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I am a work at home mom with two toddlers running around all day, clients to work with, appointments to keep, blog posts to write… this list could go on and on. If you run a small business, whether you have little ones or not, your list of to-do’s could be looking like a marathon you’ll never finish. If anyone understands the struggle, it’s me.
Having a daily schedule is, in my opinion, one of the best gifts you can give yourself as a small business owner. A schedule can help you work more efficiently by focusing your attention on tasks that bring you closer to your goals (learn how I set BIG goals and actually achieve them here). It provides your day with structure and organization, and we all want to be more organized. And most importantly it can make you more productive in all areas of your life.
So how can you cross off those to-do’s, stay productive, and still have time to have a life away from your desk? I am going to show exactly how I schedule my work week so I can get more done and reach my goals. Trust me, this technique has improved my life and business tenfold since I started using it.
Before we jump into how I schedule all my tasks I feel it’s necessary to talk about a few tools I use that keep me organized. These tools are not necessary but they do make staying organized easier.
My planner of choice is the Erin Condren Life Planner. I cannot tell you how much I adore this planner. After searching years, and I mean years, for the perfect planner I found Erin Condren through a friend and teacher. Since I have been using it I have been able to stay on top of every daily task with ease. And yes, I love this planner more than any electronic planner on the market. Here in a bit, I’ll show you how I set up my week and you’ll see first hand how helpful the layout is.
The next tool I love and cannot imagine my life without is my trusty outlook calendar. I don’t use my calendar to necessarily plan out my weekly to-dos as much as I use it to schedule my social media and blog posts. I color code each post based on it’s topic and this allows me to make sure I spread my content out. But I do glance at my calendar daily to see which posts are on the horizon. So if you don’t have a good calendar I recommend getting one.
I swear by time blocking my tasks to make me more productive. Time blocking is a technique where you schedule like tasks together. For instance, if I need to design graphics for a blog post I will also schedule my social media graphics at the same time. If I need to schedule my social media posts I will also use that time block to comment and reply to others on social media. This allows me to knock out several tasks that are similar all at once. It also helps me stay focused on the task at hand because I’m not jumping around from program to program.
Appointment are important to any business, and family. So when I start scheduling my week I always start with the items that are not flexible. Appointments are not flexible and get written down before anything else.
Daughter has a dentist appointment? Goes in first. Client call Monday at 11? Goes in first.
When you schedule these first you won’t accidentally schedule something else in its place and miss an appointment. Also, if it’s an appointment is outside of the office don’t forget to schedule in your travel time to and from (learned this one the hard way).
This is pretty self-explanatory but worth mentioning. Every morning I go through a ritual to prepare myself for the day ahead. I personally believe everyone needs a morning routine. If you don’t have one already you can read about mine here.
But for this post, schedule your time for your morning routine. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour put it into your schedule.
If you don’t work from home this may not be a necessity, but if you do I recommend scheduling your family time. Not only does this help give you a visual reminder to spend time with the ones you love but it helps prevent business from flowing into personal time. If you don’t have set business hours I recommend adopting the practice.
When I say priority task I am talking about the tasks that make you revenue or move you closer to making revenue. Every business is different but for my priorities fall into one of five categories:
Under each of these categories, I have a list of tasks that need to be completed. For example:
Using the time blocking technique I take the task lists and group like task together (across all categories) and block out my time. Simple enough so far right?
Here’s what my week typically looks like by the end of this stage:
Non-priority tasks are the tasks that need to be done daily or weekly but aren’t necessarily immediate needs. A lot of our admin tasks would fall into this category. Checking Google analytics isn’t a priority task and can be checked once a week or even less often.
I’m probably going to ruffle a few feathers when I say this but checking email and commenting on social media are non-priority tasks and here’s why: They are a huge time suck! That may sound harsh but you know it’s true. You know once you pull up Facebook to reply to comments you’re going to get sucked in for at least an hour. Same with checking your emails.
These are the tasks I schedule for the very end of my day when I’m probably at my least productive and need to rest my mind a bit. I’m not saying they don’t need to be done but there is a time and place and during your most productive hours is not the time.
This may be a new term for you, or I may have just made it up, but transition tasks are the task you do between priority tasks that allow you to process information or get in the right mind frame for your next time block.
Moving from task to task without stopping doesn’t give your mind a chance to switch gears. I don’t know about you but I have to be in the right frame of mind before I can write blog posts. So if I just spend 2 hours doing design work I need a chance to get my mind right before I start writing. This is also helpful for after meetings, webinars, courses etc. because it gives your mind a chance to reflect on what you’ve just experienced or learned.
If you work in an office filing paperwork, cleaning off your desk, taking out the trash, are all great transition tasks because it doesn’t take a lot of brain power to accomplish them.
For us stay at home moms our transition tasks might be loading the dishwasher, folding a load of laundry, or sweeping the floor. These tasks serve two purposes for us: getting a brief break and keeping the house under control.
I don’t schedule these task in my planner but after each time block, I choose a household chore that needs to be done and do it all the while I’m processing what I’ve just done and what’s ahead of me. This is my super productivity tip.
The true secret sauce to being productive isn’t knowing how to schedule your tasks, but sticking with your schedule and being flexible at the same time. Life is life, and it will throw a wrench in your plans any chance it gets. Just remember nothing is set in stone and tasks can be moved around, just don’t move tasks to your family and personal time. Please don’t do that. You need that time.
Did you learn anything that will help you become more productive in the weeks ahead? I want to hear how you’re going to implement these scheduling secrets into your daily life so comment below.