Want to Grow Your Business? Stop Using Someone Else’s Playbook with Cara Chace

How I Built It
How I Built It
Want to Grow Your Business? Stop Using Someone Else's Playbook with Cara Chace
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Starting a business has never been easier. We can now sign up for a free ConvertKit account, get a nice-looking landing page, and even start selling products in mere minutes. Because of that, it can be tempting to jump into “making” the business without thinking about why your business exists. According to Cara Chace, that is a recipe for disaster. Listen on to learn why. Plus, in Build Something More, Cara tells us about her previous career as a special agent.

Top Takeaways

  • You need to define why you’re doing what you’re doing. This will be the guide for your decision-making. And here’s an important tip: define success in a metric other than money.
  • When you feel like you’re in the “messy middle” and don’t know what to do, create a brain dump of everything you’re doing in your business. Keep what you need and eliminate the rest. It helps to ask, “Would the CEO of my company be doing that 10 years from now?”
  • Don’t rely on someone else’s playbook for your own business because they usually have a WOW factor that you don’t have yet.

Show Notes:

Transcript

Joe Casabona: Starting a business has never been easier. We can now sign up for a free ConvertKit account, get a nice-looking landing page, and even start selling products in mere minutes. Because of that, it can be tempting to jump into “making” the business without thinking about why your business exists. According to Cara Chace, that is a recipe for disaster. Listen on to learn why.

Plus, in Build Something More, Cara tells us about her previous career as a special agent.

Hey, everybody, and welcome to Episode 286 of How I Built It. I’m really excited for you to hear this episode because Cara and I met at Craft & Commerce back in June, and her talk was absolutely excellent. I fall into a lot of the traps that she talks about using someone else’s playbook and learning from people with much bigger audiences than us even though they have that wow factor, which is the bigger audience. I just think it’s going to be great, whether you’re a creator or you’re running a different type of business.

If you do want to get that ad-free extended episode where Cara tells us about her previous life as a special agent, you can sign up over at howibuilt.it/286 for just 50 bucks a year. You can join the Creator Crew. You’ll also get access to the live stream archive where I’m building in public and a bunch of other bonus content. So again, that is howibuilt.it/286. Sign up for 50 bucks a year. That’s less than five bucks a month.

Thanks to this week’s sponsors: TextExpander, Nexcess, and LearnDash. You’ll hear about them later on in the show. But for now, let’s get to the intro and then the interview.

[00:01:57] <music>

Intro:Hey, everybody, and welcome to How I Built It, the podcast that helps small business owners create engaging content that drives sales. Each week I talk about how you can build good content faster to increase revenue and establish yourself as an authority. I’m your host Joe Casabona. Now let’s get to it.

[00:02:20] <music>

Joe Casabona: All right, I am here with Cara Chace. Cara, how are you today?

Cara Chase: I’m doing fantastic. How are you?

Joe Casabona: I am also doing fantastic. You know, one thing I forgot to do in our pre-flight checklist was make sure I was saying your name right.

Cara Chase: You hit it out of the park.

Joe Casabona: Excellent.

Cara Chase: You kind of have a 50/50. Yes, it’s Cara Chace.

Joe Casabona: So Cara and I met Craft & Commerce. And I explicitly remember you saying it’s Chace but with a C. Like that’s kind of how you described the spelling of your name. Stuck with me there.

Cara Chase: There you go.

Joe Casabona: But thank you so much for joining us. This is episode 286 of How I Built It. I want to ask you, right, where you are… I mean your background is super interesting. Maybe we could talk about that in the members-only part of the episode

Cara Chase: Sure.

Joe Casabona: …which I also didn’t ask you about but we’ll have time for.

Cara Chase: Okay.

Joe Casabona: Your background as kind of a special agent is super interesting. But you are now self-employed. And the talk from Craft & Commerce was about building your dream business. You know, I’m a parent of three. Creators, especially, I think, can… It’s easy to feel that burnout, right? Like the algorithms reward, consistency, you have to publish every day or whatever. But your talk kind of cut against that a little bit. Can you maybe give us a high-level overview of what you talked about at Craft & Commerce?

Cara Chase: Sure. So I have been in business since 2015. And we all know in digital marketing online entrepreneurship that’s like dog years. So I have had a couple of shifts in my business. But what has been consistent is that I have done client work as well as digital products and services for seven years.

