Category Archives: Personal Care

Encore! The Introvert’s Survival Guide to Conferences.

The Introvert's Survival Guide to Conferences. I love people, but I must admit I can’t be around them continually. It drains me. Hello, my name is Dan and I’m an introvert. I previously wrote  “Attention Introverts! You Can Market Successfully.”  Now I’d like to turn my attention to another challenge for introverts – conferences. If the thought of spending days  submerged in a sea of people is daunting, don’t despair. This article is for you… Read More

Encore! How to be Self-Employed and Stay Motivated.

How to be Self-Employed and Stay Motivated. “When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.”  ~ Greg Anderson

Most of my working life I’ve being self-employed, first as a documentary filmmaker and now as a personal historian.  There have been ups and downs but on the whole I’ve been able to stay motivated. What’s the secret? Here are the things that have worked for me … Read More

From the Archives: How to Stop The Clock And Make Time for Yourself.

How to Stop The Clock And Make Time for Yourself. If you’re self-employed as I am, you’re probably all too familiar with the trap of filling most of your days with work. There are deadlines to meet, marketing activities, clients to see, and  administrative chores. Maybe you’ve found a way to manage all this and still have a life. If you haven’t, here are some lessons learned from my three decades of experience that you might find helpful. To be honest, sometimes I  “mess up” and don’t follow my … Read More

From the Archives: Shut Down Your Computer!

Shut Down Your Computer! If you’re like most personal historians, you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. I certainly do. Lately, I’ve come across information that suggests that I need to shut off my computer and get outside. In fact, if I don’t, it could kill me! A recent Swedish  study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that  prolonged sitting can lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. While this isn’t earth shattering … Read More

When Should You Quit Being a Personal Historian and Move On?

I spend time here encouraging and supporting full-time professional personal historians.

But what about those of you who may be wondering if it’s time to give up being a personal historian all together? Remember there’s nothing wrong with quitting.  I wrote about giving up in a previous post Stop With The Productivity Pitches!

I’ve changed careers at least four times in my life. From my experience here are the clues that tell you enough is enough.

Lack of Passion

This is a big one. To establish and run a successful personal history business requires an ongoing belief that what you’re doing is vital. You must absolutely love your work. If you find that the passion has gone and your days are a grind, then it’s time  to move on.

Lack of Income

We all need to make enough money to pay the bills and have a little extra left over. For everyone that amount will vary. But if you’ve been working hard for a couple of years and you’re still having trouble making ends meet, you might want to reconsider being a personal historian. Nothing can kill your passion quicker than a dwindling bank account.

Lack of Energy

Keeping a business flourishing requires energy. There are ongoing marketing, networking, client projects, and administrative tasks.  If you find that you don’t have the energy because of poor health, age, or caregiving responsibilities, you might want to call it quits.

lack of time

A successful personal history business is a full-time job. If you’re trying to run it  while juggling other part-time jobs, you could face a crisis. While you may need extra income to keep yourself afloat, it makes it difficult to grow your personal history business. If you’re in this situation,  consider giving it up and  making personal history a hobby not a business.


Quitting is okay.  I would caution though not to quit too early. Collective wisdom says that it takes at least two years to get a new business up and running. So give it time.

Some of the challenges I’ve mentioned above might be overcome by altering your approach. For example,  a lack of passion may be a result of exhaustion rather than a lack of interest. Finding a way to bring some balance into your life might bring back the passion.

Before making your final decision to move on, weigh all the factors, look for possible solutions, and talk with trusted colleagues and friends. If it still looks like quitting is the answer, go for it!

Photo by Abe Kleinfeld

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From the Archives: The Power of “No”.

The Power of "No". Saying “no” politely is a necessity if one wants to lead any kind of stable life. ~ Richard Chamberlain

The “N” word has a bad reputation. It’s seen as negative and mean. Many of us find it hard to say. But saying No will help you not only with your work as a personal historian but also with your life in general. I’m getting better at saying No but there’s room for improvement. The reality is that saying No is a healthy way of providing us with  … Read More

From the Archives: Now for Something Completely Different: Calmness.

Now for Something Completely Different: Calmness. It’s time to stop  the rushing and working and worrying. You can always pick that up later. For now, as we come to the end of another year,  let’s all take a deep breath and calm ourselves.  As my holiday present,  I’ve put together a little virtual retreat for you. You’ll find some wonderful calming images, music, books, and quotations below. Start anywhere you like.  There’s the three minute Whispering Sea guitar video.  You can  feast your eye … Read More

From The Archives: Book or Video? Which Makes a Better Personal History?

Book or Video? Which Makes a Better Personal History? It’s fair to say that most clients think of a life story in book form rather than video. That’s why I previously  wrote 5 Reasons You Should Consider a Video Life Story where I extolled the virtues of video. As I said then, I have a bias because my background is in documentary filmmaking. But I’ve also produced several books.  So which is better? Each format has its strengths and weaknesses. You be the judge. Here are six areas where books triumph … Read More

How to be Self-Employed and Stay Motivated.

