Digital Nomad Profile: Jill Stanton of Screw the Nine to Five

It’s Location Independence Week here on One Woman Shop! Join us as we chat with digital nomads and provide you with resources to jumpstart your location independent life. Sign up for updates throughout the week and RSVP for our location independence Twitter chat!

Today we're chatting with Jill Stanton of Screw the Nine to Five about her location independent lifestyle.

jill stanton digital nomad

Tell us a bit about your business and how you keep it location independent.

We [she and her husband, Josh Stanton] have a few businesses, but our main one is our affiliate marketing business. Essentially we have a network of 24 affiliate sites that make us the bulk of our income. Now these sites range from 4 pages to over 300 pages, with some only selling one product and others selling a variety. We like to keep it interesting!

On top of that we have also started incorporating different products, programs, and services into Screw the Nine to Five which has allowed us to increase our income even more...which is always nice! Ha!

What does an average month/year look like in terms of your location (we assume there's no average day!)?

We don’t really have an “average” month by any means. For example, in 2013 we lived on an island in Thailand for 2 months, then took off to Malaysia for 2 weeks, headed to China for a week, and settled back in Thailand in a city in the mountains called Chiang Mai.

But throughout the 10 months we lived in Chiang Mai we explored 3 other islands, went back to Malaysia for nearly a month, spent a week in Cambodia and then moved to the Philippines.

Starting in 2015 we are thinking about potentially choosing a country to stay in for a year and using it as a base to travel from - right now we say that is going to be Spain...but that could always change!

Do you call some place home? Do you have a lease or own a place anywhere?

We actually own a condo on a tiny island in Thailand called Koh Tao so I guess that would be our closest thing to a “home”, but we will only ever spend a month or two per year there as it's easy to get island fever...and we like to explore too much!

We initially bought it as an investment property, so we prefer to rent it out, but it is a beautiful place to escape to here and there 😉

How do you handle the logistics of working while traveling (finding reliable internet, being available, time differences, etc)?

Finding reliable internet is ALWAYS our biggest priority. In fact, we made the mistake of not double-checking the web speed in the Philippines before moving there for 3 months and found that it is something straight out of 1997! Haha!

After that experience we made a pact to only settle in places where the internet is fast, reliable, and will allow you to at least load your email!

As for time differences etc… we are fortunate to run enough of a hands-off business that timezone differences or travel days don’t mess with our sites too much. Just another reason we love affiliate marketing!

How do you balance making the most of travel while still staying on track with your business?

We are big believers in the power of routines. So no matter where we are we always try to get up by 7am (jet lag permitting, of course!), workout, eat a healthy breakfast, get ready and head out to either a co-working space (luckily these are becoming more and more popular!) or a coffee shop and put in about 5-7 hours each day.

We also have an amazing team that works with us and helps things on track and functioning, and best of all, keeps the business growing. We would be lost without them!

Because we have these systems and people in place, we can choose to skip out on work for a week or two if we really want...but we're currently too in love with our businesses to take too much time off.

Any location independent myths you want to bust?

Yes!! A lot of people think it costs a lot to live this kind of life, travel the world, and run your business, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

In fact, it is because we moved to South East Asia back in 2013 that we were able to hire the different people on our team, really scale up our business, go out for dinner whenever we wanted, take trips whenever we felt like it, and still save money!

We just didn’t have that opportunity back in North America because the cost of living can be quite steep - especially in the big cities!

What are your business/travel must haves?

For our business we have started relying heavily on different online tools to help us keep everything (and everyone!) in line and on task.

We simply cannot live without Asana (a free project management tool), Google Drive, DropBox, [email protected] (a fabulous focus-inducing music service), LeadPages, and of course, WordPress!

As for travel, we really love Trail Wallet, which is a handy little app that allows you to keep track of your budget while traveling. It also has the cheekiest little messages if you go over your budget, which I love.

Finally, one thing we can't do without—and this may seem so obvious—is a really good (and waterproof!) carry-on backpack with space for your laptop. Because we travel so much, if we are going on a quick 1 week trip we would rather just fly carry-on instead of checking bags and waiting at the baggage carousel.

Having a really solid and sturdy travel backpack makes it all so much easier for us to bring both our work stuff (laptops, cameras, and microphones as we like to record videos on location) as well as enough clothes for the two of us for a week.

What are some of your favorite resource sites for affordable travel and/or location independent business?

I think Natalie Sisson over at Suitcase Entrepreneur does a really great job at listing out a ton of affordable and handy travel resources. That woman travels all. the. time and seems to have found a ton of hidden gems I would have never been able to find.

I also love the website Making It Anywhere which is run by the hilarious couple Mish and Rob! Their site is full of amazing travel and lifestyle tips to help anyone make this life a reality.

Other than her site, we live and die by SkyScanner, Agoda, Airbnb, and the Explore function over on Kayak.

I also really love The Tropical MBA podcast...and of course Screw The Nine To Five! I couldn't close out this question without pimping my own site! Haha!

What do you think the future holds for you (staying in one place, periods of travel, being a full-time nomad, etc)?

You know, we've tried to figure this out, but each time we come to a decision we change our minds! I think we are just going to play it by ear and if we ever find a place that we love enough to stay in permanently then we'll consider setting up a base there.

