and what was just a momentary glitch. Now I have a better feel for what is my goal and what is my response to someone else’s agenda.

LONG TERM GOALS
• My life has room for my chosen family
• Financial independence
• Innovative and successful software solutions business
• Beautiful, welcoming and nurturing home
• Pagan monastery and temple
• Spiritual, sustainable and healthy lifestyle
• Share my writings, music, art and message with a wider audience

Over the next week or so, I am going to write more about each of these goals and share my annual goals under each of them. My plan is to publicly commit to these annual goals and to review my progress toward completing them throughout the year. We will see what actually happens. One thing I already know is that I need to work on the wording for my long-term goals. Since I usually review them every quarter, I may just wait till the next review to modify them. We will see how that works out.

I am a little nervous about exposing my inner working and my fear about being judged negatively by others is raising its head as well. But I think that this process can be helpful for me even if no one else finds it interesting or helpful. Although admittedly, I do hope others will not only join my journey but also participate in the ongoing discussion. And of course, I definitely welcome suggestions and advice all along the way.

And so I welcome all of you to join me, because … now begins our journey.

A Sustainable Life

These first two long-term goals are associated with having a sustainable lifestyle and a soul nurturing social life.

Spiritual, Sustainable And Healthy Lifestyle

This goal is the linchpin for all my other goals. As I struggle to create healthier habits, my lifestyle also needs to change. I cannot continue with my current level of work while simultaneously having the time to exercise, plan healthy meals and slow down my hectic pace.

So I need a new lifestyle, a lifestyle makeover. I need to continue to simplify, lower expectations and shed unrealistic standards. The life I lead today is so less stressful than when I worked in my corporate job. But with all my goals pulling at me, I often find it difficult to pace myself and I feel like I need to do everything at once.

But there is another way. And this is the path I hoping to discover. As I slow down, experiment and discover new ways at approaching my life, my dreams and my visions, I am hoping to craft a new way at approaching life itself. I am not trying to create a life devoid of passion, challenge or mystery, so I am not complaining about the stress, obstacles and limits of everyday life.

I just want to imbue my spiritual work within the very soil of my everyday life. I want to live the life of a mystic and shaman in the middle of a bustling city. I want to find out just how much magick you can inject into the everyday so-called mundane world before it begins to morph right before your eyes into something we have not experienced as a species in a millennium.

My waking life already resembles a dream more often than not. Now I want that dream like world I inhabit to teach me more about navigating my way through to actually changing the manifest world.

So my annual goals in this area, on the surface, seem very mundane -- more space, more planning, more time, new glasses and a set of healthier habits. It is the approach to them that is key. Each and every goal is at its core a spiritual quest, a journey into my soul and ultimately into the unknown. In order to accomplish most of them requires something inside of me to change at a fundamental level.

My Life Has Room For Me, And My Chosen Family

As my brother said once as he walked through a room filled with my friends, “You have a *lot* of friends!”

And I do have a lot of friends. It is one of the things I enjoy about my life. I can make and keep friends of such depth, talent and authenticity. All my friends seem to me to be such smart, beautiful, talented and down to earth people. Most of them I do not get to see much anymore, but my feelings for them have not diminished one iota.

It is the main thing I miss about teaching at witch camps. I always felt that witch camp teachers were like this big network of best friends that you got to work with in different combinations each year.

In fact, I was really tired last year of not having time in my life for the people I enjoy the most. So I changed my life. These people are my chosen family, so I sought ways to see and talk with them more often. I managed to keep up with more folks last year because of my commitment.

So this year, I need to free up even more time and headspace to keep in touch with other folks too, especially those who are local. And there has to be a way to mix teaching more often with visiting friends when I am on the road.

One strategy that has worked beautifully is my annual New Year’s Day dinner party. Every year I get better at spending more time enjoying my guests. And my commitment to acknowledging birthdays has been a smashing success. I just need to keep up the momentum.

I think one way I can help make it more likely that I have time for my friends, is to have more time for me. The more open my schedule, the more likely I will be able to say yes instead of no to my social life.

2008 Goals

  • Openness in my schedule so I can have a social life
  • New glasses
  • Improved health indicators
    • Normal blood sugar (A1c ~ 90)
    • Lowered overall cholesterol levels (< 200)
    • Baseline weight closer to ~200 lbs
    • Walk 30 minutes three times a week

Ongoing

  • Radical self care routines
  • Weekly & daily planning

Manifesting My Dreams

These next two goals concern my work as an artist, teacher and priestess.

Share My Writings, Music, Art And Message With A Wider Audience

This goal was the hardest to craft. I feel like I am already doing so much in this area. But what this goal is getting at is my need to reach a wider audience. I cannot rely on my school alone to get my ideas out in the world. I need to publish, record and get on the road.

