3 Simple Systems to Live Life By Design, Not By Default

Are you living life by design or just showing up and see where the day takes you?

How many times have you thought “I wish my business could run on autopilot”? While it is a good idea to automate some areas of your business, running your life on autopilot is a terrible idea. If you have set goals in your life, big or small, you need to design your morning, your day, your week, your month, your year, and your life.

Waking up in the morning and immediately checking your email or scrolling through Facebook and Instagram is not moving the needle forward. If you have goals for yourself, you need to decide specific activities to take each day to reach those goals. Many times knowing those specific activities is not enough and we must find ways to build systems and habits to support those activities. Geoff Woods from The 1 Thing shares this quote all the time.

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.
― F. M. Alexander


I like to look at habits and systems as synonymous. Habits are usually looked at from a personal perspective and systems is a term more frequently used in business. At the end of the day systems are the habits of your business. Knowing what systems you build into your business will ultimately decide your success or failure.

You may get to a certain point of success through raw talent and “hustle” but if you really want to scale your business or give yourself more time to enjoy your success, you will have to decide which systems and habits you need to bake into your business and personal life.

I believe in systems so much that my business partner and I have adjusted our business to make Business Optimization our primary service. We have looked at all of our current and past clients and found that digital marketing isn’t necessarily what people need most. What they need most is a stronger collaboration environment married with simple and optimized workflows to grow and scale their business.

Below are 3 of the most basic systems you can start designing for yourself and your business. You don’t need an app or technical knowledge to apply these. Just a little bit of time and clarity. The easy part is designing them. The hard part is implementing these systems to the point they become a habit.

1. Design Your Morning

Are you willing to give yourself 1 hour each day without any distractions? No social media, no emails, no nonsense. What does your perfect morning look like and what are the top 2 activities that if you did them each and every day would get you 1 step closer to your big goals and help you win the day? Write them down on a piece of paper and post it somewhere you will see it everyday.

2. Plan Your Meetings

Do you just book meetings or just show up not knowing what the meeting is actually about? Does every meeting you attend have an agenda and all items prioritized for discussion? Value other people’s time and put effort into each meeting you attend. If you don’t have an agenda you’ll need to create one or ask for one if you were invited to the meeting.

3. Get Clear On How Your Team Communicates

Is everyone on your team very clear on how to communicate with each other? When to use email, Slack, or text message? Being clear on how the team communicates will eliminate a lot of problems before they happen. For instance, an urgent message wouldn’t be sent through email but maybe via text or Slack. Also, you wouldn’t give a task with 10 line items through text unless you want to confuse them and make it hard to clearly understand the requirements. Create a list of all the channels your team uses to communicate and decide the best use for each channel. Once you have created this list, share it with the team and finalize it together.

My goal is to be able to help you learn and implement simple systems that can help you achieve your goals and scale your business. I will be writing more blogs that talk about how to build systems into your business and personal life. Please follow me to get notified when I publish new blogs.

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10 Best Practices for Naming Files & Folders for You and Your Team

Does this look familiar?

Do you get annoyed when someone sends you a file that is named “document.pdf” or “resume.doc”?

Whenever I receive a file like this I cringe and a few things comes to mind:

  1. They are lazy
  2. They are disorganized
  3. They are clueless
The biggest benefit of using good naming conventions for your files and folders is saving time.

In todays collaborative environment, nothing is worse than having to open up a bunch of files to see what is inside or not being able to find the file at all. Life will be so much easier for everyone, including the people you send files to, if you start implementing these 10 best practices.

