Posts Tagged ‘Self Care’

What if?

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There have been so many years that I have created a laundry list of goals, intentions, and plans to start the new year. I’ve hit the ground running with intensity and focus. And I am not saying that I don’t have goals for the year, or at least that I will. But I am still fleshing them out, I think. I am taking my time deciding what I want for 2017. I am not putting a time limit or pesky deadline on myself. I have so many deadlines already in life, so this year I am being kind to myself. Staying peaceful and relaxed. And this cool state of mind has me wondering…

What if I only had 2 goals for this whole year, 1. Finding JOY and 2. Loving myself more? What would happen?

It’s simple, its profound. And I have a strong feeling way deep down in my gut that it might just change everything.

What do you think? Are you ready to simplify to succeed? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments.

Joyfully yours,




Come On, Get Happy!

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joyI’ve said it before – and it still holds true – running a business is hard. Really really hard. But it shouldn’t be so hard that you resent it, or even hate it. It shouldn’t become a grind that you dread every single day. Otherwise, why do it at all?

Yes, there are stresses, there are problem clients or employees, and there will be times when you wonder where the money will come from to keep the doors open. But that shouldn’t be every single day. There should still be moments (days, weeks) of joy! There should be some (or lots of!) fun and laughter – or none of your hard work is really worth it.

If you find yourself caught up in the grind, or unable to see the pretty forest for all the mean trees, then I have 10 tips to help you get your happy back!


1. Schedule joy. While you’re setting your schedule and packing it full of meetings, remember to schedule something fun in there, too. At least once a week, put a fun item on your calendar. It can be as simple as going to a museum or picking your child up early from school for an ice cream date. But put it on your calendar and don’t move it off for any reason.

2. Turn it off. It’s a proven fact that our electronics cause us stress. If the election is making you crazy, don’t watch it on TV. If your phone buzzes all the time, turn it off so you can get some work done. And stop scrolling through Facebook. You may think that you’re just connecting with friends, but when you’re under the gun, those photos of someone on vacation may give you some serious guilt/envy.


3. Simplify. Put only 3 things on your “have to do” list for each day. If you keep making super-long lists of things to do, you’ll only make yourself feel like a failure if you don’t accomplish them all. It feels so good to check things off your list, so make your lists achievable!

4. Take care of you. Why is it that we seem to push our own self care to the back burner? We are our company’s best asset, so why in the world do we come last in most cases? You have to eat right, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, and be mindful of how you’re moving through your life. It’s critical to your personal life and your professional life. Make the time to take care of yourself.

5. Have a gratitude attitude. I keep a gratitude journal every single day. I always write down the things that I’m grateful for in my life, or that happened that day. It reminds me of why I started my business, of what life is really all about. That’s so important. And celebrate every single success in your business! We tend to just push towards the next goal without really celebrating, and that is a real thief of joy.


6. Laughter IS the best medicine. You should find the humor in something every single day, even in some mistakes or challenges. Sometimes it’s either “laugh or cry” so choose laughter! And really, if you ask yourself how much something will truly matter in a year, in most cases the answer is that you’ll barely remember it.

7. Meditate. I can hear you say, “How in the world am I supposed to schedule joy, make time to exercise, AND now meditate? I’m too busy!” I get it. We get caught up in the whirlwind and we think everything is so critical that it just can’t wait. But you know that isn’t true. You can take 10 minutes to do some yoga poses. You can have that phone meeting while you’re walking. And you can definitely take 5 minutes to be still and breathe. It’s been proven to reduce stress levels AND to help you focus!

8. Keep your eyes on your prize. Don’t look at what others are doing and think they have some magic sauce that you don’t. You don’t know what their struggles are (and they definitely have them), so don’t be envious of what you think others have. Keep the focus on you.


9. Delegate. It can be tough to shoestring a budding business, but you definitely need help. Don’t try to build your own website, don’t try to do your own books, don’t try to take on every task by yourself. You’ll burn yourself out! You should focus only on what makes your company money – that’s it. Outsource anything and everything you can – and if your budget for that is tiny then just pick one thing that someone else can help you with right now.