Traveling is truly very hard on me physically, so I definitely need to build more core strength. I can also put my technical skills to work by experimenting with other media besides books.

And I need time and space for singing and songwriting. And some new poems wouldn’t hurt either. I honestly cannot remember the last poem I wrote, it feels like it has been such a long time since I answered the call of my poetic muse.

One technique I tried flat out did not work. I burned out trying to work on my book every single day. It may work for other writers, but I fell hopelessly behind in everything else in my life. All my juice was used up within four or five hours of waking, which made it very hard to do things like teach, read, design or even just think about anything clearly after 1 pm daily.

I kept trying to figure out what was wrong late last year after I returned from Between the Worlds. But what finally dawned on me was that I was suffering from a case of pretty severe burn out. I managed to end one school year and start another one, and do a lot of amazing things while simultaneously living almost daily in a state of complete and utter exhaustion.

Even now, it is really difficult to write or think clearly. The class I taught a week ago was possible only because I could muster enough inner will to slog through it but by the time the class ended, I could no longer even think straight. My students hopefully had no idea how tired I was as I explained the intricacies of qabalistic reflection and symbolism.

I need to find a different way to approach my life as a teacher, priestess and elder. Teaching normally fills me with such joy and on that Sunday I felt the joy. It is just that I also felt the burn, and that is not how I want to feel when I teach.

So this year, I need to sharpen my focus some in my writings and stop dragging my feet in the publishing arena. I still need to figure out how to approach my book writing while leaving me some juice for the rest of my life. It really sucks having an illness that limits your energy output, but it has taught me a great deal about the need for planning, priorities and choices.

One idea is to stop sitting on the stuff that is in fact ready to be published. Another idea is to capture the teachings from Reflections in a written form. I also need to let people know that I am willing to travel so I have opportunities to teach in areas beyond DC. Weekend workshops and one-day classes on-the-road can be tailored to be okay with my metabolism. Week long festivals and hectic fast paced conferences do not work as well for me physically. And who knows maybe a regular podcast in addition to my blog might be in my future

Pagan Monastery And Temple

I often talk about the need for a pagan temple, but I realized that I seldom mention the monastery. In many ways I have created my dream right here in my home with Reflections. The whole house is my temple and monastery in many ways.

But my long term goal is a larger structure right here in the city, where people could visit during lunch or after work to light a candle, say a prayer, sit in silent contemplation or join in a service just like many folks do at many of the older churches around town. A respite from the world of stress dedicated to the gods and goddesses of old.

And I also want a monastery, where people who are committed to the work of the temple anchor the magic and offer space for others to take a respite from time to time. Many Buddhist monasteries allow folks to stay for varied amounts of time and this allows folks to participate in the life of a working monastery.

That is what I want for pagans. But I want it in an urban setting. Why? Because, I believe that is where it is needed the most. The cities need dedicated sacred space in the midst of the stress and density of urban life. People need the gods close by, and the gods need to be anchored where people actually live.

I feel like my school and tradition needs to reach a critical mass before we can manifest a place to call our own. I also realize that we may need to work in concert with others to make it a reality. An urban temple could fulfill so many needs within our community. I should probably investigate how others have approached this issue in other faith traditions and paths.

My annual goals in this area are focused more on building my tradition and school. I will continue to scan however for more information about modern urban monasteries and how other traditions developed and evolved over time.

2008 Goals

  • Psychology & Magick book proposal, final draft and literary agent
  • Self publish two collections, Descent & Vocation
  • Teach two classes or workshops out of town
  • Document and publish Reflections teachings
  • 2009 weekend intensive for Presidents Day weekend 09

Ongoing

  • Reflections Mystery School
  • Connect DC (public ritual group)
  • Dark Flame Coven
  • Elder / Mentor / Clergy (various communities)

Amber Eyes

This next goal concerns my web design business, Amber Eyes Solutions.

Innovative And Successful Software Solutions Business

I enjoy developing software applications. I enjoy learning new ways to use new technologies to build software applications. I like hanging out with others who share my enthusiasm. So I started a company where I hoped I could make money doing what I love.

Amber Eyes was initially an event management and services company. Then it morphed into an event services company. Now it is a software solutions company focused primarily on web design.

I am still struggling with how to make money doing what I love. But one thing is clear to me – I love introducing people to tools that they can use. Plus, I enjoy the design process. I enjoy sketching out ideas, investigating alternatives and finalizing the design. And…. I love it when a plan comes together.

I just need to make money doing it.

