If your productivity has been suffering and you’re struggling to find the right combination of motivation and business systems to keep going, this episode is for you! Break free from your cycle of uncertainty and say hello to mindfulness and fulfillment in your work again with this simple process.
Today’s episode is chock-full of practical wisdom and advice to help you move forward with confidence in your life and business.
Becca Ribbing, author of The Clarity Journal joins me today to give you the four-step process to finding clarity and momentum in the midst of uncertainty so you can break out of the cycle of indecision that’s been holding you back.
WHEN YOU FINISH LISTENING TO THIS INTERVIEW, YOU’LL KNOW:
Be sure to grab a copy of Becca's Clarity Journal here!
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Courtney Elmer 0:00
Welcome back to The Systems Made Simple™ podcast. I’m your host, Courtney Elmer. This is episode 97 where we discuss productivity and how to have productive mornings. Have things felt unclear in your business lately? Have you been weighing some big decisions and can't for the life of you figure out which direction you need to go? If something within you just answered yes, then keep listening.
Today's episode is packed with practical wisdom to help you clear out the mind chatter so you can overcome the fear of choosing wrong and find the courage to finally move forward with confidence into your future.
Courtney Elmer 3:17
The other day I got an email from someone in my community who said, “I'm currently in the black hole of thinking about giving up my online business.” She went on to tell me, “I've been in business for four years, I have invested over $100,000 and countless hours. And I've only made a small percentage of that back. I'm tired. I'm tired of wasting time and money and my wellbeing.” She didn't come right out and say this, but reading between the lines, what I heard was, “I don't know what to do.”
I'm here to tell you that I have been here more times than I can count. In fact, this year has been a year where I have had to get quiet and listen — listen to what I want, to why the heck I'm even running a business in the first place, and listen to my community and what they're asking for. Sometimes when we get in business it is so easy to get caught up in the rat race and lose productivity. That’s a term used to describe a corporate lifestyle, and yeah, that definitely is a rat race. But so is entrepreneurship.
We can get so caught up in the marketing and the messaging and the ads and the things we think we need to do to have a successful business and lose sight of productivity. And when we get caught up in that noise, we lose sight of what our inner voice is saying. We can't hear it because of all the noise surrounding us. I found myself in a place in my business this year, where that was the case, and I had to get really quiet. It’s uncomfortable as heck; it’s so difficult to sit here in the silence, and listen. How do you know if these roadblocks that you're experiencing are trying to point you in a different direction? Or if they're saying turn around and give up on this journey altogether?
So this is why having these transparent conversations is so valuable for us as business owners, because the truth about being in business for yourself is that it often sucks. Nobody probably told you that when you got into business for yourself. I know nobody ever told me that. Or if they did, I didn't listen. But the truth is, it is not an easy road, I've wanted to throw in the towel more times than I can count. But there is a fine line between pushing through adversity versus pushing to make something work that truly isn't working, and to know the difference between the two.
Courtney Elmer 7:47
Lately, people are feeling discouraged. People are feeling disheartened. People are wondering if they should give up and lose out on all of that productivity. They're starting to lose hope. And if this is you, my hope is that today's episode will shed some light on your next steps forward. Which is why I'm grateful for the opportunity to introduce you to Becca Ribbing. She is the author of The Clarity Journal, and for over a decade, she has been helping people break out of the cycles of uncertainty and struggle that hold them back.
She's created this amazing step by step process to help you stop going back and forth in your head debating all of your options, and help you move forward decisively and with confidence and take back your productive mornings.
So in this episode, we are going to talk about how to recognize when what you're doing isn't working anymore, and what changes you may need to make to find fulfilment in your work again. We also talk about how to identify your greatest strengths and leverage them to get unstuck. And of course, she's going to give you her four step process to finding clarity and momentum in the midst of uncertainty, so you can break out of this cycle of indecision that's holding you back.
Becca, welcome to the Systems Made Simple Podcast™. I'm really excited you're here to talk about productivity tips.
Becca Ribbing 9:27
Thanks so much for having me. I'm looking forward to this conversation on productivity.
