Color coded time blocked calendar image on computer screen

Monday Motivations –
5 Tips to Regain Control of Your Business and Personal Life

Do your days feel like they are just a whirlwind of interruptions and problem-solving, but at the end of the day, you never really get anything important done?

We can all relate to that, right?  I know I can!  I couldn’t get any good, quality work done…I was jumping to answer everyone’s beck and call…all the while growing more and more frustrated as my task list in Asana kept getting longer.  My 2-minute rule became the “let’s hurry up, and do it so I can tune out the noise and focus on my real work” rule…and that just didn’t work either. Obviously. Don’t get me wrong, I love my clients,  my internal team, my family, and my friends, too of course, but it just wasn’t working. This is nothing against any of them…it’s on me.

Boundaries crossed, scope creep abundant, time blocks ignored, important deadlines looming and all of the time that I had carefully set aside to work on them had been hijacked by “emergencies” and the needs of others around me.  I don’t know about you but I did not start my own business to live like this.  Freedom to work when and where I wanted, respect of my colleagues and peers, financial independence, and love of being a techie operations geek who always just finds a way to make things work and help other entrepreneurs grow their businesses… these are the reasons why I started this business.

My weekends were spent at work instead of spending quality time with my family and friends. I’ve had to cancel commitments at the last minute because I just had to finish this one last thing. I was not only missing out on a ton of things, but people got frustrated with me because I wasn’t able show up for them like I should be able to.  I just kept plugging away at work, thinking if I could just work faster, harder, then things would clear up soon and be better… when what I needed to do was manage things and stick to my own SOPs.

So, what does that mean, and how did I accomplish it?? Well, I am human and I’m a WORK in progress!  I took Marie Forleo’s Time Genius program and the mindset skills I learned there have been invaluable.  It’s not that I don’t know HOW to do this, it’s that I have a heart and a mindset that is programmed to protect and serve everyone else first, and that often means I end up last.  That old adage about you have to put on your own oxygen mask first…  yeah, that applies to business as well.

So here are 5 tips that I have learned and incorporated into my own business:

  1. If it’s not on the calendar, it’s not important to you – CALENDAR FIRST
    I have all of my clients’ hours time blocked into a lovely color-coded system on my calendar. All my appointments booked thru my Dubsado scheduler are shown in one color, and all appointments booked directly through my Google calendar are shown in another. Those on Google are usually my personal appointments or me signing up to attend an event. This helps me know what’s going on, how many free hours are in my schedule so that I know if I have the bandwidth to take on new clients. [bonus tip: make sure that when you are time blocking your hours, that you show your client workload time blocks as “FREE” at least a couple times per week, or else no one will be able to book appointments with you if you have a pretty busy schedule.]Think ahead – seriously far ahead, as far as a year even. Block space for yourself and your family – plot birthdays as “BUSY” in your calendar now to avoid stress when the day arrives. Do the same for holidays. Want to take a vacation? Maybe two? Block out target weeks on your calendar – it’s not set in stone but at least it will protect that space for you.When does your brain function at its peak? Give yourself an hour each business day during that time to work ON your business, not just IN it. [Personal note: I want to be a morning person but I am just NOT… I produce my best work late afternoons or early evenings… so most evenings I block out 5-6 PM so I can devote my time to doing my best work to GROW my business.
  2. Pick a team/project management tool and USE it!
    This is obviously the next step after getting your calendar organized. I don’t care WHAT tool you choose, as long as you USE it. Most of my clients use Asana, ClickUp, or Airtable currently. Asana probably has the least learning curve of the 3, but all are pretty intuitive once you just get started. [Bonus tip: create a private project or area that is just for you, in whichever system you choose, and this is where you can enter your personal tasks and projects – start by filling in this area first, give yourself due dates or these items most likely will not get done.Then start a project for each client – put their work in there and make sure it gets done…how do you do that? You assign it to a team member and assign a due date as soon as you know about something. I will go more into depth on project management systems at a later date.
  3. Avoid SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME!Like everyone else, I get distracted when I see ads on social media, read posts by someone raving about a certain tool or business magazine, or a business publication talk about the best person to help your business scale. As entrepreneurs, we are serial learners, we crave this stuff! But is it always the best use of our time when we should be focusing on something else? NOPE. So what I did is I created a task in my project management tool and gave it the name “SQUIRREL!” (if you know, you know). I put links and a brief statement into this task about each of these things that I want to review later…and then I time block a “SQUIRREL!” hour once per week to go through the juiciest ones…. I delete most on first click – some I will make notes on and addto my schedule for a real review, demo call, etc… this allows me the freedom to still feed that need… and to channel it in a productive manner.
  4. OUTSOURCEI don’t care if you hire employees, part-time or full-time if you outsource to one of the boards like Upwork, or if you manage to find the perfect independent contractors through referral connections. But if you are operating near the 6-figure mark and above…you cannot do it alone. I am now working as an agency model, which is something that I never thought I wanted, never could find the right people to support me, but now…this is my business model and I love it. I get to do the high-level stuff that needs to be done and outsource, with very clear direction, things that don’t need my way too many years of experience. (Personal note: I’m OLD, and have been running other people’s businesses for over 3 decades now!)
    Yes, of course, this is an added expense, but budget for it! The longer I am in business, the more I am a fan of admitting that we shouldn’t operate in a silo, as an island, or whatever other metaphor you have in mind. We can learn so much from other seasoned professionals…on a very part-time basis. Hire a coach to get through your own thoughts and get the best out of yourself. Hire a consultant to review where you’re at to see how you’re doing, and make recommendations for improvement. Hire advisors to create exit strategies, growth and scaling strategies, etc. Choose a coach or consultant who shares your target audience if possible, but who is further along than you are. Always aspire upward.

That’s it, I could go on and on about business and how to do better, be better, improve efficiencies, etc…but this is a very basic first step and I hope you found it helpful. If you would like to learn more about any of these, feel free to reach out via the contact form on my website.