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Welcome, dear reader, to my latest calendar and schedule experiment. This year, I’ve been on the hunt for some new routines that would help me optimize my productivity during peak-energy hours. At this point, I believe I’ve found those extra hours and that implementation only requires one big shift – read on to find out what it is….and check back again soon to see if I’ve been able to stick with it.
Over the last few years, I’ve done a lot of reflecting around my calendar, and how I want my CEO schedule to feel. Years ago, before I had proper boundaries in place to say no to projects I didn’t want to take on, I was overworked and fed up. It got to the point where I completely shut down my business for 6 months in order to rest and recover, and it has since proven itself to be the best thing I could have done.
Pausing and reflecting on the status quo back then gave me the chance to re-assess where I was vs. where I wanted to be. You have to “slow down in order to speed up” as my then Coach put it. And she was right. The road forward became much clearer when I saw how much I had stuffed my calendar with projects I actually didn’t want to take on. My clients were lovely, but I didn’t want to work on THEIR projects. I wanted to work on MY projects. I had sacrificed my own creative expression in order to help them, and I didn’t like the direction it had taken.
As a result, I completely revamped my offerings to match my schedule and what I really wanted to do, and I’ve been so much happier for it. This change allowed me to create an entirely new calendar flow, which I now fiercely protect.
So how do you protect your time? That’s a question I get a lot. Creatives often feel like keeping a schedule is too restrictive. They’ll say things like: “I feel like I’m back in school,” or “I don’t want to keep a schedule… I want to work on what I feel like working on at the time. And I never know what I’ll be in the mood for from one day to the next.”
If this is how you feel, please understand that you are stuck in a loop. That’s self-sabotage 101.
You see, when you schedule something into your calendar, you are protecting that time slot against interruptions and distractions. It’s not so much about scheduling things in as it is about scheduling other things out. It’s putting boundaries in place, so that you don’t get derailed by others. Even if the purpose is to have the day off, putting that on your calendar makes it more likely to happen. We have to protect our time in order to be able to use it efficiently.
Having an aligned CEO schedule is important because when your business starts to grow, you’ll have more and more responsibilities to handle. If those don’t gel with your schedule or how you want to live your life, growth is not going to be sustainable.
The more successful you are, the less busy your schedule should get – not the other way around. And don’t forget, the more spacious your calendar is, the more flexibility you have to work on your own creative expression.
Flexibility is the number one thing I hear my clients ask for, so let’s make that happen. I’m here to tell you that – YES – it’s possible to have a very fun and flexible schedule that’s spacious and fulfilling. But in order to get there, we have to actually have a schedule. It’s a pre-requisite.
The reason why I’ve been able to accomodate a full-time business on a part-time schedule is because I’ve created services and offers that align with my ideal lifestyle, and I have a strong CEO routine around them to stay in control. This allows me the flexibility to run my business with my own creative expression in mind, and you can’t put a price on that.
I spend a lot of time helping my clients align their offers with their own ideal calendar and schedule because that is what allows them to create their dream lifestyle while still meeting their goals. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do as an entrepreneur, so I highly recommend you re-evaluate this for yourself on a regular basis. We have to keep aligning you with your optimum calendar and schedule.
So, with all this in mind, let’s take a look at how I optimized my calendar and schedule for the coming year – 2024.
Each time I sit down to evaluate my time, I follow a similar process to what we do in our Quarterly Planning Workshops.
The process overall goes like this:
Thinking about the answers to these questions let me pinpoint where things might be going wrong.
If you’re interested in trying this for yourself, I highly recommend starting with the above-listed questions. It makes it easy to spot what needs to change, if anything, and how you can best make it work.
When I sat down to reflect on last year’s calendar and schedule, everything actually worked pretty well, but it definitely had room for improvement – as always. There was one part in particular that puzzled me: I seemed to have different rhythms depending on my physical location. Let me explain.
I have been a night owl for as long as I can remember, so I naturally like working during my evenings. That why, when I’m in Sweden, I start my work day there around 4 PM. The Central European time zone means that I capitalize on the morning sun. I get to spend the whole day with my family outside, and THEN sit down to work. Yes, I forego movie nights here and there, but overall, it works really well for me.
Surprisingly, the above statement doesn’t hold true when I’m in the United States. On Central US time, I actually do better when I get up early. In fact, the earlier I start, the better I feel.
How could this be possible?
It puzzled me for a while… until I finally saw the pattern and the answer dawned on me:
I simply want to get out and get some fresh air before I start working. The time of day actually doesn’t matter. It’s the activity and how my day flows that matters. In Europe, this all happens naturally because of the time shift. Here in the US (as well as in Asia), I have to work for it. I have to consciously make the effort to get up and get out before everyone else. Major takeaway. This led me to shift my daily schedule significantly, and it has paid off big-time.
Some of the pre-work I had to do was to figure out ideal times to try and shift my schedule and optimize my energy levels. My good friend Anna had sent me a fabulous article on Ayurvedic daily rhythms and practices some time ago, so I decided to take that into account this year.