One thing I have learned as I morphed my business, if you cannot change, you cannot grow. Over the last two years, I changed my business model. I adopted an open source content management system as the foundation of my web design business. This has been extremely helpful in many ways. However it also meant that I had to come up to speed fairly quickly in learning a new software tool and since it was open source, I had to get directly involved in the developer community in order to get assistance with the software. I now have seven sites up and running, and in many ways I can no longer consider myself a newbie.

But my increasing skill level comes at a price, not of money so much as time. It takes time to learn and experiment. It takes time to research and delve into the intricacies of mastering a new set of tools and methodologies. I had to teach myself a new language, while simultaneously modifying code written by gurus and masters in that language. It was harrowing at times. But along the way, I got to hang out with some very cool people.

But now I need to create ways of building on that period of intense learning and begin to reap some reward for that investment of time and space. But it is not as easy at it sounds. The software continues to evolve and new versions and capabilities are coming out faster than I can keep up with them.

I need a way to keep current with the tool, support my current clients and build my business. This almost constant churn in the development arena is very taxing.

One thing I am considering is backing away from the developer community some, and instead focus on finding ways to automate more of the routine procedures and processes.

I also need to build sites faster, so I may need to simplify my theme development for new sites. Right now, I can build a site in less than two weeks even with my already packed schedule, but it can take me sometimes months to finish a theme. I need to let go of the idea that every site needs to be an original work of art.

2008 Goals

  • Support ticket and CRM (customer relationship management) system
  • Automating key maintenance and upgrade routines
  • Publish my design philosophy on Amber Eyes web site
  • Implement e-commerce solution on two sites

Ongoing

  • Site design templates
  • Several ongoing development projects
  • Completing key site upgrades

What you do not see on this list are marketing goals. Last year I had a goal of 2-3 new web designs. I created two new designs last year but only one was for a paying client. And I am still working on her graphic theme (see above). I thought I had a new paying client in November, but the process got bogged down and now it is the start of the school year. Marketing is not my strong point, although I am getting better year after year.

I guess I could add a goal called, "Create marketing goals", but that feels kind of silly. This is an area that needs work.

2008 Goals Addendum

  • Create marketing goals

  • Home And Hearth

    These last two goals concern two of my difficult areas -- home & finances. For those who have been following along with us at home, by now you have figured out that Earth is not my strongest element. I am an air person, so in my cosmology earth is where my demons live. I generally suck at caring for my health, home and finances.

    This past year, I made huge inroads into this area. I improved my health significantly, had major repairs done to my home and late last year faced some of my biggest financial challenges head on. So 2008 finds me in a much better position in respect to earth than I have ever been before.

    This is also an area where I get the most projections from people. So I was hesitant to share these goals for fear of triggering even more unfounded abuse than normal. However I know that I am hardly the only one facing issues such as these. So in the interest of both helping myself and possibly helping others, I decided I could survive the scrutiny.

    Beautiful, Welcoming And Nurturing Home

    I love my house, again. I used to hate it. I thought it was falling apart on purpose, as if it was trying to make things hard on me. I am slowly making peace with the reality of almost constant home repair and maintenance.

    I have also given up on having a spotless, a clutter free home where every room looks like a photo from Architectural Digest. All of it revolved around my accepting that a person with the illness and limitations that I have will never be able to handle the upkeep of this house all by myself.

    Lowering my expectations allowed me to get to know my house all over again. And so I started breaking up the work into manageable chunks and asking for help. Putting the emphasis on my use and enjoyment as opposed to worrying about what others might think really made it possible to improve my experience of living in my house.

    And in the process, I began to love my house again.

    But now I need to translate that love into action. There are so many areas that need work and attention. I have developed a set of routines that have helped me to keep up with many of the basics. Now I need to concentrate on correcting several problem areas and resolving some long-term issues.

    Financial Independence

    I oh so do not want to have to get a “real” job.

    I took a huge pay cut when I decided to retire early, and the subsequent changes in lifestyle have been painful. But I would not change a thing. The freedom to do my work is so worth it.

    But as energy costs go up, and things start to fall apart, living solely on my pension is becoming more difficult The money I make from teaching can no longer be justified as quality of life funds that pay for things like books, hobbies and classes. I need to find ways to trim as much as possible from my expenses, build up my reserves, and find alternative sources of income.

    When you live on a fixed income, many of the habits you build up when you received a salary or wage no longer work. I no longer have to save up reserves in case I lose my job for example, but I do need them for large expenditures like car repairs. Also my habit of paying large sums each month to quickly pay off debt no longer works, because I no longer have the luxury of earning way more than my expenses. So I have to change my relationship to debt completely. My credit cards which never went more than nine to twelve months without being paid off suddenly started to inch up. I had to relearn habits from my younger days and avoid debt completely. Now I only pull out my credit card for things that are two large to pay immediately and are part of project where I have planned how to pay it off. I use my debit card as a credit card instead of writing checks, but that simply makes it easier to track my expenses. So I use less cash overall.

