If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that self-employment is awesome. You get to manage your working hours, work from wherever and be free. You’re happy to finally be free of rules, routine, and structure; everything that made you loathe working corporate. After all, isn’t freedom one of the reasons you started your business?
But how do you keep yourself organized so everything gets done? Here’s a simple truth: create routines, set up a planning system that works for you and watch the magic unfold.
Today I’m going to share how I used a weekly routine combined with methodical planning to plan a productive weekly schedule.
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SET UP A WEEKLY ROUTINE
Let’s talk routines. Specifically, a weekly routine for different tasks. I recommend having a system like this in place before establishing a planning routine. It’s so-so helpful for handling the neverending flow of things to do and avoiding overwhelm.
I’ve set up a weekly batch task routine that covers every major category in my business. This system lends from the idea of doing batch days. By definition, batching involves grouping similar tasks to increase productivity and avoid distractions.
Here’s how to set it up:
- make a list of tasks you do every week (bookkeeping, social media posts etc.);
- group tasks into categories based on topic;
- assign each category to a different weekday;
- block out time for it on your calendar.
Ever since I started doing this routine, my mornings are way more productive than before. Before I would pick a task from my master list on Asana, get carried away and override my actual client work hours. Now I know exactly what I’m going to be working on each morning and have a time frame for getting it done.
I hope this implementing this system works just as great for you as it did for me. Get inspired, copy mine, or make it your own!
Monday | Finances + Organizing Dubsado (~ 1 hour)
Some people might beg to differ but I like to get any money-related tasks out of the way by the time I finish my Monday morning coffee. Keeping track of finances isn’t my favorite way to spend time, but hey, things gotta get done. Tracking expenses and income weekly instead monthly reduces my workload at the end of the month. The reason I do finances and CRM work on the same day is that both involve Dubsado.
Dubsado is my favorite CRM software because I can get my whole client process from onboarding and email updates to tracking payments done without switching tabs. On Mondays, I keep track of new leads, send proposals, make sure contracts have been signed and invoices sent, send updates to clients via client portals and just make sure everything runs smoothly.
Seriously, Dubsado is awesome. You can get an un-timed free trial (up until 3 new leads) to see if it’s right for you. If your three leads are up and you decide to sign up for a plan, make sure to use the code “junglesoul” in the checkout to get 20% off your first month or yearly payment. That’s exactly what I did – who doesn’t love a discount!
Tuesday | Graphics + Photography (~ 1,5 hours)
On Tuesdays, I shoot and edit photos for social media and blog posts. Usually, I try to stay ahead of schedule and take photos for the next two weeks. And since I’m already working with Lightroom and Photoshop, I get social media graphics for the next two weeks done too. That way, when I start scheduling posts on Wednesday, everything is ready to go. Another thing to note is that if I currently have a Pinterest graphics client, I schedule them in on Tuesdays so that all graphics get done in one day.
Wednesday | Social Media Scheduling (~ 2 hours)
Wednesdays are for getting social. There is no better thing to batch than social media, especially because I have my Instagram posts planned two weeks in advance. I use Tailwind for scheduling Pinterest posts (takes around 45 minutes every week) and Buffer for everything else.
Thursday | Content (~ 2 hours)
Thursdays are for creating content – blog posts, email sequences, newsletters, resource library, freebies.
Friday | Admin Tasks + Getting Organized (+ Client Work)
It depends on my current projects, but usually, Friday is the only day I don’t do any client work. Instead, I work on my business and get organized for the next week.
Friday tasks vary week-to-week. What I need to do depends on what’s currently on my plate and how much I got done on previous days.
Examples of Friday tasks:
- leftover tasks from previous days;
- learning something new;
- creating content;
- website tweaks and maintenance;
- planning another week of Instagram posts;
- making a list of photos I need to take next Tuesday;
- organizing inboxes;
- updating Asana boards;
- trying out new business tools;
The organizing part of Friday includes:
- going through computer files, deleting clutter and anything irrelevant and syncing files to Google Drive. Storing all my business files on Google Drive makes it easier to keep my computer streamlined and clutter-free. I have a recent post about how I use Google Drive to keep my files organized + a downloadable checklist;
- doing a desk & desk drawers clean up;
- weekly planning session.
TIPS FOR PLANNING A PRODUCTIVE SCHEDULE
Find a planning system that works for you
Scheduling tasks and keeping track of goals is essential, but it really doesn’t matter what system you use as long as it works for you. Try different systems for a couple of weeks and figure out what works best for you. If you’re not a digital planner, don’t push it, and the other way around.
