How often do you find yourself realizing it’s ALREADY Friday and you have no idea where all of your time went? You had SO much more you wanted to get accomplished during the week, but things kept coming up and getting pushed back. Before you knew it, your priorities became less and less important, until you finally just crossed them off the list because you thought you’d never have time for them. Have you been there?
We’ve been there. And we’re here to help.
Managing time is a huge part of running a business. In the early years of our business, we wasted a lot of time. Not because we weren’t motivated, but rather, because we weren’t efficient. Here are some signs that you are using your time inefficiently:
- Items have been on your to do-list for months and keep gettting pushed back, week after week.
- You always feel behind.
- You don’t know what you are going to work on until the day starts.
- Any time you have a spare second, you scroll through your friends’ feeds on Instagram and Facebook.
- You don’t schedule out your week.
We’ve found there’s one very simple solution to keeping our weekly schedule in order: a Monday morning meeting. During that meeting, we plan out our week. We look at our to-do lists and tasks. We put everything we need to do in a time slot. Then, we follow it.
There are some tasks we have to do every day. For example, I have emails to answer on a regular basis. So, I include a time slot, five days a week, sometimes twice per day, for client communication.
What do our meetings look like?
Our meetings consist of a few parts. We have a calendar, a meeting agenda (in Evernote) and a to-do list (in Wunderlist).
First, we print a semi-generic calendar (see an example here) we’ve created in Google Calendar. It has a skeleton of our week. We have time slots set aside for things we do every day and every week. And since we run two businesses, we have slots for specific businesses. If there’s editing for the week, it goes in a Limelife Photography project spot. We look ahead in ShootQ, our photography business workflow application, and assign tasks with upcoming due dates for those spots, as well.
We start our meeting with the calendar. We use the Sunday column (which is typically our day off) as a temporary to-do list as we go through our meeting. As items come up, we add them to that space. Then, after the meeting, we transfer those things to our official to-do list in Wunderlist.
We keep our calendars until the next week’s meeting. That way we can go over anything we didn’t finish and put it on the calendar again.
(Note: It is VERY important that you are realistic with how much you put on this calendar. This isn’t for show. No one else will see this. There is no point in doing this if you just throw everything on this calendar when you know it would be impossible to finish it all.)
The agenda is a list of topics we go through to help us remember the order of the meeting every week. It’s also a great way to track progress of current goals. Here are a few examples of things we discuss every week for our photography business:
- Social media
- Recap from last week. What did we post, and how did it go (likes, comments, shares)?
- Can we learn anything from what we posted?
- What are we going to post this week? On what day/time? (Add these things to your calendar!)
- What emails (within our workflows) need to go out?
- What days are we shooting?
- Do we have any thank-you cards that need to go out?
- Do we have any money coming in?
- Do we need to send out any invoices?
- Do we have any new leads?
- What’s the status on the leads from last week?
- Do we have any events, networking get-togethers or coffee dates?
- Do we have any consults?
- Do we need to have any other meetings (marketing, new blog ideas, any new ideas we need to talk about)?
- Recap of website traffic analytics.
- Any new marketing ideas?
- Goals updates/new ideas
- What is our progress on X goal?
- Did we have any new ideas for shoot concepts?
(Note: Keep a running to-do list section at the bottom of the agenda, just so you have a place to write them down as you are going through it. These should get transferred ASAP to your regular to-do list and scheduled on your calendar.)
When coming up with your own agenda, add topics you think will be beneficial to go over and/or that will remind you of things you need to do every week. We use Evernote for our agendas, because it makes it really easy to create a folder (notebook in Evernote) for a running list of notes. We copy the agenda from the previous week (with all the stuff we filled out) and just change the date in the title. That way we can see what happened last week and it gives us a jumping off point. When you’re finished, you can add any action items to your calendar! If they are things that won’t get done this week, just add a new section at the bottom of your itinerary titled, Long-term to-do. Since you will copy this note for next week, you’ll be able to see it and see if you can schedule it the following week.
The to-do list
We also have a to-do list (in Wunderlist). We add items to this list at the end of every Monday morning meeting and also throughout the week, as we randomly think of things. Sometimes it’s a reminder to RSVP to an event, finish a brainstorming session or to mail a thank-you card. Don’t ever think, “Oh, I’ll remember to do that later.” Add it to your to-do list!
(Note: We love Wunderlist. It syncs in the cloud to all your devices and computer. You can share a to-do list with people so they can add and check things off as well. It also works great for grocery/Target/random lists you have that aren’t directly related to your business. The more things you get out of your head and onto a to-do list, the more space you are freeing up in your mind!)
The what ifs
What if I do everything right, but I just can’t stick to the schedule?
If that is truly the case, I’d be willing to bet you spend way too much time doing a whole lot of nothing on social media, checking out the latest memes on Buzzfeed or binge watching The Office (we’ve definitely been there). We’ve found the best way to combat those weeks where you just can’t force yourself to get things done, is to set up work dates. Meet up with people at a coffee shop, a park or invite them to your place for a tea and work day. Create situations where you’ll have no choice but to do the work you want to do!
If you have to work from home and you can’t resist the calling of “A man falls into a well and a rabbit jumps in after him…You’ll never guess what happens next,” then set up Rescuetime (a time tracking tool that can block sites like Facebook for certain periods of time) so you don’t have to hear about the poor man who fell into the well in the first place.
What if I have a full-/part-time job?
We’ve been there, too! When you are working another job while you are building your business, it’s that much more important to be efficient and productive with the time you have to work on your business. You might need to be a little more creative with your scheduling, but the concept is still the same. Go through your weekly agenda and you’ll see what you’d like to (and needs to) get done, look at the available space on your calendar, then fill it up and stick to it!
What if I don’t have anyone to meet with?
Becky and I have it easier than most. We have each other to hold us accountable to getting out of bed and having these meetings and sticking to our schedules. If you don’t have a business partner, find someone who you can get together with every Monday. Get coffee, meet over Skype or Google Hangout. It might be the only thing that will make you get out of bed to start planning your super productive week. You can find people with similar goals that you can meet with on Instagram, one of the Facebook groups you are a part of, or you can always just leave a comment below and make a new friend!