If there’s anything I’ve learned since starting to run my business full-time is that 1) the to-do list is never-ending and 2) there’s always room for improvement.
I have a confession to make: up until recently, my to-do list was overwhelming me. Not necessarily because I couldn’t do it all, but rather because I wasn’t planning in the best way. Because I wasn't making the most of the hours in my day, it made it seem like I couldn’t do it all.
To-do lists are not a one-size fits all. Each person has different preferences on how they keep track of what needs to happen each day/week/month, whether it’s using an app like Evernote, ToDoist, or Trello, or sticking with tried and true paper and pencil. Regardless of how you keep track of your pending tasks, I think the tips outlined below will help you structure a more productive and less stressful week. At this moment in time, they’re the strategies I’ve found to be the best way to plan my week as a small business owner juggling everything from clients to content creation.
How I used to plan my week
Each week, I’d plan out my to-dos using the Weekly Planner from InkWell Press, and then I’d take those tasks and assign them to whichever day I need to get them checked off. This method works, but it still wasn’t refined enough to help me be the most productive I could be.
It was too easy to overload my week, which meant I would overload my day, and then I’d end up feeling frustrated with what seemed like a lack of progress or productivity. I wasn’t setting myself up for success because I wasn’t setting up my day or week in the best way possible.
The other problem? I felt an unnecessary pressure to be working on every aspect of my business every day. A pinch of client work, a dash of content creation—it wasn’t a recipe for success (at least for me). On my list of things to accomplish each day, there wasn’t enough separation between time designated for working on my business and time for working in my business.
How I plan my week now
Remember at the beginning of this post how I mentioned that there’s always room for improvement? Well, I still use my handy weekly planner and assign to-dos to a specific day, but here’s how I improved my process:
1 | Specific tasks for specific days.
I altered the structure of my week so that each day is designated for different tasks. For example, three days a week are solely dedicated to client work, and the other two days are dedicated to working on my business.
2 | Categorize your to-dos.
Since I’m always working on different projects or have different ideas I want to explore for my business, I’ve found it helpful to take my big list of to-dos and break them into different segments.
3 | Built-in “me” time.
Having a leisurely morning routine is a priority to me, so in order to keep myself accountable to not starting my day by diving into my inbox or falling into the social media scroll trap headfirst I schedule time for spiritual and physical well-being. When I wake up, I make myself breakfast (it’s the most important meal of the day!), then I do a devotional and a short workout before I start tackling my to-dos. Drawing these boundaries and making my mornings more restful has also gone a long way to helping me feel less overwhelmed by my to-dos.
Why it works
This method of weekly planning has been very helpful in terms of making me feel less stressed and spread thin, mainly because it’s a more organized approach, but also because it gives a me a clearer overview of what my week looks like, and tools to put together a solid, structured plan to put into action.
The biggest relief is not feeling like I have to squeeze everything into one day. Giving myself permission to take a break from client work or a day away from creating things for my business was a game changer! Having specific days for different tasks, like designing for clients, creating content, updating my site, etc. has also helped me take a more balanced approach to my work schedule.
Seeing all my to-dos broken up into categories makes it much easier to designate them to a certain day, approximate how much time a task will take, prioritize certain tasks, and (perhaps most importantly) it ensures no aspect of my business is getting overlooked.
How you can do it too
Is your to-do list for the week something that intimidates you? Then I highly recommend applying these strategies to your planning! Here are some quick tips to get you started on the path toward a less hectic, more productive week:
1 | Look at your workload and what areas you spend the most time.
Take the time to analyze whether or not those tasks actually require that much time or if you’re letting them eat up more minutes, hours, and energy than is required. From there, assign days for certain tasks. This will help you stay more accountable to the time you’re spending on certain tasks since you’re drawing a visible boundary. For example, I have Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays set as my days to work on client projects. The other two days of the week I dedicate to working on my business or working on fun, creative things that I find fulfilling. By giving certain days to client work, it gave me a push to be more efficient with the time I was spending on design and sifting through my inbox. Also, I chose days that I felt would be most beneficial for me and for my clients. On Mondays, I like checking my inbox to see what I missed over the weekend and get back up to speed with my clients. If I didn’t start the week off with a client day, it would stress me out! The other two days I chose for client work were intentionally slotted for mid- and late week so that there wouldn’t be too much time in between communications about the project.
2 | Start batching.
When you categorize your to-dos each week, you can start to see patterns develop around which tasks occur regularly. For example, if your to-do list always includes writing a blog post, sending out a newsletter, posting on social media, or creating new products, then those can be batched! For example, get an app like Buffer or Hootsuite to help you schedule social media, then set aside a few hours to find and schedule your posts for different platforms. Or, if you find yourself scrambling to write a new blog post each week (cough, cough, that’s totally me, cough), set aside a day dedicated to planning and producing content. Get it all written, the graphics designed, create a draft, and schedule the post so it’s all ready to go! Whether you decide on one day a week to do those items (example: every Monday you schedule social media for the week), or one day a month for different batched tasks (example: first Tuesday of the month you write blog content, second Tuesday of the month you write all your newsletter content, etc.), your time will be used more efficiently.
3 | Make appointments with yourself.
I feel like business owners, especially those with service-based businesses, will prioritize their clients over themselves and their business. There have been times I’ve gotten caught up in the hustle—and not the good kind. I was taking too much time out of my week for client work, drawing insufficient boundaries with myself and my work schedule, and consistently putting my business on the back burner. This meant I fell behind on creating new content, engaging on social media, writing a newsletter, prospecting for new clients, everything. If this sounds like you, setting aside days for you to solely focus on your business will seriously help alleviate this problem.
4 | Think outside the business/client bubble.
Do you want to make more time for things you enjoy? Or more time for education and building up your skill set? Set aside a time each week that you focus on taking a class or practice a skill you want to improve. You’ll feel more creatively fulfilled, and it’ll bring balance to your life. Plus, you may learn a new skill that will be beneficial for your business!
5 | Don’t be too hard on yourself.
The beauty of working for yourself is the flexibility that’s available. When you start scheduling your week, don’t forget that you can still exercise some give and take when you need to. Things can be unpredictable, so sometimes you may need to cut into your business-only time to work on an urgent project that needs a quick turnaround. It’s happened to me on more than one occasion! Just keep in mind that these tactics are simply to help you along your business ownership journey so that you can enjoy it more.
If you’ve been run ragged by your to-dos, then I hope these strategies and tips will help ease you into a more enjoyable schedule. I’ve actually been enjoying these tactics so much that it inspired me to design a printable to help out my fellow bosses! This weekly organizer is meant to help you categorize your week and work more efficiently with less surprises. If you want to add this to your collection of handy business tools, click the button below to get one of your own!
So, what are your favorite tactics for planning a productive but pleasant week? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!