Entrepreneur Highlight: Implementing Simplicity to Boost Focus and Productivity

The first time I landed on Vanessa’s blog, Pursue Simple Joy, it only took about 5 seconds to realize how productive she is in her business! So I am thrilled to have her join me on the blog to share her insights and story with you all today!

Vanessa and her husband, Micah, are an inspiring resource for boosting focus and productivity through simplifying the unnecessaries.

Their blog is filled with thoughtful post-after-post about pursuing simplicity for a more joyful life. And it’s easy to see the benefits of their approach just by glimpsing at how much they get accomplished.

I was intrigued to learn more about Vanessa’s tips and methods for maintaining such high productivity levels, and I knew she was the perfect creative to invite on for my weekly Entrepreneur Highlight series.

This feature is jam-packed with so many easy-to-implement takeaways about running a small business.

For strategies that will supercharge your focus and productivity, keep reading.

Implementing Simplicity to Boost Focus and Productivity

It’s wonderful to have you join me today, Vanessa! Let’s jump right in!

Share Your Story:

Introduce yourself and your brand, Pursue Simple Joy!

Hello! My name is Vanessa! I started my first blog shortly after I graduated college in 2011 as a way to document my life while in the Air Force. This was before I knew anything about building a business with a blog!

My blog would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for my husband Micah. He has helped refine the mission and vision behind Pursue Simple Joy. It has evolved over the past few years, and I’m sure it will continue to grow even more over time.

We see too many people weighed down by various burdens that are within their control to remove or reduce. The heart behind Pursue Simple Joy is to empower others with the tools and encouragement to declutter their lives and break free from unnecessary complexity. We believe that your life unleashed is actually closer than you think, and our mission is to help people see that for themselves and bridge the gap.

Creative Entrepreneur Vanessa of Pursue Simple Joy

What does your business consist of?

Currently, our business consists of blog posts and freebies for joining our email newsletter that goes out once a week. I’m currently in the process of determining the right frequency of blog posts per week as well as the best time to send out a newsletter.

Our vision for our business consists of adding online courses (one is in the works now!), ebooks, a membership site, a podcast, a vlog, and ‘spin-off blogs for particular niches that tie in with Pursue Simple Joy. Now that my husband is an instrumental part of Pursue Simple Joy, we are beginning to scale what our goals are for our business. Eventually, we would love to host our own conference and do speaking gigs as well.

What led you to becoming a creative entrepreneur and blogger?

It’s funny, looking back on my life, I can see the tiniest of seeds being planted for becoming an entrepreneur. I used to make little jelly bracelets and keychains and sell them at recess when I was in elementary/middle school.

Once I learned that there were other ways of creating a living beside the typical 9-5, I knew that’s something I wanted to pursue. So when I learned that I could take my blog and turn it into a business to help others, I knew that I had found something worth doing.

I love thinking of new ways to share tips that will be beneficial for my readers, and Pursue Simple Joy (along with our podcast and vlog) will help share that knowledge to others.

How did you decide to pursue simplicity in your life and business?

This has been a slow process for me. I often overcomplicate things so this desire to live simply is counter to my current tendency. However, the more that I learn how to create simple systems (with the help of Micah), the easier it gets!

I believe that anyone can learn to live simply, it’s just a matter of putting your mind to it, not giving up, and being willing to change.

What’s the mission behind your brand?

We see too many people weighed down by various burdens that are within their control to remove or reduce. The heart behind Pursue Simple Joy is to empower others with the tools and encouragement to declutter their lives and break free from unnecessary complexity. We believe that your life unleashed is actually closer than you think, and our mission is to help people see that for themselves and bridge the gap.

What makes you passionate about what you do? And what do you love most about running Pursue Simple Joy?

Running our blog takes hard work, but knowing that what we are developing and sharing can be the key to unlocking a simpler lifestyle for someone makes every bit of effort worthwhile and meaningful. We know what it is like to battle with TONS of limiting beliefs about ourselves, our capabilities, and achieving life goals. We know that there are countless others who struggle with the same and this drives us to share what we are learning in order to help others overcome the same obstacles while also avoiding the mistakes we’ve made.

There is nothing glamorous or exclusive about our lives. We are starting from the bottom of the hill just like everyone else, and if we can do it, anyone can. We don’t promote some special, flashy formula to overnight success or the “Hakuna Matata” life. Pursuing simple joy requires clear focus and resilient persistence.