But I doubt we'll ever stop traveling and stay in one place forever....our feet just get too itchy to live that conventional of a lifestyle.

Questions for Jill? Ask them in the comments!

Digital nomad and location independence resources

Digital Nomad Profile + Giveaway: Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur

It's Location Independence Week here on One Woman Shop! Join us as we chat with digital nomads and provide you with resources to jumpstart your location independent life. Sign up for updates throughout the week and RSVP for our location independence Twitter chat!

Today we're chatting with Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur about her location independent lifestyle.

natalie sisson suitcase entrepreneur

Hi Natalie! Tell us a bit about your business and how you keep it location independent.

My business is my brand- The Suitcase Entrepreneur. I help entrepreneurs create freedom in business and adventure in life. I do this through my blog, videos, podcast, paid digital products and programs, workshops and events.

I personally have lived out of my suitcase full time for almost four years and run my business entirely from my laptop and smartphone plus a Wi-Fi connection. I choose freedom so this is how I purposefully set up my business to run. I definitely work at it and it can be challenging, but I like challenges and I love what I do and have created.

What does an average month/year look like in terms of your location (we assume there's no average day!)?

I actually did a podcast episode on how I structure my "typical" non-typical day. This year and last have been pretty nuts on the travel side, visiting up to 15 different countries. My travel is usually based around 3 decisions- is this a country I’ve never visited, is there an event/ conference/ great group of friends where I’m going, is there an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. If it’s all three then it’s won the trifecta.

I don’t stay for any fixed amount of time, sometimes a few days, a few weeks or if I’m going a bit more long term a few months. I try to chase the summers so I’m not in the cold- which my suitcase is not really prepared for as I pack light and a lot of layers.

I attempt to do my most focused and important priority work in the morning, go out and discover during the day, check in early evening if need be, then enjoy the night. When I’m launching something or needing to do interviews or coaching calls I make sure I’m in a place with reliable internet and staying put for a day or so.

How do you handle the logistics of working while traveling (finding reliable internet, being available, time differences, etc)?

Some of that I spoke to above but essentially I plan my work around my travel. So I travel a lot when I’m not launching anything or doing major important work, hosting webinars, calls or live events. During those times I plan to stay put in one place where I know I can get reliable internet. For timezones- I’ll admit that’s still tricky but I love using Time and Date meeting planner and ScheduleOnce-  my calendar scheduling tool of choice to block out times I’m just not available so I can concentrate everything into a few set hours or days.

How do you balance making the most of travel while still staying on track with your business?

It really depends on where I’m going. I just spent 7 weeks in Japan where I’d never been so I spent 70% of my time being a tourist. I hired a few more team members and started diligently handing over to them so that I was working just a few hours a day, and some days not working at all. It also helped that my dad came over for 2 weeks to visit me so I was forced into way more play time which I loved. It’s all about your vision for life and what’s important to you. I love my work and when I work I’m very focused and productive. When I play, I’m all play (although I do have many great creative ideas while out exploring).

Any location independent myths you want to bust?

Yes, I wrote about them in my bestselling Suitcase Entrepreneur book actually, but for me it’s that it’s not all about working from a laptop on a beach in the South Pacific. It’s about living life on your own terms and doing what you want, when you want, with who you want.

To achieve this kind of lifestyle you have to be wiling to work hard but smart, and be very disciplined- which is the key to freedom. You also have to build the right type of business for you and your skill sets and your level of active vs residual revenue streams.

It’s definitely not for everyone as it can get lonely, you have to be open to constant change and planning your next steps and you have to be open to new cultures, languages and things being harder than expected.

In my mind, it’s all worth it but it can be tiring and also make you less tolerant or more lackadaisical if you’re not careful.

What are your business/travel must haves?

Oooh, too many to mention as I love my online tools and smart products. I love Rimowa for lightweight sturdy suitcases; mine is the Salsa Air and it’s taken a beating and has stood the test of time. I love Skross for an awesome travel adaptor. I dig Scottevest for a super useful travel jacket with hidden travel pockets that can reduce a lot of weight from your luggage.

I love my new Chase Preferred Sapphire card for earning me points through my business and travel spend. I’m digging Regus lounges for being able to access a business lounge in tons of countries and have an office anywhere I choose.

What are some of your favorite resource sites for affordable travel and/or location independent business?

My top fave for travel are for finding great flight deals and Airbnb for fun accommodation options. I love Dropbox as my online cloud storage solution, SaneBox for managing my inbox like a charm and Asana for project management with my team.

I detail my top tools here and my top travel tools here on my blog and of course all of them are in my book.

What do you think the future holds for you (staying in one place, periods of travel, being a full-time nomad, etc)?

For me, this question is top of mind right now. For 2015 I’d like to have 3 bases and spend the first quarter of the year in the summer of New Zealand or Australia, the next quarter of the year in Europe- likely Spain, and then a few months in the US for conference season and to spend quality time with friends. I’m definitely looking to travel less and have a base…but famous last words.

I’m also going to reduce my time focusing on the Suitcase Entrepreneur now that it’s running like a finely tuned engine, and once I’ve launched my flagship program for online entrepreneurs wanting location independence, I’m looking to start 1-2 new businesses, using all my knowledge gained in new niches just to diversify.

Want to read more of Natalie's insights? Enter to win a copy of The Suitcase Entrepreneur book!

