Episode 256 // How to Improve Focus as a Multi-Passionate Creative

April 13, 2021

Kathleen Shannon joins to share a conversation on handling distractions and finding focus as a multi-passionate creative. From dealing with shiny object syndrome to narrowing in on your core genius and dedicating yourself to becoming great at something, we discuss the process and benefits of improving your focus.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"Look for the value that supports all your endeavors and let it drive all your work."
- Kathleen Shannon

Discussed in this Episode

  • Dealing with "Shiny Object" syndrome as an entrepreneur
  • Catch-up chat with Kathleen
  • Braid Creative and "The Braid Method"
  • Creative ways to find focus
  • The "girl in the diving horse" metaphor for business owners


More from Kathleen Shannon

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson: [00:00:00] Creatives are notorious for getting distracted by all the shiny objects. A new opportunity pops up a creative project is presented. A client offers to pay you for something you don't normally do. For many creatives, especially freelancers. This is the spice of life. Before a business owner. Distractions can keep you from meeting your goals.

[00:00:31] Welcome to Being Boss, a podcast for creatives, business owners and entrepreneurs who want to take control of their work and live life on their own terms. I'm your host, Emily Thompson. And in this episode, I wanted to explore the benefits of finding focus as a creative entrepreneur, to put on the blinders from new opportunities and creative nigglings, to at least for a specific amount of time, just do the work that you want to do.

[00:00:54] And to do that. The original Being Boss business bestie Kathleen is back to not only lend her expertise on the benefits of focusing in as a creative from a branding point of view, but from her personal experience as her exit from Being Boss as an owner was done to help her focus her creative energy on her branding agency.

[00:01:14] Together, we share our lessons and tips for finding focus, even if you're a multi-passionate and wildly creative, with no shortage of ideas at creative dreams and business goals. Welcome Kathleen, back to Being Boss.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:01:28] Well, thank you for having me. I feel like I've just come home after a long trip.

Emily Thompson: [00:01:36] Oh, that’s a beautiful sentiment, Kathleen. Thank you.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:01:40] Thanks for having me.

Emily Thompson: [00:01:41] Of course. Well, I guess everyone should know Kathleen and I still talk all the time, literally all the time. And we're still having business bestie conversations. We're still talking sort of business mindset stuff, or just talking about the weird things that are coming up and how it pertains to this like greater sphere of creativity and entrepreneurship.

[00:02:05] So we were talking recently and Kathleen was like, I think it's time for me to come back on the show. And I'm like, I've been waiting for you to say those words to me, Kathleen. So here we are

Kathleen Shannon: [00:02:14] Well you know, I mean, it's kind of like, whenever you say goodbye to somebody and then you're walking in the same direction toward your car, and then you have to say goodbye again.

[00:02:24] I feel like we've been saying goodbye for a while. But now I want to come back. Then I want to be able to leave again. 

Emily Thompson: [00:02:33] Sometimes we're just like, now we're just walking down the street together, basically every now and then we'll pop into a bar for a drink or like a cute cafe for an appetizer or whatever.

[00:02:44] Right. So this is our snack. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:02:47] Yes. Let's have a snack. What kind of snacky conversation are we going to have today? 

Emily Thompson: [00:02:54] I thought it would be a really fun opportunity to bring you on and do a little bit of catch-up since you have went back full time at Braid as a way to catch up with you, but also I think have a really fun sort of comparison conversation to an episode that I did recently with Dana Kaye, D’Ana Spencer, everyone can go back a couple of episodes to listen to that.

[00:03:16] We'll leave a link to that episode in the show notes. Where we talked about being a multi passionate creative, and because, or would you call yourself a multi-passionate creative? I would imagine so. But from your mouth, me, yes. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:03:32] No, . I'm very specific. I do one specific thing and that is it, I guess. Okay. So I see what you're saying and I see your face.

[00:03:45] I see you. And I know, I know that you know me well enough to know that I want to do all of the things. Yes. I fall in love with all of the things I go through phases. And I think this is it. This is what I'm going to be doing. But I have found a way to find focus and to really carve out, you know, like what is it, claim my stake in what I'm doing.

[00:04:13] And it's been a little bit of a challenge at times, for sure. Which some of our Being Boss listeners have seen me go through. But I think I found it. I found a really good place where I can balance being multi-passionate and loving lots of different things with also finding a lot of focus and expertise in one area so that I can also cultivate confidence and feel like an expert at what I'm doing.

Emily Thompson: [00:04:41]Yeah. And the thing that I want to point out here, because in that episode I obviously share that I am totally multi-passionate. I still run two businesses. I will continue running two businesses. I love, I love that sort of complexity to how it is that I show up in my career and beyond my career, I love to cook and I love to sew and I like, I am very, multi-passionate creative and I'm calling a bullshit on you because.

[00:05:09] You're painting, you're decorating your house. You are cooking like, and you find so much creative fulfillment and all of these things, but where you have transitioned into focus is in your creative career.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:05:23] Yeah. I just want one business. I went to simplify my taxes. I want, you know, that's funny whenever I say put it that way, I actually still have a couple of businesses because they do have rental properties, which really is its own business.

[00:05:39] It just runs itself. So I forget about it and we have a team there, but, yeah, and it's taken a lot of commitment to really narrow in, on just being at braid and to really not even let my mind wander around, you know, like monetizing other things or having emotional affairs on my business. That's fantasizing.

[00:06:04] That's where I start fantasizing about all the other things I could be doing, which actually happened to me just this week. I was like, maybe I need to quit and become this other thing. We can put a pin in that. We can talk about that a little bit later.

