Structured for Freedom

I really hated 2017. And while I’m practicing gratitude in the current year of 2018, I can still admit that I really, really hated 2017. I’ll talk more about that later. Another time. What I’d like to talk about today is incorporating structure into your life in order to find the most freedom. I’ve blogged about my calendar before. It feels like a stale topic, something everyone has talked about. But 2017 also shut me up. I stopped talking about the sad things, the funny things, the deep things and the shallow things. I’m finding my voice again and IT STARTS WITH MY DAMN CALENDAR. 

Last fall I started feeling really smothered and trapped within my day-to-day life. My days would be so packed in with meetings, photoshoots, email time and more. But it was packed chaos. I wouldn’t leave even a 5-minute buffer between my commitments. I was left frazzled and longing for a week with margin. I decided to re-work my “ideal calendar.” Some people approach it as batching tasks or even creating buckets within your calendar. I throw it all together, stir it up and just make something that excites me. I make everyone who works for us create their ideal calendar, too. Here’s what I came up with:

As I started building it out (as it’s own calendar called “Allie Sample Calendar), it was like using block toys. Things have to fit and when you run out of room, you have to compromise. At a high level, these were my priorities:

  • I need to meet with Adam daily. He is a morning person and he’s extroverted. A 9am daily meeting, for him, is great. It keeps us connected to what’s happening and I’m prioritizing it. No meeting beforehand can derail this one.
  • My Mondays will not be manic.
  • I need to meet with everyone on our team, individually, once a week for about 45 minutes.
  • Allie Needs To Eat Lunch™.
  • I need to be available for meetings and more than just one day a week.
  • I need to be available for a full day photo shoot once a week.
  • I need to work from home once a week. It makes my heart happy. I like sitting outside on my patio when it’s warm. I like making lunch in my own kitchen. I like not wearing a bra.
  • As always, less email time please.

Once I knew what I needed out of my schedule, I put it all together. This calendar can be toggled off and on but I use it as buckets. Fill-in-the-blank, if you will. Now that I’ve started booking out my schedule, I can look at my calendar and see if I have meeting times available. When I feel frustrated by my lack of options, I now ask myself two questions:

  1. Do I need to be at this meeting? No? Then can I spend time catching Adam or another team member be caught up on this project and have them attend?
  2. Can my meetings be shorter? Am I scheduling all my meetings to be too long? A 45-minute meeting makes a huge difference if I originally thought it should be 90-minutes long.

My only concern is how this will affect booking out projects and revenue. Our cashflow doc looks a lot different when I book a photoshoot for every single day of the week. But I also crash and burn and want to throw my camera out the window. So I’ll assess my limitations and make adjustments as I need.

Overall, by creating all this structure, I feel the freedom. It’s only been a day but I ate lunch. And had 15 minutes in between appointments. I had space to think.

My 2018 began today and it already feels a lot kinder.

*PS I also took a lot of insight from the book Radical Candor in deciding how often I should be having internal meetings (and to schedule out an hour of think time at 7am)

January 15, 2018