Women Branching Out: Michelle Nickolaisen

This week’s Women Branching Out interview features Michelle Nickolaisen of Let’s Radiate. Michelle uses her talent with details, structure, and organization to support creative entrepreneurs in their best work.

Comment to win Michelle’s 2012 Workbook & Planner Pack

To win a copy of Michelle’s 2012 Workbook & Planner Pack comment below by 12 noon CST, Friday November 18th. One winner will be randomly drawn and announced Friday afternoon. Please leave your email address with your comment so we can contact you.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • How Michelle supports creative women entrepreneurs and solopreneurs in executing their big visions.
  • The Cave of Wonders worksheets Michelle offers (for free) to help you get clarity about your big ideas and workflow.
  • Michelle’s 2012 workbook & planner pack (you can win by commenting).
  • Michelle’s favorite tools for recording ideas, planning workflow and projects.
  • Why self-care is important for women entrepreneurs.

Listen in or read the transcript below.


Michelle Nickolaisen of Let’s Radiate helps creative biz-peeps infuse their workflow/business with more ease + action. She does this by enabling them to create, do, and (most importantly) finish their fabulous work, while making that process no harder than it has to be.


Christie: Hi everybody, it’s Christie Halmick and I have with me today Michelle Nicolaisen. Hey Chelle, howdy. Michelle is from Let’s Radiate.

I wanted to read to you a little line from her email this morning, from her blog post this morning because I think it describes what she does better than I can probably describe it. So, Michelle said what she does is about “supporting,  enabling, and creating a space for you to do your great work in.” and then she says, “From what I understand, it’s actually very similar in nature to what a doula does. Just, you know, for a business vision instead of a birth.” So, I thought that was an awesome way to describe what you do and I’m going to let you even describe what you do a little bit more for everybody. What your business is about and who you serve.

Michelle: Thank you. I’m glad you liked that. I came up with that after taking to a woman named Ije Ude she’s totally awesome and I would highly recommend her. The reason…the way that metaphor sort of came about is that what a doula does, for those who are a little vague on it, is basically talk to the women at the beginning of the pregnancy and they find out the woman wants the birth experience to be like, the logistics of it, where she wants it to be and then they set everything up so that it happens. Like if problems occur, they fix the problem, they do additional research if necessary they support the support team and make sure the support team is getting clear instructions that they understand from the doula and they take action where ever the action needs to be taken. So that’s where I was coming from with that and that’s sort of what I do with people.

Like we talked about a little bit earlier before we started the call, I’m testing some different things right now because I want to make sure that I have a really comprehensive service that I can actually describe well to people so that they know what they are getting into when we work together. Because I would really rather work with people in a more deep intense manner and sometimes it can be hard to describe that adequately. You know.

Christie: So who would you say is your idea client…what kind of clients. I know you are working with a couple of people who are in really creative businesses.

Michelle: Yes, I would say like creative women entrepreneurs or solopreneurs who really, really care about what they do their work… I’ve noticed that the people that I work with and that I get the most out of with… their work is about empowering people at its base level. Whether that’s through design or teaching or branding or business learning or whatever.

Christie: What are some of the…I guess… what are some of the problems that you are solving, the things that keep coming up that get people to say “Michelle, I need you!” What are those things that keep coming up?

Michelle: Well the thing that I’ve noticed is that the people that I like to work with and the people who have the really awesome work that I can dig into, they’re big picture people and they need someone who is a detail person. I don’t think of myself as exclusively a detail person. I like to switch back and forth and between the big picture and details, but I am honestly pretty obsessed with the details. I’m a perfectionist and I can immediately spot if something isn’t going to work or if it is out of alignment with the rest of the big picture. And I can see how the little pieces of the big picture work together to create that big picture. So that’s when people come to me is when they are like “I have this big idea and I just don’t know how to handle all the details of making it happen. I have no idea where to start.” and I know where to start instinctively.

Christie: Right now you are kind of working on a project basis, kind of thing?