File & Folder Naming 10 Best Practices

  1. Do not use cryptic codes that only YOU understand. Make it mean something to everyone else. (bad example: prj12–1spl.doc)
  2. Keep names as short as possible by using common abbreviations, such as Jan for January or Corp for Corporation.
  3. Use descriptive information and include dates in files names if possible. We should know what’s in the file without having to open it (bad example: document.pdf)
  4. Reference company name(s) within file. If you are sending a contract to a company make sure that your company and the other company are in the file name.
  5. Avoid special characters all together (like ~ ! @ # $ %, etc). Characters such as / ? < > \ : * | “ ^ are also prohibited in file or folder names. The only exception to this rule is the ampersand ‘&’. This is okay because all systems accept this and many company names contain an ‘&’.
  6. Spaces are acceptable. You don’t need to use an underscore ‘_’ or dash ‘-‘ anymore. Gone are the days of unix and linux requirements.
  7. Do not exceed 260 characters for total folder & file character count. C:\Users\Panda\My Documents\Dropbox\Creative Nonfiction\My Autobiography\Favorite Things\Favorite Foods\Bamboo\Family Recipes\Fresh Leaves.doc (142 characters)
  8. Use sequential numbering (01, 02, etc instead of 1, 2, etc)
  9. Use Title Casing (Capital first letter of every word)
  10. User version numbers if files will have multiple iterations (V1, V2, V2.1)

Below are some good example of files names

  • The Why Builder Contract & SOW — ABC Corp (4–1–2019).pdf
  • The Why Builder Business Optimization Proposal — ABC Corp (4–15–2019).pdf
  • Rip Bar — Ingredients Costing Model v3.xlsm
  • Wonky Electronics — Shopify Sales Report (01–01–2019 to 03–31–2019).csv
  • Wonky Electronics — Shopify Sales Report (04–01–2019 to 06–30–2019).csv

By using good naming conventions you spare people the frustration of going on a scavenger hunt. At the time when you create the file you may not care but as soon as anyone needs to access the file down the road you may never find it again.

Make implementing good file and folder naming conventions a part of your business and your life. Help teach these 10 best practices and find some of your own that will make not just your life easier but the people around. You will never regret when you and your team use good file and folder naming conventions. Make this your badge of honor and wear it proudly.

The 6 Human Foundations EVERY business needs in 2019

What basic human foundations have you built into your business?

Every year business seems to get more complex by an introduction of some new technology. Regardless of what tools you use and what cloud systems you integrate with each other, what matters most is that you have the 6 foundational systems in place. Software can and will make these foundations easier to build and manage but it’s the most basic systems and processes that still allow businesses to win. These foundations have nothing to do with technology.

The purpose of this blog is to share with you that technology is not the reason businesses succeed, it is basic human behaviors that build solid foundations and great systems.

??  If you just want to get to the meat and potatoes of this blog scroll to the bottom

1. Messaging

You can have the best looking and functioning website but if no one understands how your product or service is going to change their life they don’t care. All they want to know are the features, benefits, and how much does this cost. Don’t clutter your homepage with your 1000 word company history.

ACTION: To get your messaging down we highly recommend using the StoryBrand SB7 Framework. We have used this in our own business and with many of our clients. You will get crystal clear on your messaging and eliminate any confusion about your brand. You will have a clear roadmap on how to update your website, marketing material, and any sales tools.

You can start by reading the StoryBrand book, then create a free account at www.mystorybrand.com

2. Marketing & Sales Automation

Marketing & sales automation has been around since the beginning of the internet. The great thing about marketing & sales automation is that we can monitor every single conversion point so we can make adjustments to optimize campaigns. The not so great thing about marketing & sales automation is that it still relies on the most basic marketing & sales tactics that play off of human desire. You can have the most amazing sales funnel but if it’s not converting your sales funnel simply becomes a money pit.

You need an exciting customer journey that includes good sales copy, convincing landing pages, valuable lead magnets, and a simple user experience. If you cannot write convincing copy your sales funnel is going to flop. This goes back to getting your messaging dialed. Bad messaging guarantees bad sales. Good messaging increases sales.

ACTION: Focus on creating good sales copy for your ads, landing pages, sales emails, and a highly valuable lead magnet. Get your messaging down!

3. Collaboration

There are a ton of collaboration tools on the market today but none of them are effective unless the people using them understand the goals and priorities of the business. If you cannot write down your goals and priorities on a blank piece of paper so your team can understand them, then it doesn’t matter what system or platform you try to implement. The secret sauce is a healthy relationship between all the team members which include the leadership team. If the leaders do not clearly communicate the goals and priorities of the business, the buy in from the rest of the team will be a hard sell.

It is the leaders job to make sure there is time each week to let the team members understand the mission. But it is also each team members job to raise any questions when unsure or in doubt of what the mission is and the role they play in it. Basic human interaction is required to create a positive collaborative environment. If you can solve the puzzle of getting your entire team rallied around a singular mission, this will be foundation needed to start implementing new systems and processes for collaboration.

