As an entrepreneur, this has been extremely difficult for me. Not knowing what will happen next month, or even next week, is not how I like to operate. I've had to learn to embrace the uncertainty, but have realized along the way there are certain things I can plan, and certain things I can control. I've also learned the importance of planning certain things, like how to manage large volumes of work and taking care of my kids. Nothing ever comes distributed evenly; I'll be offered 3 major projects in one day and the next morning one of my kids will wake-up sick. It never fails.
In spite of having no idea what's coming down the funnel, I've come up with a few tactics that have helped me to stay organized and plan my work, and my finances. Because when you're planning, you're planning to succeed. No one plans to fail. If you're planning, it's because you want to be, and expect to be, successful. Planning helps you map out your path towards achievement, and the decisions you make along the way are what will get you there. Without a plan, it's impossible to measure outcome or success, or to learn and improve.
Particularly when it comes to business, planning allows you to anticipate problems and pitfalls others may ignore or miss. It allows you to make better use of your time, and implement strong, cohesive marketing and growth plans. On a personal level, planning will help you lead a healthier, more balanced life. If you have kids, you know the struggle all too well. Your business is your baby, but you have real-life babies that need you even more.
A wise Professor named Douglas McGregor, who passed away in 1964, wisely said that
"An objective without a plan is a dream."
This is something that really resonates with me, because it couldn't be more true.
We all have dreams, but you can't turn those dreams into reality unless you execute on them. And in order to execute anything, you're going to need a plan. If you want to be successful in your business, your career and your life, you need to plan for it.
So, how can you make better use of planning to help you in all areas of your life?
Here are some tips I have learned along the way.
LOOSELY SCHEDULE YOUR WORK WEEK EVERY SUNDAY
I say loosely because things will always change, but creating a plan for the week will take a lot of stress and wasted time out of your days. I sit down every Sunday night and look at my work load. I look through my Excel spreadsheet of clients, and see what is coming due and what takes priority. I take into account my own business development, and create a plan for myself.
For example, I block off Monday morning to schedule my own social posts for the week. I block off Monday afternoon for 3 client Skype calls. Tuesday I will write 8 articles for one client, and Wednesday I will spend the day doing research and web scraping for another client. You get the idea. This way, all my work is accounted for. I'm able to communicate to my clients when their work will be completed, and set proper expectations that keep everyone happy.
I also take this a step further and plan every day the night before. I start with my weekly schedule, but my daily plan always gets modified a bit, based on what I actually accomplished, versus what I planned on accomplishing. I wake up every morning with clear daily objectives and goals. And, if you find that you have gaps in your schedule, this is the perfect opportunity to fit in some extra business development or even getting some exercise.
FIND TOOLS TO HELP YOU STAY ORGANIZED
Stop relying on sticky notes or the search bar within your inbox to locate your client information and projects. I'm a big fan of Excel, Google Docs and Trello. I could probably ditch Excel all together at this point, but I've been using it for so long that it's just second nature. I use it to track my incoming revenue and current clients. I also use it to monitor my monthly expenses and make sure everything lines up. Google Docs can be used for the same thing, but I use it for sharing work with others. When you're collaborating or creating content for other people, Google Docs is an ideal platform to share things easily.
Trello is an incredible project management program that offers a free version. You can have entire teams of people collaborating, and it allows you to keep everything in one place. You can create checklists, deadlines and it even has a comment/chat feature. There are plenty of other great project management tools out there, but this is the one that I use.
USE AUTOMATION WHEN YOU CAN
When it comes to posting your blogs, managing social media and implementing email marketing, automation is key. This will save you huge amounts of time, and will make it easier for you to spend time engaging and connecting with people in real-time. This should become part of your weekly schedule -- you can block off time each week to create and schedule your content, assuring that it gets done. Doing batch-work significantly improves your efficiency, simply because you can stay focused and are not starting and stopping the same protect repeatedly. You sit down, and get a project completed, from initial creation to future publication.
For Social Media, there are countless options out there. Use a scheduler like Hootsuite or Post Planner and have everything set for a week, or an entire month. These tools will also feed you content curation ideas, to help fulfill your posting requirements.
If you're building an email list, you don't want to be doing things manually. Programs like MailChimp or ConvertKit will make your life so much easier, and can be easily integrated with what you're already doing to capture email addresses. You can automate your newsletters, or whatever it is you're sending out, and be confident it's taken care of. Programs like these also allow you to host sign-up forms or pop-ups on your website, plus create landing pages.
If you're blogging, you can probably schedule that ahead of time as well. My site is hosted with Wix, and I can schedule my blog posts to publish whenever I want. This way, I can sit down, write 4 blogs, and then schedule them for the entire month and not give it a second thought.
What time management and planning tips do you have?