So basically, I instituted a practice a while back that completely altered the amount and quality of work I was able to get done. It’s a practice I’ve recently picked back up here in Mexico, where I live now . . . and it is doing wonders for my productivity, mental clarity, sanity, and content. Wonders.

I want to share this magical, mystical practice.

In a short blog post. And if you know me, that like . . . never happens. So let’s hop straight into this cool method/thing.

It’s called making content creation the first thing you do in the morning. Before Twitter, before getting fully ready for the day, before investing time in your day job, before all of it.

And yes, I do understand that you have a crazy, busy life. I promise I really do get it. But it’s just like working out. We all know we need to do it, but if we never prioritize it and try to leave it as the last thing we do for the day, it never gets done.

So, even if you just wake up 30 minutes earlier, or alter your routine to fit in an extra 15 minutes or so in the morning for yourself, I hope you can find a way to make this work.

Prioritizing content in the morning means that:

  • You haven’t been influenced by any outside sources yet that day. Your mind is fresh. It’s more focused on who you really are . . . it hasn’t had time to take on the other personalities and crazy thoughts that hop in our heads each day as emotional creatives.
  • You’re less likely to create content that’s an accidental copy of something you’ve seen. Especially if you follow the #1 rule of this practice: Don’t consume any content at all, other than your own, before you get started for the day.
  • Your emails and responsibilities haven’t taken over yet.
  • You will feel more productive that day to have gotten in an early win.
  • Your quality of life will likely increase if you’re able to create more amazing content and feel better about your progress toward your goals.

Here are the 10 most epic suggestions ever (#humblebrag) of what you can create or do during your morning time:

1. Write a letter to yourself.
And by “letter,” I of course mean “email to the future.” You can use a tool like FutureMe.org if you’re like me . . . in denial about the validity of journaling each day.

FutureMe.org even has an app. You can open it up (or use the desktop version) and write yourself a quick note that will be delivered at some time in the future that you get to specify (1 month, 1 year, 5 years, etc.).

What happened yesterday? What milestones have you met in your business? What are you hoping to launch or do in the near future? Why does it matter? Who is important in your life right now and why?

Remind yourself to be patient, mindful, forgiving, and kind to yourself and others.

No lie. Every single email from the past me to the future me has made me cry. Has made me stop in my tracks. Has refocused me. Has delighted me. Has reminded me of what’s important.

2. Create an outline for an epic piece of content.
Whether you want to outline an epic article, blog post, or guide using this resource planning post as a guide, or you want to start planning how to change one of your blog posts into a book, or you want to start planning your first workshop . . . take 15 – 45 minutes in the morning to create a detailed outline of your content.

3. Draft an email to your email list.
When your mind is more raw, real, and fresh, take the time to draft an email to your list. Something real, something that includes a story, something that communicates your heart and passion for what you do.

If the email isn’t complete by the time you finish writing that morning, keep it in a special Google Doc in the cloud (or a folder somewhere that makes sense for you) so that you can write more when you feel like it or come pull from this doc when you have a thought that relates and can complete your email.

4. Write part of a book.
Legit. This is the only way I was able to write and publish my first book when I had other full-time responsibilities. It was the hardest, most rewarding thing ever. EVER.

5. Write out one activity you’re going to do that day for yourself on top of your daily goals or in your day planner.
Is it working out and building toward your summer six pack? Is it getting a pedicure? Is it going out with a girl you have a crush on? Is it going to bed early enough to read two chapters of your current book?

Prioritize something, even if it’s small, that replenishes you or gives you a moment of peace in a long day.

6. Create a blog post.
Take one of the outlines you created on a separate morning and fill it in with your epic morning mind.

7. Write a video script.
Whether you are creating a video tutorial that you’ll have to narrate, or you want to create a cool new video series with quick tips and solid information, your video probably needs some sort of a script . . . even if it’s only bullet points for you to follow as you talk.

Having your script pre-written will make it THAT much more likely that you actually get those video ideas you’ve planned out done.

8. Write part of your course materials or part of your sales page.
Most of the time, you can’t build a quality course in a day. So, instead, break up its creation over as many mornings/days as you need to.

If you already have a course or another product you sell, write or tweak your sales page or a cool bonus that you can use to generate interest in your product.

9. Re-assess and write down your top 3 work goals and top 3 life goals (plus their “why”—the reason they matter) as they occur to you that morning.
I know. I know. You are already super clear on all your goals, ever. But, just in case you want to constantly audit and check yourself (so you don’t get sucked in to an online cult), write down what’s important to you as of that moment. Make sure all of your goals have a real reason/purpose that you can identify, and then verify that your immediate goals (of the day/week/month) line up with your purpose statements.