Emily Thompson: [00:06:19] Right. And I can think of multiple times actually, where you have.

[00:06:23] had emotional affairs, which I love by the way, with other creative projects and then you stop them in their tracks. So the one I'm thinking of in particular is remember how you designed out a whole blog for redesigning your house or living in and updating your house and all the decorating, all of these things, you designed a whole website, you showed it to me.

[00:06:47] And I was like, yes, Kathleen, I love this for you.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:06:49] I bought the URLs. I had an illustrator lined up to help me with my logo. Yeah. And then I didn't do it. You can listen to the burnout episode for reasons why, 

Emily Thompson: [00:07:04] For sure, for sure. But you've you have always been really good. One about yes. Going down the road of what would it look like for me to do this?

[00:07:12] Remember that time you wanted to like be a makeup YouTuber. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:07:16] Totally. Yeah. 

Emily Thompson: [00:07:19] Right. Several of these projects have come up along the way, but you're always so good about narrowing back in and understanding where your focusing is. And so I'm wondering, like, what does, what does that thought process look like for you and how do you stop yourself

[00:07:35] in your tracks when you were walking down, what you at least think at that time is maybe like dream job opportunities. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:07:43] Right, Okay. So let me start by telling you this, just this week, actually last week I bought Discovery plus per your recommendation, because you had bought it. And I started watching all of the home renovation shows.

[00:08:00] I was watching Fixer Upper. I've become completely obsessed and in love with Leanne Ford, I had seen her name in like the, you know, In the, in the Zeitgeist on Instagram, but I didn't really get it. And then I started watching her show and I'm obsessed and I questioned all of my decisions. Like my house is very Jungalow, eclectic, eighties meets sixties with a little bit of forties thrown in.

[00:08:28] Colorful. Bohemian. And then like I've made all the wrong choices. Everything should be white. What was I thinking? Why is my whole house not white and like wood with accents of black per Leanne Ford. Right. So anyway, I started just thinking maybe I should be an interior designer because even aside from buying HGTV finally, and bingeing on all of these shows, What I'm doing in my free time is I'm listening to podcasts about interior design.

[00:09:01] I'm literally cutting photos out of Architectural Digest and pasting them into a spiral notebook. It feels very 1990s. Like I feel like a teenager again, and I'm obsessed. I really love thinking about it. I love looking at my spaces and imagining what it could be. So really just this week I was like, maybe I need to be an interior designer.

[00:09:23] And then I had to like run myself through a series of questions. Right. So I was thinking, okay, in my life, but also in my career and kind of, not even thinking about them as separate things, but really merging just who I am in work and life. I have to think, okay, what will really move the needle? You know, like what is going to move the needle?

[00:09:44] What do I like doing, what am I really good at? What do I want to be good at? What do I not want to be doing? What is it that I want to be known for? What's really important right now, who is really important right now and running it through these series of questions. It was really important. I was also having a hard week at work.

[00:10:05] I had a lot of deadlines and so what I found myself doing was I was going down a road of distraction. I was going down a road of the grass is greener. And if you really start to follow these fantasies through, you'll realize every job is a hard job. Even your dream job is a hard job. So do I want a hard job in a whole new industry where I have to learn all new lingo or do I want my hard job to be in working with my sister and my best friend and this whole team that knows and loves each other and has a shorthand unlike any other with a process that we have perfected over 10 years and,

[00:10:47] you know that expertise, like I'm just not willing to give it up, but I will say that, You know, reigning it back in. I do start to think. Okay, what is it that I love about that? Like, what is it that I love about interior design? What is it that I love about cutting and pasting stuff out into my notebook?

[00:11:07] What is it that I love about this? And so even in the last Braid method I did, I thought, okay, how would Joanna Gaines present this mood board? One thing that I noticed in Fixer Upper that she was doing as she has never liked, do you like this, or do you not like this? She does give her clients an opportunity to say, like, what were you really hoping for?

[00:11:26] Or is there anything that you really don't like, but for the most part, she's saying here's the vision after speaking with you, here's what you like. Here's what you don't like. And here's my vision for going forward with this kind of confidence and it's really nuanced, but one of the things that I do whenever I have a mood board is I'm almost.

[00:11:44] Letting the client design their brand. And I realized I need to take the reins back on that a little bit, and I need to Joanna Gaines it and just say, here's what you told me that you liked, and here's my vision for you. Moving forward, I'm going to use this texture. I'm going to use this font. It's a tiny tweak, but it, I took that vibe into the work that I'm doing and instantly got a little bit of what I was wanting to feel.

[00:12:13] In the work that I'm already doing, in the work that I'm already paid well for, in the work that I'm known for. So that's kind of what it looks like. And then, you know, I can look at it as a hobby, not everything has to be monetized. And by having an expertise at Braid Creative, by being, you know, a bad-ass designer over here and a creative business owner for 10 years, I have the kind of equity and experience that allows me to work really fast and to work 30 to 40 hours a week.

[00:12:46] I don't have plenty of time to do things as hobbies. And that's where I can really start to express that creativity and those multi-passionate things that I do, like cooking, painting, staring at a wall, bingeing on Netflix, whatever it is that I want to do. 

Emily Thompson: [00:13:06] You've touched on something or you've ended on a note that I actually wanted to come back to.

[00:13:11] And that is this, you mentioned going back into Braid and really sort of capitalizing on this process that you guys had been perfecting for 10 years. And he just sort of mentioned how whenever you can stay in something long enough, there are extra benefits to be reaped from. That longevity that I think a lot of, especially the multi-passionate who pivot often, who like have a hard time committing to the thing, will never gain the benefit of, and for you, I mean, you just sort of like quantified that, like whenever you can perfect a system long enough, the hard work gets easier.

