Balancing work and family is no easy feat- especially when small kids can vocalize their needs at such alarmingly loud rates. So in the life of our family, it takes a lot of planning to ensure a certain level of sanity and order. Right now I am working on a couple of really big projects- some interior design client related projects, getting my house finished and styled for an upcoming shoot, and a few media projects. And we're having a baby… a pretty big project in itself : ) It's hard work and absolutely a balancing act, muscles I continue to train on the regular.
So today I thought I would share some of my top practical strategies learned from trial and error (flat out failure!) personal experience and from listening to material from people I admire, of how to plan for a productive week. Some of these tips might be helpful if you are working outside the home, run a part-time home based business, or simply want to stay on top of running a household and family duties. Whatever your season of life, I really hope some of these might be helpful to save you time and find you more peace!
1. SPEND TIME ON PAPER BEFORE YOU SPEND IT IN REAL LIFE
I was introduced to this concept by Michael Hyatt in this podcast on creating more margin. The whole concept is that similar to a financial budget, you spend your time on paper before you spend it in real life. I have found it so helpful to have an idea of the best way to spend my time during a week- knowing that of course it might get thrown off by the natural (and very crazy) rhythm of family life- but with a plan in place there is at least a roadmap. Lord knows I could not drive anywhere without my gps- think of this as a gps for your time. You can download an awesome excel editable schedule template from Michael Hyatt here.
The beauty of planning your week on paper (or colour coded on your iPhone!) is that if something comes up, as a former business coach Carla Wood taught me, you can move that block of time somewhere else- so those tasks don't get forgotten about and you can still feel a strong sense of order and commitment to the things that are important.
2. START WITH THE BIG ROCKS
You know the story of the big rocks? I didn't either, my friend Sarah had to teach me. Basically the idea is if you fill a jar with pebbles but then try to fit in large rocks after you can't. But if you put the large rocks in first and then pour the pebbles on top the smaller stones will fill in the gaps- same jar, more in it.
Use this concept in planning your ideal week. What are your big rocks? Picking up the kids from school, prayer time, blogging, client appointments, book keeping, marketing, social media strategy, writing, kids play dates / activities, house chores, caring for a sick family member, etc. are all things that come to mind. Make a list of the "big rocks" in your life. Depending in your season of life it is going to look totally different from mine or Michael Hyatt's and don't compare. This is YOUR ideal week.
Now schedule these big rocks in time increments on your schedule. Running out of time? Consider if there are any big rocks you can give away- either to staff, hired help, or another family member. I'll speak more on this later.
3. THEME YOUR DAYS
This has proven to be the most important strategy for me in remaining sane and saving time. In the early days of my business I was a glorified courier who also did interior design (or so it felt)! I was ALWAYS driving. I would try to schedule appointments with clients in some sort of strategy- but in the end I always went wherever the biggest crisis was and I basically spent most of my profit margin on gas. Now when possible, I only book appointments on Wednesdays and Fridays and of course somewhat geographically.
In my business, if I do not set parameters and boundaries on meetings, I would never get anything else done, OR I would do them at midnight when everyone is sleeping (like I used to do) and burn out so hard so fast (which I absolutely did not that long ago).
This is a typical week for me: Mondays- book keeping and business planning / forecasting. Tuesdays: personal appointments and kid stuff, blogging, correspondence, content creation. Wednesdays: consultations, client meetings, sourcing, site visits. Thursdays: personal appointments and kid stuff, blogging, correspondence, content creation. Fridays: consultations, client meetings, sourcing, site visits.
This really works for me as the change of activity is strategic- for example, being at a computer all day can mentally drain me- but I know the next day is on the road, dynamic and fast paced, meeting people, engaging in a lot of my strengths- but this can really physically drain me, and I look forward to the next day that is typically a bit more home based / less physical.
This concept of giving a theme to a day can also be applied to stuff around the house- laundry, groceries, cooking etc. etc. again it is the concept of once the tools and what not are out, you can be more productive by doing the same kind of activity in the same bulk of time.
Still running out of time? This next strategy is AWESOME…
4. AUTOMATE, DELEGATE, DELETE
As I mentioned in point 2 with the big rocks, you might find after writing your list and plotting it into a schedule you have completely run out of time. The metaphorical jar of a week only has so many hours. So you have two choices- cry or change (lol, not really).
Stu argues you have 3 options- automate, delegate or delete. This is totally applicable to business stuff and stuff around the house / with your kids. Here are some ideas from my personal experience:
Automate: I have to work on this one a bit more to be honest- but in my work life I have started to use a tool called Infusionsoft which is a great email manager and I'm creating systems that will automate a lot of my most frequently asked requests- for example, I get a lot of emails regarding what to expect from a design consultation / what are the fees. Infusionsoft will help to collect information from potential clients in a way that will cut down the number of back and forth emails I typically take to finally provide them with pricing or an available time. It will make booking an appointment with me automated to to a certain degree- this is very exciting for me as a time saver!
Think of automating things like car service appointments, house maintenance stuff, kids doctor's appointments- where they are put in the calendar MONTHS in advance and you set a reminder and don't have to think about them at all.
There are also great social media apps like Meet Edgar and using HootSuite to schedule and automate certain social media posts- I have yet to fully dive into this but I know I have to.
Lastly I am really contemplating automating my groceries- meaning I order them online and they get delivered. I wrestle with the idea as it is a luxury- but I find grocery shopping a draining experience and always takes me much longer than I intend- and I have yet to develop strategies to streamline it- I ALWAYS forget something important, even if it's on the list.
Delegate: By necessity with 4 kids I have gotten really good at this. I delegate lots of stuff in business- majority of accounting, anything website / tech related, ordering and admin stuff I have a virtual assistant, etc. In my home life we have a part-time nanny who is incredibly helpful with laundry, cleaning, and school pick up and drop off. The cleaning and laundry support, while yes a luxury, is so extremely helpful with a family as large as ours.
Delete: This one was REALLY hard for me but has proven to be a game changer in my pursuit of peace and balance. It's hard to delete. It just is- especially when you have done something the same way, or you feel like the world might look at you different and judge you for no longer doing something. But YOU HAVE TO. In my life, it means I am VERY selective about the kinds of interior design projects I take on. If I know I don't have time for it based on my other big rocks- that potential client gets referred to a trusted colleague. For our family, it also means we are pretty selective in the kinds of after school activities we participate in and what we do on the weekend. Because you can't just keep filling up your schedule (i.e. your jar) without expecting something to burst.
5. SCHEDULE IN MARGIN
This is really really essential. Things will go wrong- a child will get sick, an appointment will run late, life will happen. You also need to rest! For our family, weekends are very precious. We try when possible to only schedule one thing on the weekend (not including Church on Sundays). It is really important for my family to have this buffer time and margin, and I sometimes forget I am 6 months pregnant and push myself physically WAY too far. So schedule it!
This is beyond the scope of this post but scheduling sleep is essential too. I try to be in bed by 10pm now, so I can rise early. This has been a game changer for me as well- I had no idea how much I was suffering (I knew I was suffering though!) from lack of sleep. Forcing myself to get it has been really influential in my quality of life.
Another important thing to do is not compare yourself to others- someone who has grown kids, or is single, is going to have a very different ideal week than someone like me with really small kids at home. BUT- I challenge you to also push yourself in way- rather than having a defeatist attitude about time, look carefully about HOW you spend it, and if it is really being spent in the BEST way for you.
What strategies do you employ to plan for a great week? Love to know in the comments below.