{A new theory on using a calendar + 3 of my best tips.}

Even though I work from home full-time I’ve realized something so important, it’s literally “do this, or fail”: I absolutely must follow a calendar. An average day easily includes both blog + shop work, and without a schedule via my calendar I would get nothing done. And it’s not because I’m not bored with my work, it’s simply because there’s always been an abundance of work to do.

I’m the type of gal that excels when I know what the day holds, even if it’s just a tiny glimpse of what it holds. And I’m sure you’re the same way.

It’s become a pattern for Zack + I to share our days with each other over dinner at home. Having his support means the world and it definitely has helped with the success/growth of my business. Zack knows how crazy intense it is to run a handmade business + lifestyle blog, from home, with a high personality pup, while 34 weeks pregnant, in a new city + state, AND with the ocean hanging out like 3 miles from our home. Ohhhh yeah, how’d you like that run on?

Without a calendar I’m afraid I wouldn’t make much progress. Zack routinely asks me about my day, and for the longest time I would say something like, “Oh, I didn’t get enough done…” as I listed off seven things I did do. I always found a way to mention that there were four more things I wish I had also done, instead of keeping the focus on all that I did do.

And finally the light bulb went off!

It doesn’t matter HOW much I get done each day, what matters is I had things to do and I did them.

Once I realized what was really important — what MUST go on my to-do list verses what could/should go on it, I decided to start taking my “all that I accomplished today” list more seriously.

Calendars are meant to assist us. Do you believe that? They are meant to help us, and when used correctly they are an amazing, free tool. And I definitely feel like my business has benefited from the simplicity using a calendar brings. It’s the difference between spending my time doing something that’s important verses something that is possibly a waste of my time. It’s the difference between committing to my purpose with this blog verses floating about like a cloud in the sky. It’s the difference between keeping my sanity and feeling like a hot mess.

 

TIPS TO USING A CALENDAR CORRECTLY:

1a. Add tasks to each workday

- Example tasks for Monday: cut fabric, answer emails, write a blog post for later in the week, eat lunch/rest, Rhiannon is coming by to drop off product, {if there’s time} start a few side projects

1b.  Assign realistic time frames to each task

- Cutting fabric will take approximately 2.5 hours so I block out 11am to 1:30pm. Answering emails will take 30 minutes so I block out 1:30pm to 2pm. Continue adding blocks of time to each task, updating your calendar until your workday is full. Re-arrange tasks if need be, making sure you are realistic about completing each task on the day it must be worked on

When done with 1a + 1b, your daily calendar should have sections of time blocked out, like this:

2. Take advantage of color-coding tasks for additional organization

- Here are some colors we use and what they represent: blue, my daily tasks // green, blog post topics // orange, assistant schedule // yellow, events/meetings

- Color-coding allows me to overlap blocks of time. If an assistant is coming by to drop off product it’s totally possible for me to be working another task, like answering email

3. At the end of each workday, evaluate your tasks

- Ask yourself, did my calendar serve me well? Did you get everything done on your to-do list? If not, move that task to another day. Sometimes not getting a task done is a sign it wasn’t that important. Perhaps it can be deleted? Other times, not getting one task done is a sign another task took longer than you anticipated. Regardless, be sure to review your calendar so you can learn from it + be as realistic as possible with completing tasks

 

This type of daily calendar use can be applied to the month as a whole, too. We often have re-occuring events, so we set certain tasks to repeat every month. Also, don’t be shy about your blog post topics! Add them as an “all day” event so they get pinned to the top of your calendar, and re-arrange them as need be. If you click over + view your calendar by the month you can easily see where you have gaps in content (blog posts).

Since using my calendar like this I no longer doubt the importance of what I did that day. Who cares if I only accomplished 3 tasks?! If they were important enough to go on the calendar + take up my time, they were important. No apologies. It’s also helped me validate other schedule-related tasks, like partnering with another brand or blog — I can easily see if I have enough available time to say “yes” to those opportunities. Here’s a good post on knowing when to say “no” to opportunities that come your way.

 

So tell me, do you feel lost + unproductive most workdays? Do you have a secret calendar tip that helps you power through your to-do list? Share with us below in the comments. xoxo

*All photos are from Google Calendar.