[00:13:53] Right. The hustle is hard until you have it. And then once you have it, there is an ease that is gained from being able to lean on the experience, to lean on the hustle that you've been doing to, to move forward more easily. Literally the day to day processes become more easy, but if you're pivoting too often, you never get to reap those benefits.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:14:15] I think a lot of creatives and entrepreneurs and small business owners almost get addicted to the hustle or are really uncomfortable with what's easy. I think that if they feel like it's easy, they're not working for it or they don't deserve it. And that's something that I've had to let go. Guess what designing for me is easy.

[00:14:37] And that doesn't mean that it's worth less. You know, it means that probably in many ways it's worth more. And one of the things that you just said was commitment, and it's so important to understand your commitments. What are you committed to? What serves that commitment? What's a distraction, or even posing as resistance to that commitment.

[00:14:58] I think that sometimes we think that we're interested in a lot of different things and being expressive and creative and trying new things and that we're just experimenting. But what we're really doing is we're really expressing our fear to finish the thing that we started, I'm seeing that happen

[00:15:16] so much, and it takes grit. It takes grit to focus, and sometimes it's an explicit choice. And so like me, whenever I started falling in love with it's just like a marriage or anything else, you know, I started falling in love with these other career opportunities. It actually often happens to me with my clients whenever I'm designing up their brand platforms.

[00:15:36] I started to fall in love with their brand and their business. I think, why am I not doing this sort of thing? And then I go, Oh yeah, I've chosen Braid. Like this has been a choice and that for me was also especially explicit whenever I left Being Boss. And it wasn't just leaving, Being Boss to focus on Braid.

[00:15:55] It was that I will never do something like that again, like I kind of, I kind of knew as I was leaving the show that this was it Braid is the thing that I'm monetizing. And that is a choice. And in some ways there's freedom in not having to entertain other options or passion projects or side hustles, is there's almost a liberation in just being focus on my day job.

[00:16:23] And at the end of the day, I closed my laptop and I get to do what I want to do. 

Emily Thompson: [00:16:28] Yeah, for sure. But that doesn't keep you from also exploring other things. Like you're obviously still exploring and you even mentioned earlier. Exploring other things personally, but you've made a commitment in your professional

[00:16:44] creative career to focus, but I love that you're also taking, you're taking inspiration from these sort of creative adventures that you're taking and bringing them into your work. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:16:59] Yeah. Even more recently, I thought I miss podcasting so much. I really do. That was my favorite thing about Being Boss is hopping on a podcast with you.

[00:17:10] I don't know how we were doing one to two a week for four or five years, plus all the other things. Well, speaking about finding focus, I'm going to detour us here for a second. So at Braid Creative, our focus for the longest time was doing branding for creative entrepreneurs and small businesses, probably about three or four years ago

[00:17:30] we started to expand that offering. We brought on a third partner, we've doubled the size of our team. We've doubled the size of our physical location. We have eight people at Braid Creative now, and that means that we can do a lot more now with who we have and the talent that we have on our team. And so one of the things that we did is we expanded into a silo that we have previous experience at our advertising agency.

[00:17:55] Which is, Credit Unions and it feels so funny whenever I see it all out, [00:18:00] especially in this space on the podcast, because it feels so kind of corporate and buttoned up for the kind of stuff that we're known for, but we get it. We get to do really fun stuff, working with create Credit Unions. And it's kind of a silo that our third business partner Holly really focuses on.

[00:18:19] So while Tara and I are still doing a lot of the creative entrepreneur stuff, we're still doing creative for credit unions as well. So anyway, this year with COVID a lot of our credit union conferences that we were supposed to be speaking at, got canceled. And at the same time, I've really missed podcasting.

[00:18:36] So we thought what if we took my experience with producing podcasts and making that do combined with this missed opportunity of getting in front of this industry that we serve and let's think outside of the box, let's do a podcast just for credit union marketers. So we did and talk about finding focus and getting so incredibly niche.

[00:18:58] We might have a hundred listeners to this podcast, but it's going to move the needle big time for what we're wanting to do. So I found inspiration from the work that we did at Being Boss. And I took some lessons from that. It's a six episode podcasts. So it's a very limited series, but each episode has some bomb ass graphics, a free downloadable worksheet, you know, all the things that we've done, timestamps, you know?

[00:19:30] And so even doing some things beyond what we kind of did at Being Boss too. So that's been really fun. Being able to do that. And guess what? I'm not even a host on the podcast. I just did all of the behind the scenes. Production. And I was there for the recordings, but my sister and Holly actually did the recordings themselves and it was so much fun.

[00:19:50] And I got a scratch that creative itch that I had there. 

Emily Thompson: [00:19:54] Right. By bringing the thing into the thing you are already doing.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:19:59] Exactly. Bring the thing that you want to be doing into the thing that you're already doing or into the thing that has a little bit of momentum or can push it over the edge and evolve it into the next thing, because I knew that's our biggest fear.

[00:20:13] We never want to become stagnant or feel like we're being left behind. I mean, that is one thing that finding focus has really challenged me with is FOMO. I have so much fear of missing out and especially on Instagram, whenever I see other people launching new things or trying out new offerings, I think whole shoot should, should Braid have a membership site.

[00:20:38] No Braids should not have a membership site, but you know what I mean? It's easy to look at what other people are doing and want to do that as well. But if I can look at what we're doing and really think about just evolving what we're already doing to include that sort of thing. Then I'm still focusing my efforts and looking at that long-term investment and building on a foundation that I've already created.