Michelle:  Yes, right now I’m working with Shenee Howard on a specific project with her and I’m also working with Rhiannon Llewellyn of Brand Harmony Studios and we are going to be working together in a longer-term capacity more of an overall business thing. My plan when I refine this and put it out into the world for the public is to have it available… to have what I do available on a per project basis. But also in a longer term basis of like 6 to 9 to 12 months.

Christie: Cool. I know that what you do is really…it’s really custom. I don’t….I know we had talked about before lots of people say, you’re an idea wrangler, or your an organizer but the work that you do on that level is very custom for the person that you are working with. So how do you go about, um, getting to know somebody and their work patterns and the way they work so that you can help them get out of their tangle that they are in?

Michelle: Well I have to… this has been a learning process for me because part of it is really intuitive and part of it is about the questions. But I’ve learned that you have to be careful with the types of questions you ask when you are figuring things out. Because the people I am working with…  the questions that I would be able to answer are not the questions they will be able to answer. So, like for example, when I started working with Shenee I sent her some questions and she was like I love the first part of these questions when I got to the second part where you were asking for percentages of progress on my projects and stuff it made my head hurt. I didn’t even think of that. So part of it is just asking a lot of questions and then making sure that you are asking the right kinds of questions. I’m learning what those are and part of it is just sort of getting inside their heads. I’ve had people send me time logs, detailed time logs of their work day and like I’ve got a set of worksheets that are designed to help them start spotting the problems by themselves so that they can describe them to me instead of me having to find out what the problems are if they are unclear on it, first. That’s…I think I answered your question.

Worksheet Information

Christie: yeah, yes. I was just wanting to know about your process for getting to know somebody. You mentioned worksheets and I wanted to say you have your whole Cave of Wonder worksheets and one of those worksheets is “For When You Don’t Know What to Work on Next.” I did that worksheet and I really appreciated it. So I wanted you to talk about some of the other resources that you have, while you are working on revamping your services, that people can check out.

Michelle: Yeah, so I’ve got…I might even have to pull the page up so I can describe them all because there are several things. The worksheet For When You Don’t Know What to Work on Next there’s the Idea Refinery which is for when you have an idea but I’ve noticed that part of the problem with people feeling like they are unable to act on their ideas is that they aren’t really clear so the goal… the whole goal of this worksheet is to help you figure out what is the best way to express this idea and to just get really, really clear on the endpoint so that you can start taking the action that you need. There’s also the Big Vision worksheet, which is probably my personal favorite. Just because I really like it. That walks you through the process of figuring out where you want to be in a year and in five years and then taking a look at what you are doing right now and seeing what’s supporting that vision and what’s not supporting that vision. And I think the reason that that’s my favorite is because that what a lot of the one-on-one work that I do is. And then there’s some daily and monthly dry erase template planners. And I say dry erase, but they are not technically dry erase. The idea is that you print them and then you can put them in pretty picture frames and it turns them into a dry erase board that isn’t horrifically ugly. Because most of them are. And then there are daily planners with self-care and check in practices so that you can get in the habit of asking yourself what you need and what you need to get done at the beginning of each day so that you are preventing burnout.

That’s another thing I’ve noticed…is that if people don’t have a specific practice of checking in with themselves before the start of the work week, before they start up their work day then they get really, really burned out and not the kind of burned out like, I need to take a rest after finishing this project, but the oh, my God my brain is broken I can’t even get out of bed level of burnout. Which can usually be avoided.

Christie: So, did you kind of create these as you’ve gone along figuring yourself out? Is that how these came about?

Michelle: Some of them have been… the Idea Refinery worksheet is like a piece of the process that I use for getting ideas clear and so I created that just because I thought people might like it. Daily Planners, I had been asked for those and I think Shenee also suggest I make those. The Big Vision Checkup worksheet was actually something I created from the intake questions that I’ve been giving client that I work with one-on-one. Also, I’m not sure this is relevant I’m getting ready to launch, next week…it will be a very quiet launch. I’m getting ready to announce my 2012 monthly and weekly planners. Monthly and daily planners that tie into the Big Vision worksheet.

