You love the idea of a flexible work schedule, but you feel like you’re working 24-7. Instead of a schedule, you have a giant to-do list. That gets overwhelming fast. You need a weekly workflow.
But . . .
- I worked in corporate for years. I don’t want to be tied down to my calendar.
- My schedule is too unpredictable.
- I don’t want to lose clients by not being available/responsive.
- I work when creativity strikes.
Weekly workflow isn’t about being a robot, it’s about creating a framework so that you are in charge of your schedule.
Having a workflow helps you set boundaries and guidelines so that you can set realistic expectations about what can get done. It also makes sure you are focusing on the right tasks to move your business forward instead of just staying busy—while making sure you leave time for the little tasks that like to slip through the cracks.
Finding your flow also means setting aside time for the big tasks that need doing in your business + administrative tasks, family time, errands and appointments, even yourself.
There are 3 main steps to setting up your flow:
- Know what needs to be done.
I know, you have a huge to-do list. But that doesn’t mean you know what really needs to get done at any time—or that you are trying to do things at the best time.
Start by sorting all your tasks into buckets, like Client Work, Business Admin, Content Creation. Do the same for your family life: Kids Activities, Errands, Home Tasks, Personal.
- Set time parameters.
You can’t work 24-7. You need time for sleep, eating, family, and home tasks. You need some time for you too! By setting up a framework for when you can work and when you can’t you start to get more realistic about what you can do AND feel less overwhelmed.
Start by blocking off when you can work. Block off other key times—when you volunteer at your kids’ school when you’re responsible for soccer practice or dance lessons, when you have family dinner. And block of some time each day just for you.
- Create your flow.
Your flow is not your weekly schedule. You aren’t adding when you’ll meet with a client or what content you’ll create. You’re setting up the framework that you’ll use to set up your calendar each week.
This is where you decide that you don’t schedule client calls on Fridays or that you set aside Monday mornings for content creation. It’s where you figure out that you get a little sluggish right after lunch so it’s a good time for a run instead of trying to craft your next blog post.
Are you feeling a little resistance? I get that a lot from Mama CEOs.
Your child’s naps are unpredictable. Your husband has a rotating schedule, so some Tuesdays he does pick up from school and some Tuesdays he doesn’t. You have your kids every other weekend. You need to be more available to your clients.
I hear you, but what if:
You schedule some time when you do have child care or your partner to be on kid duty. Set the things you need the most attention or the things that can’t move (like client calls). Set the nap time as possible (we’re past naps, but I block of time when I might have extra childcare). Leave one of those slots empty each week, just in case the nap doesn’t go as planned.
You can create a two-week schedule that reflects the other constraints in your family. You still get the benefit of flow and you work within your own personal parameters.
You do not need to be available to clients 24-7. Instead set up clear expectations with clients about response time and availability. My friend and fellow Mama CEO Jules Taggart uses an autoresponder to let people know that she only checks email twice a day—but she uses Basecamp, so current clients can get in touch with her there during regular business hours. I set up my scheduler to only take calls during my grade B (not my most focused) time.
And remember: You are in control. If you know you’re going to take some extra family time next week, maybe you open up some extra client hours this week. If you have an extra project you need to get done, get some extra childcare.
Once you have your flow in place, you can take your weekly to-do list and plug-in tasks to set your schedule for the week. What you do each week will change, but the flow will stay (roughly) the same.
I recently did a workshop on workflow and one of the participants who was very reluctant to be tied to a schedule told me that she felt like she had more freedom once her flow was in place.
Even better, you’ll feel like you have more time. Because instead of trying to work all the time and feeling like you never get enough done, you’ll know when you work—and when you don’t. And you’ll know when things are going to get done, so you can stop worrying about them.
Having a weekly workflow keeps me out of overwhelm and really puts me back in charge of my time.