(Looking for some background on the Creative Heroes series? Check out my intro post HERE!)
Today’s Creative Hero is so exciting to me because I’m such a HUGE fan of her work. I can tell you, without a doubt, not ifs-ands-or-buts, if it wasn’t for Jennifer Lee and the Right-Brain Business Plan, there would be no Creative + Mindful. And I would most likely be very unhappy, in an unrewarding corporate job, and not using my creative skills to do more than make paperclip sculptures at my desk.
I took a couple of mental health days from my job in January 2012 to (virtually) participate in the Creative Live broadcast of her flagship RBBP class and the rest is history.
I’ve included her full, official bio at the end of the interview, but, in my own words, Jenn is an amazing creative coach and the author of the best-selling book The Right-Brain Business Plan. She paints, teaches fun classes and brings a delightful sense of grace to everything she does.
Also, fun trivia fact… She didn’t invent selfies but she was the first person to use the selfie hashtag on Instagram in 2011!
C+M: You are such an inspiration to me! Back in 2012 I participated in your Creative Live broadcast of the Right-Brain Business Plan. I credit the work I did at that time with enabling me to move toward quitting my FT corporate job in 2015.
Jenn: Oh, thanks so much for your kind words and I’m absolutely delighted that the Right-Brain Business Plan played a role in helping you quit your full-time job. Congrats!!
C+M: You left corporate 10 years ago and have accomplished so many amazing things – a coaching practice, developing a number of major products/programs, a licensing program for your flagship products, teaching classes, running the popular Right-Brainers in Business Summit, creating an online community, etc. Is there a typical day or week for you? If so, what does it look like?
Jenn: As for a typical day/week for me, I tend to batch my work by my energy flow. That means that my Mondays and Wednesdays are my more outward facing days when I have client calls or meetings. Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to be more inward facing days when I work on my own projects, plan, or even take a quick trip to my studio.
Fridays are my self-care days when I block off time just for me. I don’t take calls or do meetings and I try to limit my time online as I head into the weekend. On my self-care days I like to go to my studio for a few hours to paint and to take my dog on a long walk near the San Francisco Bay.
C+M: Do you have any rituals for starting or ending your day?
Jenn: I start my day by journaling and then doing a 15-20 minute seated meditation and some gentle movement like stretching or yoga. I don’t consider myself a morning person but in the past couple of years as I’ve focused more on my health and wellbeing I’ve been making an effort to have a more consistent morning practice.
I don’t have any evening rituals except maybe reading a bit before I go to sleep. If I’m going through a particularly challenging time I will write at least 3 things I’m grateful for.
C+M: I know you are very organized and you use big monthly wall calendars to plot out projects and deadlines for the quarter/year. You also have a virtual assistant who helps manage things. Do you have additional strategies or methods that you use to help manage your schedule?
Jenn: My team and I use the project management tool asana to plan out, assign, and track tasks by project. I don’t know how we managed before without it! I also love using my Google calendar to block out time to do work and honor self-care. It helps me keep on top of my schedule.
C+M: I recently had a discussion with a fellow artist about our ability to make time for the things we WANT to do, no matter how busy we are. (because we often use the excuse “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” to stand in our way or to avoid things we aren’t really committed to) Do you have any thoughts or wisdom you’d like to share about this idea?
Jenn: I agree with you that we WILL make time for the things we WANT to do. It’s similar to when people say they don’t have enough money for one thing but they seem to be able to find enough to treat themselves to another thing. Most times the excuses don’t tell what’s going on underneath the surface.
Some clues that there might be a misalignment include if you notice you’re feeling resentful, tired, dissatisfied, etc. Then it’s a good time to evaluate if you’re honoring your core values or are you short changing yourself through unconscious choices? I admit I’ve said that I’m too busy to go to my studio, but then I get resentful that I haven’t had creative time, so then I make adjustments and get my butt to the studio.
The other thing that can help is noticing when you’ve got unreasonable expectations of yourself. For example I fantasize about how cool it would be to spend the entire day painting at my studio and feel guilty when I don’t. But in reality I know that it’s actually draining for me to be out all day, so really just a few hours hits the spot and I can recalibrate my expectations.