I pinballed between strictly digital and strictly paper planning for a while before figuring out that a combination of the two works best. My paper planner is my best friend – I use it to keep track of my daily tasks and weekly/monthly goals, but prefer to time-block my work day in Google Calendar. I also use Asana to manage projects, keep a categorized to-do list and pre-plan Instagram captions among many other things.
Make planning a weekly habit
To avoid being confused on Monday morning, make planning a weekly habit. Dedicate 30 minutes to an hour on Friday or Sunday to write down your tasks, goals, appointments, and block out time for those tasks in your calendar. This is the time to evaluate what you’ve achieved this week, reschedule anything that didn’t get done and create an action plan for the next week.
I do my planning session before I clock out on Friday evening and it takes around 30 minutes. Try to make it something to look forward to, like a fun me-time. My Friday planning session is a time for unwinding and switching from work mode to weekend mode.
Set monthly and weekly goals
I used to not understand what the fuss about goal-setting was about, but then it suddenly hit me. You might know what you want to do but without a clear strategy (goals, ahem) it’s going to be hard to get there.
So lay out your long-term, monthly and weekly goals, and make sure your monthly goals support your long-term goals. I’d recommend setting no more than three monthly goals.
To make monthly and weekly goal planning easier, I’ve included monthly goals worksheets. Set three goals for each month, then break each one down to small manageable tasks that can be achieved in a week or less (works best if it can be achieved in four tasks – one for each week). Don’t forget to put an end date on each task!
Assigning a task to a certain week keeps you on track. This is the system I use and it works wonders.
Keep a categorized to-do list
My recommendation is to match the categories to your weekly routine (as described above). So mine has finances + CRM, photos & graphics, marketing, content and admin (for everything else). Client work is organized by project separate from the to-do list. My list is set up in Asana but you can keep it on paper or Evernote too if that’s what works best for you. I keep Asana open throughout the day anyway and whenever I think of something that needs to be done, I can quickly switch tabs and get it out of my head. During my weekly planning session, I go through this board, pick a task or two from each category and schedule them in for the appropriate batch morning.
Work consistent days and hours
Self-employment = freedom to work whatever hours and days you want. However, working consistent days and hours helps plan your week and work better. How many days a week do you want to work? How many hours a week do you need to work to make ends meet? Are you going to work Monday through Friday? Are weekends out of the question?
Know your family’s schedule, your own peak hours and set your work hours according to that. It may be a classic 9-5 but it can also be 5-12, 10-6 or at night. Figure out what’s yours and then work it!
In the end, as long as the work is done on time, it doesn’t really matter when it’s done.
Schedule time blocks
There are many articles out there about the time-blocking method. That’s because actually blocking off time for tasks works wonders for productivity and leaves less room for chance. Take your events, meetings and to-do list and turn them into blocks. Google Calendar is great for time-blocking because you can differentiate tasks by color and move them around.
Don’t forget to leave a little white space
Being productive doesn’t mean stuffing your schedule full of tasks, working until exhaustion and not leaving time for your personal life. Productivity means working smarter not harder.
Productivity articles often suggest planning your day down to the last minute (we’re talking about work hours here) – if you look at their Google Calendar it’s meetings and tasks scheduled back to back with no white space – and that is a big no-no.
Planning every minute of your workday does not mean you’re more productive and get more tasks done. Working without breaks only leads to mental and physical exhaustion and in worse cases, stress. Taking breaks is healthy. Leave a little buffer time (10-15 minutes is great) between task blocks to stretch, clear your mind and boost brain activity.
Ditch self-employment guilt and embrace flexibility
Self-employment guilt might be stopping you from being productive.
What is it? Self-employment guilt essentially means feeling bad about having more freedom than most of the humankind and therefore working more and longer hours than regular 9-5 employees. It shows up when you take a break in the middle of the day, take a vacation several times a year, or when someone judges your life and thinks you’re lazy because you work only 4 hours a day. You might constantly feel like you’re doing enough.
I used to feel guilty as heck because of my unconventional schedule. I’ve always been a night owl who hates early mornings. Yet, for a long time, I felt the pressure to work from 9 to 5 like a “normal” person because that’s what today’s busy society approves (hint: it didn’t end well). It didn’t help that even some of my friends would hint that I was just being lazy when I was enjoying the fruits of freedom my chosen lifestyle gave me.
Let me tell you – the day I decided to ignore standard work hours, embrace my night owl schedule and let go of the guilt, my life changed for the better.
It’s time to let it go! Let it goooo… There is absolutely no need to feel guilty. You know you work hard, do a good job and make your clients happy, and you deserve your freedom! In fact, as an entrepreneur, you work more by default because you have to keep your business up and running. So take advantage of your position and make your schedule flexible.
Over to you! How do you plan your schedule? Do you have any tips to share?