One of the things I love about running my own business is that I’m able to prioritize my needs and those of my family in and amongst business priorities, without having to ask for permission. Though this is not an easy task, it’s essential to managing my own happiness.
Balance as a verb
I’ve come to think of balance as a myth – it’s a mystical thing that seems forever out of reach. Over the years, I’ve learned I’m much more productive when I think of the word ‘balance’ as a verb and not a destination. Balance takes constant attention, calibration and assertion. One of the challenges of self-employment for me has been the daily act of maintaining boundaries — when managed consistently, you can create the freedom to design (and redesign) your life as you see fit.
One tool that has been crucial for me to create space for making things happen is called Time-blocking. It seems a little onerous at first, but if you’re like me and you have different goals, dreams and demands on your time, I find time-blocking makes me feel a lot calmer knowing I’ve created space in my schedule for what I want to prioritize. (See image above for a sample.)
Before I worked with a business coach who introduced me to this tool, I used to put only events and deadlines in my calendar – responding with, “oh, yes, I’m free then,” whenever someone requested my time for work. That approach put me in a place of overwhelm, and I felt like I had neither the time to do the work, nor the time I needed to keep my basic needs in check.
I’ll walk you through how I block my time now. I like to do this process quarterly, somewhat aligned with natural breaks in the year for our family. I recommend giving yourself at least 60 minutes for this exercise, since it requires a bit of thinking and coordinating with others in your world.
Design your ideal week
- Start a new Google Calendar (make sure to turn off any reminders as this is more of a template) and label it “Time Blocking” or “Ideal Week”.
- For each of the following areas, consider how much time you need for activities and how often they need to occur to create your ideal week. Add blocks to your Calendar to indicate approximate times.
- YOU – what do you need to feel supported and healthy? For example, workouts? Walks at lunchtime? Coffee with a colleague once a week?
- FAMILY – what do your kids / dependants / animals / family members need from you? What time blocks do you need to nurture the relationships that are most important to you?
- WORK – when are the most productive blocks of focused work time for you? Do you have recurring meetings to accommodate? I find it easiest to generalize, i.e. “Focused work” vs “Project XYZ”, so I can prioritize different client work within each time block, as needed.
- COMMUNITY – what are you committed to in your community?
- Be sure to only block out time for what you actually want to spend your time doing. Anything that has to happen that you can outsource, create an action to do so. You can highlight this in another colour if it’s something someone else is/will be doing for you.
- Consider your next couple of months. What is happening in your world that you’ve already committed to? What are your goals personally? Professionally? As a family?
- You might have some overlapping items. It’s time to reflect on your priorities for the coming months – What is most important to you? What isn’t so important right now? What can you remove from your schedule? What activities are you missing? Can you change the frequency/duration of some activities and still achieve your goals?
- Refine and repeat until you only have one thing happening per block of time.
As you plan your weeks out now, you have a guideline for creating your ideal week. Not every week will be ideal but aim for that whenever possible, knowing that you’ve put intention behind how you choose to spend your time, in alignment with your goals. Take note when activities get skipped or take much longer than you had planned for, so you can make adjustments for next time.
Reflect on and revise this template periodically, as your life changes and your goals are achieved.
Do you time block or love visioning your perfect week? I’d love to hear how it works for you!