10. Write some fiction.
Yeah. Give your mind something creative to work on outside of your business. Something you don’t have to monetize. (So, if you’re a professional fiction writer, you’re going to want to do something outside of your normal work. Something that doesn’t have pressure associated with it. A poem? An article? Some travel tips? Whatever pops in your head.)


Pssssst. You can totally create content other than written content in the mornings. Sometimes I simply:

  • design a graphic
  • record a screen tutorial
  • record an audio file
  • continue my morning project from the day before
  • etc. {translation: get creative with your “Morning Milestones”}

If you’re not already doing this with your mornings, I really do think you will enjoy it, because no matter how crazy your day gets afterward, you will have gotten some business and personal growth stuff done.

10 Epic Writing Activities for Entrepreneurs

I hope you enjoyed these quick ideas for what you can do in the morning to feel + be epic and productive.

I re-started doing this because as lovely as it is to have a coworking office (when I’m in Austin or when I’m here in México), if I show up there first thing in the morning, the convo, or the structure of the facility, or my general responsibilities take over . . . and then I get frustrated with myself for not accomplishing as much as I wanted to.

I’m probably not the only one, right? Tell me. What do you do in the mornings? How do you achieve the level of productivity you’re shooting for?

Let’s discuss time. You probably don’t feel like you have enough of it, what with running an online business and all. Specifically, let’s talk about ways to invest your time that will have epic effects on your online events, your brand as a whole and the way you do business.

Over the years, we’ve invested in seven areas that have paid off big time. We hope you’ll stick with us as we explain the multiple benefits and applications of each area.

Making these time investments can help any online coach or trainer, freelancer, infopreneur, blogger, or solopreneur . . .


1. Making videos. Even though we all hated being in front of the camera when we first started.

As an introvert with unruly hair, I (Regina) thought it wise to stay off-screen for most of my life. But, with the way the Internet evolves and explodes every single day, I thought it unwise to not try multiple forms of media. Periscope is the video of the day! No wait, it’s now Snapchat. Um…it’s Instagram Stories! Whoa…now it’s Instagram TV!

Whatever the platform du jour is, if you learn to create video, you’ll be able to pivot with the platform. If you run Internet businesses like we do, then the #1 rule for us is:

Once you arrive, don’t stay at your destination too long; you have to set a new course.

In other words, get ready to pivot.

Whatever goal you’re setting right now, once you hit it, celebrate, have a Martin Scorsese marathon, play some Scrabble and drop Z’s and X’s and J’s on your opponent, then set a new course. Even if your new course is taking your current project to the next level. Trying to apply IRL (in real life) speed to an online business is like trying to apply tortoise speed to the hare. Wait. Bad example. The tortoise beat the hare . . . but you get what I mean.

Area #1: Make some videos, yo. All the videos.

Benefits:

  • Videos increase the chances of people on the Internet finding you.
  • They take your brand to the next level of helpfulness.
  • They attract people who are prone to get a little lost in too much text.
  • They allow you to communicate certain things (tutorials, deep thoughts, etc.) more effectively than screenshots or words that don’t come with tones or facial expressions.
  • You can get out your thoughts faster when you speak (on video) than you can in text.
  • Videos allow you to express your personality (and personality quirks…) that help create authentic connections between you and your audience. That’s important in an impersonal world, yo.

Try: Facebook Live, Instagram Stories/Instagram Live/Instagram TV, Zoom recordings, G+ Hangouts On Air, YouTube tutorials, screencasts of your computer screen, recorded presentations, or any other type of video that helps you communicate with your ideal audience.

P.S. >> Tools: I use Camtasia or QuickTime for screen recordings, a DSLR and a lavalier mic for recording myself, and I upload most of my content to YouTube + Vimeo. Don’t underestimate the power of inexpensive (and free!) tools available to you. With just a $25 mobile phone tripod and your camera, you can build your audience and provide epic video content for them.


2. Writing a book.

Wait, writing a book is a time investment? Now you’re just talkin’ crazy…Let me tell you about the hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally. And the second hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally. It’s the same darn thing. Writing a book.

One was a physical 200-page manual and the next one was a 200+ page digital book. I just want to be honest with you here. THEY WERE NOT EASY TO CREATE. At all. But, I don’t want that to scare you off from it. Writing that first book is probably the best thing I’ve ever done for my business.

Do tell us why, Regina.

I will, my friend. I will.