    But no matter how much I cut expenses, I still need another income source besides my pension to meet the higher costs.

    Best-case scenario, I produce enough web designs, books, and teaching gigs to help me fill the gap. Otherwise a part time job may be in my future.

    I also need to finalize/update some long-term items associated with finances, such as my will, life insurance beneficiary list and power of attorney documents.

    2008 Goals

    • Repairs and reorganization -- 2008 Focus
      • Kitchen (4 projects),
      • Bedroom ( 3 projects) and
      • Closet (2 projects)
    • Build up my cash reserves
    • Will and Power of Attorney documents
    • File Taxes in Feb/Mar, no extensions

    Ongoing

    • Weekly & daily routines
    • Repairs and reorganization planning
    • Budgeting & financial planning

    2008 Goals

    2008 Goals

    • Openness in my schedule so I can have a social life Done
    • New glasses Done
    • Improved health indicators
      • Normal blood sugar (A1c ~ 90) Done
      • Lowered overall cholesterol levels (< 200) Done
      • Baseline weight closer to ~200 lbs
      • Walk 30 minutes three times a week Two times a week
    • Psychology & Magick book proposal, final draft and literary agent
    • Teach two classes or workshops out of town Done
    • 2009 weekend intensive for Presidents Day weekend 09 Announced
    • Implement e-commerce solution on two sites Done
    • Create marketing goals Done
    • Repairs and reorganization -- 2008 Focus
      • Kitchen (4 projects) 2 Completed,
      • Bedroom ( 3 1 projects) and
      • Closet (2 projects)
    • Build up my cash reserves
    • Will and Power of Attorney documents
    • File Taxes in Feb/Mar, no extensions Done
    • Raise prices for web design to reflect my new hourly rate Done
    • Create templates, wire frame themes and a live test bed so I can build sites faster Done
    • Attend networking events like the local Drupal Meetup Done
    • Advertise Connect DC Rituals in Washington Post Religion section starting with Summer Solstice. Done
    • Advertise annual Reflections intensive in regional and national publications
    • Create a Reflections Mystery School brochure
    • Advertise classes and rituals in local newsletters such as the Hill Rag, DC North, Takoma Voice, etc.
    • Answer requests for short term Drupal assistance on local job boards
    • Support ticket and CRM (customer relationship management) system
    • Automating key maintenance and upgrade routines
    • Publish my design philosophy on Amber Eyes web site
    • Document and publish Reflections teachings
    • Self publish two collections, Descent & Vocation
    • Let more folks know that I am available for out of town classes, workshops, festivals and conferences.

    Ongoing

    • Weekly & daily planning
    • Weekly & daily routines
    • Radical self care routines
    • Repairs and reorganization planning
    • Budgeting & financial planning
    • Site design templates
    • Several ongoing development projects
    • Completing key site upgrades
    • Reflections Mystery School
    • Connect DC (public ritual group)
    • Dark Flame Coven
    • Elder / Mentor / Clergy (various communities)

    Getting Ready

    So now I have a list of goals for the year. This list seems fairly long and involved when I look at them all together. But that simply means that they are ready for the next step in my process.

    And the next step is to do some preplanning. Not everything has to be done at once and to think of it that way will help me not feel overwhelmed by just looking at the list. As I look them over, I see that several of my goals can be scheduled, for example getting new glasses in March. Some require a build up or a plan like walking three times a week or building my cash reserves. Others require a full project plan like several of my home projects and almost all of my business projects. Some things I need to plan when I start them, others when they are due and still others require both – a start and a due date. And several of my ongoing goals are already linked to the calendar in some way.

    And I need to enter all of these goals into my current system for tracking projects and tasks till completion. I use a variant of Getting Things Done (GTD) for tracking my projects and next actions. My tool for GTD is an application created by the Omni Group called OmniFocus. (To learn more about GTD, check out the Merlin Mann’s brilliant series on 43 Folders.)

    I could have just as easily simply added this list to my current list of projects and created a project list for each goal listing all the steps required. And by then identifying the next action needed for each, I could include these actions within their respective context list. But since I am a total geek, I capture most of this on my Mac in OmniFocus.

    I do however print out an index card listing my mission and long-term goals. I also do most of my project brainstorming by hand on scratch paper (backs of old code samples and reports). And I do create physical project folders for my larger projects, especially those related to my business.

    Whichever way I approach this process, I will definitely need to break each goal down into a series of actionable tasks. Without actionable tasks, how exactly would I go about adjusting my glucose levels for example? So as I enter my list into OmniFcous, I try and identify the steps needed to accomplish each goal. I may not have all the information I need to fully plan each goal, but I can at least list what I think are the next few steps.

