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Episode 231: The Power of Organization, Systems and Processes with Amanda Wilens

In episode 231, we chat with Amanda Wilens about how to make sure you are working with a purpose and find existing systems and organizational tools so you can reap the rewards for your business.

We cover information about the magic of time blocking, how to experiment with different tools that can keep you on track, create SOP’s and schedule time for “cleanup and organization” each quarter.

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.


Guest Details

Connect with Amanda Wilens
Website | Facebook | Instagram

Bio Amanda is a professional event planner, published photographer and stylist, and recipe developer. Her site was created as a way to share inspiration for everything from major parties to intimate dinners. Recipes, tablescapes, flowers, & all things pretty. She also teaches lessons on photography and editing, as well as virtual courses for cooking and baking.

Takeaways

  • Food bloggers have so many hats to wear as a blogger and you have to get good at doing them all until you can afford to freelance.
  • Time blocking is an effective tool – it allows you to work on one specific task at a time and not “multi-task” within that block. It helps keep creatives on track. That same task isn’t picked up until it’s blocked again.
  • Selecting a time period to do a task such as 15 min or 1 hour dedicated to it. Time blocking could look like a day of the week where you only work on a task as well – Mondays you do photography, etc.
  • Days you can’t focus or feel off, you can move your blocks around to another time or day when you can complete the work. You should consider reviewing your time block the evening before to see if anything has to be done or if it can be re-blocked.
  • The beauty of being freelance is that you get to choose what works for you. Talk to other bloggers about what tools they use to help them successfully stay organized and scheduled, then experiment.
  • Take a week or two to write out standard operating procedures (SOP) for all the things you ever do as a blogger. Use screen shots and videos if necessary. File them all together.
  • Writing out SOP’s help you evaluate what you’re doing, is it efficient? It also helps you for when you’re able to share that work to a VA or employee. Then you know how much time to block as well in a day/week.
  • SOP’s should be audited quarterly or a couple times a year.
  • Use your schedule to block out clean up/random projects, schedule a walk and lunch. These are super helpful for people who work for themselves to do.
  • Removing email from. your phone and creating strong boundaries for turning off your computer during off times is necessary too.

Resources Mentioned

Time Blocking Tips

Tastemaker Conference

Asana

Podcast Smart Influencer, Productivity Strategies To Get More Done

Classes offered

Photography Basics ebook

Food styling tips guide

Food blogging Ideas and Resources

Transcript

Click for full text.

231 Amanda Wilens

Intro: Welcome to Eat Blog Talk, where food bloggers come to get their fill of the latest tips, tricks, and insights into the world of food blogging. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll provide you with the tools you need to add value to your blog. We’ll also ensure you’re taking care of yourself because food blogging is a demanding job. Now, please welcome your host. Megan Porta.

Megan: Food bloggers. Hey, I want you to know that I myself am a food blogger. So I understand the need to find those connections and find the answers and create transformations in my business that are actually going to matter and help me grow and make more money and get more traffic and all of those good things. If you’re interested in this too, the new Eat Blog Talk mastermind groups might be a great fit for you. Go to eatblogtalk.com to find the application that you can fill out for consideration. As Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich says about the mastermind principle, two or more people actively engaged in the pursuit of a definite purpose with a positive mental attitude, constitute an unbeatable force.

Unbeatable force I love that. Can’t argue with that. Inside the Eat Blog Talk mastermind groups, weekly zoom calls willl have the format of peer to peer learning with members taking turns, being in the hot seat. Once a month, guest experts join us and they will unleash their knowledge about very specific topics relating to food blogging and being a small business owner and relating to ways that you can grow your business.

We convene every week, we share our struggles, our wins, and we can shine and lift each other up and provide resources and input that will help the other members in the group to grow their businesses and grow as individuals as well. Again, go to eatblogtalk.com to fill out an application for consideration.

Hey there, food bloggers. Welcome to another episode of Eat Blog Talk. Thank you so much for joining us today. I have Amanda Wilens with me from Amanda Wilens.com. We’re going to talk about organization systems and processes that will help you grow your business. Amanda is a professional event planner, published photographer and stylist and recipe developer. Her site was created as a way to share inspiration for everything from major parties to intimate dinners, recipes, tablescapes, flowers and all things pretty. She also teaches lessons on photography and editing as well as virtual courses for cooking and baking.