Courtney Elmer 9:31
Me too. The reason I wanted to bring you on the show today is because you are a specialist when it comes to helping people navigate through times of uncertainty in their business. Chances are, most of our listeners right now are probably dealing with some kind of uncertainty. Speaking personally, this summer was a huge season of uncertainty in my business. I felt stuck in a lot of ways because I didn't know what direction to go, I didn't have clarity on what the best options were. So I stayed stuck in the problem. It’s a tough place to be. So what do we do when we find ourselves in those seasons in business? I'd love to start by talking about something you call a pivot-point. What is that? How do we navigate through it?
Becca Ribbing 11:07
Yes. In order to gain and maintain clarity, it's important to recognize that sometimes we think that when we gain clarity, we are going to know what the right path is for the rest of our lives. I laugh, because we're all entrepreneurs, right? We have all of these options available to us as well as learning productivity tips. Yet, when we look at clarity, we're still looking at it from the framework of like our grandparents in the 1950s, where you pick a job, you stay in that job for 45 years, and you get a gold coin at the end of it and you retire and all is good.Sometimes we think of clarity like that, “I should gain clarity today and know what I'm going to do forever” — but that's just not possible.
We don't work that way. We're always constantly growing and experiencing new experiences. So in order to feel good about the clarity we've gained, it's important to recognize that that clarity is only going to last so long and so will your productivity. You're going to have pivot points along the way, where you're going to have to decide one way or another. It could be, my business isn't doing as well as I thought it would, so now I need to pivot in a different direction.
But a lot of times when we get stuck, we want to blow the whole thing up. We want to say that what we're doing right now is wrong, because it doesn't feel good. But I always caution people that it's because you're at this pivot point. That pivot point is making you uncomfortable, so you need to be mindful about what is making you uncomfortable during that period of time. Then, to go within and analyze it so you can take control of it and not let your feelings go in the wrong direction.
Courtney Elmer 14:04
Yeah, wow, this resonates so much with me, because I feel like this has been the space that I have personally been in my business for the past, I would say six months or so. And for those listening, if you've been listening for a while, you've probably heard me share our experience with COVID. Our family got that at the beginning of this summer. That was really a huge stopping point for me because I was forced to stop and focus on healing.
Fast forward from there, I have experienced uncertainty in the sense of not knowing what the best direction is to move forward from here. There were a few insights and tugs on my heart during this time where I felt pulled in a different direction. So it left me with the question of, where do I focus my time and attention within my business right now as it is, while changing what needs to change? But the fear of making the wrong choice can really keep you stuck. So how do we begin to be more introspective during these times of uncertainty? Let's pretend someone's listening right now, and they're in a place in their business where they're feeling like I felt over the summer — not knowing which option to move forward with and being worried about making a wrong decision. Where should they begin in terms of examining what's going on within? Where can they identify their productivity points.
Becca Ribbing 15:55
The first step is being mindful about the real problem. I laughed when you shared what your summer was like, not because it was funny, but because we've all been there. That's why I wrote The Clarity Journal, because I was at one of those points where I had two young kids, we’d just moved to a new city, and I ended up having to take a lot of time off. This went on for about a year when I wrote The Clarity Journal, because I was at this point where I’d cut down so much in my life and in my business just to try to survive, that I felt stuck. I didn't know which way to go. I was explaining all this to a friend of mine who said, “Becca, you're a coach, you help people through these decisions all the time. What would you tell yourself?”
It really got me thinking. So I started writing out every writing prompt, everything I'd ever asked a client, to help them get unstuck. As I was looking at all these prompts, and working through them myself, I realized that asking yourself these questions is so helpful. We’ve all read self help books galore, but we skip over the exercises — and we do ourselves a disservice when we do.
When you feel stuck, a clear answer isn’t going to come out of the stuck place. We have to get outside of that stuck place and look at things from a new perspective. These questions help you do that.
It’s also important during these times of stuckness to recognize your own strengths and what you're already doing well. It’s not about improving or fixing your weaknesses as it is about using your strengths. Often, I encounter people who don't have a solid understanding of their strengths. Your strengths are the things that come easy to you. This is really powerful for figuring out a path forward that’s authentic to you.
