The 3 Focus Challenge: January Update

At the beginning of the year, I chose 3 personal focuses to grow creatively, and 3 business focuses to stretch myself with. Last year I also did this, but I kept it to myself. This year, I'm bringing you along for the ride and showing you every step of my journey. Here's what I did for January... | Three Focus Challenge - January Update | #threefocuschallenge

At the beginning of the year, I chose 3 personal focuses (acrylic, makeup, music) and 3 business focuses (Pinterest, Instagram, video).

I’ve walked you through choosing your own 3 focuses, and now I’m gonna take you through my first month with these focuses, and give you all the details… what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s coming up.

Note: Any links with an asterisk* next to them are affiliate, which doesn’t add anything to your cost, it just gives me a tiny kickback. However, I do not share links to anything I’m not a fan of.

Personal Focuses


Right now, I’m in the gathering stages of this one… I did the same thing with watercoloring last year. Paints can be quite expensive, so I’m gathering up a few here and there. I’ve got a few more shades I want to pick up, and then I’ll start with a class on how to paint a sunflower from my friend Bonnie Lecat*.

After that I’ll poke through Craftsy and pick a class.

Coming Up:

– More acrylics purchases
– Picking up more canvases on Hobby Lobby’s next “package of 2” special
– Picking up more brushes on the next craft store sale
– Bonnie Lecat’s class


First thing I did was set up a BoxyCharm subscription*, and I got my first box last week. The next thing I did, was renew my Ipsy subscription*, and I’ll get my first bag in February.

Next I went to Ulta, with intentions of picking up some of the Urban Decay Vice lipsticks on sale. But our Ulta was out, but while there I did pick up a lovely spring shade of nail polish, and the Benefit Roller Lash mascara. I’ve got a sample of mascara from my first time around with Ipsy, but it’s “Better Than Sex” mascara, and that’s not really a name I’d like to explain to my children just yet.

When I got paid, I ordered makeup from ColourPop, and I’ll be sharing it on IG when I get it. I also ordered a metallic lipstick from Black Moon Cosmetics that I’m very excited about.

Meanwhile I’ve started watching a few YouTube beauty tubers recommended by my sister:

Kathleen Lights – She’s a hilarious, feisty Latina with a military husband. And she watches Supernatural. Score!

Tati – She’s closer to my age than a lot of the beauty gurus, which is refreshing. And her Instagram feed isn’t JUST makeup. It’s much more lifestyle, which I love.

Coming up:

– My first Ipsy bag
– My ColourPop & Black Moon purchases will arrive
– I’ll look for tutorials of my current makeup collection and start trying out looks
– Watch Instagram for photos of makeup/looks


Honestly, I haven’t done much with this one at all. Partially because I haven’t figured out how to track progress on all of it, and I don’t know how to share accountability on this. Progress on playing the piano or violin is easier…. progress on singing is a bit more difficult and nebulous to me.

I’ve found an app called Vanido that’s supposed to be good for vocal training. Still searching for what I’ll use for learning piano… if you have any recs lemme know. 🙂 I’m also looking at an app called Music Tutor, to learn how to read music. I can read the treble clef pretty well… but not really the bass clef.

Coming Up:

– I’ll test out Vanido and let you know if I like it
– Same with Music Tutor

If you have a way for me to share what I’m working on musically, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. 🙂


Business Focuses


This month, I haven’t done much with this. I did attend a very good class on Pinterest for stationers. I’m not one, but I figured lettering is tangentially related, and who knows… maybe I’ll do stationery some day. 😉

Coming up:

– I’ve got one Canva template I like, but I’ll be picking 2 more and testing them
– I’m reworking my profile and playing with the sub-boards
– Officially launching Pinterest services on my site


I’m still trying to get a handle on how to blend multiple topics into one Instagram feed. I feel like it can be done, I just need to figure out a rhythm or pattern. I’m testing out a few different kinds of backgrounds, and I’m currently acquiring some pretty props.

Coming Up:

– Nail down a pattern/routine for my photos, so that I can cover all of my different topics in a cohesive way
– Purchase a few more major props
– Collect all of my props and backgrounds into one easily accessible place
– Start doing a major photoshoot once a month, and micro shoots once a week
– Batch photos in Tailwind or SmarterQueue


This is the one I’ve done the most with this month. I followed Jessica Stansberry on YouTube, and joined her Facebook group. I also purchased the book “Vlog Like A Boss” by Amy Schmittauer. I’ve done a bullet journaling video this month, several BookTube videos, Instagram stories, and several Instagram Lives. I even took a class from Brown Paper Bunny, and did a few time-lapse videos…. those are a blast, by the way.

