The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Surviving Thanksgiving

brace yourselves thanksgiving memeThanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays – it’s all about food, family and being thankful – but that doesn’t make it a walk in the park. If Thanksgiving is nothing but good times for you, you should probably get back to drinking your carrot smoothie while doing yoga and celebrating the fact that your Christmas shopping is already done that’s wonderful. For the rest of us, Thanksgiving brings with it no small amount of stress, from burnt turkeys to cringeworthy dinner conversation. If you’re feeling a little apprehensive about the holiday weekend, here are some tips for surviving Thanksgiving:

Remember it’s not a vacation. If this holiday is stressful for you, it doesn’t help to view it as a break. Instead, see it for what it really is: a major event, often involving travel, lots of interaction, food preparation and work (and I’m not even talking about actual work, though some of us will try to cram that in, too). Allow for a time buffer between work and the holiday (both before and after). That way you don’t end up feeling like you’ve been working nonstop for two weeks straight.
Continue reading

Day 61 of Michelle’s Transformation

Michelle is back! After a gap in the videos, Michelle is recording this video from the new space she’s moving into. There are some new developments in the process of purchasing the business. She talks about the potential for this situation to be stressful (most people would be freaking out) and how she’s able to respond instead.

Continue reading

Day 1: Taking Care of the Goods: Self Care in the Trenches

I’m kicking off the Simplify Your Summer series by talking about how to take care of yourself during wedding season. It’s way too important to gloss over and it doesn’t have to take a lot of effort. Check out the intro video:

The foundation: Minding the Self Care Trinity
You’ve got to take care of these basics, first.

  • Sleep
    • Quality is just as important as Quantity
    • pre-sleep downtime (no screens 30 mins before bed!)
    • shut out light with better blinds or curtains
  • Fuel
    • See food for what it really is: fuel for your mind and body
    • Baby Steps: Now is NOT the time to start that new fad diet. Make small changes instead.
    • Eat healthy stuff first (before the junk)
    • Out of sight, out of mind
      • Hide the processed, bad-for-you, tempting snacks behind the carrots and other good-for-you foods
  • Exercise
    • Put it on the calendar
    • Work out with a buddy (for the extra accountability)
    • Make it fun! Do things you love like hiking, swimming or kayaking
    • Incorporate it into your day (for example: make some phone calls while you go for a walk)

Now that you’ve covered the basics, create a plan for those inevitable stressful moments. I know it seems daunting when you’re already busy, but the alternative is that you’re stressed out and burned out. By making time for yourself, you can stay on your A-game and make sure that you’re at your best for yourself, your clients and your family. Remember that when you win (at self care) everyone wins.

What are your Pressure-Relief Valves?

  • Make a list of five things you can do to de-stress and recharge
  • Consider things like yoga, meditation, running, deep-breathing
  • Do nothing! Schedule 1-2 hours each week where you have no obligations
  • Be creative: What do YOU love to do that recharges you?
  • For example: have a campfire, dinner with friends, improv classes, garden, read a book

Cool Apps to help you

Get the rest of the Simplify Your Summer expert tips delivered straight to your inbox and get access to the live Q&A with Jeff Hellenbrand on May 20th at

What to do when “Working Smarter” Doesn’t Work

NBC shows the stark change in technology use in the last seven years.

Are you a productivity junkie? I am, or at least I was. Since college I’ve been obsessed by finding the best life hacks, web apps and productivity tools to automate my life, be effective and efficient and simply get more done in less time. I love learning about this stuff, but I’ve lost interest lately. Let me tell you why.

I’m experiencing the law of diminishing returns. When you start learning how to be more productive, you can shave hours off of your work day. After years and years of research, though, the improvements keep getting smaller and smaller. Because I know that the likelihood of discovering a technique that will have a huge impact on my productivity has been dropping steadily, the hope and excitement have started to wane. Continue reading

Should I Hire Someone or Not? A Guide for Small Business Owners

So many business owners want to know when the time is right to hire someone. Entrepreneurs hate giving up control of their business. By the time they’re actually considering getting help, they’re usually buried so deep, the thought of finding, hiring and training someone is totally overwhelming. Here’s a quick guide for you to decide if hiring should be your next step. As a bonus, I’ve included the most common fears wedding pros share (and how to challenge those fears) when it comes to the “should I hire someone” debate.

Well, is it time to hire someone?