Christie: O.K. So if somebody wants to get those they need to sign up on your list, is that how they get those?

Michelle: All of the bonuses, the Cave of Wonder stuff is on the list. The 2012 planners, the idea is to have a self-care planner pack and worksheets and that will be like $15.

Christie: O.K. Alright, I’ll have Michelle’s website and all that info below the video, so you guys can go check that out. Because they are really great resources that are free and she also has her planners for 2012 coming up which aren’t going to cost you very much but they are going to help you out. What else did I want to talk to you about? We talk a lot about ideas and I think… I guess we aren’t supposed to use this overwhelm word but, um there is idea overwhelm. there are … in any day … I have tons of ideas that, um … I don’t know what to do with. So one of the things that you talked about is what do you do with those ideas, what do you do… do just leave them hanging out in your head until they are gone, or do you write them down? what’s your way of dealing with the ideas that you get.

Michelle: I like to…and my system is probably not going to work for anyone because I’m a little neurotic about my systems. Just by nature of my personality but I like to keep track of them, I’ll write them down as soon as I get them and transfer them to Springpad. Which I like because it is searchable and I keep my project scrapbooks for lack of a better work, resources, notes and stuff so I transfer then and I’ll put them either in my references folder which is just general stuff to come back to later or a place where they are applicable. But even if… and I try to go back through them on a regular basis. The reason I have where I like to take care of something even if I don’t know if I’m going to use it. is because, like you might end up using it in part later, there have been times where I had an idea and I probably would have just forgotten it if I didn’t do something about it but because I did something about it and I took care of it and kept track of it I remembered it and then like six months or even a year down the line I’m like “oh I can use a piece of this in this and it just filled in the blank it’s like the missing puzzle piece to an idea that you might have later.

Christie: yeah, something that you already thought of that you would have forgotten.

Michelle: it’s a lot easier that way.

Christie: so you mentioned Springpad and I know….I think you have some tutorials on Springpad on your site?

Michelle: yeah, I’ve got a video.

Tools and Tips

Christie: What other kind of tools, do you have, do you work with, to… I won’t say organize yourself, but it is really sort of organization.

Michelle: yeah, uh, I use the dry erase planners that I mentioned earlier, that I made, I use those and those are like total lifesavers and I really like them just because they are something almost ritualistic about at the beginning of the morning before I even open my computer, I wipe off the stuff from the last day  and then I write everything. It is very intention setting and refreshing in my opinion. So those are a big thing for me and they are big part of keeping me on track. I also have, I actually have a paper planner, too that I keep because I like to map out  my month on the dry erase planner, or Charlie Gilkey’s planners which I also like, then I map out my week in my paper planner and then every day I transfer things from the weekly planner to the daily planner. Like I said I’m neurotic about my systems and I  will totally admit that. I love Springpad I used to use it almost like for task managment and I’ve kind of fallen off the wagon I just found something recently that I’m going to give a … it’s on my to do list to put all my project in it, either today or tomorrow called Trello. It looks like…I like it because I’m visual.  I’m a big fan of visual tools and being able to see things at a glance, so I’m planning on still using Springpad as sort of like a scrapbook or a resources place because it’s so handy and it’s visual like I said and it’s searchable and it’s really, really useful but I will probably…I’ve been looking for something else to use for like project or task management.

I’m trying to think. What else, oh I also like notebooks, I’m really big on making time to write in notebooks because I find personally that when I make a point of doing brainstorming or outlining in notebooks I have more ideas than I would have otherwise and there was actually a study done that showed that when you are writing it lights up more areas of your brain and  it lights up your right brain and your left brain as opposed to typing They think it’s because each letter is comprised of so many individual emotions and swoops and so because of that they postulated that writing would make it easier for people to be more creative and have more ideas while they are writing, which is my experience.