Wow, you have quite the array of interests and passions, Amanda. I love it. I’m excited to talk about organization and systems and processes today because this is right up my alley. I love this topic. But first we all want to hear your fun facts. 

Amanda: Okay. Great. My fun fact is that I was a theater and choir kid growing up. I think that’s like I’ve seen it across the board a little bit with some other food bloggers. So I just think it’s a fun thing and to kind of find out who my theater buddies are. 

Megan: Oh, You creative people in the theater transferred your creativity to food blogging. So you see this often, that people have a similar background? Oh, interesting. I love that. 

Amanda: I thought it was so funny. I’ll go into stories and then see that quite a few of my food blogger friends will be posting and they’re like, sorry. I’m so over the top, but I was a theater kid and I’m like, oh, My gosh, are we all in this together? 

Megan: That is so great. Just the creative side, I feel like a lot of food bloggers also have backgrounds in fine arts and digital arts. So we’re all kind of connected in that artsy way, right? 

Amanda: Yes. Yes. That’s so fun. 

Megan: Well, organization systems, processes. I love these words because all of them helped me to just put prioritization on the right things. I believe that the more systems you have in place for your business and your blog, the more successful you’re going to be. I feel like this is an integral part of being a successful food blogger, and it can so often become just some minor detail, right? Because we think, oh, I can do it without. I’m doing fine. Just chugging along here. But once you implement a system, you see the power of it. Do you agree, Amanda, there’s so much power in one little system and then it can take off and you can create even bigger systems.

Amanda: So, so true. I don’t know. I think a lot of people don’t realize that food bloggers are not just making up a recipe and taking a pretty picture and then posting it. There’s 82 different things that you have to be a professional at. You have to be good at doing all these things.

Sometimes, if you’re able to, you can hire out for certain things, but for the most part, most people especially when starting off, they’re having to do so many tasks and there’s so many things. If you just have them floating around your head, they’re going to get lost. You’re not going to be able to remember every single little thing. So having some type of system and process in place that works for you, is vital. 

Megan: I totally agree. I think a little bit later, we can maybe give some ideas about where people can start with systems, but to start out, I would love it if you just talk to us about your own business and how you schedule your own time to make sure that you stay on top of it.

Amanda: Sure. So I use a system that is called time blocking. I think most people know what time blocking is. They just don’t know the term. So in the simplest form I can think about it, time blocking is let’s pretend you’re back in high school and you have certain classes that go from one set of time to another. So you have history from 8:00 AM. 10:00 AM. Then you have a little 15 minute break to get to your English class. You have English from 10:15 to 12:15, and then you have lunch. So you’re blocking out that time for specific tasks. So for me, that’s something that really helps me to make sure that I am putting in my weekly, my daily and my monthly tasks into a calendar so that I remember to actually do those things.

Megan: I love time-blocking. I live by it. I mean, I know that not everybody jives with that. Some minds just work differently, but it’s worth experimenting with, right? 

Amanda: Yes, it is for sure worth experimenting with, because you can make it work for you. So I have a client, a marketing client, and she does not go for the whole every minute needs to be planned out, that doesn’t work for her. So she generally does days. So on Mondays, I generally do these things and, but she’s written them out at least, so that she knows that on Mondays, she’s doing certain tasks. So her time blocking is a little bit different, but it is something that’s still considered time blocking because you are blocking out those hours for specific things.

So you just have to make it work for you and make it work for how you operate. I think it’s really hard, like we were talking about creatives. It can be really hard for creatives to stay on track, just stay focused. If you are one of those people, that at least can give you a little bit of leniency while also giving you some more structure that you might be needing.

Megan: What you do on days when you just feel off. So whether that’s like you’re sick or you didn’t get a good night of sleep the night before, and you have all of these blocks of time set aside for specific work tasks that you just don’t feel like doing. Do you make yourself push through or what is your strategy for that?

Amanda: I fully believe in resting. I was a director of events at a university and I didn’t have the luxury to rest because I had to be physically in the office. I’m not saying by any means that we have luxuries. I do believe that food bloggers actually usually work more hours than most people in an office, not everyone, but a lot of people. But I didn’t have the luxury because I had a staff and I had to be there and I had to be there for different things.

