Your “To DO” list is Hurting You
Brandon and I used to subscribe to the theory of “a to do list is great!”… but really it is horrible. This is why your “To DO” list is hurting you as it did us. We used to start out our mornings with this amazing to do list and all the drive + energy we believed we needed to get it all done. However, by the end of the day we would only have maybe 3 things crossed off our long lists. Then we would walk away from the day feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and disorganized. Does this sound familiar?
We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our lives and proof of that can be found in so many conversations. The most common phrase besides “I love you” is “I don’t have enough time”. I am sure you can relate.
So about 5 years ago we ripped up our “TO DO” list and hatched a new game plan. We started creating a strategic weekly schedule using creative thinking and healthy multi-tasking. Yes healthy multi-tasking does exist and we will cover that this week in our three part series Photography Business, Life + Balance.
Ok so lets dive into creating a schedule that really works.
The Importance of a Schedule
Creating an effective schedule is an art and does take a little practice, but once we got the hang of it there was no stoping us. We now feel so much more organized, accomplished, happy and relaxed. Not to mention the biggest perk is we have quality FREE time. Time to enjoy all the sweet parts of life.
The key was planning our activities so that we could achieve our goals and priorities in the time we had available each day. Over all it has helped us to:
- Understand what we can realistically achieve with our time.
- Make sure we have enough time for essential tasks.
- Add contingency time for “the unexpected.”
- Avoid taking on more than we can handle.
- Work steadily toward our personal and career goals.
- Have enough time for family and friends, exercise and hobbies.
- Achieve a good work-life balance.
Time is something we can’t control, stop, or buy, rather it is something we need to cherish and use wisely. Creating a schedule helped us to think about what we want to achieve in a day, week or month, and it keeps us on track to accomplish our goals.
How we Schedule our Time
Every Friday afternoon we write up the next week’s schedule. The first time we did this it took about two hours (but don’t panic, it was so worth it). This is better than your “To DO” list that is hurting you. I know that seems like a lot of time but the first time takes the longest and is the hardest because you have to take time to look at so many factors which we will get to in just a second. The good news is that after the first initial schedule set up it will only take abut 30mins from there on. A few things you will need to do, in order to start off well are…
- Set a regular time to do your scheduling – at the start of every week or month, for example.
- Choose a planner that lets you enter data easily, and allows you to view an appropriate span of time (day/week/month) in the level of detail that you need. We use an excel sheet.
Once we decided on our set planning day and the app we wanted to use to write out our schedule we prepared our schedule in the following way:
Step 1: Identify Available Time
We chose what time we wanted to dedicate to office work each day. For us that is 9am – 5pm. I say office work because as photographers shoot times vary each week, month and year and we fill those in as the bookings come in.
Step 2: Essential Maintenance Tasks
Next we scheduled in our tasks that cannot be delegated (for us personally) or avoided. For example we work-out every morning and that is a priority for us, so is eating breakfast, lunch and dinner (obviously). We also love to do morning prayer. We realize these things are outside of our “work”schedule but we have found that including them into our schedule before the work day has benefited our everyday life in so many positive ways.
Work wise our essential maintenance tasks are things like:
- Checking and replying emails
- Social media marketing
- Photo editing
- Weekly business meeting
Step 3: Schedule Essential Actions
Next, we block in the actions we absolutely need to do to ensure everything is done to its very best.
For example, because we shoot weddings, we make sure that we have enough time available to effectively communicate with our couples if they need additional help planning certain aspects of their wedding day, have questions about their getting ready photos or any other needs they may have. Also, allow time to communicate with each other and key people around involved in a wedding day like the planner and other vendors.
Step 4: Schedule High-Priority Activities
Before ripping up our “To DO” list, we reviewed everything we wanted to achieve and actually schedule in high-priority and urgent activities in-order to get those things done. And keep in mind that as your business grows so will your high-priority activities. Each week will keep a little tab open for high-priority activities that need to be in the following weeks schedule.
We try to arrange these for the times of day when we are most productive. For us that is before 2pm.
Step 4: Schedule Contingency Time
This is huge for us. Each week we schedule in some extra time to cope with contingencies and emergencies. Experience has told us how much to allow. Contingency time gives us breathing room and time to be, well, human.
Step 5: Schedule Unrestricted Time
With the time we have left on our schedule we mark it as unrestricted time: time that is available for us to achieve our goals. So for instance if we allotted 1 hr for emails but found that we did not get to all the emails at that time we will use the unrestricted time to reply to those emails later in the day.
Step 6: Analyze Your Activities
This was a key step for us. Once we had our schedule set up we went back and reviewed it. At first glance we thought “man we have no unrestricted time!” so we headed back up to steps two, three and four, and questioned all of the tasks we entered. We asked ourselves two questions:
- Is this absolutely necessary?
- Can it be delegated or tackled in a more time-efficient way?
In our case as photographers we have found ways of delegating time by outsourcing and automating certain aspects of our business. For example we have a bookkeeper and CPA who take care of 90% of our finances and we use HoneyBook to keep in touch with clients, automate emails and workflows. This has freed us up to achieve other business goals.
(Side note if you are interested in HoneyBook and want 50% off a subscription then use the link above)
Key Point – if you find that your unrestricted time is still limited, re-think your workload and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Thursday we will share how we have used creative thinking to give us more unrestricted time + sacred free time.