I remember we had just gotten home from traveling and I was itching to get back to the office. I knew I had a gazillion things to do and I had so many rad ideas rolling through my head. This was going to be good! I dumped all of our sandy and stinky road trip attire in the washing machine and got all set up at my desk, cross-legged in my Lulus. And then, I just stared at my computer. I’m talking for probably 10 minutes. I had no idea where to start. Have you been there? Overwhelm started to creep in and then I realized that because we had been on the road, we hadn’t had our Monday morning meeting. No wonder.
About three years into our so-far seven-year career as entrepreneurs, my business partner (who also happens to be my hot hubby) and I realized something had to change with our to-do lists, schedules and really, how we viewed time. We were always wanting more time.
But guess what: we don’t need more time. And neither do you.
What we needed was to create systems, prioritize and take control of our to-do list. And, if you’re feeling lost, overwhelmed and/or like you’re drowning in client work and are craving the chance to execute some of your ideas, this is for you.
These steps are simple. But can we all agree that a little more simplicity in our lives is a good thing?! Although simple, some of it takes a little time. I know, I know, you already don’t have enough time! I get it. And I promise that if you do these things, you’ll feel less stressed and more in control of your to-do list. This will improve your business BIG TIME. Not to mention, your life.
List out all of your tasks
Yes, all of them. This can definitely be a process. The best way to do this is to keep track of things, as you go, for a week or two. This includes, but is not limited to: client work, client communication, editing, designing, meetings, bookkeeping, marketing, social media (be honest: how much time did you spend on Instagram today!?) and education. Take note when you start and stop certain tasks, how long it takes to complete them, do you finish the tasks, do you enjoy the tasks and what distracts you while you are working.
Prioritize your tasks
Rate your tasks 1-5. Give them a 1 if they’re essential to your business. Give them a 5 if no one would notice if they didn’t get done, and a 2, 3 or 4 for everything in between. Now the fun part…give each task a happiness score! Use a 1 for tasks you love doing and a 5 for tasks you’d rather never do again. It’s time for you to outsource those 4s and 5s, or get rid of them all together! What we’re doing here is seeing what’s essential to you and your business. Sometimes (most of the time) it’s not only okay for you to just focus on what’s essential, but it’s actually better for your brain and better for your business
Jumping from one thing to another, be it ideas, types of work or tasks is exhausting. Guess what? Multi-tasking is a myth. We save so much energy, brain power and TIME by grouping similar tasks together. For example, we do all of our coaching calls with clients on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, one right after the other. That way, we’re in the right mindset and we have lots of time on other days of the week to work on other projects.
Create a schedule
This is where some serious magic happens! But, remember: If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen. Use your list of categories and prioritized tasks and group together things like client communication (shoot for twice a day and then close that inbox!), client projects (maybe twice a week for 4 hours each?) and bookkeeping (the 15th and 30th). Another HOT TIP: Schedule things for you, first! On the first of each month, we schedule our dates, activities and adventures before we lock in the work weeks.
Create a weekly agenda
Each week, we go over all updates with our business. It’s the same list of categories every week. That consistency is key. This helps save you so much time, because it forces you to keep tabs on all areas of your business. Nothing falls through the cracks. And you won’t be wondering (or wasting time wondering) whether you did this or that anymore, because you’ll be addressing it all, every week. Things to include in your Monday morning meeting agenda: weekly goals, current projects, client needs, lead updates, money coming in, social media, workflow, marketing, meetings.
Have your first Monday meeting!!!
This brings me back to the beginning. I was overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start because we hadn’t had our Monday morning meeting. Take that agenda you created in Step 5 and simply go over everything! Take notes. Update your ideas, goals and action items in Evernote, a Google Doc or your trusty Moleskine. As you go through your week, make sure you make a list of action items (high-priority action items, I’m talking the 1s and 2s from Step 2)!
Add action items to your printed calendar
This is the most important step and where everything comes together! Print out your calendar template for your work week. If you’re only working Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays for your business, block off those other days, so you’re not tempted to fill them in with business stuff. Now, go through your week and block off chunks of time for those groups you created in Step 3. Fill in your action items in time slots that make sense for you and your business! Mark that calendar up! No more wondering what you should be working on, because now it’s all right in front of you!!
It’s safe to say we all agree that time is a hot commodity. And we can throw our arms up and freak out in overwhelm (I’ve been there!) because there just doesn’t seem to be enough of it. OR, we can get smart and strategic and be proactive about making the time we do have (we all have the same 24 hours/day) work for us. It’s all about priorities and boundaries and us having the discipline to execute the schedules we create for ourselves. Take it from a former freaker-outer, the latter is the way to go.
Photos by Kimberly Jurgens