So I truly believe as a freelancer, as somebody who can potentially take off and move around your time. So let’s say it’s a Wednesday and you don’t feel well, or you’re feeling off. Take the time to rest, try to push maybe some of that work to Saturday or Sunday. But, the essential thing about time blocking and why I use a digital calendar for mine, is that I can literally just pick up and click and drag the time blocks of let’s say that that day I was going to be working on creating a recipe and I’m going to be doing recipe development and I’m going to be doing maybe some web stories or something. I can click and drag those to another day, so that I can take the rest that is needed because our brains don’t fully function if we don’t take rest. Then get back into work. 

Megan: Yeah, just pushing through, I think is never a good strategy, for me anyway, because I get overwhelmed by my calendar. So I think, well, I’ve got to get this done, but then the work I do isn’t actually quality work, so I probably have to redo it anyway. So I’ve found the same. I’m totally in line with what you’re saying. Rest replenishes, it replenishes, all the good things. So it makes me more creative. It makes me more productive. So if I can just take that time that I need, then when I’m back at it, I’m going to be way better at everything. 

Amanda: Yes. I am also a believer. So like when you’re needing to rest, you usually can feel it the night before. You’re not just waking up the morning of, and being I need this rest. I had no idea this was coming. You usually know it the day before if you’re not feeling well. So I am a strong believer at the end of your day or in the evening to just look at your calendar. Not to stress out about it, but just to look at your calendar for the next day and say, is there anything on here that is vital, that has to be done right away in the morning?

Or can I sleep in? Just looking at those tasks and seeing if you can move them. But yeah, making everything that’s super important, flag it, whatever you need to do if it has to get done. But yeah, taking that rest allows your mind to really recharge and get back to, especially with creatives. You need that for creativity. It’s proven by science. So you need to take the rest when you need it.

Megan: I love that. I guess I discount that too, listening to your gut the day before. I always tell people this for looking for time management tips, always look at your calendar the night before just to get a handle on it mentally. But I never think of it in terms of how tired you are or how you’re feeling or doing, kind of like a check-in with am I going to be tired in the morning? You can kind of feel that. Not only having a handle on your tasks, but getting a handle on how you’re feeling.

So thank you for that. That was awesome. Do you have any tools that you love and use? You mentioned your digital calendar. What do you use for that? What else do you use to kind of track everything? 

Amanda: Sure. So when I was in an office, I used outlook just because that was what everybody was using there. It was easy to link everybody together. Personally, I use iCal just because I have it on my phone. I suggest to everybody and to get whatever you use, if you’re using digital, is to use something that also pops up on your phone. Because if you’re like me, you’re not always on your computer all day.

If you’re doing recipe development, if you are maybe out going grocery shopping, or you’re doing your photography, you need something that’ll pop up on your phone to remind you to stop doing what you’re doing and move on to the next task. Or maybe a phone call with a client is coming up or something like that.

So iCal, Google calendar, anything that will link from your computer to your phone is really just super important for me to use for my digital calendar. I know there are some people and I used to be one of these people, who was a paper planner person, and I loved my paper planners and they are excellent for special things or things that maybe are not going to move at all. But like we were talking about earlier, you need something that is a little bit more flexible, I feel like in food blogging, where you can literally just pick it up and move it and you can’t do that without scratching everything out of your paper planner and moving it onto another day, unless you do post it system, which to me was just overwhelming. It didn’t feel very environmentally friendly. So I love using a digital calendar. But then for my other tools that I like to use for just organization in general, I really love using Asana. I know there are some Trello people out there who are hardcore Trello or hardcore Asana. Those Asana things I don’t go into daily, but they are for me, my overarching tasks. So if I have let’s say in my calendar something that says okay, today you’re going to be pitching brands. I might track all that in Asana. It’s just a way for me to track some of my bigger projects. I love the little check it off and it satisfyingly goes away and you get a little unicorn popping across your page.

Megan: I think we all like those check marks, right? When we can check something off the list. 

Amanda: Yes, yes, yes. Those systems are great for people who like them to be digital. But that for me is also when I have people who are like, I love a physical planner. I love having a big piece of paper on my wall that I can write on. Instead of using Asana or something like that, those might be the type of things for those people that’s where they get more into the physical lists. Just cause it’s another tool for people. I know some people are really visual and they want that whiteboard up on their wall where they can write everything out. 

