How to manage your schedule

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In this episode, Ross and Talia dive into scheduling, the productivity tools that they use, and some tips on how they manage their own schedules to help you stay organized and boost your productivity.

The transcript

Talia:

What’s up, everybody? In this week’s episode, Ross and I dive into scheduling. If you’ve ever been worried about the way you schedule your week and how you stay on task, this is the episode for you. Ross and I talk about the tools that we use, the hours that we work, and how we manage our schedule. Let’s get started.

Talia:

All right. I have a confession, Ross.

Ross:

Okay.

Talia:

I know there are countless tools out there, and I know that there are frameworks and worksheets and a ton of blog posts and guides on how to manage your schedule.

Ross:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Talia:

But I’m going to confess that my entire schedule and my entire week and all my tasks and everything I do is via my calendar, which is terrible.

Ross:

That’s amazing.

Talia:

It’s a terrible thing. So I block out time. And that’s basically, my calendar is like my everything. It’s a terrible abuse of your calendar. It’s terrible. It’s like me using my inbox as my personal reminder and having everything in the unread so that I don’t forget to do things. It’s not the way you should be using it. But as I was planning out my week, this week, I’ve had this conversation over and over again with the shine crew, with many colleagues, “How do you plan your week?How do you block out time? How do you decide what to do?” And I thought this would be a wonderful conversation to have with you on the podcast, to figure out what is the best way to manage your time, to schedule things, to keep yourself on task and make sure that you’re productive at all times. So that was my confession. But I’d love to hear from you, Ross, because pretty sure you’re not messing up like me. How do you schedule your week? How do you look at it? How do you approach it?

Ross:

So this is going to be very anticlimactic for a lot of our listeners, because I also have a confession to make.

Talia:

Oh, no.

Ross:

And that is the vast majority of my life lives and dies by my calendar.

Talia:

Oh my gosh.

Ross:

So my calendar is, without question, the way I manage all of my tasks, it’s how I plan my weeks, it’s how I plan my days. And unlike you, I think that’s okay. I think living and dying by your calendar is completely okay. And let me give you a reason why. At the end of the day, we watch how we spend our money, we watch what we eat. When it comes to managing our time, we don’t want to watch it. We have to watch it. And the only thing to use to watch our time is our calendar. Thus, I believe calendars are the MVP most valuable player of productive entrepreneurs and business people. I’m all in on calendars, I think we’re over tooled, we’re over gizmoed and calendars are great.

Talia:

This is amazing. I was not expecting you to say this. Oh my gosh. I’m super interested in two other aspects of this. One is managing your time where you’re spending on the business, like sales and marketing, versus time spent on client work, which I’m super interested in. And I’m also interested in, as a parent, what hours do you work? Because I find that super interesting. But just to bring back the conversation to the calendar for a second. Don’t you find that, let’s say you block out like three hours to do work on, I don’t know, a blog post or something, and then you get on a call and something happens. And then you’re just like, “Okay, I’m just going to shorten this. I’m just going to move this.” And then things just kind of get out of control.

Talia:

Don’t you have like an Asana or doesn’t your monthly schedule or goals or projects live somewhere, so that you can say you don’t move things too much? Because that’s where I fail. Yes, I can do that during the week, as long as I try to keep everything in there. But I have this blog post that I’ve been trying to edit for five weeks. I just keep moving it from week to week.

Ross:

That’s funny. So yeah, we definitely embrace Trello. So Trello allows us to look at projects and ensure that projects are moving along in the right direction, but there’s a direct relationship between anything in my calendar and the due dates on those Trello cards. So it would still have a very similar impact. I rarely spend a lot of time in the Trello card and I just will say, “Okay, I need to do X by this date, thus, let me plan that in my calendar.” So I’ll plop in my calendar that I need to write this blog post on Monday for a delivery date on Friday. And I won’t move it. I will say, “This is going to be in my calendar and it’s going to happen.” If I don’t do it, I punish myself.

Talia:

What?

Ross:

I know. It’s probably very, not healthy and probably not a great relationship to have with yourself. But I will punish myself by saying, “Okay, Ross, if you are unable to get control of your calendar, that means you’re not going to watch WandaVision on the weekend.” Simple as that.

Talia:

Blasphemy. Sorry. Excuse me.

Ross:

I know. Right?

Talia:

That’s blasphemy.

Ross:

“You’re not going to walk any Netflix. You’re not going to watch the game.” So during football season, it means Sundays I’m working. I’m not going to watch the game. I’m not going to be able to enjoy that. Thursday Night Football, going to have to skip it. And that will hold me accountable to making those things happen. Or when I’m feeling really hard on myself, I will tell myself, “Okay, I guess you’re working until 1:00 AM tonight, because you didn’t get stuff together.” And then it’s just like, “I can’t work until 1:00 AM. I shouldn’t push myself to that because I will probably have to be up at 7:00 AM with the toddler, but I make my bed I have to lay in it.”

