If you're like most creative entrepreneurs I know, you've probably developed a habit of multitasking, trying to force way too much into a few hours of work. Your crammed schedule probably means that sometimes you miss out on important or meaningful activities because you're too focused on putting out fires or dealing with the urgent instead of the important.
Been there. Done that.
What I've learned, though, is that poorly-managed schedules contribute to stress and puts you frequently on edge. Like I tell my clients, if it's not scheduled, it's stressful. But packing your calendar too full is just as painful! In fact, overloaded schedules have contributed to an increase in anxiety among the working population. Here are a few ways to delegate tasks and loosen up your tight schedule.
Set goals (and prioritize them!)
Yeah. you've probably heard this one before. It's not enough to just set goals, you have to make them a priority for your resources. At some point in the year, you'll get busy with several activities that compete for your attention and resources. taking time to regularly prioritize your goals helps them keep from slipping off the radar when urgent items crop up.
Narrow down your annual goals to quarterly and then monthly milestones. When you do this, your build your own blueprint for your daily and weekly activities. When you know what you're aiming for, it becomes easier to break through your plateau and continue toward your dreams.
Track a typical day
Monitor a typical day in your work life. Time surveys aren't the most FUN thing in the world, but they can really open your eyes to where the minutes go during your day. Plus, if you survey multiple days (or even a week), you can start to spot trends and patterns in your behavior. I typically crash after lunch and need a mind break. I'm also pretty dang productive between 6 and 9am - but I need that time to get my own head straight BEFORE I start on client-facing work. So I don't typically see clients before 10am during the week. In your time survey, you may identify tasks that are not IPA, and could be delayed, delegated, or deleted.
Check in before you punch out
You might remember your mother reminding you to get your school books, bag, and uniform ready for the next school day. That reminder is still useful today. My husband puts things by the front door so that he'll remember to take them when he leaves for work in the morning. No morning scramble to gather his things, he just wakes up, collects the pile by the door and is on his way.
You can do this with your calendar, too. Take a look at what you've planned for tomorrow and see what you can prep tonight so that you're ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.
Say "No" with love
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Saying no is sexy and you can do it without being a jerk about it. This one can be tricky if you are a recovering people pleaser. There are plenty of ways to say no with class and authenticity. Imagine a typically busy day that requires your utmost attention and dedication. Just then, a colleague, a friend, or even family, decides to call on you to help out with a task. You know you have to say no due to your tight schedule. Resist the temptation to overbook yourself and create more stress.
Be honest. If you don't want to do it, tell them you have other plans and can't help this time. Even if those plans include sitting in a chair watching Netflix after a long day, it's nobody's business but your own how you're using your time. If you'd normally help, but you're booked solid, say so. "I'd love to help, but I'm booked this time."
Avoid commitments that do not align with your priorities. Just because it's an emergency for them doesn't mean it's a priority for you. Will some people get upset? Maybe, but that's about them, not you.
Use time blocks that fit your style
Whether you choose theme days, or chunk tasks into different time blocks each day, there is no "right" way to block your time. Time blocking helps you right-size your expectations around what you can reasonably accomplish in a given time period. It also helps you stay focused. IF you've got a block of time in your day for marketing tasks, use THAT time for marketing tasks.
A caveat: when you are first starting to use time blocking, there will be some trial and error. I recommend padding your time blocks so that you have two spaces in your calendar for each task type. That way, if life happens and you can't stick to your time block on a given day, you've got a plan b time that you can get back to that task. Be compassionate with yourself until you find a groove that fits your style.
Automate, delegate, or delete
Sometimes there is nothing else you can do to free up your schedule than to offload tasks. Phew! What a relief! Begin with deleting the things that distract you from your goals. Next, try automating repetitive or bulky tasks and creating process docs to systematize recurring tasks that your support team can take over.
You don't always have to hire an employee, but if you do choose to hire team members, check with a professional about employment laws in your area. They can accurately calculate salary and other benefits - like insurance, retirement, and pto accrual. What is pto accrual? Paid time off accrual involves calculating and scheduling your employees’ banked hours for vacations or sickness leave. Don't create more work for yourself when you hire help. Outsource that to an HR or payroll professional.
When it comes to recovery and downtime, doing nothing IS doing something. Healing, rest, and recovery are important parts of being human. Resting does not mean you are being lazy. Without enough rest, your body starts shutting down. Catch a nap, read a book, or just close your eyes. Take a purposeful period to recover your energy and mind.
When you relax, your brain tends to remember things you may have forgotten due to work pressure. Stepping away from your work helps you come back to it with fresh eyes. A monthly "mental health day" can be a great way to shake off the stress and act like a re-set button.
Post your schedule
Sticking to a schedule is not all about you. One of the things I tell my clients is that you train people how to treat you. Your family, your support system, and the team you work with can't honor your schedule if they don't know what it is. Sharing your schedule with the people who matter most helps reduce distractions. It helps them know when you are available so they can make plans with you and keeps you on track. An easy way to do this is to record your schedule on a shared online calendar.
Meaningful meetings only
There are plenty of online tools you can use to reduce the number of meetings you hold. Slack channels, email, even text messaging can get the questions and conversations you need to have handled without having to pull an hour (or more) of your day into the time suck of a meeting.
If a meeting is a must, make sure it's meaningful. Understand the goals of the meeting going into it, and come prepared to work. If you're leading the meeting, make sure attendees are clear on what's expected of them so that you can make the most of the time you're together.
Evaluate & course correct
Plan, do, evaluate. Are the plans you've made working? Great! Keep it up. If not, it's time to course correct. What needs to change? Make it happen, monitor the results, and keep course correcting as you go.
Remember: you always have a choice. The power to set (and honor) healthier boundaries, create an environment that supports your success, and free up your tight schedule is in your hands.
Need help reclaiming your time? Level One of the Creative Freedom Incubator is now open for enrollment. Get the support you need to achieve your dreams!