Ep 141 | Taking Control of Your Calendar
It's time to take back control of your calendar. You've made it through the holidays. We're a couple months into the new year. It's time to get back on a schedule and routine so you can get more of the important work done! I'm sharing some ways I control my calendar and my tasks so I can stay focused and make sure my priorities are handled.
What You'll Learn
→ where to start.
→ how to block time and batch tasks.
→ creating a routine.
→ prioritizing (and sticking to it)!
Want to skip ahead? Here are key takeaways:
[5:08] Track your time. We often don't know how we really spend our time. Taking a week and tracking what we're really doing can help you eliminate the things you don't need to be doing anymore and refocus you on the income producing activities that can make the biggest impact.
[8:11] Categorize your days. Take your tasks that you determined you needed to do and put them on you calendar. Create themes for your tasks so you and do like things together. For example, donor calls and follow up, marketing, content creation, etc.
[13:05] Build your daily routine. Create a way to start and end your days so you can stay on task and organize your thoughts. This could be journaling in the morning, spending 15 min in your inbox keeping it clean, exercise, whatever you need to start the day strong and end the day able to step away and relax.
[15:50] Prioritize your schedule. Now its time to hold yourself accountable. Stick to the things you know you need to do and don't get distracted. Make sure you communicate those goals and tasks with your team so everyone around you knows what your priorities are as well.
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[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Okay, so let's talk about your calendar for a minute. Do you get up in the morning and take a look at your calendar and go, Oh, my gosh, this is chaos? I'm not ready for this meeting, I don't know what to do about this appointment, Oh my gosh. Or do you wake up in the morning and look at your calendar and be like, I got this, like, I've got my to dos ready, I'm organized, I'm scheduled, I know what's going on? This is a problem that I see with a lot of nonprofit executive directors, development directors, anybody that's running their own business, in the professional space, whatever it might be, for profit, nonprofit, we let our calendars take control of us, as opposed to us taking control of our calendars. So I've done episodes on this in the past, but it's been a while, and so I thought I would share with you how I've set up for 2022. So that I can move through with ease and make sure that I have the time for the most important things that I need to get done. And so that I can continue to grow my organization in the way that I want to. This is critical, especially as leaders in our business, right, we need to be the ones that are making the strategic decisions that are making sure that everything that we do goes directly to those income producing activities, and supporting our teams and doing the same. So I'm going to share with you what I'm doing in 2022, and hope that it inspires you, but remember, you’ve got to do what works for you. So hopefully a few of these tips will resonate, will make sense with the way that you operate your team operates, but I hope you'll have a conversation with your team and really figure out how you can all work smoother, better and more efficiently together, so that you can fulfill the missions and the goals that you have for 2022. Before we get into this episode, though, this is brought to you by my patrons. I love my patrons so much and I love supporting them in the work that we are doing through this podcast. Our patrons get additional support from me and my team, as well as bonus Q&As, and workbooks, and emails and all the things to help them take action on the episodes that you hear from the digital marketing therapy podcast. So I'd love for you to go to the firstclick.net/Patreon and check it out. Join us for as little as $5 a month. And let me help you take your organization to the next level. But for now, let's get into the episode.
[Canned Intro] You're listening to the digital marketing therapy podcast. I'm your host, Sami Bedell-Mulhern. And each week, I bring you tips from myself and other experts, as well as hot seats with small business owners and entrepreneurs to demystify digital marketing and get you on your way to generating more leads and growing your business.
[Sami Bedell-Mulhern] Hey, everybody, I'm Sami Bedell-Mulhern, and I'm thankful that you are here listening to this episode of the digital marketing therapy podcast where we're going to be discussing your calendar. So hopefully, when you listen to the intro, you aren't completely overwhelmed and you weren't like, okay, whatever, like I might, I have no control over my calendar, whatever. I promise you, we can set some boundaries, and we can make things work for you. It takes practice and it definitely takes consistency. And it takes you really learning how to communicate what you need and teaching people how to treat you. So in the early stages of my business, I definitely had people texting me calling me doing all the things all the time, because I felt like if I didn't respond immediately to their email or their text, that I was missing an opportunity that might lead into a client or customer. Now I know that that just had me running in like 100,000 different directions, and I wasn't focused on the things that I needed to get done. And that yes, I still respond to my students, customers, clients in a timely fashion. But it doesn't have to be five minutes. And I'm also really consistent and clear on the way that my schedule works, and when I'm doing certain activities, so that I can have my brain power focused on certain tasks and get that done. And this is communicated not only to my clients, but also to my team. So they know if they're reaching out to me for questions on a certain thing, that topic might have to wait till the next day when I can actually tackle that head on. I promise you my business isn't falling apart.
I don't have clients that are coming at me yelling and screaming, saying “Why aren't you responding?” I'm setting expectations, and I am holding myself accountable to that as well, so that I can teach all of those around me to respect those boundaries also. So let's get into, kind of, what this looks like and what types of things you might want to think about when it comes to kind of building this ideal week and building kind of your ideal calendar.
