We've been talking a ton about strategy on the blog lately. I've been on a kick I guess and I'm really passionate about helping you put systems in place that are sustainable over the long term and that will help you take your biz and your family life to the level you've dreamed of.
We've discussed how to set attainable goals and how to capitalize on your strengths to achieve those goals. And, you also know that getting organized and knowing how long the little things take makes a huge difference in the way your day runs.
So I thought I'd pull everything together today so we can take it one step further and put all of these things into a schedule. By the end of this post, you will have an active game plan that allows timeslots for self-care, relationship maintenance, family time, household chores, and dream chasing.
Make sure to grab your audit below so you can start to track the time you currently spend and learn how to make your months exactly what you want them to be.
If this kind of schedule sounds like it’s going to be “jam packed,” it is. But again, being busy doing the things you love is so much different than being busy with useless obligations.
It is the difference between being overwhelmed and being fulfilled.
Now, I hear you creative-types groaning and shouting. “No way will I define every moment of my days! What an infringement! How confining!” I hear you sister, and soon, when the babies are all in school or moved out living their own lives, our time will be our own again.
We can spend our hours in exactly the ways we want to spend them. But, at least for now, a “rigid,” well-defined schedule is the absolute best way to tackle overwhelm, command our days, and find time to pursue our goals on top of #allthethings.
For some of you, this might seem like an extreme lifestyle change. If scheduling everything seems stressful or just not for you, read through the post and take a few tips rather than trying the whole thing.
Plus, if you have a schedule for all of the tasks you don’t love, you can create a big chunk of time for open creativity.
Use this open space for all the things you do love.
Top-down scheduling is a method of scheduling time that takes into account all of the little pieces that make up the bigger picture. We’re going to start with this approach so that we find out exactly how much time we really have to work with.
This is very similar to what we did when creating our action plan. The benefits are the same in the sense that working backwards ensures you do not miss little pieces that are essential to the whole. Also, this type of planning allows you to see the big picture.
The first step in a top-down schedule is going through the calendar and pinpointing all of the annual events. Things such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, school-breaks…anything that is going to give shape to your year.
Use these dates as anchor points for your year. Give your schedule shape and structure and allow yourself to envision how you want your biz and life to look long-term. If it's important for you to spend dedicated family time during the holidays, block it off now. You won't be scrounging for minutes to spend drinking eggnog while thinking of how to get your last minute work done.
The second step is to take into account quarterly/seasonal accomplishments. Are there things you do every summer or winter? What about spring cleaning or other types of events that change the way you attack certain chores? Plan these out after you have given some annual structure to your year. Having your quarters defined will narrow down your focus that much more.
As mompreneurs, this is where we can start to think about our business ideas.
What are the biggest things you would like to accomplish four times per year? Will you launch something quarterly? Do you have quarterly sales goals, quotas, or number of products you need to make?
Planning according to the quarter allows you to capitalize on things like school holidays and seasonal changes. You can also get really organized and design your quarterly content around a theme or the subject of your launch. This will help you draw in your ideal customer as you list build before you sell.
If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, you know that monthly scheduling comes next. Go through each month as a separate schedule. Are there big events like birthday parties that will require extra time that month? What about recurring monthly meetings?
Something to think about when scheduling your months is how close together you are planning special events. Some things like birthdays are unavoidable, but other social obligations like hosting book club and wine night the same month as an anniversary and holiday may be a bit too much.
Take a look at your month to make sure your time allocation is reasonable. This is your biggest defense against becoming overwhelmed.
Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty. I’m sure by now you can see how working backwards with your schedule helps to fit all your to-do’s together like a puzzle.
Taking a weekly view can help you become super-efficient with your time. You can start to see how many times you’ll need to leave the house to run errands and you can see if it’s possible to group those types of tasks together in the same day.
You can also see how setting aside time weekly to build your business will fit into your monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. Think about what you have to do each week to contribute to your bigger vision.
The weekly level is a good place to separate tasks into different categories. As you plan your week, think about what is absolutely essential, what you would prefer to accomplish in the next seven days, and what is least important.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, you might not have as much time in your day as you thought now that you have everything outlined for the rest of the year.
