The TL:DR: I decided to run a webinar “just for fun,” and my business literally changed overnight. Not just changed, but completely transformed. Oh, and my husband took a full-time job after a decade of flying solo within a week of this webinar, so our whole business really did change this year in unexpected and wonderful ways!
I always love doing a yearly reflection and review.
Every year always feels transformative; I’ve never been one to stay still for very long, or do the same thing over and over again. I’m always testing things: launching new products and refining services, always in search of creating more impact with more ease.
This year, however, carried more surprises than usual...
What happened in 2019
I tend to think about things in 90-day chunks/sprints, so let’s break the year down:
Gutsy Goal Setting
Two weeks into the year, I was kicking off a goal-setting webinar with Mia Scharphie, an incredible woman who I have informally masterminded with for a few years now. She kicks my butt into dreaming bigger, and getting out of my tactical tendencies.
I almost backed out of doing this webinar because I was simply too overcommitted, but Mia convinced me that we didn’t have to overthink it, and we could make it fun and easy. We co-created this workshop quickly over a few live calls, while we each shared our own approaches to goal setting and following through on our ideas.
This was my first official “webinar”; I had nothing to sell so this was essentially just a chance to have some fun and practice putting myself out there in this new medium!
I was also really committed to collaboration this year, so I was keeping an open mind to all sorts of opportunities. This was fun and easy!
Q1’s theme was simply survival.
Basically, to survive the unsustainable pace I’d created for myself.
One of my goals for 2019 was to shift financially from “catching up” (paying off old debt) to “investing in my future” in a major way. So, financial stability and financial literacy were big themes for me this year.
My roster was FULL, and my commitments to those clients was continuing to grow. I was working most days, evenings and weekends helping my clients launch their websites, online courses, and communities.
I loved the work I was doing, but I also knew that this pace wasn’t sustainable in the long term. I had no wiggle room, and no “free time” to speak of.
I had no other goals for Q1 than to simply “survive this quarter.” No product launches, no blog posts, no email newsletters… just do the work you said you were going to do, and then reevaluate.
It was a calculated decision to work at a temporarily unsustainable pace in order give myself some serious financial runway. It was one of the hardest working periods of my career.
Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? No.
Around this time, I had been using Notion to track… well, my entire life.
2019 was the first year where I really intentionally tracked a ton of data in a consistent way (feelings, effectiveness, gratitude, areas to improve, notes from courses and reading, etc): I had a daily journal, weekly agendas, monthly reviews, and quarterly planning, all connected in using Notion.
I knew that I was going to have to be ruthlessly effective if I was going to survive all of my commitments without burning myself to a crisp, so any spare time was spent studying effective workflow, creating Standard Operating Procedures, and Getting Things Done.
Whenever I feel like I don’t have enough time, I study time-management and go back to basics. That and boundaries, because clearly I was having a hard time saying no to projects!
How many times am I going to see “overcommitted” in my weekly agenda before I finally do something about it?
I already knew I was overcommitted, but Notion made it truly visible. When you reflect each day and each week with a question like “what could I do better?” and you see the same thing appearing over and over again in your agenda, it started to crystallize what really needed to change.
Other things I did to keep my sanity during this hectic phase:
In order to keep my sanity, I kept myself busy with:
- Cardio Cabaret
- 7-Min morning workouts
I have a long term knee injury that sometimes flares up keeps me from climbing, but I decided to join a Cardio Cabaret class which has been THE BEST. It has helped me work through my feelings of awkardness / silliness when it comes to dancing.
I still feel silly, but it’s such a blast, and a great low-impact workout.
Q2’s theme was Launch.
Since I spend most of my time helping my clients launch their offers, my own products were left sitting on the backburner. I didn’t have any courses products that were available for sale year round (other than Doki of course!), so I wanted that to be a focus for Q2.
I knew I needed to start committing to my own projects in the same way I commit to my client projects, or they were never going to get done.
Launched a Mastermind
I originally planned to relaunch some of my older products (Digital Strategy School, Run your learning launch…), but I was doing so much work with productized offers lately that a collaboration emerged with a good friend of mine Kai Davis, and we partnered up to launch a small mastermind/course around this.