ACTION: Create an environment where goals and priorities are regularly communicated with the team. Once a year won’t cut it. Do it once a week at the very least.

4. Workflow & Automation Solutions

“We’ve always done it this way!” is something we have all said or heard. Unfortunately this mindset drains resources from a business. For the sake of this blog let’s remove automation from the conversation and focus on “Workflow Solutions”. When implementing new processes and procedures you should try to figure out how to optimize the process by asking yourself the hard questions if every step is necessary. At some point this new process will be “optimized”. This doesn’t mean it ends there. You should revisit the process again each year or if there are any changes that can affect its efficiencies. Don’t get comfortable just because this is how you have been doing it. Think and act optimized!

ACTION: Look at the top 3 workflows in your business and revisit them. See if you can simplify them by removing any busy work or unnecessary steps, digitally file documents instead of printing them out and filing them, or eliminate them completely.

5. Analytics

You need to become a data-driven business to have a competitive advantage. This doesn’t mean having flashy dashboards and complex reporting functions. None of that matters if you don’t know which KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to look for. Don’t get lost in the sea of data. Know the difference between actionable and vanity metrics. Actionable metrics drive strategy and allow you to steer the company towards higher profits and greater efficiency. Vanity metrics are simply for bragging rights and have little to no impact to revenue.

A vanity metric for instance is the amount of website visitors. People get so caught up on this number because they think it’s actually making them money but in reality this number has little to do with generating revenue. The actionable metric is your conversion rate. This is the only metric that matters when trying to make a sale through a website. If you have 1,000,000 visitors to your website and only 1 person buys something you have an amazing conversion rate of 0.000001%. If you have 10 visitors to your website and 3 people buy you have a conversion rate of 30%. Once you have the conversion rate dialed in then you can start looking at increasing your website traffic.

The simple formula: conversion rate = (conversions / total visitors) * 100%

Conversions is the number of actions you want the users to take such as purchasing a product, opting in, or scheduling a phone call.

ACTION: Find the most important conversation point in your sales process. It might be a landing page, a phone call, your yelp page, or emails you send out. Calculate the current conversion rate, then create and execute a strategy to start increasing it. This simple approach needs to be repeated in all areas of your marketing and sales process.

6. Customer Success

Great customer service is another strong competitive advantage for many companies. It always has been and it always will be. If you don’t have the most basic custom service policies and systems in place don’t expect customers to hang around too long. People are looking for fast response times. 24hrs use to be the standard but 6–12hrs is becoming the norm. The old saying “The customer is always right” still holds true for many cases. Especially with review sites like Yelp and Amazon, negative reviews can kill your business in a matter of a handful reviews.

ACTION: Get your response times down. Create a system so you can measure and monitor response times. Be consistent with your response times and always work on reducing the time it takes to respond to your customers.

Technology is not the reason businesses succeed, it is basic human behaviors that build solid foundations and great systems.

Key Action Items:

1. Messaging
To get your messaging down we highly recommend using the StoryBrand SB7 Framework. You can start by reading the StoryBrand book, then create a free account at www.mystorybrand.com

2. Marketing & Sales Automation
Focus on creating good sales copy for your ads, landing pages, sales emails, and a highly valuable lead magnet.

3. Collaboration
Create an environment where goals and priorities are regularly communicated with the team. Once a year won’t cut it. Do it once a week at the very least.

4. Workflow Solutions
Look at the top 3 workflows in your business and revisit them. Simplify them by removing any busy work or unnecessary steps, digitally file documents instead of printing them out and filing them, or eliminate them completely.

5. Analytics
Find the most important conversation point in your sales process. It might be a landing page, a phone call, your yelp page, or emails you send out. Calculate the current conversion rate, then create and execute a strategy to start increasing it. This simple approach needs to be repeated in all areas of your marketing and sales process.

6. Customer Success
Get your response times down. Create a system so you can measure and monitor response times. Be consistent with your response times and always work on reducing the time it takes to respond to your customers.

The Why Builder has created programs to build these foundations into your business or organization. To learn more about these programs and services please visit our website. https://thewhybuilder.com

How to build a simple sales program for your business

Is this your plan to implement systems into your business?