Ross:

So the key is to stick to my calendar so I don’t put myself into difficult situations like that. So calendars, I still believe are super important. You just have to hold yourself accountable to sticking to it, or reap the pain that may come. Like tonight I’m going to have to work. I’m looking at my calendar now, and it’s like every Tuesday I send an email to my newsletter. And I haven’t written that email, I haven’t planned that email. And I’m looking at my calendar, there’s no space for me to write that email. So I’m going to have to write that tonight at 10:00 PM and that can go until 1:00. Which isn’t fun, but that’s on me because I let my calendar get away from me.

Talia:

Hey, maybe it’ll be about scheduling and calendar and the fact that you’re writing it at 10:00 PM.

Ross:

True.

Talia:

I really hope that you’ve watched the last episode of WandaVision because my mind is blown.

Ross:

I did. It was good.

Talia:

But back on topic. One thing that I have been using lately, because I feel like my calendar isn’t a good way to do it, is I’ve actually started using Toggl to monitor how long I spend on things.

Ross:

Oh, interesting.

Talia:

Because what happens to me is I have a calendar and there was a day full of work, and I’ve noticed I can only put two big projects on the calendar, and then the rest of it is just admin stuff, I’m putting other things in, half an hour here half an hour there. But I jump. And those are the things that you don’t kind of calculate, like you’re walking on a blog post and then you get pinged on Slack and you’re like, “Okay, I’ll just talk to this person.”

Ross:

Yep.

Talia:

Yeah. So I’m trying as much as I can to track it. And this kind of leads me to the next point, which is as a parent, and this is the best thing about being an entrepreneur, but also the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, is that I get to set my own working hours. And ever since I have become a parent, I work really strange hours. So I start my day at 7:00 AM and then I’ll log off at 1:00 PM, and I’ll have an hours break, and then I go and pick up my kids from daycare. And then I’ll be with them until 7:00 PM, put them to bed, and then I go back to work till 10:00 PM, a couple of times a week. So I feel like I have to track stuff on Toggl, so that I know what I’m spending time on. Because I know that the 7:00 to 10:00 PM is the time where I’m out on calls with clients and sales calls and students. Because everyone’s in the U.S and I’m not. Yeah. How about you? Have you changed anything in your working hours or habits as a parent?

Ross:

Definitely. Yeah. So pretty much I don’t try to miss my lunch. Because working from home, my kids are home, I get to have lunch with them, so I don’t have any wiggle room on that. So my lunch is in my calendar, team doesn’t schedule meetings around it, it happens. I’ve also started to run. So that has taken up about an hour of my day as well. So typically every day, I’m trying to squeeze in an hour workout, slash run. And that’s usually anywhere from 10:30 or 11:30 in the day. So that’s a big chunk of time that has gone in my day. So what I’ve done in exchange is said, “At 10:00 PM every day, I am going to plug back in and I will do work. Because between 7:15 and 9:00 it’s bedtime and I’m always there for bedtime.”

Ross:

So there’s been some adjustments. And I would say I’m very gentle on myself, probably in comparison to most. If I’m finished something early and I have less time to do, I’m going downstairs and I’m going to have a quick tea party or something like that. It’s not going to be a jump, “Let’s go do something right away,” I’m probably downstairs having a quick chat with the little ones and playing, or seeing how Chris is doing, all that stuff. So it’s pretty flexible in terms of being fluid with my calendar in that regard. And then my weekends, which used to be massively productive, have gone away and do not exist.

Talia:

What’s a weekend?

Ross:

Yeah. Weekends are no longer as productive as they used to be at all. I tried. In the early days I was like, “I can make this work.” It doesn’t work. It’s not working. So the weekends are just a no go at this point, it feels like. The one thing though, that is different for me is I now have an assistant.

Talia:

Yes.

Ross:

So an assistant has changed my management of tasks and to-dos consistently and significantly. So my assistant runs my inbox. They’re in there, they see everything. They’re making sure that I’m on top of emails, they filter out noise. They make sure that I don’t see anything that I don’t need to see or tackle problems that I don’t need to tackle. And it allows me to really be laser focused on the big rocks that I need to move as the CEO. Similarly, with Trello, I haven’t logged into Trello myself for a very long time, because my assistant keeps on top of that. And when I need to work on something, they will put a block in my calendar that says, “Ross, review this,” or “Ross, write this piece,” or “Ross, send five topics for podcast to Talia.” They will write all of these things in my calendar and then I just go do it.

Talia:

Amazing.