Megan: It’s all about experimenting in my experience. You need to just dig into different platforms like Asana. You mentioned Trello, using Google calendar. I’m trying to think. I am using the Air Table right now. It just works for me. It clicks for me right now. So try out different things until you find that system that really works. It might take a little bit of time, but it’s so worth it because when you figure it out, you’re like, oh, this is it. This works well. So what do you think? Do you experiment a lot? Do you change a lot or do you stick with the same thing?

Amanda: Yeah, so I have quite a few marketing clients, so I get to experiment a lot because I think every client has a different preference. So when I’m doing either consulting or coaching, I experiment a lot with them as well. So some of my clients are on Trello. Some are on Salesforce. Some are really deep into calendly. So that’s another thing that’s mostly for making appointments and scheduling things and forms.

But it’s another one that you can hook up to your other systems. So there’s a lot of systems out there. It just really depends. Then I have some clients who truly, truly hate everything electronic. It’s just not for them and they need to schedule everything out handwritten. I also have a client who has a timer system that she uses.

She bought this little block online and it sets off an alarm every 15 minutes to let her know that it’s time to move on to whatever. That for me is a big no. That would cause so much panic and anxiety. I’m that kid who, during a test, looked at the clock every minute to be like, do I have enough time to fill this entire thing out?

 For me, having a timer, not going to happen and that would just be too much pressure. But you just have to play with things a lot. Every client that I’ve worked with in my own team that I used to have everyone had a different system and sometimes it can be hard when you’re in an office because some bosses are very strict about it, you have to do this. The beauty of being freelance is that you get to choose what works for you. It doesn’t have to work for anyone else. It’s just what works for you. 

Megan: I think that’s such a good point because a lot of us have come from the corporate world, myself included, where we’re used to that. We’re used to being told exactly what we have to do and exactly how we have to do it.

So it is a new opportunity to just reinvent what we’re doing and create our own things and step into new ways of doing things. So how do we start that? Because we can be so ingrained in one way, especially coming from a corporate setting, how do we transition into doing our own thing and setting up our own systems?

Amanda: Yeah. So I think one of the first steps that I encourage everybody to do is to sit down, take an entire day. Time block in an entire day where you can write out all of the things that you are doing. So I actually have a resource list on my website just because I didn’t have this information when I got started.

But it is basically all the general tasks that one has to do in order to write a food blog, you want to write out all of those things. So for me, I think I have 13 major categories of things that you have to do as a food blogger. Then with each of those categories, subcategories and sub sub categories, but just writing out all of those things is just going to be such a good starting place before you start going into time-blocking, before you start going into building your own strategies, practices, what are your forms of organization going to look like? You need to lay out all the things that you even do before you can really truly get started into anything. You need to have a full grasp of like, what are all the things that you do? Food blogging, freelancing, whatever.

Megan: 

Which is so much, right. It would take a couple of days just to write out everything. Actually it might even take a week because a lot of our work spans a week or even more so if you need to take a week, then do it right. But just get everything written out.

Then what do we do with that? How do we start creating systems from that? 

Amanda: Sure. So once you kind of just generally write it out, I would say start by just making a bullet point list. Write it into your computer or write it down on a piece of paper. Then actually write out the full processes.

So something that you get in a lot of corporate jobs, not all, but some corporate jobs is like a standard operating procedure. So an SOP. That’s something that truly goes through each step of what your job would be or what your department takes care of. So what you want to be doing is taking each of those pieces that you do for your blog.

Let’s just take one small piece because I already mentioned it before. Let’s say that we’re talking about photography. So photography is one thing that you do for your food blog. What you’re going to want to do is create a standard operating procedure. All of the things you do. Have a little table of contents so that you can jump around to where you need to go, but in your standard operating procedure, write down food photography, write down how often that you’re doing it.

For me, myself, I do it usually weekly and I do batching and then write in all the steps that you do. For photography that might be a little bit different, but write in some things and really fully try to think of all the different things. For food photography, it’s maybe not as specific as doing your taxes, but doing your taxes should also be in your SOP.

