It’s 2014. Everyone and their mother has a calendar, most of them based virtually. But what no one seems to do is manage their calendar and schedule in a way that creates time, allows for intentional focus and maximizes the results you want to see in your business.
There are a thousand sites for parents to manage childcare, meal planning and soccer practice but very few comparatively for entrepreneurs who experience long stretches of blank days and no idea how to fill them with activity that will actually grow the business.
(Note: yes, most business coaches out there will give you their homework and tell you that listening to audio teachings or filling out worksheets is how to spend your day but, we know better! I’m talking about actual, real life application, getting sh*t done work. And that’s the focus of this article today.)
Rule #1: Your calendar should reflect you
Anyone who shows you their calendar and says this is the “best way” to do it misses the point. It might be the best way for them but you have to find your own path. So everything I share should be a suggestion and jumping off point. Take these ideas and make them work for you!
Here are some ways to customize a boring digital calendar and my favorite hacks:
- Use different colors on appointments so you can see at a glance if you’re light on client work or over-scheduled with calls on a given day.
- Customize your alerts so they don’t interrupt your work flow but do get your attention when the next task is starting.
- If you take notes during calls set up a webform through Gravity, Google Forms, Infusionsoft or Survey Monkey and add the link to your calendar notes.
- Always include the contact information for those you’re speaking with so if someone is a no show you can reach out
Rule #2: A schedule you don’t follow is useless
Once Upon A Time I was working a horribly boring desk job. Every morning I would grab some paper from the recycle bin and create a detailed to do list so when I got home I could be so productive – mostly because there wasn’t enough to do at work for 8 hours. When I got home I would promptly ignore the list and do whatever I wanted.
Those lists were a waste of time. Creating a super complicated schedule you ignore is a waste of time.
If the idea of applying some self-discipline to your calendar makes your inner 3 year old scream “I don’t wanna!” then try an either/or calendar.
Instead of making 9am-10am your “write a blog post” time slot and beating yourself up when your brain isn’t functioning yet, make the 9-10am slot “write a blog post OR play with designs for new program graphics.” Then add a second block of time in the afternoon with the same either/or. You get to decide in the moment what you feel inspired to do but both tasks need to get done.
Rule #3: Outsource aggressively
Now I don’t mean fling tasks at your subordinates like grenades, but instead consider if everything on your schedule is something you have to be doing. Can a VA draft your blog post? Can a project manager deal with those refunds?
Here’s a super simple script for you to use when outsourcing, “Hi NAME, I would like you to start work on THIS TASK today and spend no more than 2 hours. Please check in if you get stuck or at the end of 2 hours. Instructions are in the operations manual HERE. Thank you.”
Notice what’s not in that script: “I’m too busy” “I’m sorry” “Can you please” “Do you mind?” “Could you?”
Now, some level of inquiry is expected if your team member is slammed so feel free to ask, “With your other responsibilities today is this deadline do-able?” and remember you should help your team re-prioritize as needed.
The result of outsourcing is that you have less unimportant work to do which brings me to the final rule.
Rule #4: Make work time intentional
A lot of people assume entrepreneurs are inherently lazy, we get up whenever we want, schlep around in pajamas all day, go out to lunch, and basically have no accountability in our schedules.
And that can sometimes be true.
But here’s how your calendar can actually give you the time to do these things guilt-free:
When you design your time to allow for intentional time off and dedicated work time, you don’t need to feel guilty.
It doesn’t matter if you work from 4-10am or 10pm-1am. The hours you keep will vary, especially as your business and life change. Instead of half working because you’re tired and want a rest but tell yourself that only serious entrepreneurs work 9-5 you can design your calendar to meet your needs.
That’s the biggest thing, instead of following the lifestyle of someone else, you can decide what’s right for you right now. Because the calendar of a new parent who has a colicky baby and product launch is so different than that of a workshop teacher who has sponsor meetings twice a week.
Stop creating your calendar and schedule by default and design it to fit your life. Here are some Action Steps to help you make these decisions:
- Do you have commitments at a certain time or time of day? (i.e. picking up kids, early meetings)
- What time of day do you feel most productive?
- In an ideal day, what kind of breaks would you build in for your sanity?
- How many hours (max) do you want to spend on the phone or computer?
- What tasks can be taken off your calendar and delegated?
- What’s one thing that’s been on your calendar too long and just needs to get done this week?