There’s a trick, a nifty little trick that was in the Accidental Creative that has like saved my notebooks and it’s so simple I wish I would have thought of it. At the beginning of the notebook you just take the first page and you draw a line down the middle and that’s your index page. And so you go through and number the pages, you put the page numbers on the lefthand side and whatever you are writing about on the right hand side. So I was doing outlining for a workshop presentation yesterday and so it was pages 31-35: Day of Genius workshop and all that stuff it’s super useful, helps you find stuff at a glance and it’s awesome. I’m really happy with it.

Christie: That’s great. I’m glad you told me that  because I have like four notebooks and then today I was trying to find something I knew was in one of the notebooks that I had folded down the corner of the page to remind myself  But I guess in the course of time I had unfolded the page so I could not longer find the folded page and there was like 15 minutes of time spent searching for it.

Michelle: Yeah, I have had the same experience. Especially because I really like pretty notebooks so I’ll like….I have all of these notebooks and most of them are in various states of fullness, but if I don’t have something like that to keep track of them, there’s no way I’m ever going to find anything.

Christie: That’s a great idea. So you mentioned the … brainstorming on the Day of Genius. So I want to pick your brain about what that is.

Michelle: The idea (for Day of Genius) is for it to be a digital workshop/retreat, which is something I’m doing with Melissa Dinwiddie of Living a Creative Life and we are planning it for the first weekend … the date is January 7th, we haven’t put up registration yet, early bird registrations will be the last week of November but it’s sort of a digital workshop/retreat day where you can set the tone for 2012 and to have time to think about you and your project and have time that’s set aside in this nice little contain already to figure out how you can support yourself in meeting your goals for 2012 and doing what you want to do in 2012. We’ll have…there will be a couple of different guest presenters we are going to have a yoga presentation and I’m really excited about it I think it will be a lot of fun.

Christie: So it’s sort of like a group day and where everyone’s doing their own creative endeavors.

Michelle: yeah

Christie: OK that sounds cool. So we’ll be watching for some more information from you and Melissa on that on your websites, also.

Michelle: Yeah, definitely.

Christie: Cool that sounds exciting. What else would you like to talk about? What do you have on your mind?

Michelle: I’m thinking. I don’t know, I think we covered everything I could think of to talk about.

The one thing I would say is … that I’m sure because of what you do most of the people watching this are going to be women entrepreneurs and the one thing I want to say is “Take care of yourself!” because we are really…especially women we are really bad about saying no to demands on our time. A lot of people tend to see self-care as like frivolous or unnecessary or even like selfish and it’s totally not. If you don’t make an effort to take care of yourself so that you can support yourself in doing the work you want to do it’s likely that your work quality is going to decline, your happiness is going to decline, and it will just be a big mess. So make sure that you are taking time, preferably every day and at least every week to check in with yourself and see what you need and what you can get so that you are not pushing yourself to the point of no return.

Christie: Great. I’ve been hearing that advice from everybody I’m talking to. So, I’m trying to take it to heart.

It seems like…yeah…I remember when I was listening to the worlds biggest summit, Willo O’Brien from WilloToons.com that’s what her website is, she was talking about something similar and it makes me really happy to see that we are talking about this because I get frustrated because I feel like a lot of people became entrepreneurs because they wanted to escape that workaholic attitude and then I see people like bragging on Twitter about pulling 12 hour days or working through the weekend or whatever and it’s like that doesn’t make you a bad ass. Don’t do that. So I’m really happy to see that we’re…that people are talking about a sort of more balanced and holistic and maybe even feminine way to actually get your work done without necessarily cracking the whip and being mean to yourself because that’s not necessary and it’s not effective over the long term.

Christie: Yeah, this just really ties back into the work that you do in supporting people in getting systems and structures in place so that they can have a life outside of their entrepreneurial life that is still fulfilling. Awesome, I so appreciate you stopping by and having a conversation and I will have Michelle’s website and everything beneath the video and information on the Day of Genius will be forth coming for those of you who watch Michelle and watch Melissa Dinwiddie from Living a Creative Life that would be a great thing for everyone to take a day and care for their genius, which is what they would be doing. And also be sure to check out the worksheets that Michelle has if you sign up for her list she has a great…huge amount of stuff for free and also some other stuff coming out for sale in a few weeks. Great…  I’ll say goodbye to you now.