10. Don’t blame your business. Your business is not there to make you happy. It can help you get to goals that will eventually make you happy – but it can’t be the entire source of your happiness or your life. That’s expecting way too much from your company. Look outside your job for other sources of happiness to help get you through the stressful times at work.

Try these 10 tips to get you back on the happy train! You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll get done when you’re feeling more upbeat – and at how much you enjoy it!







5 Tips for Dealing with the ‘Messy Middle’

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When you start a project, there’s that magical feeling of excitement and possibility. You feel super-creative and full of ideas and energy – it’s amazing and so much fun! And at the end of a project, you have a sense of accomplishment, and you can’t wait to unveil your fabulous design or solution to your clients and to the world. But then there’s the middle of a project

That’s the tough and messy part of our business – that middle part where you’re dealing with headaches and issues. You’re slogging through what seems like a mountain of problems, and feeling completely chicken-pecked by your staff, subcontractors or collaborators, and your 5-mile-long To Do list. Ugh.

The middle is tough. It’s hard to keep up your excitement level, or to be motivated to tackle everything with enthusiasm. It’s like the shiny part wore off your favorite toy. But that is exactly the time when you need to kick things into high gear. In the middle, you have to communicate even more so your clients don’t wonder what’s going on. You have to keep your momentum going so your staff doesn’t lose their motivation, too. And you have to keep juggling everything so it doesn’t all come crashing down on you. The middle is messy, but so very important!


The middle is also a key part of your career as a creative professional. When you start out, you are starry eyed with the possibility of amazing clients and incredible projects, ready to show the world how amazingly creative you are. At the end of your career, you hope to look back on a fulfilling and long creative path, full of happy clients and dazzled editors. But the middle is where you can lose focus, or worse, lose all your motivation. Have you been there? Or are you there now?

Call it burnout, call it a mid-life crisis, or call it stress – the result is the same. You are exhausted from running your business, you feel like you wouldn’t recognize anything creative if it hit you in the head, and you struggle just to have your head down slogging through your To Dos. We all hit this wall in the middle of our careers, and we have to recognize it and deal with it, otherwise it could be the end of our businesses instead of the middle.

So how do we “deal” with it? Here are 5 tips for dealing with that “messy middle”:

1. You have to take care of yourself. This isn’t me being all “woo woo,” it’s a simple fact. Entrepreneur magazine has hundreds of articles that talk about how self care is absolutely critical for small business owners – and that’s you! You need to slow it down, get your rest, exercise, and eat the right things. Stress is literally a killer, and you need to make yourself healthy enough to deal with the stress that comes with the job. After all, you are the most important thing in your company.

2. Deal with your emotions. Are you scared that your company might fail? Are you angry at a vendor (or two)? Are you nervous that clients aren’t coming your way? This is all normal – every CEO from the biggest company to the smallest has these feelings. The key is to recognize them and address them instead of shoving the emotions down where you don’t have to look at them. Facing your worst fears and saying “what is the worst that can happen” is the best thing you can do. You’ll find that even if the worst case scenario comes true, you can deal with it. Doing that takes a lot of the sting out of the fear and allows you to stop blaming yourself. You can also then come up with a plan to help you keep those fears from becoming reality.

3. Ask for help. We ALL have to to do this at some point – and sometimes more than once. No single person on earth can do every single thing all alone. Whether it’s moral support, financial support, coaching, or additional employees or contractors, ask for the help you need. Don’t let your pride get in the way of your future success. Even if it’s as simple as hiring someone to help with your financial paperwork, or getting advice on how to handle time management, do it today.


4. Rediscover your passion. Too often it’s the business of doing business that wears us down. I ask my consulting clients this a lot, and I want you to really think about it now: Why did you get into this business in the first place? Whatever it was – creativity, wanting to help others, creating gorgeous interiors – how can you get back to focusing on that more? There is no reason at all to be in this business if you aren’t enjoying any part of it – and trust me, everyone from your clients to potential partners can tell when you’re burned out and lacking excitement. Here’s a big secret about being a small business owner: You are in control. So find a way to put the passion back into your company. Stop doing the things that drain you and start doing the things that ignite you!

