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I can only do my best today.

I can only do my best today.” These are powerful words – and they’re my daily mantra, regardless of what kind of day I’m having.

They originally stemmed from a very stressful time in my life, several, really, each time my parents were in hospital after suffering a stroke. That feeling of lack of control over the situation, paired with knowing I needed to keep my business alive through the months in hospital with them supporting them during rehab – I needed something to ground and centre myself. One day I said to myself “I can only do my best today. If that means that I don’t get anything done on my to do list other than being here for my parent, then that’s what I’m doing today, and I’m going to do that the best I can, with the best attitude that I can.” I instantly felt a weight off my shoulders. I had released myself from my internal struggle with guilt that I couldn’t do anything about what was happening. It helped me feel as though I had some control over the situation by making a decision to not be so hard on myself, and not feel as though I had to do it all. Sometimes my “best” meant that I needed to be in my office working, instead of at the hospital, and the guilt I felt that I wasn’t with them – even though my sister was there – was really hard, but I knew I could only do my best. Those days, my best meant I needed to work to keep up with my responsibilities to my clients.

They’re words I often say to myself even now, if I’m feeling overwhelmed or struggling with something that I don’t feel is going as well as it “should”. Balancing work and life, a to-do list that’s gotten out of control, or even something as simple as working out. Maybe yesterday I felt I had more energy than today, and I’m starting to feel like what I’m doing isn’t good enough, because I’m comparing it to yesterday. It’s my reminder to focus on where I am right now, because I’m still doing my best today.

I made this graphic for my desktop, and I make sure that none of my browser windows cover it (the desktop version has the text on the far right), so I can remind myself that as long as I’m doing my best today – I should still be proud of myself. If you’re doing the best you can today, regardless of yesterday or the day before, you should be proud of yourself too.

What’s your daily mantra? What helps you get through those tough days when overwhelm sets in?

I can only do my best today. (kbarlowdesign)

7 ways to be more productive during even your most unfocused work days

7 ways to be more productive even during your most unfocused work days

We’ve all been there, our to do list is out of control, now to the point where it just feels overwhelming and impossible. So much so, that you can’t even fathom tackling one item on it, so you put it off, and in turn, end up ending the day feeling unproductive and not great.

We know everything is on that to do list for a reason – it needs to get done, right?
Okay, let’s buckle down and get to it. You can do it, I promise.

  1. Priorities. Take a look at each item on your to do list. Obviously some are going to have a higher priority than others, especially ones with deadlines (like RRSP season!). Highlight the ones that have to be done today in pink. Not the ones you “want” to get done, the ones that have to get done.
  2. Eventually. Look at the ones that have been dutifully copied over every week (or day/month, depending on how you organize your to do list), the ones that don’t have a hard deadline, but still need to get done eventually. Put them in their own list, and stop feeling guilty about them. They’re not the priority – they’re not the ones stressing you out right now.
  3. Eat the frog. Let’s go back to the pink/urgent ones. Find the one that will take the least amount of time, suck it up, and do it. Get that first task done. Bonus points if it’s also the most important. (I’ll bet it’s calling to make an appointment for something! It takes less than 5 minutes, and doing it will make you feel so much relief! Do it!)
  4. Mix it up. Congrats, you ate the frog! How’d that feel? Pretty good, right? Maybe not enough to tackle the next most important item on your list, though. Maybe that one will take a bit longer to get done than simply making a phone call, so break it down into 15 minute increments. Do something else for 15 minutes, and then come back and do another 15 minutes. It might seem counterproductive to keep switching things up, but when you’re truly unfocused, and you know there’s no chance you’ll actually be able to sit down and complete the task, there’s no point in wasting time trying. Committing to small chunks at a time is motivating, knowing there’s a set time on a task you’re not digging, and most tasks take less time than you think they will too.
  5. Break it down. Let’s assume you’ve done that first chunk of priority #2, and you need to take your break from it (only 15 minutes!). What else is on your list that you can break down into tasks to complete over the next few time increments or days if it’s less deadline specific? Spend the next 15 minutes organizing your list and making a plan. (Just don’t get caught up in re-organizing the list and never actually completing anything on the list… guilty!) 
  6. Done is better than perfect. Love this quote. Obviously do your best when you can, but don’t let it stop you from completing (or starting!) a task. You can go back and revise whatever it is later if you need to (in most cases), but don’t let “perfect” prevent you from making progress. Get started. Take action.
  7. Suck it up. Yup, no sugar coating it. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it. Being an adult is tough – but there will always be things that need to get done that you don’t want to do. Sometimes you just have to tell yourself to suck it up, get it done, and then eat ice cream for dinner… because there are perks to being an adult too!

