I'm Chelsea Laine Francis and I'm a photographer, a writer, a creative director and a generally fun person to be around. I'm a stop-to-take-a-photo kind of gal as much as I'm a stop-to-tell-you-I-think-you're-pretty kind of gal. I appreciate the little things, laugh and cry with my whole heart, and love nothing more than a long conversation over pancakes and breakfast meats. Over on my blog you'll find tips for simplifying your workflow and overcoming the stuff that sucks, some personal essays about my personal life, and me cheering you on while you celebrate every victory, big or small.
And welcome to a taste of The Normal Girl's Guide to Freelance! This is a semi-frequent blog series about the lessons I've learned while suddenly working for myself. You can read the other sections about how I got started, finding my community, why money and I are friends now and why you should schedule your next vacation right now.
Today we're going to talk about scheduling your work week. I know that makes us sound like we're wearing power suits and chain smoking in the breakroom, but I've found that working on streamlining my schedule has been one of the easiest ways I've taken control of my business, as opposed to the other way around.
After working for myself full time for almost two years, I have seen my schedule be all over the place. I've double booked, triple booked and underbooked quite a few times. I've even shown up to a meeting right on time by complete accident before. I was just running out to grab a coffee and some tacos and when I arrived at the coffee shop, I got a 'I just got here!' text message. Along the way I've learned a few tips on keeping up with your busy schedule.
- Keep a paper planner.
If you're like me the act of writing something down helps immortalize it in your memory. If you're also like me, you forget things and you need to be reminded. Find a calendar system that works for you. Paper planners are awesome. I tease Pei, the owner of the Paper + Craft Pantry, regularly about the many ways she keeps up with her appointments, but as of right now I keep my paper planner, a desk calendar for blog scheduling, and I put everything into Tiny Calendar, an iPhone app for scheduling. This helps me stay in control no matter where I am. I keep the paper planner to keep track of what I do in a day. I search out a specific type of planner that has enough room daily for me to make a to-do list of about 10 things as well as keep up with my daily schedule. I log everything in the paper planner. I digitize it because I don't carry it with me always, and having a back-up helps in case you lose your paper planner or you spill an entire bottle of water in your office bag (ask Pei!)
- Schedule time to schedule time.
I was in a leadership class in college and the professor told us a simple tip that's stuck with me for the last 6 years: schedule time to schedule time. Take time once a week to look over the next few days, plan out your tasks the best you can, and focus on the goals and objectives ahead of you. Tucker and I do this together on occasion and we call it 'Control Center'. It's basically when we sit down, plot out meals, work schedules, dates, and our dog's schedule. It makes for a much smoother week.
- Set your timer.
I'm going to touch on this because it's productivity related: When you're working set a timer. Ignore distractions totally during the time that the timer is running. I like to set a 45 minute work block and then take a 15 break for watching movie trailers, playing with my dog + checking Instagram. I find that I'm much more productive than when I distractedly watch Law & Order SVU while trying to write blog posts for an hour.
- Try blocking.
Try to set certain times of the day aside, and certain days of the week aside for scheduled tasks. For example, my day off is usually always Thursday, with a secondary off day on Saturday. In the morning times I get up around 5:30am as much as possible, I answer emails until 6am and I go swim for an hour. That's my time. By answering emails and getting them off my plate early, and then going to do something to clear my head right after I make mental space for the rest of the day. I also try to limit my number of meetings per week & group them together at the same coffee shop when possible. That way I get to answer emails in between instead of driving from place to place. Also block time daily for dedicated work hours. And while you're at it make sure you're scheduling time to see the people you love! Make time for having fun! At the end of the day, scheduling better should totally clear out time for you to enjoy your life :)