5. Smile, laugh, and have fun! This isn’t brain surgery – it’s a creative business that’s supposed to be enjoyable. You need to have fun, to laugh, and to create joy for yourself and others. That is what life is all about! Smile more – it’s infectious and will be contagious. Have a laugh with your clients! Spread joy in your office! Think I’m off my rocker? Well would YOU rather do business with a stressed-out grump or with someone who makes you smile? Exactly. Even if you have to fake a smile for a bit, I promise you it will become genuine in no time. Life is meant to be enjoyed!

Try these tips to help get you out of that messy middle rut that we all fall into. Give yourself permission to take steps to reduce the stress that comes with our jobs. If you’re happier, I promise your clients, your team and your family will be happier, too!







PS – If you need help dealing with any part of your business, then my Business for Creatives: Designer MBA course is for you! From financials to time management to client outreach, I’ll show you how to transform your business into a lean, mean, money making machine! You can learn more here, or you can join me for a FREE telecall at 3pm EST on March 15. On that live call, I’ll tell you why Designer MBA is a can’t-miss event for creative business owners not just interior designers. Click here to register for that call right now!

Saturday’s Secret Sauce: More Work Doesn’t Equal More Success

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Every day I hustle. I leap into each morning with either gusto and zest for life or like I am being dragged behind the run-away train of my to do list, already behind and more to do than I could ever accomplish. Does that mean life is hard? Or am I just making it that way?

The dictionary has a few definitions for hustle. One is to “obtain by forceful action or persuasion” as in the CEO used his business savvy to hustle the book deal. Another is “busy movement or activity” as in the “hustle and bustle” of life or the holidays. A third definition means to play a sport in an aggressive way. And finally a fourth definition means  “a fraud or a swindle”.


My goal when I hustle is typically one of the first 3 definitions…to obtain a deal, to be busy or active or to be aggressive in the way I attack my life. But the more and more I strive, the more I am feeling like #4…a fraud. What do I mean? No I’m not taking advantage of people, well except one person. Me. I am feeling like a fraud because what I am telling myself will work, never exactly does. I am succeeding in my efforts and crossing off lots of lots of to do’s, only to find myself miserable at times, when my intention was to feel strong and accomplished.


I’ve been “hustling” at my job for 17 years. And boy has it paid off in many ways. My list of accomplishments is long. I look super-successful “on paper”. And depending on how you (and I ) define success, you could definitely say I’ve reached it. But longer than my list of accomplishments, is my list of lessons learned and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that more work doesn’t necessarily lead to more success. I’ve also learned that to hustle, to bust your hump, to strive and do and push makes you tired. It wears you out. It’s exhausting.


Think about it. There are people who work really hard every single day and they don’t have more success and they don’t have more money. Assembly line workers can break their backs working for 30 years and have very little financial success to show for it and they certainly don’t have much control of their lives or their schedule. But some high-powered and very smart business people can take very little time and energy investing in the right deals and make bookoos of money in a small amount of time so that they can live the rest of their time the way they desire on their own terms.


Now I’m not suggesting there is an easy way, but I do think there is a better way. Yes those CEO’s work hard and spend many years getting to where they are. There really aren’t any get rich quick schemes. But there comes a time when you can’t keep “paying your dues”. There is a point in which you have to decide what you want and how to get there or it will never happen. And complaining about it but not taking REAL action will not get you anywhere. It’s hard to change, but it’s harder to work hard without the results you want.


So what if the Secret Sauce isn’t working harder, but rather it’s doing the RIGHT things the best you can do them and saying no to the rest. You might call it working smarter and not harder. I think “working smarter, not harder” is one of those phrases that is often over-used because we hear it all the time but I am not sure we REALLY know what it means. I think we all think we’re working smart when we’re hustling. But really we are just hustling. We’re frantically doing a bunch of stuff we think we need to do, but those things aren’t actually moving us closer to our goals. And no that’s not smart, but I don’t think we realize it’s not working smart or we wouldn’t be doing it, now would we?