    For example, as I sat scratching my head about marketing goals, I suddenly realized that I was no longer sure what a marketing goal was anymore. So I listed reading up on marketing plans and reviewing sample marketing goals as the first few steps.

    In the process of moving these goals into my system, I noticed that some of the goals needed to be broken up into succinct parts and others needed wording that more accurately described their end state. In this way, my goals are becoming more refined and also more accessible.

    After adding some timeframes, I select the set I want to work on during the first quarter. Since I am already a week into February, I need to be careful that I have not overloaded this quarter. This is especially important because as a quick look at my calendar will confirm, I have a really full schedule these next few months.

    So I temper my expectations within the reality of my life circumstances. What makes this step less painful for me is that I am already doing so many things that reflect my mission and purpose. In earlier times, it was a struggle to find space for my goals and priorities within so much mind numbing, soul draining and heart breaking work. I carried my artistic goals around in my emotional inner pocket to protect it form the constant pain, illness and grief within my life. Now I can let my artist self out to play within a life filled with soul enriching work and meaningful connections.

    Knowing that whatever goals you set have to be nurtured within the soil of your lived life was such a revelation to me. So my goals need to not only stretch me, it has to fit me and somehow fit within my current life somehow. Setting goals that call for a complete change in my life in order to accomplish them is not helpful for me. However setting goals that when they are completed, will change my life is another matter altogether. The latter respects the ground where I currently stand, and allows me to be changed by the process. The former demands that I change first. I seldom am successful with goals that require me to change before I can accomplish them.

    An example of this are my goals associated with improving my health indicators. With the exception of the walking goal, all are indications that can be tested objectively. I have loads of ways to reach these goals. But notice that they do not say, “Switch to a vegetarian diet”, or “Cut out processed sugar”, although one could argue that doing these things would certainly help. I have found over the years however, that goals like these do not work for me personally. Last year for example, when it looked like I might be diabetic, I did not go on a diet. I simply began tracking my food intake by food groups. The result was that I lowered my blood sugar and lost weight. My goal was a normal glucose result, and I was successful.

    Another way of saying this is I tend to focus on the “What” not the “How” when I write goals for the most part. And as soon as I say this, you will notice that I do include a “How” goal of walking three times a week for 30 minutes. So it is not a hard and fast rule, but I know some things are far more likely to happen if I word it a certain way that reflects my unique perspective and lived experience.

    And so over the next few weeks, I will discuss my process and plans for the next few months as I begin working toward my annual goals.

    Creating Marketing Goals - 1

    As I read up on marketing and marketing plans, I slowly realized that I needed to go back and read my business plan. And while reading my business plan, I discovered that … oh my... I need to update my business plan. And as I began updating portions of my business plan, it hit me.

    I do not know what business I am in anymore. Yikes!

    And that is ultimately why I had difficulty imagining marketing goals. What the heck was I marketing anyway?

    As alarming as this realization is, it is actually good news. Now I can focus my attention on the right question.

    What business am I in exactly?

    Amber Eyes started out as an event management and services company. And my original business plan stated that case pretty convincingly. When I changed my focus last year, I rewrote the key areas of my plan to reflect the addition of web design to the event services focus I had morphed into over the years.

    Now as I look at how my business has evolved, I suddenly realize that I needed to change my focus yet again.

    I am still a web design company, but my customer demographic has changed. I am no longer focusing solely on folks looking for their first web site, I am now moving toward folks who want to update their existing web site or application. I also am interested in more collaborative projects where I partner with graphic designers and theme developers for example. I also take on custom programming like the xml to iCal application I built last year for my local yoga studio.

    I use to think that my main competition where all those web hobbyists who were willing to build web sites for free. Now I realize that for many folks, it is often worth it to pay someone if it means you can get the site when you really want. (It is very difficult to complain about something when it is free.)

    This stream of consciousness then led me to the next big revelation -- if paying me is not a barrier, why are my prices so low? Aha! I was looking at the wrong demographic. So guess what, my prices are going up. But first, I may offer a “Get In Before the Price Increase Sale!”

    And all my advertising is passive. The only place you see it is on the footer of all the sites I designed. Marketing costs money. And since I was doing everything on the cheap, I was resistant to spending any money. But where would I advertise what I have to offer?

    Then I looked at my site. Yeah, I list my solutions in a handy page linked to the menu. But damn, maybe I should give the products the front page and put the blog behind a menu entry. I am not sure.

    Again. What am I selling? My site says that I am selling “Solutions!” Solutions to what? Problems. What problems?