This was so much fun; collaborating with Kai was so fun and easy. This was the second collaboration of the year that went smoothly, and I really started to feel like I would thrive by thinking more collaboratively overall.
A month or two later I was asked to present as a guest in Nikki Groom’s mastermind. Well, what do you know, I have an asset I can repackage! It was nice not to have to reinvent the wheel because I had already created a good chunk of the content with Kai.
I had been so booked up with client work the last year, I forgot how much I love teaching… I was starting to feel in flow again!
MicroConf Community Ambassadorship
I was invited to attend MicroConf Starter as the Community Ambassador, which essentially meant helping new folks feel welcome, and keeping an eye on the pulse of the attendees, listening for feedback, and helping answer any questions as needed.
I’ve attended MicroConf for 4 years (and spoke there for the first time in 2018); it’s an incredible conference for bootstrapped software startups.
I’ve loved my experience with this community. As a woman founder in tech, I have found MicroConf to be a breath of fresh air in the tech space, fostering an inclusive experience with talented speakers from all ages, gender, backgrounds, etc. This is not your average tech conference. With an audience of under 200 people, the vibe is really intimate, and you get to meet founders at all stages of their journey.
I have learned more from this conference about product and software growth than anywhere else.
I did meet one gentleman who told me that my business can’t scale, which really riled me up (I wrote about that here: https://blog.weareokidoki.com/but-that-doesnt-scale-dbe726e56054 – it’s a doozy!)
Upped my house plant game
I took my plant-momming to new heights.
Each year I continue to learn more and more about plant care, and have slowly transformed our house into a plant sanctuary. There’s still more work to be done, but we’re getting there, one plant at a time…
Gardening season is around the corner! Even more incentive to slow down. I would need to prepare garden beds, set up seedlings, and tend to my plant-babies…
Permaculture is something I am continuing to study, as it influences how I design the systems of my garden, life, and business. Permaculture helps make invisible systems visible.
I’m currently working on my diploma, which involves exploring permaculture principles as they apply to business design.
Here’s the map I created as part of my Permaculture Design Certificate:
We visited friends and watched 2 of them get married in Austin. I’d never been before and everything they said was true. I ate all of the tacos.
Summer finally started to slow things down, and bring more clarity. I tend to work like a madwoman during the winter, and then live in the garden and hammock in the summer. Strategic imbalance…
Visiting Tofino for the first time was definitely one of the highlights of my year. We attended the Tofino Food + Wine festival with friends at the Botanical Gardens (I always try to visit local botanical gardens when I travel!).
I realized that all of my favourite highlights looking back involved travel, good food, nature, and friends. More of this in 2020 please…
Family on Vancouver Island
My aunt and uncle purchased an old Koi fish farm in Saanich, and we stopped by on the way back from Tofino. It is one of the most epic properties I’ve ever seen. Truly a unique house and property.
My aunt and uncle are two of the most unique, genuine, supportive, and emotionally aware people I know. They’ve always been available to offer perspective and words of wisdom during some of the most challenging transitional times in my life.
I was still recovering from all my over-commitments during this time, I wasn’t able to fully disconnect from work during this visit. It was so difficult to be sitting inside, working on client work while visiting my family on this beautiful property. Why couldn’t I be helping my aunt in the garden?
The true impact of my overworking was starting to become palpable.
Sure, I was able to still enjoy time with family, but I felt distracted by all my commitments and wasn’t able to be fully present, and I didn’t like that feeling. My resentment at my own decisions and leaky boundaries was starting to surface.
Marie, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?– self
Yes, tacos get their own category. I made and ate a lot of vegetarian tacos. I could eat tacos every day. I hope to see more tacos in 2020… maybe a taco cook book? Hmmm.
I also learned how to make kombucha! Fun!
Ran a webinar about Notion
OKAY, friends. This is when shit got real.