Emily Thompson: [00:21:05] Yes to all of that. So I want to talk this momentum piece, momentum long-term investment, strong foundation, all of those things, because that's something that I feel like both of us, 10, 12 years into it. And it like, it takes 10, 12 years, I think, to really build up to a place where you start learning that the work that you did five years ago is now more valuable than it was five years ago when you were doing it right.

[00:21:37] Like there is this, there's this longevity that will feed you more. That is like, it's like compounded interest, I guess, in like the work that you have done just continues to pay off and pay off and pay off and pay off when you're focusing. But you don't have that opportunity if you're pivoting every year or every 18 months or two years or whatever.

[00:21:59] Cause it takes a long time to build up that momentum. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:22:03] Yes, there are so many benefits to just sticking to it. One is you don't feel like you're reinventing the wheel all the time. You can just work your processes and it does get easier, two, it's easier to hold up your boundaries. So anytime I get asked, can you also design and develop my website?

[00:22:24] I get to say no without question. And you know, even lately, if someone doesn't fit into our process or they're not needing what we have, but they like us, we can still say no to them because we're only offering one thing. It makes word of mouth marketing possible. I remember feeling like in the early days, I had to spend half of my time doing client work and then half of the time doing a lot of business development and going out and finding

[00:22:53] the stuff and writing blog posts and doing all the things will, now I can go a whole year without writing a blog post. I can recycle the content that I've had before on my Instagram, because it's all still relevant. I'm still doing branding. And so you get to leverage the stuff that you've already created and people know how to talk about you.

[00:23:16] People know what it is that you're offering. And because you're not pivoting every two to three years, you can plant seeds that sometimes also take two to three years to come to fruition. So that's another part of it. And then, you know, just practically speaking, you can charge more for work that takes you less time.

[00:23:37] You've gained an expertise and a reputation that allows you to charge for that experience. And it's not just charging for your time. 

Emily Thompson: [00:23:47] Right. And you just get so much better at the thing when you've done it, when you've put in your 10,000 hours or whatever it may be, then if you are reinventing the wheel and very practically to, I've seen this a lot over the past, over the past couple of months at Almanac, especially.

[00:24:04] So Almanac supply co is my retail brand. And we'll talk about like my non-focused that is focus in a moment. We've seen search engine optimization, like after launching our site a little over three years ago, it takes a while for SEO to really like dig its teeth in. Is that he gets claws in? Here we go.

[00:24:28] Just messing up.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:24:30] Just some good old, even earlier I was thinking there's like, you know, a thousand ways to skin a cat, which is the worst phrase ever. But I think about that too, whenever it comes to finding focus. Trying new things, anyway.

Emily Thompson: [00:24:45] For sure. For sure. So sinking teeth in. So it takes a while for SEO to sink its teeth in.

[00:24:51] But once it does. This is when your website starts making money for you while you sleep. And we've seen this with blog posts that we've created years ago that were just like recycling through or product listings that we've just had on the site for a year or more, that it finally starts working in.

[00:25:10] We're getting traffic from people just Googling things you that doesn't work. If you're not continuously putting in effort and learning how your business works and learning how people are searching for the things that you're doing. Whenever you can go deep and sort of broad, whenever you can practice, you're a multi-passionate creationism in one area instead of 18 areas, you're able to reap the benefits in a way that is so much further beyond your own personal sort of creative fulfillment and really more in the realm of like this, like

[00:25:49] broad fulfillment, where it's like fun, financially fulfilling and creatively fulfilling and, you know, socially fulfill like all of these things, that you can't do whenever you have a hard time finding the thread that weaves itself through all the things that you're interested in. And following that into the business or businesses that you are doing, which sort of brings me to mind.

[00:26:16] I've been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of months and really thinking about what that thread is for me, that enables me to find my version of focus within two different brands, because that is kind of on the outside the exact opposite of what it is that we're talking about here. And for me, the focus is in running a business and my preference for how it is that I want to engage in business straddles the fence between service and product.

[00:26:52] And so for me, it's this well-rounded business ownership where I can understand how both product and service slash media businesses work in a way that gives me a full picture of how these things work. And I can bring the tactics that I'm using in one business into another. And I can weave them between the two in a way.

[00:27:16] But my place in these businesses is a place of focus for how it is that I want to express my creativity. And I found so much sort of, joy and self compassion and all of those things in that realization of how it is, of how it is that I show up in my creative career. And it's actually less about creativity and more so in the realm of business ownership and entrepreneurship.

[00:27:49] I don't think that's fully applicable across most bosses, which is why I even say for those who are multi-passionate creatives, who don't love the business side of things, find one business and go deep, stop trying to do all the businesses, because then you're just doing more business. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:28:09] Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

[00:28:11] Amen. You know, in my line of work, I Braid Creative or actually called Braid because we're looking at all the different threads of who people are, what their multi passions are, but also finding that golden thread, you know, and weaving it all together. Into a braid that makes sense an umbrella brand and business vision that people can understand what it is that you're doing.

[00:28:35] And so in my line of work, I'm usually helping to brand someone around a niche or helping them kind of uncover that golden thread and find, you know, that focus, whether that's a focused process, a specific deliverable, or even a niche dream client, but whenever you're multi-passionate and you can do a lot of things, you can find focus by seeking out the common denominator in all of the things that you do.

