EP321 – The workflow of a WordPress Solopreneur

May 10, 2019

On this episode Sé Reed, Jonathan Wold & Steve Zehngut discussed many pressing WordPress topics such as beverage selection with LaCroix and autonomy with working as a solopreneur and having things fall through the cracks.

Jokingly Sé asked if Jonathan is a Virgo, he’s a Gemini.

They discussed expectations and if Jonathan felt he was meeting them. Jonathan “says yes to the idea” but he finds that he can’t keep up anymore. The three of them uncover prioritization, focus, and workflows. Sé goes back to this being an issue with Jonathan being a Gemini and wanting to do everything. Sé asked about “what system” Jonathan is using. He has paper, a journal and a to-do tracker. They worked through accountability, meeting client expectations and such. They talked about Trello, Basecamp, Asana and other tools that are used to manage their todos. Virtual Assistant came up but Sé seems to think it’s more about a Virtual Manager but they found that being a personal manager is what really needs to happen. Jonathan is conflicted because he doesn’t really want a manager. Sé puts on her counseling hat and talks about the 2 personas that Jonathan needs: Jonathan the person that produces and Jonathan the person that manages. Sé discusses habits and how to apply them as a manager and as a producer and discussing imposture syndrome when feeling you can’t do all of this. Sé shares her shortcomings and how she over 16 years has found that she can’t do everything (including paying herself) and found she needed to delegate these tasks to other people or systems to make sure they get done. Sé uses a “hype button” to call to attention when you are fibbing or not providing an accurate estimate of your effort to yourself or to your business partners. Pomodoro style came up in how Jonathan approaches various projects he does.

Steve steps in and talks about how he ran Zeek as a coder and as a manager. He realized that biz dev is where he should be and hired others to take care of the tasks that needed to be done that he shouldn’t be doing himself. Steve mentioned joining a Mastermind group and making sure that accountability is something you are applying to your business. The group circles back to Email and how much of a pain it is. Inbox Zero, Slack, text and other methods of communication are discussed. Sé introduces a “Management Day” and how she uses Asana to check boxes, move tasks around as needed.

00:00 Introduction
01:20 The Challenge of Self-Management
04:05 Managing Multiple Roles in Business
08:30 Avoiding Email and Time Management
12:00 Therapy Sessions with Clients
15:50 The Concept of Wearing Different “Hats”
19:00 Importance of Setting Aside Time for Management
22:00 Real-World Strategies for Digital Roles
25:10 Business Growth and Self-Contentment
27:20 Communication Channels and Email Management
30:10 Utilizing Asana for Self-Management
33:30 Conclusion and Final Thoughts

In the comments tell us what your workflows are!

