Trying to be productive is like being on a diet. You’ll be trundling along for a while making progress and then you slip.
So here I am again, the night before my podcast is to go live and I’m writing. What went wrong and what did I achieve? Listen to find out.
The story so far…
If you’ve been following this series you’ll know I set myself the goal of getting a month ahead with my blog content. I was tired of the last minute rush, I wanted time to write better and to edit.
And I made progress. I started last week by conducting a time audit. I wanted to see how long tasks actually took in comparison to the time I thought they would take.
It was a great task in itself. I got a lot of work done just by knowing the timer was ticking. I got 1.5 days ahead with my content, a small but encouraging start.
My task this week was to put that data to work. I was inspired by Darren Rowse (yes again). Back in episode 40 of the Problogger podcast he shared his productivity tips. He talked about his weekly schedule. In it he assigned time slots for his weekly tasks.
Now that I knew how long stuff actually took I intended to do the same.
If you joined me in auditing your time you can follow my process. If you didn’t there’s no reason why you can’t join in now.
How to create a recurring weekly schedule
Step 1. Analyse your data
I started by scrutinising the time-sheets I had completed. There were seven in all (it seems I have problems counting a working week of five days).
To do this I created an excel spreadsheet.
The headers for each column:
- Day of the week
- Category (type of work)
- Time spent
I colour coded the sheet by day of the week.
Now I had the data in a worksheet I could start to answer some questions.
Question 1: How long do I work each day
As you will know if you work for yourself, the length of time we work each day can be an issue. At the beginning we work every hour we can sacrificing sleep, relationships, pretty much everything in our lives for getting our project off the ground.
Once our business has started to grow we need to take a reality check, however much we love our job we need to have time away from it.
To calculate the time spent working each day I calculated the sum of time spent on business related tasks over the seven days and I divided it by seven.
The answer, 10 hours a day. That’s 10 hours productive work a day which isn’t bad.
Find out how many hours you are actively working each week and day
Question 2. What was I spending my time on?
When I started this process I identified some key areas that I needed to assign weekly time to:
- Client work
I’ve decided to add in one more category to my weekly schedule and that’s business planning, something I spend very little time on at the moment.
Looking at my spreadsheet I was able to see how many hours a week I spent on each of these categories and what percentage of my week this represented.
I like a good pie chart so here it is.
I guess I’m not really doing sales!
So unsurprisingly client work was the category I spent the most time on. Marketing came second.
Don’t be tied to my categories. You might want to get even more granular and compare how long you spend on social media compared to blogging.
Make a list of the categories you want to add to your week
Question 3: How long do specific tasks take?
I can now stop fooling myself about how long it takes me to do big tasks like podcasting, video making or blogging. I have my data.
Scarily, according to my timsheets a podcast takes me approximately four hours to record, write and upload. A video takes slightly longer and that’s without procrastination.
Now I know this I can allocate time more realistically in future and I’m able to decide if the results I get are worth the time expense.
Make a list of these time hungry, recurring tasks and calculate the time it takes to complete them.
Step 2. Mapping out the week
This was the bit I’d been aiming for. Darren had persuaded me when I listened to his podcast that a weekly schedule would reduce stress and I’d get *everything* done. At this stage I hadn’t actually looked at his schedule but I had the idea, I’d listened to that podcast more than once.
It turns out Darren uses a Google calendar (something I might use next week).
I chose a whiteboard and some coloured dry wipe markers (you’ll be familiar with these if you watch my Facebook Live).
I like the whiteboard because when I mess it up I can erase and start again.
I drew out the working week on the whiteboard and used a purple marker to allocate recurring tasks to days. Some of this was easy. I already do weekly social media updates on a Monday morning. Every Friday I do the Facebook Live, Tuesday mornings are stat days.
It was harder to map out other tasks. I needed to allocate five hours a day to client work. Some weeks there may be more some less but I realised that a lot of the work I did was prep work. If I’m smart I can pre-load client work by reviewing the courses I run and I can get ahead with the Facebook campaigns I run.
I also need to schedule eight hours a week for blogging/podcasting/video content. At the moment I’ve allocated two half days a week but I can see myself breaking this down into sections later on.
I’ve given myself two hours for learning on a Friday as well as an hour for my favourite thing (sarcasm) bookkeeping.
I think it’s important when you’re completing your weekly schedule to try and leave some flexibility. Like a diet when you try to be too regimented you’ll eventually find it too hard to keep.
So far so good. Now all I need to do is test it, does this weekly plan work.
You don’t have to use a whiteboard. You can use pen and paper, Google calendar like Darren Rowse, or something else.
Look at the chunks of time you need to allocate in the week and find a recurring time you can schedule it for.
So what went wrong?
Why am I sitting here on a Wednesday evening writing? Why haven’t I recorded the podcast that is due out in the morning?
The answer? We had a bank holiday and I didn’t allow for it.
I remember when I started working for myself I ignored bank holidays, I ignored weekends but now I look forward to them just like everyone else. Time out of the office, with friends and family, recharges my batteries. It means that when Monday morning comes I don’t’ get the blues, instead I’m dying to get back to work again.
But if you’re going to be productive you have to allow for bank holidays. You need to plan around them. I didn’t. Squeezing five days of work into four has put me behind schedule again.
I also lost my voice. I attempted to record my audio diary but the squeaks and coughs would make you want to switch off. Today I have most of my voice back. Tomorrow I will record.
I’m not going to let this setback get me down. I’m still a day, well less than a day ahead and by this time next week I’m aiming to be three days ahead.
Next week in the final part of this series on making better use of your time I’ll be looking at how you can put systems in place to improve your productivity. I’ll also be trialling two tools recommended by the Small Business Bloggers Facebook group. Wunderlist and Trello.
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