Even though I feel my writing has changed + grown so much since my first book (so yeah, it’s a little painful when I read it), I’ve been able to use that book for IRL classes and its organization and information truly make a difference for people who are just getting started in business. I’ve been able to take some of the book’s content and make long format blog posts out of it; I’ve been able to modify some of the book’s sections and make them more specific for certain industries . . . then include them as content in my online classes and products.

Oh, and it’s made a little money over the last year or so.

Area #2: Invest some (serious) time in writing a book.

Benefits:

  • Writing a book will force you to create lots of content. Whether you give it away for free or charge for it, the amount of content you have to work with and form into different things will be worth it. You feel me? I know you feel me.
  • Your book makes you look legit. Straight up. It just looks sooooo legit that you have a book in your niche/genre/area.
  • Your book can help you make income. You can sell it solo, or bundled with other materials, or as a part of your workshop, or packaged with a baby sloth that you ship to my house. Seriously. I want a baby sloth even more than Kristen Bell. Please say I’m not the only one. And yes, I realize it’s probably not 100% legal or whatever. (note: the lawyer on our team just told me to stop suggesting that anyone ships baby sloths as a book bonus.)
  • Writing a book is just such a milestone that I truly believe you will experience a mindset shift after you’ve completed it. You’ll see your business and yourself differently. You’ll be someone who is a Published Author.

3. Learning doc layout + design.

If information is your game (I’m looking right at you coaches, infopreneurs, bloggers, authors, and online bootcamp instructors) or if you’ll be sending your clients documents (freelancers), then learning how to lay out and design attractive documents is vital. I invested time into learning Adobe InDesign at first. I could tell that it was going to take a bit more time to master than I had to spare in the moment, so I instead invested time in learning Apple Pages. Best decision ever.

The Free Create a Course Workbook The #LoveMyBrandKit, for you, for free

Now I’m able to create workbooks, slides, and downloadable PDFs that don’t take forever to prepare and publish or require me to hire a contractor to do for me.

eBooks and digital workbooks

Area #3: Learn how to lay out documents in the program of your choice.

Benefits:

  • You’ll be able to quickly create documents to add value to your content (checklists, media kits, guides, etc.).
  • You’ll be able to dream up digital products you can create and then actually execute them.

Try: Checklists, individual worksheets, adult homework, workbooks, products, eBooks, media kits, and other guides with your word processing or layout software.

 


4. Learning graphic design software.

I have invested many hours into learning Photoshop (as well as Pixlr and Canva), and it is so useful. Even if you just edit templates or designs you have made for you, knowing a bit about graphic design software will help you create the promotional materials you need much sooner than hiring someone every single time.

I honestly believe that graphics are what will initially help you stand out. Whether it be your Facebook cover photo (that you update with each event launch), your blog post images, or flyers + business cards to promote your brand, knowing how to “whip something up” can be crucial in this fast-paced business world.

Area #4: Find graphic design software that has the functions you need and doesn’t seem to have the largest learning curve ever (unless the software is going to be a key part of your day-to-day operations).

Benefits:

  • You won’t have to constantly wait for your designer to complete things if you’re able to do them yourself.
  • You’ll be able to quickly take advantage of any opportunities you see to promote your brand or products with graphics.
  • You’ll be able to add more to your emails, blog posts, social media accounts, and website when you know how to create or modify graphics.

5. Learning to take + edit photos.

Photography makes a huge difference on social media channels (like the vegan chef’s Instagram feed @fitmencook), your blog, in products, and anywhere else you need on-brand images.

Learn photography and editing with your device.

Area #5: Put an emphasis on learning the basics of photography and lighting, whether you use a mobile phone, or a point-and-shoot camera, or a DSLR.

Benefits:

  • You won’t have to always use stock photography to get your point across in your posts and products.
  • You’ll be able to catch more moments as they happen instead of needing to hire a pro just to get great images.
  • Custom photos will help you stand out, especially if you develop a style of your own.

Try: Learning the settings of your device and taking multiple pictures to get the hang of what makes something awesome vs. ordinary vs. poor quality.

P.S. >> Tools: Most of the photos on my Instagram feed are taken with a Canon T5i and a 50mm lens. But, some are taken with my phone. Almost all of them are edited with VSCO Cam or Snapseed.


6. Creating templates for blog posts, visual collateral, and resources.

This has straight saved me from going insane. All the content you create and clients you serve can be a lot to manage, there’s no need to add blog post graphics to your list for every single post.

