Living Well

12 BOOKS FOR YOUR READING LIST + A FREE DOWNLOAD

elah-tree-reading-list-download.jpg

Have you ever set a goal you didn't reach? We've all been there, right? Well, last year I set a reading goal. I wanted to read a book a month, 12 books for the year. I picked out my first 4 books and thought I was on my way to reaching this goal.

At the end of 2017 I had read 5 books... That's a bit less then 12.

You may be thinking that I missed my goal or failed, right? But here's the thing. That was 5 more books then the previous year. I had never read that many books in a single year before. And in the end I walked away with a passion for reading and learning.

I learned so much. So much more than in previous years. I was over the moon that I had read 5 books. It was the most books I had ever read in a year! I could have basically thrown myself a party!

With the new year ahead, I decided to make 12 books my goal again. Until I hit that goal, 12 books is a good number to strive for. Don't you think? Are you ready to pick our your 12 books too? Here are my 12 books for 2018.  


  • The Way of the Seal by Mark Divine: I'm super excited about this. One of my overall goals for this year is discipline and I'm excited to see how this book plays out with that goal.

  • Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull: We've had this one floating around our bookshelves for a few years. Tyler read it a couple years ago. Now it's my turn.

  • Called to Create by Jordan Raynor: I think this is another Nancy Ray recommendation and I love the books tagline. "A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk."

  • A Simplified Life by Emily Ley: I keep hearing such good things about this book and I love keeping things simple in life and in business.

  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown: This was on my list for 2017, but I didn't get to it. Excited for this year!

  • Cultivate by Lara Casey: I'm a pretty big fan of anything Lara Casey. I'm looking forward to read this one after Make it Happen.

If you are on the fence about setting this goal in motion, I want to be an encouragement to you. Reading will do so much for your life and business. Reading is like being mentored by the author. You'll learn so much. You'll be stretched and you'll be poured into, so you can pour yourself out to others. Download your reading checklist (plus, your free photos above), pick out your favorite books, and share you're goal in the comments. I can't wait to hear what you picked! xoxo! Samantha  

P.S. Interested in what I read last year? Here's my list:


A TIME TO REFRESH: PUT YOUR BUSINESS ON AUTOPILOT THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Every year since Tyler and I have been married we travel back to Missouri to spend the holidays with our families. Each year always looks a little different, but each year I have done my best to take a break and take time to refresh.

This year has been on my mind a lot lately and I know it's going to be important that I spend some time reflecting and being intentional about the upcoming year. I definitely feel like I spent most of this year running. I set goals at the beginning of this year and I pushed hard for them. It was all trial and error and figuring things out. After I launched the "Home for the Holidays" collection I knew I needed to spend some time thinking about closing this year out because December gets busy on the personal side, which means I have to slow things down on the business side. A small part of me has been preparing for the end of this year, all while trying not to compare my business to others. I see other small business owners going out with a bang... and I wondered if I am missing out. But I've been reminding myself that my business looks different that theirs, and I'm going to stay in my lane. I know I have to slow down for a bit to really prepare and do things well for next year. 

So, I want to encourage you... Take time this holiday season to put your business on autopilot so you can reflect, refresh, and recharge. You'll start the New Year with a fresh heart and a fresh mind. And to get you started on the right foot, I wanted to share my blueprint for putting my business on autopilot so you can take time for yourself this season.

SET YOUR EMAIL AUTORESPONDER

I set my autoresponder every time I'm away. Whether I'm out of town for a few days or I'm out of town for weeks. This sets expectations for my customers and clients and let's them know that; 

  1. I love hearing from them, because I absolutely do.
  2. They can still shop styled stock photos anytime.
  3. If they are looking for custom brand photos, that I'm excited to welcome them to the Elah Tree community and give them a heads up of when to hear from me.

This is also a perfect opportunity for you to set the ground work for when and how they communicate with you. You're not 100% accessible all the time, especially when you're on vacation and that's okay.

You can also highlight any social platform that they can use to connect with you. I also let them know that they can follow along on Instagram for all the behind the scenes of our vacation and every day shenanigans. 