I started with one child at almost two years old and we now have two children. So I went through having a little and then the whole process of becoming pregnant and having our second child while I was running my business. So I’ve kind of been through the gambit with that.

And my talk was titled How to Consciously Create Your Dream Business While Throwing Away Everyone Else’s Playbook. The concept that I come back to with this is what I have coined as self-discovery over strategy.

So when we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing as creative entrepreneurs or like something isn’t working right, or something’s missing, you’re kind of in that messy middle of stuff, what we tend to do is look to others for how to solve those problems, how to feel better, how to make that money, whatever that goal is.

And what I’ve learned over seven years in business and continually coming back around to what are my values and priorities and why am I doing this whole thing in the first place, is most of what I have learned in the online entrepreneur space isn’t right for me, my personality, the kind of business I want to run, and how I want to put my knowledge out into the world, like who I want to be out in the world.

So what I talked about in that mainstage talk was really how to peel off all of these layers of everything that the online entrepreneurship world has told you is the only way or the best way to do things, and really come back around to, “Okay, well, does this work for me? Is something that I value?”

Sometimes it’s as simple as you want to make more money. And so you start seeing all these things online, about seven figure this, and five figure launches, and this and that, and whatever. And you kind of have to touch base with yourself and think, “Well, is it about money?” or “Is it about this thing that somebody else has decided is the goal that I should shoot for?” or “Is it I really like to not think about signing up my kids for whatever activities they’re interested in?” or “I’d really love to just have money to take really great vacations a couple times a year.”

And I’m not saying that it’s not important to have your income goals and does that contribute to your family, or maybe you’re the sole earner for your family or whatever it is. But really questioning why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. Again, back to that self-discovery over strategy.

So that’s kind of the top-level view of my shtick and why I think it’s way more valuable at this point to cut out as much noise as you can when it comes to online entrepreneurship and really create a business that works for you, not the other way around.

Joe Casabona: I love what you said about kind of really focusing on why you’re doing what you’re doing. I don’t think enough people, creators, business owners, whatever, think about that. Because at the beginning you’re like, “I definitely wanna start my own business,” or “I’m sick of working my nine to five.” You have that kind of like superficial reason for starting a business at first, and then you get caught up in like the minutia or all the details of having to run a business.

So I did way too much up until like five months ago where I was like, “Well, I know WordPress. I want to teach WordPress, I know podcasting, I know, online courses, and I want to be all of those things.”

And I think you’re probably you’re maybe going through a similar thing now where you’re pivoting from a previous niche to now this kind of current focus. So let me ask you this first. How did you answer the question, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

Cara Chase: Right. Another way to put this is how do you define success. So one of the first times that I had this realization that there was a different way to look at success than money was a mastermind group that I was in and we were asked this question.

The prompt was really about how to define success in a way other than money. That’s when I had the realization that, Okay, you know, I might not have a seven-figure business, but I’m working half days as a mom to littles and putting myself and my family first while still earning a good income and running a profitable business. I will take that because that is the season of life that I’m in right now. So that was something that was gifted to me as far as really digging deeper to look at how I could define things differently for me.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. That really resonates with me. Because like I said in the beginning, I’ve got three littles. One of them wasn’t in daycare until several months after she was born. And my wife is a nurse. So we both have spouses or partners who are doing high-demand work. One of us maybe more high demand right now than the other. But it’s tough.

And when you sit down and you really, like you said, define success other than money, I love that. I want to say it’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but like when you figure that out, you kind of start to make more money, right??

Cara Chase: Right. Wow. And I think we can all relate to that comparisonitis, kind of yucky black hole that we get into in the online world. And I know that there are, you know, female entrepreneurs that are moms that run seven-figure businesses with their littles at home and all of this stuff. Okay. Right.

If I spent a lot of time beating myself up over the fact that I wasn’t her, what good would that do me? Right? Someday while I figure out how to run a seven figure business… Full disclosure: I don’t run a seven figure business. I contribute significant income to our family. It’s needed. It’s necessary, you know, all of that. But I’m not a seven figure business. But I’m okay with the trade off of I haven’t figured that out yet but all of my deep values and priorities around myself and my family are totally fulfilled. So I’m gonna call it good for right now.