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Episode Transcription

(00:00) think ya know why when is that everybody it bit of thing there’s no could really not a thing anyway welcome to them if you water cooler I am Steve Zaillian I’m your host this week Jason couldn’t be on when there’s him but would but you have a foolís yeah kind of anyway what do you say I said Jason do best yes he the best 3:20 ish sorry 20 sounds reasonable yeah yeah it’s right around there anyway he mine who’s our sponsor I was getting there so are our sponsors surpress makers of desktop server go over there
(00:52) check it out with mark benzocaine gone last week we were happy to have him thank you for joining and thank you so depressed for sponsoring the show let’s go around the room even those are only three of us let’s go around the room we’re gonna start with Jonathan welcome sir thank you that Jonathan will die okay hold on I got this I make WordPress I live in North Idaho and I’m happy to be welcome I don’t know what you do you teach xwp now I’m a consultant that talks about no that’s not me that’s okay I’m Seri to
(01:42) make receipt requests requests that say me meaning on all the things right there yes thank you and I’m Steve’s I get I’m the founder of Zeke Interactive I run the OC WordPress meetup and I also help out and organized and do stuff with board camps so that’s me welcome um so what do we want to talk about this week your mom no we don’t talk about my mom Jonathan you had an idea so so a bit of context so I’ve been on my own now for a couple months it’s been fantastic Johnson doesn’t like
(02:21) doesn’t doesn’t like a mango Lacroix I’m partial to it but absolute that what is that when the grapefruit that’s the crowd yeah yeah is it the crop the crop right I think it’s Lacroix anyway yes fruit the grapefruit is the best I like the grapefruit a lot lime there’s a correlation between people who say gifts and people who say Geist and people who say la crop and people who say Lacroix don’t think anybody says lacrosse I think anyway go on no I was saying what I was saying is the Lacroix
(03:01) needs to have a variety packs if you could try them all because you have to buy 12 of it and if you end up with mango and you’ve bought 12 and you just have to power through until you can go buy another great I get mine at Costco and they usually oh so you buy it you’re buying a pallet at a time yeah and that might be part of the business model just for the record yeah they know that mango sucks exactly one of the new ones is the cranberry one that’s that’s that was pretty good actually all right we’re done with the Lacroix
(03:33) part look bill across part of the show me now they’re trying to be sexist but I really thought that was more of a woman thing I don’t have a lacrosse to show you or even my period well there was so much in you into their show us Lee your shows your lacrosse one of the things that when you’re on your own and a lot of us and what kind of workouts what you’re doing you have autonomy like you can kind of you can pick what you’re going to work on what you’re going to focus on and there’s a lot of upside to
(04:09) a ton obviously for a lot of different reasons but one of the challenges is just dealing with expectations and I’m kind of so for me the bit of an impetus for this is I feel like I’m very much getting a lot of stuff like just in time and just barely and inevitably things fall through the cracks and I don’t get to all the things that I want to people get disappointed there’s all these these things are kind of complex to deal with and I’ve been thinking through it I’m kind of I’m curious to I know that I’m not the only
(04:38) one who deals with too many inputs I’ll give you this a symptom for me is that I if all possible I tried to spend less than five minutes a day on my email because I really don’t want to go there I don’t want to see all the stuff that’s there and you’re on mute say it sound like these systems are really good well these doings and I don’t there’s an email I had I said to you about a month ago that hasn’t been responded to yet no but I mean like how do you only go on your email for five hour five minutes
(05:15) like are your clients and people not talking to you there they are so here’s the thing though email is never satisfied like I can’t I couldn’t throw enough time at it and I might be wrong about that so so here’s like because they were satisfied or satisfying satisfied like they came I’d really like I’ll catch up on all my emails next day they’re all coming back at me oh yeah people are replying to more complicated things different language in your email that just stops the conversation four letter words might
(06:09) do it compound responses where you ask more questions you know if you just send off a quick missive those people are gonna get back to you right away and now it’s back at you it’s like a love it anyway I’m very achievement oriented I get like a lot of stuff done so I look at my days I put in the work I get like I am when I look back cuz I track what I get done I’m like alright you did a good job like to myself you did a good job you shouldn’t feel bad about all the things you didn’t get done and yeah myself a
(06:44) little pat on the back but yet there’s still that like it’s not enough and logically I’m like I don’t really have more to give and so say your point about email like my preference would probably did not check it at all ever like so for me spending a few minutes and that’s not always the case sometimes I’ll spend a lot of time like processing and catching up but it’s not very often so I make myself spend at least four minutes a day audience that’s lost right that’s completely lost because we just are
(07:24) genius audience middle of a conversation so cerebral with you’re a freelancer correct I’m independent yes we miss that part okay so you’re so you’re freelance developer yes Moulton I do some development a lot of what I do is writing and research and consulting okay all right now ask your questions are you a Virgo question Jonathan are you go if so we’ve solved my problem I know one of the things that I beat myself up in the past okay not to alienate the entire audience which I’m totally doing right
(08:11) now but really when’s your birthday now I just want to know how many purposes my real question is you said there are lots of expectations that you’re not meeting are those your expectations or other people’s expectations good question that’s a good question I’m it’s a mix of both like both for me I definitely like overplay things in my head like I send something off and wait for a response and then will tend to expect that it’s the worst and it’s often not so but yeah it’s it’s a mix of things I