Coming Up:

– I think I’ll be joining Jessica’s VidFluential U
– I’ll be reading Amy’s book
– And there’s another book that’s called How To Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck

How are you doing with your creative exploration this year?

What I’m Learning About Life And Business From Watching The Crown

Recently, I started watching The Crown... and in my usual fashion I've already seen half a dozen episodes. But I didn't expect to be learning things... | Amanda Sue Howell | #amandasuehowell #thecrown #businesslessons #lifelessons #bingingNetflix

Recently, I started watching The Crown. And by recently… I mean yesterday. As I’ve had happen in the past, what began as “lemme just see if I like it” quickly turned into “wait, how many episodes have I watched?”

Safe to say, I like it.  It’s changing how I think about royalty, in the same way that Designated Survivor changed how I think about the office of the President. Let me explain.

When I first saw Designated Survivor, I was fascinated by the premise… I didn’t even know that was a thing (although it totally makes sense). In case you haven’t seen the show, it’s a fictional drama about the designated survivor who becomes the President. A designated survivor is a member in the Presidential line of succession, who’s eligible to become president (natural-born citizen etc.).

In the show, he’s one of the lower ranking members in the line of succession… he’s over HUD I believe. And the worst happens… the White House is bombed, and to his shock (and the nation’s horror) he becomes President. Overnight, this man who was in politics more out of his wife’s ambition than his own, is forced to make incredibly difficult decisions.

Decisions I’ve never thought about. Like… the consequences of ordering a missile strike. He’s up late at night, thinking of the SEAL team who’s putting their lives on the line for the mission. These aren’t things that ever occurred to me. Of course I know they happen, but when it’s spoken about on the news, it somehow feels more nebulous.

Watching it unfold before your eyes is riveting, and stressful. And you’re just watching a fictional character on a fictional show, making a fictional decision, affecting fictional lives. But these things really do happen.

So, back to The Crown. In case you haven’t seen it, it begins with Prince Philip of Greece renouncing his title to become Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten of Her Majesty’s Naval Service. As you may know from history King George VI because sick and died at a fairly young age, meaning that Elizabeth became Queen years before anyone thought she would be.

And overnight, everything changed. Everything. Her husband could no longer escort her through the door, because The Crown must take precedence. There’s a moment, shortly after King George’s death, when the newly crowned Queen is coming down the hall, and her grandmother Queen Mary in full mourning veil, has to curtsey before her.

I’ve never known how awkward a curtsey can be.

I’ve never realized just how much work goes into being a queen. But it makes sense… they’re managing a country. Or in the instance of England.. many countries.

Recently, I started watching The Crown... and in my usual fashion I've already seen half a dozen episodes. But I didn't expect to be learning things... | Amanda Sue Howell | #amandasuehowell #thecrown #businesslessons #lifelessons #bingingNetflix

But one of the things that got my attention, was the letter from Queen Mary to Queen Elizabeth. In it, she explains that she needs to not only mourn her father’s death, but the death of Elizabeth Mountbatten. For now that she’s queen, that woman doesn’t really exist anymore.

She goes on to say that the two women will be at odds throughout her life, but The Crown must always win. She also adds, that she’s seen 3 monarchies brought to their knees by a failure to separate personal indulgences from duty.

Now our businesses aren’t as serious as managing a country. And there’s something to be said for personal indulgence now and then… but I fully understand the 2 warring women. As a Mom, and an artist, and a business owner… the struggle to balance those worlds is real. Recently I was on a call, and someone said that they wished that they could mother like they didn’t have a business, and run a business like they didn’t have kid-responsibilities.


It’s tough to nail the balance of wanting your kids to see what you do, and be a part of that world… but not wanting to apologize for the argument in the background of your last voice message. To want to be with your kids and soak up every moment of their childhood… but to not want your expensive paints smeared on the wall. To struggle with guilt over whether you’re spending enough time with them, or wonder if you’re failing your business because it’s growing a little slower than some people.