    So then I wondered … what are my customers trying to do? They are trying to sell something. They are trying to sell themselves or sell their stuff. And if they are in a group the group is trying to sell their ideals or sell their connections.

    So what if I crafted solutions that helped people sell these things. I could even name them using labels that stated the problems right up front.

    So a possible new product line could be: “Sell mySelf”, “Sell myStuff”, “Sell ourIdeals”, and “Sell ourConnections”. Okay this is good, but many people have problems with the idea of selling themselves. They immediately think of used car or snake oil salesmen when they hear the term “Sales.”

    So what are other words that imply the same meaning? Sell versus promote -- but it does not work for all four types however. Hey, maybe a blog on Selling Yourself is in order.

    All this stream of consciousness led me to call my best friend, Ishtar. Ishtar always has such a fresh way of looking at things. The first thing she confirmed was my intuitive hit at what bothered her the most about her web site. She wished there had been a simple way of updating the site without having to completely erase what was already there. And since she had to replace everything every year, she also had to redesign the entire site every year… from scratch. She said that having an easy way to update a web site is what she really wanted.

    And I thought to myself, well, that is exactly what I offer. Too bad she let her site go, because I have been in a position to make her dreams come true for a couple of years now.

    So with that feedback in mind, I started thinking about the difference between a commodity and a product. A commodity is what you deliver, but a product is what you sell. For example, automakers deliver cars, but what they sell is excitement, sex appeal, power, romance, adventure and togetherness. Check out most advertising and you can see it so plainly.

    So my commodity is web designs. But what is my product? Ishtar and I brainstormed a bunch of ideas. And this is what we came up with last night.

    It was so fun playing around with tag lines. But the bottom line is that my product is “Proven Solutions That Make Change Easy.” I like it a lot. But it still seems kind of involved. My previous product had been, “Ease: Knowing That Your Problems Will Be Handled For You.” So maybe this new one is fine after all. I need to think about it some more.

    Now that I have a better idea of what business I am in, I can start thinking about crafting some marketing goals. And that is exactly where I needed to be.

    In part two, I will discuss some possible marketing goals for Amber Eyes.

    -----
    I will be offline somewhat for about a week. I need to concentrate on preparations for my upcoming workshop this weekend. Then next week will be a time of relaxation and recovery. I may post an update or two, but the series will most likely not be back till the week of February 25th.

    Creating Marketing Goals - 2

    This is part two of my exercise in exploring setting marketing goals for 2008. In part 1, I explored what business I am in and what is my product versus my commodity. The larger story of this piece is my new series called Manifesting your Dreams which explores ways to bring your goals into manifestation. I plan to share my process and my progress throughout 2008.

    I am no longer in the web design business. I am in the business of assisting web masters build web designs. At least that is my first blush at a new business direction. I discovered that what I really wanted was a design partner, a collaborator. I am currently testing out this theory with a good friend, P.

    This is exactly what I was hoping for when I wrote my prescient hope, “I also am interested in more collaborative projects where I partner with graphic designers and theme developers for example.” And almost immediately after posting part 1 of this series P contacted me.

    I built the XML to iCal application for P last summer. This time he asked me to help him pull together a web design proposal for one of his clients. We are waiting to hear back on that proposal and today he had another one he wanted to discuss with me. Yay!

    This makes sense considering the marketing phrases Ishtar and I played around with earlier. I mean only web masters truly want to become web ninjas or web heroes. Almost everyone else just wants someone else to do it. This is what I discovered with a recent client, G. She wanted me to be her ongoing web hero, when all I was interested in was being a lone ranger, i.e. wham, bam, thank you Ma’am. And off into the sunset I would ride to face my next big challenge. Uh, the only people who truly appreciate that mode of operation are fellow geeks.

    In my business plan I wrote exactly about the problem I am trying to solve without realizing their larger implications.

    “Specifically, my customer is the web person within these organizations who are tired of hand crafting their site and want something easier to update and maintain. So the problem I am solving is the problem of keeping your site up to date easily.

    Many folks have to hand off the updates to the web guy instead of just entering the new info themselves. And the web guy is spending a lot of time, cutting and pasting text into existing templates instead of finding new ways to improve the overall effectiveness of the site.”

    Well guess what? My customer is that guy, y’know, the web guy. And P is a web guy. He is a web ninja and web hero to several organizations. And P needs my help.

    What I also rediscovered is how much I like working with creative people, especially creative geeks.

    So my marketing goals so far involve several actual business goals, like raising my prices. But I also need to call in P or folks like him when I get customers like G. So building a network of web designers to call on plus advertising my services to web people makes a lot more sense.