Joe Casabona: I love that. The feeling’s mutual. Maybe if I didn’t have kids or I put more of the childcare responsibilities on my wife, which sounds weird…

Cara Chase: I mean, who knows. You could-

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I get to spend a ton of time with my kids. I was able to continue cutting the same paycheck that I was cutting pre-pandemic working-

Cara Chase: That’s huge.

Joe Casabona: We were in a better position because of my job flexibility.

Cara Chase: Right.

Joe Casabona: Which, you know, that’s why I quit my agency job in the first place because I didn’t want to miss my daughter’s first steps, because I had to work late for the agency, you know.

Cara Chase: Right. Right. I totally understand that. One of the best tips that I have, when you feel like you’re kind of in that messy middle, and you’re feeling a little stuck, and you’re feeling a little just not super in love with your business, there’s something… The metaphor that I use is like dumping your mom’s purse out on the counter.

You gotta dump everything out as it relates to your business, everything you’re doing, everything you’re spending time on, and really go through it and decide what you need to keep, what’s valuable and useful in your business, what you need to update, refresh, you know, whatever it is. It’s the equivalent of going through and going, “Um, I think that gum is two years old, it needs to be thrown away,” or, you know, “I can clean this up and reuse it,” or “these are my essentials,” or whatever it is.

So whether you’re a mom or not, I think everybody can relate to the visual of like a woman dumping her purse out onto the counter, right? Because it’s become this black hole of stuff. That’s kind of where we get to in our businesses a lot of times.

So the way that I do that is actually doing a brain dump of everything that I do in my business, my recurring tasks that I have to do every week, or every month or every day, and really decide, Is this something I need to be spending my time on?” Because my time is the most valuable resource that I have as a work-from-home mom.

So if I have five hours a day to work because I’m doing all the kids’ stuff, do I really need to be spending an hour on Instagram engaging and DMing because that’s what some marketer told me I should do to get leads? Mm-hmm, probably not. Right?

Should I be creating content and looking at my analytics and my funnels to see if I’m missing anything or should I be following up with people I’ve met in person to see how we can help each other’s audiences? Should I be writing guest articles? You know, all of these things that you really need to take on look at whether it’s valuable for your business.

The other thing I do here… This is actually a recent realization and has only come about because I’m in the messy middle of kind of switching the focus of my business. Would my future self as the CEO of my business be doing this?

So when I look at, “Oh, I should really update these 10 blogs,” do these 10 blogs have to do with my business a year from now? It’s a really important question because we get stuck in the tedious checking things off a list without thinking about if our time is best served by doing that action and whether it’s going to serve your future business.

[00:15:49] <music>

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[00:16:46] <music>

Joe Casabona: Were you at Khe Hy talk? Is it kay-he-high?

Cara Chase: Its kay.

Joe Casabona: It’s kay?

Cara Chase: Yes. And I think it’s high. We were not and I was bummed because we become BFFs and his workshop was the same time as my workshops.

Joe Casabona: Oh.

Cara Chase: But I know his content and I know what he teaches, so I’m really familiar with his work.

Joe Casabona: So I put myself on blast there by letting you know I went to his instead of yours.

Cara Chase: Oh, no, you’re fine.

Joe Casabona: So I went to his workshop, which was basically breaking down like doing quote-unquote, “$10,000 an hour work.” right? So you’re familiar with this kind of framework, you said so?

Cara Chase: Yes, I’m familiar with this framework. It’s really great.

Joe Casabona: I’ve got to say I was like not receptive. I was like, “I get it, like, don’t check your email.” But then by the end and the more I thought about it, and I’m like, “This is a really smart… This is a very concrete way to put it.”

So I found an episode of that he did for Nathan Barry’s podcast. I’ll link that in the show notes, which you’ll be able to find everything over at howibuilt.it/286. But yeah, that kind of like what the CEO of my… would me as the CEO 10 years from now I’ll be doing that?

Cara Chase: Right. Right. Right.

Joe Casabona: I like that. It reminds me a lot of this now new framework that apparently has really resonated with me.

