How I Manage Business & Life – Organizing My Schedule

If you know me at all, then I hope you know how obsessively organized I am!  I just feel like it frees up brain space throughout the day for my life, calendar/schedule, and physical surroundings to be organized.  Physical clutter or disorganization for me equals mental clutter and our life, as I imagine yours, is too busy for mental clutter!!  

In that, I’ve found a really lovely way to seamlessly keep track of our lives and my business.  For me and our life, this system works and it works well so I wanted to share!!!

I should start with saying that early in my business- I didnt really have a game plan.  I just shot whenever my clients wanted and then edited whenever I could outside of that.  I quickly learned with a baby and a husband that works 48 hours shifts, that kind of scheduling was not going to work for our life and still allow quality time together!!

My weekly schedule now looks something like this-

Monday – Office Day

Tuesday – Office Day

Wednesday – Session Day

Thursday – Session Day

Friday – Family Day

Saturday – Wedding or Session

Sunday – Church/Family Day

Now let me tell you how I keep track of that more in depth!

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12 MONTH WALL CALENDAR

I’m a visual person and a big picture kinda girl.  I need to see everything as a whole in order to process the information I’m looking at.  It’s helpful in making sure I have balanced out my days to the best of my ability (ie: shoot days vs office days vs family days)  I use THIS calendar and colored washi tape to organize everything!  

I use one color of wash tape for days off.  These are days that I’m committing to not shoot sessions and I’ll exclusively spend time with family!!  Fridays in particular are typically days off for me!  That’s when I clean our home, catch up on laundry, and dive into some serious quality time with Brad and Henley!  I may prep for a wedding or open my laptop as needed if I’m backed up on work or need to respond to an email, but usually I try to keep any business work minimal on those “off” days! I also use this same color to track plans/tasks our family has such as doctor’s appt, etc! If it’s family related, it stays with that same color!

I use a separate color to note office days!  I found early in my business that if I didn’t dedicate specific office days to my schedule, then I was shooting way too much without a realistic amount of time to then also edit those images that I have shot or return client emails in a timely manner.  Dedicating days to being in the office means before the year even begins, I block off every day for that year that I want to use as office days and I commit to not scheduling sessions for those days!!

I then use a third color of tape for session days!  I personally don’t like to schedule anything else on days that I’m shooting, so I block those days off in advance on my calendar as soon as they are booked!  I write my clients name on the tape and place it on their session date the moment they have officially reserved it! This is super helpful when I’m planning my upcoming week/month to quicky know who I’ll be working with and who I need to reach out to to confirm details!

I also use small color coding stickers at the top of each month to keep track of how many jobs I have booked for that month.  For example, if I know I can only shoot 10 sessions per month to deliver the experience that I want to deliver to my clients, then I wont schedule any additional sessions for a month that already has 10 stickers at the top!  That helps hold me accountable to not over book myself because it’s not good for my family or my clients when that happens!!

This may seem like a repetitive step when I already have the colored washi tape on session days, but I found myself scanning each day of the month and counting tape to see whether or not I had room to take on more work. With the tiny stickers at the top, I can quickly count those without having to scan through each day and easily determine how many more clients I can take on!

BONUS TIP

The key to seeing the big picture and keeping all of the important things organized with sufficient time is to tape off what I can as early as possible.  That means, come January 1st, I am blocking time off and office days before I have a chance to chock my schedule full of shooting and other stuff!

If I know that I want Friday’s off with my family, then when I work on 2020 calendar prep I’m going to block off every friday for the entire year.  

Of course there is grace in all of this and I do make exceptions as needed.  Say a wedding client is getting married on a Friday.  Of course I wont turn them away because its supposed to be an “off” day, but I will always then block off an additional day to make up for that day I was supposed to be off with my family!  

Another example is that if I know that I don’t want to book double header wedding weekends, then I block off the day before and after every wedding that I have on my calendar. 

Or, if I know that I want the holidays off with my family, then Im blocking it off EARLY in the year before it gets booked by something work related!!

The important thing to remember here – especially when you’re running your own business – is that if you don’t PLAN for time off and SCHEDULE IT IN, you’ll never get it!  There is always more to do and it will consume you if you don’t set boundaries!  

And yes, I am speaking from experience so just trust me on that! 😉  For so long I just assumed that if I wasn’t shooting on a particular day then that meant I was “available” for clients.  What I learned the hard way was that… 1. I didnt have room to savor quality time with my family 2. I didnt have time to EDIT the sessions I was shooting 3. I didnt have adequate options as rain dates if we had bad weather on a session date 4. I was shooting 27 sessions in a 31 day period and THAT in itself is crazy.

Setting boundaries is the best thing I can do for my family and my clients to offer my best self to them! Same goes for you!

SIMPLIFIED PLANNER

I consider THIS PLANNER a compliment to my large wall calendar with a more in-depth look at our day to day life!

I use this thing every day!  I currently use the daily edition, but I purchased the weekly edition for 2020!  (You can take the quiz on their website to determine which is best for you personally) Both daily and weekly planners have space to write out what we have going on each day and space for a list of todo’s!  I’ll be sharing more about why I love this product so much in a future blog post, but you can take a look at the brand HERE.

PHONE CALENDAR

Along with my wall calendar and simplified planner, I keep a digital google calendar on my phone!  It’s an exact replica of my wall calendar (color coding and all), so its not anything extra to keep track of! It’s literally just a digital version of my giant wall calendar!!

This is helpful when, for example, I’m out and a friend asks if I have anything going on for a particular date. 

Or! If my husband has a question about my upcoming schedule, we can look right then and have the conversation in that moment instead of waiting to get home to look at my physical wall calendar. 

I can also screenshot it and share it with him which is super helpful when he’s planning a date night or an appointment to get my oil changed 😉

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And that friends, is how I keep our life together! It sounds like a lot, but it really has worked for me!!  Especially once you get into a rhythm with color coding and being realistic about what you can take on at what times.  Actually, it becomes easier to make those calls about what you can realistically do when you have your life laid out in pretty colors. It gives you such a good visual so that hopefully you aren’t falling into the thick of an overbooked, overwhelmed schedule without an end in near sight.

I should also note that this was specific to shooting sessions/office days, but the concept of HOW I organize it all is still the same for any job or life season you may be in!

Trust me when I say that your family, friends, and clients will appreciate the balance you’re creating with boundaries on your schedule and in your life!!  

Before starting my own business, I never had this kind of a calendar system so I know this may seem excessive to some people. But! I will say that now with a full time business, weddings and sessions, office days, a toddler, and a husband with shift work – this calendar system saves me on so many levels, frees up brain space in trying to remember everything, and helps me feel organized even when life is moving fast!!!  

I hope you found this post helpful!!  If you have any questions or want to talk more about this topic, feel free to email me anytime!  I love feeling organized and I’d be happy to help you too!  Hugs!  -Abby

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