Can you plan AND be creative?

Recently I joined best-selling author Mark Stinson on The Unlocking Your World of Creativity podcast, where people in publishing, film, animation, music, restaurants, medical research, and more share their inspiration, tools and exercises to organize your ideas and get them out into the world.

In this episode, I chat with Mark about tools and models to help capture your creative projects and break them down by yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals and daily tasks that will get your project launched.

There’s a big shout out for the #ThisIsMyEra planners for sure, but lots more too including:

– Where you have to start when you want to be successful 
– The importance of staging posts along your creative path and relating daily tasks to your biggest goals
– How goals create a container for our creativity and allow us to create in a space that has intention which in turn stops us from getting lost and despondent and
– The relationship between our self-doubt, expectations and comparisonitis 

So, pop your headphones in, stop questioning yourself and let’s get you overcoming the obstacles that are keeping you stuck!

JUMP OVER TO MY INSTAGRAM PAGE & TELL ME: what’s one action you’re going to take from listening to this episode?

Links mentioned in this episode:

Want to listen to more episodes? You’ll find them all here


Michelle (00:01): You're listening to the ideal life club podcast, episode 73.

Voiceover (00:07): Welcome to the ideal life club podcast, where it's all about. Fast-tracking your ideal business and life with more clarity, courage, and consistency. Join your host business coach and author of the happiness habits, transformation Michelle Reeves for inspiration interviews and practical tips to finally claim success on your terms.

Michelle (00:34): Hey there, friends, Michelle here and welcome back to the ideal life club podcast. Recently I joined bestselling author, Mark Stinson on the unlocking your world of creativity podcast, where people in publishing, film, animation, music, restaurants, medical research, and more share their inspiration tools and exercises to organize your ideas and get them out into the world. In this episode, I chat with Mark about tools and models to help capture your creative projects and break them down by yearly quarterly and monthly goals and daily tasks that will get your project launched. There's a big shout out for #ThisIsMyEra planners for sure, but lots more too including where you have to start. When you want to be successful, the importance of staging posts along your creative path and relating daily tasks back to your biggest goals. How goals create a container for our creativity and allow us to create in a space that has intention, which in turn stops us from getting lost and despondent, and also the relationship between our self-doubt expectations and comparing ourselves with others.

Michelle (01:45): So pop your headphones in, stop questioning yourself, and let's get you overcome the obstacles that are keeping you stuck. But before we get started, have you ever wondered what it might be like to have a podcast just like this one, or Mark's one to promote your business. If you have, you might also have put it off because you're just not sure how to get started. If so, my free trial for my online program, practical podcasting for beginners is for you. In fact, one of my students launched into the top 100 on iTunes in her niche and went from podcast newbie to podcast pro there are step-by-step videos, covering all aspects of creating a launching your podcast, plus access to me for help and support when you need it. Even if technology isn't always your BFF, what could a podcast do for your business? Find out more and start your free trial with no credit card required: Okay. Back to today's show and my chat with Mark Stinson on the unlocking your world of creativity podcast. Enjoy

Mark Stinson (02:56): Hi again, everyone it's Mark Stinson and you have reached podcast unlocking Your world of creativity, where we go around the world, talking to creative people and experts about original creative thinking. We get inspiration from their experience, but we also learned specific tools and exercises and processes that we can use to organize our ideas. And that's really the focus of today. And I have as my guest productivity and goal setting expert, Michelle Reeves, Michelle it's just so great to have you with us.

Michelle (03:27): Hey, it's my absolute pleasure being on the show. Thanks so much for inviting me along.

Mark Stinson (03:39): I have, as my guest, Michelle reads, I would consider Michelle a real productivity and kind of goal setting expert. She's the author of a great book called the happiness habits transformation. It's out on paperback on Amazon right now, and also a set of planners called the, this is my era planner. And if you've thought that 2021 is going to be my year can going to start your era off fresh. We're going to talk about this. It's a journal, it's a planner. It's a goal tracker, Michelle, it's all of these things, isn't it?