Courtney Elmer 21:08
I love the last piece you said about a path forward that's authentic to you. There are so many voices out there, and it's hard to tell sometimes which one is yours. It's even harder to know which one to listen to, or which one to follow, because some of them are stronger than others. I’ve found in my own experience, I first had to work on identifying which voice was mine, and second learning to listen for it.
And this thing about focusing on strengths. I’ve studied psychology and positive psychology in particular, where the main area of focus is not on fixing what’s “wrong” with you, but instead optimizing what you're already good at. What would be a great question someone could ask themselves to help them identify their strengths?
Becca Ribbing 22:41
When you have a strength that you're not aware of, you get annoyed at other people for not having it. If you're getting annoyed at someone for not doing something, it's because they don't have the strength that you have. But because you haven't valued that strength within yourself, you get annoyed that the other person doesn't have that strength, because it comes easy to you, so you assume it should come easy to everyone. That's one way to look at it. Another way is to think back to every moment in your life when you’ve been in real flow. Where you were crushing it and things were going great. Visualize what the scene was like — what were your specific actions? Because those were the moments where you were using your strengths to their fullest.
Courtney Elmer 24:11
When you shared that, I thought back to my roommate situation in college. I was always so frustrated about how messy the place was! I was like, “Really? You can’t just pick up a dish and put it in the dishwasher?!” I’m laughing now, but it’s because one of my strengths in life is organization and having a system and a process and productivity for everything, down to picking up your dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. So that is such a great point because I feel that we do, in a sense, get triggered by those who don't maybe have the same strength as us and therefore don't value that thing.
So can you take us through your clarity journaling process? What are the steps there to take to get clarity?
Becca Ribbing 25:42
First, you have to start with what's working and helping you with your productivity. When you're in that feeling of being stuck, if you don’t conscientiously acknowledge what is working, you have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In order to move forward strongly, you don't want to let go of the things that are going well — you want to cultivate more of those things.
Then we take a look at, what is the challenge you’re experiencing, specifically? The hard part about choosing between A, B, and C is that none of them are 100% clear answers. Each one might be a good option, they just might not be all good options for you. So you have to consider which one would be the most engaging path for you.
Becca Ribbing 26:01
After that, I help people evaluate their current friends and mentors and make sure they are solid. 200 years ago, our elders were so valued because they had the experience to be able to guide you — they’d had the life experience and could guide you one way or another. Now because we have Google, we tend to value information. But information isn't the same thing as experience. When you Google something, you might get 20 billion different answers on Google, but you’re not going to get experience. You can find other people's answers, but you don't have your own experience to be able to filter those answers and come up with a solution for you.
This is extremely important for entrepreneurs to acknowledge, because you may not necessarily have the experience you need to get to the next step. So finding people that are at that next step, and befriending them, and learning from them, can help you sift through the information and distill what you need that’s relevant to you and your path.
I have a wonderful question in The Clarity Journal that says, “Who do you envy and what does that tell you about yourself?” I love that, because our envy tells us what direction we want to go in. If we wanted to be a writer, we wouldn't envy every writer, we'd envy very specific writers who have a specific style or have a specific lifestyle that you really want. So it's important to recognize, you actually know a lot about what you want. Sometimes we're making ourselves smaller and holding ourselves back, because we don't know how to get it.
Courtney Elmer 31:29
So interesting. It sounds like going through this process and productivity that you've set up in The Clarity Journal is almost like holding up a mirror for yourself to help you see the things within you that you might not be seeing right now.
Becca Ribbing 32:44
Yeah, it is. When a business owner isn't 100% sure they're on the right path, they end up procrastinating, they end up not doing what they're supposed to do. And it's hard to have your own business and keep yourself on track when you don't have crystal clear clarity. If you don't have clarity, your brain naturally does not want to do work that might be wasted.
Courtney Elmer 33:48
Yea 100%. You are the visionary leader of your business. So if you are not leading your business, who is? If you are not clear on where you're leading your business, how is your business going to grow there?
Becca Ribbing 35:25
Yes, you are your business in many ways. For most of us as entrepreneurs, our business is our life purpose too. So the ebbs and flows are both business and personal. It’s important to honor both consistency as well as our ebbs and flows. So going back being mindful during these pivot points about what’s going on under the surface.
When you learn to meditate, they tell you to sit cross legged and breathe, but they also tell you to be mindful of what's going on within yourself. Notice everything, and then let it go.