Cara Chase: Right, right. Yeah, his framework is really great. And I think like everything else you learn from your peers, or people you’re learning from, or whatever, the most important piece is to make it work for you. So I know Kay’s framework, I think it’s really smart. I use it a little differently for me because I have my own framework of what I know works well for my life and my business. But the concepts are solid.

So back to that whole self-discovery over strategy, if you just implemented, whether it’s him or me or anyone else that is teaching whatever productivity framework, and there’s a gazillion of them, if you just implement it without thinking about it hoping that it will magically solve all your problems, it’s probably not going to if you haven’t fixed where your foundation is a little bit leaky or you don’t have the best habits around your workday or productivity or whatever it is. So the buck stops with you when you’re on your own. There’s only one buck and it stops with you.

Joe Casabona: There’s only one buck and it stops with you. This is a quick digression but I’m obsessed with the Bring It On, the Broadway musical soundtrack. Are you familiar with this?

Cara Chase: Not in the slightest.

Joe Casabona: Bring It On, cheerleading movie from the early 2000s.

Cara Chase: Okay.

Joe Casabona: Kirsten Dunst starred in the first one, Hayden Panettiere started in the second one. The musical is based on the second one but they go to a high school called Truman High School. And they’re the Truman Buccaneers. And it dawned on me like way too long after thinking about that that Truman is the one who said “the buck stops here.” That’s so clever.

Cara Chase: So clever.

Joe Casabona: There’s your pop culture reference for the day. What you said there, I think… Again, this probably is resonating with everybody, right? We see the successful people doing the successful people thing and we want to do what they do because they’re successful.

Pat Flynn… I like Pat Flynn’s work a lot. He’s very generous and he does good stuff. He had a video that’s like “How I grew my Pokémon card YouTube channel from zero to whatever in six months.” And I was like, “Step one, have your size audience.”

Cara Chase: Right. Right. It’s so frustrating. That’s one of the things when I talked about how we look at other people’s playbooks and how there’s often a disconnect. One of the disconnects that I talked about is the person you’re learning from doesn’t mention that they have some wow factor, like a big email list, or a big ads budget, or a big team. And those things are not really your reality.

And I’m not saying that they’re inauthentic or that it couldn’t work or whatever. But if you’re a solopreneur, and you’ve got 25 hours a week to work, and you have no team and you do not have the budget to be paying thousands of dollars a month in ad spend, a lot of these playbooks we buy or maybe they’re free, or whatever it is, then we end up into this spiral of “Why can’t I figure this out? What is wrong with me?” All of these things that keeps us stuck and keep us frustrated and keep us from moving forward.

So what happens is because we’re afraid to fail again, we get ourselves stuck in planning mode and education mode because that is so much safer than doing it and failing again.

Joe Casabona: Yeah. I’m totally guilty of the plan. I love the plan.

Cara Chase: We all are.

Joe Casabona: Yes, right. But ideas ain’t gonna make you money.

Cara Chase: No.

Joe Casabona: Maybe somewhere down the line where you can tell somebody to implement this idea. But today, probably not.

Cara Chase: And all these things that I’m saying it’s because I’ve learned the hard way or I’ve done it and then gone, “Wow, shoot that didn’t work. That didn’t, you know, whatever.” And again, there’s one buck. And it’s you.

So is it because you made a bad decision in getting sucked into really good marketing and ignoring all the red flags about why that might not be the right playbook for you or the right plan for you? You just wanted a solution and to feel better. Because if you followed their steps and stayed in planning mode and education mode, that maybe someday you could implement what they’re teaching, ouch. Right?

Joe Casabona: Yeah.

Cara Chase: And I say that because I’ve done it. I mean, it doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work.

[00:23:31] <music>

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[00:24:28] <music>

Joe Casabona: Jay Clouse came on the show a few weeks ago. He was talking about how like these $40 workshops are doing gangbusters for him. And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, 40 bucks, easy. Like an hour. Sell 10 spots, like 400 bucks, right? And no one bought my workshops because I wasn’t positioning them the way that Jay did or Jay has a bigger mailing list than me. So I finally like realized, again, thanks to Craft & Commerce, like what I actually need to focus on.

So I want to be mindful of your time here. And I want to get to this because at Craft & Commerce, you talked about these Four Laws for consciously creating your dream business. I don’t know if this was a lead magnet only for Craft & Commerce people, if there’s a landing page we can direct people to that only can show that.