    Amber Eyes Marketing/Business Goals (first draft)

    This whole process has illuminated another hole in my marketing plans. I need to consider marketing for Reflections, Connect DC and Katrina Messenger as well. Most folks would prefer to call it outreach or publicity instead of marketing in these instances, but that seems like a game of semantics to me.

    I need to advertise outside of the purely pagan communities. Most of what the school offers is applicable to spiritual seekers of any faith. The public ritual group has been ripe for more publicity for several years. And I am not even going to mention the deep, dark pit of fear associated with putting my name more out there, but it is needed nonetheless. sigh ...

    And so, I am making (gulp!) marketing goals for the other side of my life as well.

    Outreach/Publicity Goals (first draft)

    Of course several of these Outreach, Publicity and Marketing goals have costs associated with them, so I will need to set a marketing budget for each area. I also need to identify which of these goals I will commit to for this year.

    And finally, I have resolved a dilemma that haunted me for a while. I decided that I am a shaman who does web design on the side, and not a web designer who is a shaman on the side. My motto is more like, “Chop code, carry water”. Hah! Go ahead and moan. It works for me AND is kind of twisted at the same time – perfecto!

    First Quarter Progress Report

    Well, it is time for an update on my progress toward my annual goals. First off, I lost some time this past month due to a “growth” opportunity, i.e. a butt-kicking spiritual ordeal. And so as expected, I have had to modify my plan and push many of my first quarter goals forward and adjust the rest of my annual plan.

    But here is the good news. I still managed to complete three goals and move forward on several others.

    Completed Goals


    April Goals

    Several of my April goals are already underway, so I just need to focus on completing them.

  • Schedule Two Classes Or Workshops Out Of Town
    I had three out-of-town classes in the pipeline last month, one was scheduled and another dropped. I am still waiting to see if the remaining class can be scheduled for this year or not. If I cheat (and c’mon, I set the rules!), I could count my sermon in Cumberland, MD this month as an out of town class. In which case, another completed goal! But I am still going to hold out and see if I can schedule another class.

  • File Taxes Jan/Feb, No Extensions
    Since I lost most of my open time in March, I may have to call my accountant and request an extension. It is not a big deal, especially since this year I think I did a better job in estimating my quarterly payments. I would still prefer to file them this month; it is just that I doubt I will make the deadline of the 15th.

  • Implement E-Commerce Solution On Two Sites
    I have the ecommerce solution working on one site, but I am not satisfied with it yet. I want to test out two other solutions before deciding which one to use. I also have a new client (!) who needs an ecommerce solution – so this one will definitely move forward this month.

  • New Glasses
    I have completed the research on my two vision plans – gotta love Fortune 100 retirement plans. I just need to pick which vision plan I will use and make the appointment.

  • Kitchen Sink & Water Filter
    I am planning to use the money from my new client to fix the sinks in my kitchen and upstairs bathroom. But I have to wait till the check arrives.

  • Walk 30 Minutes Two Times A Week
    And this is the month I begin the twice-weekly walks. I am waiting for warmer temperatures to ease my aching joints. I am thinking of adding the new walk on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, since I normally walk after yoga on Thursday already.

    Ongoing Goals

    I also need to pay attention to some overall goals. I feel like I need to break them down somehow into smaller steps.

  • Openness In My Schedule So I Can Have A Social Life
    The biggest issue so far is my having purposely overloaded the first quarter so I could have some free time later this quarter. I need to block out time for me so social connections are easier. I still managed to get social time each month, most notably spending quality time with my cohorts in the Hard-K club for our annual Hat Night celebration and doing some juicy magic with a couple of dear friends. More of the same, please!

  • % Of Proceeds To Cash Reserves
    March is the month where I begin allocating a percentage of all proceeds to my reserves. I will do the allocation for last month when I reconcile my various accounts over the next week or so.

  • Baseline Weight Closer To ~200 Lbs
    This goal sends shivers down my spine. My weight is pretty stable at the moment, so I am hoping the extra walking will help with this goal. I will re-evaluate my progress in this area in June and adjust accordingly.

    All in all, a good start.

  • Second Quarter Progress Report

    I was sooooo busy, I had to wait till I finished my series on using dreams and symbols to navigate your productivity before I could do my update.

    So although I reviewed my second quarter in July, I did not write up this report till now. The first thing I noted was that I needed to drop several of my previous goals. Secondly, that several of my goals were essentially completed. And lastly, and this one is a biggie, I have substantially changed trajectory and I need to re-evaluate all my remaining annual goals.

    I review my Long Term Goals every quarter. But I review my annual goals every single week. And the slow change in focus has been obvious to me for a while now. So of the goals that are left, I need to consider just how many of them reflect my current focus.