Just write those out. I think that type of stuff is definitely like we were saying before, this whole entire standard operating procedure is probably gonna take you a week or two to go through and write out. It takes a long time and don’t be scared by it. Just remember that, once you have all this in place, It’s going to change your whole life.

It’s going to change how you do all of this. Once you’re able to hire people to maybe help out or a virtual assistant or something like that, this is something that you send to them and they know exactly how you do it and how you handle it. This is a living document that you can update and change, but it is something that we can take from the corporate world and say, okay, this works because it really does show us what we’re supposed to be doing with each of these steps. 

Megan: So not only to SOP is help if you’re hiring for somebody to help you on your team but I think they can also help with kind of laying the big picture out so that you can see it in a different light. Then you can look and say, oh, that doesn’t need to really be done here. Maybe we can condense this. Do you agree? You can actually start tweaking your entire system if you just have it all laid out. 

Amanda: Oh yeah. I think for sure, when you write out an SOP, you’re actually sitting down and going, what am I doing when I’m building these things? What is my actual process for this and why am I spending two hours doing that thing?

When I just realized when I was writing this, that I could actually cut out steps five through seven and now I’m actually going to spend half the time doing this. It really just gives you that opportunity to do that. It’s also fun to share certain parts of your SOP or your processes with your other food blogger friends and be like, this is how I’m doing this thing.

How are you doing this thing? Sharing that with each other and realizing, wow, this person spends way less time doing this thing. I’m going to go and update my SOP or even listening to podcasts like this and hearing somebody and going, wow, I’m spending too much time on that thing. I’m going to go update it and then realize once again, oh, I’m duplicating this or I’m spending too much time on this.

Like I mentioned for taxes, you only do that four times a year. So sometimes it can be hard to remember all the steps. So it’s a great way to remember yourself. Oh, this is what I do. So you don’t have to be Googling it every single time. 

Megan: That’s such a good point. I love your recommendation to share your SOPs with peers. I don’t think about that, but it’s true. Every once in a while I will just be in conversation, say, I don’t know, I spend X amount of time writing a blog post. In my mind I’m like, oh my gosh, I don’t spend that much time, not even close or the other way around they’ll spend a little amount of time doing something that I spend more time on and I can kind of compare mentally. So if there is a discrepancy there that you can kind of dig into that and say, well, why? Do I need to spend that much time doing X project? That can lead to improvements in your systems and your processes. So I love that. I think this is a really great idea. That’s a great podcast episode topic idea, actually, to start talking through some of the processes that we have and we can give food bloggers an idea about whether or not they’re doing more or less. That gave me a great idea. So thank you, Amanda. I had one more thing to share. So I learned this from, I can not take the credit for this, but I learned it from one of my new favorite business books, which is called The Common Path To Uncommon Success by John Lee Dumas. He’s an incredible entrepreneur and podcaster. He just has like all of us systems and processes, super awesomely in place and effective. One of the things he recommended about SLPs, I loved, and I haven’t done this, but I want to, he recommended creating a loom videos for each process so that you can actually show screenshots, you can talk through it in person, and then you just create the video and save it into a folder. So I thought that was really a slick idea.

Amanda: Most of my SOPs have screenshots and descriptions. But for most of my clients, when I’m doing something, let’s say walking them through something that’s new, especially something like I got some of my clients on planoly and they don’t know how to operate it.

So I’ll do loom or screenshots, video shares and then create those and put them into separate Google folders. I’m a big fan of Google folders and I’ll put them into the exact folder of what they’re going to be putting documentation into. So that they can watch those and go, oh, this is how I do this. So that when they go in there to operate planoly, they go into the planoly folder to be doing their scheduling for social media and they watch the video and they go, oh, yes, yes, yes. This is how I do this. 

Megan: Oh, I love that too. Google drive and Google folders are the best. I love them. I use them all the time.

Amanda: Yeah. I use them even with some food blogger groups that I have. I did a cookbook last year for the ACLU just to raise funds and I just put everything in Google. Cause I was working with over 30 bloggers and I don’t want them all just sending me emails with all their stuff in it.

So we created Google folders and then I think every single one of my clients we have Google folders and I just record everything in there because let’s have a place where everything can be. Being an event planner, our number one thing is always, if something happens and something happens to me, everybody needs to have access to what I was doing.

