One of the #1 things I’m asked is:
“How do you manage your time and get so much done?”
This makes me snort with laughter (like, latte foam coming out of my nose) because I really don’t feel like I’m a “time management expert.” Nor do I have everything together, every day.
But I figured since I’m asked this question all the time, I might as well share some behind the scenes info on how I manage my time, how I choose priorities for each workday, and of course, how I manage to squeeze in time for workouts and walks with Ms. Lily (because she is a Shih Tzu princess with Many Needs.)
Here’s a backstage tour…
There are days when I feel like my hair is on fire. Other days I meander around, wondering which thing to do next. Sometimes I’m bored, even when I have plenty of projects on my plate. Sometimes I feel uninspired. Sometimes I feel like an Olympic Champion of Productivity. There are ups, downs, and blahs. I’m human.
Nobody, not even Shonda Rhimes or Beyonce, feels 100% inspired and electrified every single minute of every day. Everybody has blah days.
I’ve accepted that a small degree of blah-ness is totally normal, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is “wrong” with me or my career. It just happens.
When it happens, I try not to stress about it. I usually push away my laptop for a few hours and do something to shift my mood. I go out. I work out. I snuggle with Lily or email silly YouTube links to my friends. The blah-ness eventually passes. It always does.
As a business strategist and screenwriter, my schedule is all over the place. No two days are exactly alike. I try to be disciplined and plan, but sometimes my excellent planning gets tossed because of a last-minute meeting, or event, writing assignment, rewrite assignment, or maybe I just need to face-plant on my couch and watch The Grinder with my husband for multiple hours because #priorities. I plan, but not rigidly, because life happens.
One thing that helps me—enormously—is a productivity technique called: Batching. (Side note: you can download a free guidebook that I wrote all about batching on the little bar on the side, or on my homepage!)
When you’re batching, it means that you block out a big chunk of time (like an entire day or an entire weekend) and during that time, you focus exclusively on ONE project and you give it your full attention. No phone calls. No interruptions. No excuses.
This allows you to get into a deep creative flow-state and churn out a ton of writing all in one “batch.” It’s seriously amazing how much you can complete, very quickly, when you work in this way!
I schedule a couple of “batching days” for myself every month. One batching day might be devoted to churning out a whole bunch of newsletter content all at once. Another batching day might be dedicated to churning out lessons for a new class I want to teach. Another batching day might be designated for writing or rewriting a screenplay.
I schedule batching days in advance and I treat these days like mandatory, must-not-miss appointments. I usually do them away from my home (a coffee shop, a hotel) to eliminate distractions. Recently I escaped to Napa to get some writing done in my favorite park with my favorite coffee and Lily resting next to me. Bliss.
I always look forward to batching days—it feels like a dreamy work-cation! My fave music, delicious beverages, a fully charged up computer, and NO interruptions or obligations on my schedule. It’s like traveling to entrepreneur-heaven and it’s totally attainable—you just need to block out the time!
I urge you to schedule a batching day for yourself sometime soon. Once you batch, you’ll never go back…
Day to Day Life
I am not a huge morning person. I like sleeping a bit later because my brain is more “on fire” in the evening.
I don’t usually start my morning on my laptop or phone. I start it with coffee. Then a walk with my husband and dogs. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. Most of the time it does.
Then I make breakfast and sit outside to work. I make myself a “to do” list each morning and I try to include 3 tasks per day—that’s it. And not HUGE tasks. Fairly small, reasonable tasks.
My to do list might go:
- Write 10 pages for screenplay
- Spend 1-2 hours in my Obsessed classroom giving feedback
- Create rough outline for upcoming community challenge
I would never list “write 60 pages and finish entire screenplay!” because that’s unrealistic and it’s just not going to happen. Small goals are more my style. I would rather set a small goal—and then exceed it!—and be excited and amazed, rather than set a huge goal and then fall short. Whenever possible, I like to set myself up for happiness, not disappointment.
I usually check my email once a day and I rarely spend more than one hour in my inbox. My email-load is pretty manageable because I have clear instructions on my contact page, and also clear boundaries with my students and clients.
Fitness and Fun-spiration
I try to fit in a workout most work days, which is easy in LA because there are fitness classes happening all over town, all the time, practically from 5am to midnight! I’m a class girl, all the way—I definitely prefer taking a group class (rather than shuffling sadly on a treadmill all by myself at the gym) so I take full advantage of LA’s endless class options. (Barry’s Bootcamp is a new obsession, and I also love hip hop dance classes! One day, I will be a Twerk Master.)
Lately I’ve also been taking improv comedy classes and screenwriting classes. On days when I’m taking a class like that, I might only schedule 1 to do list item for myself rather than 3.
Infusing fun into my day is ab-so-lute-ly essential. If I don’t make time to watch my fave TV show, or read my fave magazines and celeb gossip blogs, or hike with Lily and our other doggies, then I feel totally stressed and my creativity shrivels up like a sad dried-up prune nugget.
If I don’t make time for a “pleasure break” somewhere in my day, then I feel totally uninspired, and my quality of work immediately starts to suck.
Fun-spiration is not optional. It’s a must.
I don’t like feeling pressured. I hate it when my workload feels too compressed. That’s why I try to build lots of “breathing room” into my business.
I give myself a LOT of time and space and room to plan things and roll ‘em out. More time than I need, usually.
For example, when I am getting ready to open up registration for my Obsessed year-long training program, I start writing content and planning my launch 6 months in advance so that the process feels totally chillaxed, not frenzied.
Giving myself extra breathing room allows me to work intentionally and calmly. I can take my sweet time with my projects, test things, and refine things, instead of rushing new offerings into the marketplace too quickly, or cramming too many offerings down people’s throats (“Buy this! And then this! And also thiiiiis!”) without any space in between launches. Space is a good thing. For me and my business audience, too.
If I had to sum up my personal time management principles in 3 words, those words would be:
(I hope you found this backstage tour to be… fun-spiring! :))
Whatever type of empire you’re running, remember that you are the boss—which means you are in charge of what’s allowed into your schedule and what’s not.
Your life might be significantly more complicated that mine (maybe you’ve got kids, sick pets at home, elderly parents that you’re responsible for, tons of people who need your attention daily, etc).
Even so… you are still the boss.
You are strong and you can figure out a way to get your important work done, even if today, you really-seriously only have ten minutes to focus on your book / screenplay / project / business. If that’s true, then give it ten minutes and make those minutes count. Ten minutes is better than zero minutes.
“Start from wherever you are and with whatever you’ve got.” —Jim Rohm
… and rock on from there, like the boss that you are.