Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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My Word for 2018


jungwoo-hong-100345So, how is it possible that it’s mid-February already! I really can’t believe how fast this year is flying by. And I think there are a few reasons for that, in my case.

The first is that I’ve been a busy, little bee. I had already started setting up for 2018 back in November, and then hard-core in December, so January rolled in like a freight train because it was heavily on my mind. The second is because I’ve been working a lot of hours. This is an intense season for a few reasons, but I also know I can’t keep it up forever, and am already starting to slow down due to the normal wear and tear of life.

But all of the above is due to my word for the year. While last year was momentous because it revolved all around building the foundation of my budding business, this year is the direct result. I mean, Signify wasn’t my word for the year for nothing! (That’s the name of my business, FYI.)

I usually start thinking about my word for the year in November. I think that’s a natural point when we start looking toward the future and how to finish our year well. At that point, I kinda knew the feelings I wanted my word to represent, but didn’t have a name for it yet. That came when I started to really pray about those feelings. And during a prayer, I used this one word, and I stopped in my tracks. THAT was my word! It was a beautiful, little revelation.

So, what was this word?

MOMENTUM.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts about my word for the year, you know I like to use verbs. I like the action-oriented words because they symbolize intentionality for me. And so, while MOMENTUM is actually a noun, it implies action. And I kinda dig that.

February marks my 20th month in business. I consider those first six months, which were actually the last six months of 2016, to be my training wheels. Though I by no means have it all figured out (far from it!), that start gave me a chance to just get used to life as an entrepreneur. It was a good start, but difficult—ask any entrepreneur!

So, last year was all about trying to build a foundation. There was still plenty of “new” last year, but I was (slightly) more comfortable with it. The biggest challenge of last year was when I launched my digital presence, including my website, social media, and weekly blog. That took a lot of getting used to because, while important, none of that paid the bills. It was a lot of extra effort outside client work. But it slowly became a little more manageable.

For the first year of my business, I worked almost exclusively with friends. This was an absolute blessing, and the best way to start! I created Signify to support my friends professionally. After all, I was already supporting them personally, so this was a natural extension. But, of course, I needed to grow.

In the latter half of last year, I started getting more word-of-mouth attention, referrals, and more notice online. It started some new trends in my business, and it was exciting.

And now, I’m just a little further down the road, and I want to keep growing. I need to keep getting my name out there, so that more business keeps coming in. This is especially important because I differ from a lot of other people in my industry for two, main reasons: I like working with small businesses and I like working on projects. Most people are busy searching out big companies and getting retainer clients. Now, I’m not fundamentally opposed to either of those things, but it’s just not my absolute preference. But this means I have to do a lot of hustling to make sure work is coming in the door.

So, this year is all about MOMENTUM. I’ve put some good things in place, but need to extend my reach. And I think this word will help me do that.

However, though Signify is obviously a huge part of my life, it’s not the only reason I chose MOMENTUM. There are some personal habits I’d like to encourage as well.

One of those is my health. I’ve talked extensively on this blog about my chronic health issues, and I made a lot of progress last year. Even though being a solopreneur isn’t exactly stress-free, it’s allowed me to work from home full-time, get more rest, and allow my body to heal. So, I think 2018 will be another huge chapter for improving my health, and of course, that spills into all areas of my life.

Another personal reason that comes to mind is that I’ve been working on my morning routine since December. I have always been a night owl. It’s very hard for me to fall asleep before midnight most nights. But, of course, I also need to be productive in the day. And while it’s true that I can now set my own schedule, most of the world operates during certain hours, and it’s to my advantage to follow that. So, even though I don’t set an alarm now unless I have a morning meeting, I also don’t want to sleep too late. That means going to bed at a decent hour and waking up at a decent hour. In an ideal world, this would be 11:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. for me. (I require a lot of sleep, and always have.)