Here’s Why You Don’t Have Enough Time

Nobody in the wedding industry seems to have enough time. Ask anybody how they’re doing and the answer is, “busy.” So why don’t you have enough time?

You’re trying to do too much.

Call me captain obvious, but the truth is that you’re lying to yourself about what’s realistic. You pretend that you can get eight (okay, five) hours of sleep, get the kids to soccer practice (and ballet and art and yoga), answer every sales email with a personal, customized response, take care of your current bridal clients, have dinner on the table and prep for the coming weekend all in less than 24 hours.

I call bullshit.

Even if you manage to get all of those things done, there’s no way you’re doing all of them well in a healthy, sustainable way. I’m not trying to make you feel bad. To the contrary, that’s my point. When you give yourself an impossibly long to-do list, you set yourself up for disappointment. You end up with the least useful, least productive feeling of all: guilt.

Here’s my suggestion: Do less. Pick something on your list that just “has to get done” and ask yourself, “what exactly will happen if I don’t do this?” My hunch is that most of the things on your to-do list are wants, not needs. Get ruthless about what you’re willing to do in one day. Commit to doing nothing for an hour or even two. This isn’t just about what you’re cutting out, it’s really about what you’re making time for: the good stuff.

What do you think will happen? The truth is that most of us waste at least an hour each day on things like Facebook, TV, blog surfing and worrying. What if you spent that time on something that left you feeling recharged? That made you at peace and inspired?

I dare you to pick something seemingly vital on your to-do list and not do it. I’m not asking you to screw over clients or miss deadlines. Re-evaluate your to do list. It’s time to get serious about what’s really essential and what isn’t.

What’s at stake? Your sanity, your business, and your life. Cut out some of the noise. Because if you don’t, it will overtake you, and 2013 will look dangerously similar to 2012.

What are you cutting out today to get your life back? And more importantly, how will you fill that space with something good?

Happy New Year, Hungover Vendors!

Happy New Year, peeps! I love the fresh smell of a new year. We’ve had a chance to reflect on the good, the bad and the awesome of last year and now we turn our full attention to the bright, shiny promise of a fresh set of 365.

I don’t want to talk about resolutions today. Instead, I want to talk about something I’ve personally been wrestling with lately: over-thinking about work at work.

It happens like this: I start thinking about all the things I want to get done. And instead of getting everything into a system and working through each of them without another thought, I dwell. I’m not talking about useful thinking (like planning, organizing or brainstorming). I’m talking about thinking instead of doing. And it usually happens when we’re stressed out or overwhelmed by the amount of things we have to do. Continue reading

Stressed? Here’s the Complete Holiday Stress Toolkit

Image from

Don’t let the holidays kill your joy. Make them awesome. Here’s some help.

Fill out my online form.

Your Stress Tool Belt


Resources from the Skillshare Class

First lecture (65 min)
Q&A Session (30 min)
Five-Part Blog Series on Beating Holiday Stress

Jeff’s Favorite Tools

Gratitude Journal. Make a list of things you’re grateful for daily. Try to list 3-5 things. I personally like this iPhone app ($.99) #mind #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Exercise Creatively. Getting exercise is key to staying healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. You don’t have to go to the gym to work out. Start a snowball fight, take a dog for a walk or offer to help bring chairs up from downstairs. #body #mind #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Sleep Better.  The holidays are a great time to catch up on sleep. It’s not just about quantity, though. For better sleep, try limiting caffeine and alcohol as well as avoiding exercise, tv and eating before bed. #body #mind (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Drink Water. This is always a good idea. It’s hard to remember to drink enough water when we’re celebrating the holidays. Buy a water bottle and take it with you everywhere. Keep it full and close-at-hand and you’ll have no problem staying hydrated. #body #mind (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Love Your Stomach. It’s easy to punish your stomach with so much “good” food that’s so bad for you. Don’t beat yourself up for indulging. Instead, drink more water, eat a big, healthy breakfast and try to sneak in some fruits and vegetables with every meal. #body #mind (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Do Some Good (Random Acts of Kindness). I can’t think of a better way to get into the spirit of the holidays and to get out of a funk than to do something kind for someone else. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, read to kids, hold the door open for someone or pay for another customers groceries. Don’t ask for thanks in return. Do it just to do it. #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Centering. Whether you’ve got half an hour or thirty seconds, centering is a great way to calm your mind and help you relax. Use it after you ring the door bell until the in-laws open the front door. Step away and use it when you get upset. Use it when you need to recharge at work. Here’s the direct link to the centering exercise from class (video starts playing automagically). #mind #spirit

A Bunch More Ideas

See Ashley J’s Project for some clever and funny ideas #body #mind #spirit

Learn how to deal with Button Pushers (Direct link to button pushers section of video. It starts playing automatically.) #spirit

Let go of expectations (Direct link to Expectations section of video. It starts playing automatically.) #spirit

Meditate #mind #spirit (Here’s a great Youtube Tutorial on meditation if you’ve never tried it before.)

