How to schedule your day for flexibility and productivity

by Michele on July 12, 2012

Scheduling your day makes a solopreneur more flexibleIn my last post, I talked about how to keep your personal life from getting in the way of your  business success.  This post is about how to schedule your day to accommodate both business and personal tasks while being flexible and productive.

First, it’s important to commit to a practice of scheduling your day, so let me explain some of the benefits.  You’ll be able to get  a clear view of what you did and did not get done in a day and adjust your next day accordingly.  You’ll be able to look at a bird’s eye view of the 16 or so waking hours you have available and decide how to use them based on your current priorities.  If you don’t already have it, you’ll get a sense of when is a good time of day for different activities.  You’ll keep activities that tend to expand, like social media marketing, down to an appropriate amount of time.  You’ll be able to prioritize the few things that you really need to get done.

I do this as part of my end-of-day routine when things are fresh in my mind.  For some reason, having my day laid out before I wake up lets me hit the ground running.  If I’m feeling bad about something I didn’t get done, I can put it on my schedule for the next day and let it go for the night.   Of course I give in to temptation and skip my scheduling sometimes, and I always pay the price the next day.

You can put your schedule wherever it suits you – paper, spreadsheet, day planner, etc.  I like to use a spreadsheet with one line per activity with start and end times.  I would not recommend your main calendar – this is far more detailed than would fit on most calendars.

I always start my day with the same things.  I’m best in the morning, so those first few hours are set aside for high-priority projects, and that means whatever is most important to be working on will get some uninterrupted high-quality time before anything else can get in the way.  Consider putting in some time on high-priority work even before you check email or other messages.

Next, add in the “big rocks,” i.e. those big things you have to work around like appointments, meals, errands, fitness, etc.

Designate some time for personal tasks and for miscellaneous business tasks and handling email, messages, mail, etc.

Schedule in your breaks with a start and end time.  Taking breaks is critical to being productive, but you do need to set an end time or it’s too easy to waste a lot of time.

Just like the first few hours of the day are set, so should the last few.  Give yourself some time to wrap up your day, schedule the next day, do any before bed tasks, and finally some time to relax so you are in low gear when it’s time to go to bed.

Sounds great, right, except for inevitable last-minute things that pop up?  The irony is that having a schedule helps you to be more flexible.  You have a plan to deviate from.  You know what you are giving up (or have to make up) if you say yes to something new.  Being your own boss means that not only do you make your schedule, but you can change it too.

How do you schedule your day?  Does it help you to be more flexible?  Tell me about it in the comments.

 

Comments

  1. Mozette says:

    I don’t plan… I know that sounds crazy, but I have don’t.

    At the beginning of the week, I normally have what I call ‘a clean slate’… a week without appointments. By around late Monday or early Tuesday morning, I have the week full of appointments. To keep them straight, I have a proper day planner by the phone and I manually write them down. I don’t have anything electronically tabbed into anything anywhere otherwise I forget.
    And being a left-handed person, I buy day diaries that are especially made so that the dates are on the left hand side… Left-Handed Day Diaries; each year…. so that I can read my hand-writing in them. 😀

    So, that’s how I keep everything straight.

    I also have a work roster for my volunteer work at the art gallery I work at, which I keep on the fridge with magnets and the day I’m working highlighted so I don’t forget; and it’s written in the day dairy as well so I don’t double-book on that day either. 😀

    1. Michele says:

      Mozette, one of my most important guidelines is “Does it work?” and it sounds like you have something that works for you. Love the tip on left-handed diaries – I didn’t know they made such a thing!

  2. Mozette says:

    We have a calendar company here – which comes from the States – and each Christmas for the last 5 years, I’ve been getting myself a Left-Handed Day Diary as a quirky little gift. The funny thing is that my whole house is set up for a lefty… and so when my brother visits me (he’s also a lefty), he loves cooking here as everything is exactly where he’s put it too.
    However, get a right-hander in my house and they’re completely lost 😛

  3. mercadee says:

    What you’ll quickly realize is that you’ve only been spending time on urgent tasks each week. It’s a constant fire-drill. You’re simply trying to get one thing off your plate, so you can breathe for half a second and get to the next emergency to get off your plate.

    1. Michele says:

      mercadee, I actually find the opposite when I use some scheduling. There are certainly lots of urgent tasks, and I think a key to being a good steward of time is delineating urgent from non-urgent. Many tasks that seem urgent are not. I also use that first chunk of time each day to get some important but not urgent things done so I can be moving forward consistently.