I originally started The Why Builder as a digital marketing agency. I had a wide set of skills and a very small team. 1 designer fresh out of school, 1 web developer that I worked with on a few projects, and me. The only thing I knew for sure at the time was that I was ready to build my own company. At least I thought I was ready.

If you can’t make your sales program work with a simple design then no elaborate complex sales funnel will work and you just wasted a ton of time, money, and energy.

The first 2–3 years I was just “working”. I thought I was building a business. Revenue was coming in, new clients were signing up, and our team was growing. All the signs that your business is becoming “successful”. And then we hit our ceiling of growth. Till then all of our new clients and projects were strictly from referrals. I’m grateful that The Why Builder was born this way and especially for the people who believed in us enough to send us new clients, but it created a fall sense of success because once the referrals stop coming through my inbox so did our revenue. This made me take a step back and look at what was going on or what was NOT going on. We simply did not have any kind of sales program or system in place. Zero, Nada, Zilch. There was nothing in place to create new leads and close more deals. I was running purely off of what life brought to me. It’s safe to say that if you wait for great things to happen, chances are you’ll be waiting a very long time if not forever.

My first response was to create some elaborate sales funnel that can run on auto pilot and take 500hrs to build.

Now you might wonder how this is possible since we were a digital “marketing” agency. We build tons of automated sales programs and campaigns for clients but the people building it were so focused on doing it for other people that we neglected to build one for ourselves! So what’s the plan here? My first response was to create some elaborate sales funnel that can run on auto pilot and take 500hrs to build. But rational kicked in and all the years of reading personal development and business books reminded me to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). So we did.

We created a Hubspot account and set up 3 very simple automated email sequences.

The 3 email sequences were the following:
  1. 5 Part Introduction Sequence. This is used when people are referred to us or interested in our services. Goal is to get them to a discovery call.
  2. 1 Part Networking/Event Sequence. This is used when we meet people through networking or from an event. Goal is to make a meaningful connection.
  3. 5 Part Post Discovery Call Sequence. This is used after we first have a live call or conversation. Goal is to go to the next phase in the sales funnel.

These sequences are a combination of actions to take and emails to automatically send.

Then we updated our website with our new services by adding the least amount of words and minimal design effort. The goal was to only feature the benefits of each service. The total time to setup the hub spot account, build the sequences, and update the website was less than 10 man hours.

Next we created a simple plan to start attending local meetup events and to start reaching out to our existing and previous clients about our new services by sending 1 newsletter followed up by a personal phone call or email. This was all we needed to build the foundation of our sales program. It won’t end here as we will be regularly publishing new content but the point I’m trying to make is that it was this easy to build and implement a simple sales program. If you can’t make your sales program work with a simple design then no elaborate complex sales funnel will work and you just wasted a ton of time, money, and energy.

This simple and foundational sales program we created for ourselves is one of the new products we are offering as part of our Business Optimization program. We have 6 foundations that we believe all businesses should have and Marketing & Sales Automation is just 1 of them.

Key Takeaways:
  1. Always… Keep It Simple Stupid
  2. You don’t need a complex sales program to start making money
  3. If you don’t have predictable income (sales program) you don’t have a business

To see all of the 6 foundations that every business should have in place, please visit our services pages.


Habit #5 — Schedule Your Day… Everyday

A little bit too crazy for me, but if this works for whoever owns this, I applaud you!

How many times have you had only 5 things to do in 1 day and you accomplished 0? You start a project, get distracted, move on to something else, come back to it, move on to something else, then move on to something else. At the end of the day you haven’t completed ANYTHING! You just ‘felt’ busy and like you were working really hard but sad to say.. nothing really got done.

I ain’t gonna lie. I’ve been here about 9,952 times and I still struggle with staying focused and just finishing tasks until… I started scheduling my day! Now there are 50 different things you can do to stay focused and finish tasks but I found the one thing that has worked for me best. This isn’t something I came up with on my own. After researching the habits of successful people one thing I found in common is that most of them schedule their day. We are talking their morning routine, their workout, nap time, time for specific tasks, of course meetings, and anything that took up time in their day.

