If I had a dollar for every post I read about time management and organization...well, let's say I'd have a lot of dollars.
Reading about time management is my time-wasting habit of choice, but over the last three years of business ownership (and three years where I learned lots and lots about my own habits) here are the four tips I keep coming back to when I re-think the habits I develop to plan my days, weeks, months, and quarters.
P.S. Remember that we all have ways that we keep ourselves organized that are simply unique to us and us alone. Which is why I wrote a more general post than a "How I Organize My Week" post. Because even if you're not visual and you aren't particularly organized, these four tips will help you create your own system because they're exactly the features of each of the organizational methods I've used in the past three years
Tip #1: Think About the Big Picture
A lot of times, we can get caught in the weeds with our businesses because we only play day-to-day or week-to-week.
Last year, I used a Day Designer to plan, which was really, really awesome, but I realized that unless I can look at my month or year as a whole? I have no idea how busy I'm going to be when I'm simply looking week to week.
It's important as a business owner to understand your "cycles", aka when you're going to be very busy throughout the year, and when you have the ability to relax a little bit more. For example, I know that I get busy in the fall, so it doesn't make sense for me to launch a bunch of things in the fall. However, spring is a PERFECT time for me to launch since I'm generally not that busy with client work.
1. Write down the projects you KNOW you're committing to this year, as well as their due dates
2. Plot these all in your calendar of choice (monthly or yearly view is best)
3. Notice your busy seasons and less busy seasons.
4. See if you can add projects or vacations into your less busy seasons NOW
Hot Tip: I usually aim for one BIG project per quarter that's not client related. This year's Q1 project is an e-course on planning and creating your own signature event.
Resources: I love my Seize the Year wall calendar because it's huge and I can use colorful washi tape to mark Boss Lady Events, Speaking Gigs, Vacations, Client Events and other important deadlines I have during the year. You can also use Google Calendar's Yearly View for this.
Tip #2: Flesh it Out in the Short Term
After I've written down all my important dates and taken a good hard look at my year, I focus on the next quarter. Like I said above, I have ONE project per quarter that I tackle, and each day, I try to build in some time for that project and that project alone.
When I plan my week, I make sure that I don't take meetings or calls on Mondays or Fridays. Mondays are "Marketing Mondays" which is when I write all my blog posts for the weeks, pre-schedule my Facebook and flesh out my Instagram posts and take all my Instagram pictures for the week, write my weekly newsletter to my community, and jumpstart the conversations in my Facebook groups. I also create a rough marketing plan for the week if I'm selling tickets to anything. Friday is "Admin Friday" where I clean out my email, do any accounting that needs to get done, and then work on my big project (like creating content).
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are reserved for client work, calls, meetings, and the day-to-day work that pays my bills.
1. Designate ONE day of your week for non-client or customer work. This will help you stay on top of big projects, marketing, admin, email, etc. so you don't let it all build up over time. I have two of these days, but one is a good start.
2. Make a list of what NEEDS to get done every week. For me, it's blog posts and newsletters and client work. For you, it may be a clean email box and responses to all your major clients. Or maybe a group team meeting. Then, schedule it into your weekly calendar.
3. Go through your week and put 3 tasks on each day. Only three (and one per day can be easy). That way, you know you'll get at least 15 things done in a week, with some room for flexibility if an urgent project comes up.
Hot Tip: I make a list every Sunday of ALL the things that are on my mind. Then, I pick the most immediate 10-15 and schedule them into my week, batching things like blog posts on the same day so that I don't have to switch my brain around to different tasks so much.
Tip #3: Have a Way to Audit Weekly
You should have a designated day and time that you plan for your week and review the week before. Sundays are my days for planning, but it's also the time I reflect on what may have not worked in the past week.
Like I said, my organization method has evolved over the last three years a LOT and the one thing that I know more than the sun will come up tomorrow is that if I don't review the past, my future will never get better.
My audit usually takes about 20 minutes and my weekly plan takes about 30. I can do it while I'm eating dinner or just sipping tea on my couch.
1. On Sunday or Monday morning, write down 3 things that you're proud you got done the previous week. Write down 3 things you thought would get done but didn't.
2. Write your high and low of the previous week.
3. Write down a list of everything that is occupying space in your brain in a big To Do List format.
4. Batch the "like items" together and think about tackling those items on the same day.
5. Schedule time each week to review how the previous week went and what needs to happen the next week.
Tip #4: Have a Way to Audit Quarterly
Again, none of this works if we just keep doing the same thing over and over without analyzing the results.
While a weekly audit is good for your workload, taking stock monthly or quarterly (which I prefer) is another really good way to not only remember what you've accomplished, but to see if you've completed your quarterly BIG PROJECT and if not, why not.
Usually, every quarter I do the same thing as my weekly review: I write down what went well, what I didn't complete, and how I'd like it to change in the future (more marketing, more events, less social media time wasting, etc.)
1. On your big wall calendar (or your yearly day timer), set aside a date at the end of each quarter to do a complete review of all your business/life accomplishments.
2. Write down three things that went well, and three that didn't.
3. Make a list of things you want to change in the coming months or quarters.
4. Create a new method of organizing your business around your patter from the previous quarter (ex. you used to plan your weeks on Monday, but you think doing it Sunday morning is more efficient).
Okay, your turn! In the comments below, tell me how you organize your day/week/month/quarter/year. What sorts of hot tips do you have for us? And how do you make sure you stay organized, on track, and focused on your goals each week/month?