Calendaring

What does calendaring have to do with productivity? Imagine the typical small business owner’s pains. Overwhelm. Working all night. Not knowing what your next priority is. Feeling pulled in multiple directions as you try to tackle fulfilling all the roles. Marketing. Finance. Human Resources. Operations. Sales. Oh, and doing the actual client work!

All of these challenges can take a small business owner down the path to burnout. In some cases, it can even result in failed relationships.

So, how can you manage the needs of your business and your need to have a life?

Calendaring

Calendaring – blocking your calendar with what you will do and when – is a great way to solve some of those challenges. You will find you are more productive, focused, and balanced.

Start by setting up a good digital calendar that can sync to your smartphone. It’s easiest to set up calendar blocking on a desktop computer, but having access to it on your phone lets you make decisions on the fly and when you’re not at your desk.

Google Calendar is a great tool because of its power and ubiquity. You can create multiple calendars within Google Calendar for better organization. Plus, you can subscribe to other calendars, like family members’, teammates’, and “calendars of interest” (e.g., federal holidays, the Chicago Blackhawks hockey, or Texas A&M football schedules).

One suggestion is to have separate calendars. For example, set up three calendars: a personal one, a business one, and another for time blocking. Seeing them together gives you an overview of your schedule for the day, week, or month. Additionally, assigning different colors to each calendar shows where you can have flexibility. Be sure to link them so you can see them in one view.

calendar blocking course
Put these lessons into practice with our one-hour course on how to set up calendar blocking.

Personal Obligations

The first thing you want to block out on your calendar is your personal obligations. God/spirit, your health, and social (family, friends) should be your priorities. If you are not taking care of yourself first, you will not have anything to give to your clients and your team. Take Sundays off. Make sure that the gym visit is booked and that you are taking breaks for lunch. Go to your daughter’s soccer game. Block out time to work on your charity events. And don’t forget to walk the dog.

For example, if you’re managing a virtual business, your day may “start” at 5:15 am. Calendar your morning routine. Reading, a few light chores, walking the dog (that’s exercise too!), breakfast, yoga, and shower. Set each of those as separate tasks. Then, if something needs to shift to later in the day because of an early meeting, you can easily move things around. Move into work mode around 8:30 am and include a 1/2-hour block for lunch. Sign off at 6 pm, eat dinner, spend time with your family, and do personal tasks like meal planning, etc. Of course, if an emergency arises or you get behind, you can tap into that time. However, if that happens, make it intentional for a purpose and not a habit.

Sleep is a big thing we often overlook. Be sure to schedule wind-down time in the evening so that you can get into a restful state before trying to go to sleep. And make sure you are giving yourself enough time to actually sleep. Very few of us need less than 7 hours of sleep each night. Your next day starts at bedtime the night before!

Repeating Business Tasks

The next thing to calendar block is your regular business obligations and intentional work. These are the things that you must do as a business owner to make the business go. If you always go to a networking meeting on Thursday mornings, then set it up as a repeating event. Make sure to also block time for travel to and from the event.

What else do you do regularly that you should block time for? Here are some examples:

  • Strategic planning
  • Marketing
  • Managing process and procedure
  • Sales
  • Payroll
  • Blog writing
  • Social media posting
  • Responding to emails
  • Invoicing (please do this at least monthly!)
  • Managing your finances (bill paying, end-of-month books, etc.)
  • Calendaring your work

That last one raises an interesting question. You do have to plan to plan! One way to do this is to leave the last 15-minutes of each day to confirm the next day’s schedule. At the end of each week, take 30-minutes to plan the following week and the same at the end of each month for the following month. Do the same on a quarterly and annual basis as well.

Calendaring will give you freedom if you work within the structure. But, you do have to actually work the structure.

Appointments

If you have meetings set up, they should be on your calendar, and you should plan around them. Be sure to allow for drive time if they’re onsite meetings. Additionally, if you work from home, block time to make yourself presentable before in-person or video meetings.

The result of a call or an appointment usually needs to be noted. After each call or meeting, give yourself time to transpose your notes, set up the tasks you agreed to complete, communicate with the client and your team, and adjust your schedule to accommodate any promises you made.

Client Work

Continuing with the calendaring concept, block times on your calendar for when you will work on your client projects. Be sure to save your best focus times for the biggest challenges. Guestimate about how many hours each project will take and space out that time on your calendar.

For example, if you think the consulting gig you just landed will be 40 hours of work throughout the month, block 2 hours per day (2 hours X 5 days X 4 weeks = 40). If you’ve promised a certain number of hours per week to a specific client, block those as well. Blocking out the number of hours you committed to each client allows you to see how much availability you have and prevents overpromising. It will also give you a visual cue of when you’re available for the next project.

Having blocks of time on your calendar allows you to move and shift them – like a puzzle – into a schedule that works for you.

New Overwhelm

Sometimes, the initial calendar blocking results creates a new level of overwhelm as you realize that you might not have enough hours in the day. There is every chance you’ve over-committed. You might need to reset some expectations with some of your clients. Some of your proactive tasks (marketing, blogging) might have to be put on a brief hold while you catch back up. But, as you get the hang of calendaring things out, you will start to be able to manage that overwhelm by setting better expectations, both personally and professionally. It also might be an eye-opener that you need to delegate more work.

Calendaring Breaks

As you are calendaring, be sure to build some breaks into your day. You can’t sit for 8-hours straight. (Even if you can, it isn’t a good idea!) You need breaks to refresh your body and mind to do better work. Minimally, make sure you have a short break for lunch. Don’t put your time blocks back-to-back, but make sure there are no gaps. If you need a break, schedule it.

Results of Structure

If you create structure and generally stick to a schedule, you will be more productive. For instance, if you decide to skip pieces of your morning routine, you may notice you’re off for the whole day. On the flip side, don’t structure yourself into stress. The beauty of having a plan is knowing what to do if you need to change it. Having blocks of time on your calendar allows you to move and shift them – like a puzzle – into a schedule that works for you.

Sometimes you move blocks because you don’t feel like doing what’s scheduled at that time. For some calendar blocks, you’ll stick to the schedule like glue because you need the extra focus that structure allows. Procrastination can get the best of us too, but with time blocks set, you know the consequences of procrastinating. You allow yourself to push those things off, but you do it intentionally.

Playing “Calendar Tetris®” is an easy way to see what you’re choosing not to do and to move it to a time you can or prefer to do it. Be intentional. Be aware if you’ve pushed yourself too hard. And, don’t be afraid to say no, even to yourself.

calendar blocking course
Put these lessons into practice with our one-hour course on how to set up calendar blocking.

The original version of this article was posted on barrymoltz.com.

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