Armed with an obsessive love of color-coding and all things related to organization, I’m on a mission to help you maximize efficiency in your business and life so you can spend time on what matters most to you.
Equally right and left-brained, I’m that unique business owner who can think like a creative, but act like an administrator. This blog is where you’ll see me bring that dual-brained magic to life, taking the left-brain side of life and breaking it down for your right-brained self.
“There just aren’t enough hours in the day!”
If you’ve ever lamented this to yourself or a business bestie as you’ve compared the number of hours you have each day to the number of tasks on your to do list, you’re certainly not alone.
I know I’ve often wished there were more hours available each day or week for me to accomplish all the things I want to accomplish, but what if I told you there’s a way to change that?
If you constantly find yourself with too many things to do and not enough hours to do it, one of two things is happening: either you’re wasting your time on things that don’t matter so you it feels like you never have enough time to do what you need to or you’re legitimately trying to do more things that the time you have allows for.
Whenever we encounter a situation in our life where we feel like there isn’t enough of something, our gut reaction is nearly always to add more. In this case: not enough time, add more hours… right? Wrong.
The secret to doing all the things you want to do in a given day, week, or month isn’t always adding more hours to your work schedule. In fact, I’d say that’s rarely the case.
The secret is by honestly assessing the amount of work you have to work, the hours you have to do it in, the way you’re actually spending those hours, seeing where it’s all breaking down, and making changes accordingly.
When you honestly look at all of that, you can better plan for the things you want to be doing in your business, assess the opportunities that come your way, and finally feel like you’re making progress in your business instead of just trying to keep your head above water!
Honestly assessing your task load and legitimately making progress in your business sounds pretty great, but how do you get there?
By creating a template for your ideal work month.
Yes, I said work month, not work day. This is because no day is ever the same and, if we’re honest as creatives, that would get pretty boring pretty darn fast.
Instead, we want to look at the bigger picture of your month to see how you want to be spending your work time on a more holistic basis.
Obviously, there’s going to be ebb and flow. Some weeks you’ll have to be more flexible than others. Some weeks you’ll take a Monday off that you normally don’t and you’ll have to shift the rest of your week to adjust. Depending on your industry, some months may be crazy busy while others are much slower.
The point of this exercise isn’t to create some hard and fast system, but to create a general template for how you want to be spending your time in your business.
Designing this plan can do absolute wonders for your productivity because it takes decision making out of the process. Instead of figuring out how to structure your week every single week, you can pull out your template, look at your tasks, and plan everything out accordingly.
As you might’ve guessed, before you can design your ideal work month, you have to start by getting honest about the hours — and I’m not just talking your office hours here.
Sit down and ask yourself how many hours you want to be working each month, each week, and each day — and this doesn’t have to be a “define the monthly/weekly total and divide by X” situation.
Maybe you want to work 30 hours a week, but you’d rather work longer days in the middle and shorter days at the beginning and end of the week. Or maybe you want to have a couple days each week blocked off for work with absolutely no interruptions and a solid 8 hours each day, but others that can be more fluid or flexible.
Based on your project calendar, maybe you have a few weeks each month where you’re working 40 or even 50 hours, but that balances out with other weeks where you only work 20.
The important thing here is to be honest about what you want your hours to be. There’s no room for limiting talk in this step of the process. If you want to only work four days a week and take Fridays off, figure that into equation!
Remember — this is about creating your ideal work month, whatever that means to you!
After you’ve designated the number of hours you’ll be working on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, jot down what you want those actual hours to be. And this doesn’t have to be conventional either!
Working eight hours in one day doesn’t have to be from 9:00am to 5:00pm. It could be four hours of work in the morning and four hours in the evening, with afternoons off. Or it could be five hours in the morning and early afternoon, the afternoon and early evening off, with another couple of hours before heading to bed.
Now that you’ve been honest about the kinds of hours you want to be working, you need to get honest about the tasks you’re trying to do on a regular basis — and I’m talking everything here.