Michelle (04:11): It absolutely is. Yes. So #ThisIsMyEra is a productivity company based in the U S uh, I'm all the way over here in the UK. And I head up a brand new part of the company, which is our online Academy, but the plan is where the whole kind of company started was with, uh, I like to call it really a 90 day goal setting system, because it's way more than just a planner, but yeah, we've helped thousands of people to get the visions out of their head and actually get them down on paper so they can make them.

Mark Stinson (04:43): And, you know, again, we, we have these ideas and we say, w one day, I'm going to publish this book. Or, you know, no later than September, I'm really going to get this going. But it's those steps in between that often get us stuck. Isn't it? How do we map out day by day, week by week, month by month.

Michelle (05:02): So I think the key thing with any goals is kind of people tend to start like today and say, right, well today I'm going to do this. And hopefully by the time we get to September, I will have created something. And we like to flip that on its head and start way up in the clouds. If you like, kind of like a helicopter view and say, what is my ideal vision for this and this and go, if you like, what would success look like? So what is my vision? And in this part of making it your era, it's about deciding what that vision is. And we really encourage, and it's all within the planner. We encourage people to, we can make that live. So kind of what does it gonna look like? What's it gonna feel like? And then as it's a 90 day planner, it allows you to just work on a quarterly basis.

Michelle (05:53): And I think this is really key because you kind of generally underestimate the amount that you can get done in a period in a longer period of time, but you really overestimate what you can get done in a short period of time. And anyone that's done anything, you know, creating videos or any kind of creative process, you know, it takes like twice as long, especially with technology to get anything done that you think, you know, you think it's going to take half an hour. It takes half a day. So we tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes the short things to get done, but we, Oh, you know, we, we can actually build in the right amount of time by being very strategic about our planning. So we start at the top with our vision and then work that down into some really smart goals for each quarter of the year.

Michelle (06:37): And the reason doing it by quarter is, is also really crazy, allows you to build in a review point. So, so important that we review where we are at staging posts along the way. So within the, within our planet, for example, we have quarterly goals and then monthly goals, weekly goals, and that all flows down into your daily tasks. So you'd know that when you've got your top three priorities from the, for the day in your daily pages, they relate directly back to your big quarterly goals. And at the end of the quarter, you do a review and say, well, how far along am I? And then you can replant again for the next quarter. And it's been incredible seeing how much more productive people are when they know that their top priorities are actually contributing to their bigger goals.

Mark Stinson (07:24): And does having that as a foundation to say, I know what I'm going to do every day. I know what I'm going to do every week. There's something empowering about that. I think as a creative person that says, well, I am working towards my vision, so I'll keep it going, keep the energy up when I might feel down. Have you found that people

Michelle (07:42): True? And I think as creative people, we tend to think, Oh, well, you know, if I plan too much, that's going to stifle my creativity. Like, I, I, you know, I just, I just decide what I'm going to do on the day I go, which way the wind blows for me. Um, yeah. You know, I have to feel it, but I disagree. I think, you know, what goals do, um, is they, they create a container for our creativity. So they allow us to create in a space that has intention. And I think that that allows us to then set that intention of time. And then we just go, you know, once we created that container, we can just go and do our thing. But without that container, creativity can just drift and we can end up, you know, being vastly far away from where we hoped we'd be. And that creates despondency and know, doesn't matter how creative you are. If you're not creating that product at the end of the day, then you're not getting the satisfaction from that. And neither is anybody else.

Mark Stinson (08:41): Maybe we can get a little bit more specific. And if I could even use you as an example, let's imagine I'm looking over your shoulder onto your planner. Of course, I'm wearing a mask I'm probably six feet away. So I might not be able to get a good view of it, but what's an example of something that would be in your own planner that is helping you structure your goals.

