What does success look like to you? A great mentor of mine once said success is simply properly planned days executed consecutively over time. “When days become, weeks, weeks become months, and months become years, that is where your success lives.” I still attribute many of my accomplishments to this principle. Consistency over time is important for so many reasons, which we will dive into deeply in future articles. However, learning to master your days, and ultimately your weeks, is the key to unlocking a new dimension of your life and your business. A dimension where you are more efficient, more effective, and more successful – and it all begins with planning. Planning your week out, especially as a business owner, is the most productive way to regain control of your time, boost your confidence, and set your mind at ease. Have you ever tried to do something without a plan? When I first started my wedding business, I essentially ran without a plan ( 0/10 would not recommend) and I felt like I was drowning. I was probably the most stressed I have ever been in my life, I had unbelievable amounts of self doubt, and I had high levels of anxiety. Once I really decided to take charge of my time, my life and my business changed dramatically. I felt a tremendous burden lifted off my shoulders and my life did a full 180. Here are my hindsight takeaways to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed and to start owning your time.
Get a Planner – It doesn’t have to be fancy. Most of our smartphones and computers have built in calendars we can use to get us started. However, I am a big proponent of using a planner that forces me to write by hand. There is something about this practice that solidifies what needs to be done in my brain and I am more likely to remember it and execute. I keep a personal planner, but I am also using a Google calendar for my business as well. It may sound like a lot to juggle, but this practice is single handedly one the greatest improvement I made to owning my time. Start with your business calendar and work what needs to be done into your personal planner. There is something about the planning process that makes your week feel more concrete and I really feel like you are more likely to follow through when you write (or type) it out.
Keep the Blinders on – Here’s where I lose a lot of people. On top of all of that, I recommend keeping a small notebook with a checklist of everything that needs to get done for that specific day. WHAT?!?! Then why (in the expletive of your choice) did we just spend all that time mapping out our week?! I get it, however (and this is a big however) a lot of the time when I am looking at the macro calendar as I call it, it can be easy to wander over to the other days and see how much you have to do on that day. All of the sudden, you are not present and you’re not focusing on the day right in front of you. This has happened to me more times than I would like to admit. My anxiety begins to spin out of control and overwhelm sets in. Now I am not focused on what I need to do TODAY and productivity begins to suffer. If you don’t believe it, try it for a week. Before you end your work day, begin making a checklist that includes all of the times and tasks for things that need to get done for the following day. Put your most important items at the top and less important at the bottom.That way, when your work day starts you aren’t scrambling to figure out what needs to get done. You seamlessly start your work and you’re not overwhelmed because you are present and focusing on only what you need to accomplish for that day. Plus, there are a ton of positive cognitive benefits that come along with making checklists. Don’t be afraid to get specific, it will pay off in the long run.
Plan Your Macro Calendar Once a Week – This just feels good, to me at least. I found that taking one day out of your week to plan your entire week is extremely helpful. What goals do you have for the week? What actions can you take that will help you accomplish those goals this week? These are the types of questions you should be asking during this planning session. As a wedding business owner, I like to sit down on Monday and plan my week out until that Sunday. This will include any shoots I have, editing, client meetings, and time I want to set out for family or friends. Once you have these larger events filled in, it’s easy to see where you will have time for other things you want to accomplish, like that blog post I was supposed to write last week, or studying for that certification that’s been lingering for who knows how long. This is the power of planning. Now when someone asks if you’re free for a consultation on wednesday you don’t have to guess, you can look at your calendar. The macro calendar sets the direction for the week. The “micro calendar” or daily task list keeps you heading in the right direction.
Stick to the Plan – It’s easier said than done, but this is where the checklist comes in handy. There are some days you will wake up and say to yourself “yeeeaaahhh, I feel like doing none of that.” This is one of the most challenging aspects of being a small business owner, especially if you work purely for yourself like I do, that is you have no one to hold you accountable. That is why it is so important to be making these plans and sticking to them. You have to be accountable to yourself. Over the years, I have found the pain of not doing what needs to be done to be worse than the pain of avoiding, procrastinating essentially. Stick to your checklists and reward yourself at the end of the when you’ve accomplished all you need to. The feeling of accomplishment may be the only reward you need.
Don’t be a Task Hero – Some people will put things on a task list just so they can check them off. We’ve all been there and I encourage you not to do it. It really does decrease the merit of the planning process and it will ultimately hold less value to you when you just start checking things off that are meaningless to you and your macro plan for the week. Also be weary of putting too much on your list. You need to be realistic with how long things actually take and not biting off more than you can chew, which is incredibly discouraging. It will take time, but with practice, you will master the art of planning. In your heart, you know if you truly worked diligently during the day and if something does need to be carried over to the next day, try to get it done first thing in the morning, but don’t beat yourself up about it. Also, don’t be too rigid with your planning, because you can take this to an opposite extreme which defeats the purpose of planning, that is feeling liberated from overwhelm.
One thing is certain, balanced productive planning will help you feel accomplished during your day and give you a real understanding about where you stand with your time, so you can continue to give your business what it needs, stress free. Cheers. 🙂
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