I don’t think anyone follows their schedule to a T but without setting up specific parameters on when you want to accomplish specific tasks, good luck on having long term sustainability on staying focused and being consistent. The plan is in the sand.. but you need a plan to start with. Before I start my actual work work for the day I make sure that I understand my priorities and then set a time in my calendar on when I will work on them. I have the most brain power in morning so I schedule the most challenging tasks before 1pm. After 1pm its tasks that I can just flow with. As much as possible meetings are always scheduled in the afternoon.

Before I begin working on a task on my schedule I turn off my email, IM programs, and anything that could possibly be a distraction. I do leave myself accessible via slack with my team incase something comes up but I turn off the audio notifications. I haven’t quite mastered this process yet but since I have started scheduling my day and when it comes time to doing a task and turning off all distractions, my ability to focus and complete tasks have gone up significantly. I don’t end my day anymore wondering why I haven’t accomplished anything. okay.. maybe sometimes still.

Scheduling my day only takes me about 10 minutes each morning. I am fluid with my day so as priorities change so does my schedule. With scheduling I am able to really focus on what is the most important task for me to move the needle each day vs just aimlessly working. The other benefit of scheduling my day is that I don’t have to stress out about what I need to do. I also leave time in between my schedule to relax, pad time incase tasks or calls run over. The goal is to not make scheduling increase my stress but to reduce it. If you are stressing out about your schedule you need to make changes. Either add more time to a task, more downtime between tasks, or something so the schedule works in your favor and not against you.

— Mike Lord

This story is part of a 7 series post about developing good habits that will launch you in 2018. Follow me and my company, The Why Builder, on medium.

If you missed the first article you can read it here: My 30 Day Habit Challenge

Habit #6 for 2018: Zero Your Inbox and Feel Good Everyday

Is this you all day every day? Doesn’t have to be if you start a new 5–15min habit for 2018!

What is the oldest email in your inbox right now? If you are saying from over 6 months ago then chances are that over 99% of the emails in your inbox you probably don’t ever need again. I compare a messy inbox to having a messy room. No one ever see’s it but you know you want to clean it and it causes you stress all the time because you can never find anything when you need it! Then we get to the whole time factor. You spend extra time trying to sort through the mess, many times not even finding what you need. Seconds turn into minutes that turn into hours and possibly turn into days of wasted time each year by not being able to find that email you need.


This habit is super important to me because by clearing out my inbox it reduces my stress level EVERYDAY! Not by a little but by a lot. If you tried to respond or take action on every single email right when it came in then you’d lose a lot of time in productivity by always having to do that all throughout the day. If the email is important and time sensitive for the day then I just deal with it. But if it can wait and life won’t end then I just leave it to be dealt with later. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RESPOND TO EVERY EMAIL RIGHT AWAY. There is no law that requires this and you’ll never find anything in the employee handbook that says you have to do this. But if you spend 1 time block each day to move emails to folders, delete ones you will never need, flag the ones that require action, and then reply to the non urgent ones, this might only take you 5–15 minutes of your life depending on how much email you get per day. I like to leave emails in my inbox that I need to take action on. It might be a task or something I need to read again or maybe a link to an article that will benefit me. After I complete the action or task then I either delete it or file it. I only keep emails that I know that I might need to refer back to or something that has CYA (Cover Your Ass) value.

After this is done your endorphins kick in, you have a sense of accomplishment and you now know that whatever is left in your inbox is important and you need to take some kind of action. What I am after here is the following:

  • Being able to repeat the feeling of accomplishment 5–6 days a week vs 7 days a week of constant stress looking at my cluttered inbox.
  • My stress level being greatly reduced by knowing exactly what I need to do vs wondering what I need to do.
  • My ability to save a ton of time in my day and in my life by not having to sort through a mess and trying to find important emails every time.
  • Being more reliable by not missing or forgetting emails of importance. Someone might ask me for something important and I might forget to reply because my inbox is so cluttered that his/her request gets lost in the sea of emails. Do you know what I’m talking about???
  • Building the foundation of creating a good habit at the cost of 5–15 minutes a day of my life.

