Squirrel brain (n): A chaotic and unfocused state of mind that prevents you from getting things done, yet you still try until crap hits the fan.
Do you feel like this sometimes? Maybe even often? You’re not alone, my friends. And the fault isn’t yours — it’s the nature of the industry. As wedding business owners, we work in one of the top five most stressful industries, so it’s no wonder our heads feel like they’re constantly spinning.
The actual culprit that leads to squirrel brain (and overwhelm) is usually not knowing how to designate your time so that you’re truly productive with your time. AKA, not time blocking in a way that best suits your work ethic.
If you’re suffering from squirrel brain and you’re a wedding entrepreneur, you’ll want to stick around because we’re taking a deep dive into the top 7 tips I have for time blocking for your small business.
This blog post was inspired by the conversation I had with Megan Gillikin from the Weddings For Real’s podcast, so after you’re done reading, definitely head over to that episode to catch some nuggets of wisdom not covered here!
Tip 1: Dress the part
I know, this seems like a weird one to start with since we’re talking about time blocking. But hear me out: dressing the part truly deserves to be the first tip because it acts as like your foundation. How you prepare yourself for your workday can impact the rest of your day tremendously!
As small business owners, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of throwing your hair into a top bun and wearing sweats every day. (Especially since most of us are still working from home.) Right now, some of you are thinking, “Wait, I thought the whole point of being an entrepreneur is that I get to wear a top bun and be in sweats all day…” And I’m not saying that’s not a perk and you can never have comfortable days ever again. In fact, I only get fully ready three times a week. Sometimes, I only get half ready. (Zoom can’t see below the blouse!)
But getting ready to look the part can help you feel the part, too. Do you ever notice that you feel slightly more professional and ready to get things done when you act like you’re going somewhere? It’s empowering, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.
Tip 2: Block out days in your week that are productivity days only
Wedding planners: do you ever sit in front of your computer on a Sunday, exhausted from the wedding from that weekend and simultaneously stressed out for all the tasks that need to be done tomorrow, on Monday?
I’ve definitely been there and burned myself out trying to carry out this schedule. So many of my clients who are wedding business owners fall for this trap too! And it’s because the rest of the world works that way, so we feel pressured to also operate on the same schedule. However, this grind isn’t sustainable for anyone’s mental health, no matter how much of a type- A person you are.
The wonderful part about being a business owner (that sometimes we forget about even though it’s probably why most of us started our own businesses) is that we can make our own schedule! So save your sanity and consider making Monday productivity days, instead of client-facing days.
Making Mondays productivity days means you can decompress from the weekend, catch up on emails (more on how to tackle your inbox in tip 4), take care of any projects that are looming over your head, and allow yourself time to schedule your calendar for the week. One thing I don’t want you to use Mondays for is complete rest days. The honest and hard truth is no one knows or considers that you worked all weekend. So while it’s not a client-facing day, it would still be best for your mental health to work on all the behind-the-scenes stuff. Otherwise, you’ll likely stress yourself out for the rest of the week. And yes, you can totally wear the highest top bun possible and wear your comfiest sweats on this day.
Tip 3: Schedule out the rest of your days (your client-facing days)
Now that you have your productivity days scheduled out, it’s time to tackle your client-facing days. For our company, that’s Tuesday afternoons, Wednesday, and Thursday.
The reason I say Tuesday afternoons is because we reserve that morning for the team. We have our team meeting, and then I leave my schedule open for two to three hours so we can collaborate on anything we need to. A bonus for having team meetings on Tuesday morning is that everyone gets to decompress after a wedding, and our minds aren’t wandering off thinking about all the hundreds of emails and tasks we need to attend to. After that, the rest of the week is dedicated to clients.
So look at your schedule and ask yourself when it would be most productive to meet with your clients. Will you have enough time to meet with your team if you have employees? And will you have enough time to take care of tasks for your business? Remember, clients are a huge part of your business, of course, but if you don’t work on the other parts that makeup your business, your client experience is going to falter.