Cara Chase: Not yet. There isn’t. That has not been a priority. But there probably will be at some point. So if they sign up for anything on my website or my newsletter, then they’ll get a notice for it basically when it come out. But yeah, I’m gonna turn that into my own thing, for sure.

Joe Casabona: Sounds good. Well, if you’re listening, you can go to carachace.com. I’ll link everything in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/286, like I said. I mean, I don’t want to give away the goat here. I don’t know if that’s a real saying.

Cara Chase: Give away the goat, mm.

Joe Casabona: I don’t know if that’s real. It’s real now. I just willed it into existence. I don’t want to give away the shop, I think is what people actually say, right? Like give away the store?

Cara Chase: No. I don’t think that’s right either.

Joe Casabona: No?

Cara Chase: I think it’s why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.

Joe Casabona: The milk for free, yeah. I don’t want to give away the milk or the cow. But maybe we can dig into kind of one of these laws that you think will be most helpful for the listener.

Cara Chase: Sure. Sure. I can just tell you what the Four Laws are. And if they want to know more, you know, we’ll get to that in the future. So the first law is success is elusive until defined. That’s what we were talking about earlier with the whole “you have to really think about what success looks like for you.”

The second one is how you feel dictates your results. And it’s really about your connection to your business. So there’s so much time that’s spent on the whole customer avatar, and how are you talking to your customer avatar Julie, who likes nonfat mochas at Starbucks and only wears Lululemon? Or, you know, whatever it is. We come up with these crazy, like, I’m sorry, but it’s pulled out a, you know, where customer avatars that I’ve never thought any of that made sense.

And it’s really about, how do you want to relate to your business like your business is a friend or a mentor? How would you describe that friend to others? Are they helpful? Are they inspiring? You know, whatever it is. Because often when we’re stuck in the messy middle with our businesses, we start to resent our businesses. So it’s really about redefining that relationship with your business.

And then law three is what doesn’t jive must be ignored. And that is all about peeling off those marketing layers that everybody has told you is the only way to do things or the best way to do things, or this will make you seven figures in 30 days, you know, whatever it is, whatever the latest shtick is. Many offers, paid trainings, you know, throw a dart.

Then the fourth one is focus and flow are your friends. And that really goes into how to take what you’ve dumped out on the counter from your mom purse of all the things you do in your business, and how do you really mindfully create a productive schedule around your business that gives you the most focus and flow time in your work. Because that is the work that moves your business forward.

So I would say really the most important piece is the focus and flow piece. And I told this story on stage about how I created this framework, which is called theme day planning method. Way back in 2015 when I was a baby entrepreneur, I had no idea how to run my business. I was managing trying to start a new business with having at the time one level and not knowing any better than going to the Chamber of Commerce meetings at 7 a.m. and people wanting to pick my brain over coffee which does not work or at least it did not work for me. You know, all of those things.

Joe Casabona: You have to like implement their advice now, right? The thing that worked for them. I once had a guy over, like picking their brain over coffee. He was like, “Here’s what you got to do. You got to wear a suit to work every day.” And I’m like, “This sounds like the most useless advice I’ve ever gotten.”

Cara Chase: No, thank you.

Joe Casabona: Sorry, that’s tough on your point, but that’s like a trigger point for me.

Cara Chase: Right? It left an impression on you, clearly.

Joe Casabona: Yeah.

Cara Chase: So, you know, it was total chaos. Like, “You know, I have no idea what I’m doing. I know, I’m good at this thing but I don’t know how to run a business,” which is different than being good at a particular skill.

So I created this framework that turned out to be the theme day planning method. And what it is, is you take that dump list of all the things you do in your business and you group like tasks together and you decide on a theme for every day, depending on what your business looks like, what your workload looks like. So that could be different for everyone.

So for me personally, Monday is our creation days. That is when I have the biggest time to write or whatever it is I’m creating. I take no meetings on Mondays. Tuesdays is all for my membership and courses. Anything that needs to be done with that along, you know, if I need to update or create something new, or do member admin, or whatever it is.

Wednesdays and Thursdays are for client work. Fridays are always like, I do bookkeeping and admin and tracking stats, and all of that.

