In "A Day in the Life of... You", I touched very lightly on this in terms of making time for social media without getting sucked down the 'rabbit hole'. Here, I'm looking more wholly at your schedule in general, based on your routine, your habits and your need for interaction or alone-time to keep you effective in business... and in Life. I believe there's no set process for all. You may or may not be a "morning person" or "night owl" or "burn the candle at both ends". You do need to be honest with yourself about what works for You. Let's see what that looks like!
Energy, Collaboration & Solo Productivity
I'm a morning person, but that doesn't mean that's when I'm my best with people. As an introvert, I am energized by alone time, and am most effective when I use my morning to do stimulating client and Successiory projects, respond to deeper e-mails and other solo tasks. That may not work for you. My clients who are extroverted early-risers prefer to engage with people in the morning as that motivates them to do more focused project work on afternoons. What about you? These may be combined in infinite ways, with other traits! Are you a(n):
- Introvert (replenished by alone-time) or Extrovert (replenished by human interaction)?
- Morning person, Midnight owl or does it "depend"?
- Most productive alone but still need ideas through collaboration? Most productive when collaborating but still need alone-time to process/execute? On the fence with both?
- Do you eat every 3 hours, every 5 hours or when you remember?
Ignoring these personal traits in order to "make everyone else's day", in the long-run, doesn't work. A clear sense of how (and when) you operate most effectively actually means "everyone else" can actually "get the best of you" - if you so choose.
ACTION #1: Track your activities this month. In your journal (or in MS Excel), create 4 columns:
- Date | Time | Activity | How You Felt/Productivity. The first 3 columns are self-explanatory.
- In "How You Felt/Productivity", acknowledge whether or not you were hungry, cranky, distracted, frustrated or even "want to be doing anything but this". This is for your eyes only.
- At the end of Week 1, switch things up. Do the activities that prompted negative feelings at different times of day, or even earlier/later in the week, to see if it makes a difference.
- Do the same for Weeks 3-4. Document, looking back on the month, (1) what you like doing on mornings (early or late mornings, depending on when you wake up) and on afternoons/evenings, (2) whether you prefer to be alone or collaborating at those times.
Note: Just as Clients remember most "how you make them feel", you too remember feelings most. If you like it, you can do it for years to come. If you do this exercise over 3-4 months, you'll start seeing patterns in the weeks of each month that work best for which tasks, as well. You do have a cycle. You just need to learn it. Here's why.
Client Engagement & Your Schedule
Understanding your own cycle allows you to set clear boundaries with clients, colleagues and partners. Why would they care? They, too, have schedules. If you're aware of your own, it's a lot easier to find compatible meeting dates and times, particularly with long-term engagements.
I spoke a bit more on Client Engagements in an earlier blog post, so I won't spend a lot of time on it here, but getting clear on the roles & responsibilities, timelines and processes around your client engagement process means you can further refine your schedule, give clients peace of mind around what to expect (and when) - from signing to the close of the contract.
What they'll remember about you is that "things tend to go smoothly" and "I really feel taken care of". All because you're with them when you're "best with people" and you're not worried about "what you have to do next". They don't really want to control your time. They just want to know they're taken care of - your Client engagement process and clear schedule does that.
ACTION #2: After ACTION #1, you have a sense of what days (of which weeks, over a longer time) really work for what kinds of activities. Now, you likely have a sense of your client engagement process - the roles & responsibilities, timelines and processes around how clients work with you. In this step:
- Map your Client engagement process - every step you can think of - and put it in your calendar based on when you're most effective in those roles.
- Clarify what Clients need to provide (their roles) and timelines for those. Discuss new timelines for delivery around "what works for you (the client)". Put those in your calendar.
- Do not fill your work-day calendar with just client projects. Document your non-client-facing business projects, create timelines and place those in your calendars. What days/times?
Note: Now you have a work-day calendar that works to please your energy and your clients, but we need one more component. Your business.
In & On Your Business (& Your Life)
Things only get done when we make them a priority and take them as seriously as we take our meetings with everyone else. I too am guilty of putting tasks for my business last, but we all know that means things never get done. In "Pricing. What's Your Strategy?", I covered several operations items that should be considered in determining your pricing - many of these items are also business operations or business planning tasks that we overlook. Marketing, accounting, networking, automation, CRM all take time and planning to be effective.
ACTION #3: Book your business activities into your Calendar, the way you do with clients and other appointments. Honour those. Set your business goals, work backward to develop a timeline to making those goals happen, and stick with it.
Note: As with any project, there may be delays, but you'll be a lot further ahead than if you'd never set aside any time for it.
Moods, Moons and Monthly Cycles
First of all, this is for everyone. Even male clients have parts of the month that they have to slow down or reflect. Whether it's rooted in hormones or that time when your brain gets overloaded at the end of the month, honour your own up and down monthly cycles.
Ladies, CLICK HERE for a new take on why it's okay to slow down for that week every month. This is far easier if you're an entrepreneur and have built a business that can thrive this way, but even in other industries, you may be able to get creative in finding ways to slow down too.
Support & Accountability
Please, please, do your best to keep all business activities within business hours. Add buffers between sessions to avoid rushing. Set realistic timelines for projects that go beyond "today". Everything doesn't have to be completed "right now", just when you can effectively.
I firmly believe the answer lies within; fewer focus groups with friends or feedback from others. Just as you have boundaries in life that others have learned to respect, so it is with business. If clients, colleagues and partners want the best of you, they'll understand that it's only possible when you're 'at your best'.
Hope this blog post has propelled you to make those changes. If you need some support, I'd love to be the one that helps you stay on track with "hearing You over everyone else" until it becomes a natural part of your routine (more on Rethink Project Management). Hone in on what really works for you, see how this blends with your clients' true schedule, and get that set up. Let's connect! Subscribe here for more, and if you're on social media, follow Successiory on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook Loyalty or Instagram, if you're there.
If you know you should but simply can't turn things around, I completely recommend working with Judi Walsh, the Habit Interpreter. Judi goes beyond the tasks and routines to the root of what's holding you 'hostage'.