So the first thing I want you to do is spend a week, if you can't do a whole week, at least two, three or four days, like regular days, and time track. You can use an app called TOGGL. We'll link that up in the resources before this episode. TOGGL is a great digital time tracking free app. And you could do it on your phone, you can do it on your computer, and just track what you're doing, all the things that you're doing, scrolling social media, writing letters, on the phone with potential donors or board members, anything and everything, driving the kids to school, sitting on the couch watching Netflix, I don't care what it is, and you don't have to share it with anyone else. So be brutally honest. But when we track our time, then we really understand what it is that we're doing throughout the day, because I promise you, there's some things that are going to be on that list that are going to surprise you, there are going to be some times that you're spending on things that aren't income producing that don't make sense to retain donors that just are kind of off. So when it's right there in front of you, you're really going to see it and you're going to be able to make adjustments. And that's what we're trying to do here. So once you've done your time tracking, at least two or three days, I'd love to see you do a full week. Once you're done with that, then I want you to take a look at the time that you're spending and really rank them and figure out what things can I pass on? What are the things that only you can do? So you keep doing them, for example, only I can record these podcasts. But I don't edit them. I don't do the show notes. I don't do the transcripts. I have people that helped me with that because somebody else can do that. So I can focus on other things that are going to help us reach our business goals. So what of the things that only you can do, and what of the things that you might be able to pass off on somebody? The hard part for leaders is what are the things that are on your list that you've been wanting to pass off, but your type A personality just won't let you do it. So that's the challenge. To try to get all of that stuff moved over to other team members for their volunteers, and really kind of figure out what that looks like. You can also take a look at this list and say, what are the things that I need to let go of. What are the things that don't matter, and I'm spending time on that. So it's just a great way for you to really pay attention to what you're spending your time on, and remove the things, the clutter, the things that you don't need, and the things that you don't need to spend time doing and things that other people could do for you. This could be something as simple as ordering groceries and getting pickup, as opposed to spending 30 minutes in the grocery store because you know that you get distracted. You go up and down every aisle and you buy all the junk that you don't need. So it doesn't just have to pertain to your business life, but also the things in your personal life that are maybe taking up time. So if you're saying, well, my calendar is crazy, I work all day, then I have to go to the store, and I don't spend time with my family. So what are the things that you can do that are also going to help you augment that? Meal planning, meal prep, getting groceries delivered, whatever that might look like.
Categorize your days
So once you know this, and you are kind of figuring out what are the tasks that you really need to be doing, then what I've done this year is really themed my days. Now, I've tried a lot of different things like, batching my time, and some of these might work for you better than what I'm doing now, so that's why I'm going to share this with you. But I'm saying like from 10 to 12 is when I focus on content. From 12 to one I have personal time, lunchtime. From one to three every day, I am doing phone calls, and you know, reaching out to donors to say thank you, whatever that looks like, you know, from three to five, I'm running errands from five to seven, it's family time. So you can absolutely block time every day, especially if you have similar tasks that you need to do every day. I find that I don't have the exact same tasks that need to be done every day, but I do have buckets of things that need to be done every week. And I like to have my brain power focused on one kind of core area. So what I've done is categorized my days. So Mondays and Wednesdays are my client days. So those are the days that I'm really focusing on my clients and getting everything done making sure that my team has everything that they need to be able to continue to work on a project because they might be working on client stuff on other days that I'm not doing it but I want to make sure that they have everything that they need to keep those projects moving forward. So that's what I do on Mondays and Wednesdays. Now if I have extra time, if we have a light client load week, totally fine, then I'll work on something else. But the core focus and the priority for those days are my clients and making sure that I'm getting everything to them that they need and we’re continuing to move our projects forward. So what does this look like then when a client calls or reaches out to me? Now the beauty of it is, I can still get back to them within 24 hours. And that's my personal goal, is to get back to folks within 24 business hours. And that's fine. And that works great for me, you got to figure out what's fine and works great for you. So I'm going to spend those two days heavy in client work getting those things done. And then Tuesdays and Thursdays are my content days. So today's a Tuesday, and I'm recording podcast episodes. You might notice that because I'm wearing this same shirt, if you're watching this on YouTube, the firstclip.net/YouTube. If you're watching this video on YouTube, then you'll notice that I'm wearing the same shirt in this episode as I did in the previous one. And that's mostly because I just didn't feel the need to change the shirt. But I'm batching episodes and recording multiple episodes at a time. I get ready once a week, and kind of work on that. The other things that I do during my content days, make sure that everything is uploaded to YouTube, make sure all of my show notes on the website are good to go, write email content, work on Pinterest, anything that's related to content that I'm generating. And this is great for me because it allows me to really focus on one task and focus on the same string of tasks. So like making sure that my designer has all of the things that they need in order to continue to do all the things that we need to promote and publish our podcast. Also on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is when I typically have my masterminds, when I typically have my coaching calls with my students, and coaching calls with the programs that I'm in. So it's kind of a nice little way to bundle all of that up together. Now on Fridays, it's kind of a mixed bag. So I like to try to have some time set aside to do some learning. So keep staying up to date on certain trends, things that are happening in the industry in the digital marketing space so that I can provide the best value to you and my clients. If I have extra client work that I need to button up before the end of the week, absolutely, I'm doing that. Otherwise I’m just focusing on other things that I need to do in my business. So is that updating some of the things on my website, is it working on some final content pieces that I didn't get done throughout the week? It's just kind of my way to catch up and wrap things up so that I can go into the weekend feeling relaxed, and able to just spend that weekend with my family. It's rare that I work on the weekends. Usually, if I am, it's because we're in a phase of an event that's coming up, or something that's crazy time sensitive that just adds to the workload. So that's a core part of my week. So Monday, Wednesday, clients Tuesday, Thursday is content creation, because we do a lot of content creation. We're also working on some new things that are coming up. And then Friday is kind of my catch all, the wrap up, finish everything and do some learning for the week.