(08:52) struggle with because at the heart of all this I like to please I like people to be happy and so I’ll tend to like say oh come on come on and it comes back to and I’m also like my wife help me figure out that I often say yes to the idea like oh that’s a good idea and someone hears me say yes that I’ll do it and what I’m really doing in my head is saying yes to the idea that makes sense let’s carry on with this and so I end up having these things that I’m like I get involved oh this is good I wanna yeah
(09:27) this thing makes sense I’m gonna get involved in it and then eventually I can’t keep up anymore and I don’t want the expectation part of it so you have trouble saying no sounds like there’s a boundary issue going on also the water cooler just turned into a therapy session here Jeff and I in a cancer ready to analyze yeah seriously I mean you handle it I’m a cancer which means I’ve got a really thick outer shell but I’m squishing in the middle so you get insult me and I won’t I won’t show I won’t show you any
(10:00) emotion but I’m gonna go I’m gonna go home and curl up in the fetal position and cry yeah it’s over later and I had that thread like we were talking like I don’t I don’t have comments on any of my blog posts anymore or when I like publish and write things like I don’t have comments and that’s part of the aborting of conflict like don’t feel bad about turning off your comments like come on self I think that’s part of it what I’m hearing is the part of the reason you’re limiting your email is
(10:31) because you’re interpreting your email through the jonathan filter right so you’re reading you’re reading your email which may not be a bad comment but you’re reading it as it is if it may be bet you’re giving it context right right and so but if you read it just factually then you can probably get you through your email quicker well okay so I have their process question yeah and this is something that I so I deal with this actually a lot with my clients because i-i have backed up a little from my web
(11:06) development because I was tired of building websites on top of total messes because it was just a futile process and I basically like refused now so I say no to people if they don’t have a strategy or if they won’t let us help with their strategy but what that ends up happening is we deal with a lot of process like how is something getting from point A to point B and where is it getting messed up in that process so I guess I’m asking what is your workflow are you using a system or is it just email and that’s
(11:36) like you’re essentially like your ticket tracking system yeah so it’s the highest level at the highest level my workflow is what’s most important today and I’ll ask myself that question and I will focus on what I believe is the most important that’s not a workflow that’s prioritizing different that’s know and then but that’s important though because there’ll be days where I won’t check email at all until like the very end of the day because I have a habit that says check your email because I’m focused on
(12:09) like whatever the thing is for that day so I’ll tend to schedule out like so I kind of deal with this for myself by taking the client work that I have and dedicating days that where I’m just gonna focus on that so but you you brought up this topic under the guise of autonomy right but what I’m really hearing is that the issue is focus but because you’re on your own right you focus really I think it’s workflow that’s I’m thinking about because like it’s all related oh well I mean I
(12:45) suppose it’s related insofar as that your workflow is janked up then you really can’t focus on anything yeah but but like so how are you currently prioritizing the thing that you decide is today’s thing yeah so I do start so I’ve done high-level work on like alright Jonathan at this period of time like these are the high-level things that you’re focused on the mission if you will and so I every time I something comes at me I’m looking at through that lens does it help me make progress or not in that direction and
(13:19) the channel don’t run into is though there are a lot of things that do so my guess to this this is good this fits it I’ll say I’m pretty good at saying no to the things that like don’t fit or I’m like it doesn’t make sense but so then I had this bundle of things that all fit but I didn’t really like I overestimate and and underestimate the same time what I’m capable of actually doing and sometimes it all kind of balances out really nicely today it was just this and today it was that other times it’s like
(13:45) it’s all coming together it it all needs progress at the same time because you want to do everything so the bucket that you’re talking about is really big like there isn’t you’re like oh that sounds interesting oh that sounds interesting oh yeah that’s cool too oh I’d like to do that right like and so the bucket there’s you know you’d be like sure I’ll say no to something if it has literally does not piqued my interest whatsoever but like that’s a small proportion of like you
(14:15) know life would be my guest you’re talking about so again I’m asking you how are you like what system are you using that’s really good no I have a bunch of paper on my desk I have audio I just facepalms a daily log that I write like a journal that I keep of like to do’s most of which I never come back to and looking at again I also have to do tracker that I look at once a day and pretty much ignore otherwise so like things come in I’ll write down like yeah this is a good thing to do and then I’ll do it when it
(14:59) comes up is awesome yeah so this is definitely I think when you’re saying this is autonomy what you’re saying is is that you’re used to working within a structure where someone was telling you what to prioritize no no that’s this has always been the case and this is perhaps part of this used to work for companies but yet I still had the autonomy so for better for worse this was sometimes the challenge of like what is Jonathan working on like how is this kind of guy but like because I do get things done