Yoga (If you haven’t tried it, take a free class today. This is too good to miss. Yoga leaves me feeling centered, calm, rejuvenated, at peace, warm, connected and happy. Yoga is not just for the ladies. Man up and feel awesome.) #body #mind #spirit

Laugh More (In one scientific study of happiness, this video proved to make people the happiest) #body #mind #spirit

Learn to Say No #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Take Mini Breaks to Recharge #body #mind #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Visualization #mind #spirit (Read the short article on using visualization to prepare for success. Hear Jeff talk about this)

Turn Off Technology #mind #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Cut Yourself Some Slack #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Connect with People You Love (Family or Not. If spending time with family is stressful, make sure to carve out some time for friends you feel totally at ease with. Far away? Use Skype or Google Hangout. Though nothing beats picking up the phone and actually calling them.) #spirit

Stop with the Assumptions (We all have a bunch of assumptions about other people and the holidays we’ve collected over the years. Challenge those assumptions this year. Talk to your family about traditions and expectations for the holidays. You might be blown away by how your assumptions are killing your chances of a relaxing holiday.) #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Pick Your Battles (When Uncle Rico makes an offensive comment, ask yourself if now is the right time to respond. Consider approaching him in private to tell him why his remarks hurt you. That said, don’t be afraid to stand up for the things that truly matter. Remember that in the end, you can almost always find common ground. That’s even more important during the holidays with family.) #mind #spirit (Hear Jeff talk about this)

Pray (Have someone to pray to? Now might be a good time to do more of that kind of thing.) #spirit

Be Honest & Vulnerable (This has to be the best way to deepen relationships any time of year. Instead of gloating about business successes, real or imagined, try being more open and honest about the good, the bad and the ugly – in business and in life. You might be surprised by the response.) #spirit #mind (see Brene Brown’s solid Ted Talk on vulnerability)

Watch Christmas Movies #spirit (my favorite is Elf, with Will Ferrell).

Beating Holiday Stress: Part 3

audre lordeCreate a Self-Care Plan

Okay, you’re starting to feel better about the holidays. You’ve assessed your button pushers and added some tools to your stress-busting toolbelt. If you’re anything like me, the second you get into holiday season, all of that goes out the window and you’re back in survivor mode: frazzled, hunting for last-minute gifts and beating back other target shoppers with your plastic basket. Don’t fall back into the holiday-stress vortex. This year, you and I are going to have a plan. And we’re going to stick to it.

Assess your button pushers. If you missed this post, read up here. Knowing what causes you stress this season will help you figure out how to beat that stress. Take an honest look at which people, places, pets and times cause you the most stress. Decide not to let them drive you nuts this year.

Match your stressors up with your tools. Part 2 of this series was all about creating your own tool belt. What can you do to prevent a meltdown at dinner? How can you ensure a good time (for yourself and others) around the fire this year? For each of your button-pushers, figure out the best tool. Make a list (no need to check it twice).
Continue reading

How to Beat Holiday Stress: Part 2

20121123-004105.jpgBuilding Your Stress-Busting Tool Belt

As much as I love the holidays, they often bring a bunch of unwanted stress into my life. In Part One, we did some self-reflection on our button-pushers. Today, we’re assembling our stress-busting tool belts (don’t be caught without yours) on how to beat holiday stress. You don’t have to do everything on the list, just find your favorites. Let’s dive in!

Use visualization. Great professional athletes use this technique to make them even better. Try visualizing yourself in a situation that normally stresses you out. Instead of getting stressed, visualize yourself responding calmly and even having fun. Rehearse often for the biggest benefit.

Get super creative with exercise. I think one reason we stress during the holidays is that we stop doing things that are good for us. Working out isn’t just good for your waistline, it’s essential for your mental well-being. If it’s not realistic to hit the gym while you’re out of town for a week, get creative and find new ways to get exercise. Start a snowball fight, take a dog for a walk or offer to help bring chairs from downstairs.

Continue reading