Michelle (09:01): Yeah, for sure. So at the moment in the, this is my era Academy, which we've just launched this year. Uh, we've got our first course up there, which is called reboot your life. We're crazy excited about that. Helping people to dip self doubt, hit control, load, delete in their life and kind of make a fresh start. And my goodness don't, we need that fresh start this year. We didn't know when we created this course that, you know, COVID-19 was going to hit. So, um, but definitely within my planner, I've got within my quarterly goals. For example, we've got courses that I'm planning that I'm working with experts to create. So we're working with subject matter experts to create our courses. And so I've got that in my quarterly goals. And then I might break that down and say, okay, so let's imagine I'm going to create a course this quarter, but I have to break that down and say, okay, so I've got three months in my quarter.

Michelle (09:50): So how does creating a course split down into those three months? And then from there, okay. Each week of those months, what am I going to do to contribute towards that end goal? And then what does that mean for me daily? So one of the things that we love to do, and we've created goal worksheets within the planner, it's you to take a goal, like for example, launching a course and then break that down into the key steps you need to take. And then you put a deadline for each of those steps. So you can get right down into the detail if you want to. So it really is like a project plan as well. Now here's one thing, little tip that I share with our customers and also with my coaching clients, which is around what quite often holds us back. When we have goals, we don't know what the tasks are.

Michelle (10:38): So we say, okay, I've got this, this thing I want to do. Maybe it's wasting a book. For example, I want to write a book and I know what I want to write about, but I don't know how to get started. I don't know how to publish it. I don't know if I want to self-publish on Amazon. I don't know what the format is. I don't know what each of my chapter headings are going to be. So we allow that to make us stop. Um, and we kind of get stuck in that space. So a little tip that I always share is if you don't know what tasks are, you will know what the questions are that you need to get answered. So by the questions down in your planner, so literally write them down. And then I schedule it in my calendar. Uh, we have a double page spread, which I love in, in the planner.

Michelle (11:24): So you have a whole page for your schedule for the day. And I literally will map out my day, hour by hour. And I know that sounds really restrictive, but I find it really freeing actually, because I always know what I'm doing at any point in the day, making sure that we built in nice rest, making sure we build in some personal growth and training, whatever you need to do, but I will literally allow maybe like an hour to answer a question. So say for example, one thing that I've been getting into recently is, is using editing tools for videos. So we all know how long that can take. So I might shed your color a couple of hours to do some video editing and I don't know how to do it. So it's going to be the question's going to be, how do I create this special effect in the video? And that goes into my schedule and I use that time to research it. I think this is something that people kind of forget to plan in is all that time. It takes to learn how to do the things that will help you to meet your goals.

Mark Stinson (12:20): Yes. And all these tools that are supposed to save us time. But first we have to learn how to use them. Right. For sure. Yeah. Well, you know, you've mentioned some of these, I would call them almost external obstacles, you know, things that you need to learn and, and find the answers to. But you also mentioned an internal obstacle and that is this idea of self doubt. I'm wondering, you know, what you faced and even how journaling and things like that as a part of this tool could help someone who's, you know, stuck in their own head.

Michelle (12:51): Yeah, for sure. And it's, you know, self-doubt is something that we all experience. Um, I think people kind of think they're on their own when they're, when they're stuck in self-doubt, but really all self-doubt is saying is I am not X enough. So self doubt saying, I'm not experienced enough. I'm not old enough or young enough or pretty enough, or whatever it might be. It's just that kind of, I'm not X enough. And we all experienced that self doubt generally when we're moving between two places. And I kind of like to think of it a bit like a football field. So, you know, you have the one zone at one end, which is your comfort zone. And that's like super comfortable, you know, you know what you're doing? You feel very confident in that space. And then the other end of the football field is your growth zone.

Michelle (13:39): And that's where it kind of, the opposite is true. So you don't feel confident. You don't really know what you're doing and you have no competence in that area. And when we move across the field from one end to the other, as soon as we go over the halfway line, self-doubt tends to kick in because we have to move through what I call the messy middle it's, where doubt sets it's with failure, possibility set, sits where all these kinds of challenges set. It's the things we don't know how to overcome. So self doubt kind of comes up at that point. And I think there's a couple of reasons for that first is that we is expectation. So we tend to give ourselves a really hard time. And I think creatives particularly do this as well. We tend to think we should know more. We should be more, we should be further along on our journey.

