“Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions are searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
~ Maya Angelou
As I write this blog post, I’m feeling grateful for my new morning routine that means I’ve just spent the last 30 minutes sat in my office enjoying a cup of coffee, meditation music playing, incense burning, having just read another chapter of the non-business book I’m reading (A Course in Miracles Made Easy). My office is clean, tidy and organised and my schedule and tasks for the day and week ahead are set. My only task for this morning is to write this article. Once finished, I’ll be heading out for a long walk.
This is not how mornings have started lately, which brings me on to the topic of this post.
Back when I first started out in business I was fortunate to have the guidance and support of a coach who taught me, amongst many things, the importance of building a business that supports our preferred lifestyle from the get go versus trying to fit our desired lifestyle around our business retrospectively.
Two things he had me build into my schedule, back when my schedule was wide open, were time to work on my business as well as in it (more on that below) and time off from my business to include breaks from work on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.
Seeing the absolute wisdom of this, I put several things in place in service of that idea:
- I scheduled Wednesday and Fridays as call free days so that I had time on a Wednesday for working on my business and Fridays were kept free of calls for creativity which meant I could use them to do creative work for my business (such as web and graphic design and designing new products or services) or to spend the day painting (just for the fun of it) if my heart desired it.
- I only scheduled coaching sessions for 3 weeks out of every month so that I could hibernate during those days in my menstrual cycle when I was feeling low in energy and mood or to do business activities that suited my more internal mood.
- I purposely made my coaching programs shorter because I wanted the flexibility to take long trips between clients should I want to.
- I planned in two whole months off work a year, to use that time to travel.
In short, I set my business up so that I could enjoy plenty of free time, flexibility and space to enjoy my life as I wanted to enjoy it.
Fast forward a few years and those boundaries had started to slip. When you’re not fully booked up, it’s easy to think that you’ll always have all the space you’ll need for rest, relaxation and creative time. The truth is much like the fable of the frog, who if placed in boiling water will jump straight out, but if put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.
When you’re in the midst of growing a business, you don’t always see the time slowly getting taken up until one day you realise that you’ve become so busy working in your business that you barely have time to look up from the computer. In danger, not so much of being cooked but rather, of being worked to death!
Towards the end of 2020, I started to realise that I was getting so booked up with coaching calls that I was in danger of losing the ability to have even one call free day a week. I quickly blocked Fridays off for the whole of 2021 and now have every Friday dedicated to what I call my CEO Day (more on that below).
Also, for the first time (perhaps ever!) I’ve gone through my calendar and booked off a whole host of special days, family birthdays, school holidays, anniversaries (me and my love celebrate 7 years together in June! :)), national holidays, regional holidays (I’ve always just worked these in the past) and time for us to have our annual family holiday and other trips (Covid permitting!). These dates are booked into mine and the family calendar and I’m excited to have this time off.
On a day to day basis I’ve also started to schedule in daily walks. Not short walks — a long, one hour plus, walk right in the middle of my working day because a) it’s the only time I can do it because when I’m not working I have my two boys with me and b) taking that hour out to walk, even when it feels impossible, given how much work I have on, helps me to be more effective when I am at my desk.
I’ve also been doing the important work of setting firmer boundaries around what I can and can’t do for my clients and even started changing some of my offerings on my website so that they are more manageable to deliver, now that I am serving people in greater numbers. I’ll share more on these changes/boundaries in a future article.
Having done this work, I can now honestly say that my annual business plan is complete, not just with the things I will do over the course of the next 12 months but also the times when I won’t be doing anything business related at all.
Working on the business versus working in the business
I also now have space within my working week (which is Monday to Friday in case you were wondering). to work on my business so that I don’t get lost in the weeds of running it. Making the distinction between working in and on your business is important. See below for some ideas of what this could look like.
Working in your business
- Delivering your service (i.e. having coaching sessions).
- Day to day admin like answering emails, scheduling calls and filing.
- Marketing activities like content creating and social media
- Networking and outreach.
Working on your business
- Planning and visioning.
- Big picture thinking.
- Course correcting and problem shooting.
- New creations.
- Professional development.
What my CEO Day involves
Since the start of the year, every Friday in my schedule has been blocked off for my CEO Day and having now had 3 of these since the new year began, I can share a little bit of what they entail.
I basically have a checklist of activities that I run through and aim to do throughout the course of the day. This checklist lives on my CEO dashboard inside of Notion (a new tool I am using for my business hub). You can see that checklist below and you’ll notice it mainly contains tasks that will allow me to start my following week with everything organised and planned so that I can simply show up and do what needs to be done rather than waste time trying to organise and prioritise on the fly. Of course it could be argued that some of these tasks might not be considered CEO tasks but it’s more that doing these tasks and the space that they create allows me to show up as a CEO for my business.
My CEO day is fast becoming my favourite day of the week! What I love about these days is that I can lie in a little if I need to (and with my one year old who rarely sleeps for more than one hour in a row — you can bet I need those lie ins). I don’t have to shower first thing or do my hair and make-up because I’m not doing any video calls. Instead, I can simply potter around my office in my PJs and take things at my own pace. Doing the tasks in whichever order I feel called to do them. Given that the rest of my working week is scheduled up to the hilt, this is oh so necessary for my health and happiness.
Now this all might sound super organised and jolly responsible of me but I let my schedule get far too gruelling before I put these measures in place. In reality I took my eye of the work/life balance ball and let things get out of hand before I pulled things back. I share this because I want you to avoid making the same mistake. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to carve out some time to plan in these same two things:
1. Time to work on your business (instead of in it)
2. Time off from your business.
Your future self will thank you for it, I promise.
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