Simple Tips to Better Manage Your Calendar & Meetings

A few years ago, I found myself running ragged as a Wedding Planner.  I was spending the majority of my time driving from meeting to meeting, with little time spent in the office.  Even though I was batching the majority of my meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was still spending WAY too much time in meetings.  This was a problem for a few reasons – 1) I was burning out from driving all over the place – not to mention it was expensive 2) I was working late nights and early mornings on client work since I was spending the majority of my time in meetings out of the office 3) I didn’t have a strategy for my calendar and meetings.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Here’s what I decided to do – I printed off the previous calendar month and highlighted all of the meetings that were NOT focused on generating revenue.  I was shocked – about 50% of my meetings were being spent with appointments that ultimately were “non-revenue generating” meetings.  What is an example of this type of meeting?  One of many examples – I met with a local magazine that I knew I wouldn’t advertise with as they weren’t a match for my brand, but thought it would be good for them at least to know who I am and I liked the sales rep.  What’s the problem with this?  I didn’t have 2 hours in that week to meet with someone who I had decided wasn’t going to help bring me sales, at the end of the day.  Yes, it was fun to meet her and good for the magazine to know who I am, but really not the best use of my time.  I easily should have said NO to that meeting. So, what’s an example of a “revenue generating” meeting?  This would be a case where I met with a new venue in town where I KNOW our target clients are going to be booking at, and talked with them about how we could partner together.  This type of meeting has the potential for sales down the road.  And guess what…that relationship I’ve established worked, and we’re sending referrals to each other now, we’re on their preferred vendor list, etc. Before you schedule ANY appointment, simply ask yourself the question – does this meeting have the potential to bring me sales or help my business in some way?  If not, you probably need to politely decline the meeting offer and spend your time focusing ON your business, your clients, and your work-life balance.  Once you better manage your calendar from this strategic perspective, it is incredibly FREEING and SMART because you’re spending your time focused on what’s most important for your business and your sanity.  Grab your highlighter and take a look at your calendar to see where you can improve!

The Morning

Let’s talk about the morning hours.

First, let me lay claim to the fact that I despise the morning just as much as the next night owl. And, while I may have 2 kids under 5, I can still manage to sleep in until noon if left to my earplugs and night mask. I am NOT by any definition a morning person.

I know many of you are going to GROAN at the idea I’m going to propose here… but hear me out…

You need to wake up earlier (if you aren’t already). I’m not talking about 4am. I’m talking about 30-45 minutes earlier than you’re used to. And, I’m talking to those of you that can’t seem to find the extra time for xyz project that you’ve been wanting to tackle for the last 3.75 years.

Here’s the thing… the morning is when you can crack open a bit of productivity and efficiency. The phone/email/facebook isn’t ringing yet. No one is asking things of you. It’s just YOU and your BIG project. And, if you aren’t awake to use those extra 30-45 minutes, you’re missing out.

{my 17 year old self is crying for me right now – but I’m SERIOUS, people}

I don’t know how many newish business owners tell me that they wish they had more time for their business (aside from their day job)… and how many experienced people say they wish they had time to write a book, launch a new product, reconnect with an outside-of-work hobby, exercise(!), ________.

The morning is when it’s happening.

With just 30 minutes a day on a HUMONGOUS project, you can achieve incredible things. Here is the math:
30 minutes a day x 4 days a week (I’ll let you slack a bit) x 50 weeks a year (2 weeks vacation)
= 100 hours/year

I could likely write a 200-300 page book with 100 extra hours.

What could you do with 100 extra hours?

Share with me below… am I CRAZY? Or, has this worked for you? What have you been able to accomplish with squeezing in some quiet time in the wee hours of the morning?

EASY-PEASY To-Do List Pads Available for Sale

psssstttt…. we’ve got some cool to-do lists available that’ll help you prioritize your daily tasks! EXCITING! But, first I wanna explain the method to my daily madness in hopes that it helps you too…

I have a really simple method for managing my daily tasks and prioritizing. (Folks – it’s ALL about prioritizing!) Here is how I manage my day to day work:

1.) I have a humongous “MASTER” list for 1000s of to-dos. These to-dos are sometimes organized into categories: now, this week, this month, later. And, sometimes (if it’s CRAZY TIME) they may be a massive jumbo of millions of ideas in several notebooks. Here’s the important thing: this MASTER list is NOT where the action happens. It’s just where I capture all my thoughts. (This is the continuous “brain dump” if you follow David Allen’s Getting Things Done.”)

2.) Each day I pick 3-5 things I will work on. THAT’S IT! These are the things that HAVE to happen. (I make sure that I also include at least 1 long-term goal that is not as urgent. Working on something for 15 minutes a day can get me far in achieving a goal.)

3.) I start my day and spend the first 30-60 minutes working on something for myself or my business. Before answering emails and answering the phone, I WORK. (Remember actual work? Not just email answering and fire-snuffing.)

4.) At the end of the day, I spend 30 minutes organizing my thoughts, adding to my master list… and I select the 3-5 things I will work on the next day. I do this so that when I sit at my desk the next day, I have a roadmap and don’t fall to the crutch of my email.

Sure…  there are days that my list has 10 things that HAVE to happen. Sure… there are times that I jump on email first thing in the morning. But, I usually stick to this little system of prioritizing and it does wonders for my day. Give it a try! It’ll make a HUGE difference in how you work.

And now… drum roll… EASY-PEASY TO-DO LIST NOTEPADS!

What will you work on today? These little notepads will help you navigate your daily tasks. It asks you to choose 3 things you want to do for your client, 3 things you want to do for your business, 3 things you want to do for yourself (which includes your relationships). Use this notepad to guide you in your daily tasks. (I do recommend keeping a MASTER list elsewhere.)