Throughout the year I’d been spending more and more time with Notion, using it to journal, manage client projects set goals, plan meals, etc. (I wrote about making the switch to Notion last year: https://weareokidoki.com/blog/one-tool-to-rule-them-all/)
I was sharing Notion with anyone who asked me about how to get their life/business organized. I was sharing my meal planner with friends, and recording loom videos to share tips with others. I started getting folks asking to “pick my brain” about it regularly, and started running some casual group calls while screen-sharing my setup.
I knew there was an opportunity to teach folks how to use Notion, so I decided I would do a webinar to share what I was doing with folks. I booked in a date, set up the Crowdcast and had a general idea of what I wanted to share.
What I didn’t realize was how advanced my setup was for the average person just getting started. Oops.
I named my webinar “getting started with Notion”, but it was really more like “here’s a tour of my advanced setup that I’ve spent months working on!”
Things… exploded. In a good way.
Only a few hundred people registered (which was perfect because this was a complete experiment), but the response that came right after that webinar illuminated that there was a huge opportunity here.
My twitter mentions were on fire.
My inbox was full.
Individuals and teams were reaching out about consulting.
I had several requests for podcast interviews, guest posts, and conference talks.
Notion’s COO wanted to “chat”.
I had never experienced anything quite like the fervor that followed that webinar.
I know that Notion had taken me many months to master, and I had a hard time finding anyone who was sharing use cases that were geared at project and client management… so I suppose I figured, why not be that person?
I had become obsessed with the tool and what it had allowed me to accomplish in the last 6 months with all of my commitments. I know that tools are just tools… but this tool was different from everything else I’d ever tried.
It helped solidify new habits, and helped me see what was really at stake if I continued to overbook myself. Something about the open-ended nature of the platform made it super easy for me to surface the information that was most important. Ideas, tasks, and commitments were no longer buried they were in Asana and Evernote — they were staring me right in the face.
What do you want Marie?? And where does it make sense to focus your time and attention?
I knew I wanted to recommit to teaching, mentoring, and consulting, and wanted to launch my own products, not just my client’s products.
I also knew this would involve a serious re-evaluation of priorities as well as courageous conversations.
- I had to let some long-time clients go. It was incredibly difficult but totally necessary.
- I turned down some incredibly amazing projects because I knew I wouldn’t have the bandwidth and wouldn’t be able to deliver.
Right after doing this webinar, Ben and I were headed to Portland for the Hallway Conf Mastermind.
Hallway Conf Mastermind
An absolute highlight of my year was attending this mastermind led by Kai Davis and attended by number of my internet friends, many of whom I’ve interacted with online, but never met in person.
It was a small, intimate event with only 16 of us. We spent time 100% focused on our businesses, gathering insight from others, doing small hot-seats, and exchanging value in small guided conversations.
This event was honestly such incredible timing, and such a great experience overall. I was lucky to be paired up with Joel Hooks of egghead.io who suggested I double-down on Notion and start a Youtube Channel (which I did).
I knew I wanted to create a course, but I wasn’t sure if it made sense to go all in.
I was a little hesitant. Did I want to be known as the Notion girl?
I was getting such great feedback from the webinar, and from the mastermind, I figured it was at least worth exploring the possibilities.
I love the tool, but I also know it’s not just about the tool: it’s about surfacing your commitments, creating workflows that work, and designing a workflow that helps improve your daily, weekly, and ongoing habits and routines. If I could help people use Notion to design smarter workflows, that was more interesting to me than simply teaching people “how to use the tool.”
The mastermind lit a fire under my ass, and I doubled down on Notion when I returned.
At the same time, one of the biggest shifts in our business was also about to happen…
Ben goes full-time
Ben and I have both been self-employed for over a decade, and we had been operating together as a small agency since 2014. We launched our SaaS for course creators, Doki.io, in 2015, and Ben has been spending the majority of his time since maintaining Doki while also doing light consulting, technical strategy, and custom development work.
He was offered a position in a company that was incredibly aligned with his strengths, and he would be able to leverage the knowledge, insight, and skill he’d learned in the process of building Doki and apply it to some newer, bigger challenges.
It was an unexpected turn, and an incredible opportunity. We talked at length about what the change would mean for our business and lives, and we agreed it was the right call for us.