Michelle (14:28): So we create this expectation of ourselves. And when we don't meet that expectation, we have this kind of gap where we wonder why we haven't met that expectation and what we do. And, you know, I don't know if it's something that really resonates with you Mark, but I know it's certainly something that resonates with me. We look outside ourselves to try and validate where we are, and this is where that whole thing about comparing comes in so much easier to do now with social media, et cetera. When I first started, you know, working years and years ago, we didn't have social media. I got, I was faxing things left right. And center then. So it shows you how old I was, how old I am rather. But, but now we have social media. It's so easy to compare and what I tend to find happens.

Michelle (15:10): And I certainly find this with my coaching clients is that we tend to compare what's going on kind of onstage for us, what I call onstage with other people's behind the scenes. And this is something that pastor Steve Furtick talks about a lot. And it's that kind of feeling of, you know, they're so much better than me, but really we're not seeing all the hard work on the years of preparation and experience that's gone on behind the scenes. So we kind of, you know, make it really hard for ourselves if you like, we kind of let the inner judge and jury for ourselves, but you know, we're not allowing any kind of proper fair trial. So this is one of the things that's going on with self-doubt is this comparison is expectation. And it's also about fear. You know, I think as creatives, um, it's quite scary putting our stuff out there in the world, right?

Michelle (15:58): You just, you don't know how people are gonna react to it. What are they gonna think? You know, all these, what ifs come up and, you know, our negativity can kind of spiral down. So we start, you know, stop seeing the exciting possibilities and start seeing all those negatives. And this is definitely what happens in this, all in this process of going through this, this messy middle. So our survival brain kind of kicks in and says, you know, this could be really dangerous. You know, it's all back from the days when we were cave men and women, and there was a saber too, we didn't return her text me. Yeah, exactly. Right. It's just now the tigers out there on social media trolling us. No, we think that's going to happen. I mean, most people don't really care about what we're doing, you know, they just move on, but we have this inner sort of self-doubt.

Michelle (16:46): And so, you know, we, we tend to, that leads us to justifying why it's not the right time for us to do this thing. Aren't we so good at justifying quitting, you know, and it's procrastination, it's indecision, it's perfectionism, you know, you mentioned journaling. I think it's a great tool to help us to, to really unpack what's going on in our minds. But I have another little tool if I may, that might really help your listeners. It's called the steel model, S T E a R. And I use this with all my coaching clients and we also teach it in the reboot, your life course on the, on our, on the, this is my era Academy, really simple tool that anybody can use. So when you are stuck in that messy middle, when that self-doubt and fear kicks in, you start at the top with the S and you see, okay, what is the situation?

Michelle (17:32): What's really the situation that it just facts. Very, very simple facts. So maybe the situation is I'm trying to write a book and you know, I'm just stuck, or I need to release this YouTube video, but I haven't done it yet. So really simple facts. Let me move down to the T part of the model. And the T is the really important part. It's the thoughts. So the thought about the situation, you know, our thoughts create our reality. They really do. So it's the thoughts that we have about the situation and the story that our mind makes up about the situation that leads us to the next line. So when we're journaling, like what are all these thoughts while I'm thinking nobody's going to watch this video, nobody's going to read this book. I don't know if I like chapter five. You know, I don't think my vocabulary is good enough, whatever it might be.

Michelle (18:20): I was never good enough at school. You know, this stuff comes up and then that leads very naturally onto the easy part of the model, which is the emotions. So our thoughts create our emotions and our emotions are energy and motion. So we feel them in our body really strongly you not ask anyone, who's waiting in line to go on a rollercoaster, how their tummy feels. They haven't even got on it yet. Right. But this is emotion, it's energy, emotion. And we feel it in our bodies. And that emotion leads us to take action, which is the, a part of the model. So then we're journaling out, okay, what am I emotions? What actions am I taking as a result of those emotions? Or really important? What inactions, because inaction is still an action because it's a choice that we're taking the action is the choice to do nothing.