Content writing. Content management. Inbox management. Email marketing. Social media. Client management. Client onboarding. Project management. Data management. Client work. Bookkeeping. Invoicing.
No matter how miniscule, minor, or mundane it may seem, if you do it in your business, write it down.
Once you’ve written down all the tasks you do on a regular basis, write down an estimate for how long it takes, along with the interval.
Does something take 30 minutes a day or an hour a week? What about those things that only show up on a monthly or quarterly basis? For those daily and weekly tasks, it can be helpful to extrapolate out and see what it adds up to on a monthly basis as well. So if you spend 30 minutes a day in your inbox, make note that it takes 2.5 hours a week and 10 hours every month.
And be super honest here — if you’d like it to take two hours for you to do a certain type of task, but it actually takes four, make note of both the actual and the ideal.
After you’ve written it all down, add it all up and compare that total to the total number of hours in your ideal work month. Then calculate the difference.
Notice any issues?
If you’re like most people, either you’re trying to cram way too much stuff into a tiny number of hours or you’re wasting so much time on overhead tasks in your business, like email or content management, that you barely have any time left over for client work.
It’s no wonder you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day… because there truly aren’t for all you’re trying to accomplish!
You might be stressing out a bit at this point because there’s a huge discrepancy between the number of hours you want to be working and the number of hours you need to do you work. There are two solutions here: cut down the amount of work you’re doing or outsource the stuff someone else can do.
Notice, I didn’t give the third option you probably jumped to — increase your hours — because I don’t think that’s the answer.
If you have to accept less work, then raise your prices to match your current income level or be okay with bringing in less revenue. If you want to outsource, don’t be afraid to grow your team. If you find the right person, the return on your business will be invaluable.
After you’ve let the shock wear off, it’s time to start getting practical and actually doing something with all of that information you just brain dumped.
While I’m an analog girl at heart and use my Simplified Planner to keep me on task with the nitty gritty that’s happening from week to week, for templates, I prefer to go digital. Because that’s basically what we’re about to do — create a general template for how you want to spend your work month, week, and day.
For this, I turn to Google Calendar.
You can, of course, use your preferred digital calendar app, but Google Calendar is my favorite.
To create this Ideal Work Month template, you’re going to start by creating two separate calendars — one titled Office Hours and one titled (surprise, surprise) Ideal Working Month.
In your Office Hours calendar, go through and input all of your office hours, setting the recurrence to fit whatever your schedule is, be that the same hours every week, two different weekly schedules alternating, or something even more custom than that.
Now comes the fun part — putting it all together.
From here on out, you essentially get to look at your office hours and your list of tasks like a puzzle. If you’ve done your math right, they’re all going to fit, it’s just gonna take a bit of finagling.
Start by putting in the easy things and non-negotiables — whether that’s recurring calls with clients, a day each week that’s blocked off for one-off calls, the time you spending batching your emails each day, or when you take your lunch break.
From there, start adding in things that happen on a daily or weekly basis that can flex a little bit, whether that’s client work, content writing, or project management.
The further you move along in the process, the more you’re going to have to flex, adjust, and rearrange things. You’ll find that you could do this thing on this day at this time, but if you move that over here, it opens up that whole block of time to do this other thing at once, rather than having to break it up.
For things you want to make room for in your schedule, but might not happen every single month or at a consistent time each month, like virtual coffee dates or client consultations, put an event in your calendar for them and just add a note that it’s a placeholder.
For example, I make space in my calendar for two virtual coffee dates each month. They certainly don’t happen at the same time every single month, but they recur on my calendar the first Friday of each month. I do that to ensure I’m planning for everything, sort of like creating a zero-based budget.
It takes a bit of time to come up with a schedule that works best, but the result is a work schedule that allows for all the things you want to do, which means if you’re focused and productive when you plan to be, you’ll never feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day again!
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