Time is our most valued commodity. For me, having a schedule I'm in control of means that I'm opening myself up to opportunity, increased self-care, more space to let my mind and body recover and time to let my creative juices flow.
When you're first starting a business, it's really hard to say no to clients. I fully get this mentality and can truthfully say I burned the candle at both ends for the better half of ten years. Where did that take me? To a really anxious, internally frantic, confused and manic space.
I know myself well enough now, that if I don't organize my schedule in a way that allows time for ME, then things will hit the fan. I highly suggest you get clear on your workflow style before you start thinking about how you want to command your schedule.
For example, when I started personal training, full-time for my old company SerenaFit, I said yes to 5:30am sessions, 10am sessions, 5:30pm sessions, and even 8pm sessions. This meant zero downtime, no routine, grab and go meals, and an unsettled feeling/never being able to relax knowing I had to get up and go in another few hours. It was really bad for my gut health, my mental health and my body. Something had to change.
But I didn't want to turn away business. I had to pay the bills and I had to grow my company so I sacrificed my personal schedule and well-being to make it all work.
Looking back, I would NOT recommend doing this. There are things we can do as entrepreneurs that make us look really put together, legitimate and credible and commanding your time is one of those things.
I'm sure you're wondering, "Serena, isn't this a hustle? Don't we have to sacrifice things to get ahead?" Yes. Entrepreneurship is fully a hustle, at least back in 2011 it was. I can remember times I said no to birthday parties and hang outs because I had a networking event in the morning that I wanted to be 100% ON for. Or the time I had approximately $800 in my checking account and had to skip a friends wedding because I'd only have $200 left for gas and food if I went. *True story and it sucked.* But you make those decisions because every success is ours and every "failure" is ours, right? We're cut from a different cloth.
However there are ways to be smarter about running your company and managing your time plus, things are completely different now.
If you're not willing to take the time to command your schedule, set boundaries from the beginning (and follow through on them) then your business could become detrimental to your well-being or worse it could make your lose interest in something you were once really excited about. We want to highlight you as the person who clients can entrust. The person who is at the helm. The person who is running the show.
Below is a picture of my schedule from a few months ago. You can clearly see the chaos. Looking at this gives me anxiety NOW, let alone on a Sunday night knowing all of that was ahead of me.
My training schedule was all over the place. I work retail a few hours a week; that takes up a few afternoons. I have my workouts in there, personal appointments, and very tightly scheduled self-care.
There's little time for administrative tasks - no time to just sit and write, plan, do social media the way I'd really like it to be done or outreach - which was killing me and frankly, the direction my business was taking (or not taking). I need time to ease into those larger tasks.
This schedule is cleaned up even MORE from a few years ago, where my training sessions where literally all over the place. I tried to keep clients grouped, but it was hard. Some days it worked some days it didn't.
So what steps are needed to take your time back and rework your calendar so you can achieve more, hit goals, gain clarity, maintain positivity and have FUN?
ID pain points in your schedule. What is making you dreadfully anxious, stretched too thin or stressed out? Have the conversations you need to have, ASAP, to make it clear you're instilling new rules/boundaries/schedules/fees because of an influx in business requests or because you're prioritizing your mental health/workflow/business operations. If your clients love you, they won't care what you do so as long as they have access to you within reason.
Figure out what tasks + appointments are required of you each week and then see how you can make them seamlessly fit together. For me it was training clients. While I'm phasing that business out and focusing on my new strategic communications business, I'm still coaching two days a week. I moved all sessions to Mondays and Wednesdays. This now has given me back THREE mornings to myself, which I have never had in my adult life. >sighs out stress + anxiety<
For infrequent but consistent appointments/clients/accounts be sure to have a non-negotiable time block set for them. Pick a day you want to work on said account, and stick with it. For me, I have to make a video from start to finish, including scripting for a government agency. It takes me about four hours, however I only have to delivery two a month. I still requires me to schedule and plan. These time blocks have to happen or else it's a race to the finish.
Master your admin/office hours. Schedule these every other day, if not everyday. They can be anywhere from thirty minutes to four hours. During these time blocks you can take discovery calls, interview new clients, brain dump ideas, return emails, clean up Google documents; anything that is more or less logistical and necessary.
Master your social media/content creation hours. I'm going to speak from experience on this one; it's really hard to force me to sit down and create. Ideas come to me at random times and I never want to rush a post on social because I feel like it has to get done. However, we need time to sort through those ideas and execute the ones we feel like have backing. So, write your ideas down as they come and then schedule time to review them, create more content around them and then post.
Be ruthless with scheduling your workouts, walks, meditations and vitamin D breaks. There's 0.00% chance you're going to tell me that I'm too busy to workout or take care of myself because over the last three years specifically, I've burned myself out to the point of breakdown that caused me to be short, rude, hold tension in my body and gut. It's triggered inflammation, increased brain fog, nightmares and anxiety to list just a few symptoms. Because of that, this point is not even up for discussion because this time block is essentially my prescription for mental health. Don't mess around with this!
Understand your value. Remember that time is essentially the measure in which we value ourselves. If we're running ragged, being a people-pleaser, worrying too much, avoiding our well-being, not pricing our services correctly, or overpromising and underdelivering causing stress and anxiety, then something has to change. From the beginning, state your policies, client expectations, hours of operation etc so there is no room for gray areas or for clients to try and take advantage of you. You're in control and don't forget that!
Here you can see my revised schedule. It's such a breathe of fresh air. What you don't see scheduled are a few things like my office hours/content creation time blocks/QVC airings/my retail job etc because I've decided to schedule those tasks at the start of each week.
Plans change, appointments shift, airings will pop up without notice so I'm leaving wiggle room mainly because I can. After about 15 years of running all over the place, and stretching myself very thin I'm enjoying some scheduling freedom. It's done wonders for my body and mind. However, I know that each week there are a handful of things I have to schedule and I am committed to following through on completing those tasks.
I hope this post has inspired you to take back your schedule. Try to implement just one point mentioned above. Commanding your schedule is a true act of self-love and really showcases your ability as a leader, to set boundaries and stick to them for the betterment of your company and it's growth.