  4. Leanne says:

    I just started working from home this year while I set my business up (launching this weekend!) and I discovered I wasted so many hours every day until I set a timetable up. I’m not normally one for scheduling but it’s really worked this time, especially having a visual guide. I can see where I get to do fun things for myself outside the hours I’ve allotted for work and it makes me want to get on with things. Great article 🙂

    1. Michele says:

      Leanne, I love the idea of putting fun things right in your schedule so you can see WHY it’s important to stay on track. If something that could be done in an hour takes 4 hours that’s fun time you are missing out on.

  5. Great blog on scheduling your days for productivity. Thank you, Michele!

  6. Kristen Byrd says:

    I really appreciate this post. I have definitely found the same to be true for me-I am just more productive when I have made a schedule for the day, even if interruptions come. Very recently I have begun prayerfully creating my to-do list in the morning in the hopes that I will be made aware of the items that should be given greatest priority for the day. This is going quite well for me so far.

    Kristen Byrd, LCSW
    Self Care Coach
    http://shineonwithkristen.com/

    1. Michele says:

      Kristen, I’m with you on this one!

  7. I’m back to scheduling, but I have a big issue with it. Mainly that I try to schedule things the way they’re “supposed” to be – you know, like a “normal” 9-5 day job, even though I own my own business and I can schedule it however I want. I am going to have to break into the freedom of a schedule that really works for me, not those that I’ve been told!

    1. Michele says:

      Amethyst, that is a big adjustment to make. I think a lot of people who are drawn to entrepreneurship have a different idea of how they’d like to schedule their day, and it takes some guts to do it your own way and not how anyone, even the “experts” tell you.

  8. Anjanette says:

    I’m working through a book called Total Home Makeover (http://www.raisingthebarrs.com/2012/08/total-home-makeover-review-giveaway/) and she insists on a daily routine, too. It’s kicking my bum. 🙂 I’m committed to at least trying it though!

    ~ Anjanette
    http://www.lillarose.biz/Anjanette

    1. Michele says:

      Anjanette, I actually use some daily routines as well. My dogs thrive on them! It also helps me make sure at least the basics get done every day. I hope the 20-day journey is a fulfilling and successful one!

  9. Kim Fennell says:

    Michele,

    This is a great post. As an entrepreneur that has worked at home for 6 years and more recently a mom, I am a firm believer in having a to do list and scheduling breaks and down time. One tool that works well for me is the tasks in my electronic calendar. I can schedule my tasks, set reminders to pop up, reschedule the task if there’s an unexpected emergency, and check off the task once it’s been completed. And, using a system that syncs with my smartphone in the event I’m away from my desk is a big help.

    1. Michele says:

      Kim, I love the idea of putting everything on the calendar so you stay on track and can handle the unexpected. Congrats on making it all work as a new mom!

  10. Great post! Key takeaway: having a schedule helps you to be more flexible. I typically plan my day around my children’s school schedules because I work from home. This allows me 6 hours of “quiet time” to complete all of my work tasks. The problem I have is that I often find myself working much longer than my scheduled hours.

    1. Michele says:

      Summer, starting with the school schedule is a great idea. It’s the single biggest non-negotiable in the day so it makes sense to start there and build everything around that. I do get working more than you want to though – I think it’s necessary from time to time when you have your own business.

  11. I love being a self-employed business owner where I have the freedom to work or not work whenever I want to. I even went to the Minnesota State Fair twice in the past week.

    Being self-employed also means I am responsible for my time when I am working. I’m always asking myself, “Is this the most important thing I could be doing right now?” It’s not always clear, but it does keep me honest.
    ———————-
    Scott D Lewis
    Cornerstones Coaching & Consulting

    1. Michele says:

      Scott, I love that question of “What is the most important thing I could be doing right now?” There’s no way to get to everything, so doing the important things is the only way to be successful.

  12. Lorii Abela says:

    Great tips and advice, Michele! Thanks for sharing this. This is truly helpful.

    Lorii Abela
    Owner/President
    http://manifestingmydestiny.com/
    http://manifestingyourtruelove.com/

    1. Michele says:

      Glad it was helpful Lorii!

  13. I am always much more productive when I use my day planner to schedule in time for tasks (especially my own business tasks) and use a timer. That helps keep me from drifting to check my email all the time, etc. I will write in appointments and client work ahead of time, but I will usually make my to-do list the day before, and then when I sit down to tackle the items, I assign how much time I’m going to allow myself to spend on them and try to stick to it.


    Lisa MacDonald
    Transcribble Virtual Assistance
    http://transcribble.ca

    1. Michele says:

      Lisa, I love timers! I find there are a lot of tasks that tend to expand if they aren’t limited by time.

  14. S. Williams says:

    Love this post! You explained well how having a schedule helps to keep one focused & get things done.

    S. Williams
    http://williamsauthor.wordpress.com/

    1. Michele says:

      Glad it was helpful! I’ve tried to go without a schedule, but it hasn’t worked for me so far.

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