[00:29:00] And so that's exactly what you did, Emily. And this comes back to so much of the stuff that we've been talking about over the past four years at Being Boss. So think about what it is that is the common denominator. So maybe it's how you make people feel, you know, so let's say you're a virtual assistant who can write, design, load emails and keep on top of a schedule and project management.

[00:29:23] You do a lot of things. So what is the common denominator maybe for you it's hospitality. Maybe it's making your client feel taken care of. Maybe it's organization and you love creating systems around all of these things, or maybe it's a communication style. So even for that one virtual assistant, by understanding that common denominator, you're going to just,

[00:29:46] just by understanding yourself, you are going to be able to find focus, even whenever you are doing a lot of different things. And then you can also find focused by uncovering the value or the intention that is driving your interests. I know that we've talked so much about having a value based business, and this is where it really does start to come into play.

[00:30:08] So. You know, for you, Emily, it might be the actual running of a business, right? It's for me, it's creativity for someone else, it might be activism or communication or spirituality. Look for the value that supports all of your endeavors and let it drive all of your work. 

Emily Thompson: [00:30:31] And maybe just like one little lane.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:30:34] One of the, I was also thinking one of the metaphors that we use to use back in the day, whenever Braid Creative had an e-course was the girl on the diving horse. So if you go to a circus, you can go to a three ring circus tent, and there are so many things happening and you almost don't even know where to land your eye.

[00:30:54] Are you looking at the guy in the top hat? Are you looking at the juggling monkey. Are you looking at the contortionists? Are you looking at the trapeze artists? Are you looking at the bearded lady? You know, like there's so many things that you can land your eye on. And then what we talk about is then there's the girl in the diving horse.

[00:31:15] Okay. Listen, I always just want to acknowledge here everything about this circus metaphor is problematic. So, this is just a metaphor. I do not condone diving on horses. Okay. Do not. I think we've all seen the movie. What movie is that? Black. Is it Black Beauty?

[00:31:38] Okay. Anyway, okay. So the girl in the diving horse is not the three ring circus and the girl in the diving horse only has to work like. You know, a couple times a day and she gets on that horse climbs up those rungs of ladders. Those rungs of ladders are your experience, your expertise, your client, and then she dives into that pool.

[00:32:01] So she's, you know, the three ring circuses that broad thing where you're juggling all of the balls and probably all of them are on fire. And the girl on the diving horse is just doing one thing and she knows exactly what she's doing. She can change it up. She can wear a different costume. She can probably give a little speech.

[00:32:21] She can sign autographs, she can make a coffee table book. You know, she can do a lot of things around her expertise, but at the end of the day, she's just having to focus on that. She's known for that one thing. 

Emily Thompson: [00:32:34] I've always loved that analogy. I also remember a nice little graphic, I think around it, the graphic.

[00:32:40] I remember that. Love it.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:32:40] Maybe I should dig it up and it can be a downloadable for this episode.

Emily Thompson: [00:32:45] turn into a desktop wallpaper. She can DIY that yourself. This episode is brought to you by FreshBooks, the invoicing and accounting solution that's built for owners and their clients. Whether you're a side hustler, a solopreneur, or a small business owner, FreshBooks can help you save up to 46 hours a month on invoicing and accounting activities with an intuitive dashboard and automated features like time tracking, payment follow-ups and financial reports.

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[00:33:57] Here's what one business owner says. With Gusto, I think of payroll as a 32nd job, the website is so friendly and a joy to use. Friendly payroll. You don't hear that every day, Amy from Utah says I love Gusto so much. They do our medical, dental, vision and life insurance. It's so painless. It's like going to the spot and we have a great options and rates, even though we're a super small team.

[00:34:23] Health insurance like coats to a spa. That's what I'm talking about. And I, myself speak from experience. When I say Gusto is the best payroll system we've ever used. And right now our listeners get three months free when they go to gusto.com/beingboss. Yep. Three months of payroll benefits, admin, and more, totally free.

[00:34:43] Again, that's gusto.com/beingboss 

[00:34:50] Something I want to, something that I want to move into as well around. This is the idea that the creative or the business owner who can find focus is the one who builds a stronger business because in my experience, whatever I'm working with creatives, if a creative has a hard time, deciding what it is that they want to do all day, or actually focusing enough to do the thing that they want to do all day, or has a hard time setting a goal, or has a hard time finishing the thing that they're trying to create because they are losing focus.

[00:35:25] All of the things. These are usually business owners that don't create a business big enough to even find themselves in a place where they can hire or strategize or, you know, make the system as for scaling and delegating. And they usually have a hard time at delivering to their clients consistently getting the same results every time.

[00:35:46] Or even the ones who do find themselves somehow able to build a large organization. It's usually not a very strong organization. Like it's not a strong business. It's one of those things where the systems aren't fully in place or the brand messaging. Isn't very clear where, you know, it's like a, it's like a house of cards.

[00:36:05] We're just like one thing breaking is going to cause the entire structure to fall apart. And so I do think that, you know, if creativity is what you are here to do, be as wily as you would like to be. But if you are here to be a business owner, Then you have to learn to find some level of focus. And I do also want to shout out here, cause I know a lot of, members of the Being Boss community, I recently put a prompt in the community asking bosses about the fraudy feelings that come up for the most, in several of them in that space came out and were talking about their ADD or ADHD.

[00:36:42] Like they're they are, they fear that their ADD or ADHD is going to hold them back from being able to do the thing that they want to do. But I also know that in talking to many of them and I find too that a lot of bosses, a lot of creative entrepreneurs are here because they do identify, with having, with having these conditions.