As Westerners, oftentimes, we'll just skip to the end, and assume that in order to be centered, you need to let it all go. But it’s the mindfully noticing part that’s the key. Because when you mindfully notice and acknowledge, then you're not letting go by suppressing or ignoring how you feel. You're letting go by noticing and releasing it. So when I talk about mindful productivity, it’s important to notice where you tend to procrastinate. Notice where you're slowing down, and acknowledge it. Through the process of acknowledging it and noticing it, it really helps you get to the heart of the matter about what is and isn't working for you. Because if you just try to push through, you’re just gonna burn yourself out.
Courtney Elmer 40:48
Yeah. I feel like that really leads into this last question that I want to ask you, which is one that I ask each guest who comes on the show. It's fascinating, because there has never been two answers that are the same. What does it mean to you Becca, to live an EffortLESS Life®?
Becca Ribbing 41:10
To me, it means to recognize that struggling is not helping you. In school, and as children, we are taught to struggle. We’ve all had that experience of bringing home a report card and not getting celebrated for our A’s, but told we need to focus on and fix our B’s and C’s. That approach is demoralizing to kids, because it's always about the effort you haven’t made. It’s not about “Hey, I notice you’re struggling here, how can we help you?” So to me, effortless is when you notice your strengths and incorporate what is going to work authentically for you, instead of trying to use other people's roadmaps and push through the struggle.
Courtney Elmer 42:25
Really good stuff. Thank you so much for being here today to discuss productivity,, Becca! This was a fascinating conversation. For those listening, who are curious to connect with you and get a copy of your journal, where can they find you online?
Becca Ribbing 42:39
So The Clarity Journal is on Amazon, it’s really easy to find when you search for it. You can find me at beccaribbing.com.
Courtney Elmer 42:53
Awesome. We'll be sure to link to all that in the show notes. Becca, thank you again for sharing your wisdom with us today.
Becca Ribbing 42:59
Thank you so much for having me. This was a wonderful conversation.
Courtney Elmer 43:02
I hope what you heard today was valuable for you and that it offered you some small insight into your next step forward. Not your next 10 steps, not your next five steps. But your next small step that you can take today. Maybe that's to get quiet, and start listening. Maybe it's to carve out 10 minutes to brain dump and journal everything that's been in your head and get it out on paper.
Maybe it's to pick up a copy of Becca’s journal on Amazon. What is the one small step that you are going to take today? This has been the biggest thing for me in this season in my own business, when the decisions feel utterly overwhelming, and the analysis paralysis kicks in. What is the next right step? Again, not 10 things, just the next one.
Now, if you are not on my weekly email list, you are missing out, because each week I send out tools and templates and swipe files and spreadsheets that you can copy and paste right into your business to help you get more organized and streamline your workflows. So here's a next right step for you — head over to systemsmadesimple.co/email me … and I’ll even send you a copy of my four part email nurture sequence so you can save time on those weekly newsletters and deliver high value content to your email list week after week on autopilot. It's going to blow your mind how easy this system is to replicate and how much time it is going to save you on writing those weekly emails.
Courtney Elmer 44:02
Just head to systemsmadesimple.co/emailme and enter your info. It is that simple. Ah, see what I did there? Alright, so enough of the corny puns! Coming up next week on the show, we have a special guest who is going to hand you her repeatable process and productivity for getting clients and show you how to pre-sell potential clients before you sit down on a sales call with them so that you can increase your conversion rates into your courses or programs. So I'll see you back here next week. Until then, go live your EffortLESS Life®.
The Clarity Journal
Becca Ribbing is the author of The Clarity Journal and has been a coach for over a decade. She's on a mission to help people break out of the cycles of uncertainty and struggle that hold them back. She helps women going back and forth with the big, seemingly endless question of what to do next—so they can stop going around in circles and finally figure out what they truly want and create the clarity and momentum they crave. So many people find themselves stuck and unsure of their direction. Using journaling prompts and helping people become more honest with themselves, she moves her readers forward gently and empowers them to embrace their strengths while letting go of any negative self-talk that has held them back in the past. She's been on many podcasts, including "What to Read Next" and "Say Yes."