A year ago, I was working 45 hours a week at my day job as a video producer and also spending at least 20-30 hours per week on the blog. Life was hard and I was constantly stressed, overworked, and anxious. My social life really suffered and I found myself ducking out of family dinners, happy hours, and get-togethers with friends because I simply didn’t have the time.Leaving my full-time career in television has been the best decision for myself and The DIY Playbook. Not only has my personal life improved tremendously (yay for free weekends!), but our company has doubled in revenue and growth over the last 9 months.But I will say that it has been a steep learning curve as I’ve entered into life as a full-time blogger. Instead of sneaking in blogging time at night and on the weekends (as I had for 5 years), I now have 5 full days a week to devote to our company. It’s insane, but also a lot of pressure. How should I spend my days? What steps can I take to move the needle for our business? How do I organize my time and prioritize projects?These are all questions I’m still figuring out as I go, but I want to share my process and how I plan out my work week as a full-time blogger.
How to Plan for a Productive Work Week
Back in March, I wrote a post with tips to work from home. It was fun to look back on this post because I’m still using all of the tips that I shared back then. Working from home was a BIG change for me, but I think I’ve finally gotten into a groove. And planning out my days is by far the most important thing I can do to ensure a productive week of work.
P.S. If you also want a look at how Bridget & I split up work (now that I’m a full-time blogger), this post answers that in more detail.
If I woke up and just started my day without a plan, I doubt I would get much accomplished and I’d be all over the place. Instead, I spend time on Friday afternoon (before it’s quitting time) or Sunday (before the week begins) to plan out my entire week. I look at my week as a whole and make a plan for each and every day. I consult my digital calendar, upcoming deadlines, and my weekly task list (more on that below) and I then write out everything on a large white board.
Use a White Board
I purchased this white board on Amazon the day I quit my job and I’ve used it every single day since. There’s just something about seeing your entire week planned out in writing that is very soothing for me. While I still use a digital calendar to track our editorial calendar and appointments, my white board serves as a daily to-do list.I used washi tape to split up this large board into 6 sections. 5 sections for my work week, and 1 large section for the weekend. This white board doesn’t have a designated spot in my house. Instead, I move it from room to room based on where I’m working. It’s not ideal, but since we don’t have a designated office space, it works for us. Plus, I can tuck it away if guests come over so it’s not an eyesore. I use different colored markers to differentiate between tasks on my calendar. Pink = self-care (i.e. workouts, beauty, doctor’s appointments, etc.). Green = blog work. Purple = home duties (i.e. grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning). So on and so forth. My color coding system varies (depending on which markers are out of ink. Ha!), but this system really works for me.
I like the white board method because I can easily erase tasks and move them around without scratching out things on a real piece of paper. And there’s nothing more satisfying than a day that is done with all tasks erased. Best feeling ever!
Prioritizing My Time
I’ve chatted about it before (in this post), but I use the rock, pebbles, and sand approach when it comes to planning out my time. This method is built on Stephen Covey’s concept (this video explains it well) of “rocks”, “pebbles”, and “sand.” The rocks represent important commitments, the sand represents the “small stuff” (i.e. emails, administrative tasks), whereas the “pebbles” represent the other actions that move the needle in terms of your personal and career growth.
Essentially the analogy is that you have to fill a jar with rock, pebbles, and sand. In order to make it all fit, you start with the rocks, add the pebbles, and finally pour in the sand. That’s the only way to fit in all of the things on your to-do list while still reaching your big goals. Here’s how it works for me…
Start with Rocks
I start with the “rocks” which are obligations that have a specific time and place. These are conference calls, doctors appointments, brand events, even workouts/beauty appointments/acupuncture etc. These are all pre-scheduled events that are already marked on my digital calendar. I write these on my white board first.
Add in Pebbles
Next, I add in my “pebbles.” These are tasks that move my business forward, and instead of being reactive (like responding to an email), they’re proactive steps. This could mean reaching out to new partners, managing relationships with brands, devoting a few hours to new projects that excite Bridget and me.
It’s really easy to push the pebbles aside and focus on the rocks and sand. But by marking these items on my white board, it forces me to make time for them. At the end of the day, the pebbles are the most important part of the work week and they should receive adequate time.
In fact, Bridget & I recently scheduled a few hours on an afternoon to just focus on goal setting. So often we get together and discuss all of the “sand” and we find ourselves getting caught up in the daily tasks. Instead, we scheduled a time to sit down, make actionable goals, brainstorm new projects and ideas, and just be together and excited about our business. We left with actionable steps and exciting projects to tackle for the remainder of 2018.