 

 

Comments

  1. 1

    Christina P says

    O yes I have many a ‘workday’ it feels like nothing is done, but then I have others where more gets accomplished than I thought it would. But this is the joy of working from home with two kids who still very much need you. Hoping if I can finish getting the craft room re-done today they kids can start joining me in there so I can work as they play that way work is not left up strictly to nap times and when daddy is home.

  2. 2

    says

    Feeling like I accomplish enough each day is definitely a struggle for me! I usually make a list in my planner for each day, but have recently started blocking out actual periods of time for each task. I totally agree that this makes all the difference!

  3. 3

    says

    I just started a calendar system and can already tell such a difference in my days! Like you, I blog and create handmade jewelry in my home, I have two dogs and am 14 weeks pregnant. My calendar has allowed me to be much more productive.

  4. 5

    says

    I totally needed this post. I’m the way you used to be, feeling like I didn’t get enough done in a day even though I may have worked 8-10 hours. My shop has grown to the point where I’m never caught up, and I’m having a difficult time adjusting to that. There was something tidy and comforting about the days when I could look at my sold orders in Etsy and nothing was under the “Not Shipped” tab. ;) I understand that it’s normal (and exciting!), but I don’t like feeling like my days aren’t productive just because I can’t get literally everything finished. I think having it mapped out in front of me will give me better direction and help me see how much I’m truly accomplishing.

    • 6

      says

      @Melissa @ A Time for Everything, YES! And here’s some food for thought, if you accomplish everything on that day’s list, then you did get everything finished. Try to give yourself more grace. What thriving, growing business gets *everything* done each day? It’s impossible to do that, but it’s not impossible to complete that specific day’s list. See the difference? :)

  5. 7

    says

    I’m getting better with the help of a calendar. I don’t know why I waited so long. I know my weak points with time wasters so I’m nipping them in the bud :)

  6. 8

    Lu says

    Thanks for the information, very helpful! Which calendar format are you using in these pics, I am trying to find something similar!?

  7. 10

    Corinne says

    I live by my calendar. I have my calendar synced to all my devices. I love that you mentioned lunch. When I returned to work after semester break I realized I was putting off lunch. I’d keep saying, “I’ll eat in an hour.” Then it would be the next hour and I would put lunch off another hour. Soon enough I would miss lunch. I know that when I eat lunch I am more alert and my mood in general is better. I had enough of this happening so Monday I put lunch on my calendar. If I live by my calendar and lunch is on my calendar, then lunch WILL happen….it’s on the calendar. And it is totally working! I know it has only been two days but I cannot remember the last time I stopped and ate lunch two days in a row. :)

    • 11

      says

      @Corinne, Well, it could also be that I just love eating lunch ;D But yes, I totally know what you mean. It’s so easy to put it off, and then later I wonder why I can’t finish X task — it’s because I’m hungry and my body needs a little break to eat. Or I wonder why I’m not feeling creative — and again, it’s because I’m hungry! xoxo

  8. 12

    says

    Yup! couldn’t agree more. A calendar makes me feel like I can conquer the day ahead, without it I feel like I am struggling to get things done, without enough to show for at the end of the day.

  9. 13

    says

    I use a calender with color coding similer to this, but I have trouble keeping on task all of the time. I think my problem is that I underestimate how long something will take for me to do. That and I probably need better organization. Right now I have all of my jewelry making supplies in two tupperware storage bins, where I have to sort thru everything to find things.

    Sar=)

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/owleyevintage

  10. 15

    says

    i am doing this for 2013! you have motivated me to write out a calendar but i must WRITE it on a calendar. i’m a sucker for a day planner. so that’s how i’m rolling this year. it’s just for the biz. family life events are all on the imac calendar & synced with all apple products {about a million of them}.

    thanks for the motivation!

  11. 16

    Melissa says

    This is a great post – I totally agree with you that a calendar is a life-saver when it comes to getting things done. It is indeed really important to set realistic time frames for tasks, which helps with actually feeling achievement at the end of the day without having buried your day in a long list of tasks that don’t get completed.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  12. 17

    says

    Thank you so much for this post! I have been following you on Facebook for a while. (Congratulations again on your beautiful baby boy! <3) This blog post was a great reminder for me. I learned this exact system years ago. Got away from it somehow. I use some of your ideas already, but am excited to go all out. My goal is to work my photography business more and make a profit from it. I get easily distracted. I'm hoping getting back on track with my calendar or daily/weekly plan sheet will help.

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