Getting Organized + Creating A Schedule: Our Process and Fave Tools
I am not going to jump into a whole blabber about why you should stay organized and it's benefits. You know them. You know you can't run a business without knowing what's what. Let's just start by saying that for me, finding a system that allows me to stay on top of client and internal projects was a process. It took some trial and error, and testing lots of tools.
I'm sure you've done that too, and if you're reading this you'll probably be familiar with a lot of the tools I'm going to mention. But, the way in which we now use all of them has changed with time, and now I'm really happy with where we're at!
So, let's get straight how to I structure my week and our client projects.
What I consider to be the most important part of my schedule; the day-to-day. For planning out my weeks and days I use a mixture of a daily planner, an annual planner with a week view, and a big 'ol notebook from Chapters. Oh, and I do have a smaller notebook too for general notes... it's quite the collection of paper planners I have to say!
Here's how I use all of those notebooks to get organized and stay on top of our schedule:
1. MAKE A BIG TO-DO LIST BRAIN DUMP
At the end of the week (like a Friday afternoon, or maybe even a Sunday) I'll take the big notebook and write a big brain dump to-do list of everything needs to be done next week. I'll split it up into 2 columns, 1 for internal projects, and 1 for client projects, and simply list out everything that needs to be done next for each item.
Doing this allows me to see exactly where in a project each client is, and focus on only what needs to be done next, rather than anything else to do with their project. It also allows me to see what can be delegated, and what's urgent.
2. REVIEW THE WEEKLY SCHEDULE/ CALENDAR
With this big to-do list done, I'll then look to the week ahead to see what events are on, what client deadlines we have coming up (i.e when different pieces of their project are due) and what else is going on. I use this annual planner from MiGoals that allows me to see a full week at once, and has space for other things like my tasks, habits I want to stay on top of, and a goal I want to be working towards this week. I'm currently using two MiGoals planners, and while it can be overkill having these fun extras in both planners, I do find that it really helps me stay on top of my personal things whilst also planning my work schedule - and let's be honest, you can't run a successful business if you don't have your personal shit together too! So I'm definitely a big fan of these planners!
Once I've got an idea of what's on the plate for the week ahead, I can then take that big to-do list and break it down into daily priorities and tasks. Typically my work week has a set routine to it (or least I'm trying to make sure it does) and that means I will give myself 3-5 priorities for the day, and then when the actual day rolls around I'll smash through those, and then see what else I have time to tackle.
What I love about doing this is that it means it doesn't matter if I have a day full of meetings and errands, or even if I have a massage booked, because I have split the tasks up throughout the week and can make sure the priorities get done that day, and feel sure that all client projects are on track!
3. DAILY PLANNING
With my week mapped out I can then take on each day of the week individually, trusting that other important tasks will get done later in the week. I know what's happening when, what's due, and what I need to be doing right now. And if I need to double check, that's where the daily planner comes in. As I said I'm loving the MiGoals planners, and for a daily planner I use the Progress Journal. It's a goal setting journal that also has a daily schedule included. This planner in particular helps be stay on top of tasks (I start each day by looking at the big to-do list and seeing what was scheduled for that day, then writing down the tasks I need and think I'll have time to tackle into my day). habits, events, and still have space for notes. It's also acting as a personal journal and reminds me to stay present, grateful, and mindful.
Then we have general project planning, that fills in all of the gaps for the above system to work:
In order for all of the above to work, I also rely on Asana, my personal Google Calendar, and some shared Google Calendars, as well as 17 Hats! (All linked below) It's a lot of tools, but they all link to the Google Calendar App on my phone so it's a lot simpler than it seems!
All of our projects are mapped out with individual timelines that we have as Google Docs. These Docs explain the process and next steps to our clients at every stage, and enable us to easily update and change things if needed. What we then do, is take those dates and create calendar events in our CRM software, 17 Hats. These link to my Google Calendar without blocking anything else, enabling me to look at my schedule and see the upcoming deadlines for all of our client projects.
I have to say, figuring out this step in the process has been amazing! Before, I would try to have timelines in Asana (which we use for project management) but then I would be planning my own schedule and not checking client timelines. Now, with the due dates for different pieces placed in my calendar I'm sure to see it. I also add invoice due dates into the client event calendar so I can keep an eye on our cash flow too.
Beyond that, we have all of our shared tasks in Asana. I use to list out everything that needed to be done, but for a small team like ours, it didn't really make sense. So instead, writing out what I personally need to take care of, and then tasking everything else in Asana, enables our whole team to stay on top of things. For internal projects though, my own tasks are in our Asana, as those need to be seen and viewed on the Asana calendar by our whole team - things like blog posts, email blasts, or social media posts are split up between all 3 of us and we use Asana's calendar view for our content schedule, so it's key that my items are in there too. Then, instead of writing the specific post on my to-do list, I always just write "blog, social, news" on my to-do list and I know to check out the content calendar to see what needs to be done.
Whew! That seems like a lot, but it's really easy once you get into it. To simplify things here's a condensed list of what I do each week.
1. Add tasks to Asana that other people need to do
2. Maintain our content calendar in Asana to ensure everything is up to date and to add new ideas
3. Write a massive brain dump of to-do's for every client project and our internal projects
4. Break that down into priorities for each day of the working week
5. Review events and due dates for client projects
6. Write a longer list of daily to-do's every day, referencing the big to-do list
7. Re-write the to-do list once I get part way through the day and have a better idea of what time I have left to do things
8. Do the work!