Michelle: Thanks for having me.

Christie: Bye.

Comment to win Michelle’s 2012 Workbook & Planner Pack

To win a copy of Michelle’s 2012 Workbook & Planner Pack comment below by 12 noon CST, Friday November 18th. One winner will be randomly drawn and announced Friday afternoon. Please leave your email address with your comment so we can contact you.


  1. Jeanie on at

    Part of what makes entrepreneurship so enticing, yet so difficult, is the general lack of structure, systems, routine–unless we put them into place. By the time we put them into place, we may be so far gone down the rabbit hole of self pity that we give up!

    It’s much better to put self-care & structure into place when we’re initially fired up to create. I agree with Michelle’s core philosophy that structure makes creatives work better, rather than stunting their creativity.

    All the jokes about “an entrepreneur is someone who works 100 weeks to make a penny an hour” are sadly true–largely because humans are inefficient by ourselves. I love that Michelle has created these planners as a blank template which insists that the human be cared for first, instead of the bottom line.

    • christie on at

      Hi Jeanie, thanks for stopping by to give Michelle some comment love. We were talking about the thread of self-care that is coming up over and over in this interview series. It’s something I’m working to take to heart. It helps to have great examples like Michelle to follow.

    • Michelle on at

      Hey Jeanie! Thanks for dropping by 🙂 I agree with you that entrepreneurship can foster some really unhealthy work attitudes – especially since we get so emotionally entangled in what it is what we’re doing. When you’re really excited about your work, your projects, your business, it can seem so difficult to force yourself to take a break, but it’s still necessary. I’m glad you liked the interview 🙂

  2. Kylie on at

    Awesome interview, I’ve enjoyed Michelle’s work for a couple of years now.

    It’s interesting to learn about writing lighting up more parts of the brain. I’ve had a mess of notebooks for as long as I can remember and I can’t imagine trying to work or even live without them. Not only does scribbling in them help the ideas flow, but it’s great to look back through them and get excited all over again about the forgotten ones.

    • christie on at

      Hi Kyle – Thanks for stopping by to comment. I’m a bit of a notebook-aholic. Honestly, if I don’t write my ideas down they are gone!

    • Michelle on at

      Hey Kylie! Thanks for popping in & leaving a comment 🙂 I agree about the forgotten ideas…sometimes it’s so interesting to see what totally lit us up with enthusiasm a few months ago that we somehow forgot about, and how we can incorporate that into what we’re doing today.

  3. Loran on at

    I have downloaded some of Michelle’s materials and they have been really helpful. I love the idea of indexing my notes because right now they are a mess! Great idea.

    • christie on at

      Loran – thanks for stopping by! Indexing my notebooks is going to save me so much time, too. And sanity. Kind of makes me want to go buy a couple of fresh ones just to start anew!

    • Michelle on at

      Thanks, Loran! I’m glad that you like the indexing notebook idea – I hope you find it helpful 🙂

  4. Ingrid on at

    I am buried in a scatter of notebooks and ideas for the coming winter projects. A swirl of disorganized inspiration! When Michelle suggested indexing notebooks, I got so excited- I feel like I was just given the most amazing gift. Thank you!

    • Michelle on at

      Thanks, Ingrid! I’m so glad that you liked the interview/suggestion – please let me know how it works for you! I thought the indexing a notebook idea was amazing too, haha. It’s changed my notebook life 😉

    • christie on at

      Hi Ingrid – So glad the notebook trick spoke to you! Michelle’s inspiring a whole group of notebook indexers! I’m intrigued by your mention of winter projects. What kind of Joy do you have up your sleeve?

    • christie on at

      Ingrid – congrats! You’ve won the 2012 workbook/planner pack! Your prize will be coming to you shortly!

  5. Thanks for the article.Much thanks again. Really Cool.