Now you are probably thinking, “I have over 1000 emails in my inbox!! It will take me hours and maybe even days to sort through all of them???” Like I said earlier, you probably don’t need 99% of them. So here is what you do. ARCHIVE ALL OF THEM (don’t delete them)! I promise you that you most likely won’t even miss them. It’s important that you archive these emails because you will be able to find them if absolutely necessary. If you delete them all most likely after 30 days they are gone forever. Every email program is different but most if not all email software these days have an archiving function. If you use Google Inbox archive is referred to as “Done”.

Now you are get to start with a fresh inbox in 2018 and then its up to you to choose a time in your day that you will always zero out your inbox. Try this for 30 days and let me know how you feel. If you are struggling with anything let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

Mike Lord

This story is part of a 7 series post about developing good habits that will launch you in 2018. Follow me and my company, The Why Builder, on medium.

If you missed the first article you can read it here: My 30 Day Habit Challenge

My 30 Day Habit Challenge — 6 Habits to launch YOU into 2018! You In?

I can’t even remember the last time I wrote in a journal. I’m pretty sure the times I did journal was when my life was fucked up in some way. I’m starting this journal today so I can measure my progress and have some kind of historical and statistical data of my journey. I’m barely just scratching the surface of knowing what it takes to be successful. I’m not just talking money but in life as a whole. I spent a ton of time last year researching why some people are more successful than others. As of today, It comes down to one thing and that is H-A-B-I-T-S!

If you look at the majority of successful people in the world they all have their routine and they stick by it. The only habits I’ve had over my entire life was procrastination, laziness, and drug & alcohol abuse. I’ve tried so many things in businesses, sports, relationships, careers, and never reached my potential in any of it. I was trying so hard (and sometimes not trying at all) to have this level of “success”. After 20 years of trying to “make it” I had to take a step back and start from the very basics in life and this is where my journey is today. I picked up a few books which I will share later (not today) that have jump started my path and given me the mindset needed to make huge strides. I will share with you the basic habits I will be focusing on the next 30 days. I’ve already started some of these last year, really 2–3 months ago, but I am trying to make these part of my DNA. If you have ever tried to start a habit, you know how hard it can be to actually make it a part of your daily life.

1. Spiritual
2. Fitness
3. Diet
4. Education
5. Schedule My Day
6. Zero My Day

1. Spiritual

I started reading the Bible last year. I put myself on a 60 day plan for reading the new testament. I’m using an app called YouVersion. I’m currently on day 39/60. I start my morning everyday reading a few chapters. I’ll get into why I am doing this in future posts.

2. Fitness

I am starting a 30 day morning workout challenge. It’s a short 10 minute full body workout. I had a pinched nerve on the left side of my body last year and since then I’ve lost all my strength in my upper body. I want to do something that didn’t kill me or take up a lot of time. I will still ride my bike and do jiu jitsu but this is something I wanted to try since I don’t ever think I’ve worked out 30 days in a row ever in my life. Here is a link to the video that I will be doing for 30 days. I made sure it was something that I could actually enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aso-V20dqz4

3. Diet

There has been a lot of talk about Keto and low carb high fat (LCHF) diets. Before trying to take it to that level of commitment I want to start with the basics. For the next 30 days I will be cutting out refined carbohydrates and sugar 6 days of the week. One day of the week I will eat what I want. The remaining 6 days I will do my best to stay away from evil.

4. Education

This is something I’ve been doing for a while already but nothing consistent. Right now I’m learning a ton on FaceBook advertising and marketing automation. For the next 30 days I will do nothing but learn more about these subjects. I’ve been reading about personal development and other non techy related stuff but I will put that to the side for now. I’m at a point in FB advertising and marketing automation that I need advanced knowledge and strategies to up my game to highly profitable levels.

5. Schedule My Day

This is another thing I haven’t been consistent with. The days I work at home it seems to be pretty easy but when I am on the road I don’t do this. I will try for straight 30 days to schedule my day no matter what. I won’t get into this in detail right now but I need to schedule EVERYTHING! My appointments, meetings, tasks, workouts, etc. If it takes up time in my day I will schedule it.

6. Zero My Day

This means that I zero out my inbox, I reply to all my text messages and IM’s, and I clear out my tasks list. Doesn’t mean that I handle everything but my inbox is clean, I’ve replied to everyone that have tried to reach me and I have a good handle on all my tasks. I’ve tried doing this at the end of my day but I just don’t have any will power left so this has become part of my morning routine. Before I begin any work I make sure that I start my day with Zero.