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your location independence journey starts here

Digital Nomad Profile: Lis Dingjan of The Identity

It's Location Independence Week here on One Woman Shop! Join us as we chat with digital nomads and provide you with resources to jumpstart your location independent life. Sign up for updates throughout the week and RSVP for our location independence Twitter chat!

Today we're chatting with Lis Dingjan of The Identity about her location independent lifestyle.

lis dingjan digital nomad

Hi Lis! Tell us a bit about your business and how you keep it location independent.

I run a boutique creative design and development studio and do consulting work on a range of subjects so I'm able to work online from anywhere as long as my laptop is around. Any contractors or clients I work with are based all around the world so we keep in touch with a mixture of email, Skype, shared wunderlists and slack app depending on what project it's for.

What does an average month/year look like in terms of your location (we assume there's no average day!)?

I have absolutely no idea! If I'm planned more than a month in advance it's fairly impressive! I make quick decisions and plenty of last minute decisions. One moment I'm in Cambodia, the next living in the Netherlands, then I find myself in Morocco for a week and suddenly in Belize before I'm somehow in Australia.

I believe in spontaneity and taking chances and opportunities. They're everywhere when you open your eyes to them. I can't remember an average year since I was about 11 to be honest! Generally I know I'll be working, I'll be studying (this is unlikely to ever stop as I head into a masters – I've sat exams all over the world) and that I'll be travelling. Who knows what countries I'll see that year or where I'll end up 🙂

How do you handle the logistics of working while traveling (finding reliable internet, being available, time differences, etc)?

Be really flexible. There are days in Cambodia, or Africa, or wherever you may be where the power goes out and you've got nothing. When there's no Wifi, I spend my time in Photoshop and answering emails (and this is why I love Outlook!) whilst generally being ridiculously productive.

When the battery runs out I'll sketch up new projects, jot down all my ideas and to-do lists or head into the local community and see what I can do. I have a workflow set on my Alfred App for world times and it's my lifesaver for all those time changes and summertime/wintertime changed (they drive me crazy!). World Time Buddy is super useful for scheduling time zones that work. I also use a scheduler for all clients which automatically converts to their time zone to book consults.

If I'm on the opposite side of the world to the US (where a lot of my clients are based) that means some late nights or early mornings for Skype consults but generally otherwise I find everything to be easy to navigate in terms of availability. I don't need to – and am not – on my email 24/7 or work would never be completed! I also often jump on a few blogs in the location I'm at to see if there's any recommendations for great places to work from. This has been super helpful in some spots!

How do you balance making the most of travel while still staying on track with your business?

These days, "slow travelling" works better with business. I.e at least staying put in a place for a few weeks. If I'm only somewhere for a short time though, letting go of the need to see everything immediately. I remember when I used to travel before my own business, and my days would be jam packed with sightseeing and exploring.

These days it's much better to set up a little structure such as get up early, work for 6 hours and then go explore with the ability to relax and not stress about that impending deadlines. Some days can be allocated as work only days and you push out 14 hours and others as just doing the travel thing.

Any location independent myths you want to bust?

That it's easy working from cafes and that you won't miss a bit of routine and water-cooler-chats. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely ADORE working from quirky cafes but it can be frustrating too. Depending on what part of the world you're in, sometimes you'll barely find a power outlet, you've got to check the wifi and it's good café etiquette to drink and eat which means those days in cafes can get pretty damn expensive quick (especially if you're in Australia).

Some days you'll crave a creative office space where you can just plunk down your computer, bring your own lunch, chat to people doing similar things in a language you understand and not worry about your battery dying! And uh…that whole image of sitting on the beach working? Sun glare equals a screen you can't see! 🙂

What are your business/travel must haves?

A water bottle (I never leave without one), 2 power charges, an extension cord, a power converter for all the main types, a Mac Air (you just can't beat the lightness for travel), a super quality suitcase because you'll be dragging it around the globe…and for me, a flight escape plan in my mind every time I get on a plane (I'm terrified of flying!).

What are some of your favorite resource sites for affordable travel and/or location independent business?

Even though I'm an experienced flight booker (ha!) has saved me thousands. Who knew at that time it was cheaper to book a return to Spain from Miami just to get to Miami from London? They do!

I've actually created a site for finding independent cafes with wifi at which is relaunching shortly as a full directory site 🙂

What do you think the future holds for you (staying in one place, periods of travel, being a full-time nomad, etc)?

At the moment I'm actually settling for a few months! I've had quite a full on last ten years and have travelled through over 50 countries and lived on multiple continents so I've just hired a studio space in Brisbane, Australia to be in for a little while and really knuckle down. Until July…there's a flight booked to America and what will probably be a detour through London and Cambodia 🙂 I think there will be periods of travel mixed with periods of routine and structure. Maybe it's time to set up my own airline?!

Questions for Lis? Ask them in the comments!

your location independence journey starts here

Designer Profile: Kendra John of Key Lime Digital

Welcome to Designer Profiles, where we profile some amazing designers and developers who focus on making kick-ass websites and graphics for creative women entrepreneurs and freelancers. Think: eye-catching, sleek designs, fun functionalities, and social media integration. If you're in need of a new website, blog, or other graphic design collateral, take note of these creative superstars! 

key lime digital

Meet Kendra of Key Lime Digital. She offers custom blog designs for Blogger and WordPress. When asked to describe her work, Kendra said it's "modern, clean, and professional."

kendra john of key lime digital

In the words of Kendra:

I love the development of designing a blog- starting with having the client answer a bunch of style questions, designing a mood board, developing a header and then filling in all the details that really help make a design stand out. I am patient, reliable, and work to make the client satisfied.