Now that I’ve created templates (but you can always purchase one created for you if you don’t like design or purchase a pre-made set on Creative Market), I literally have a 3-step process to get a new image going for my newest post: (1) I open up my template, and (2) bring in the new photo I want to use, then (3) change the text.

How I use and modify my blog post templates.

Area #6: Develop templates (or hire someone to develop them for you) for any items you’ll be repeating somewhat frequently–blog posts, Pinterest, resources, etc.

Benefits:

  • All your images on the various social media channels will have the same feel to them and help your brand become more recognizable.
  • You will save a lot of time by using templates as opposed to creating something from scratch each time you want to publish a new resource/article.

Try: Multiple software platforms that are affordable and have support videos or free tutorials for you to refer to.


7. Creating a challenge (or even an email course).

We love challenges!

I’ve said it quite a few times before, but I’m saying it again because I really, truly believe it works. Host some challenges. This is one of the main ways my blog traffic grew when I was first starting out with this brand. I created a challenge years ago that I thought might be fun to do with a few people, but it started sending my site more traffic than any of my other articles. People like to be challenged because they love to reach milestones.

Check out this 30-day challenge by Jen Carrington as an example.

Area #7: Create a challenge your ideal audience would consider extremely important or engaging. Consider surveying some of your audience, family, or friends to see what they think a good challenge might be.

Benefits:

  • Challenges can be great for spreading your brand name.
  • Challenges can drum up excitement about your new online program or can be used as an ice-breaker in the beginning of your challenge.

  • Challenges are awesome for engaging and connecting with other people who have similar goals.
  • Challenges are typically pretty share-worthy.
  • Challenges usually only last a certain amount of time, which creates a sense of urgency for participants.

So, what do you think? What are some epic time investments you have made or want to soon make in your business?

Graphic design and article: Regina Anaejionu

Hello good people of 2015. Regina here. I want to share with you something that will hopefully be useful in the new year as you tackle some new business goals (such as: creating and selling digital products) . . . by the way, this is free.

One of the questions I get most is: “How can I create worksheets or eBooks that look professional?” or “What software do you use to make your workbooks?”

Well, I had a live webinar the other night that was a video training of how to make PDF downloads for your audience using Apple Pages ’09 (yeah–it’s so old school you have to buy a disc–but it’s so good though, and a lot of the tips will apply to the new app version of Apple Pages as well). I use the ’09 version because it has more awesome features for publishers than the new one. The recording of the webinar is available at the bottom of this post.

How to make PDFs with Apple Pages '09

In the recording, you will receive a template (like the one above) that I will show you how to create during the webinar. We will be doing things such as:

  • adding shapes and images
  • discussing PDF design fundamentals
  • loading your exact brand color codes into Pages
  • creating sections with different headers and footers on odd + even pages (like printed books)
  • adding headings, styles, and chapter/section pages
  • creating a table of contents through a fancy shortcut
  • exporting our documents as printable PDFs
  • learning the best places to get physical books printed
  • discovering great places to list your digital products for sale
  • discussing ways you can present your digital products attractively
  • getting a template of copyright wording for your future projects

You watch this free webinar by playing the video below:

Okay.
Regina out.

In order to create and maintain a cohesive online and in-person presence that engages readers and clients, you may want to consider a style guide for your blog or brand. A style guide is a document (PDF/binder/digital file) you create to keep you consistent on important blog elements such as fonts, colors, and image styles, as well as brand elements such as tone, document styles, and more. To create a blog style guide or brand guide you will collect, organize, and create images and text that inspire you, and then you will compile your preferences into a document.

“But why, Regina? Why must I do more work?” you cry out in anguish.

A style guide will save you time (because you won’t have to wonder what your next Instagram image should look like or how you should design that invoice/flyer you need) and it will create a recognizable presence for you online (people make my day when they say they see images on Pinterest and automatically know it’s from my blog–it’s like a non-germy virtual kiss I tell ya).

I’m currently making a new style guide, so I wanted to share the process and benefits with you.

I can’t wait to show you all the new brand. Some of the most fun I’ve had is defining the consistent styles you’ll start to see. I think you’ll enjoy creating a thorough style guide as well (so I created this new post + template out of a previous post from my site). When you look at your style guide, you will immediately have a clear picture of how you should do something or how to create certain brand elements. Can you please just imagine that for one moment? Confusion = gone.

So. You know what’s next. WORK. Download the 3-page blog style guide template below, and follow the guidelines on the template and in the post below. (Note: I made the template a Google Doc that you can copy and it paste into your word processor of choice.)
Continue “How to Create a Style Guide for Your Blog or Brand”