[00:37:05] And I think that you are usually here because you have a hard time working in the world in more corporate organizations, but there are still things that you can do to find your own brand of focus. I know many bosses with ADHD and ADD that are able to find enough focus. Or use tools or habits. This is where habits and boundaries come in to still create and build amazing strong businesses and organizations, despite or in spite of their inability to find traditional focus.

[00:37:47] And so I do just want to sort of make that note, because I know a lot of bosses struggle a struggle with that, but I know from experience, I know from hanging out with these bosses that it is still possible for you to find the focus to do what you need to do. And it's around boundaries, routines, setting some good systems.

[00:38:05] Having a community is sort of holding you accountable to assist you in overcoming these things in and finding that focus because I do see some level of focus as being a priority for building a strong business. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:38:20] Well, and I think that what you're speaking to right now, and I can't speak to that experience specifically, but I can say that

[00:38:28] pandemic times and having a kid at home and my husband is at home and everyone's at home and, you know, constantly getting news alerts about some unprecedented or awful thing. I mean, this year has been really hard to find focus on like a short term level. And so I'm so glad that I had a lot of longer term focus.

[00:38:54] And foundations to help ride me through this year. And it's what we've talked about in the Being Boss book. These, there is no quick, overnight formula to being boss and to finding focus and to having expertise and carving out your niche. A lot of it is experimentation. Sometimes you are finding your expertise and your niche through experimenting and seeing what you like

[00:39:19] and don't like, but coming back to this year, being really hard to find focus. It really did have me thinking, okay, what will work for me right now? Because setting a timer for 90 minutes, which is what I used to do is no longer a thing whenever I've got a kid asking me for a snack every 30 minutes, right.

[00:39:39] Or I'm having to now homeschool for two hours out of my day, what does that look like? What am I working on during those times? What do I have the capability to work on? And so after about, I mean, I feel like I'm just now getting to be where I'm used to it and things are going to change again, but that's anything, I mean, that is anything is always changing.

[00:40:02] Your circumstances and situations are always going to be changing. So I would say it is about finding two or three things that you can really rely on to find focus and to experiment with your own rhythms and patterns for working. So for me, it was establishing a pattern for when I'm having meetings and when I'm not having meetings, how much time do I need cleared off my calendar to get a brand platform done?

[00:40:30] You know, it meant shifting some timelines a little bit and giving myself an extra week per project versus knowing that I can bust it out. It meant working weekends for awhile, which I hadn't done in years. So long, but in order to find focus where I could, it meant that I was working into hours that I wasn't normally working.

[00:40:51] So there are these short term things for finding focus that you've got to do. I was breaking down my to-do lists more than ever before and really thinking, Oh, Hey, if I can just open this InDesign file. And you know, I've talked about this before on the podcast, but if I can just open this InDesign file and buy all of my assets and collect them into a folder, I will have a one day.

[00:41:13] And then tomorrow, I like to get started just enough that tomorrow I can hit the ground running and know how to pick up where I left off. So, again, it comes back to moving the needle, knowing what you're even trying to accomplish. I think that that's another thing. We talk so much about goal setting and I haven't done a lot of that because I feel like I'm kind of living in, in the good space where I know what I'm doing.

[00:41:39] I don't. Oh, sorry. One more thing you were talking earlier about, you know, if you aren't focusing on being a business owner, you're probably not going to have a very strong business. And maybe that's okay too. You know, maybe like I could literally be making as much money as I am right now, just freelancing on my own and taking gig work.

[00:42:02] But what I want to be doing is working with my team and working with the kind of clients that I could only be working with within a team. So that's why I'm doing what I'm doing. You know, you have to understand like the why and the what. And I used to so often fall into the trap of, especially, I think whenever I listened to Brooke Castillo, talk about how she wants to make, I think, 10 million or a hundred million dollars.

[00:42:28] I mean, she wants to make so much money and like drive a Ferrari. And then I was like, Oh my gosh, I should want those things too. I used to always fall into the trap of, well, I want that too. I don't, I don't want a hundred million dollars. I. I really don't and I'm okay with not wanting it. I don't feel like I'm not playing big by not winning that.

[00:42:49] I just don't want it. So really understanding what it is that you actually want to accomplish can also go a really long way in finding focus. 

Emily Thompson: [00:42:58] And that requires some focus, right. To like sit down and really think though what it is that you want. So yes, these are some great tips. I'm going to second to like designating when meetings happen, every boss I know will tell you that meetings kill creativity.

[00:43:15] So for me, the way that I have done this is I have like, one day a week when I have meetings. And that meaning day is back-to-back. I also know that the whole bosses where that sounds like hell complete and utter hell. And the idea here though, is that you figure out what this needs to look like for you.

[00:43:33] Maybe you're creative in the morning and meetings in the afternoon. For me, I want one day of meetings and I want the other four days to have as to be as free for creativity as possible, because I need that time. So there is something to be said about figuring out what your work day, what your work week looks like, what your work month even looks like, so that you can really optimize your focus, your ability to get in there and really pay attention to what it is that you need to pay attention to.

[00:44:01] I will say too, like, I need lots of space for creativity. If I'm doing a creative project, I will block out four hours for something that will probably take me 45 minutes, because I need that space to really set up my InDesign file exactly the way I need to set it up to really gather those assets, to give myself some time to hang out on Pinterest, to gain some inspiration, those sorts of things.

[00:44:25] So one of the things on my task list tomorrow is, and is an Almanac thing where I have to redesign our next market setup. We're going to start doing the markets again, this spring very excited about, about Almanac is several years older than I was when we created our first markets set up as time to freshen things up and make it a little more legit.