So there’s two things that happen here. And these are the two things that are the most important reasons you get into focus and flow. Number one, you eliminate context switching. We know context switching is the biggest time and energy and productivity suck out there. So by grouping like tasks together, you’re able to stay in that focus and flow space when you’re sitting down at your desk.

The second thing that happens is when you group like tasks together, typically what happens is you’re either using more of your right brain or more of your left brain. So that is why, for instance, Fridays is all about analytics, and money and stats and tracking and all this left brain strategizing analytical stuff that I do in my business. I’m not trying to have both sides of my brain firing at the same time. Although clearly they naturally do, right? But that’s a very different mindset. Then I’m going to go into Canva and create all my pins that are going to go out in the month of August. And I’m in design creativity mode.

So those two things, the grouping like tasks together for less context switching, and then kind of what naturally happens on its own is you end up doing tasks that are more creative or more analytical. And you get into that flow state of you’re just in the zone and you get so much more done in less time.

So I didn’t know at the time that this was what I was creating. I was just trying to figure out how to do all the things and get more done in less time in 2015. And it literally started as just a spreadsheet. That was like across the top as the days of the week and what the theme is, along the side were hours of the day, and then I would kind of have chunks.

And it’s not really time blocking because time blocking I found to be too restrictive for me. It’s really more I’m going to give myself, you know, this three hour block to work on whatever falls under the theme for that day. Does that make sense?

Joe Casabona: Yeah, it makes perfect sense.

Cara Chase: So literally this was just something that I used for myself for years. Never offered it, never taught it, never did anything with it. And then when quarantine happened, our oldest… We were living in Oregon at the time and everything shut down. They had basically a year and a half that everything was shut down.

So for her second-grade year, she was 100% online school. So what we saw was that we were having a lot of trouble context-switching with her subjects every day. So she’d log in and it was like Monday was five subjects, Tuesday, it was five subjects, whatever it was.

Joe Casabona: And-

Cara Chase: And-

Joe Casabona: Sorry. To your point here, that’s like what school trains us to do.

Cara Chase: Right. Right. But when you’re an online school as a young child, you’re not having the benefit of getting up and stretching and having recess and hanging out with your friends and going and doing lunch and all of those other things. It’s just a grind when it’s online school. And nothing else is open. It’s not like traditional homeschool, where you go and do other activities with homeschool groups. Everything was shut down, so there was nothing, right?

So we struggled with the context switching. She’s sitting at the end of my desk every day. And so I’m frustrated because I’m trying to run a business and she’s frustrated because she needs help and direction.

And halfway through the year, I thought, “I’ve been using theme days to plan my business for years. There’s nothing saying we can’t do that for her. She just has to complete her work. Let’s try it. So when she came back online in January, we did exactly what I do with theme days. Mondays was math. Tuesday’s was science. Wednesdays was language arts, whatever it was. She flew through her curriculum and finished her entire school year in April with a 97% using theme days.

Joe Casabona: Wow.

Cara Chase: And that was my aha moment of “Holy cow, I need to share this with people because if an eight year old can do this, we can do it. Like everybody can do this.”

Joe Casabona: Right.

Cara Chase: And the flow state and getting more done in less time and actually making tangible progress on your goals, that is where it’s at.

[00:36:18] <music>

Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by LearnDash. Look, I’ve been making courses for a long time, I’ve taught at the college level and I’ve created curriculums for several different organizations, including Udemy, Sessions College, and LinkedIn learning. When I create my own courses, there’s no better option than LearnDash.

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And now you can import Vimeo and YouTube playlists and have a course created automatically in seconds. I trust LearnDash to run my courses and membership. And you should too. Learn more at howibuilt.it/learndash.

[00:37:25] <music>

Joe Casabona: There’s two things you said here that like totally reinforce like everything you’ve been talking about this whole time. One is you started with just a spreadsheet, right? So you didn’t get bogged down in like, whatever the productivity tools day was. You weren’t like, “And I started a new ClickUp account or whatever.” Nothing against ClickUp. If you want to sponsor the show, let me know.

But I mean, you open the tool that worked for you, right? And I like geek out on this stuff and I’ve been resisting asking you like, what tools do you use? Because those truly don’t matter? Right?

Cara Chase: They don’t. And that’s what I’m saying. If you think the problem is tools, you haven’t had the realization of the self-discovery of a strategy. The problem is not the tools. It’s your use of the tools.

