There’s a dark side to being your own boss. I have always LOVED the idea of working for myself. I love that I get to choose what projects to work on and when I should and shouldn’t work. I love getting to set the direction of my business and deciding what I should get paid for my work. Buuuuut there’s something about being your own boss that most of us don’t realize until we’re already pretty deep in a pile of projects that seem to go until the end of time.
When you are your own boss, you have to manage you. 😉😅
I’d like to think I’m a pretty great employee… But if we’re being real, I definitely have my days when I want to sleep in, ditch work and push my projects back a couple of weeks…ahem…days. I mean days. It’s not that bad. Ok, no, it is that bad.
So in the spirit of #realtalk, the truth is, sometimes the hardest employee to manage is you. 😉
In the all-too isolated world of the entrepreneur, sometimes what we need most is a manager. A manager keeps you on task and makes sure you hit your deadlines. A manager keeps you accountable, and accountability is an incredible motivator. Now, I’m not suggesting that your first hire should be a manager. I actually think it’s a lot easier than that! Phew!
It’s time to make your calendar your manager.
In February, I started the conversation about managing your time like a boss over on my blog. We talked about how to manage all your to-do’s with the limited amount of time you have in the week. Now we’re going to build on that and talk through a few of my favorite tips to manage your time with your calendar as your manager! Even with your billion and one ideas and distractible, creative mind, you can actually become a productivity wizard!
Pro Tip #1 : Block Scheduling
Did your high school do period or block scheduling? Most high schools had eight short periods a day. Each period was about 40 minutes, but it usually took about 5 minutes at the beginning of class to get settled and about 5 minutes at the end of class to wrap up. So you really only got about 30 minutes of real class. (Which I’m sure no one was complaining about!) But you were only really productive for about 75% of those forty minutes.
My high school, however, did block scheduling, which is also much more like how college classes are structured and how your business should function. Block scheduled classes are usually 90 to 120 minutes, which means much more time to actually be productive.
Now, I’m about to blow your mind with the greatest incentive you’ll ever have to switch to block scheduling and eliminating distractions.
According to a digital distraction study at the University of California, it takes about 24 minutes after a distraction to get back to focus. TWENTY FOUR MINUTES, Y’ALL. They even found that “attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”
SO, when scheduling your tasks and projects, it’s important to think in blocks, not periods.
Give yourself fewer, but bigger blocks of time rather than a bunch of smaller blocks. As long as you stay on task (remember those 24 minutes!), you’ll find your productivity sky rocket! Minimize the amount of transitions and make the most of your time!
This is especially important when you’re working on a longer project. Give yourself a good block of time to work on that project. Even if it takes you 30 minutes to really pick up steam, you’ll still have an hour or two to really make progress.
Pro Tip #2: Group Your Tasks
If you have a big block of time to work on one project, you want to do the opposite with your tasks.
Make a smaller block of time to get a ton of little tasks done. A task should take you anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. So, even if you only have an hour, you can get a lot of your little tasks done. But you have to be focused on the short little tasks and put your projects on hold until the scheduled time block. Otherwise you overload your mind with the project details and get distracted from the tasks.
If you haven’t read my post about the projects and tasks list, hop over to The 4 List You Need in Your Creative Biz blog post to revolutionize your to-do list!
Pro Tip #3: Let Your Calendar Be Your Manager
This one just miiiiight be the most difficult for your creative mind. We don’t want a boss. We want to do whatever we feel like doing and often believe the lie that that is what’s best for the creative. After all, when inspiration strikes, you best take advantage of it, right? 😉
Eh, sometimes…but often, not so much. Now before you lose all faith in me, remember that I’m a creative too. I get it. In any given 5 minute period, I’ve probably had 30 different ideas, some of which might just be that million dollar idea! And I definitely have days when the creativity isn’t ‘flowing.’ But when I allow myself to get distracted by all the ideas or give myself too much grace when I’m not ‘feeling it,’ I truly get a lot less done and I’m pretty sure the same is true of you.
Now, yes, there is grace for us and our creative brains. We need to have some flexibility in our days, because a system without flexibility is a broken system.
But in general, we would all do well to learn to allow our calendar to be our manager, pushing us to get things done that will actually work toward our big, beautiful dreams.
So, let’s get practical. Once you’ve created your weekly to-do list, you put all of your tasks and projects into time blocks on your calendar.
From there? Treat your calendar like it’s your boss. Imagine your calendar is telling you what you need to get done. And if you don’t get done what your calendar told you to, you will be disappointing your manager, which could lead to job instability. And friend, that’s a real possibility for us.
The more you miss deadlines and the less progress you make in your work, the less likely you are to continue booking clients or making sales, much less getting closer to your income and growth goals.
Womp, womp, right?
I know it can seem impossible, but friend, if I can do this, SO CAN YOU! It doesn’t have to come naturally to you. You don’t need to be ‘Type A.’
Productive creatives are not unicorns.
You just need to believe in your business and your dreams enough to get serious about it.
Let’s put these pro tips into practice this week and make some real headway on those creative dreams of ours!