PAUSE YOUR INBOX

Do you want to know a secret? I sometimes pop into my email while I'm away. But, I don't pop in to answer emails. I pop in the delete junk. Now, this is going to be specific to how everyone likes to do things. Some people completely check out from their email while they are away and they even include in their autoresponder that all emails will be deleted when they return and to reach out to them once they are back in the office (who wants to filter through 100's of emails?) Some people set up folders and filters to have their emails organized while they are away. For me, I just pop in randomly, skim through emails, delete the junk and leave the rest for my return. If I filed emails into folders I would never actually read them, haha!  Do what works best for you, but don't get sucked into answering emails when you're on vacation.

If this is a struggle for you, then pause your inbox all together.  You can set times of when you would like your inbox paused and you'll be saved from any email distractions. Boomerang is the perfect way to pause your inbox and it's also perfect for scheduling emails. 

Screen Shot 2017-12-15 at 4.10.57 PM.png

SCHEDULE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA

I'm a huge fan of scheduling social media. I schedule social media every week, but when we're on vacation my scheduling goes on over drive, haha! I use a few different platforms to schedule my social media. Later for instagram. The internal Facebook scheduler. And Boardbooster for Pinterest. Again, do what works best for you and if you have other social schedulers you are using and loving, then totally rock them. 

Later has been such a life saver for me when it comes to instagram. I schedule each photo, with their week at a glance. I can check how the feed looks and adjust photos, with their previewer. And I can write all the captions ahead of time.

elah-tree-business-tips-scheduling-social-media

Boardbooster is also a life saver. Pinterest drives nearly all of my website traffic and it's important that I keep that traffic coming while I'm away. I set up boards to schedule out pins while I'm away keeping my Pinterest active. It also loops active pins from my site, that way pins that are driving traffic keep my site alive while I'm away.  If you're not using Boardbooster I can't recommend it enough. 

SCHEDULE YOUR CONTENT (BLOG POSTS & EMAILS CAMPAIGNS)

Whether you're scheduling blog posts or email campaigns, get things scheduled before you leave. You can continue to provide helpful content to your readers and customers even while you're gone. I send out FREE styled stock photos every month, so it's  important for me to get these emails scheduled. I know these stock photos are helpful and a great resource to my subscribers and it's important to maintain that trust. 


P.S. THE IMAGE IN THIS POST WENT OUT IN YESTERDAYS FREE DECEMBER FREEBIES. WANT TO SNAG YOURS? SIGN UP!


UPDATE YOUR THIRD PARTY SHOPS

Lastly, if you have your shop set up on any third party sites, like Creative Market or Etsy, update your shop announcement to let shoppers know you're away. I always update my shop announcement to let shoppers know that if they message me I'll respond once I return. You can still keep your shop open, especially if you offer all digital products. 

GRACE UPON GRACE

Taking a break and allowing yourself to recharge is so good for your business. You can't continually create, take care of your business, and cast vision without taking time to refresh. When I started preparing for this year's vacation I was hoping to have a few more blog posts scheduled, but I just didn't have time. We can't forget that to give ourselves grace.

Friend, I hope you have some time to rest this season.  You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your busienss. xoxo. Samantha 


MABUHAY FROM THE PHILIPPINES

Things slow down around here in December. It's one of my favorite times of year... and I'm finally able to share about our trip to the Philippines. I'm not even sure where to start. Tyler and I traveled to Zamboanga City, Philippines to celebrate my brother and his wife. They got married and it was beautiful. 

We took a redeye from JFK to Manila. It was a 20 hour flight, with one stop in Vancouver. It was my first international flight and the longest flight I had ever been on. My biggest concern was the long plane ride, but it was unexpectedly pleasant. I watched movie after movie, and the flight attendant brought lots and lots of food. The hardest part about our flight was not getting to lay down when I was super super tired, haha. 

We landed in Manila with a 20 hour layover, then we had another redeye to Zamboanga City. We arrived as the sun came up. It was the first time I would be seeing my brother for almost 2 years and it was also the first time meeting Michelle, my brother's new wife. It was a lovely reunion and an amazing trip. We stayed at the Garden Orchid hotel, which I would highly recommend. I would also recommend that you take a trip to the Philippines. :)

Our first day started with a 6:00am breakfast. After breakfast we had a short bit to unpack and settle in. Later that morning we were off to the church for my brother and sister-in-laws baptism. We had our first lunch with all the in-laws were we had amazing food and amazing company. I ended up crying at the table because I was so exhausted, but managed to pull my self together, haha. I felt like I had been up for two days, whew. 