So, I’ve been building a more structured morning routine. Currently, it includes four things that take 20 minutes or so: The 5 Minute Journal, reading Jesus Calling, 10 minutes of meditation via my Calm App, and five minutes of yoga (I YouTube several.). I’ve also just started drinking hot, lemon water to start my day, and am enjoying that too. These are all habits I want to continue improving this year as they set the tone for my days.

There are some other personal and professional reasons as well, but in the interest of keeping this blog post a reasonable length, I’ll leave it at those since they are three, primary reasons.

And here’s my verse for the year:

“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20

MOMENTUM. That’s my word for the year. And it’s got me pretty excited.

Have a word for the year? Tell me! I love hearing how people are being more intentional in their lives. 🙂

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Interested in picking your own word for the year, but need some help? Here are some resources that might help:

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My previous words for the year:

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My Third Annual New Year’s Retreat

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The beautiful view from my room in Hiawassee, Georgia.

So sorry for the delay on this post. I literally hit the ground running on January 1st, and haven’t stopped. I’ve been working late nights and weekends trying to get on top of my goals for the year. But now that I’m slowing down a little, more because I’m tired than anything else, I wanted to update you on my third annual New Year’s retreat.

You can read more about my first and second New Year’s retreats here, but even as I’ve had some practice at this, I still made some key mistakes that you can learn from.

First of all, if you’ve never planned a personal or business retreat before, let’s start with my basic tips. (By the way, I use the terms business and personal kind of interchangeably since I’m self-employed and all areas of my life tend to overlap. 😉

  • The schedule and format are up to you! You can read, reflect, journal, hammer out notes on your computer, or however you’d like to spend your time. Retreats are a time to reflect and focus on specific goals, so do whatever supports those. But, you need to know what you’re going to do before you leave, so plan ahead. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out how best to use your time.
  • The location is up to you! I’ve taken retreats several hours away, and also just down the road. For me, it usually depends on where I have travel points to use. But you can camp, fly, or drive. You can rent a room, rent a house, or just borrow some space that someone isn’t using. The point, however, is to be away from home. You’ll get distracted at home, and that’s not what you want for your retreat.
  • The budget is up to you! It doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ve eaten out, bought groceries, and stayed inside 99% of the time rather than spending money on activities. But there is always a way to fit it in your budget. On this year’s retreat, I actually paid for the hotel (thought I got a great Cyber Monday deal), so it was my most expensive retreat yet at $250.
  • Who you go with is up to you! You can take a retreat solo, or go with a spouse or business partner.
  • The length is up to you! If you’ve never done this, and aren’t sure how it’ll work for you, start small. Take a few hours and go to a co-working space, coffee shop, or park. Work up to a day trip, overnight trip, or even a couple of days. And then do it again!
  • Make sure you rid yourself of distractions! Turn your phone, email, and social media off. Tell people that you’ll be unavailable. Again, resist the urge to waste time. Make the most of your retreat, which is a total gift.
  • Know what happens when you get home. You likely need to act on what you accomplished at your retreat. Have a plan for when life gets back to normal.
  • Final tip: Create time for fun! I do this at the end to celebrate the retreat, and get my head of task mode.

Are you catching a theme here? Yep, it’s up to you! It’s called a personal retreat for a reason.

For my January retreats, I usually like to stick close-ish to home because I’ve just returned from holiday travel. This year, I drove about two hours north of Atlanta, which was a good distance, and also gave me enough time to finish an audiobook on the drive.

The only real downside to this year’s location is that we were going through a major cold snap here, and it was literally in the single digits while on my retreat. So, I just hunkered down rather than venturing out to coffee shops and other interesting places.

And as I said, even having planned my own retreats several times, I still made a few mistakes this year:

  • I didn’t think through the timing. I’d started my retreat on New Year’s Day the past two years, so that was the plan. BUT this year, I’d only been back in town for 48 hours before leaving for my retreat. And those 48 hours were fairly filled with activity. So, I was tired and slightly unmotivated when I woke up and had to drive two hours north to the retreat. However, this was important to me, so I sucked it up, and made the most of it! #entrepreneur
  • The other timing issue for me was the normal schedule I’d already developed for my business. The first of the month, and first of the week, is filled with things like writing my email newsletter, scheduling my social media, writing my business blog post, etc. So, the entire first day was spent on these items rather than digging into my retreat. That was frustrating.
  • I WAY underestimated what I could get done this time. My list was really long to try and accomplish in just a couple of days. I always tend to do this a little anyway, but I was way off this time because of an email series I wanted to watch that ended up taking most of day two.