Michelle (19:06): So what am I what's going on there on all of those things, the thoughts, the emotions, and the actions they lead to our results. So then we're going to journal out what actual result am I getting? What is probably I'm no further forward than I wanted to be. Yeah. So this is a great journaling tool. You just write S T E R down the side of your journal page and write all that stuff out. Now, probably people are listening and saying, that's great. You know, love that tool, but how do I actually get the results? So, one thing I love about this model so much, and it's based in cognitive behavioral therapy, which just as an aside, is the therapy that I personally myself had. I suffered from postnatal depression about 11 years ago when my daughter was born and I had therapy. And that kind of helped me as well as all the personal growth and development I did and becoming a coach, et cetera, brought me kind of to where I am today.

Michelle (19:57): So this model is based in that structural therapy. So you flip the model upside down, and this is where it gets really exciting. So then you turn the page on your journal and there's plenty of notes. Pages at the back of the list is my Aeroplan. I select people do this and you write step backwards down the side of your page. So you're going to start with the R, okay. So then you say, what result am I actually looking for? And this is something that any creative person can do. What result am I really looking for here? And then you journal that out. This is how it feels, this is how it's going to look. This is how it's going to smell or taste or whatever it is. You know, if you're a chef and you're struggling, then you might be, it might be a taste related a problem. And then you work back down. So you say, okay, what actions would I have to take in order to make that result happen? And then what emotions do I need to be feeling in my body to take those actions? And then what thoughts do I need to be thinking about myself, about my business, about my art, about my creativity in order to feel those emotions that will enable those actions in that result. So it's a really great journaling tool. So my gift to your listeners today, Mark.

Mark Stinson (21:08): Oh, very valuable. Thanks Michelle. I mean, the idea of the S T E a R I've heard that kind of breakdown before, but the idea of flipping it is really something new and different that, you know, you kind of say, yes, you have to turn the situation inside out and see if this were happening. What does it look like? Feel like and so forth. That's very strong, very strong.

Michelle (21:34): Yeah. And it's a great tool that any it's completely, you know, you don't need anything special to do it, just a sheet of paper and a pencil, and like, be really honest with yourself about kind of about, about what's going on. So, um, so yeah, it's a, it's a tool that I use myself. Um, and I encourage anyone to give it a go.

Mark Stinson (21:53): Yeah. Because as you think about goal setting, sometimes, you know, that's the very tangible type of goals or deliverables that we always talk about, but here we're, we're doing the inner work and the goal is really to maybe understand your emotions better, you know, and what thoughts are creating those emotions, as you said, very, very strong. So thanks for sharing that. Well, my guest is Michelle Reeves and she is with a great company called this is my era. They have an Academy, they have a coaching practice. And this planner we've been talking about now, Michelle, I was just scanning the website on this planner. You know, a lot of people say, I don't know if I want to commit to a 90 day book and buy a book before I really see it. And there's some good screen captures and so forth on the, on the web, but isn't there a way to try this planner before you really delve in and commit to the process. How does one do that?

Michelle (22:46): Yeah, absolutely. So we have a challenge on the website, so anyone can go try it out. The five day goal setting challenge, and you can sign up for it at, this is my and all you would do is kind of just pop your details in, and we will send you the pages of the planner and the step-by-step way to go through the whole goal setting process. So you can literally try before you buy. And we also do recognize, you know, one of the things that we're really aware of is, you know, planning is not unnatural thing to everybody. You know, my, my natural, um, kind of by way of being is to be organized. I've always been organized even as a child, I was into the notebooks and the pens, but not everybody's like that. You know, we recognize that. So we've also set up a Facebook group for our customers.