It's tough to balance wanting your kids to see what you do, but not wanting to have to apologize for the argument in the background of your last voice message... Click To Tweet

And if you’re a homeschool Mom, or your kiddos are still very young, there’s a whole new layer involved. A twinge of envy, when all the Moms in your group cheer because their kids are going back to school… followed by a flush of shame because you really do love teaching them. Most of the time. There was that one meltdown over division…

But you have to find the balance. And you have to teach your kids… this is Mommy’s work time. But follow through… when it’s play time, don’t be Entrepreneur Emily. Don’t think about your business, or check to see how your Instagram time-lapse video did. Turn off your notifications, and be present. Just be Mom. And when the kids are in bed, and you’re with your hubby… don’t think about the next project the kids have. Don’t go set up a Facebook ad. Be present. Be a wife. Because that’s one thing The Crown nailed…. it’s much easier if you’ve got a great spouse.

King George never wanted to be King in the first place. He was thrust into that role, much like the Designated Survivor was. But he tells Elizabeth, that the only thing that helped him, was her mother. And he asks if she has that in Philip.

My husband is also named Phillip (but with 2 “l’s”… it’s the man version of Anne with an “e”), and I could not do this without him. He believes in me, when I don’t. He urges me to invest in my business, when I insist that it’s not in the budget. He listens to me complain about unproductive days, or website misadventures, or terrible customer service from someone I buy from. He is quick to share my FB posts even though most of his friends don’t care.

I wish that Queen Mary wouldn’t have told Elizabeth that the Crown always takes precedence (although that conversation may not have really happened… but in show it did). I wish she would have told her… that when she’s attending to royal duties… Queen Elizabeth takes the lead. But when she’s home, behind closed doors, she’s just Elizabeth Mountbatten… the love of her husband’s life, and the light of her children’s lives.



How To Choose Your Own 3 Focuses In 5 Easy Steps

We've already talked quite a bit about my 3 focuses... we've talked about my 3 personal focuses: makeup, acrylic painting, and music. And we've discussed my 3 business focuses: Pinterest, Instagram, and video.  But how can you decide on your focuses?

We’ve already talked quite a bit about my 3 focuses… we’ve talked about my 3 personal focuses: makeup, acrylic painting, and music. And we’ve discussed my 3 business focuses: Pinterest, Instagram, and video.

But how can you decide on your focuses?

Step One:

Scribble down ANYTHING that’s been on your want-to-learn list. To be clear, when I choose my focuses, they’re always a brand new skill for me… that keeps the excitement fresh, I think.

When I choose one of my 3 focuses, I like to pick something that's a new skill for me... it keeps the excitement fresh I think. Click To Tweet

For example, I was asked the other day if knitting was on my 3 focus list. No, it is not… not because I’m not down with knitting this year… I totally am! But because I’ve been knitting off and on for over a year now. Are there still skills to develop? Oh yeah… in fact I just got a set of circular needles for Christmas (and boy are they gorgeous!) But I have begun learning to knit already. Therefore it didn’t make the cut.

Same with Spanish… Spanish is hanging out with me again this year, and I plan to knock it out and move to my next language… but it’s not one of my 3 focuses.

Step Two:

Now, jot down any skills that you NEED to learn, for work or life. For example… my husband is building a forge… but maybe, he wants to add a little medieval flair to his business. So maybe he spends the year learning how to make chainmail.

Or perhaps you’re a chef, but you’re held back because you suck at desserts (for the record, if that’s you… don’t try out for Chopped just yet, cause that’ll sink ya!) So maybe you spend this year learning as many kinds of dessert recipes and techniques as you can!

Step Three:

Look at both of those lists… if there’s something that you feel very “meh” about… cross it off. Heck, scribble that mess out. Get rid of it. If it’s not exciting you, you’re not gonna wanna carry this through for the whole year.

If it's not exciting you, you're not gonna want to carry it for the entire year. Click To Tweet

Step Four:

If it’s something you can learn in a matter of a few days or weeks, that’s gone too. See ya! This is all about stretching yourself… that’s why sometimes it’s better to go with a broad category, than a really narrow one. For example, if you’re that chef… you probably don’t wanna say “I’m gonna learn how to make a blackberry pie”.

Now, my husband will eat the heck out of a blackberry pie, so I’m not knocking them. But odds are, you’re not gonna spend the whole year making just that pie. Do you have go as broad as “desserts”? No, absolutely not. If you wanted to just go with “pies” that would be just fine, cause there are zillions of pie recipes out there.