    I could go back to my original annual goals list and modify it as needed. Or I could restart the process and determine new goals for the last six months of 2008. I have decided to do a little of both. First I have updated my annual goals list with the current status. Below are the remaining open goals.

    Remaining 2008 Goals

    I have added two major additions to my annual goals

    Which when added to my existing major projects of …

    … gives me a rather full plate for the last half of 2008.

    I am thinking with these major items on my already full plate, these two goals may be too much for me this year.

    But I will hold on to the following goals, since they represent items that could be generally seen as representing home, health and finances. And those three areas usually represent a challenge for me in terms of motivation and focus. Although I may trim back my list of home projects for this year.

    The remaining goals concern advertising my classes, workshops and intensives. I will most likely advertise the annual intensive as planned, but I will reconsider advertising my regular classes. I will review this area again in September.

    I have already dropped goals that represented my old business focus and goals that would be difficult to accomplish with the upswing in business and a full teaching schedule.

    So now all that is left is rescheduling the remaining items and updating my project files.

    Conclusion

    I have accomplished an awful lot this year already. But if I did not review my annual goals and drop ones that no longer serve me, I would be setting myself up for disappointment. Because things have change substantially in my life compared to earlier in the year, re-examining my goals helps me to refocus the second half of the year.

    Third Quarter Progress Report

    It is way past time for my quarterly update. Rereading my second quarter progress report was eye opening in many ways. Needless to say, I was highly ambitious plus I left out a lot of important information. I forgot to mention that I was simultaneously planning to teach two local courses, teach a short seminar at the Northern Virginia Pagan Pride Day, priestess the Connect DC Samhain and on top of it all pop up to Dover, Delaware to teach a seminar at Bell Book & Candle. Phew! And are my arms tired … rimshot please!

    No wonder my butt has been dragging these last few weeks. I have a very full plate. (Please note the way I am understating the problem as a way of pretending it is not as bad as all that.)

    So to summarize, in addition to the above, I am also …

    Aiiieeee! These last few weeks have been really rough on me at so many levels. So instead of jumping right back into the fire, I decided today was a day for me to not only relax but also to reflect.

    [Jumping to the end] And so I just crossed several items off my list of goals for this year. Yay! And the remaining items had to pass several gating factors. First gate: Do I have juice for it or will it give me juice? Second gate: Are they part of My Work or are they a part of my Radical Self Care?

    All of the items I have mentioned above passed the first part of each gate. I have juice and they are a part of My Work. What was missing was the latter half of each gate, i.e. gives me juice and Radical Self Care. I reviewed my weekly tracking cards for the last few weeks, and discovered that the reason I felt so bad was not just all the work, but also that I started dropping the very things that would help me feel better not only now but also long term. Hmmm …

    So I spent the day mostly sipping tea, journaling and finally just now … laying on my yoga mat and breathing. The few productive items that I managed to do today were all of the two minutes or less variety. And I only had two or maybe three of them all day. Yay me!

    I have to admit that this year is really different from previous ones. I have never had so many things on my plate that were all items that reflected my mission and priorities. At the same time, it has been challenging because too much of a good thing is still … well … too much. As I look forward to next year, I will need to keep this in mind. But for right now, I am going to continue to reflect about how to get juice and Radical Self Care back into my life.

    Katrina

    2008 In Review

    Reviewing my accomplishments for 2008 is sobering in many ways. Please someone remind me to think twice if I ever pray for abundance again. I accomplished a great deal, and yet I also had to drop many items from my goals list. Reminded of my outrageous to do lists from the eighties, I find myself wondering out loud at how so little has changed fundamentally.

    And yet, everything has changed.

    I am not the same person, yet I am beset by the same challenges time and time again. I find myself wildly scanning all around me for a glimpse of my hamster wheel. Am I running in perpetual circle along the same track again and again? Am I doomed to repeat the same lessons in different forms over and over again?

    And yet, everything has changed.

    For one, I am not upset about any of the items dropped from my overflowing plate. Further I can accept the reality of things needing to be scaled back and reframed with new information and new opportunities.

    And yet, everything is the same.

    My challenges revolve around discerning priority and focus among multitudes of equally desirable options. And it revolves around limits of time, energy and ability up against a limitless imagination and an over arching vision.

    Surrounded by such lush and ripe promise, it is an agony leaving any of it to spoil, rot and decay on the vine. And yet, to pick more than I can consume or carry is itself a waste.

    And yet …

    The larger lesson for me is that I cannot “multitask” anymore. It is harder to rally enough energy to do just the one thing, much less twenty. And so I must pare my eternal list down to the essential and the needed.

    Oh and it is agony. Which of these precious jewels will be polished and prepared? And which stones will remain rough and untouched? Agony.

    And once again … I head toward transformation.