Megan: Yeah. It’s just so much more efficient. Just having one spot instead of having to go search your mail. Isn’t that the worst? When you have to search your Gmail email account, it’s so frustrating because sometimes it catches it. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes you have to go into the trash; all mail doesn’t include the trash, so you have to do it separately.

So yes, just having that one spot where you know everything is at, that is super efficient. How do you balance it? This takes a lot of mental energy,like planning it out, getting the systems in place. Tell us how you balance it. 

Amanda: Sure. So I always recommend having a miscellaneous time block. So once again, with my time blocks, but having a miscellaneous time block that’s in a couple of days a week that you’re doing some cleanup stuff. That you’re going in, moving some things around, figuring things out. Then on Fridays for me is what works. I know for some people it’s Monday mornings. Sometimes I’ll do it on Fridays or Mondays, just depending. But setting an actual time in your calendar to organize your week and reevaluate things. I said originally that I was going to be doing three blog posts this week, but that’s just not going to be feasible for me this week.

So let’s go ahead and move it down to one. I’m going to be spending time instead on Tuesday and Thursday building out my systems. Because the hardest part of all of this is actually just taking the time to do it. I think a lot of people can think about it in the same way, if you’ve never done something like this, like spring cleaning, right?

You have to actually set aside a lot of time to do a full apartment house cleaning. You have to set aside time. If you don’t do it, it’s just going to keep piling up and it’s just going to keep building and getting worse. So the biggest priority I would say for people is like, find a time, think to yourself, okay. I have all this client work that needs to get done through the end of October, but then I’m going to set aside this huge chunk, these two weeks of November to get myself in order. To really put things in place and to bunker down. I like to tell people like, what music did you use to listen to, to get yourself in the right headspace in school to be focusing on studying?

Or I’m a person that does this, you turn on The Office and that’s your thing that gets you in the mood to know, I’m bunkering down. I’m doing this. Schedule it into your schedule to say these are the times that I’m going to set aside to truly focus on all of this stuff. Because it can’t be, I’m going to do five minutes here. I’m going to spend five minutes there. I’m going to have 10 minutes there. You need to set aside that time to really put your processes in place to really get into it. Once you’re into it, It’s really not as hard mentally. You can’t just say I’m going to try this one thing or, Ooh, I’m just going to do my SOP for four things and then call the rest of it quits.

Or I’m just going to try this. Whatever it is for you. It doesn’t have to be what I do, of course. It can be whatever works for you, but l sit down and say, I’m going to experiment. I’m going to let me try, starting with Asana. Then if I don’t like it, I’m gonna move to another system.

Give myself a two month timer and put it in my calendar so I remember to reevaluate it, but sit down and actually try everything, put everything down, write everything out. If you don’t give yourself the time to actually do it, you’re not going to do it. 

Megan: It’s definitely not something you can do in bits and pieces, that something that you need to find that really deep groove with and get into that flow and you just find this magic and you can create so much from that, but it’s not a dabble here and there. I’m going to write out my thoughts on how to create a new system and create an SOP there.

It really is something that you need to just immerse yourself in. I feel like I get there once a quarter. What are your thoughts on that? How often do you get to that place where you need to sit down and really dig into this? 

Amanda: So I basically audit myself every quarter and basically just go through my own system and processes and go through my own work and just say, is this actually working for me? Is this not working for me? How can I edit this, this and this? Most of the time a quarter works for me, but some parts, I do realize I come back to them monthly to evaluate them. So you just have to kind of, you know, go with the flow on it. I know it sounds like none of this goes with the flow type of behavior.

It’s very type A stuff. But once you have it in place and in order, you’re able to go with the flow on it and say, okay, how can I be flexible in this? How can I change this? Really, I think a lot of people, especially creatives, get something in our head and we just want to do it right then and there. So come up with a system for yourself too, for all of you, what I call shower. So that when you have this genius idea or this like great thing that comes up, you have a place to put all of those. So for me, I have a separate Asana list and it’s all of these great ideas that I have that come up.

Otherwise I’m going to be redoing my systems and processes every week, because I’ll think of something new or exciting to try out. But you need to have time to test things. Probably somebody has talked to you on social media. You do something new on social media. You have to like to give it some time to see if it actually performs well. You have to do the same thing with your system and processes; give it some time and if you come up with some other ideas, make a list for it. I would say once again, have all of your miscellaneous lists in a place like asana.