I’m as guilty as the next person for procrastination, but these tools have absolutely helped me to get things done that have plagued me for weeks on my to do list.

If you enjoyed these tips, feel free to share them – help some other poor soul that’s procrastinating on social media to get started on their own to do list!

FITC and the Definition of Insanity.

FITC and the Definition of Insanity

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”*

While this may not apply to every situation in life, I think it can be applied to (aspects of) running a business pretty well. It is important to be consistent with things to see results, but after a while, when the results have plateaued – it’s probably time to shake things up.

When what used to work has stopped, continuing to do the same things and getting the same results, does become a little bit crazy… and will drive you crazy! A big part of running a business is being able to roll with the punches and change what’s stopped working, even if it’s a minor tweak.

How FITC fits in: FITC is a design and technology conference I’ve had the privilege of being able to attend in the past. One of the hardest parts of running a business is carving out time for learning, and taking the time to assess where tweaks can be made to stay out of that insanity cycle. It’s so easy to get caught up in getting all the client work done and never taking time to work on your own business improvements, skills, and what’s new in technology and trending! I would absolutely love to be able to carve out three days in my schedule for exactly that. Learning, improving, networking, and sparking new ideas!

Tips for avoiding getting stuck in a cycle that’s going nowhere fast:

  • take a look at all aspects of your business; admin/finances, marketing, customer service, and compare where things are to where they were last year – note any changes
  • where things have slowed/paused, list what changes/tweaks you could make to that area that might help, pick the one that seems like the best option
  • make sure that what you’re doing in your business is measurable and trackable so you can start to figure out what the tip offs are so your tweaks and changes are more likely to help the area you’re having trouble with.
    • for example: you’re not seeing any new followers on social media
    • how often have you been posting?
      • tweak/improve: could you post more often?
    • are you posting to/for your ideal client?
      • tweak/improve: do you know who your ideal client is?
    • where else on social media are you posting the same message?
      • tweak/improve: is your ideal client using that type of social media?
  • stick with it! if you aren’t consistent, you won’t get your measurable results!
    • reward yourself for getting it done! (blog post written = second cuppa coffee!)
    • set a time in your calendar every day for that task, make sure it doesn’t take up too much time, or it will be easy to put off (guilty!)
  • find conferences (like FITC) that match your interests, industry and skills that will help you get out of your office, out of your head, meet new people, and mix things up!


* This quote is often credited to Albert Einstein, however it’s not been confirmed.


It’s been a busy five months!

Looks beautiful and serene, doesn’t it? Nope. This photo is one of many that represents our fighting with beavers up north.


Unfortunately, they’re doing a lot of damage to the property and risking flooding the road, so we’re required to get them to move on to a different location. This took several months to sort out. We haven’t checked on it in a few weeks. I’m afraid of what we might find, but it’s going to have to happen sooner rather than later. Cross your fingers for me. As a bonus, we did get some really beautiful fall colours to look at while we ripped apart the dam for the 100th time… and we found a really fantastic chip truck nearby.


We got some fishing in, some days more successful than others…


Hallowe’en included pumpkin carving and running out of candy at 7pm… (we had 150 kids in less than 3 hours!)

Along with the holidays comes lots of baking, which I absolutely love. I made our usual family favourites, carrot pudding (shown pre-mixed below), gingerbread, whipped shortbread, fudge, and this year I made pretzel brittle which was a huuuuuge hit!



Woodland Trail Studio was so busy this holiday season, I didn’t even have time to update the website! Our Instagram usually has in progress and finished pieces, so check that out for the latest there, and the website will get updated eventually!


Design: Why less is more.


I love a minimal look. I have an awesome poster that came in the mail from Veer several years ago that has a quote under it that reads:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
– Antoine De Saint-Exupery

I think it says a lot. It’s easy to look at a design and think “I need to add more, it’s not right just yet”, when really – simplifying the design is what will make the message clear. That’s what design is – it’s communicating a clear message (in a beautiful way).

A minimal website design:

  • allows enough space for the message to make the most impact
  • helps to create a clear path for your visitors to take (right to those call-to-actions!)
  • focuses on the hierarchy of information – highlighting the most important information first
  • looks more professional – too much happening can imply disorganization, scattered direction, and a lack of focus

Keep your focus your message clearly, keep your design elements purposeful, and you’ll see a big impact in your credibility!

P.S. I really liked that the poster also says “studio sweet studio”,  and started to recreate in cross-stitch, but ended up in my pile of “to be completed” crafts – oops!

Resetting in the New Year!