When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.
~ Greg Anderson

Most of my working life I’ve been self-employed, first as a documentary filmmaker and now as a personal historian.  There have been ups and downs but on the whole I’ve been able to stay motivated. What’s the secret? Here are the things that have worked for me.

Believe in what you’re doing.

This is crucial. If you’re not happy with what you’re working at, then it’s almost impossible to stay motivated. For me, I know that being a personal historian satisfies some of my deepest values. It’s something I wrote about  previously in Why Are You a Personal Historian?

Take a break from your work.

No matter how passionate you are about your work, your motivation will wane if you don’t take time off. Now it doesn’t have to be a month in Tahiti although that does sound enticing. I’m talking about something simpler – things like getting away from your computer for 15 to 20 minute breaks every hour or two, making sure to take a day for yourself at least once a week, and planning a major  holiday every year. I previously wrote about vacations here and here.

Ensure you have an attractive place to work.

If your heart sinks every time you head to your work place, something’s wrong. Take a hard look at your office. Is it dark and cluttered with ugly mismatched furniture? You’ll be more motivated if your office is a place where you actually like to work. Make sure it has some natural light, ergonomic furniture, your favorite colors, and some attractive pictures on the wall. I love my office which occupies the front of the second floor of our house. It has two large windows that face east and look out on a small park across the street.

Remind yourself of the benefits.

I only worked as a salaried employee for a fraction of my work life but I know what I didn’t like about it.There were the office politics, incompetent managers, endless, often nonproductive meetings, and commuting, to name but a few. Being self-employed I have the benefits of setting my own goals and pace. I can select the kind of projects I want to do. I decide the fees to charge and when to take a break. Reminding myself of these benefits is a great motivator.

Have your very own cheerleaders.

If you work on your own, it can be  isolating. You need to have people who’ll be there to sympathize with you, give you a boost, and offer timely advice. The Association of Personal Historians is another source of support. This is a group of colleagues who understand what I’m going through and provide great advice 24/7.

Create variety.

No matter how much you love your work, it can become a bore and a drain on your motivation if you’re always doing the same thing. That’s why I like to challenge  myself to find different or better ways to deliver my personal history services. I started with video life stories and then tried my hand at books. Now I have this blog.  I find I’m stretched and stimulated and continually motivated.

What do you do to stay motivated?

Photo by h. koppdelaney

The Secret to a Successful “Staycation”.

The wag who said the alternative to a vacation is to stay home and tip every third person you see had a point. Vacations can be expensive and exhausting. There’s airport gridlock, cramped planes, missed connections, lost baggage, upset “tummies”, poor sleep, and oh yes, tipping!

But if your vacation at home is to be refreshing and a break from routine, it requires a little thought and planning. In a previous post, Are You Part of  The “Great Vacationless Class”?, I wrote about the steps needed to plan for a holiday and my own upcoming staycation.

Thinking of a holiday at home? Here’s the secret to a successful staycation.

  • Turn off your work mind. I know it’s easier said than done. What you have to do is stop yourself from planning or in any other way obsessing about your work. My default position is planning. I do it in my sleep. So what I need to do is catch myself thinking about work and tell myself quite forcefully, “STOP!” It’ll take some time before my mind catches on but it will. Repeat after me, “I’m not the Center of the Universe. It will continue without me and my planning.”
  • Walk away from your computer. If you spend, as I do, a lot of time staring at a computer screen, turning it off  can be like kicking an addiction. Checking on e-mails and your twitter and facebook friends is not a holiday. If you absolutely must look at your Inbox, make it once a day. Preferably, choose the beginning of the day. Then it’s out of the way and you can get on with your holiday.
  • Set up an e-mail auto-respond message. To assist in your computer withdrawal, post an auto-respond message that tells people you’re away and when you’ll be back to answer their messages. If you feel the need, you can always leave an emergency telephone number.
  • Don’t answer your telephone. Answering business calls is not a holiday. Record an outgoing message that lets clients know you’re unavailable and that you’ll get back to them when you return.
  • Get out of the house. If you work from home, this is an absolute necessity. Here are some ideas. Pack a picnic lunch, invite a friend, and find a quiet park or beach.  Pretend you’re a tourist and visit places that you’ve wanted to see but never had the time. Visit a museum or art gallery. Take in a musical concert, stage play, or dance production.
  • Plan some home time. Make sure that all your days aren’t spent running around. Take time at home to read, watch some good movies, listen to your favorite music, take naps, and generally  “veg out”. Don’t use your home time to catch up on neglected chores, like cleaning out the garage or washing the windows. That isn’t a holiday.
  • Splurge. You’re not spending a small fortune on a vacation so why not indulge in a few treats? Here are a few suggestions – a massage session, a house cleaning service, a dinner at an upscale restaurant, a night at a fancy hotel, a day at a spa, a catered meal at home, a box of decadent chocolates…you get the idea.

What do you plan on doing for your staycation?

Photo by Ava Lowery

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