Now, the exception to my themed days is my morning routine. So I usually get up at 5:30. And again, you do this however it makes sense for you. I'm a morning person, I am not an afternoon person, so I like to try to wrap up my day around 3:30 or 4:00 when I go to pick up my daughter from school. My brain is pretty fried at that point anyway, so there's not a whole lot productive that I'm getting done. So I like to get up early and get things set. So at 5:30 I wake up, I usually make my water, my coffee, or tea, or whatever. And then I spend 15 minutes working on my email, trying to get everything cleaned up organized, take a look at what came in, what do I need to focus on, what fires might there be, and get all the tasks into clickup, which is our project management tool that we use and love. So I'll spend 15 minutes on that. I will do some journaling and some writing, some gratitude stuff. And then I will try to check off some of those quick things off my to-do list that I know aren’t going to take a lot of time. So I'm obsessed with the full focus planner. So I'll look through my calendar, I'll look through my email, I'll put my notes in my full focus planner of the tasks that I need to get done and really identify my big three for the day. What are the three things I really need to do? And look at kind of the quick to do's that I can check off. What are some things that I can just get done right away? It helps to build like, Okay, I've already accomplished something with today without it being, like this, daunting, like, I have to write a whole grant proposal, or I need to follow up with 15 vendors for the event that we have coming up. What are some quick wins that you can give yourself in the morning? Then it's a little bit of time with my kiddos before they head off to school, and getting showered and ready myself. I do have like an hour, no, 30 minutes blocked off in there for either me time or workout time. So that just varies throughout the day, or the week, what I do there, but I do block that time off. So I can have a little bit of quiet time in the morning to just kind of ease into the day. So my morning routine everyday is the same regardless of what it is. And that's also what has given me that freedom on Tuesdays and Thursdays to focus on content creation, and those elements of my business because I know in the mornings, I've got that time set aside to go through email and at least follow up. So my clients are hearing from me in a timely fashion, and getting that expectation set. So in those emails, it's things like, hey, we'll be able to get this to you on Wednesday, or, you know, we can have that call on Wednesday. So that's what my week looks like.
Prioritize your schedule
So now, here's the tricky part. We get emails, we get texts, we get phone calls, and people say, Hey, can I meet with you? Can I have a call with you? Can I do this? Can I do that? Or can we set up this? Now, it can be really easy to just blur all that together and say, Okay, well, you know, yeah, I'll go ahead and put you on Thursday, even though Thursday is my day, when I work on all of my emails that need to go out for the following month, or the following week. I challenge you to push that a little bit and say, hey, you know, I'm not available on that day, would you be able to do Friday or whatever day it is that you kind of have blocked aside for that. And you might be surprised by the response that you get. So just be your best advocate, and communicate with everyone and let them know these are the things that I'm working on this is and this is why and this is if your team as a whole can operate this way, you're going to be a lot smoother, right? Then all the things that are coming at you that day are going to be focused on a certain topic. Your team knows, nope, Tuesdays she's not available, he's not available, so we can put you on a Wednesday appointment. That's okay. Because there's nothing worse than being in a groove on a project and then having people come in and want to talk to you about this, and that, and this and that. And it has nothing to do with what you're working on in that moment, and it just derails you, and you can't focus and you can't get it done as effectively and as efficiently, and you end up wasting time. So try it, please try it out for the next month and see if this works for you. Set the goals, and the batches of tasks that you need to get done that makes sense for you. Communicate with your team, but please make sure you start with the time study. So we'll use TOGGL, or the good old fashioned notebook that you just carry around with you for a week. I hope that you'll try.
So those are my tips for how to take control of your calendar and get more done with less stress and more efficiently. I mean, don't we all want that? I hope that you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please subscribe wherever you listen, check out the show notes at the firstclick.net/podcast for additional resources that we discussed in this episode, and I will see you next week.