(15:30) I’ve always had autonomy as the overriding theme it’s like the work I’ve been doing but like the managing expectations especially as the stage widens and there’s more people that are aware of what you’re doing so I mean that’s the thing like for a long time now like I can wake up on almost any day and like do whatever I want to do now I could have clients who are upset because I told them I would do something that day yes say that’s that’s probable that’s correct I mean so I mean at the risk of
(16:13) sounding super like basic here like have you heard of this awesome system called the sauna because it will like literally change yes I’ve used this on abuse Trello I’ve used base camp by the eye but I think part of this is aggressive let’s see if I Trello I know that I’m I bring this up because I think there’s I know there’s people like me like and there’s people who are very organized and like I value the outputs and the results like I’ve used the tools like I used to be I read getting things done
(16:52) and I’m like are I’m gonna do it this way I’m gonna do this I’m like it just doesn’t it’s just not for me about a virtual assistant so I’ve done that in the past as well it’s been a while what you really want is a virtual manager not a virtual assistant and that is really what I found with a lot of folks is that they’re like I get a virtual assistant now in addition to managing myself I have to manage the freakin assistants where I’m paying them to do literally nothing I try to like send them work but
(17:25) you just hit the heart of the issue for me it’s a ultimately this is about management self management yes and the way that I like get by because I mean I’ve gotten to know myself like I use habits to keep me on the right because I have things that like do whether you like to do it or not you’re gonna still do this little thing it’s not gonna require that much so so that’s like I get by but ultimately I know that I miss opportunities because I don’t I haven’t yet figured out the most
(17:54) effective ways to manage myself so yes I could have someone else manage me but I don’t really want that so okay this is this is actually a problem that a lot of times sorry I just keep talking but this is really a problem that a lot of my small business clients deal with and so even though I do web development and digital marketing strategy and all of that with my clients a lot of the time it turns into therapy sessions all on this this particular thing or dealing with process and workflow and that type
(18:26) of stuff and really you know one of the things that I kind of counsel my clients to do is to literally have different hats right you you are not just one person in one role right you have Jonathan the person who’s producing the stuff and then you also need to have Jonathan the person who’s managing the stuff and those are different mindsets and those are different roles so if you’re not actually setting aside time for yourself like you’re literally actively avoiding your email you’re not
(18:57) setting aside time to actually manage yourself so you’re literally unmanaged your time is unmanaged you’re unmanaged like and that makes it feel wait for it unmanageable so maybe that could be something because that’s what you need is a manager but you don’t want someone telling you what to do so if you know the key thing is are you gonna listen to yourself you know but if you’re trying to do the same thing at the same time like say you had a retail shop right like say you sold ice cream
(19:31) you can’t both be in the front of the shop serving ice cream to customers and in the back of the shop paying bills and doing paperwork at the same time that is a line of differentiation that we as web developers who are on our computers with all of the things in front of our face at the same time we we don’t have that inherent line of distinction like you’re in a physical place or in a you know different a different thing so it’s actually easier in that context to switch those hats for retail clients or
(20:04) things like that but for us you can’t do that so you have to basically change that yourself and if you’re able to create habits then you need to create habits as management and you need to create habits as production those are really different rules that’s a really I think you nailed it like that’s so basically right now I know but I avoid wearing that hat as much until I do with your own impostor syndrome or you know you feeling like if you don’t really maybe not even impostor syndrome but if
(20:42) you ignore it it won’t be a problem which is what’s happening with your email you know so but you end up feeling really guilty about it and then that decreases your productivity and then you waste a bunch of the time that you actually have trying to figure out like feeling bad about stuff instead of actually doing anything no I say all of this because I’ve been self-employed since 2003 what the hell year is it I don’t even know that’s like 16 years right and you know I had a retail shop I had what 16 I
(21:15) just had to get out the calculator twelve carry the three yeah so like you know I I have had to learn these things for myself only now have I combined up and and and had a partner who can take care of things like I don’t know paying myself because I can’t even handle writing myself my own checks that was always my problem paying myself but you know it really is when you do all the things if you don’t draw those distinction between those different types of roles then then they all blur together and when everything’s all
(21:52) blurred together it’s not in focus so this is interesting I think this have concept of hats is really good like the Hat like strategy there’s like figuring out the big-picture stuff there’s actually in the work there’s the management there’s a prioritization stuff that has to have in general I do a respectable job of dynamically doing those things but eventually I do see the edges and it’s times where it’s like one I wore I said yes with one hat well not consulting the other hats I said okay how much time you
(22:23) actually have right this is actually something my business partner and I have done we’re also both geminis contact but we’ll be like oh that only she’ll say something like oh that’s only gonna take me five minutes right to you know write an entire grant or you know creator or whatever and what I actually do is I go like we have a hyper each other so that if we catch each other saying oh this will only take without actually like real like checking or seeing how long it’s gonna take where I’ll just take a
