One of the things that can trip us up the most as entrepreneurs is time management. Everyone’s sweet spot is different. While one person might love to have a completely different schedule each day, others like to have a carefully curated schedule. There is no right or wrong here, as long as your work is getting done and you’re not feeling overwhelmed. Your schedule should be unique to you, not a cookie cutter version of someone else’s ideal week.
There are several ways you can design your work week that allow you some flexibility and a little structure at the same time. Here are some examples:
Structured Weekly Schedule
You could create a work schedule that outlines what you’ll be working on every day of the week. From time slots for checking email, client work, lunch breaks and batched tasks, everything is accounted for. Each day may look the same or you might have specific tasks for each day of the week.
A key point here is that just because you’re developing a more structured schedule, doesn’t mean that you have to follow a typical 9-5 arrangement. Maybe you start work at 8, maybe at 12. Find what works for you. When are you the most productive? Do you start later on Tuesdays so you can sleep in after your Monday night workshop? Do you take a half day on Fridays? Do you like to take a midday yoga class twice a week?
Structured doesn’t mean it’s restrictive, it means you have allotted time for key tasks when you know you’re most productive.
Let’s face it, some days we’re up and at ‘em, and other days we need a little more lazy time. I used to have a lot of judgment around feeling lazy one morning here and there and would force myself to sit at the computer and create. But if you’re anything like me, that doesn’t work. It just leads to staring at a blank screen because your mind is not in it.
The goal is not to judge yourself for having a less than stellar energy day, but to have a plan in place for days like that. What are some tasks that you can still do? Create 2 or 3 ideal work days for focused/productive energy days and lower energy days. This can also work for days you’re feeling a little under the weather.
Daily Tasks (Not Scheduled)
Maybe each day really does look completely different for you and the thought of adhering to a schedule feels confining. Or maybe you’re of the mindset that it doesn’t matter what time you get something done as long as it gets done. You can still create a daily list of tasks for yourself. Make a note of any scheduled appointments/meetings and list any items that need to be done that day.This is more of a bullet journal approach. For those not familiar with bullet journaling, the idea is to have a simple list of tasks for each day that you can cross out when completed or migrate to the next day if they need to carry over. While you’ll see lots of fancy and fully illustrated versions of bullet journaling, at its core, it’s a simple, no frills list. More information here: http://bulletjournal.com/get-started
Track Your Time
Regardless of which type of schedule you want to create for yourself, I would recommend spending one week time-tracking your tasks. If you’re anything like me, you might underestimate how long certain key tasks will realistically take to complete. A schedule is only efficient if you can follow it, so if you estimated 1hour for a task that typically takes you 3, you’re already in trouble. Consider using one of these:
All of the above serve as a stopwatch that allows you to see how long each task takes. Toggl has both desktop and mobile capabilities, while the other two are mobile apps. All three provide reports (such as a pie chart of all the tasks you worked on) so you can have a more visual overview of your time.
Use your time-tracking week as an observation. You don’t want to immediately course-correct because that is not a true representation of how you spend your time. Just track for a week and at the end of that week you can review your data and see where you can be more efficient with your time or where you need to adjust your schedule to allow more or less time for certain tasks.
It’s not a bad idea to continue tracking your time beyond this exercise, but at least do this for one week just so you can see where your time is really going.
Setting Priority Tasks & Goals
I highly recommend having daily priority tasks. What are those 2-3 things that if nothing else gets done, you’ll still feel it was a productive day? As you figure out what you have to get done on a given day (whether you plan it the night before or first thing that morning), marks some of your tasks with a 1, 2 or 3. Those will be your top priority tasks and everything else is icing on the cake.
Barbara Corcoran has a similar approach to her to do list where she labels items as A, B, C… A for something that will push your business ahead or urgent tasks. B for things that will help you be more productive. C for the “would be nice to do” but not critical tasks. See that clip here
Focused Time vs. Flexible Time
I love love love this concept, which I learned about at an ElleChat earlier this year. Lauren talks about how she schedules two work slots in her calendar. One is focused work time, where she will turn off all distractions (no cell, no email, etc) and just laser focus on the task at hand. This is where she would tackle the priority tasks for the day.
Flexible work time, on the other hand, is where she may work from a coffee shop even if she may run into friend that might interrupt her or maybe take that call from mom for a few minutes. Flexible time is still work time, but you can tackle lower priority tasks that require less concentration, and it’s ok to have an interruption here and there. This is where you can expose yourself to seeing other humans (which, if you work from home, is absolutely needed from time to time!).
You can watch Lauren’s webinar here, she talks about Focused vs Flexible time at the 32min mark, but I highly recommend listening to the whole thing.
Whether you follow one of the above solutions or have created your own system, the key point is to make it your own. Make sure it works for you. You set the rules so it doesn’t have to stressful, you just have to be productive.
To help you create the perfect schedule for yourself, I’ve added worksheets for the above solutions to my creative resource library. Feel free to download them!
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