The good news was, that the first of the year is typically a slow time for people, and I had some “buffer” time built in which allowed me to get few more things done when I got home.  So, if you can plan a little buffer time, that’s ideal. It’s hard to get out of retreat mode! It’s a beautiful place to be.

Regardless, this is why it’s important to know what exactly you’re going to be doing on your retreat, and also prioritize the most important items. That way, no matter what comes up, you get the essentials taken care of.

I really can’t stress taking a personal/business retreat enough. Here’s why:

  • They allow you to focus on very specific areas. This could be specific projects, long-term goals, or anything in-between.
  • They provide clarity. When you’re out of your own environment, you see things differently.
  • They provide renewal. If you love to travel, like me, you’ll get filled up with an experience like this one.

And I can’t state this enough times: retreats aren’t a luxury. This was a big lesson for me to learn, but they can be a vital way to re-examine your own business, goals, etc. There are so many ways to plan retreats to make them work for you.

As of last year, my goal is actually to take quarterly retreats, even if they’re short. This way I’m reflecting throughout the year, so I can make small adjustments along the way, rather than only doing that at the end of the year. It’s another way I strive to be intentional, and would recommend that approach for you as well.

Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to be a business owner to do this. They are a great tool for anyone to utilize. You just have to decide to make them a priority. We all put our time and money somewhere, so it’s up to you to decide.

Finally, if you think a retreat would be a great idea for your year, get it on your calendar now! If you wait, you’re more likely to keep putting it off. Again, it’s about prioritizing it.

If you decide to plan your own retreat, let me know any of your lessons or best practices. Or even just tell me how your retreat went. I’d love to hear!

(And if you have any questions about a retreat, just let me know!)

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At the end of this year’s retreat, I stopped in nearby Helen, Georgia. It’s a strange, fun, and touristy place north of Atlanta that resembles a Bavarian village. But it was a good spot to stop, grab lunch, and walk around for a bit before returning home.

You can see more pictures here in Instagram.


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MLK Day

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I posted this quote to my business’ Facebook Page today. It’s a quote I don’t think I’ve heard before, but I loved it the moment I heard it on my Calm meditation app this morning.

It may seem weird, but I always look forward to reading the MLK quotes on this anniversary. I am continually overwhelmed by how much wisdom, determination, and courage was wrapped up in one person. It’s almost unfathomable.

Hearing his words, no matter where they’re posted, humbles me and brings me to tears every year, and I am a better person for it.

I even wrote about it on this previous post, “Why I Fight,” which explains my admiration for him, Moses, and Abraham Lincoln, and how I am part of their legacy in the search for social justice. So are you, should you choose to be. There is a place for each of us.

I pray we do not post a quote on days like today and leave it at that, though. I pray we remember his legacy and sacrifice, and strive to be better people, and better citizens of this planet. Everything we do affects everyone else, to sum up another one of his quotes.

May we be people of peace and love, not of fear and division.

Happy MLK Day.


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Happy New Year!

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“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.” – Helen Keller

Wishing you a prosperous and joyous 2018!


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Signify: Word for the Year Recap

vertical-logo-w-taglinelargeGoodness gracious! How on earth can it be December again already? Why do I feel like the years are speeding up? Anyone else? (If we were speaking in person, my voice would be getting higher right now . . . )

It’s been one crazy year! As always, things happen that you don’t expect. And even when you do expect them, they’re never quite the same as you planned. Can you relate?

2017 marked my first, full year year in business. And I knew that would be my primary focus for the year, so it just made sense that my word for the year was SIGNIFY. I just re-read my announcement post, and I can just read the hopefulness and enthusiasm in my tone. 🙂 I haven’t lost that tone, thank goodness, but it is a little more battle-worn.