The notepads are 50 sheets and cost $12 (includes shipping within the United States). Email me if you want me to ship outside of US.




 

Tell me how you like’m!

The Guilt that Comes with Work-Life Balance

In the first year after my daughter Lili was born, I went thru an identity crisis of sorts. I wanted so hard to retain a sense of self, yet everything had changed. Along with this battle came the real test of work-life balance. Oh sure – I had struggled with balance before having a child. But, when you throw one more factor into the equation (a child, a big move, a career shift, a death, a divorce, etc.) then work-life balance is really tested.

There was a common pattern of feeling like a failure in my life:

Me at my outside-the-home office: excited to be at work and out of the house, but also feeling really bad about not being with my kid

Me at home with kid: happy to have time to share with her, but also feeling really stressed about the 10 design revisions I had to email and the 5 orders that needed to go out in the same week

No matter where I was or, what I was doing, I felt like I was doing a BAD job. I felt like I wasn’t giving my all to my child. I felt like I wasn’t giving my all to my business.

It sucks to feel like you are underperforming in all areas of your life.

Have you experienced this?

This is work-life balance GUILT.
We feel guilty that we’re working. We feel guilty that we aren’t working.
We feel guilty that we are ‘having fun’ (taking care of child is not always fun… but, you get the point. ) We feel guilty that we aren’t taking advantage of the time to have fun with our children (or our significant other, or pets, or parents, or you-name-it.)

How do you get past this?

There are some things that I’ve learned and some things that I do to make this better. This doesn’t mean that I’m still not challenged with this. (I felt it this morning as I watched my 1 year-old on ‘internet TV’ at school.) But, I definitely don’t feel as much guilt as I used to or that I’m underperforming in all areas of my life. This is VERY freeing to me.

How I get past feeling guilty about work-life balance…

  • Remind myself: “I’m fortunate to have this flexibility. Not all working parents get to have the time that I get to have with my kids.” And the experiences that my kids are having with other kids is one that I want for them too. On the flipside, I work hard and deserve to have time for myself and my family.
  • Remind myself: “There will always be things left undone. There will always be items on my to-do list. There will always be more moments I could have had with my family.” Focus on the DONE, not the UNDONE.
  • Focus on being present. When I’m at work, I work. When I’m with my family, I’m with my family. I sometimes have to trick myself into focusing. (Like: locking my laptop in a drawer on the weekends.)
  • Know: Taking care of myself is JOB #1. I’ve learned that if I give myself one hour in the mornings for myself then I am able to focus better on my work. If I give myself 30 minutes at the end of my work day to wrap up loose ends and clean off my desk, then I’m able to focus better on my family. If I get enough sleep, food, and exercise, I’m a better business owner AND a better parent. I am the machine that runs everything and if the machine isn’t cared for, everything else suffers.

Tell me… how do you get past this feeling of guilt? Share with us in a comment below.

How We Spend Our Days, Part 2

Yesterday Michelle shared how she spends her days, so today I wanted to fill you in on what my days look like.

You may be wondering how much time I spend working on Sage – in general, about 20% of my time is dedicated to 1:1 consulting, conducting workshops, etc.  The other 80% of my time (or sometimes 95% as we’re in busy season right now with weddings), I’m focused on Sweet Pea Events and the new branch of our company, Planning for Dudes (proposal planning services for guys).  I’m so grateful to say that the business here in Dallas has boomed, we now have offices in Seattle and NYC and I also started Thursday Therapy Dallas and continue to host it here.

For the 20% of my time I spend with Sage, I have a very limited quantity of businesses I consult with 1:1, I travel to different cities to present The Simple Plan workshop, writing an occasional blog post, or working on a strategic project with Michelle.  I LOVE helping other wedding pros work ON their business – I know I’ve come to the place I’m at today for a reason, and that I’m supposed to be using my experiences, even my mistakes, to help other wedding pros.  When I work with a client through The Simple Plan Exclusive, and their goal is to leave their full-time corporate gig in order to pursue their wedding business full-time I am PUMPED.  I love being a cheerleader and helping people see things in themselves or their buiness that they may not see they have the potential for.

But here’s the deal.  A few years ago, I was trying to do both Sage and Sweet Pea and give 125% to both.  This does NOT work.  Burnout, fatigue, bitterness about having no life, no balance whatsoever.  These things all slowly creeped in when I was trying to do everything full-steam (anyone relate)? ;)

I AM NOT A SUPERWOMAN.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I had to be honest with myself.  I want to do it all, and do it the best I can.  Reality is, I can’t.  Besides being an entrepreneur, I’m now a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister, and a daughter.  I absolutely love what I do for my career, yet I HAVE to make time for people and things in my life that are important to me and matter most.  I had to stop the crazy cycle I was in and prioritize and decide where I was going with my time.So, now the time that I do spend on Sage is FOCUSED and productive.  I am selective on projects I decide to work on, and evaluate if it’s something I can commit to.  This will likely change down the road, as I am so super passionate about our mission of sustaining wedding businesses and absolutely love this aspect of the business.  Eventually I may be spending 80% on Sage and 20% on Sweet Pea – but for now, I don’t do it all.  I can’t do it all.  I have balance.  I have energy to be my best at the things I am focusing on.  I’m a better person for it, and hopefully a better business owner, mom, wife, friend, sister and daughter because I’m not trying to be Superwoman.Are you trying to be Superman or Superwoman?  If so, it may be time to pause, reflect, and evaluate where you want to focus and spend your time.  You too may realize you can only do so much and something’s gotta give.

PS – We’re posting things on Instagram and Twitter that we’ve learned on Sage Wedding Pros this week! Share in our celebration by sharing something that you’ve learned and/or has inspired you with the tag #FourSageYears. YAY!