Doki’s support burden is very small, and while we knew it would mean putting any real feature development on hold for a while, the product was stable enough that we wouldn’t have to shut it down to make this change.
Things were already changing drastically for me with Notion work, so in a way, Oki Doki was already changing. The timing felt right.
I’ve really loved seeing Ben step into a leadership role with an amazing team. His excitement, motivation, and overall zest for life has dramatically increased!
We were initially nervous about what it would mean for existing clients, but truth be told, nobody’s really noticed, as it hasn’t impacted our ability to continue delivering our software!
In September Notion and I agreed that I would host weekly office hours for them as an informal partnership. I ran these every week for 15 weeks straight, all through Q4.
I did a few solo sessions, but in most cases I was interviewing folks who were using Notion in interesting ways in order to highlight many different use cases. In some cases we had 1000s of people register for the events!
Let me tell you: making recorded videos is a challenge. Doing live videos for an audience of many hundreds of people every week? That is an entirely different skillset! I never expected this to become something I would do regularly, let alone ENJOY.
Just a FEW of the things I’ve done over the years to help me overcome my fear of being seen in any capacity:
- years of therapy
- a 100-day vlog challenge
- a year of Meisner technique acting classes
- joined a pillow fight league
You can read more about how I’ve worked to overcome my fear of public speaking here.
This year, I had conversations about money with anyone who was willing. I wanted to know how much people were paying themselves, how did they invest, what percentage, and how/where/when.
Money is pretty damn taboo to talk about, but I was willing to go there with anyone else who would go there. I would share my income, debt, investments, fears, you name it. I want to give a thank you and shout-out to anyone who was willing to have those honest conversations with me.
In 2019 I was really committed to being wise with my money, and building a nest egg for the future.
Business: Profit First
I finally read and implemented Profit First. If you haven’t read that book yet, it’s an absolute must, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. I’d heard about it, and skimmed through it here and there, but it felt like overkill in terms of implementation.
But since my focus this year was paying off ALL outstanding debts, becoming truly financially literate, and starting to invest in the stock market, I was committed to taking money seriously this year.
This whole process was a legit game-changer. I know that phrase is over-used but it truly made a massive impact on everything. It took the stress out of decision making and made us more informed. It helped us build runway and begin looking at the business as a way to invest in our future.
The process of creating the bank accounts was a total pain in the ass (as a Canadian company with both US and CAD income and expenses), but it was completely worth it. I cannot recommend the book and system enough, truly.
I reached (surpassed) all of my financial goals this year, and I believe the only reason I did was because I really put time into setting some stretch goals for myself, and reverse-engineering what would have to happen for me to reach those goals.
Personal: Combining finances
Now with Ben earning a full-time salary, we had to adjust our personal finance strategy. We had always paid ourselves the same amount of money since the inception of the business, regardless of who earned what. But now we could be a bit more flexible with how much we withdrew from the business to optimize for taxes.
We thought we had our systems pretty solid, but this big change had us re-evaluating everything. We decided to go all-in on shared accounts, and I can’t believe we didn’t do this sooner!
Everything became so much easier, whyyyy did we not do this sooner?? I plan to write about this whole process in more detail, but essentially what we do now:
We both have our salaries deposited into our (now) shared chequing account where all of our joint fixed payments are withdrawn.
We transfer 20-25% into a joint savings account at the same bank.
We then transfer a set percentage into our personal accounts (at a separate bank), with an agreed % that goes toward retirement + investment accounts. We optimize those accounts slightly differently because of our citizenship and income tax brackets.
What is left after the savings and retirements is our discretionary money to spend however we like. Knowing that we are saving toward our retirement goals means that we don’t have to stress about (or budget) our discretionary spending.
As an aside but also related…
I try to avoid buying anything new if I can help it, and especially so with clothing. I bought, traded, and sold lots of used clothing and household items on VarageSale, and only purchased second-hand clothing (not because I can’t afford it, but because it’s unbelievably wasteful, and fast fashion is destroying our planet).
On the rare occasion where I do buy something new, I try to buy from local, sustainable, and ethical brands wherever possible. I saved SO MUCH MONEY this year through this commitment.