[00:44:43] I allotted myself four hours for something that whenever it comes to actually doing the work, it'll take me 45 minutes to figure it out. Okay. But I want to spend some time on Pinterest, just hanging out and looking at things. I want to make sure I have, you know, all the time to sit and sip my tea, like whatever I need to do to get myself in the space to focus on the task.

[00:45:02] I need four hours for 45 minutes, and I know that about myself. I also want to point out, especially women with estrogen cycles. We have times in our cycles where we are more capable of focus than others. So for some women it's definitely around like ovulation time, you are able to really focus in on a whole other level.

[00:45:27] So finding that process for yourself as well is why I say, look at it entire month. Like when do you need to be working on the things that really require some extra attention, put those in those, in the context of your cycle so that you can really make the most of those times as well. And then I think that…

Kathleen Shannon: [00:45:50] Wait, can I add to that real quick?

[00:45:52] Cause you know, I love talking about some period. Okay. So for me, and I think and I actually just read a book on this too, for me it's from the day that my period stops. Well, it really actually day one, a period. I usually actually have quite a bit of energy then, which you wouldn't think, but whenever you actually track it, you might be surprised.

[00:46:21] So from day one, up until ovulation I'm really energized. And I'm also seeing that with the moon. So the moon is waxing. And so there is something, you know, we're going to get woo. Here is something to that building energy. And I find even that I can move more and I'm not as hungry, you know, I like to eat..

Emily Thompson: [00:46:45] Kevin’s always hungry.

[00:46:45] Yeah. That's funny to hear you say.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:46:48] lighter. During those times, I just have a lot more. Energy and productivity. And then from oscillation to period, I'm just starting to slump and the moon is waning and I'm starting to feel like my energy dissipating a little bit. It doesn't really affect my working style. It just means that if you catch me on those waning days, I'm more likely to say no.

[00:47:14] In the first half, I'm more likely to say yes. So it's almost like I need the people around me to know what my cycle is. Maybe I should start putting it in my work calendar or in my to-do list

Emily Thompson: [00:47:23] All those period tracking apps should actually allow you to add people to your notifications. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:47:30] Yeah, totally.

Emily Thompson: [00:47:30] I thought about this.

[00:47:32] I should be like, it should send a text to everyone that I put in there that like Emily's on her period today. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:47:39] But even for me right now, like this is the perfect time to be doing a podcast because I'm like in, I'm ramping up to ovulation. I always do photo shoots around ovulation. That's my big trick.

[00:47:53] Also, don't be doing the photo shoot the day before your period.

Emily Thompson: [00:47:57] No, definitely never that. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:48:00] but we've both been there. I also wanted to say one more thing, amend the period thing or no, not the period thing. The meeting thing. Yeah. On meetings, I actually like having one meeting a day because it gives me an excuse to get dressed.

[00:48:13] It kind of holds me accountable to different benchmarks for things. And it punctuates my day in just the right amount, without it being all day. If I start hitting two to three meetings a day, every day, there's literally no time to work, which is my next week. And I'm looking at my next week and getting a little bit ancy and stress out and starting to think, okay, what can I clear off that schedule?

Emily Thompson: [00:48:38] Like it, everyone has their own preferences. The next thing I want to add around finding focus. Is that you have to have grace around your focus or really lack of focus. I find that. Guilt only exacerbates your ability to focus. So for me, I've definitely learned if I'm having a day where I can't focus on the thing or a week or a month, like so, what I'll get to it next week.

[00:49:06] It's fine. It's totally fine. And the more you can release that guilt, the more easily you'll be able to find focus whenever the time comes for you to be able to do that. And then there is something to be said too, around having times when you really prioritize focus and times when you give yourself the ability to be the wildly creative that you are.

[00:49:28] And that's something that, that I do as well. And so for me, it's usually with the things that I get paid to do. Right that I need the most focus or with the things, or whenever I'm working in on my business, I can never keep those straight. I know it's literally my job to keep those straight, but whatever, when I'm working on my business, those are the times that I really want to have focus.

[00:49:50] And so, I time block those things. I know that these are things that I have to get done and I give myself plenty of white space to sort of hang out on Pinterest. I don't, I really don't spend that much time on Pinterest guys making it sound like I'm there all the time. But I'm doing more of those, like, creative things where I don't need as much focus.

[00:50:12] So on the day to day, week to week, that's kind of what that looks like, but you have to have times for yourself when you are focusing on achieving the goal, on making your business work for you on figuring out like how you're going to be creative next, whatever it may be. I'm all for being a multi-passionate, but what I really want people to do what I really want bosses to do if you are here because you want to build a creative business.

[00:50:44] What I want you to do is prioritize finding focus on the right things in your business so that you can get to a place where you are reaping the actual rewards that come from you committing to this thing and making it work for you. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:51:03] Well, and you know what else at some point. You're going to become so boss that you don't have an option to not find focus, you are just going to have to get the job done.

[00:51:12] You're going to have a deadline and you're going to have to make it do. And I think that that's the position that we're in. You probably, Yeah, it's so funny because we're both coming at this from different angles. My force focus is client work, that client is paying thousands of dollars for a Braid method.

[00:51:31] And we have our meetings dates on the calendar from day one. So that is going to happen. For you, Emily. I think that you find focus, forced focus in your systems and processes and commitments to yourself. You say, this is how often I'm going to release a podcast. This is how I'm going to show up in my community.

[00:51:51] This is a project that I'm excited about. So I need to print it and get it out. By this time you have a shopping season, which is Christmas time for Almanack. There are these things where you just don't have a choice or you don't have a business. And that is what it is. 

