If you’re like me, there was a point in life where you decided to quit working for the man and became your own boss. This was an exciting time of transition but no one told me how difficult it would be to manage my new lifestyle and I soon became frustrated with my schedule imbalance. My daily routine consisted of being inundated with phone calls, e-mails, and the buzzing of my laundry machine telling me I should start folding instead of working. I thought ‘How in the world am I going to get everything done?’
After the 1,000,000th time I slept in past my alarm I began taking advice from friends and also read a bunch of books on management and productivity. The value of this accumulated knowledge has helped me in my journey since I began running small businesses at the age of 20 (I’ll be turning 31 next month!).
Here are 8 tips I want to share to help you become and stay balanced in your work life and schedule!
1. Think Like An Employee
Becoming our own “boss” can cause us to forget what it’s like to be an employee of the company. No one is telling us what to do or doing the work for us, and so we are forced to manage our company and do all the work at the same time. I believe it’s foundational to understand the role of a manager and an employee and then find a way to work as both. Would your boss be okay with you cutting prices for family and friends? Probably not, so think practically like an employee of the company would and do what’s best for the growth and well-being of the company as much as you can.
Furthermore, whenever there’s a point I find myself mixing work and personal life I picture myself as an employee and ask myself questions like “Would my boss want me to do my laundry right now? Should I be running those errands for mom right this second? What can wait until after work hours?”
2. Keep One Consistent Schedule
If you’re guessing every day on what you’re supposed to be doing, then chances are your schedule is never the same and you don’t feel grounded with your work life.
We all know life throws curve balls at us daily, but there are some things that remain consistent when you work for any company. For example, if you were to work a 9-5 job then you can probably expect to wake up some time between 7-8am to get your day started. After 5, you shouldn’t be taking your work home with you but enjoying your personal life. These are small examples of what a consistent schedule looks like.
When it comes to your workflow, you can keep consistency here as well.
Here’s an example of my wedding workflow schedule that has remained consistent for the past four years.
Saturday - Shoot the wedding
Sunday - Post a sneak peek
Monday - Take the day off
Tuesday - Cull the wedding
Wednesday - Edit the wedding
Thursday - Finish editing & upload to the client’s gallery
Friday - Finish up anything that hasn’t been accomplished on Thursday
3. Sort Your Task List by Time
Before you schedule out your work week, take a few minutes first to sort out your tasks to help be more realistic and practical about how long each task is going to take. When you buy a drink you have the option of small, medium, and large sizes. With tasks, there are also sizes ranging from small to large. Here’s an example:
2 Minutes or Less (the small stuff)
• Responding to e-mails
• Taking out the trash
• Posting to social media
30 Minutes or Less (the medium stuff)
• Phone call to bride
• Organizing photos for a blog
1-2 Hours (the large stuff)
• Culling & editing an engagement session
• Writing blogs
2+ Hours (the x-large stuff)
• Editing a wedding
• Designing a pricing guide for clients
4. Schedule Daily & Weekly
I am both a daily and weekly planner. By Monday (my traditional day off) I will have sorted out my tasks for the week. I then take each task and assign it to a day of the week. This helps me know in advance what I can expect for each day in the coming week.
On the day of, I will take a couple minutes to plan the day and when I will accomplish each task by.
Here’s an example:
• Respond to all e-mails
• Contact clients regarding upcoming sessions
• Schedule appointments with potential clients
• Post the work schedule blog
• Order prints from the last wedding
• Edit and upload two sessions from the past weekend
• Take a 30 minute break and shower (this is hilariously true some days)
• Take time to begin any Wednesday tasks
5. Plan for Interruptions
You will notice in Tip #4’s example I left room after 3PM to begin the next day’s tasks. It’s somewhat rare I actually get ahead by a day, but that’s because Tip #5 is to plan for interruptions! Distractions and interruptions happen all the time. You never know what surprises come during the day. There are times I planned to edit but my eyes are hurting from staring at the screen and I can’t force myself to work when my eyes won’t stay open. It’s important to plan for interruptions and learn how to best deal with them. When an interruption comes, take a minute to think through what’s happening and plan accordingly.
6. Take a Break
This goes back to Tip #1. If you’re an employee then you should probably expect to take a half hour or hour break each day. Even though I am my own boss and don’t have employees, I have learned not to mind if I need a power nap in the middle of my day. Taking a break helps keep our bodies and minds productive.
7. Practice Disconnecting
You don’t have to respond to every phone call or e-mail as soon as it comes in. These are small interruptions that come in throughout our week and it’s okay to let a phone call go to voicemail. This can give you time to schedule a return call when it’s more convenient in your day.
By the way, turn those push notifications on your phone off! Actually, that’s probably great advice for life in general. Wink*
8. Break Your Own Rules
As you practice these principles they will become a habit you simply do. My hope is that they will provide better balance especially for those who really need a rigid schedule but can’t seem to find one. Over the years as I’ve practiced these principles I’ve also learned to be okay with breaking the rules when I need to. Just because I advise myself to have a consistent schedule doesn’t mean it can forever stay consistent. Therefore, be okay with breaking the rules sometimes if for one week your typical practice isn’t going to work the same way.
That was a lot! I could talk for hours on how to practice and implement each of these tips, so take your time with these and I hope it leads to a more productive and balanced work life!
And until next time, love yourself and love others!