The failure rate for startups is a little scary. And 80% don’t make it past five years. As a solopreneur, I can see why—it’s hard! Unless you somehow achieve success and popularity early so you can bring on more people to help you, the wear and tear of running a business by yourself daily isn’t easy. And there are so many decisions to make! There are always more things to do than more time to do them in, and you often feel like you’re pushing a rock up the hill. Actually, I call it being “admined to death” because all of the day-to-day tasks can take every bit of time you have available, and then some.

I achieved some of my goals for the year, but certainly not all of them. The big ones I didn’t meet really stung. I’m a bit of a Type A overachiever, so it’s been hard to work through that, and not let fatigue and comparing myself to others get me down. It definitely did some days. And to be honest, I’m just starting to come back from the brink of burnout.

One of the things I had to do this year was not travel as much. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you can probably guess how hard that was for me. I love to travel, and it’s really life-giving for me. And even though I travel a lot using points by being an amateur travel hacker, little costs here and there do add up. So, I took a step back. Honestly, it was a good financial decision, but hurt me a lot mentally. I wasn’t able to get away, clear my head, and be inspired by new places and people. So, I hope to resume that next year.

SIGNIFY means to represent, to make known, and to be important. So, that’s what I set out to do in 2017. And though I definitely could’ve made improvements, I did accomplish that in some ways.

I chose the name to represent the things my clients and I could do together. I mostly work with small nonprofits and social enterprises, because I love and believe in small business. But many of them can’t afford someone like me on staff full-time, so I’m able to help them with their marketing and communications projects. And through my company, I’m able to help get their message out into the world in a bigger way. I’m able to support their work, and make their mission known to more people. And so, even on a small scale, I have accomplished that goal. I’ve been able to work with old friends and new friends, and on some really cool projects. It’s been a blessing and an honor to help them succeed.

On the personal front, I made some progress too, but I also had some setbacks. After struggling with chronic illness for five an a half years, I had some really good test results in September. My adrenal fatigue moved from a Stage 8 (the worst) to a Stage 4, so that’s awesome. However, my mono has reared it’s ugly head again, making me not feel as good as I should with the healing in my adrenal glands. I’m on a new protocol, and seeing good results, so I’m hopeful that progress will continue. I just have to keep the stress at bay, which as you know, just makes everything worse, including existing health issues.

Additionally, on the personal front, when my energy is higher and I’m feeling better, I’m also able to get in more exercise. I love walking on a trail near my home, and even though I usually listen to business podcasts, it still helps me relax. I also do some good praying out there when I walk. And I’ve also just started doing five-minute yoga sessions in the morning to get my blood pumping and my brain working. There are several on YouTube that I’ve been trying. Obviously, I’d love to scale up to longer routines, but I’m starting with what I know I can do so that I don’t put it off. Plus, I’m not a morning person, so I have to keep it easy.

Speaking of praying, I was able to read Mark for Everyone by Tom Wright again this year, and I really love that whole series. I’m reading Hebrews for Everyone right now. This is a very cool series that lays out the New Testament books in very easy-to-understand language. It’s like an everyman’s commentary. (Check it out, or some of the other books I read this year.)

I’ve also been praying more using affirmations rather than only supplication this year. It’s sort of an idea I pulled from conversations and books. I’m still not really sure how to describe it succinctly yet, but it’s been an interesting process over the past couple of months, and allows me to talk to God in a new way. But I’m talking to him, and that’s the point. He’s constant, but I’m always learning new facets of His personality (thanks to books like Experiencing God), so of course, that’s the best relationship to keep pursuing.

So, that’s kinda my year in a nutshell. Some highs and some lows, just like you. But I try to always live with intention, and that helps shape everything.

I have kind of a concept for my 2018 word for the year, but haven’t pinpointed the exact word yet. But I’ll certainly let you know in the next few weeks.

What about you? How was your year? What was your word (or phrase) for the year, and how did it go?