And a fun fact about Kendra: she lives in Hawaii with her husband and two kids. They love to hang out at the beach, watch TV series on Netflix, and eat cookie dough by the spoonful.

Connect with Kendra: Website // Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest

P.S. Love Kendra's work? Show her some love on Twitter!

Day in the Life: Kelsey Jones

Welcome to Day in the Life, where we peek into the lives and schedules of solopreneurs and freelancers. Today we’re chatting with Kelsey Jones. She is the managing editor of Search Engine Journal and helps clients grow their social media, content, and search marketing presence under her agency, MoxieDot. She also just started a new healthy living/lifehack blog: The Hustle Life. When she's not doing all three, she can be found reading, getting a workout in, or trying to catch up on Breaking Bad.

day in the life freelancer kelsey jones

6:05 am: After hitting snooze once, I roll out of bed. My husband won’t wake up for another 90 minutes, so I be as quiet as I can. I get dressed in workout clothes in my master bathroom, put my hair up and put on a sweatshirt, and head into my office.

6:15 am: I don’t drink any coffee at all, so I move the large cup of water I filled up the night before from my desk over to my over-sized chair. I go through my Miracle Morning routine (meditation, affirmations, visualizing how I want the day to be, reading for 20 minutes), and then write down my to-do list for the day. I work in 90 minute chunks (with a 30 minute break), so I schedule my tasks out into about three or four chunks each day, depending on how much I have to do.

7:15am: Time for my workout. I’m doing P90X3: it’s 90 days and I’m at the end of week three. Agility X is today’s workout, my favorite. I take my computer downstairs, let my miniature long-haired dachshund and german shepherd/australian shepherd mix outside, and start making an amino acid drink for the workout, which helps combat soreness.

9am: After my 30ish minute workout, I mess around on email and Facebook, then finally get breakfast (either a smoothie with protein powder, chia seed, almond milk, and berries; or a ThinkThin protein bar), feed my dogs (how are they that excited about the exact same food every day?!), shower, and get dressed. My husband is usually dressed and leaving for the day, so we say bye. I go back upstairs with my laptop, sit down at my desk, and look over the daily list I wrote this morning. I write a B2B marketing news post for a KoMarketing and then start editing contributors’ posts they’ve submitted to Search Engine Journal, where I’m the managing editor. I send them edits and put each post either in Editor Hold or Needs Copyedit. I get distracted in a Skype conversation with an SEJ coworker about Game of Thrones but still manage to schedule out social media posts for my three social media clients on Buffer and HootSuite.

10:30am: After working my first 90 minute chunk, I set my timer for 30 minutes and either fold some laundry, put away dishes, or even just read for a few moments-- really anything to give me a break from the computer. Ironically, taking longer breaks during the day has increased my productivity and I get more done during the day, way more than when I was working 10-12 hours per day. Still, I feel weird and guilty folding laundry in the middle of the morning, when most people are at their desks.

11 am: I’m back at my desk for my second chunk of time. Now I have to write a 2,000 word article on Google AdWords marketing. I like writing, but 2,000 words seems overwhelming. I did do the outline the day before, so that helps. I manage to sneak in a peek at HootSuite to check for @ replies to clients and to my own Twitter accounts, before finishing the AdWords article, double checking it for errors, and submitting it to my ghostwriting client.

12:30pm:I feel good that I’ve already written that monster post, so I treat myself to Mr. Goodcents, which is like Subway. I get a pepperoni and provolone on high-fiber bread, with some baked Lays and a caffeine-free diet coke since I just found out my body is sensitive to caffeine.

12:45pm: Lunch took longer than I thought, but this 90 minute chunk of time is easier than the first two, so I manage to get almost everything done. I finally go through my inbox, which I don’t do in the morning because it makes me feel too stressed and distracted. A client IMs me on Skype and wants to set up a meeting for me to show her MailChimp with Join.Me screenshare. We set it up for the coming Thursday.

2 pm: I let the dogs out and talk to my backyard neighbor about how funny it is my dachshund still barks at her kids, even though we have lived there three years. I grab him and we go back inside. I think about eating thin mints as a snack but choose clementines instead (but sometimes the thin mints prevail).

2:30 pm: I start trying to wrap up my final tasks for the day but keep getting distracted since I have an Old Navy gift card. I put imaginary outfits into my online shopping cart before taking a quick break to fill up my water cup, which helps me get refocused. I have a call with another client about SEO for a pest control company. He designs the website and outsources SEO to me, so I take notes in Evernote about our next steps and promise to get three deliverables to him by the next week. I add them to ToDoist, spreading out the tasks to make sure my workload is fairly the same each day.

4pm: I didn’t finish everything, but I’ve lost all concentration, so I head downstairs. The dogs are happy I’m not working anymore and I start getting dinner ready-- cajun pasta with chicken. After eating, I take the dogs for a 30 minute walk. Their enthusiasm convinces me to walk a little bit farther than I normally do.