Just give it a set title for it or whatever. Just say, here are my different ideas. I’m going to try out a sauna. I’m gonna try out Trello. I’m going to try out a notebook. I’m going to try out all these different things. At different times I can try them out, but give them time to actually take hold. Otherwise you’re just going to be jumping around. You’re going to go. Well, none of this works for me and it’s, well, why didn’t it work for you? Oh, you only gave it two weeks to work for you? That’s not enough time. 

Megan: Yeah. That’s great advice. What are your thoughts on boundaries? Creating boundaries around how much you’re working. Do you create boundaries and how do you go about that?

Amanda: Sure. So right now we just moved, so I have no boundaries. Everything is all over the place, but I truly, once again, my favorite part about time-blocking is putting actual items into your calendar to say, I’m taking lunch from this time to this time. Especially for those of us who work from home. It can be hard and you get roped into something. All of a sudden you get an email from a client or you start writing a blog post, and you’re so into it. Then you all of a sudden realize it’s three o’clock and you haven’t eaten lunch. So putting those things in there with set reminders and they happen daily, I have found so helpful. Even if I have to move it back half an hour, I’m still getting a reminder. That’s like, Hey girl, you haven’t eaten lunch. Go and do that thing. I actually put in reminders. I don’t need them as much now as I used to, but to close my laptop at the end of the day. I am definitely a night worker and my brain just for some reason, goes so much faster at night and it just wants to go and work and write and whatever.

Since we’re working from home and not in the same world that we usually are, I don’t have as many evening plans to go out with people right now. So it’s not the same as when you were at an office and everybody would leave at five and you would go home and you’d be done for the day.

Everything is connected to us and we have to set those boundaries. So a few things that I always suggest is, put in reminders in your calendar to take a break for a walk, if you like to exercise, do that. Put in your lunch breaks; put in when you need to be done. Then you can remove your work email from your phone. Take it off of there.

It’s so hard. It’s so hard to do, but I can’t have my clients anymore on my email because I was getting so many updates all the time and I’m a, oh no, this problem is happening. I have to solve it now. Although it could wait until tomorrow. 

Megan: That was the biggest game changer for me. I will tell you, Amanda. Actually, I did two things that you’ve just mentioned, which is kind of funny. The time you mentioned 5:00 PM on your notes. I started closing my laptop at 5:00 PM every night. I removed the email from my phone. Those were the two changes I made when I just got to this point where I was frazzled, stressed out all the time. I was anxious and I just knew I needed to make some changes and set some boundaries.

Those two small changes were really, really hard, but they produced massive results in a matter of months because I was consistent with them, but they seem small, yet hard, but they can do such amazing things if you stick with them. So I love that you mentioned all of that because I was like, oh my gosh, I so relate to the email. You get on and I’d be at the grocery store, standing in line, waiting to check out, checking my email. I was like, dude, what are you doing? There is nothing here that you need to look at. Stop. So I just had to be my own parent and remove it from my phone. 

Amanda: You really do. I mean, I was at a university, which basically is the corporate world, but for education. Universities are so different from other schools. My last two years, I was working 60 to 80 hour work weeks plus, and so I would be out at dinner and I’d be getting phone calls. So we stopped going out as much because I’d be getting phone calls. Then I started knowing people and they would walk up to me and say, oh Amanda, what time is this event?

This, this, this. I was like, who are you? What’s happening? So it became such a thing for me. When we moved, actually, that was my time to be like, I think I’m going to go full-time and try to do marketing clients and my blog instead, because I did not have a work-life balance anymore. It was non-existent. I never had lunch. I never took breaks. I never did anything because I was so enveloped in it. It was like, what do you do? I mean, I was 26 when I was hired to that position. So it was, what do you do when you’re 26, 27, whatever and your life literally revolves around all of this. That’s not a life anymore. 

That’s just not where I wanted to be. Obviously in society, we can’t really change it as a whole, but we can at least make our own rules up for ourselves. So just come up with that balance for whatever it is for you. If you are a night worker and you do like working in the night and you like your mornings to do your errands and clean your house and do whatever it is that you like to do in the morning, you can totally set your hours to be in the evening, but create those boundaries for yourself so that you’re not, like us, checking in the grocery store, all your things and taking, then you don’t get an email in the grocery store and the client would be like, can we talk in five minutes?

