All that big open space gives me such a sense of freedom and possibility.
Not to mention, that brief illusion of control. :)
At this time of year, my calendar is a well oiled machine. Two pages per week of nice neat boxes are filled with appointments to keep, calls to make, and all those projects I plan to work on at very specific times.
By the end of each week, it’s a garbled, half-erased, half re-written tossed-like-a-salad mess. It definitely has that lived in look.
Still, using a calendar properly as a planning and productivity tool can really shift how effective you are in your business.
Creating space to map out your strategies over time helps you dance that dance between keeping an eye on the big picture, without losing sight of the day to day.
The key is figuring out a system that works for your unique style, but still helps you get things done.
If you’re what I call an “engineer brain”, your calendar may be more of a spreadsheet, written in precise detail with timing and goals all laid out with exquisite 15 minute precision. It’s probably digital, and likely syncs in all kinds of cool ways with every device at your fingertips.
Makes me tired just thinking about it. :)
If, however, you’re a creative, you may resist this completely. More likely your calendar – if you have one at all – is printed, and it’s a nice, big, pretty thing full of bright colors, with lots of room to draw and write in big chunks of time.
You may have one or two things written in, but really, how can anyone expect you to know what you’ll be doing tomorrow? Much less 6 months from now?
But here’s the thing.
Most entrepreneurs I know, especially women, already juggle way too many demands. If you own a business too, you have even more on your mind.
So there are plenty of good reasons why you crash at night.
But your energy is a precious resource, and a good working calendar is like a map for where and how you’ll spend that energy.
If you tend to be a detailed, analytical thinker, mapping out your time will give you room to breathe.
If you’re a creative, spontaneous, figure-it-out-as-you-go kind of gal, structuring your time will keep you from spinning in circles, and make sure you actually earn an income.
And some of you will argue with me about this – but a good calendar allows you more freedom, not less.
Careful planning means that you’re living on purpose – not by default.
Here’s a few guidelines for planning in a way that will support you for the long haul. After all, success is a marathon – not a sprint – and you need to last. Following these steps will help you do exactly that.
Add these to your calendar in the order I’ve listed them to get the best results.
1. Start with your Big Picture.
Start with a broad overview. Take one of those two pages for the year layouts so you can see the whole thing at once. (You can find free printables easily on line.) Make sure there is at least a small space to write in under each day.)
2. Work in quarters.
Use a highlighter to outline each of the four quarters of the year (January – March, April – June, etc.).
3. Note any pre-existing commitments.
Now, go through the entire year and write in any key commitments you already have. This would include monthly meetings, talks you have scheduled, conferences or trainings you plan to attend, and other existing obligations.
4. Plan your days off.
Go back now and add in all of the personal days off you plan to take this year. This should include more than just the major holidays. If you don’t have vacation time planned, now is the time to set those dates. If you know you’ll be traveling the day before or after various events, mark that off too.
5. Add in quarterly retreats.
This one is magic.
Step back now and look at how your year is shaping up. Within each quarter, set time aside for a one or two-day personal retreat. You can define this in whatever way you’d like, but it’s more than just a day off.
It could be a spa day with your girlfriends or a weekend at your favorite B&B. It could be a camping trip with the family or a quickie trip to the beach.
Use this time to reconnect, with your self and/or with those closest to you.
6. Add in quarterly BPD’s (Business Development Days).
At the beginning of each quarter, set one full day aside for business planning and use this to fine tune your strategic plans for the next three months. That may include laying out plans for product development, program launches, key customer events, marketing initiatives, etc. This could be a day when you meet with your team to refine your processes, or review your goals.
A word of caution: these are not ‘free days’. Resist the temptation to clutter them up with outside lunches, running errands or other extraneous tasks.
I also encourage you to set aside brief planning time on a daily or weekly basis.
7. Map out your key initiatives for the year.
Now you’re ready to add in those big goals you’re eager to reach.
If you want to launch a new program, host a client retreat, or do a marketing blitz, this is when you fit that in.
Looking at the year as a whole, where would those ideas best fit? What kind of time do you need to build in to prepare for them?
Get that in there too.
That’s it! You’re done!
You now have a tool that will guide you through the year, protect your personal time and ensure forward momentum in your life and business.
Follow it. :)
Photo Credit: Pete O’Shea on Flickr