This is your game honey, so you can make it as broad, or narrow, as you please. Just make sure that it gives you enough space to play for the whole year. Pinterest is much more specific than “social media” but there’s SO MUCH to learn about Pinterest, and the platform is always growing and evolving… and for me that includes scheduling services like Tailwind, and learning how to improve my graphics in Canva… there’s a lot of room to learn here.

Step Five:

Look at your lists… whats left? Are there any skills that play nicely together? Last year, I chose watercoloring, doodling, and hand lettering, because I felt like they played together beautifully. I had a sudden realization that if nothing else, they all come together in a creative journal.

Are there any that you’re more excited about than others? Write them on a separate page, and then circle your top 3. Bonus points if a glitter gel pen comes into play somewhere in this, and even bigger bonus points if you take a picture of your final picks, and tag me on IG – @amandasuehowell (and it can be in a story so it doesn’t mess up your pretty feed!).

Now, here’s the really great news… I’ve got a worksheet for you!! Just click the photo below, put in your name & email, and it’ll be sent whizzing to you faster than Monk asking for a wipe after a handshake.


Click here to subscribe



What Reading Challenges I Picked This Year

At the beginning of every year, I choose a whole list of reading challenges, and I use them to direct my reading choices (to a degree) for the year. This week, I'm sharing which reading challenges I chose.

Last week I told you how excited I get at the beginning of the year, because the beginning of the year is time for a fresh new batch of reading challenges. Now that you know where to find them, and how to sign up for them, I’ll share what challenges I’ve signed up for this year.

I almost told you what books I’ve (theoretically) chosen, on the prompts that I’ve already (theoretically) chosen books for, but then I realized that would be a REALLY long post. So I leave this one up to you. If you want know what this looks like when I start picking the books, I’ll do a 2.0 version of this post, with all of the gnarly breakdown. 🙂

Monthly Motif – Sign up here

This challenge has 12 different prompts, one for each month. I won’t be choosing most of these in advance, because some of these prompts are best done off the cuff.

January’s prompt is Diversify Your Reading. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho has been on my list for quite some time. And as I’m neither male, nor Latino… this fits the challenge quite nicely.

Back To Classics – Sign up here

This one I’ve already mapped out my choices for the challenge… obviously these can change, but in the meantime I’ve made it pretty easy on myself to see what I already own, or can pick up inexpensively. I just have to decide which one to start with.

52 Books in 52 Weeks – Sign up here

Yes I know… 52 books, but again, these do a lot of crossing over with other challenges. Plus, I like to challenge myself. 😀 It’s also important to know that there’s at least one more of the 52/52 challenges, but this one has prompts, whereas the other one is literally just to read any 52 books.

Modern Mrs Darcy – Sign up here

I look forward to this one every year. It’s run by Anne Bogel, and her entire blog revolves around books… and it’s awesome. She also talks about personality type stuff, and capsule wardrobes.

What’s In A Name – Sign up here

This is another one I look forward to every year… it’s got 6 categories… and they’re fun things like…. “A fruit or vegetable”.


Alright I’d love to hear from you… which challenges did you pick this year?

Have You Ever Signed Up For A Reading Challenge?

It's a brand new year, and that means it's reading challenge time! Every year I pick a about a dozen, and completely overdo it, but it's so much fun that I do it again the next year! <3

Ahhhh the beginning of the year. New calendars, new goals, new reading challenges! I get so excited when the end of the year comes, because it means I’m about to be picking out the next batch of challenges I’ll be taking on.

You know I love me a good challenge, so this is always exciting to me… and there are so many to choose from. You can always guarantee that there will be TBR challenges, classics challenges, cozy mystery challenges, and YA challenges. And then there aresa ones with a variety of genres, and I always get a kick out of seeing what they picked this year…

So how do you get started?

Well, you can google reading challenges, or you can go check out A Novel Challenge and see all of their listings, or you can find listings on GirlXoXo.

It's a brand new year, which means it's time for a new round Reading Challenges... did you sign up for any? Click To Tweet

And believe me… you can spend hours going through those sites, because there are dozens, maybe hundreds of these reading challenges. Every year I think… ehhhh I’ll just sign up for a couple… and next thing I know I’ve signed up for a dozen.

The good news is, that most of them permit crossovers with other challenges. For example, let’s say one challenge asks you to read a book that’s been turned into a movie… and you choose Murder On the Orient Express. And then another challenge asks you to choose a cozy mystery, and another challenge asks you to choose a book involving travel, and still another says to choose a book with a 5 word title… your original selection works for all of those challenge prompts as well. Huzzah!