Ross:

So that has been, without question, a massive, massive improvement in my quality of being efficient. And I would say the assistant definitely changed the game in that regard.

Talia:

Yeah. I’m actually just in the midst of that too. So I onboarded someone last month.

Ross:

Nice.

Talia:

And I actually onboarded her for the training program that we’re launching, oh my gosh, in like a month. Freaking out. But she is so good. She basically has mapped everything in Asana. I have no idea what’s going on in there, but I know it looks really cool. And she’s basically pinging me daily with either Gloom videos, or in my calendar like, “Block this. Block this. Do this. Do that.” And it’s amazing. Or she’ll reach out to me, she’s like, “It looks like you’re moving things around. I’m going to reschedule the time for this.”

Ross:

That’s hilarious. That’s awesome.

Talia:

Basically. Yeah. She knows what’s happening.

Ross:

That’s amazing. Yeah. No, assistants help a lot. I think one of the biggest things that I have learned is let them have complete access, control, and just lay it all out there, all of your challenges, everything you need done, and they will assist. That’s been my overarching take, slash hope, and it’s worked out quite well. It’s worked out quite well, for sure.

Talia:

I guess at the end of the day, it’s not simple, scheduling stuff.

Ross:

No.

Talia:

And especially as an entrepreneur or a founder, you have so much responsibility and so many people need you and so many clients need work and also marketing and sales. So do you have some sort of go-to plan or certain days that you would take care of certain things?

Ross:

I do. So when I look at my calendar for the month, I have two days that are dedicated to finances. So two days a month, I’m reviewing all invoices, reviewing all budgets, reviewing accounts payable, accounts receivable, overdue payments, all of those things. I have two days every month that are dedicated to the money side of things. Then I have every Wednesday blocked for what I call Wired in Wednesdays. And Wired in Wednesdays are the days where I’m dedicated to purely creation. So I’m writing essays, I’m recording YouTube videos, I’m developing content, I’m scheduling tweets. I’m creating, creating, creating, creating on Wednesdays. It’s been interesting to watch. The team has started to also embrace this idea of Wired in Wednesdays, where they’ve started to kind of also just dedicate their Wednesdays to creating and doing the work. And then there’s no meetings on that day.

Talia:

Amazing.

Ross:

So there’s no sales calls, no new biz. It’s just purely creation days. So that’s been super helpful. When I look at my calendar today, I’m going to be back to back to back to back to back to back meetings for the rest of this day. And tomorrow, it’s going to be like that in the morning. Thursday it’s going to be like that. Friday it’s going to be like that. So for the most part, it’s a lot of calls, a lot of meetings, a lot of training, a lot of development, et cetera. But on my Wednesdays, I get to geek out and just create. What about you? How do you map out your weeks and days?

Talia:

I try to dedicate specific days to my business growth. So I have one day a week, which is pure marketing and just working on content creation. And I have other times allocated through the day. Because my issue is the inbox that I use. I’m kind of trying to get out of that habit, but use it as my task thing. So I’m kind of scheduling 30 minutes, but only at the end of the day, to review my inbox. So I have one or two days a week where I’m focusing on marketing and really kind of creating content and recording stuff. And I also have the rest of the time is client work or working with the team.

Talia:

But I do tend to see that things blend in. So for now, as I was mentioning, like now that we’re planning the course, then that has preference, obviously. So I’m recording a ton of content for the program, because we’re rerecording stuff and adding a ton of new content. And that kind of takes over a lot of the work. So I feel like every month is very different for me, but I do try to say, “This is client day. This is business date.” I try to keep it into blocks.

Ross:

Right. Right. That’s fair. I think that’s a good approach, blocking it out. There was a great article written a few years ago by, I forget who wrote it, but it was Managers versus Maker’s schedule or calendar. Definitely recommend that people do a quick Google search and find it. It’s an insightful one on how to manage your time and your calendar well.

Ross:

But I hope folks were able to find some value in this. This was a good one. If you are struggling with your calendar, get it in order. Don’t forget to check out a tool like Toggl. It sounds like that’s something that I’ll take a peek at and see if it can play a role. And also embrace getting assistance from someone else. If you are running a hundred miles a minute and you need some support, there are a bunch of sites that offer VAs virtual assistants that you can capitalize on and utilize to help tame your calendar and even tame your inbox. So with all that said, thank you so much. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Talia, you you can tell folks where they can find us and what else is going on.

Talia:

Yeah. Join us on our Facebook group at facebook.com/actiondrivenpodcast. And also you can visit us on our website. So if you are now listening to us on Spotify or on Apple, then maybe you don’t know, but we are now doing video. On our website you can catch the video side of stuff so you can see Ross and I kind of chatting. That’s it.

Ross:

See you folks soon.

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