And with all this said, This is my first journal entry of 2018. Just like many of my habit goals above, I will try and do this for 30 days. Sometimes it might be short and sometimes it might be long.

— Mike Lord

Woman and man at ice skating rink

Took my awesome wife (Dori) ice skating for her first time to end 2017… and she didn’t fall once! (12–31–2017)

How to make people understand working from home…is still work.

Random Person: “Oh man, I can’t believe it’s already Sunday.”

Me: “I know! The weekends always go by so fast.”

Random Person: “Please. It’s not like you have to go anywhere tomorrow, you work from home. You can stay in bed all day!”


It’s only been about a year since I started working from home, but in that time, I have noticed a few things about how people react to this information. If you work from home, I am sure you know what I am talking about. Here are some key points to recognize as someone who has been belittled for working from home.

Reality Check:

A freelancer or entrepreneur, who chooses to be lazy will MAKE LESS MONEY — if any at all. A freelancer or entrepreneur who chooses to be motivated, organized, and productive, will MAKE MORE MONEY. This might be the key idea to explain to those who question what you are doing. Sure, I could lay on the couch, but I won’t make any money that day.

There are also people who work from home for a company, and therefore still have set working hours. It might be harder to find ways to slack off in an office, but if you work from home and report to a boss, they will still ultimately see what you do or do not accomplish.

That is the reality.

What am I getting at here? Working from home doesn’t make a person lazy, their work ethic does. It is unfair for people to assume that you are lazy, or just have it easy, because you work from home.

Just like in an office, a deadline is a deadline. If you have a deadline while working from home, you might just work through lunch, dinner, and most of your night’s sleep. It’s not for everyone, some people will be more productive working from home, and some people won’t.

“Okay, but there are some major perks to working from home.”  True! I will not pretend like my life is horrible because of my work. That would be wrong, as I sit here on my laptop in the sun, on a beautiful day, and type this.

Don’t try to convince people you have it ‘bad’. Everyone deserves to love their job. The joys of working from home are why many put in the extra time so they can keep doing it! When someone belittles working from home, it makes those who do feel like they are being called lazy and ‘less than’. And we don’t like it!

What to do:

Let’s go through some things people might say when the topic of working from home comes up. We can use some of the ideas above to answer these misguided statements.

So here’s the thing…

I wish I could work from home, my house would be so much cleaner.

If I am cleaning my house, I am not getting paid. I only get paid for when I am actually working.

A nice way of phrasing this: “I wish that were the case! But every minute I spend doing a household chore, I am not earning. If only I had more hands maybe I could do both!”

You can sleep till noon!

Yes you could sleep till noon, but that might mean you have to work till midnight. Or perhaps your clients are in a different time zone so you were up very late talking to them the night before. Either way, let’s opt for simple explanation that gently reminds people you have work to do.

“Haha, I wonder what my clients would think if I didn’t respond to them until noon every day?”

“I have clients in ____ so I was up till ____ last week with them. So yeah, I slept till noon the next day! Then I had to run around to make up for the time I lost.”

My all-time favorite:

You’re home all day, could you ______ for me?

The array of things you could insert into that sentence is endless. And you know what? Sometimes I CAN do something during the day for someone if it’s deemed important. BUT nobody should assume this is the case. For example, taking someone to the dentist because they are having their wisdom teeth out. If you give me enough notice, I could probably do that for you. I can bring my laptop and work in the waiting room.

Not everyone who works from home has this luxury. This is what you can point out to people, just like with our other examples.

“Sorry, I have a conference call at ____.”

“I have a deadline to meet tonight.”

Hopefully this will help that person realize you are working while you’re home all day. Just saying “I have to work” might not be enough if that person doesn’t know what “work” means for you.

Try being specific with people and give them the chance to understand. I have found most of my family and friends end up being interested in learning more about what I am working on.

Remember This:

Some people might be making these uncomfortable statements to you because they are just difficult. Dealing with difficult people is its own topic. For the sake of this article, avoid the subject with them at all costs. Don’t engage. Ask them a question about their life. If someone wants to believe that working from home is people being lazy, they will be able to find or make up reasons.

