In today’s society, wearing the term “busy” as a badge of honor is a norm, but the reality is most of us want to have a life of calmness and intentionality. After going through a season of overwhelm and waking up with a sense of burden instead of excitement, I decided I needed to make some shifts — and that started with my calendar.
So, what did that actually look like? Let’s break it down…
If you don’t know where you’re going, how are you going to get there? This is something I say often, because the truth of it is, if we have these goals in our minds but aren’t taking any action or creating a plan, then they’re simply thoughts and we’re never going to reach them.
If you’re ready to have a schedule you’re excited about and that supports the life you want to be living, then you have to visualize exactly what you want your days to look like. Take a deep dive into your current schedule and season of life and consider what is realistic for you. If you want to have a 4-day work week so you can have a day off for family time or self-care, visualize the shifts you can make in your schedule to be able to make that happen. Maybe you would love to be able to have slow mornings, drop your kids off at childcare and then have the ability to attend a mid-day workout class on Thursdays. Get super specific on what you want your day-in and day-out to look like and then expand on your weeks and months.
As you’re getting clear on what’s going to take up space in your days, write it down. Use it at as a journal prompt or take a piece of paper and break down a day in time increments then write down exactly what you want the hours of 7am – 9am to look like every week day. What does 1pm – 3pm on a Tuesday look like for you in this season? The more specific you get, the more you’ll be able to truly see what you can do and accomplish within your days, weeks and months ahead.
Setting boundaries can be one of the most challenging tasks when it comes to life, especially if you’re a people-pleaser — it’s natural for us to want to be able to do all the things for everyone else, but then where does that leave us? Not in control of our own time or life!
There are a variety of areas in our lives where we can [and should] set boundaries, but in this post we’re highlighting your time as it relates to your work schedule.
01. Time Blocking
Time blocking is quite literally one of the biggest shifts you can make to increase your productivity. Allocating specific blocks of time throughout your day allows you to prioritize your tasks and have focused intervals which minimizes distractions and gives you the opportunity to be intentional with your time spent. If you have a larger project on your calendar, time blocking is a great way to break it down into smaller tasks so the overall project feels less overwhelming and more manageable.
Personally, one of my favorite things about time blocking is not just blocking out times during the day, but blocking out days of the week. What do I mean by this? Setting up your schedule to have specific focus work on certain days of the week. So for me, what this looks like is only taking calls on Tuesdays – each week I know that Tuesdays are dedicated call days so my other days are filled in with the various tasks I need to accomplish outside of calls. I have my calendar linked to my scheduler and that allows myself and my assistant to send the link to leads or current clients to schedule meetings – this creates less margin for overbookings or calls interrupting my creative flow. When I say this shift has been a game-changer, I mean it.
To go right along with time blocking, grouping similar tasks and designating those tasks to a specific block or specific day of the week is a must. Batching is a fundamental strategy that will allow you to leverage your momentum. If we’re jumping around from checking our email to designing graphics to caption writing to brainstorming to creating a marketing plan, our brains are taking 5-10 minutes to recalibrate with each shift in task we make. This process creates a sense of overwhelm, because even though you may be getting tasks done, you’re not getting as much done as you could be during an allotted amount of time and you’re definitely not completing tasks to your full potential.
When it comes to batching tasks, I highly encourage reflecting on your current season and considering when you do your best work. You want your days to be realistic – if you just write out a schedule based on what you need to get done without truly considering what is realistic for you, you just have a long to-do list and you’re not going to get any further in taking back control of your time.
For me, I know I like to have slower mornings, so I’m not going to put a 1:1 session or a large creative project on my calendar for 7am.
An example of a schedule that has time blocking and batching implemented may look like this:
Mondays – Creative Work // Tuesdays – Meetings // Wednesdays – Creative Work // Thursdays – Marketing // Fridays – Personal Day
Take your creative days and break those down into a specific clients project, then allow margin for some graphic creation for your own socials. Put in a block at the beginning and/or end of each day for admin tasks – checking your emails, checking in with clients on upcoming deliverables, a CEO task you need to get done, etc.
When you put this into practice, it will eventually become habit and you will just naturally move into each task without having to think about what’s next on your schedule for the day.
03. Plan Ahead
I cannot stress this enough – look ahead at your week before Monday morning.
Mapping out your week will be one of your best tactics for managing your workload. When you have a broad overview of what’s on your calendar for the week, you’re able to plan ahead and work around your schedule more efficiently, especially if there needs to be a change to your day. This also allows you to wake up each day knowing exactly where your time is going to be spent so you’re not spending valuable time that you could be working on tasks trying to figure out where you’re going to work on what throughout the day.
What this looks like for me:
Every Sunday I take 20-30 minutes to get an overview of what’s to come in the week ahead. After I have an overall idea of what deliverables need to be completed, I focus on the first couple of days of the week, breaking down tasks by priority. As the week progresses and tasks are done, I fill in my blocks and make adjustments as needed to goals and deadlines are being met.
A key takeaway for sticking to the boundaries you’ve set is to communicate those boundaries to your team and your clients. This will limit interruptions as well as prevent them from wondering why you haven’t gotten back to them, or have them guessing when they may hear from you. Remember: when we set boundaries, we are protecting our time, our thoughts, our creativity, our drive and our discipline – boundaries aren’t mean, they’re necessary, especially when it comes to our own life and the ability for us to succeed.
If you’re in a busy season – your calendar is currently in over-drive and you’re constantly working on client projects without being able to dedicate any time to the growth of your business, it’s time to re-evaluate your goals. Even though we don’t always want to accept it, something has to give every now and then when it comes to life and business.
Try opening up space in your schedule to be able to focus on tasks that are going to help you move the needle and achieve your quarterly and yearly goals. This may look like putting a certain service on pause for a period of time, or maybe it’s outsourcing back-end tasks so you can dedicate your time in another area. Regardless, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to say yes to every inquiry that hits your inbox, especially if you’re at a point in business that you’re looking to incorporate more passive income without giving more of your time.
This is your permission slip to take some time this week to reflect on what isn’t working and what’s going well, so you can take back control of your schedule and your life!
If you’re looking to start implementing these strategies but want a plug-and-play template to support what you want your calendar to look like, grab my Weekly To-Do Template and start optimizing your time today!
Want to get more insight on how you can take control of your own schedule? Tune in to Episode 94 of the Behind the Design Podcast where I go a little deeper into shifts you can start implementing immediately for better work-life harmony.