Emily Thompson: [00:52:08] Fact. Fact, and then next level of that, can we go back to Discovery Plus who was definitely not sponsoring this episode?

[00:52:15] Literally whatsoever. We just have been enjoying 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:52:19] discovery plus.com/being boss and enter the code being boss for your free 30 days of Discovery Plus 

Emily Thompson: [00:52:27] Fake news. That's fake news. It's not real, but wouldn't that be great. Call us Discovery. So the next level of

Kathleen Shannon: [00:52:35] If Discovery calls us, I'm coming back. Deal. For the Emily and Kathleen show on the Magnolia network.

Emily Thompson: [00:52:44] Yes. That that's exactly where I'm going with this because we were having a conversation the other day about Joanna Gaines. And her cooking show, right? We're like, you can also get to the next, next level of creativity. We're folk focus. Like you want to be known as an interior designer, but also have a cooking show.

[00:53:03] You do you boo. You do you.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:53:05] Well, Okay. So here's the deal though. Whenever I look at Joanna Gaines through a branding and business perspective. She still started with the interior design. That's where it began. And then it's like being known for, doing kitchens maybe, or showing up on Instagram, which is that next level of that outer layer of branding, that next level of content where you can experiment.

[00:53:33] And maybe she's just doing an Instagram TV of her cooking and then realizes, Oh, there's interest in this. I could turn this into a show or, Oh, HGTV keeps hiring us to do all these shows. Why don't we just make our own network? And so that's where finding focus is inevitably going to open up opportunities for you.

[00:53:55] So then my con my conversation with Joanna Gaines, listen, if she comes on the being boss podcast or Leanne you're in, you're in I'm in, because here's what I want to know. I want to know what are the values driving those choices? How does she know what to say no to? Because you know, her opportunities are right.

[00:54:12] Endless. How does she decide what to say yes to, how do they know whenever something's working and how do they know whenever something isn't. I bet that there's a combination and this is why Emily, you and I worked so well together. There's a combination of looking at the data, looking at the schedule, breaking down a project, but then also going by your gut, like what

[00:54:33] would be so much fun to do, you know, what would be so much fun to try? What feels, what do I feel passionate about? And I bet that there's a blend for them as well. And then there's a point where you're next level boss, where I bet that she's just getting to creative directs and things. And even on her own show, she's not literally sketching or designing or rendering, or even picking out materials for some of the things that she's designing.

[00:54:56] She is facilitating a team and bring a team up under her brand and under her vision to be able to do what she does. And so now she's in a leadership position where she gets to focus on the next thing, like a cooking show. 

Emily Thompson: [00:55:12] And I will say that it was her long-term focus and commitment to what she wanted to be known for.

[00:55:21] That has afforded her the ability to really live her dream job. Right. So yes, it is cooking show. It's creative direction. It's figuring out what's next, but it was focused that got her there, which is what we're taught. Like there's this term reward that comes from, or this long-term benefit that come well, there is a benefit that comes from long-term commitment to you doing the thing that you want to be known for.

[00:55:53] And then you can do whatever you want. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:55:56] But I also guarantee you, Joanna Gaines has had her stresses. She's probably had her lawsuits. She's had her tears in the pillow. It, if you are seeing someone show up. One, know that there is so much more behind the scenes. Like you were seeing 10% of the work whenever you were seeing someone show up.

[00:56:15] And if you were seeing someone who's showing up and making it look easy, just know that them making it look easy means that there is probably that much more work behind the scenes. Now you're only seeing 5% of the work, if it looks easy.

Emily Thompson: [00:56:30] For sure. For sure. Perfect. Kathleen, this is exactly the conversation I wanted to have with you.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:56:37] I had so much fun on a ranty tangenty unfocused conversation about focus.

Emily Thompson: [00:56:48] That’s what we do best, what we do best. Perfect. Go ahead and let everyone know. In case they don't know where it is, they can find you. 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:56:55] You can find me at braidcreative.com, all of the things, and then on Instagram, that's where I'm hanging out.

[00:57:01] So it's @andkathleen on Instagram. 

Emily Thompson: [00:57:04] And finally. Here's the good one these days. What's making you feel most boss. Did you not know this was coming? I 

Kathleen Shannon: [00:57:13] just forgot about it. You know, because I spent like, okay, so here's something is that I have recommitted to expressing what's fun and what's joyful. I think that last year was really hard and there's a lot of things that came up.

[00:57:34] We're very deserving of attention and are still deserving of attention, but being able to show up on Instagram and be funny again, admits all of the bullshit that's happening and will continue to happen in that we will continue to fight against. But being able to show up and hopefully make people laugh or even just connect in a real way and be able to show the difference.

[00:57:58] Aspects of who I am. Again, I feel like I went a little bit radio silent in 2020 after leaving being boss. And then just with all the things. So showing back up in even a more personal way is making me feel boss lately. 

Emily Thompson: [00:58:13] I love that for you. Well, thanks for coming and sharing some of that with us here.

Kathleen Shannon: [00:58:17] Thanks for having me. Of course. 

Emily Thompson: [00:58:22] Do you crave the opportunity to have that your own business bestie conversations about creativity and decision-making and following your path towards your dreams? Well, boss, that's what we do in the being boss community from weekly virtual meetups to 24-seven access to our community platform and additional events every month to gather and learn about business mindsets and tactics.

[00:58:41] The Being Boss community is where you have immediate access to bosses who get you and the resources to help you take your creative business to the next level. Learn more by visiting us at being boss.club/community. And until next time do the work, be boss. [00:59:00]