5:45pm: Time for TV time with husband or maybe something with friends. I force myself not to check my email.

10:30pm: Start getting ready for bed. I usually like to read before bed, but I’m too tired today. I set my alarm for 6 am, and talk to my husband in bed before we both fall asleep.

Day in the Life: Lis Dingjan of The Identity

Welcome to Day in the Life, where we peek into the lives and schedules of solopreneurs and freelancers. Today we’re chatting with Lis Dingjan of The Identity. Lis works with smashingly talented people to create big impact for their incredible offerings over at The Identity. She does biz consulting, branding, custom website design & development and a whole lot more. Part creative and part very nerdy, she's in love with helping businesses succeed with style, a dash of elegance, lashings of high quality, a sprinkle of rustic fusion and a whole lot of passion and value. 

day in the life lis dingjan

I’ve always got a million things going on at once so my days are jam packed and often changing. One of the wonderful things about going after your own dreams and ideas about life is that you don’t have to follow a strict concept of time. It’s your life after all! I’m also a bit of a nomad so I’m regularly in another country…I’m actually typing this from 30 thousand feet up on a flight to Europe whilst Love Actually plays and I fall in love with Hugh Grant all over again (I would pour orange juice all over me for days if it meant he stumbled into me!).

I’m a huge believer in hustling your butt off to get the life you want and I love kick starting the day and getting to it so I’m usually up by 6am. I’d like to say that I gently wake up, go for a run in Lululemon looking sassy and sexy and then make a green smoothie sipping it slowly on my rustic wooden balcony with 360 degree views in the Bavarian alps whilst flicking through a design magazine. Sadly, my life isn’t so glamorous…

6am-12pm: My mornings instead tend to start with doing a few hours of client work (branding, website design & development and consulting) from my Mac Air. Sometimes in my PJ pants and the always patience testing spinning wheel from way too many open applications. Most days I try not to open my email until the afternoon. If I’m in Cambodia my early hours are spent in the sun (though my porcelain skin fails to ever achieve a sparkling glow), with wonderful, inspiring families in the villages and rice fields or children at schools.

12-6pm: The rest of my day changes wherever I am in the world but it’s always filled with client work, Skype consults, charity projects, administration, responding to an inbox full of emails, reports, exploring a new town and no doubt some debates on current world events!

I’m incredibly lucky to have friends all over the place and love meeting passionate people in cafes so my days are interspersed with fruity tea catch-ups in alternative, kooky, recycled or comfy cafes. My tip? I don’t have social media applications or work email on my phone (I didn’t even have Facebook until this year!), which frees my time up for work, head space for creativity, seeing the world and connecting with amazing people.

6pm-7pm: I used to exercise regularly but that’s fallen by the way side a little lately. I do love exploring countries so I’ll walk a lot in cities to ogle at architecture, people watch or buy food from the markets (can’t go past Borough Markets in London) and get out into the mountains and make my thighs shake. I do work on weekends but I also adore camping so some weekends I escape in a tent. You’ve got to get away from the daily routine; best inspiration comes from outside your industry.

7pm-12am: Night times are often filled with side projects (never stop experimenting and learning!) whilst playing Friends, Grand Designs or music (Leonard Cohen, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, Beegees, Billy Joel, ABBA or whatever strikes my fancy that day). Otherwise I can be found at cafes wolfing down wood fired pizza and watermelon juice, at comedy events or concerts or talking world changing ideas with inspirational people. Toward exam period each year I will also be found cramming entire units in, in the space of a few weeks in a stressful panic (I’m still debating a masters for this year) and ironing becomes an unbelievably exciting hobby of mine.

12-2am: If I’m on my own I fall asleep somewhere around 1-3am otherwise I try to attempt to get to bed by 11pm (I have good intentions, I promise!).  I’m one of those people that gets crazy creative at night, but I also like starting my day early (thank you years of swimming training). I’m revamping my business so 2014 has a few more early nights and pool time. 2014 will be all about refining…and attempting to look more like Blake Lively than our ancestral apes.

Questions for Lis? Ask them in the comments!

One Woman Experiments: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

When Hope Connell came to us with the idea to implement a new morning routine based on Laura Vanderkam's e-book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, we were all for it- after all, we love tinkering with our schedules (and even debating about them).

What is your experiment and why?

A strategic morning routine might seem like a no-brainer to some people, but I have always been a person that sleeps until the last possible second. I’m neither an early bird nor a night owl. I love sleep, and I have always found it challenging to get up early “just because.”

Despite my inclination to hit the snooze button, I typically got up early with my husband on the mornings when he had to be out the door by seven, partially because it was hard to sleep though his preparation, but also because I knew I would be handling the morning routine of our toddlers singlehandedly. I wanted to get a couple basic things done before I was pulled into the demands of diaper changes and Cheerio refills.

These mornings gave me two realizations:

  1. I felt calmer on the mornings when I didn’t hit the ground running from the moment I woke up.
  2. I did not feel any less rested, even though I was getting less sleep.

I was considering the implications of these observations when I stumbled upon Vanderkam’s book, and I knew it was time for me to start setting my alarm clock.

Without sounding too much like middle school science class, tell us about your methodology.

The book recommends the following steps:

1) Track your time.

Confession: I did not do this. However, I did implement a strict bedtime of 10:00 pm, setting an evening alarm clock to alert me when I had 20 minutes before lights out.