- Launched a Youtube Channel
- Hosted Notion’s official live Office Hours every single week from September to December
- Launched a pilot of my course, Notion Mastery
- Transitioned to 95% Notion-related consulting
I had dabbled with video over the years, and did a 100 day video challenge to help me get over my fear of video. Let me tell you, I never expected YouTube would be a channel that I would ever spend any energy on, but here we are…
The excitement, feedback, and positivity is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my past work. People were sending me love letters, and thanking me for making their lives better! It was so incredibly rewarding to feel like I was having a real impact on others’ lives in such a tangible way!
And of course, it was amazing to see the increase in traffic, consulting, and collaborative inquiries that came in as a result.
Notion Mastery Course
I decided to launch a pilot of Notion Mastery quietly and “by request,” so only those who reached out to me personally were given a link to purchase the pilot.
I chose to do this more quietly for a few reasons:
- I was delivering the course as I went, so it was a pre-sale pilot. I wasn’t sure what shape it would take, and I wanted to be able to deliver.
- I was delivering the course material within Notion, which would mean I would have to manually invite each person by email. It was a bit of an experiment, so I wanted to make sure it was feasible to deliver it like this!
- I was offering live group coaching calls, and had no idea how many people would be a good size for this kind of offer.
Running this course was definitely one of the highlights of my year. I have so much fun working with the tool, and showing people interesting ways they could use it to suit their needs.
One of the wonderful insights that came from running this pilot was that the participants really seemed to value my insights on my general time-management and systems thinking, which ultimately is what I think will set this course apart from others. Sure, there are lessons and modules that demonstrate how to use the tool, but if you haven’t designed your systems from the ground up, they won’t be sustainable.
The course will definitely evolve as more feedback rolls in, but the whole experience of running this pilot was so much fun. I’m really grateful that I get to teach and connect with so many wonderful people from so many different industries, backgrounds, countries, and languages!
To everyone who took a chance on me and purchased early access, I am so grateful to you, truly!
I’m continuing to finish up the rest of the content, and will relaunch the course again in February on Doki!
Reading + Learning:
The books I read this year:
- Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
- Company of One
- Building a StoryBrand
- It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle
- Profit First
- Digital minimalism
- Make Time
- Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done
- Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career
- Making Work Visible Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow
- The 1 Rule: The Simple Strategy for Successful Investing in Only 15 Minutes a Week!
- Your Best Year Ever
- Free to Focus
The online courses I studied:
- Sphere of Influence
- The Effective Entrepreneur
- Mariah Coz’s Accelerator
- Copy School
- Building a Second Brain
- Investing 101
- Make it Stick Habit School
- Video editing course
- Systems Thinking
I also wrote about the best courses I invested in, so you can read that if you want to go deeper.
I love investing in my own learning; that’s pretty much where all of my spare money goes. That and plants.
I’m slowly reducing the amount of client work I’ll be taking on in 2020, but I have to give a shout out to some of the amazing clients I worked with this year to launch their various projects: K9HS Courses, IRVAP, Mindful Living Collective, Iyanla Vanzant, ambiSHEous.
A few things I’m looking forward to and focusing on in 2020:
- Auditioning for the Vagina Monologues!
- A visit to Toronto + Ottawa in late January
- Convertkit’s Craft + Commerce in June
- A 2-Week Plant-Based Culinary Bootcamp in Vancouver in July
- Slow Business Adventure in Norway in September
- Unbounce’s CTAConf in Vancouver in September
- More in-person Notion meetups and collaborations
- Working with more teams on their workflow
- Reducing my client commitments, and streamlining my course ecosystem
- Working on my permaculture diploma and framework
Skills, Knowledge, Proficiencies I want to nurture:
- Email marketing + writing
- Video editing
- Presenting, facilitating, speaking
- Basic home renovation
I also joined a Dodgeball team, and plan to pick up Slow Pitch in the summer.
I’m looking forward to making more space this year, and only saying yes to what is 100000% aligned.
My guiding word for 2020? COURAGE.
2020 let’s do this!