A Day in the Life:

Describe a typical workday.

Since I’m a stay at home mom to our 2 year old and currently pregnant with baby #2, my days HAVE to be flexible. I usually start off my day early which is hard because I love my sleep. However, in order to start my day off on the right foot, I need to have some time to myself before my son wakes up around 7 am. If your kids sleep later than that, count yourself blessed!

I usually wake up between 5:45-6am Monday-Friday, get dressed, make myself a cup of coffee, and get a glass of water. During this time I read my Bible and any devotional material I’m going through and pray for my day. This routine has become essential for me and it allows me some much needed alone time before the day gets going.

By the time my morning routine is complete, my son is usually up and ready for the day. I get him squared away and we have breakfast together. While I could eat breakfast by myself before he wakes up, this gives me time to enjoy with him every morning.

Sometimes after breakfast I’ll work on my blog, usually something that doesn’t require 100% concentration and focus because there’s a 100% chance I’ll be interrupted multiple times. Mornings are usually Social Media promotions/engagement, combing through emails, or responding to comments etc.

Late morning is when we eat lunch followed by my son’s nap time. When he goes down, that’s when productivity Golden Hour begins for me. It’s the time I have specifically set aside to fully devote on those items that require my full focus and attention. I’m usually working on a new blog post, editing, or putting together my email newsletter. I normally try to squeeze in some planning as well.

Once TJ is up from his nap, I hold off on touching anything blog or business related until after he goes down for the night. I like devoting the afternoon/early evening to spending time with my family. After we put our son to bed, Micah and I work on stuff for the business. Micah is my editor and we like brainstorming together. This is also the time we work on projects like our course that is under development.

Every night before I go to bed I write out 3-5 priorities for the next day so I can stay on track.

Things are going to adjust and change once baby #2 makes her arrival, but that’s the cycle of life. Change and adapting to each season that comes along.

How has simplifying helped with running and growing your business?

Simplifying has been absolutely essential, especially at this point in our life with little ones and a busy family life. Cutting out the extras has helped me focus on what is going to help me get to the next goal and items on our to-do list.

I have to ask myself, “Is this moving me forward? Am I going to regret this decision later (in terms of how I spend my time)?”

Simplifying has helped us avoid getting bogged down on the details that don’t matter!

In what ways has blogging been a crucial part of your brand?

Blogging is what kicked off our brand, and it is currently the backbone. Our blog is what we consider our hub, and it’s where we want to draw our audience back to. Our blog might look different in the years to come as we add other spokes to our “wheel.” For now, our blog is the heartbeat and without it, our brand wouldn’t exist.

What are some of the tasks you tackle on a routine basis?

The biggest task that I tackle on a routine basis is creating new content and editing old content. I’m constantly going back in our archives and tweaking old posts that need a new breath of life, updating images (Micah does most, if not all of our graphics and design), as well as coming up with ways to re-purpose it or create new opt-ins.

Do you have any favorite tools and must-haves that help you run Pursue Simple Joy?

Wow, where to begin! I’ll keep this list brief for the sake of time, but I’d say my top 3 are Tailwind (referral link) for Pinterest and Instagram scheduling, MailerLite (referral link) for my email marketing which is very affordable and easy to use, Trello (referral link) is what I use as my braindump station. I keep everything from my personal life to my business on Trello. In addition to Google Drive and my paper planner, I’d be completely lost without an anchor.

I love your meal-planning blog posts! What are some ways meal-planning can transform an entrepreneur’s productivity and ability to focus?

I love meal planning so much that I could talk for days about it! In fact, Micah and I are developing a comprehensive course on the topic.

Meal planning has been essential in helping simplify my daily rhythm, enabling me to focus more on business and personal tasks. It is such a relief knowing that I already have dinner (and other meals) planned out instead of spending a lot of time and energy drumming up meals last-minute for the day or week. Meal planning has helped save me from decision fatigue and free up that mental space to invest in other tasks.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you more than likely work from home. It’s easy to get distracted by what’s around you. Having a meal plan established is one big practice to help you stay focused on the task at hand and not have that nagging “ugh, what’s for dinner tonight” question in the back of your mind.

Business Tips + Takeaways:

How does simplicity increase productivity and focus in your business?