2) Picture the perfect morning.

The book advises focusing on items that are “important but not urgent,” things that wouldn’t otherwise get done unless I make a special effort to schedule them in. I had several brainstorming sessions, which all resulted in long lists of possible ideas and no clear way to narrow the list down. Part of the issue was there were several items that I wanted to do, but that I didn’t necessarily need or want to do every single morning.

I eventually developed a variation on the Pomodoro method. I have three areas of focus with little breaks for quick chores in between. The areas of focus were mind, body, and business. Each day I would fill this time with something that strengthened me in those areas:

  • 6:00am Alarm goes off. Turn bedroom light on, hit snooze for 5 minutes.
  • Mind: 30 minutes of reading (when I’m lucky, my husband brings me coffee in bed while I read)
  • Break: 5 minutes to make bed and start load of laundry
  • Body: 10-minute workout video or doing a gentle stretching routine while I watch The Daily Show
  • Break: 5 minutes to get dressed for the day
  • Business: 30 minutes of watching video tutorials to develop my coding skills (or business training/inspiration videos) or writing

3) Think through logistics.

To being with, I started incrementally setting my alarm clock earlier until I was getting up at 6:00 am (this did not work, so I finally ended up just going “cold turkey” with the new wakeup time). I also made sure my current book and the kitchen timer were on my nightstand, so I was ready to start my 30 minutes of reading as soon as I woke up. I settled on a workout video to try, and I talked my plans over with my husband to see if any of it was going to disturb or annoy him first thing in the morning.

4) Build the habit.

I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was for me to commit to the new routine. I have skipped the routine a couple of times, but they were after long nights with a teething baby. On those mornings I figured we could all use the extra sleep, so I turned my alarm off.

5) Tune up as necessary.

One thing I’ve learned is that I need to settle on the specifics of my morning routine the night before. Which book am I going to read? Which workout video am I going to do? Was I going to write (and what writing project would I work on) or watch videos (and which ones)? Having these decisions made ahead of time helped me make smoother transitions between activities, which saved time and mental energy.

How did you feel when you adopted the practice?

Overall, I have felt great with this new routine! Some mornings it’s hard to pull myself out of bed, but I know that if I just get past that initial resistance, I will wake up and feel good and get some important stuff done. The book said this would happen, but I was surprised when I started to genuinely look forward to those quiet morning hours when I could work on long-neglected activities.

It’s hard to measure any quantifiable increase in productivity. Since the book suggests incorporating things that would not get done otherwise, my day after the morning routine looks almost identical to what it was before. The items I added to my morning routine are also not particularly productivity-centered, but I have seen progress in those areas, and my overall level of stress has gone down.

Reading: I’m not reading more books per month, but I’m reading them a little at a time rather than binge-reading right before the books are due at the library.

Workout video: Right now I’m using a video specifically focused on ab strength and health following pregnancy, and I have definitely seen an improvement (though it’s hard to measure).

Team Treehouse videos: This is one of those things I always mean to do but can never find time for. It doesn’t make me more productive, but it makes me a better web developer.

Writing: This is where I’ve seen the biggest improvement. Working on writing a little at a time helps me space out the work I need to do, and I don’t end up with a stressful few days before the deadline. In fact, since I started this morning routine, I have turned in two articles early because they simply got done sooner than I thought they would.

What was the toughest/best part of the experiment? Do you think you’ll stick with it?

The toughest part about maintaining my routine is the unpredictability of my children and their sleeping schedules. My morning routine goes flawlessly when they sleep until 7:30. But if my kids are up at 6:30 and my husband has to leave at 7, it’s really hard to get everything in around changing diapers and fixing breakfast.

On days like this, it’s hard not to push my morning routine onto my to-do list for the day. This is unhelpful, because I already have a full day (hence the need to find extra time in the morning to get these things done). When this happens, the routine that is supposed to make my life less stressful makes my day more stressful. I’m still working on letting those activities go until the next morning.

The best part for me has a lot less to do with productivity and more to do with guilt, believe it or not. I have always loved sleeping in but always felt guilty for doing it. It seemed like sleeping in isn’t the mature, grown-up thing to do. Similarly, I’ve been meaning to start workout videos for a long time, but I was always finding excuses not to do it, and that made me feel guilty. When I’m up against a writing deadline, I often feel guilty for not planning ahead and pacing myself better.

Now that I’m getting up early and crossing these things off my list every morning, all of that guilt is relieved. I’m not a person usually motivated by guilt, but in these areas, I was often feeling frustrated with myself for not getting things together. Now that I have a process in place, these guilt-inducing issues just take care of themselves.

I will absolutely keep my morning routine. I think it will be especially helpful as my kids get older and start sleeping later and more consistently. I feel just as rested, my mornings are calmer, and I am able to tackle important tasks consistently.

Questions for Hope? Ask them in the comments!

One Woman Experiments: Testing Out Facebook Ads

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

Ah, Facebook- as business owners, it's our best friend and mortal enemy. With the changing algorithms, it's getting more and more difficult to build traction without paying for Facebook ads. So, Laura C George, a consultant who works with artists, decided to test-drive Facebook ads and report back with her results.

What is your experiment and why?

