What is Your POWER HOUR?

As my business has grown these past two years, I have gained more clients.  THIS is a good thing.  However just like many people, I have to balance my growing portfolio of clients with my life.  Having my office at home is an awesome thing, but it does require some man-made ‘separation of church and state’ if you know what I mean.  Many people have asked me how do I keep track of all my clients and my family to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

There are three main things with the last being the most important:

  1. Calendar Maintenance
  2. To Do List
  3. Daily POWER HOUR

Calendar maintenance is a must in most people’s lives.  Luckily, I enjoy keeping a calendar and have never found it to be a burden. I use both a paper calendar as well as an online one. I use them both for reference and only make a commitment after seeing both.

My paper calendar is from Day Designer and has both a monthly and daily layout where I can keep track of my days by the hour. It also includes my To-Do list which I will get to in a minute. My planner is my personal guide to Jenny and my business.  With just a glance, I know how busy my upcoming day is and about how many hours I will be billing.

My online calendar is through Google.  During the day, I keep it open on my both my iMac and phone. It gives a me a great overview of my schedule when I am out and about and someone asks me something off the cuff. It is also invaluable for sending calendar invites to other people for meetings.  I can include all of the details for a meeting and know that the other person has this information as well.  Each of my calendars compliment each other and have their purpose. They keep me on track and are my hourly reference for what comes next in the business and for my family.

My To Do list as I said is in my paper calendar. I am able to mark long range project due dates as well as a task that I know needs to be done the following day. I write everything on this list and I am not ashamed to say if I do something that is not on the list, I still write it in later.  Why?  Not because I want to look super busy cool, but rather because it helps me reference when I did something.  I like to know when I performed a task or what was added to my day; it is a record.  This is not be confused with an hour tracker; I have a whole other program for that and I will share that one of these days.  My To Do list is my daily and weekly guide to what needs to be done. It is not necessarily in the order of when things should get done, but my daily tasks can all be found there.

This brings me to my POWER HOUR.  Yes, I need to write this in all caps because it is that important. My PH (less obnoxious?) is the same time each day in the morning when I reflect on how my day ended yesterday and take a look at my To Do list for today. When the kids are in school, this hour falls around 9 am.   They are gone and I am able to truly focus on prioritizing. This summer it has been heavenly at 7 am–before they are up. I literally have a list with all of my clients on it.  I go down client by client and think about what is needed for each of them.  Most of the times, they are already on my To Do list, but sometimes by doing this a reoccurring task will pop up that I did not have written down.  Or, by thinking about what happened yesterday, I will realize that I did not complete something and it needs to be as soon as possible. This is also a chance for me to send project-based clients who might be currently dormant an email to check in and see if they need any assistance at the moment.

As most of you have read about me, I wake up early–5 am early.  But I am not going to lie, 5 am is too early for a PH.  That time is for my easier tasks on my To Do list.  I do schedule the PH as early as I can, so that anything that is a priority will not be missed but I fear 5 am would make for a reckless PH.  My daily PH is my guarantee that I will not forget or neglect a client.  By looking at their name in print, I am forced to recall what’s the latest and greatest with them.  And though it is called an hour, it rarely takes that full amount of time.

So what is your POWER HOUR? Mine is when I take inventory and ensure that all my clients are being served to the best of my ability.  

4 Tips for a Successful and Productive Summer while Working at Home

It’s the most wonderful time of the year–SUMMER!  That is if you are a kid! If you work out of your home and have kids home for the summer, this time of year can be one of the most challenging.

I absolutely love summer and vowed that even though I work at home almost full time that I would not ruin my summer or my kids’ summer.  A couple of weeks in, I learned this was a hard promise to keep. I have a tween and a teen, therefore weekly summer camp options are not really appealing anymore. They do have activities and sports, but their big thing is their social life!  When not working, I am an Uber for my kids and cruise director to their social desires.

A few weeks in though I have learned some things and we are sailing into smoother summer waters as I stick to the following four tips. Younger children are a tad different, but these same tips can be amended to work for them.  It is never too early to start a chore list or set boundaries.  One of the best things you can do for your kids is teach them to entertain themselves (without an electronic is preferable).

But to all you working moms and dads, I wish you good luck this summer.  I hope you too have a great summer and a productive one. Bittersweetly, August will come sooner than we want and these days will never come around again.  So pay special attention to my last two tips, summer is for you too!

1) Wake up EARLY: Every morning I wake up at 5 am. At first, it is tough (I mean like the first 10 minutes…), but you get past it. It is amazing how much work you can do prior to the kids waking up be it 8 am or 9 am. Then no matter how they awake, you already have some hours of work accomplished. It is so worth it and has been a lifesaver for me these past few months even when they were in school. I find that by the time my kids get up, I have done about 3 hours of work and already feel that the day is productive.  So whatever the day brings, I am more ready.

2) Set CLEAR Guidelines/ Systems: Establish a chore chart for the kids. What do they need to get done (trash, bathroom cleaning, car cleaning, vacuuming, sweeping etc.) before they can hold an electronic? And speaking of electronics, set guidelines and limits. Make them clear, write them out and post them. And of course, make penalties for breaking them. Every family has their own belief system on electronics.  My firm and steadfast belief is set guidelines and stick to them. Make your expectations clear. It would be an interesting study to see how many interruptions occur from the simple requests to watch this or play on that.

3) Take time for FUN: It is your summer too! Yes, the work must get done but if there is no deadline, then it can get done later in the evening after a day at the pool or beach. You never get this time back and those types of days recharge you. A few weeks back, I took Friday off to escort my daughter and her friends to the beach.  My motto for the day was “Easy Breezy” because when you have five 12 year old girls in tow, one never knows what drama might pop up. It turned out to be an awesome day at the beach where we scored rockstar parking up front, soaked up the sun, the girls played awesome up and down the beach and I came home recharged. The whole day, I felt free and enjoyed the day away from my desk.  Just be upfront with your clients about the time you will be away. Let them know the timeframe you will be away and enjoy a little summertime for yourself!

4) Lose the GUILT: Before running my own business, I was pretty much a full time mom for 13 years. That means summer was wide-open, but as I recall during those summers I did not run a three ring circus and hold daily craft circles. There were still chores to be done, down time and guidelines. So show your kids that you have responsibilities and lose the guilt that you are not meeting their every summer whim. Summer time means fun, but it also means downtime. Teach them to figure it out, pick up a book, learn a craft on their own, go for a run etc. You are not a full-time cruise director or Uber driver, so lose the guilt!!!!