Michelle (23:34): We call our customer's goal getters that we have a Facebook group specifically for our goal getters who can kind of come and ask questions. I do a weekly Facebook live where walked through a planning session, uh, every week. So people can jump on and join me and we'll go through each step of the planner so that they can actually do their planning live with me if they'd like to. And then on Fridays, my colleague, Ruth, who's one of the co-founders of the company with her husband, Kuda Baeza. She does a really fun Facebook live on your successes. So we celebrate, I'll go get her successes at the end of each week. They can jump on, share what's been going on and we'll give them a, like a virtual high five, because at the end of the day, it's so important to celebrate our successes. You know, there's no point in having goals and doing all this great work. If we don't take a step back and say, Hey, you know, that that went really well for me. And that's a lesson that we can learn and we're very much, you know, want people to consolidate those learnings so that as they're moving forward, they're moving forward with intention based on results

Mark Stinson (24:37): And that you're seeing and celebrating that progress, you know, rather than just waiting to the end to say, Oh, look, it's done, but to celebrate each milestone along the way too.

Michelle (24:47): No, because it's all about motivation. You know, it can be quite easy to get when you're in the throws of a creative project, whatever it might be, you know, launching a podcast, or we talked before about, you know, a book or maybe it's even launching a company, you know, that's still quite a creative endeavor, right? It's a lot of hard work that goes into that. You know, I think one of the reasons that people contend to get to, to burn out and we've seen a lot of that this year, I think is people get overwhelmed because they're not taking the time to, to review very regularly and say, Hey, you know, I may not have got this, this and this done, but I did do this. And I learned how to do this, and I'm going to celebrate that. And so we're very much proponents of doing that and actually on our daily pages, uh, on the bottom of each double page, there's two sections that people can fill in every day, one's called my wins and accomplishments. So three things that you've accomplished for the day and then three key lessons that you've learned. So we we'd absolutely build that into the 90 day planning process.

Mark Stinson (25:50): Oh, fantastic. Well, Michelle Reeves, it's been such a pleasure talking with you and inspiration in and of itself, the conversation we've had. I appreciate it very much. And I think about our listeners who, you know, we want to publish, we want to post, we want to record a song, display our artwork, exhibit our photography, sell market, promote all the things that you think about around our creative work. And it just sounds so helpful sometimes to not just say, just do it, you know, it's, it might be motivating to say, just get in there and get that work done, but to be able to break it down, as you've described, got your 50,000 foot view goals, breaking it down into the 90 day, the monthly, the weekly and the daily task, very helpful. And I appreciate your sharing these tools with us.

Michelle (26:36): Hey, it's been my absolute pleasure being on the show. Thanks so much for inviting me, Mark

Mark Stinson (26:41): And listeners. I'll be sure to put in the show notes, links to the book, the planners at the Academy, this Facebook group, so many resources, you've got blogs, you've got podcasts. So, you know, anybody looking for more information on this kind of goal setting and tracking, creating a plan to really achieve our creative goals, but also unlock that potential is very empowering. And again, thanks for sharing it.

Michelle (27:08): Hey, it's been my pleasure. Thanks so much.

Mark Stinson (27:10): All right, listeners. Well, join me again for the next episode where we'll be unlocking your world of creativity. Today's travels have taken us to Cambridge England, but we'll continue our virtual trip around the world to talk to experts and creative talent from publishing and film and animation restaurants and medical research, all to get ideas on how to make connections, create opportunities to get creative work. And until next time, this is Mark Stetson.

Michelle (27:44): So there you have it. My interview with Mark Stinson on the unlocking your world of creativity podcast, we have the tools that I talked about. We'll use start using this week. Mark has had so many interesting guests and I highly recommend popping over to the show on Apple podcasts or connecting with And as always, you'll find all the links and details of today's show and all the other shows in this series at And Hey, if you did enjoy this episode, would you do me a favor? Would you head over to iTunes and leave me a comment and review it really does mean that more amazing people will be able to find the show. Okay, that's it for me today. Thanks so much for tuning in. I know your time is valuable and I really appreciate you taking the time to join me. I'd love to continue the conversation with you in the ideal life club, Facebook group, our community on Facebook for ambitious women who want to grow themselves as well as their businesses to find out more in doing this head over to In the meantime until next time, be positive, be powerful, be productive and keep fast-tracking your ideal life. Bye for now.