Finish with Sand
For the past 5 years, Bridget and I have focused most of our attention on the “sand.” The sand is the administrative work that can consume your entire workday. This involves managing the inbox, responding to emails, responding to comments, doing social media, invoicing, taking pictures, etc. These tasks are essential to keep the blog up and running, but they don’t necessarily move the needle when it comes to our business.
Once my white board is filled out with all of my tasks for the week, I step back and take a look at each individual day. I make sure no days are overloaded with items and I leave some wiggle room and flexibility in there in case things don’t go as planned.
If there are tasks that I don’t finish, I add them to another day that week to ensure that everything eventually gets done.
Keep a List of Regular Tasks
I have a list of things that happen every single week that I always add to my to-do list. This involves adding sales to our Wednesday posts, scheduling all of our social media for the week (which I do on Sunday mornings so Bridget has a chance to review before heading to work on Monday), cleaning up 5 old blog posts, etc. This handy-dandy list of tasks (that I keep in our Google drive) keeps things running smoothly behind-the-scenes and ensures that nothing is overlooked.
Don’t Forget Digital
I love my white board method for me, but I also have to make sure to keep Bridget in the loop and it’s not like she can take a peek at my white board on any given day. So we do keep some of our tasks digital. We share a google calendar that showcases our entire editorial calendar. We plan out the next 2-3 months of content on our google calendar and when a post is done we turn it from yellow to green. That way we can look at the week or month ahead and know what is already done and what we need to work on.
On our calendar, we’ll also write in joint events…conference calls, photo shoots, brand events, etc. It’s nice to have these occasions documented digitally so we can both see.
We also share a to-do list in our Gmail draft area. On it, we each have our individual big tasks that we’re working on, and we also have a section to show what posts need to be reviewed before going live. We always proofread each other’s posts to minimize mistakes and poor grammar (my biggest pet peeve ever). Keeping some of the big picture stuff digital keeps us on the same page.
Batch Task When Possible
Since going full-time, I now batch task my to-do list. I try to spend 1 day a week taking pictures for upcoming posts and editing them. I then spend 2 days a week in a coffee shop writing posts. Other days I’m working on specific projects for the blog. I used to always focus on whatever deadline was coming up and I’d photograph, edit, write, all in one day. This wasn’t a good use of my time and I wasn’t as efficient. I now look forward to the tasks for each day and get a lot more accomplished.
Get Out of the House
This is another tip that I shared in my post about working from home, but I think it’s so important to get out of the house! When Bridget was on maternity leave and over the summertime, I would drive out to her house at least 1 day a week to work together. It broke up the monotony of a work week at home by myself and we would also accomplish a lot side by side. Now that she is back to work, I’m still trying to schedule things outside of the house. I’ll work from a coffee shop 1-2 days a week (this post has some of my favorite spots, including Scone City pictured above!), mostly when I’m writing a bunch of blog posts.
I also schedule time (on my white board, of course!) to run errands during the day. I will often work for a good chunk of the morning, head to the grocery store for an hour, and then get right back to work. Getting these errands done when the 9-5 crowd isn’t there is amazing and I can zip through my tasks quickly. I do the same with workouts, always trying to squeeze in a walk or workout class in the middle of the day to break up my work.
Make it Enjoyable
Work doesn’t always have to feel like work and I try to do small things to make even mundane tasks more pleasurable. I’ll light a candle when responding to emails, put on music or a podcast when taking pictures, and catch up on a TV show (or pour a glass of wine…but only when it’s late afternoon/evening!) when editing pictures and doing other mindless tasks
I also spend every Sunday morning doing blog work for about 1-3 hours. Technically it’s not a part of my “work week”, but it’s something I’ve always done since starting the blog and I love this special time. I often wake up early (while Finn sleeps in), make a coffee, put on CBS Sunday Morning (both Bridget & I are obsessed!), and sit down to schedule out our week of social media. I’ll text with Bridget and make sure we’re all set and things are ready to go for another week of work!
Adjusting to Life as a Full-Time Blogger
I’m certainly not perfect, and I still have A LOT to figure out with this new career of mine, but it was fun giving you guys a glimpse into my work week as a full-time blogger. Bridget and I are each sharing updated “Day in the Life” posts soon, so that will reveal even more details on the behind-the-scenes of our daily lives. In the meantime, let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments below.