Imperfection is a form of freedom. (1)

This goal of finding freedom is my focus for 2016. And I was just watching a great video from Hilary from the fashion blog Dean Street Society and her new class about living with Elegant Excellence and she said if you’ve been striving for years and putting things off like your health or your happiness and telling yourself “just let me just get through this week (or launch, or project) and then I’ll workout (or slow down or make money or start living my dream)”, then you are never going to do those things. Hilary says “there isn’t a day you’ll finally finish your to do list” and “Perfection, Completion, and Total Control are NOT right around the corner”. Ah-ha moment, isn’t it? These things don’t come with just working a little harder and a little longer. Trust me, I’ve been trying this approach for years and I would say my to do list is longer than it’s ever been and my schedule stays jam packed.


Get off the hamster wheel. Rest. Slow down. Journal. Decide what you really want. No one says, “What I want in life is to work really, really, really hard, period.” The working hard in and of itself isn’t our goal. But those of us who are driven and super responsible, and committed and people of our word who pride ourselves on our work ethic, and who strive to be like our hard-working parents and grandparents, confuse working hard with what we want. We want freedom, and money, and experiences, and travel and things and we think that working really, really, really hard is the way to get all of that.


And yes working hard has helped me have many things, and experiences and travel and I’ve made a good bit of money, thankfully. At least all my efforts have been worth something. But what I haven’t achieved with more work is more time. What I haven’t achieved with more work is freedom. And having freedom of time and financial freedom so I can design the life of my dreams, now those are my true desires. Are they yours? If they are, then that requires us to stay hyper-focused on these goals while changing our methods for reaching them.


So the key is figuring out what few things make the most difference in getting us to our REAL goals. We need to decide what can go away from the plethora of things on our to do lists or in our minds or hearts that we “think we SHOULD be doing”. It’s likely that 75% or more of the things on our list aren’t making a difference in our financial or time freedom. And we also have to give ourselves a break at the end of each day when we haven’t marked every thing off our list. We have to stop working every night and every weekend. We have to rest and replenish and let our minds focus on those few things that we truly want so we are ready to start the next day smarter and more organized and NOT hustling. It’s like spending time sharpening our axe so when we do go to work it we will be sharper and smarter than ever. We will get more done, in less time.


In other words, it’s time to stop the madness. Do you want to work on the assembly line of your life for the next 20 years and never reach where you think you are going, because thats what you’ve been doing and it’s all you really know how to do? Do you want to win the medal for hardest worker and get an award to hang on your wall and admire for the rest of your life.  Or do you want to be sitting on the beach with your family, having paid for that trip by working smart, and be able to stay at the beach for a month because you can work for a few hours a day from there with a big payoff?  Now that’s what I dream about! So I am basing my decisions on the beach.  I can already feel the sand in my toes.Want to join me?

Working harder doesn’t equal success. And that’s the secret sauce to reaching your dreams.

Happy Saturday! xo,

Tobi Signature




Saturday’s Secret Sauce: Finding the Courage to be Imperfect

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So I don’t really consider myself a perfectionist. Did you just laugh? No, there are definitely people in my life that I think hold that title and I often watch them struggle with thinking anything they do or have is ever really what they wanted it to be. I don’t think that is me. Rarely is anything good enough for these perfectionist people in my life and they beat themselves up in the pursuit of perfection. I don’t do that. Or do I?

Let me be clear,  I think I definitely strive for an extremely high standard. But in my opinion, I am not a person who thinks what I create and what I do is never good enough. I am often satisfied with my work and my accomplishments. I think I am good at many things. I know I am an expert at times. I definitely hit a point of satisfaction and “good enough” for me in all that I do. Eventually.


But isn’t is funny how our self-perceptions aren’t always totally accurate. Isn’t it odd how we can see ourselves one way when the world may see us differently? If I am honest with you (and me), that bar I’ve set for myself in all that I do is pretty darn high and I have to really bust my buns to hit the level where I think I can stand back and admire my handy work, where I think I have accomplished what I set out to. I am a visual and creative person and my visions are not simple or easy to reach. In fact they are often grandiose. So is it perfectionism…I don’t think so. But maybe. Kind of. Sort of. Ok, possibly.