Joe Casabona: Right, right. And then the other thing you said, which again reinforces everything you’ve been talking about, time blocking doesn’t work for me.

Cara Chase: It was too restrictive.

Joe Casabona: That is exactly my feeling too. Like, “Oh, well, from 9:00 to 12:00 I’m going to work on this YouTube video.” And then I’m like, “What if I don’t feel like recording?” I love this.

And to your point, we were talking, again, in the pre-show, I had like five hours of meetings before this, and I didn’t realize kind of how loopy I was until I got on this call because that is a context switch between like just talking and kind of like, you know, “containing,” quote-unquote.

But they were great. My day flew by, and I was like in that collaboration mode. Yesterday, I recorded two podcast episodes and a YouTube video because I was in that content creation mode. So I mean, context switching is killer. You said it perfectly. I think that the theme day framework is really a great idea.

Cara Chase: The other thing that helps you with it is it eliminates a lot of decision fatigue. So that’s another kind of buzzword in productivity land. Decision fatigue is when you’re just having to make too many decisions, whether it’s, you know, what to put in your coffee or what you’re going to eat that day or what you’re going to work on that day or what you’re going to wear or what… you know.

So like the whole Steve Job things with you wore a black turtleneck and jeans, or you have the same thing for breakfast every single morning. The purpose of those is to eliminate decision fatigue because it’s a drain on your brain and your creativity.

So when you have theme days and you start with this brain dump list of “Here’s 30 things I need to do in the upcoming week,” instead of trying to figure out what you’re going to do with each one… Okay, this one makes sense for Monday, creation day. Okay, this one makes sense for Friday. You know, you slot them into whatever your themes are for each day and then you don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to decide, where’s this going to go?

Now, does every week go perfectly? No. Do things get blown up by kids or getting sick? Or you know what? I just don’t feel like it today. All of that happens. But you’re giving yourself a foundation, skills, and habits for it to happen the way you need it to more often than not.

Joe Casabona: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s great. I do that on Sundays. I plan my weeks. I even write down the tasks. Like, “The top three things I got to accomplish each day.” I go into my office and I’m like, “Today is Tuesday, YouTube video.”

Cara Chase: “This is what I’m doing.”

Joe Casabona: Yeah, whatever. Makes perfect sense. Cara, this has been a great conversation. I always ask, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Cara Chase: Oh, trade secrets.

Joe Casabona: You shared a lot with us already.

Cara Chase: Yes, I do. I do. So this comes back to… And I only thought of it because you said three priorities. I found, particularly when our youngest was really more in that infant toddler stage, I couldn’t get three priorities done in a day for work. I just didn’t have the time. I didn’t have the bandwidth. It wasn’t happening.

I switched to having to work priorities and one personal priority every day. And a lot of times that personal priority is like however much water I want to drink or get outside and put my feet in the grass, not walk three miles or you know, whatever it is that feels like a hard to do, but just get outside and get some fresh air. Or you know, some personal thing that’s important to me that I always feel like get sidelined because we put ourselves last often as a parent and an entrepreneur.

So if you’re feeling like you can’t get three priorities for work done in a day, have two work and one personal and see how that shifts your mindset and your feeling of success.

Joe Casabona: I love that. I will share my little task, trade secret in Build Something More. If you want to hear that and about how Cara Chace was a special agent, you can sign up over at howibuilt.it/286 where you’ll be able to find all the show notes and how to find Cara.

Cara, this has been great. How can people find you and learn more about you?

Cara Chase: Yeah, everything I have is over at carachace.com. The best place to start with me is to sign up for my Sunday inspo email. Every Sunday I send you three tips to work better and three tips to live well. There’s all sorts of gold nuggets in there. So that’s the best place to start.

Joe Casabona: Love it. Again, those will be over at howibuilt.it/286. Cara, thanks so much for joining us today. I really appreciate it.

Cara Chase: Thank you for having me.

Joe Casabona: And thank you for listening. Thanks to our sponsors for this episode, TextExpander, Nexcess, and LearnDash. LearnDash, as we record this, just launched a fantastic thing that will absolutely help creators launch their courses more easily. So definitely go check them out. And until next time…

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