Making Your Own Schedule, Setting a Structure and Keeping Your Sanity.
This is a HUGE topic for me. For a long time, when I first started working for myself, I had zero structure. And let me tell you, it was horrible. The day would fly by before I figured out what really needed to get done and by the time I figured it out, it was time to put it off until the next day. I had little bits of paper with reminders everywhere and no system. It was a disaster and did not get me very far. I’ve had various ways of getting organized over the years but the ways I’ve recently discovered have been the best yet and I’m going to share them with you here. Also, some of this is going to be trial and error for you. Ultimately you have to find ways that get you to be the most productive in the shortest amount of time, so commit to something for a little while, see if it works and if it’s not speaking to you, move on until you find the right one. What I will share with you here are techniques and tools that I have found to really work over the last ten years of working for myself.
First of all, I always plan the next day the night before. I want to make a real commitment to the next day and be held accountable on paper (the same piece of paper that will be staring me in the face when I sit down at my desk) to get the morning off to a good start. I am a workout in the morning kind of girl, so if I don’t commit to it the night before, it is not happening. Period. So, everyday at around 5:45pm, I plan the next day. In that planning I jot down what lessons I learned during the day, what my wins were and what I am grateful for at the end of the day. This is really motivating and keeps me on point all day long, because I want a WIN at the end of everyday! At 6pm I am with my kid, I make dinner (and sometimes post it to Instagram because I am obsessed with healthy cooking and living), read, relax and get my butt in bed.
Morning comes. I get up at whatever time I committed to, workout, shower and get dressed. Let’s pause there. GET DRESSED IN THE MORNING. Reference back to blog post #1: being in your pajamas all day everyday is depressing. Don’t do it, you will seriously feel bad. Just get up and make yourself presentable, even if it’s just for yourself and your dog (or the mailman, the door person, whatever- just look human). When I get to my desk I write down some snippets from my larger goals to motivate me, 3 things I am grateful for and my daily targets (what’s going to make today a win). Then I plan my day out in 30-60 minute blocks (calls, projects, etc). This really works for me because I need to be kept engaged and also we have a lot of clients and another business at play. It can get really overwhelming so keeping on track for the day is essential. I always make sure that I set aside time to eat in the afternoon. Please eat! Hangry is not a good look when dealing with already stressful business stuff.
Let’s issue a side note here: I have a daughter. She is in school but she is home during some business hours. My office has been in my home and out of my home at various times throughout my career). I just want to pause to say if you have children and you are working from your home, get a door. I love my daughter more than anything on the planet but she is the most distracting thing ever! If I catered to her every whim, I would get nothing done. Seriously nothing. So get on the same page as the other adults or caretakers in your home and keep those kids out! This will make you a better parent- I swear. Instead of freaking out about all the things I haven’t done because I was lured into watching an episode of Paw Patrol, I’m done for the day at 6pm and I am all hers. It is really good for our overall family dynamic. If I have to work after 6pm, I try to take a break at 6pm and then resume at 8pm after she has gone to bed. Problem solved.
Next thing: let’s talk about daily human interaction. When I stared NibMor Chocolate and I lived in NYC, this was a lot easier than it was when I moved out of New York City. When I left, my whole staff was still on Long Island and it was a long commute and when we moved NibMor to Kennebunk, Maine it was even a longer commute! I have learned to plan something to get out of my house daily. Not seeing anyone all day is not good for anyone long-term. So I get a coffee, schedule phone or Facetime meetings, take a break and walk around the block. Schedule it in, even if it’s just 10 minutes, it can change your whole day and give you a huge lift.
How do I accomplish all of this? I have tried every planner on the planet and now I am going to share with you my ultimate weapon: The Self Journal. I love this thing so much! This planner/journal is a 13 week planner that lets me plan out my long-term, weekly, and daily goals as well as doing everything I discussed throughout this blog in one place. It is small enough to fit in your handbag or briefcase. I can not say enough good things about this system. I find time for it everyday (even when I’m on the road) and it really keeps me moving toward my ultimate goals.
Create or find a system. That’s the answer to being a productive, successful and sane entrepreneur. It is not hard but it does require discipline which can be difficult. Commit to it and see massive results.