Tip 4: Tackle that inbox with the email triage method
How many times have you opened up your email inbox, got sucked into replying to every single one, and then you look up at the clock to see it’s already 3 PM but you haven’t gotten to your to-do list yet? Not to mention, by that time, your brain is probably like mush, so it’s hard to get anything done, even if you wanted to!
This is where triaging your inbox can come in handy.
Here’s what it is: Dedicate a certain amount of time, say 1 hour, to clear your inbox. Then, use time-commitment tiers. So first, go through and quickly delete anything that’s trash. Next, tackle the emails that will take less than five minutes to respond to. The rest of the emails, the ones that will take you over five minutes to respond to, get scheduled into your calendar to do later in the day or later in the week.
Triaging my inbox was one of the best methods I implemented into my business because I stopped wasting so much time answering emails when there were definitely better times to do it. Truth is, attending to our emails is a non-negotiable part of our job no matter how much we despise it. So this is a great way to make that inbox seem much less intimidating.
Tip 5: Figure out how you like to work
I can talk about best practices for time blocking forever, but the fact of the matter is you’re a vastly different person from me. That means it’s important to figure out how you like to work and what keeps you most productive and motivated during the day. I’m a pretty driven person, so I could work hours on end when I need to. But Megan works best with 10-minute breaks scheduled into her day so she can take a step back and hit the refresh button.
Pro tip: Figuring out a schedule can seem like a big task, so it helps to first look at what times of the day you’re going to be naturally most distracted (like your kids coming home from school). Also consider what tasks you need to take care of that would loom over your head and distract you throughout the day (like taking care of your inbox). From there, you can schedule breaks. Being prepared will significantly help you keep the motivation going!
Tip 6: Use an online scheduler
Tip 5 brings me to tip 6: using an online scheduler. I’ll admit, I used to fight using an online scheduler for the longest time because it felt so impersonal. But let me tell you: there’s hardly anything in my business that’s been more mentally lifesaving than my automated online scheduler. And, you can make it personal however you want!
Here are three primary reasons an online scheduler is arguably a non-negotiable tool you need to use for your wedding or creative business:
- You’ll eliminate the tedious, time-consuming back and forth when trying to schedule times to talk to your clients and your team members.
- You can boost your sales by including the link to your scheduler on your website. When someone already knows they want to work with you, having your schedule link available can let them work around the contact form.
- You’ll safeguard your time because you can program your schedule to leave out certain days and time slots.
Tip 7: Set boundaries
As a mom, setting boundaries is incredibly important for me. But even if you’re not a mom, we’re all human. We aren’t machines and we need to step back sometimes. So it’s crucial to know your limits and make them clear to your clients (and whoever else you work with) that you’re not available after a certain time and on certain days. You can create as much time as you want for client-facing work, meetings, networking events, and more, but you need to find that line where you feel productive and where you feel overworked.
Going back to the last tip, this is when an automated scheduler helps tremendously because it’s impossible to overbook yourself. It also clearly communicates to clients the only times and days you’re available, so there’s little room for negotiation and you can spend time… well, living life!
Ok friends, I know that was a lot to take in so I want to leave you with this final thought: You can read all the articles about productivity, listen to all the podcasts about time blocking, and read all the books on how to manage your time efficiently. But in the end, the methods I use or anyone else uses might not work for you. The key is to use this as a guide and figure out what works for you!
Know your personality type, don’t conform, and give yourself grace. These are going to make time blocking work best for your business.
Now I’d like to hand the mic over to you. Have you implemented time blocking into your business? If you have, how has it helped you organize your time? And if you haven’t, what’s the biggest obstacle in your way of doing so? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments!
P.S. If you want to continue this conversation, definitely head over to the Weddings For Real podcast where Megan and I talk about more time-saving tips we implement in our businesses that weren’t mentioned here! (Including my infamous love for Post-its.) Check it out by clicking here.