Our our second day we went to Santa Cruz island, known for it’s beautiful pink beaches. Everything was amazing. We took a small boat to the island and I was just sure we were going to sink. ;) But we didn’t. We were only on the beach for a few hours, but it was beautiful and peaceful. We met locals, took pictures, sat under trees and had the very best time. 

We did a variety of things while we were there and all the days are running together now, whew. A few of our our favorite highlights included riding in a Jeepney, this was one of Tyler’s favorite things ever and I will agree, it was so fun! Jeepney’s were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II… if you were wondering. :) All the jeepney’s we saw had open seating and we jumped from one to the other. When someone wanted to get off, they simply tapped the railing with a coin. 

The wedding was on Friday, so we had the week to explore the city and have lots of fun. We had breakfast that Friday morning, followed by hair and make-up... my first time ever having my make-up done, and our attire was all ready for us. Tyler and I were apart of the wedding party and slightly unprepared, haha! We were considered sponsors for the wedding and we were in charge of the veil. Both of which are traditional in Philippine culture. During our part of the ceremony, neither Tyler or I knew what to do, so one of the wedding planners helped us. During the reception we both had to give speeches too… and we were unprepared for those as well. I got up on stage and was completely speechless. My brother coached me from the side as I stared at him. 

My brother and Michelle, went above and beyond to take care of us and make sure we had an amazing time. Michelle’s family was so open, generous, and kind. Our favorite part of the trip was the culture and all the people. 

Another random thing… Tyler and my mom were a hit with everyone. Zamboanga City doesn’t often get foreigners, so the fact that they were obviously foreigners (they are white, haha) they sure brought a lot of stares. We had a great time and it was one of the most amazing experiences! We definitely plan on going again. xoxo. Samantha


COFFEE TALK

It's been a long time since I wrote a personal post or any kind of life update. Long story short, I've just been working. I wish I had something super exciting to share, but we're honesty just in a season of work. We say no to a lot of things; adventures, travel, extra-circular activities, because we've set certain financial goals (paying off our student loans) and those goals are priority. I'm also not great with words. I spend a lot of time processing everything internally. When it comes to getting things out in words, I usually don't have a lot to say, but I'm going to try, haha. 

This year has been a year that I was really able to focus on the business. I finally found my niche and I've worked hard to keep things simple, which is usually how I have to process things anyways. Once I find my rhythm with something, then I can usually add something new. This year has been about finding my rhythm within the business and also really finding my style as a photographer. No matter how far I come, I always find myself with opportunities to learn and I have really tried to do that this year.

We actually traveled a little this year, which is out of the norm for us (as I mentioned above, haha.) This summer we were in Missouri for a week... working. Tyler was teaching at a week long camp and while I wasn't actually working, I spent a lot of time helping my mom. In September we were in the Philippines, which was amazing. I can't get over how amazing it was and I actually have a post to share with you guys. It's coming, I promise, loads of pictures and all. 

This year I've spent a lot of time thinking about the business. How it's running, how it could run better, and how I could serve you better. I still have so much to learn and the business still has so much growing to do. Right now I'm actually thinking about next year. Things that are launching at the beginning of the year, things I'm hopeful for, things I'm  hoping to do better. Can you tell I have business on the brain a lot. 

All in all, things are good. Tyler and I are doing really well. We're back in our workout routine, which I love. I love working out.... I love cake and working out. ;) I've become more comfortable as a cook, which is fun because I've been able to incorporate some really healthy stuff. I made more friends this year, which might sound random, but when you move a lot, it takes time to make friends, especially if you don't have a normal work environment where you meet lots of people. I went to the Downton Abbey Exhibition this past weekend, I celebrated my birthday last month, and this month we're headed back to Missouri for Christmas.

So... I think that's everything. How are you doing? xoxo. Samantha