Hello everyone, welcome to the Balanced Business Leaders Podcast hosted by yours truly, Claire Jones, owner of Liminal Clarity. We are a business development agency that helps small business leaders scale and grow without burning out.
This is the next podcast in a series where we will be discussing the various trials and tribulations that lead me to creating my Three Pillars of Business Success, a framework that represents the foundational systems that contribute to sustainable business growth.
If you’re interested in learning more, please join us in our free Balanced Business Leaders Facebook Group at facebook.com/groups/balancedbusinessleaders.
Ready? Alright, let’s dive in.
So I started this podcast as a way to tell my story, particularly when it comes to the many, many different lessons that I have learned over the years when it comes to founding, developing, running, and growing small businesses.
This particular episode is going to be about Flexible Time Blocking and how to schedule your time so that you can get more done in less time.
So a lot of you may be interested in how I schedule my time on a weekly basis, especially when I’m being conscious of the seven facets of the Healthy Mind Platter.
As we discussed last time, these are the areas of your life that should be prioritized in order to achieve optimal brain functioning, including Connecting Time, Play Time, Physical Time, Sleep Time, Time In, Down Time, and Focus Time.
If you have a busy life with lots of responsibilities, it can often be difficult to find the time to prioritize all seven areas individually but I combine a lot of those activities to basically hit two birds with one stone.
So today, I’m going to be talking about my Google Calendar. This is basically the tool that I use to run my life. It is my to-do list, it is my task list, it is my reminder list. It is how I make sure that my time is strategic, intentional, focused, and effective.
To start, I have different colors for different activities. This helps me quickly prioritize my commitments as well as gives me an easy way to quickly identify what kinds of commitments I have on any given day.
Blue activities are activities for myself (more leisure time, self time, social time, or personal errand type of activities), light purple activities are general work tasks (like admin, marketing, prep work, or content creation), maroon activities are work meetings (like networking meetings, coffee meetings, or workshops), red activities are client related tasks (like client meetings, appointment reminders, money management, etc.), light pink tasks are “soft priorities” (I use these blocks of time as reminders that I intend to use that time for certain work tasks but they’re more flexible than, say, light purple or maroon or red tasks), and I use green for tasks that are for my mental and emotional health (like therapy or personal projects).
The different colors basically represent ranked priorities for me:
At the top of the list are red tasks, those are the highest priority. Next come the maroon tasks, then the light purple, then the light pink, then the green, then the blue. The blue tasks, for example, are the ones that I’m typically most willing to reschedule and move around in order to accommodate other commitments.
This type of prioritization goes way back for me – in high school, I even devised a system where I would draw a colored dot on the back of my left hand each day corresponding to the different tasks I had on my plate that day. Like, one day I would have three green tasks, one blue, and one purple so I would put three green dots, one blue dot, and one purple dot on my hand to keep me on track throughout the day. Nowadays, I have a calendar widget on my phone that I can easily reference.
Now, when it comes to the actual tasks, I use a system that I call Flexible Time Blocking.
It’s a way to organize your schedule so that you know what tasks you need to do, how long those tasks are going to take, and when those tasks need to be done, paired with the ability to move those blocks of time around when you need to. That way, the tasks don’t fall off your plate if something else comes up, like a meeting or a more time-sensitive task.
Say, for example, that I want to devote time on a daily basis to social media tasks and I’ve determined that it takes me about 45 minutes per day to check all of my platforms, create posts, and respond to notifications.
I will put it in my schedule as a light purple task – remember these are general work tasks like admin, marketing, prep work, or content creation. And I will make it a recurring appointment that occurs every weekday morning from 10:45-11:30am.
And, then, when I sit down at my desk every morning, I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing during that particular time slot.
But, if I have a meeting that I need to set up during that time frame, then I can drag and drop it to another time in the day but I always make sure that I’m devoting 45 minutes a day to social media tasks.
This kind of system creates consistency and consistency creates results so it’s a great way to systemize your time and prioritize your time in a way that works for you.
Another example is lunch for me.
I always have to schedule in time to eat because I often get busy and forget to eat so I schedule in half an hour to eat every week day. It helps remind me to actually go and eat my lunch because I often get distracted or I schedule a meeting over that time without thinking and end up hungry and cranky and unfocused. So, moral of the story being, take care of yourself and remember to eat.
The key to setting up your schedule this way is to make sure that your time is prioritized with intention.
I often think of it as past Claire taking care of present (or future) Claire.
