Social media certainly makes everything look like a walk in the park. You can see my morning coffee, midday hikes, fabulous photoshoots, and the highlight reel of my day. You don’t see the quiet moments I lay on my living room carpet in complete and utter defeat. I’m celebrating 3 years in business next month, and it hasn’t all been as easy as Instagram makes it seem.
There are days of feeling like I can’t do it all. I feel like I’m failing. Occasionally, I feel like I should disappear because becoming a bartender in New Zealand doesn’t sound so bad.
I could sit there for hours in freeze mode, but I usually snap myself out of it with the classic Mel Robbins countdown. It’s a method where you set an intention of what you will do next, like perhaps shower. Then, you count backwards from 5.
Boom. Then you just do the thing. You get up, and you shower. You move forward. But you can only do that when you know what you will do next.
I don’t have any secret superpower that gives me more time in a day or all the answers on hacking your calendar. But I can tell you what I’ve learned from dozens of books on the topic, what stuck with me, what I attempt to implement, and what I admire from other people who are just like us – trying to balance it all.
Tools for Balancing Work and Life
When other entrepreneurial friends come to me telling me they’re overwhelmed, don’t know what to do next, and have a long list of to-dos, my first ask is –
“Where is all of this living?”
If the answer is in your head, it’s time to find the best way to get it out. For me, I need pen to paper, plus tech tools, to be supported. The pen to paper is for intention and memory – tech is because we can’t rely on memory alone. Plus, if I lost my journal, I’d only be partially annoyed because at least the important stuff is living online.
If you’re starting from scratch, my first suggestion would be to brain-dump it all. This includes work projects, your laundry, finding time for exercise, coffee meet-ups – everything. If it’s living in your head, it’s basically dead unless your memory resuscitates it.
You can put this on a whiteboard, sheet of paper, Google Doc, or note on your phone – anywhere that fits best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all here. I like to use Asana because it’s a tool I use for eventually plugging in deadlines (more on that later).
Once I have my brain totally emptied of all the to-dos, I can start implementing big-picture thinking. Here’s my system for prioritizing my week for fulfillment.
Sunday Set Up
Every Sunday evening, I have a review of my week, structured by my Full Focus Journal. You always want to start with some wins before you get to your to-dos.
I identify three things I did well that week and three things I could’ve done differently. For example, last week, I delivered a client gallery ahead of schedule. Win. What I could’ve done differently was send sneak peeks within 24 hours. I’ve wanted to implement that but haven’t gotten around to building a system that supports it.
I’ll go to my to-dos of the week and carry over anything that didn’t get done so they don’t fall off if they’ve been labelled important.
I’ll then plot everything that NEEDS to be done this week per the deadline before moving on to my big 3. My big three are the needle movers. I typically do two work-related and one home-related needle mover.
While editing Blue Mountain’s ski photos is a deadline this week that needs to get plugged into the calendar, I wouldn’t consider it a needle mover. Reaching out to 20 other wedding photographers to let them know about my associate photography rates could land me another fabulous wedding to capture. And it’s something that can easily get put off if I don’t plug it in the calendar with the deadlines I also need to meet.
Once I identify my weekly big three that need to be done, I begin plugging away in both my Full Focus journal and Google calendar to ensure I have the resources to get it all accomplished. This might mean I need to say no to coffee with a friend to keep my commitments.
My Systems for Time Management Support
You may have “exercise” on your to-do list. But when? How long? What days of the week? Is it every day?
I have a “board” in my Asana account for my non-negotiables. Everything from my 10-minute morning meditation to my gratitude practice, hygiene routine, and 60 minutes of movement are in there. Weekly grocery shop, etc.
I’ve set myself up with “recurring” tasks on Asana that I check off daily. When you use the recurring method, once you check it off, it automatically returns to your task list, depending on how you set it up. I have some recurring daily, some weekly, and some every 2nd Tuesday. It’s truly a powerful beast that can support your project management. And it’s free—my second favourite F word.
Tech Tools for Support
My favourite tech tools to support my work-life balance are my Google Calendar, Asana, plus the Notes app because I’m a Mac user, so it easily lives on both my phone and my laptop.
Once I have brain-dumped my tasks and organized them by deadline and importance, I plug away at my calendar. I reference Asana when plugging into my calendar and looking at the big three.
Colour coding helps when it comes to calendar balance. I use yellow for social, green for health, and blue for work. If I see a very heavy yellow week, I may need to say no to that extra coffee hang or after-work beer so I don’t let my tasks slip.
I have no idea what I’m doing tomorrow. Or next week. But my calendar does, and thankfully, that handy little thing lives in my pocket, granted I have wifi or data 😉 Tech is a significant support system in my life.
The quote that changed the trajectory of how I approach my weeks was this –
Live by design, not by default.
By designing your week, you’re ultimately designing your life. Sounds worth it to me!
Are there any tech tools I should know about that would help with time management? How do you approach your to-dos? Leave a comment for me below.