Last year, I was asked to run a surgery as an “expert” at an accountancy conference. One of my clients was a woman in her thirties who was building her own accountancy practice with the aim of being available more for her children. When she sat on the sofa opposite me, she lead with questions about pricing. But as I got to know her better and understand her business and motivations, the question she really seemed to be asking was about building a business which would give her balance. She kept asking “is this really possible?”. As if the idea that you could balance work with life, help your clients, spend time with your children AND earn a living was a fallacy.
She was asking whether she could really have her cake and eat it.
Because society so often says you can’t.
And I took her back to her goals. In an ideal world, what would her business look like when it came to finances and flexibility? By deciding the precise details of what she wanted, she had a much better chance of designing a business that would make that a reality for her than if she continued doing what she’d always done with no specific direction.
The challenge so often though is that we don't design our businesses so they can give us the flexibility that we want so much, so what chance do we have?
For 2023, I've decided to turn planning on it's head. I've always tried to have allocated time for different tasks but this is the year I want to formalise an annual planning method which will give me (and you) the best chance of achieving your goals in business.
My 2023 Planning Process
1. Decide on the priorities.
If you don't know your priorities, how can you give them time in your schedule? For me the priorities are:
Not working outside of school hours as much as possible
Making time to meet friends and family around the country
Taking proper time off with my husband and children rather than seeing my husband's holiday time as an excuse for me to work while he looks after the children
Getting some time to myself every now and again for the simple things - haircuts, dental appointments without having to move my work schedule to squeeze essential things in
And of course, running a financially sustainable business
2. Book out the school holidays
My children are at the age when if they're not at school, they need my attention. Attempting to work in the school holidays is stressful and unfair for the children and for me. I'm hopeful that I'll get an occasional day of help from a family member, or they might attend a holiday club for a couple of days, but I'd rather see those days as a bonus rather than banking on them. Ensuring I don't work over the holidays will take a great deal of planning, a subject for a future blog post.
3. Book time with family and friends
My friends thought I was mad, but there I was, 31st December booking spare rooms with friends around the country so we could mark the calendar and see at a glance that we do indeed have time with family and friends locked in. It's also been a really lovely way to reconnect with people we haven't seen for a long time and make a plan to catch up.
4. Schedule work commitments
There are already events in the diary for 2023 which I need to be available for. We have filming days, photoshoots and conferences to attend so those days are marked out before I plan anything else.
I also have specific meetings and client commitments which fall on certain days of the week so those days are kept clear for client work so my attention can be on that area of the business, rather than be diluted trying to manage many different tasks and projects. It's the best way for me to be productive when I time block in this way. Ultimately, this means I've kept Monday, Wednesday and Friday for client commitments, leaving Tuesday and Thursday more flexible.
5. Book time for myself
When I last went to the hair salon and had to take a video call while my hair was in foils, I knew I needed to change something about how I make time for myself. If you're a self-employed mum like me, you probably don't get an "annual leave" allowance, because all of your holiday time is about the children, but we need to give ourselves time. It's the best way we can be at our best.
With this in mind, I've "gifted myself" a Tuesday each month (give or take April and August when there's just too much school holiday in the way) for me to use as I wish. I expect other things will get in the way, but even if I get five days to myself in 2023, I'll count that as an incredible win.
There's so much more to cover here about how those clear days are filled and there will be part two of this blog in the very near future where I'll set out the time blocking plan I'm using each week.
Book a 1-1 Strategy Call here to see how I can support you in planning for 2023.