Google “working from home is killing business” you will find something to support that idea.

Google “working from home increases productivity and makes businesses more successful” you will also find something to support this idea.

I am going to be an optimist and say that most people don’t realize how they are making you feel when they say these things. They may really respect you and are just making an innocent joke, so laugh! They think they are saying “look how lucky you are!”. Handling it in a way that makes it clear what they are saying isn’t the reality, without biting their head off, is possible and will lead you both to happier place.

Good luck out there!

Do you have another strategy for dealing with this issue? Share it with everyone in the comments!

5 simple things to remember when starting your 1st graphic design job.

You graduated college and got a job, yay! The weight has been lifted. The pressure to have a job right after college can be fierce. Except, once you land that job, there is a whole new set of pressures to deal with. You are now the millennial, the youngster, the fresh meat. You are the newbie designer in the room.

Hopefully, you found yourself working with others who are kind, understanding, and encouraging like I have. But it can be easy to second guess yourself. Will what I create and say be dismissed because I’m new? Should I assume the work of my more experienced co-workers is better than mine?

No and no!

You were hired for a reason. A creative director is not going to choose to work with someone just to automatically dismiss what they have to say. A professional will want to hear your ideas and see your work because they liked you and, your portfolio. In our industry, collaboration is a beautiful thing. Don’t focus too much on whether your idea is the final product or not. If school taught you anything, it should be how to take criticism as a designer. In addition, revisions and collaboration produce better work. Focus on the process and the work. At the end of the day, you are a part of making something great, and that is all that matters.

You will make mistakes, and that will show you are a newb. But that’s ok! Everyone starts somewhere. When you make an error, learn from it instead!

Here are some things I have done, and anyone can do, to be more confident in their work.

1. Boost your confidence.

Remember why you’re here. Reminding yourself that you ARE qualified to be here is always helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Be prepared to back it up.

Having to back up why you designed something the way you did shouldn’t be a new experience. I at least had plenty of professors grill me, which I’m now grateful for. Now it’s the ‘real world’. Your process may have become intuitive, and you work with designers who don’t require an explanation. However, taking mental note of why you believe this design will work for the project, is a great way to feel prepared to present it.

If you do any freelance work, your clients may not understand your process or reasoning without you explaining it. It is always a good idea to be prepared for this conversation. “This layout leads the viewer from … to …”. The colors, font, etc. reflect…because…”.

Preparation can put the mind at ease.

2. Put in the extra time.

Period. Going the extra mile and pushing yourself until you can look at your own work and say you love it, is always worth it. If you want to get better than you need to push yourself. Take the time to do one more tweak, one more review, one more self-critique. If you know that you did the best you could, there’s no reason to worry about showing it off.

3. Stay on top of it!

Look around at what is going on in the wonderful world of design. There is no excuse for this. There are endless amounts of projects, graphics, and campaigns to browse online.

I subscribe to Communication Arts magazine, follow Ad Age and Adweek on social media, as well as other designers and agencies. I use Crayon to quick search for inspiration and have a Pinterest board filled with cool ideas I might want to see again later. This is called a swipe file, you can create your own library of them using whatever method you’d like.

Communication Arts magazine is available in print and PDF download.

Netflix has also come out with a documentary series called Abstract: The art of Design which features greats from many different aspects of the design world. I haven’t finished it yet, but have really been inspired by what I’ve seen. There are also actual hard cover books you can hold in your hand (or download) about design. For me, doing this is everything. Nothing makes me more excited to get up and do my best work more than checking out the amazing things fellow designers are doing.

When you feel motivated and on top of what’s going on, you won’t feel so unsure!

4. Google is your secret weapon.

Want to look like you know what you’re doing, but you don’t know how to do something? How lucky we are to have the internet. I have Googled how to create plenty of styles and learned many tricks through tutorials I found through a quick Google search. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone!

5. Refresh yourself.

While getting your head in the game is key, taking it out is just as important. Always make time to do things that are not related to work that make you happy. You might be surprised at how a little break from a project may be just what you needed to solve the problem.

From one newbie designer to another, I hope these thoughts make you more confident in your work.