Learn how to run your business and optimize your schedule effectively with these scheduling tips.
You may have heard the term before, “guard your schedule with your life…” Or perhaps…
Time is money.
Time is of the essence.
Well, these all couldn’t be more true as an independent business owner.
While we may feel in control of our schedule because we own our business, our schedules are one thing that can easily become quite the opposite of in control. While schedules may ebb and flow with workload and time of year, implementing these tips to optimize your schedule here and there can really make all the difference when things do get a little chaotic.
I’m breaking down my go-to scheduling tips I’ve adopted over the past few years of running my own copywriting studio that I’m always leaning on for support! Shall we?
- Refine your schedule
- Gain a better understanding of how long tasks take
- Have a plan and a scheduler
- Say no to multi-tasking and context switching
- Experiment with time blocks
- Schedule time for yourself
1. First up, (re)fefine your schedule
The beauty of entrepreneurship is that we can make our own schedules, but this comes at a price. Perhaps you’ve left your 9-to-5 only to be found locked into working after hours and sometimes on the weekends. That doesn’t sound ideal, right? It didn’t to me, either!
If you find yourself thinking “oh, yes that is me,” this is a good indication that it’s time for a change. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting my business, it’s that even though I’ve moved away from working on someone else’s schedule that doesn’t mean I can’t create one for myself.
So, it’s time to take stock of what you want your work schedule to look like. There are a lot of factors that can play into your schedule, such as:
- Time zones
- Team communication
- Customer and client availability
- Productivity and creativity windows
Here are some helpful questions to keep in mind when defining your schedule:
- When are you most productive throughout the day?
- When are you the least productive?
- Do you experience a lag in energy at some point? If so, when?
- When do you feel the most creative?
- Do you have goals or aspirations to have a shorter workweek? If so, now’s the time to start defining those. For instance, taking every Friday off, ending work at a set time, etc.
These are all important factors to keep in mind when you redefine and optimize your schedule. And remember, there’s no right or wrong answer here. The most important aspect here is that you find a schedule that works best for you and your business.
Pro Tip: HoneyBook’s Scheduler tool is an extension of your calendar and can help you optimize your schedule, prevent double bookings, and help you time track to determine what’s important and what’s a waste.
2. Gain a better understanding of how long tasks take
You might not like what I’m about to share with you but this is one tool I continue to come back to time and time again that helps me prioritize and plan my schedule in and outside my business.
Oh yes. Just when I thought I left the time-tracking days of my corporate agency job behind, time-tracking has become something we regularly use here in the studio, and there’s a couple of reasons why. Time tracking:
- Invites productivity and structure to your day.
- Uncovers tasks or activities that waste time, energy, (or worse, money).
- Helps you focus your attention on getting one task done at a time.
- Brings clarity to your hourly rate (even if you don’t charge by the hour) and how much you should really be charging in your business.
Time is one of the most valuable resources we as independent business owners have! In order for you to be able to make use of all your time and optimize your schedule, it’s time (no pun intended!) to start paying attention to how you’re spending your time.
There’s a big difference between feeling like you’re on the verge of burnout and what your time reports are saying. I’d encourage you and your team members to experiment with a time tracker and start logging all of your tasks each day and reviewing them on a weekly or monthly basis. You can easily log billable and non-billable hours in HoneyBook to specific projects. You might be surprised at some of the tasks you can offload (that aren’t worth your time!) and the tasks that may spotlight opportunities to streamline areas of your business.
3. Have a plan and a scheduler
Ok, maybe a planner isn’t really your thing. That’s ok! I welcome you to experiment with some type of medium that’ll help you to keep track of your day-to-day tasks. That could be a piece of paper, a daily task list in HoneyBook’s Task Manager, a physical planner—the sky’s the limit here! Whatever you decide to go with, make sure it’s something you can access every day.
Having a plan will help you:
- Plan out your days or week ahead so you can anticipate deadlines, appointments or obligations outside of work.
- Optimize your time efficiently.
- Schedule breaks, buffers, and time for yourself.