You have to read each challenge carefully though, because they all have their own rules. Some only allow physical books, while others allow physical, ebook, or audiobook. Some just want you to drop a comment as your sign-up, and others want you to write up a blog post. Some let you get away with a comment on the blog about which book you read for each prompt, while others want Goodreads reviews, and others want you to write a blog post for each book. What’s your limit? What are you willing to do? Choose accordingly.

Next week I’ll be sharing which reading challenges I’ve signed up for, but for now I’d love to know… do you do these too?


So What’s The Big Deal About Pinterest?

A little over 2 weeks ago, I posted about my business focuses for 2018, one of which is Pinterest. Right now, you’re probably thinking one of two things… a. Woohoo!!! Yeesssss girl, yes… LOVE me some Pinterest. or b. Well okay yeah, Pinterest is cool and all… but “business” focus?

If you’re in the first group… high five!

If you’re in the second group, let’s chat… cool? You go grab yourself some hot tea, and we’ll chat by the fire.. go ahead… I’ll wait.

Yay! Welcome back, and omg… that mug is SO cu… oh. Yeah. Sorry! Squirrel moment. Okay… Pinterest… here’s the deal… Pinterest has something unique that no other social media platform can lay claim to. People on Pinterest want to be marketed to.

Think about it…

Instagram, they want to see pretty pictures, or learn behind the scenes things about their favorite people.

Facebook, they want to keep up with their family, friends, and celebrities.

Twitter, they’re in it for the instant updates, or the snarking.

But Pinterest? They’re actively seeking out blog posts, articles, and products. For example, makeup is one of my creative focuses this year. I’ve looked for tutorials, inspirations, and makeup on Pinterest. So I’m not just finding blog posts, and videos… but I’m actively seeking makeup, brushes, mirrors, etc…. products… on Pinterest. I want them to sell me on these items.

As of January 1st of 2018, there are over 175 million users on Pinterest… over 80% of which are female.* So if women are your market, this is a gold mine… especially if your market is creative. But even if you feel like your product or service isn’t creative, it doesn’t mean you can’t be successful on Pinterest.

Caitlin Bacher specializes in helping entrepreneurs run successful Facebook groups… she has 16K followers.

Pet Plan Insurance has 43K followers. And I know you’re thinking… but Amanda, the puppies… hello, who wouldn’t follow that? But that’s the thing… they’re not selling puppies. They sell insurance.

I mean, that’s about as far from creative/artistic as you can get. But they know what their people want to see… and in the meantime, they’re getting their virtual foot in the door, so-to-speak. And now, when they pin one of their blog posts, or run a promotion, it’s going directly to all of those 43K people who signed up because the doggies made them smile.

Okay, so now that I’ve piqued your interest… check this little nugget out. When you turn your Pinterest account into a business account, they send you emails about upcoming webinars for Pinterest.

I know, I know… you’re up to your ears in webinars… me too girl, but listen! (Said like Navi). On these webinars, they’ll give you insight into what things you should be pinning for upcoming seasons, and holidays. In September they had 3 webinars… these webinars went over trends for the 2017 holiday season, tips on how to separate yourself from your competition, and ideas for how to promote your products for holidays sales.

Not only that, but they’ll send you the slides from the webinar… which is kind of my favorite thing ever, because I don’t always have time for webinar, but I can always zip through some slides really quickly.

And if that wasn’t enough, their blog posts on upcoming trends are insanely helpful. For example, one of my clients pins things related to babies… baby gifts, baptisms, etc. In 2018, sprinkle showers* are predicted to be insanely popular. Knowing that, you can bet your boots that we’ll pinning the heck out of sprinkle showers in the next few months. It’s fun, it’s trendy, and it’s a shoo-in for her pinning strategy.

So there you have it… just a few of the reasons why I’m really amped about exploring Pinterest more this year. What are you focusing on for your business this year? (And if it’s Pinterest, stay tuned for something I have that will help you get your Pinterest off the ground!)


*These, and other fascinating stats can be read at Omnicore Agency.

(In case you’re curious, they’re baby showers featuring candy sprinkles, like for ice cream cones.. the idea being that you don’t have to be left out of fun shower theme if you’re letting the baby’s gender be a surprise… instead you can use rainbow sprinkles as the theme.)