Past Claire already decided to prioritize this task on my schedule, so present Claire just needs to sit down and do the thing. It really helps decrease the amount of time I spend making decisions about what I’m doing on any given day.
This system even applies to non-work related tasks, like those for Connecting Time, Play Time, Physical Time, Time In, etc.
Take Play Time for example –
I’m a huge fan of this show called Critical Role – it’s a group of voice actors who stream their Dungeons & Dragons campaigns online. They usually stream every Thursday evening from 7-11pm and so I block out that time in my calendar every week.
It’s super fun and it’s a great way to insert some reliable Play Time into my week.
I also like to schedule some Art Time on the weekends, so I have a recurring block for it every Sunday afternoon. That’s another way I prioritize Play Time in my schedules.
Or take Physical Time for example –
I aim to go to the gym twice a week so I intentionally block out time in my schedule on Tuesday and Saturday mornings so that I don’t schedule over it.
I block out 8:45-10:15am every Tuesday because it takes me about 15 minutes to drive to the gym, an hour to workout, and 15 minutes to drive back home. Then I shower and I’m usually at my desk by 10:30am – just in time to respond to some emails before diving into my social media task block at 10:45am.
So I’m never worried about whether I’ll have time to workout or not, or whether I’ll be able to do my social media posts that day. It’s all scheduled out and ready to go.
Another example would be Time In – remember that I talked about this in the last episode. Time In is about intentional relaxation, reflection, or mindfulness. It is a type of focused training for the mind that uses self-inquiry and self-awareness to achieve self-regulation.
Personally, I like using mindfulness meditations for Time In. And, over the years, I’ve found that the best time for me to meditate is right after lunch.
So I block out 30 minutes for lunch and 30 minutes for meditation every day. But, if I have a networking event or something else that needs to get scheduled during that time frame, I can move those blocks around as needed.
For example, I attend a monthly networking event every third Thursday that goes from 12:30-3pm which encompasses my usual lunch break time frame. So, every third Thursday, I move the lunch block to 12-12:30pm and the meditation block to 3-3:30pm.
That way, I’m not starving during the networking meeting and I can still prioritize my Time In later in the day.
By prioritizing my meditation practice like this, I can consistently tap into and refresh my inner reserves. It helps me decrease stress and increase my ability to reflect and choose my responses and actions instead of succumbing to automatic and potentially problematic knee jerk reactions.
An example for prioritizing Focus Time would be my Client Time blocks. I want to make sure that I intentionally devote time to my clients so I schedule Client Time every weekday from 2:30 to 4 p.m.
This is the time that I schedule meetings with clients or do client work on my own and I just make sure that I have that time blocked out in my schedule and I don’t schedule over it with other tasks that aren’t devoted to money-making activities.
These are the light pink blocks I mentioned earlier. This is how I prioritize the work that actually needs to get done and makes me money instead of spending my time running around doing things that don’t actually make me money.
So I have this every weekday for about an hour and a half and, again, if I have a meeting that I need to schedule that’s not related to a client, I can move it up or move it down in the day.
I even make time blocks for things like groceries, cleaning, and self-care Sunday. Because I want to prioritize the things that matter to me.
For example, I hate going grocery shopping on the weekend because it’s always so busy. So I’ve intentionally scheduled an hour every Monday morning devoted to grocery shopping.
For cleaning, I’ve scheduled an hour every Saturday afternoon. Again, all of these tasks can be moved around – so if I have a particularly busy Saturday – say, for example, I have an all-day workshop to go to – then I can potentially move the grocery block to Sunday instead.
And for self-care Sunday, I have an hour scheduled every Sunday evening to slap on a face mask, kick back, and relax. Maybe you would rather take a bath, or go on a dog walk, or get your nails done – do whatever self-care feels right for you.
The point is valuing your time and your intentions with your time enough to make time for the things that matter to you.
So next time, we’ll be going over Self Regulation techniques, the third step in creating a Sustainable Schedule for yourself. I hope to interweave my personal experiences with the business lessons I learned along the way so that I can paint a full picture for you guys.
And please let me know what you think! I am always open to feedback and love connecting with my audiences.
If you want to learn more, I personally invite you to join us in the Balanced Business Leaders VIP Group Program. In as little as one hour per week, you will walk away with a clear action plan to grow and scale your business sustainably.
Please visit linktr.ee/liminalclarity for more information.
You can find the episode outline, video recording, transcript downloads, related links, etc. below.
And, until next time, love you all, take care, and I hope you have a good day wherever you are.