I tried out Facebook Ads to promote a webinar. I've heard some good things about these ads like the fact that you can set a reasonable price to spend, whatever reasonable means to you. And I heard they're really effective, generating more Facebook likes or business leads. So I decided to test drive a Facebook Ad.

Tell us your methodology.

I used a great LKR Social Media article to devise my master plan. First, I designed a regular post for my page, with an image attached. This became the basis of my ad.

Then I went into the Ads Manager to create an ad. I followed the steps in the LKR article, targeting:

    • People who live in the US, Ireland, Canada, or the UK
    • Women who are 25-45 years old
    • People who like "visual arts," "arts and music," "painting," "fine art," "illustration," or "printmaking"
    • People who graduated from college
    • People who speak some version of English
    • People who are not already connected to Laura C George (my page)
    • And people whose friends are already connected to Laura C George

I let my max bid be at the top edge of the suggested bid, which was $0.70 and asked to spend no more than $10 a day for 8 days.

I'll note here that I didn't think ahead of time to set up goals in Google Analytics that would have allowed me to track which webinar signups came from this ad and which ones were from other Facebook activity.

How did you feel when you adopted the new practice?

It was really exciting to track the ad as it was going on, watching the impressions and clicks add up.

With the above specifications, I got 30,304 impressions (number of times my ad was seen), 98 clicks on the ad (in certain situations you can like the page or click the website link without clicking on the ad as well) giving the ad a decent click through rate of 0.32%. There is also the "unique click through rate" which is the percentage who clicked on the ad out of just the number of unique people who saw the ad - mine was 1.11%.

My cost per click was only 51 cents and I spent less than $50 total during the whole campaign. I also found it interesting that people saw my ad an average of 4 times and a decent number of people clicked on the ad multiple times, meaning that people who were interested were very interested.

And I found that a lot of people were telling me they saw the ad and it reminded them they hadn't liked my page yet, so I increased my page likes by another 20 - a big deal when you're under 500. Because I didn't properly track how my webinar signups got to the page, I can't tell exactly how well my ad converted for this particular project.

Any revolutionary/surprising insights? What was the toughest/best part of your experiment? Do you think you'll stick with it?

I can tell that Facebook Ads are a really inexpensive way to get new leads into your business. So when you're on a budget or just want to really fine-tune who sees your ad, this is the most effective advertising.

The hardest part of this experiment was getting my hopes too high. With all the excitement around Facebook Ads, I expected to gain hundreds of new likes for my $50. With this experiment under my belt, I have a more realistic view of this method of advertising. I can also now refine how I create my original page post - using an image that is designed to become an ad (it needs to pop out on the page more and more clearly show what the ad is about), fitting a link into the short summary on the ad (so people can directly click to my site instead of having to click the ad before clicking into my site), and adjusting the wording to very briefly entice people to click.

But I will definitely try again. I'm eager to see if I can beat my numbers the next time around, armed with experience.

Questions for Laura? Leave them in the comments!

One Woman Experiments: The Covey Time Management Matrix

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

We were recently introduced to The Covey Time Management Matrix, which some people swear is hands-down the most effective tool for time management. Ashley Brooks of Brooks Editorial stepped up to test-drive using the matrix. Here are her thoughts and the outcome.

What is your experiment and why?

For nearly a month, I’ve been using the Stephen Covey matrix to determine which work gets done first, and what gets pushed to the back burner.

This productivity system is based on figuring out which tasks are urgent (need immediate attention) and which are important (don’t need to happen right away, but are necessary to achieve your professional goals).

It’s arranged as a graph with four quadrants. These quadrants are:

  1. Tasks with high urgency and high importance
  2. Tasks with low urgency and high importance
  3. Tasks with high urgency and low importance
  4. Tasks with low urgency and low importance

According to Covey, most people get stuck in a pattern of “firefighting” and only focusing on the most urgent tasks. I have to admit, I’m one of those people. By always placing the most urgent work first, I was never able to carve out time to focus on important things like business planning or writing an e-book. I was hopeful that this experiment would help me stay on track with my long-term goals.

Without sounding too much like middle school science class, tell us about your methodology.

At the end of each day, I list everything that’s still on my to-do list for the rest of the week. I decide how urgent and important each task is, then assign it to the quadrant that’s the best fit.

Using my list, I begin every day with high urgency, high importance tasks—like a client project with a looming deadline. From there, I need to evaluate my unimportant, urgent tasks (which Covey refers to as “interruptions”). If they’re not too time-consuming, I’ll take care of them right away. But if they’re bigger than that, I’ll try to reschedule or delegate the job so I can focus on more important tasks. This is also a good time to figure out why it’s so urgent. Is it because I procrastinated, or did I say “yes” to a last-minute request I should’ve turned down?

Questions like these allow me to prioritize the kind of work I take on, especially regarding my overarching business goals. As I made my way down the list, it was easy to focus on one thing at a time instead of being dragged down by the thought of other things that needed to be done.

By the end of the week, I would hopefully have finished all my urgent tasks and left myself time to focus on important goals. The end of the week is also when I would force myself to be honest about the jobs I hadn’t completed: if they’re low urgency and low importance, they probably don’t need to be on my list at all.

For example, I was in the habit of replying to e-mails that didn’t need a response because I thought it was the polite thing to do. I also learned I was spending way too much time on Facebook and LinkedIn discussion groups. Even though they’re work related, I was letting them throw my true priorities off balance.