Simplicity maximizes the brain space and time you have available each day to get things done! Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re lacking or without. It just means you cut out a lot of fluff that doesn’t add value to your life or align with your goals. Whether it’s planning out errands for the week with my toddler or working on my next blog post, establishing and consistently leveraging simple systems in my business and personal life increases my daily productivity and focus.

For creative entrepreneurs wanting to simplify, what are some great ways to start?

The first step I took to really buckle down and get down to business was conduct a time audit for my day. I did this for 7 days (more leniency on the weekend) to see how I was spending my time and what I was spending my time on.

Each week might be different depending on the appointments you have etc, but try to pick a week that’s pretty “normal” for you and your day-to-day rhythm.

Take note of your normal routine. When do you wake up? How long does it take you to get ready for the day? Are you spending 30 mins scrolling on Instagram while you’re in the bathroom when you could be done and in 5? (Ask me how I know about this :P)

Take note of EVERYTHING! Some people even download different apps or browser extensions on their phones and computers to tell them how much time they’re spending on social media.

You’ll be surprised how much time you actually have in a day when you realize the amount of time you’re spending on your phone and getting distracted by all of the beeps and dings.

After your week is done, check out how much time you spent on your phone and laptop doing NON-work related things. Be brutally honest with yourself. If you find that you’re justifying your actions, you’re more than likely spending way too much time in the black hole of social media, email, youtube etc.

See if you can streamline your processes by getting ready for the next day the night before. This has been a game changer for me in many ways. I leave out my clothes for the next day, and I plan what to make for breakfast. I also have a general plan for lunch and dinner thanks to my meal plan.

Write out your top 3 Must Do’s for the next day and any appointments you have, whether that’s on a sticky note or in your planner.

I could talk about this stuff all day, so feel free to reach out to me if you need help in this area!

What tips do you have for growing and running a small business?

I have definitely learned a lot the HARD way when it comes to the dos and don’ts. First off, it is okay to pivot your vision and focus as you develop your business. Mine has evolved over the past 3 years as I’ve continued identifying, evaluating, and refining what I really enjoy doing, teaching, and writing about.

It may sound cliché, but you absolutely need to establish the WHY of your business. Simon Sinek’s book, “Start with Why” is an excellent read and really helped my husband and I to hone the purpose and core values of our business. You can find Sinek’s TED talk on YouTube that provides a condensed version of the concept. Identifying your WHY is a huge step that we highly recommend. We constantly go back to it so we have an anchor for our business. It also helps us to determine what we need/want to add to our business, whether it’s a sponsored post or brand collaboration. If it doesn’t fit into our Why, then we pass on it.

For more practical tips, I would really focus on growing your email list and creating stellar content. I wish I had focused on both of those FIRST before chasing after all of the shiny objects that blogging and being an internet based entrepreneur has to offer. Social media needs to be utilized FOR you, not against you. It is too easy to waste a lot of time scrolling Pinterest instead of using it to your benefit.

Establishing an email list is something that you own. You don’t own social media, and the powers that be can delete your profile and following with zero warning (it happens).

Also, GIVE GIVE GIVE. Give to your audience, be genuine, and authentic. People can read right through those that are only online to make money and not to help people!

And “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” (Jon Acuff). Seriously, comparison is the thief of joy. No matter how many different entrepreneurs you talk to, every single one is going to have a different story of how they got to where they are now and where they are headed. Focus on being better than YOU were the day before. Don’t compare yourself or your business to anyone else.

How do you stay productive and motivated?

Everything goes back to our WHY. Remembering our why and our family goals sparks us to build our business with a solid foundation. It’s not about getting rich quick. It has taken a lot of sweat and tears (and maybe a papercut or two) to get us to where we are now. We still have a LONG way to go, but knowing that all of the hard work we’re putting in now is going to pay off in the end makes it all worthwhile. It’s also energizing to hear from readers who are encouraged by our work. I love getting emails, comments or messages from them saying how much they appreciated a certain post on the blog or social media. I save those and keep them in a special folder to refer back to when I’m feeling down in the dumps.

On a practical note, I really have to remove distractions because I am EASILY distracted. There have been times where I’ve completely disconnected from WiFi and only write on a Google doc or Word doc. I turn off all notifications on my phone, put it on silent, and flip it over so I don’t see the screen.

You gotta do what you gotta do!