Yes! That’s right, I said New Year, even though we’re more than halfway through the first month!

Here’s the secret – it doesn’t matter what day it is! Any day you take the time to look at your goals and your business, is a great day to do it! Waiting for a specific day isn’t going to do you any favours. Get it done!

What you should be considering:

  • What needs to get updated?
    • If you’re like me, you probably took notes about things to update eventually. These would include things like your contract, your invoices, spreadsheets, fine print on your website – small, quick changes.
  • What did I learn from last year?
    • Good and bad here. While I like to frequently look at what I’m doing, and ask myself if I’m using my time wisely doing things this way, or if maybe there’s another way I should be going about things that could work better… it’s also really important to celebrate the good stuff! Give yourself a high-five for all your successes, and list them out on paper for those days you’re just not feeling it!
  • Business Goals for this year (whenever you start your year!)
    • What are the top three goals/objectives you want to achieve this year?
    • What are the top three biggest problems you’d love to solve with your business?
    • What are your revenue streams for this year? Are they different from last year?
    • How are you finding your potential customers? How would you love to actually find them?
    • Who is your ideal client? Be detailed!
  • Website Goals
    • Which elements on your current site are you really happy or unhappy with?
    • What do you wish your website could accomplish for your business?
    • Make an editorial calendar for blog posts and social media. Include special events like holidays, deadlines for event registrations, anniversaries etc..

For a handy PDF of these questions, plus a few more, sign up now for our monthly resources email, and get the New Year Planner right to your inbox!

If this list only served to stress you out, try looking at each answer and ask yourself “what steps can I take to make this happen, or change this?“. Didn’t help? Don’t be afraid to ask for help from pros that know how to get things done for you! I’m always here for your business, design and website needs – feel free to give me a shout and see how I can help you tackle that list!

6 great tips to get you organized for the new year


It’s no secret I love to organize. Lists, spreadsheets, colour coding, I love it all. I’m constantly changing them up to keep myself motivated and on track when a system stops working for me. As much as I love the feeling of crossing something off my to do list, I’m definitely guilty of using organizing to procrastinate actually doing the items on my lists, so I’ve collected some tips for what’s currently working for me to kick procrastinating and cross items off that need to get done!

  • Brain dump.
    • Get everything out of your mental to do list, and get it on paper. I like using small squares of paper (about 2″x2″) so I can easily rearrange the items on the list or move categories without having to re-write the list.
  • Categorize.
    • You won’t have “buy groceries” in the same category as “write blog post”, so divide your items into a few categories. I tend to go a bit overboard with sub-categories for my business (finances, blog, marketing, etc), but personal all gets lumped into one category.
  • Prioritize.
    • Instead of putting them in order of what you feel like doing, put them in order of what’s stressing you out the most on your list. Eat the frog – and know the worst, most stressful task is done.
  • Be realistic: break down big tasks into small ones.
    • “Reorganize entire house” isn’t going to happen in a day, so if that’s what’s really weighing on you, divide it into rooms, or by closet/area. It will make your list a lot longer, but I’m sure there’s a specific room/area that’s in need of organization more than other ones, and that’s the one pressing on your mind.
    • Only give yourself a to do list for the day that you know you can reasonably get done, or you’ll end every day feeling like you didn’t get enough done. Be kind to yourself!
  • Use a timer for tasks you don’t want to do, but need to get done.
    • I’m loving this trick, especially with my goals for the new year requiring doing some stuff that’s not as much fun (tax prep, egh). I can suffer through 15 minutes of pretty much anything, and typically, once I get started, I can keep going and finish whatever it is that needs to get done.
  • Use a timer for tasks you do want to do!
    • 15 minutes of something I do want to do is a snap, it’s stopping to get the “frog” items done that’s the problem.
    • If you’re having trouble stopping after the timer goes off, alternate between tasks you do want to do and tasks you don’t. You know you’ll only have to wait 15 minutes to get to the one you really want to do, and can feel good that you made progress on the task you’re not digging.

Best of luck organizing this year! I’d love to hear your tips and tricks, so feel free to comment below, or send me an email!

Flicker box update

Last year, I did some research online to try to find a solution for our persistent flickers that wanted to winter inside our cottage, which ended up with us creating this flicker box.

We checked on the box, and discovered something had nested on top of it…

But after sticking the camera into the opening… something nested inside too! After a quick search, the feathers are consistent with flickers (although for a moment we thought they were owls and we got super excited).


As much fun as it is to know that our plan worked, something else drilled a hole through the garage… probably another flicker – but at least we know the nesting boxes work! Maybe we’ll try a few owl boxes this year too!