Then I’d go in the car and sit in the car with all the groceries and be on the phone with them for two hours. Then my ice cream melted. 

Megan: Exactly! That’s totally unnecessary. You could have waited and not just said to you, but I would do the same sort of thing. I would say to myself, you could have waited till you got home and then you wouldn’t have had this mental clutter in your mind. You could have actually been enjoying your experience at the grocery store, but instead I didn’t have boundaries. I have been there when work has absolutely consumed my life. I can say that life is so much better with boundaries and not just my work life, but my personal life. I’m happier. I’m healthier. I make better choices. I am less anxious. I sleep better. It truly affects everything positively in life. If you can set those boundaries and stick to them.

Amanda: It’s something that is so hard to get started, but once you actually do it, it’s like, oh, that actually, wasn’t as hard as I was making this out to be, and it’s fine. I’m going to survive it. Like you said, like, it just makes everything in life better. So just try it. 

Megan: Like with everything, I think when we over anticipate things, we can over complicate them and it suddenly becomes this big mental clutter, this big ordeal. But once you actually start it, it’s like, oh, that wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it would be. Then you see the power of it, and then you do something else to stack on top of that. It suddenly becomes this really efficient system that you’ve created in your life. Before you know it, things are easier; just life and your business is effortless and I cannot speak to this more.

I’m so glad we had this conversation today because I do feel like it’s under utilized and underrated, but there is such power in this topic. So thank you for sharing all of this, Amanda. 

Amanda: Yeah. I mean, this is something, yeah. I could speak for hours about. I love helping others get to a place where they can have that healthy work-life balance. I do believe 100% that an organization within your own small business can help you achieve that. 

Megan: If you could give food bloggers one main takeaway from everything that you have talked about today, what would be your number one takeaway for them? 

Amanda: So in terms of organization and things like that, I think a lot of people are super overwhelmed by the idea of it. I know that we talked about setting aside time to do it. My actual advice though would be that other part that is talk to your food blogger friends and see what systems and organizations they use. When you’re a freelancer, you work from home. You’re not at a job where you can ask the person who’s been there for 30 years. Hey, how do we do this, this and this in our office. You don’t have that same network. So reach out to your network of food blogger friends and whoever you’re close with or whoever you’ve built those relationships with and ask them. Say, how can I be doing this better? How can I approach these things better and really reach out to each other?

So join those Facebook communities, slide into those DM’s whatever it is, and reach out to one another, because building that community is going to help you with not just your systems and processes, but basically every aspect of blogging is going to get better and easier once you have that network. Get out there and do that. It seems like food blogging is like a one-person job, but I really truly believe in building a community around you. So joining courses, masterminds, going to conferences that’s really just building that community because you need those cheerleaders. 

Megan: The networking is such an important piece of it. Another part of it that we can discount too. So yes, love that. Well, we’re going to put together a show notes page for you, Amanda. If anyone wants to go peek at those, you can find them at eatblogtalk.com/Amanda Wilens and that’s spelled W I L E N S. Tell everyone where they can find you online, Amanda.

Amanda: So I have my website, Amandawillens.com. That is my entertaining and food blogging website, where you can find party ideas, lifestyle and recipes. I also have Amanda Willens photography.com for my photography services that I do. Then you can find me on Instagram and social media at Amanda _Wilens. Basically there’s just a world of knowledge that I’m trying to put out there on all of these different sites as well. 

Megan: Awesome. Well, go check Amanda out everyone. And thanks again for being here, Amanda, and thank you so much for listening today, food bloggers. I will see you next time.

Outro: We’re glad you could join us on this episode of Eat Blog Talk. For more resources based on today’s discussion, as well as show notes and an opportunity to be on a future episode of the show, be sure to head to eatblogtalk.com. If you feel that hunger for information, we’ll be here to feed you on Eat Blog Talk.


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Megan
Megan

Megan started her food blog Pip and Ebby in 2010 and food blogging has been her full-time career since 2013. Her passion for blogging has grown into an intense desire to help fellow food bloggers find the information, insight, and community they need in order to find success.

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