C+M: Working artists and creative entrepreneurs – as well as creative people who have other jobs to pay the bills – often have to balance non-creative stuff (marketing, invoicing, shipping, social media, going to a 9-5 job, etc.) with time to actually make stuff. Family obligations also get piled on. Do you have any suggestions or best practices for people who are trying to deal with that balancing act?
Jenn: I find it helpful to block off time for the admin stuff versus the creating/making stuff. They each have a very different energy and I can find it difficult to switch back and forth between the two. Also, identify things that you can delegate to others.
Sure, it may feel like too big of an expense but it’s really an investment in your own creative time, productivity and profitability. That way you can focus on your strengths and the things that are income generating.
C+M: One of the things I teach in my Time Management for Creative Peeps class is about 3 common enemies of creative productivity: over commitment, disorganization and procrastination. Have you ever had any challenges with these? If so, what was your solution?
Jenn: Ha! I can relate to all 3! As someone with an ambitious streak I have been guilty of overcommitting to too many events, projects, and such. In 2015 I consciously cut back on my commitments and in 2016 I delegated even more.
I can also be disorganized at times. I tend to create systems and don’t stick to them so my documents and files can get messy. I recently hired an online business manager and she and my virtual assistant are helping to better organize our process documentation and back-end data.
And yes, I can procrastinate. Some things that help mitigate that are having external deadlines. When people are waiting on something from me by a particular date, I do a better job at getting it done than if it’s just for myself. Also I’ve been learning not to beat myself up about procrastinating because part of my creative process to keep things open ended for as long as I can.
C+M: Do you have any productivity strategies that have been helpful for you during really busy times or times when you have non-inspiring work to accomplish?
Jenn: I say “no” to as much as I can so that I can focus on my main priority. When I was writing my books I used software that would block social media sites and other distractions so I could concentrate on my work for an hour or two at a time.
I try to take short breaks like sitting outside in my backyard or cuddling on the couch with my pooch. I also love to reward myself by going to my studio after I finish a big task.
C+M: Anything else you would be willing to share with Creative + Mindful readers about time management, productivity, mindfulness, or creativity?
Jenn: Cultivating mindfulness will help you in all these other areas – time management , productivity, creativity and more. When you’re more aware about your reactions to things in the moment and you can make more conscious choices that are in alignment with your values and vision.
Meditation and creating more spaciousness in my life has been one way that I’ve been building this muscle and my intuitive painting practice has been a powerful way to combine mindfulness and creativity together. It’s helped me listen to and trust my intuition even more.
Jenn’s official bio: Jennifer Lee is the founder of Artizen Coaching and the author of Building Your Business the Right-Brain Way and the bestseller The Right-Brain Business Plan, which has helped tens of thousands of entrepreneurs around the world launch their creative businesses.
Before pursuing her own passions full-time, she consulted for ten years for Fortune 500 companies such as Gap Inc., Accenture, and HP, helping leaders and organizations manage change. As a director of executive development for Gap Inc., she led onboarding and coaching programs for those at the level of vice president and above. She grew her coaching business in her spare time, and in 2006 Jennifer made the courageous leap from corporate America to living the life of her dreams.
Jennifer has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report, Entrepreneur, Whole Living, Family Circle, and Cloth Paper Scissors Studios; in several books; on numerous radio shows; and on ABC7 TV. She has also partnered with Levenger to develop the Right Brain Business Plan Circa Notebook.
￼Jennifer holds a BA in communication studies from UCLA and an MA in communication management from USC. Things that light her up include getting lost in a good book, indulging in a midday nap, painting up a storm, and hiking in the woods. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her creative, rather left-brain husband and their sweet husky-Lab mix.
For creative inspiration and more information on Jennifer’s programs and products visit rightbrainbusinessplan.com.
An ENORMOUS thank you to Jenn – not just for taking time out to answer my questions – but also for putting her creative talents out in the world for people like me to discover.
If you’re just getting started on a creative business, or are thinking about starting one, I HIGHLY recommend reading Jenn’s books and doing the activities she has developed. I’m not exaggerating when I say they are a game-changer.
(Spoiler-alert, shameless plug coming…)
I am licensed to teach Jenn’s Right-Brain Business Plan workshop. If you’d like to learn more about creating your own Right-Brain Business Plan with me, please check out my RBBP FAQs page!
Want more Jennifer Lee? Visit her on social media:
Facebook: RBBP Facebook Fan Page
Instagram: @jennlee (please note two n’s)