What are your best tips for staying focused on the goals and direction you set for your brand?

As I’ve mentioned before, I think really crafting your WHY will help anchor you and your brand. Additionally, who is your target audience? There’s a lot of debate over the niche vs no niche topic. I think it really depends on what your goals are for your brand/business. Personally, I think knowing WHO you’re talking to, your avatar, is more important than a niche. Really get into the head of your target audience. Know what they’re thinking about, their hobbies, their past, their wishes and goals. That might sound hokey, but I promise you that’s how you get those emails “Wow, it’s like you’re talking right to me!” That’s how you build a loyal following. I wish I could remember who said this, but I remember seeing a quote early in my entrepreneurial journey that goes something like this: “Writing to everyone means you’re writing to no one.”

Picture the person you’re writing to every time you write an email, social media post, blog post, webinar script etc. Remember your WHY. These will serve as your compass as long as keep them in mind.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned along the way?

I’ve learned many, many lessons along the way, and I learn even more every day! I think one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned (and one that I regret not doing sooner) is focusing on my email list and writing stellar content early on. At first, I was just focused on writing 3 posts a week. I didn’t care really how well they were written, and I didn’t have a target audience or a WHY in place. I was writing to please everyone, and I saw very little return for my investment. Focus on building your email list, and establish your WHY and target audience early on and then you’ll be golden.

Also, realize that it’s ok to alter your WHY and even your avatar. As long as you are staying consistent in that new endeavour, it’s OK to change. Just avoid changing every month! I haven’t changed my avatar, but my WHY has changed since I’ve started (and it’s changed for the better!).

The next biggest lesson is fight against “shiny object syndrome.” It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the new programs and flashy courses that come out. Make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew if you’re going to learn something new. Yes, learning new things is important in this line of work. I’m a huge fan of personal development, but you also have to go back to what is building you and your business up and what’s taking away. If you’re going to add a new course to your list or you have to set aside time to learn a new program, remember that it will be taking you away from something else. What are you willing to sacrifice temporarily in order to learn something new?

This is still a hard one for me because I love learning #allofthethings!

What advice do you have for someone hoping to start a business doing what they love?

I know I’m sounding like a broken record here, but really focus on your WHY and realize that it’s going to take a lot of time investment. Eventually, you will also need to invest money into your business, even if you don’t see that return just yet. It’s an investment and labor of love! With that in mind, don’t go spending your money on #allofthethings just because you see a fancy Facebook ad that tells you you need it! Ask a trusted friend in the industry for their advice on whether they think it’s worth it for the time being. It might very well be a “not yet” purchase.

Don’t compare yourself to others, just focus on being better than you were when you started.

Goals + New Things:

What’s one or two things you are really working towards or working on with your brand?

We are currently working on our very first paid product and course! We’ve had to push the launch date because of various things, but we’re still able to work on it in addition to our other tasks to keep the business running. We also have an ongoing project of updating our old posts and reorganizing categories etc. Our next BIG goal after our course launch in the Spring is to start our Vlog or Podcast so stay tuned ;)

What’s in store with Pursue Simple Joy? Do you have any new or exciting things in the works you’d like to share with us?

The NEXT thing to keep your eye open for is our Meal Planning Masterclass that will launch in the Spring/Summer! We can’t wait to share it with you. It’s jam packed with tons of practical tips and useful information, plus it’s a lifetime access course that will get updated with time, so you’ll get to see all of those changes and updates first hand!

We have lots of ideas for the future, to include our Podcast and Vlog. Additionally, I have several e-book and other course ideas that we’d love to launch in the future! So you’ll definitely want to stick around for the exciting future of Pursue Simple Joy!

Stay in Touch:

Where are the best places to follow you and stay in touch?

The best place to get in touch with me besides my blog is either Facebook or Instagram!

The Blog: Pursue Simple Joy
Facebook Page: Pursue Simple Joy
Instagram: Pursue Simple Joy
Twitter: Pursue Simple Joy
Pinterest: Pursue Simple Joy

Vanessa, thank you for sharing your business and blogging story and for all of these lovely tips! It was a joy to have you!

Have you considered implementing simplicity into your business? Are there ways you can hone-in and focus on what matters most so you can reach your goals more productively?

Where do you struggle the most with simplifying? What are your favorite tips for simplifying? Leave a comment below!

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