As planners, we’ve all had a day or two (or three) each week, where our workday gets taken in a direction we completely didn’t anticipate. Whether it’s an onslaught of emails, unexpected client calls, or an unshakable inability to focus, we inevitably get pulled down an unproductive path, only to leave us playing catchup the rest of the week.
With this month’s focus being on productivity, we wanted to break down one of the simplest and most effective ways to be get more done and avoid playing that dreaded game of whack-a-mole (however amazing you might be at it).
Scheduling your daydoesn’t sound super sexy, we know, but it really is our key to staying on track (and maintaining our sanity) as planners and small business owners. Read on…and get ready to show that to-do list who’s boss.
As planners, if we don’t take control of our day, it will take control of us. Take the time to map out your days in batches. Maybe this means sitting down every Sunday night and coming up with a game plan for the entire upcoming week. Or, maybe you take 15 minutes at the end of every day to schedule out the next. The key is to take charge and be proactive so you don’t have to be reactive. At any given time during the day, you should have a clear idea of what tasks are ahead of you.
Rather than simply saying, “Tomorrow, I’ll write some blog posts and make some client calls,” get as specific as possible. Which blog posts? Which client calls? At what time? Choose clear-cut tasks and make “appointments” with yourself to finish each. Set time slots for specific to-dos (calendar appointments work great for this).
We also love the idea of a physical planner (rather than digital) used solely for this purpose—we remember things better when we write them down. Plus, having an isolated “space” where we write nothing but our set tasks for each day helps to keep our schedules—and our minds—uncluttered and on track.
When we stray from the task at hand to complete something unexpected that pops up, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain our focus on the original task at hand, according to Heidi Thompson of Evolve Your Wedding Business, when we stray from the task. That’s a lot of time (that we don’t really have as planners) to give up. No matter how tempting it may be to check your inbox every five minutes, if you scheduled yourself to write a blog post from 3:30-4:00 focus on that, and only that.
After hours and hours (and hours) of relentless multitasking, I’ve come to realize that “multitasking” is really just a clever way for saying you’re all over the place. Our ability to put out multiple fires at once is often something that feels like a bragging right as a small business owner, but it’s a strong ability to focus—not multitask—that we should strive for. Try scheduling like-tasks in groups—client contact tasks should be done together, social-media tasks should be done together, etc. This way, your brain doesn’t have to change gears too often.
Hold Yourself Accountable
The only way any of this gets us closer to the beach with a margarita in our hand (and further from answering emails in bed at 2 a.m.), is if we hold ourselves accountable for the “appointments” we set with ourselves. The plans we have for our upcoming days should be valuable to us and worth protecting. Treat those plans as you would a client meeting—you would never no-show or choose to do something else instead.
Overall, the more proactive we are about scheduling our days, the less reactive (and scattered) we’ll have to be throughout the week. And, besides, does anything else in the world feel better than crossing an item off of your to-do list (preferably with a really pretty pen)?