10 Steps to Time and Peace of Mind: Getting confidence in managing your schedule

March 21, 2011 by     Leave a Comment

When people consider the transition from J-O-B to Entrepreneur, they often hesitate and wonder, “Can I really do this? Can I really pull this off?”

One of the prime themes around this, and a theme that immediately pops up after someone makes the decision, is “I am not sure if I trust myself to manage my time.”

And it makes perfect sense.

Unless we’ve been running someone else’s business before starting our own, we’ve never truly had to practice managing 100% of our time. Someone else was setting priorities, so of course it’s a bit of a new skill.

Most of us have also been raised in a culture that doesn’t encourage setting our own priorities. We go to school at a certain time and do the homework they tell as to by the deadline we’re given. We’ve never been trained or encouraged to consider when we want to work or how we work best.

In addition, most of us are no good at saying “no.” In alignment with our social system, we are generally taught to prioritize what others want us to do over what we, ourselves, want to do.

This is very disempowering, but it’s become the water in which we swim.

That explains it.

This is why people freak out when it comes time to manage our schedule. We don’t have the tools (“way of being” tools or practical, tangible tools) to do it well.

Here’s a cheat sheet.

I just spent a part of a VIP day with a client working through this process – give yourself some time to create your schedule. This is the same process I used intuitively from my first day as a full time business owner, and still use. I knew I needed to assign myself a structure, or I’d be in trouble.

  1. Take out a piece of paper and draw columns for the days of the week. (See photo for a tool I developed for my business retreat – I used post-it notes, but not necessary).
  2. Ask yourself, in an ideal world, when would I most like to work? Be specific. (I like to work “normal business hours” but at least one day I want the freedom to go do something fun in the middle of the day when others are at work, and I also like to work one evening, to mix it up a little).
  3. Create time blocks in each column to represent the hours you most want to work. I like 2-hour increments. Feel free to include and note your leisure time too.
  4. Ask yourself, in an ideal world, how would I like to see myself flowing toward the work? In other words, within the natural way I work best, how will I structure my days? (e.g. I love to have “client days” and “creation days” in my business – I also like having a ½ day structure for some things so I can have 2 types of activities in one day. A designer client of mine said “I would absolutely love it if I could have a full day to just design with no interruptions.”)
  5. Now sketch in work activities into the blocks of time to reflect your response. Try not to limit yourself based on what you think you have to do – we’ll get creative next. (The same client fully believed that full days of uninterrupted time were impossible.)
  6. Add in time for things like e-mail, administrative stuff (contracts, money management, etc.), writing or other content-creation, self-care, and the all-important marketing & sales. (In the beginning this will be at least ½ of your time!) You may include a little buffer time… but not too much!
  7. Be both general and specific. Be general enough that you know you can flow to what needs to be done each week. (My “creation” time can be used to write newsletters, plan a launch, or connect with my network depending on what I’m up to.) Be specific enough that you don’t spend unproductive time trying to figure out what you meant or what you should do during that time. (“Marketing” may be too broad. You may put “Networking Events” or “Calling for Speaking Gigs” or “Call Potential Clients.”)
  8. Get Creative. Even if it seems as if you can’t design for your ideal way of doing things, spend some time thinking of possible solutions, starting with “How could I….?” Can you work with clients in groups to save time? Can a few hours on a Saturday save you from working weekends? Do you need to hire an assistant for a certain time period each week? (Back to the designer client, she was blown away by the thought that she could actually put an “out of office” message on her email twice a week while she was having “design day.” OR hire a Virtual Assistant for those hours. She could even include a calendar link for them to schedule time during her “office hours” so she didn’t need to return the email herself! To embrace this idea required giving up the old thought that whatever someone else needed was more important than how she wants to work!)
  9. Use tools and systems to streamline. There are many tools I love. I love http://www.timetrade.com/ for an inexpensive & easy scheduling tool. I’ve created “systems” (consistent ways of handling) for new client inquiries, for networking & speaking follow-up, for how to repurpose my written content. (The autoresponder with a calendar link above is a great example. We put into her calendar “set autoresponder” the night before her “design day.” We blocked out 3 hours on the calendar the day after for folks to schedule into while she’s out of the office.)
  10. Be both flexible and structured, and always reschedule your commitments. If you have scheduled a certain time for a for specific marketing activity, for example, and then someone calls and wants to inquire about working with you, or someone invites you to lunch, by all means, enjoy the freedom of working for yourself and change your schedule. Be sure to ask yourself whether the change in plans in is line with your overall commitments. (Remember it’s OK with saying “no” just because it doesn’t work for you.) If you do choose to sway from your calendar, be sure to reschedule that commitment for later in the week. If it was important enough for you to schedule, it’s important enough reschedule! (In other words, don’t always forgo “make sales calls” for a lunch date or you’ll be out of business!)

I trust this gives you a little more courage to go for it. You can design your schedule to work perfectly – perfectly for you that is!