Using a planner or creating your own schedule can be beneficial as a business owner. But I find a lot of resistance to the idea. I hear comments like “I prefer to wing it as I like my freedom” or “it’s too restrictive” or “I’ve tried and it doesn’t work for me.” For some people, these may be legitimate reasons why not to use a plan or schedule. However, for most people – it’s the opposite.
It’s especially worth some consideration if your business isn’t as successful as you’d like. I personally use a time block schedule. I find that it’s helpful to have blocks of time for particular types of tasks. But it’s flexible enough to allow me to move the blocks around – in case I’m sick or have an appointment. Below are the top three reasons that a weekly schedule can be vital for online business owners. Getting things done or being more organized are obvious answers. Instead I wanted to dig a little deeper.
Planning Allows Space for Creativity
One of the benefits of planning your time is to allow creativity to flow. I have many people to me that planning stifles creativity. I would argue that it does the opposite. When you have a framework in place, all your tasks accounted for, it frees up your brain for creative work. No nagging feeling you’re forgetting something. No worrying about a task. Instead you have each task in its place – and there’s space for creative flow. And when your weekly time block schedule [link to my article] becomes a routine – you won’t have to think what to do next or when – you’ll already know.
And your creative time – will be a routine as well. You should schedule “creative” time. Sometimes I will go to a new space – a park, a coffee shop – and do some creative work there. Sometimes the change of scenery provides some inspiration. But the premise is the same. The plan allows me to have my creative time. Having no plan can be stifling as well. Sitting in front of a blank piece of paper trying to think of your next novel to write – can be scary. Or if you have a list of 50 tasks to do – trying to decide what to do is exhausting. At least having a framework for tasks that you need to accomplish – and then allow some time for creative work – can allow for new ideas to take flight.
Mind Maps are a creative way to take ideas and make some sense of them. It’s a plan of sorts…with more of a visual, non-linear framework. The first play you create may not be ideal. And your plan may need to change depending on the time of your “peak” performance during the day. You will want activities to match your energy levels [link] – which takes some trial and error. But in general, the schedule allows time for creativity.
Planning Creates Benchmarks
Second when you have schedule planned, you have a baseline for the amount of time it takes you to complete certain tasks. Once you’ve done a task for several weeks, you will have a benchmark. If a task is taking you longer to complete – this may be a sign that it’s time to outsource. Let’s say invoicing takes one hour per week.
If you have gotten several new clients, or have new projects – and now you’re not able to finish your invoicing in that one hour time block – you know that either you need to allow more time for this task, or this may indicate that it’s time to outsource.
At first I, would try rearranging your time blocks and expanding the amount of time for invoicing. But at some point, you’ll need to decide if spending two hours on invoicing is a good use of your time. Or would a better option be to outsource this task to a virtual assistant or bookkeeper – and give you two more hours for working on your business. Having a set plan, and system in your business allows you to see when you’ve outgrown your current business setup. Productivity is connected to resource management. Your time is finite. Make sure that you’re using it efficiently.
Planning Minimizes Distractions
Third, a plan can help you minimize distractions and focus. A recent survey showed that almost 60% of distractions now involve email, social media platforms, texting, switching between tabs and other programs. These distractions cost businesses money due to wasted productivity.
The very technology that was supposed to increase efficiencies – has caused it to plummet. There are other activities – such as phone calls and endless meetings – that also contribute to reduced efficiency. However, these new technological distractions are now the majority. In fact, they found that 45% of employees can only work a total of fifteen minutes before being distracted. And over 50% of employees, due to distractions, lose one hour of work each day.
In addition, we aren’t really “multitasking” but actually “switching tasks.” This switching ”uses up oxygenated glucose in the brain, running down the same fuel that’s needed to focus on a task.”(Quartz November 2013 – June 2014, What Is Your Quality Of Life @ Work?) But instead of taking a break, or trying to focus on one thing – we grab a cup of coffee or end up eating to compensate.
Studies have also found that our IQ actually drops when we’re serial tasking, and it actually takes more time to finish the task, the quality is drastically reduced and our stress levels increase. Our brain matter actually even shrinks! Why would anyone multitask?
How can a plan help? If you have a specific schedule – a time block of what you do when – there is no reason to check other platforms, your phone, etc. If you find that you are being distracted by these items – schedule a time to check them. Give yourself a 30-minute time block to check your Facebook page. Or the last five minutes of every hour you can check your phone for 5 minutes. Or if you do the Pomodoro technique – wait until you’ve done a couple of Pomodoro’s before you allow yourself to check your phone. But the other times – you focus on your one task at hand.
We have become slaves to our electronic devices – and the idea that we must respond as soon as someone messages us is ludicrous. Not everything is urgent. And for the well-being of your business – you have to prioritize your tasks – and not everybody else’s agenda. We need to take control of our time, our work, our productivity. That means putting these tasks in a place in our routine.
A schedule has benefits not only for your business but also for your personal health and welfare. A plan not only allows you to accomplish all your tasks – but also provides “free time” for creative pursuits. Knowing when tasks are no longer a good use of your time – allows you to understand if it’s time to outsource. And finally, a routine can help you avoid the distractions. I hope you will consider how to incorporate a weekly schedule into your routine.
If you have questions or would like some help – I have a free guide on creating a weekly time block schedule.
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