Though this can seem like a bad thing, it’s actually not.
Taking a top-down approach ensures that by the time we get to planning our days, we have taken absolutely everything else into account. Now there should be surprises that will eat up our time and we can start to see what we can do a little of every day that will benefit our families and our businesses.
I know I’m making this all sound pretty easy, and overall it is when you get the hang of it.
However, there are always going to be things that come up on a daily or weekly basis at the last minute. If you build your schedule too tightly, this can really throw you off.
My biggest suggestion is to give yourself grace with your schedule. If you think something will only take a day or two, go ahead and spread it out over four or maybe even the whole week. If you finish early good for you, you’ve earned some free time. But, if something comes up, you’ll have a bit of buffer to work with.
Plus, you want to have room for a little spontaneity like an impromptu lunch date with your spouse or your bff.
Planning Your Days
In order to have a balanced schedule at the daily level, you need to get super organized.
Here's the part where we’re going to tap into our personalities and our strengths to determine how we work best and how to maximize our time during the day.
Time Blocking vs. a Periodic Schedule
There are two different – and really kind of opposite – ways of attacking a daily schedule. The first is called time-blocking and it involves setting one large piece of time aside to do all of the tasks in one category.
For example, some people love to set aside three hours on Saturday to clean their entire house from top to bottom.
This approach is great for people who can compartmentalize their time and focus really well on one thing. Another great aspect of time blocking is it lends itself really well to a weekly schedule because people can block off entire days for bigger tasks.
If this sounds like you, here are some of the ways you can benefit from time-blocking:
- Time-blocking allows you to get into a physical and mental groove
- You actually become more productive as you go because focus increases and tasks become mentally easier.
- All of your tasks are done at once and you don’t have to worry about them until their next designated block.
Periodic scheduling on the other hand is more for people who like to spread responsibilities out over longer periods of time/break them into more manageable pieces. This type of scheduling is more for the person who would rather do individual chores on certain days such as clean the bathrooms on Monday, sweep the floors Tuesday, dust Wednesday etc…
People who prefer periodic scheduling are often those with busy minds and who do not do well staying in one place for a long period of time.
Benefits of this approach include:
- You feel more productive because a variety of things are complete
- Periodic scheduling gives active people a sense of being busy rather than idling on one task
- You can revisit lengthy tasks with fresh eyes
Neither the time-blocking nor periodic scheduling approach is better than the other. However, what is best is to figure out which approach matches your personality the best.
People who are more chill benefit more from blocking their time and spending longer periods on one category. More active people on the other hand, would die of boredom and so periodic scheduling is more motivating.
The Pomodoro Technique
A quick note on how the brain works, regardless of whether you time-block or periodic schedule…
Human beings are not meant to focus solely on one task for too long of a time without resetting their brains. If you think back to caveman days, it probably wasn’t a good idea for gatherers to spend too much time picking berries without looking up from the bushes. If so, they probably would have missed good ol’ Mr. Sabretooth or the huge storm rolling in.
While today’s version of gathering involves sticking our heads in the pantry, our biology hasn’t changed so much that we don’t need to look up from our tasks once in a while. Taking a break allows us to refresh, gather our thoughts, and survey our surroundings.
The Pomodoro Technique capitalizes on this biological need and is a method of working in which we spend a chunk (usually 25 minutes) completely engrossed in a task and then we take a short break (5 minutes) to clear our head and regroup. This technique is thought to improve concentration and mental agility.
The Key to Finding Balance
So now that you have a great idea of how to go about defining your schedule, you can go ahead and find out the exact amount of time you have for each of the different categories in your life.
The Mompreneur's Balanced Month Audit is designed to help you tackle your schedule in two ways.
The first addresses your mindset and makes sure you are devoting the right amount of time to the items that line up with your core values.
The second is from a strategic standpoint that allows you to complete actual calculations to make sure your month is balanced in a way that lets you feel comfortable as a mom and a mompreneur.
The great thing? It's completely FREE! Just click the button below to download.