- Prioritize your most urgent tasks first.
Ok, now that you have some form of a planner set up, it’s time to take it a step further with a scheduling tool. Scheduling tools will help you to manage and keep track of appointments, client meetings, and deadlines. One of the greatest aspects of finding a scheduling tool that works for you is to avoid overbookings or missing important events.
In this case, I use HoneyBook’s Scheduler which syncs up to my Google Calendar’s availability to schedule appointments with all of my clients and my team. A few of the many great features of utilizing some form of a scheduler are that you can:
- Adjust your availability.
- Sync it up with your personal calendar and video conferencing platform.
- Have it automatically send reminders to clients about their upcoming appointments.
4. Say no to multi-tasking and context switching
Did you know that it takes an average of 23 minutes to switch from one task to another? If you add up all of that time for how many times you’re switching from one task to another throughout the day, that ends up being a LOT of limbo time.
Now, can you imagine how much time it takes when you’re trying to do three things at once?
That’s probably a lot of wasted time. That’s not what we want.
As much as I love the idea of being able to get a million things done at once, it’s just not possible. Let me rephrase that, it’s not possible to get all of those things done at the same time well, and to feel good about it in the end. Try to focus your attention on one task at a time. It’s better to do one task well than three tasks sub-par, isn’t it?
You might be thinking, “This is a lot harder than it sounds!” Yes, you’re right. It will be difficult at first to go from many to-do’s at the same time to one or constantly context-switching from one thing to the next to just “get it done,” but I promise you, your work, your schedule, and your brain will benefit.
Now, as you ease into the era of no multitasking in your business, here are a few ways you can make it just that much easier on yourself before you dive into the task at hand:
Set boundaries with your team, clients, and those around you.
- This can look like having set operating hours or letting your team know ahead of time when you’ll be unavailable or working intently on a project.
- Try setting up an auto-responder on your email setting expectations of your availability and when you typically respond to emails.
Limit your distractions!
- Quit any open programs that do not serve you or contribute to the task at hand. Those 100 open tabs count, too!
- Enable “Do Not Disturb” on your phone or other messaging platforms (Slack, Google Chat, etc.).
- Update your notifications on your computer.
- Use headphones or even noise-canceling headphones to drown out distractions.
- Put on a playlist that will help you get into a good working flow.
5. Experiment with time blocks
Time blocks can be so powerful when it comes to optimizing your schedule in your business! They’re ideally used for making the most of the allotted time and taking focused action.
Start by identifying key tasks that fall into specific categories across your business. Then, head to your calendar to book out time blocks for those categories each week. I recommend scheduling recurring time blocks for specific days of the week and for only allocating a realistic timeframe for those blocks. Some of the time blocks I use in my business include:
- Content creation
- Sales and marketing
Treat these time blocks as if they’re appointments with yourself!
6. Schedule time for yourself
Do you ever feel like when you’re not working, you’re not making money?
I did, too. Until I came to the realization that when I give myself time to switch off or get reenergized outside of my business, my work and my team actually benefited from it.
Sure, there will always be something you could be working on in your business, but you need to make sure you’re taking care of your physical and mental health, too, in order to be able to give your business the focused time and dedication it needs.
Here are a few ideas on some small yet impactful ways you can take time for yourself:
- Take a 20-minute break and get outside.
- Schedule various 10-minute breaks throughout the day.
- Make it a goal to eat lunch away from your desk (and screens) at least two to three times a week.
- Switch off your computer (and stay off of it) after 5 pm, or the set time you choose to end your working day.
- Refrain from answering emails outside of your operating business hours.
- Incorporate moving and/or stretching into your day.
- Get a solid 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Using the weekend or your non-working hours to rest and rejuvenate.
Happy schedule, happy you
There are so many different ways you can optimize your schedule but what it all really boils down to is finding what works best for you and your business. I encourage you to take one tip from above and implement it today. It might work, it might not, and that’s ok. I invite you to be open to change and to experimenting in your business. You’d be surprised just how powerful one small change in your schedule can impact how you feel in and outside your business.