How did you feel when you adopted the new practice?

It took some getting used to, but the results have been fantastic! I’m able to be more productive without feeling guilty about pushing certain tasks aside for the day. It’s freeing to look at a task that feels urgent and remind yourself it’s not important in the long run. I was motivated to finish urgent tasks quickly since I could see that they were taking time away from more important goals.

E-mail and social media engagement were the two biggies that always fell into that tricky “urgent” category. The matrix provides a nice way to keep everything in perspective: getting my client work done and writing incredible content is more important than being constantly accessible through social media.

What was the toughest/best part of the experiment? Do you think you’ll stick with it?

One of the toughest parts was recognizing that sometimes client work isn’t urgent. It felt weird to be doing business development ahead of a billable project — even when its deadline was still several weeks away. It’s a great reminder that your business is built on more than just client work.

Another tricky issue was realizing that certain tasks consistently showed up as not urgent and not important. Stephen Covey calls these “distractions” and tells us to drop them completely. It’s hard to give yourself permission to take something off your list for good, but it’s so rewarding once it’s gone.

My favorite part of the experiment was giving myself time each week to focus on an important part of my business. Sometimes it was catching up on accounting, reading a business book I’d been meaning to get to, or working on the e-book I’ve been planning forever. Sometimes big business goals seem unattainable, but using the matrix has already brought some of mine much closer to completion.

I don’t know that I’ll continue writing out how urgent/important each task is, but the matrix itself will definitely continue to be part of my business. Now that the system is in my head, I’d like to keep using it as a way to organize my to-do list and vet new projects. Hopefully I’ll use it so much, it’ll become second nature to give important tasks the time they deserve.

Thanks for taking us through your experiment, Ashley! Now, it's your turn: Give the Time Management Matrix a go and share your results in the comments!

Multipassionate Muse: Katja Hunter

Welcome to our Multipassionate Muse interview series, where we chat with self-described multipotentialites. Need a multipassionate crash course? Take a look on our terminology page and take the multipassionate quiz!

Today we're talking to Katja Hunter, who shares her thoughts and advice on being a multipassionista on her website.

katja hunter multipassionate

Describe your various passions and projects.

My overall passion is to help and celebrate women who wants to get off the main road, so to speak. Women who are making a difference by being true to themselves. My overall passion is to make multipassionate women/conceptual and divergent thinkers feel good about themselves.

Being multi-passionate myself, I've never fit into a specific box and I truly believe the new world (and economy) we live in, need us to see and create new connections and dots to move us forward. Both personally, spiritually and when it comes to how we do business.

The response I get from women who come across my site and see a match in themselves as multi-passionates is overwhelming and I feel a strong connection with them. So I'm in the process of creating a simple guide, on how you can use your brilliance to work your way to a free and meaningful life - whether you are in business or not. A kind of "mental karate for multi-passionates" if you like. How to create your own "mental oasis."

Because just like in karate, you have to know and respect a few rules before you enter the Dojo (use Dojo here as your own metaphor for online arena/business/life).

Where did you hear the term multipotentialite/multipassionista (or similar term)? Did it immediately resonate with you?

I first heard the expression "scanner" when I saw a Youtube video with Barbara Sher. I forget now what I was looking for, but I immediately related to what she was describing a scanner to be. It was fun to find out that I am a specific type of personality.

Looking back, would you say you've always been a multipotentialite (were you that kid running multiple businesses from your front yard)?

Yes, I believe it's part of our personality from early on and I've always felt different, for sure. I'm sure lots of people can relate to that. But I wasn't a child who sold cookies or toys on the street corner.

My dreams were of freedom to be me and what I had to do to get there and of travelling to America. I've been fascinated by America from about the age of 12. Maybe I've been an American in a previous life, who knows? 🙂

What is the biggest challenge of being multipotentialite?

The biggest challenge of being multipotentialite is when you don't know you are a multipotentialite! 'Cause when you know how you roll, you can ease up on yourself and dive into the wonderful world of you.

I don't see my life as a challenge, I see it as exciting and full of possibilities. And it's up to me to mold it how I see fit.

What parts of living a multipotentialite lifestyle are most rewarding?

I'm grateful for the way I view the world. I truly believe I can make anything possible, if I don't let my fear stop me. Your lifestyle is what your priorities are.

It's rewarding to live a passionate life. I go by what feels right and not what makes most sense and that's given me great experiences in my life so far.
When you are curious about something, you want to learn more about it and when you learn, you grow and it's when you grow, you feel you're living.

We hear a lot these days about side hustles, solopreneurs and multipotentialites. Do you think it's a fad or the way of the future?

Well, it's already part of the future. According to the number of one-man and one-woman businesses in the U.S. alone, has grown 28 percent over the past decade. I think we'll see a lot more small businesses and individuals making a difference. And because the internet is open to all, it becomes increasingly more difficult to cut through the noise, so being real and creative is essential. A lot more people will have day jobs and run businesses in their spare time. And people who are willing to do this are the ones to watch...

Any words of wisdom/warning for other multipotentialites?

My advice is simply to trust yourself. Sometimes a creative cul-de-sac can lead to clarity. Don't worry. You'll get to where you want to be, if you keep going. Your time is now. Live with gratitude! 🙂 Stay passionate.

Connect with Katja: Website // Twitter