(23:00) minute because you know it should be somewhat easy but you forget about all the the setup and then you forget about having to write it up and send it to somebody and you know you have to log in and find the freaking password and all of this other stuff so I recommend you hike button yourself as much or you could be even more specific I think real world stuff for all of our digital world that we’re in it’s really important to bring things into the real world you can get hats on a different hat so you can wear this amazing trucker hat
(23:38) my pirate wear hats but I could probably get like a big necklace okay snow sweet [Music] like put on the big thing you can have it custom-made it says manager like right on there or you know set up a different desk about this because one things I do right now is I track the number of creative hours I put any day I think that’s a big litmus for me how many hours do I spend doing the creative work and my target is at least five a day which is pretty intense like that doesn’t count five minutes on email okay yes he’s
(24:23) using fives yes spies and and a lot of a lot of my work I’d break and be like 25 minute blocks take a break come back and like so yes yes so what I think it would be helpful for me is to start paying more attention to how much management time my spending and in general it’s like only a couple minutes a day yeah we’re down from five to four a little bit ago so look I gotta say Jonathan I can mirror almost everything to say said you’re not alone everybody has this exact issue right and four years while running Zeke
(24:58) I was I was running Zeke and I was sitting I was acting as a coder right we talk in the pre-show yes I still code but it’s not it’s not my primary focus anymore right so I’ve I’ve surrounded people that could take on certain roles so that I could focus on those so mostly on business development would you right and it’s what I do it’s what I’m allowed to do it it’s what I should be doing right and so you know I know you know you went to beach press recently but our aside from that are you part of any mastermind
(25:28) groups yeah I am make you feel guilty because everyone goes in the freaking mastermind group and is like I’m so amazing group you’re in the wrong group I’m part of a really good group right here present company excluded of course I mean because overall things are good like I’m really happy and but I want to keep growing I want to keep getting better and I know that this arc of self management’s is a thing you know I’m gonna probably be solo for at least a couple of years and it was just growing
(26:06) in what way your your your your solo right so are you talking about growing people or growing dollars oh no no growing myself my own capabilities and experience and like what I’ve done and what I’m doing and so it’s that’s that’s not for me is like it I said it juggling but it was a serious question I write everybody says I want to grow but if don’t identify with that man I’m good like I’m good with people I’m good my revenues good like thing like that so the I sort of design okay this is how I
(26:36) want to work and ya know it’s science degree I’m good no I mean like Instagram on the front you got here it’s all there but inside you’re like I am very personally content like I wake up like most of my days I like I feel really happy with what I got done Gemini I am I want to keep getting better at what I’m doing and it’s a and ultimately like yeah I don’t want to I know I can’t I’ve already learned a long time ago you can’t make everyone happy that’s not what you sort of measure on it’s like
(27:15) are you happy with what you get did and for the answer right now sounds like it’s no yeah I just this is this email thing I’ve been working on it for 15 years now my relationship hasn’t really changed all that much over the years I’ve had like periods where it’s on top of it inbox zero all the time and then I’m like that’s just [ __ ] inbox zero who even cares so but if you’re not checking email how are you communicating with people I mean did you check email like but but if emails not your favorite
(27:47) right you sound like you dread going to the inbox such fine I dread writing right I hate writing and so every time I saw something it’s like I put it off until the I move people around to different channels so like I do a lot more on texts now mark and then so I just want help for our audience if you if you want a higher Jonathan it’s not like he’s never gonna communicate with this is the dedicated days where it’s like all right on this day I’m all in for this client and I’ll be oh go anyway
(28:21) I had this thing an email that hides the inbox until you show it which is awesome so I’ll search for just who I want to see and then I’ll respond to them do you have a management day like you know no that’s that’s my that’s the thing I wrote down on a sticky note that i’m airman I ever read again I need to think about seriously you need a management Dave you’ve got a creative day you’ve got dedicated days during five hours the reason you are feeling unmanaged is because you’re not managing yourself and
(28:54) there’s no management so it’s not really a huge giant mystery so I rely on asana to manage me and in order to do that I have to go in there but I liked asana because it gives me like little unicorns and stuff when I do something right and I check stuff off and I like that and I like the way I can move things around so it’s a pretty system that I like working in way more than email and so that’s why I’m such an asana fan because like it’s well laid out and I like I like the system so I’ll go in
(29:21) there and manage it and I set up due dates and things and then I let it manage me so I set aside time to manage my management process and then I let that process and I follow it and it is worked wonders for me and and my business partner along with the hype buttons how’s it going we’re gonna end right there how’s the sound all right we’re gonna cut it off there it’s 11:30 so I wonder I read yet I realize this was a little bit of a departure from normal water cooler but I thought well no but I think
(29:56) actually I think this is important for a lot of our audience which is which is why I wanted to address if you want fix any say therapy sessions feel free to email me I’m available on can’t do the sound take five minutes it’s the reggae horn alright goodbye everybody have a good weekend happy weekend

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