Just this week I found myself wondering if I was at least 50% perfectionist. Or maybe 75%. But certainly I am not 99%. I mean, seriously. Is perfectionism an all or nothing trait or would we be more honest if we looked at our “degree” of perfectionism and how we rank on that scale when it comes to  REALLY reaching our goals and dreams. And am I 50% in my cooking and 87.5% in my interior design? And what about in my self-image?


Ultimately, these are the questions at hand. Can we give ourselves a break? Can we relax and not be striving all day every day. Can we relax? Can we have less proving ourselves, and more being ourselves? Can we feel more comfortable than ever in our very own skin? Can we be at peace? I think those are the answers to whether we are a perfectionist or not and I am beginning to look more and more like a perfectionist with each one of my answers. Yikes!


Just as I was thinking about this idea of perfectionism this week and struggling to tackle my to do lists at home and at work,  a profound article by one of my favorite gurus Brian Johnson hit my inbox. And in it he said “Let’s quit setting ourselves up for failure and burnout by thinking we need to be perfect and just get on with the business of becoming a little more courageous day in and day out!”

Wow! I hadn’t ever thought of how courageous it is to set out every single day to just do your best. I hadn’t ever framed our constant pursuit of our goals and to use our gifts and talents as courage. Courage! What a relief. Just showing up is courageous. That feels good! We don’t have to be perfect. There really is no such thing. All we have to be is courageous.


Brian is totally right! Life is so hard. Even for those of us who have it easy in the grand scheme of things, who have jobs (or even dreamy jobs) and have food and shelter and love and friendship. Even for THOSE of us, life isn’t easy. I mean just dragging our tired selves out of bed each day to start down the monstrous list of to do’s we have can be totally overwhelming at times. And if we throw perfectionism in on top of it all, if we have ridiculous standards of how those “to do’s” are done, then how can any of us ever feel accomplished, feel joy or feel at peace? We can’t.

It is true. It takes REAL courage just to show up everyday. It takes courage to take our gifts and give them away. It takes courage to face the expectations of life and of the world and of our friends and our family and our clients and our community. But most importantly it takes courage to face the expectations we set for ourselves.

The moment we can stop trying so hard to be perfect and just accept ourselves for who we really are in all our perfectly imperfect glory, THAT is when we find true joy.


Brene Brown in her fantastic book Daring Greatly talks a lot about courage and how to be vulnerable and show up in life. She was inspired by the great Teddy Roosevelt when he said…”It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who’s face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

Wow. Leaves you speechless, doesn’t it. And I love this quote from Brene’s book Daring Greatly where she says…“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

How profound. We can never feel at home in the world, if we don’t feel at home in our own skin; if we can’t give ourselves permission to be who we really are.


And from Brene’s book The Gifts of Imperfection she says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Talk about needing courage! Can you show your TRUE self? I am a bit nervous just thinking about this concept. And I do strive to be honest and authentic in all that I do…but wow! Our true self–the one that is vulnerable, and doesn’t know everything, and is flawed. Can you show her?


Well that brings me back to Brian Johnson and his admiration of the wisdom of Alberto Villoldo in his book Courageous Dreaming where Alberto says…

“There are no perfect human beings! Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact, great. There do in fact exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers, and movers… even if they are uncommon and do not come by the dozen. And yet these very same people can at times be boring, irritating, petulant, selfish, angry, or depressed. To avoid disillusionment with human nature, we must first give up our illusions about it.”

We are human, friends. And humans aren’t perfect.

And Brian also highlights the words of Abraham Maslow who said “No, what we need is to be honest about what it means to be human: that we are fated to miss the mark of perfection but achieve small and impressive acts of courage and greatness. Instead of thinking that some people are flawless, we ought to take inspiration from the fact that our heroes, celebrated or not, brought themselves back on course again and again whenever they realized that their behavior was out of alignment with their intent. Simply saying, “Enough—I’m moving on!” is an act of courage that breaks the spell.”


So can you do it? Can you show up as your perfectly imperfect self? Can you give yourself a break? Can you do less proving yourself and more being yourself? Can you achieve “small and impressive acts of courage and greatness” each day in spite of your “human-ness”? Well, I am an optimist, so I think we can. And this my friends, is definitely the Secret Sauce to a life of joy.

Happy Saturday from this imperfect almost perfectionist. xo,