Are you running your schedule, or is your schedule running you? One of the most common comments we hear from harried entrepreneurs is that they struggle to protect their time.
Oftentimes, this tussle to maintain control of their work week is what inspires an entrepreneur to explore hiring a virtual assistant in the first place. An assistant can act as a bouncer, swatting away those requests to hop on a quick Zoom to pick your brain.
But the fact of the matter is, maintaining the schedule you want starts with setting boundaries for yourself. Who enforces those boundaries is less relevant. Once you get clear on your priorities, you can discover how to structure your time in a way that creates space to advance your business goals. From there, you or a VA can do the continuous work of sticking to the guidelines you’ve created.
Ready to create a framework that allows you time for big-picture thinking, client projects, and any other high-value work that drives your business growth? Meet the ideal work week.
What is an Ideal Workweek?
An ideal work week is just what it sounds like: Your blue-sky, best possible version of the way you’d love to spend your time each week.
It’s one thing to dream about your ideal work week in your head, and it’s another thing to take steps to realize it. That’s why we recommend you create a visual representation of your ideal work week. Seeing it there in black and white (or whatever colors you use in Google Calendar) brings your plan to life and helps you measure how reality is stacking up against this ideal vision.
Where Do You Start?
No two people will have the exact same work week. Have you ever read those articles that feature the hours at which great literary figures wrote? Spoiler alert: the times are all over the map. Toni Morrison liked to get an early start, sitting down at her desk at 5 am, whereas Charles Bukowski (perhaps unsurprisingly) began his day at the crack of noon.
The moral of the story here is that we all have our individual rhythms, energetic peaks and valleys, and times when our focus will wax or wane. Your ideal schedule empowers you to capitalize on the time when you—not Toni Morrison—are most productive.
Spend a few days tracking how you feel throughout the day, and label windows of time as low, medium, or high productivity. Then, create blocks in your calendar to reflect those swaths of time.
If you’re using Google Calendar, we recommend creating a separate calendar for these time blocks so you can add or remove them from under the actual activities and meetings you schedule later.
Next, sketch out blocks of time where you’ll schedule tasks that best align with your energy levels. High-value tasks like meetings, client work, and strategy can go in your high-energy slots. As your energy starts to wane, you can focus on responding to emails or other tasks that require less brainpower.
Take It Out for a Test Drive
The only way to really know how solid your plan is is to give it a try. It’s best to run your experiment for a few weeks so you can settle into this new way of doing things. Plus, you want the test period to accurately represent your day-to-day life.
Feel free to make adjustments as you go. And if you’re anything like many of the busy entrepreneurs we know, you’ll want to schedule time for breaks and lunch. Yes, it may sound pedantic, but be honest: How many times have you worked through lunch? Or, perhaps an easier figure to count is how many times have you actually taken a lunch break?
No one can be productive when they’re hangry. Give yourself breaks where you can eat, stretch, cuddle your dog, or go enjoy a couple of minutes of fresh air in the backyard.
After a few weeks of testing and adjusting, you’re ready for phase two: benchmarking.
We’re sure you’re familiar with the concept of benchmarking in other aspects of your business. Benchmarking is a way to define success. It establishes clear parameters for what success looks like in terms of sticking to your schedule.
Your ideal work week is just that—ideal. That means it’s often not going to be your reality. But how close to reality would you like it to be? This is where your benchmark comes in.
Will you be successfully maintaining your schedule if your real calendar and your ideal work week sync up 50 percent of the time? Sixty percent?
Consider setting time-specific goals. For the first three months of your new schedule you may aim to achieve 50 percent sync, and then move the benchmark to 70 percent for months three through six.
Whatever you do, please don’t set your benchmark at 100 percent. You are not Simone Biles, we’re not going for the perfect 10, and saying you aim to have an ideal schedule all of the time is unrealistic.
Keep It Pushing
Perfection is not possible, and things that are outside of your control will arise to derail your ideal work week. That might be a call from the school nurse, a new rush job from a top client, or a pandemic-induced office shutdown.
As the saying goes, we must learn to accept the things we cannot change. This can be tough for hard-charging entrepreneurs, but it’s advice worth heeding.
Hire a Virtual Assistant
We hinted at it in our opening paragraph, but it’s worth restating here. A virtual assistant can enforce your ideal work week boundaries. Saying no is difficult for some people; many entrepreneurs will upend their own plans to make space for others.
Sometimes hiring an outside party to advocate for your needs makes a tremendous positive impact. An assistant feels no pangs of guilt in turning down a request for an informational interview that falls within your time for deep strategy work. They either offer up another time on your calendar or politely decline. And the best part is, you don’t have to know about any of it!
If you’re struggling to make the most of your time each week, establishing your ideal work week is a critical step. Once you know how your time should be structured for peak productivity, you can take pains to protect your plans. If you need some help getting started, check out our Panic-Proof Blueprint or reach out to discuss hiring a VA.
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