According to the California College of Avurveda, the whole idea is that “there is a natural ebb and flow within the natural world, including within your own body and mind. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are energetic forces that govern the tides of your life, and if you understand these forces, you can tune into the natural rhythms of the world, and make informed choices to help steer your life into healthful, harmonious directions.”
I found the topic fascinating, so I ended up taking this quiz at Chopra.com, which informed me that I was “tri-doshic.” Apparently, that means that I have rare and balanced “ratio of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in the mind-body constitution.” In other words, I’m neutral. How Swedish of me. 😂
The fact that I was evenly spread out as a “Vata-Pitta-Kapha” personality made me approach this newfound information with three equal doses of excitement. I decided to try and align myself with the recommendations for each style as best possible. I’m a beginner at this stuff, so any improvement would be considered a success.
Apparently, Kapha time is the time between 6 -10, both am and pm. Ideally, you should wake up before 6 AM and seek out stimulation in terms of “new sights, sounds, and experiences.” Getting up and getting out seemed like a good place to start, so to implement this, I decided to try and go for a run each morning first thing. Check.
You also supposed to stay warm, and if possible, “use warm, stimulating aromas including cloves, camphor, cinnamon, eucalyptus, juniper, and marjoram.” Ginger too. I get cold easily, so I do tend to bundle up when I go out. Check. And each day, I make my own chai masala with fresh ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise. I decided that I would make that a morning ritual instead of an afternoon one. Switching to decaf Darjeeling for this would also allow me to have another cup later in the day. Check.
So far, so good.
For the PM Kapha time, I decided to get to bed early, around 9 PM. The night owl in me shuddered at the thought, but if I wanted to get in 7-8 hours of sleep, that’s what needed to happen. Sleep in a non-negotiable for me, so decision made. Check.
Pitta time is the time between 10 AM – 2 PM, and that is supposed to be when you are the most productive, so I was excited to see what I could learn about this type. I decided that I would stick to work during these hours, but take plenty of shorter breaks to stretch out. As I’ve gotten more and more active, I find myself being restless quicker than I used to be. Good thing I have a sit stand desk. Pitta personalities are often recommended to be mindful around balancing activity and rest, so my idea around taking those breaks seemed to be right on the money.
Pitta personalities also favor scents that are sweet, like Sandalwood, rose, jasmine, etc. Jasmine is by far my favorite flower in the world, so I decided to have both my hand lotions as well as my scented candles on hand directly in my home office. I use them often while working to stay relaxed. As we always cover in our productivity audits during Quarterly Planning, your environment is so important for productivity, and anything you can do to optimize it will give you amazing results.
For PM Pitta time, I didn’t really need to do anything much because I’d be asleep, as I should be. Most Ayurvedic practitioners say that staying up late leads to more snacking in front of the TV, so by going to be earlier, I’d also be saving some calories there, and get better rest. Brilliant.
Vata time is the time between 2 – 6, both am and pm, which means transition time. Just like with my book-ending routing, I’m mindful of creating smooth transitions. They are so important because you can easily get thrown off balance. Vata time is good for creative problem-solving and moving a bit, and I have noticed a natural inclination towards that.
4 – 5 PM seems to be a natural gathering period for my family and I. My husband wraps up his work around that time. I’m usually off by then, and my daughter is done with her homework. That makes it an ideal time for us to go for a light walk, catch up on the day’s events, and strategize our next plans together.
For early morning Vata time, I decided to set my alarm clock to 5 AM. That’s early for a self-proclaimed night owl, but when looking objectively at what needs to happen during my days, when I’m most likely to do them, these Ayurvedic recommendations, and my big-picture preferences, I couldn’t help but feel that it was the right decision to make.
Some of these ideas let me explore my schedule on a microscopic level, but it was also important to zoom out and look at the big picture to make sure my overall goals would be met when implementing them. Would I get enough sleep, for example? Would meal times add up? How many breaks would I get? and most importantly, how much did I want to work? It’s very helpful if you have some numbers in mind, and then backtrack to figure out how to make it all work.
For 2023, I had decided to work for about 30 hours a week. This year, I launched 3 new courses, so I needed the extra time. In 2024, I want to bring it down to 20 hours per week. With an optimized schedule and a strategic plan in place, that amount of hours should leave me enough time to finish everything.
I need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per day, preferably 8, so that was another goal. I also wanted to make sure I had enough time to get outside, exercise, and cook before I start working. Frequent breaks, time with family every day, and of course, plenty of weekend fun.
Finally, I wanted to adhere to my Mindful Monday Mapping framework for anchored project management.
The biggest change I clearly needed to make in my proposed new schedule was to shift my morning and evening hours.
Since I had decided to get up around 5 AM, and I wanted to get 8 hours of sleep, that meant bedtime at 9 PM. This would mean less downtime at night, and watching my favorite TV shows in the morning rather than evening. I decided that would be fine because I’d get a lot more done if I watched those while prepping our meals for the day. Getting up early would also let me get my workouts in before work, and that would help me lessen the guilt of not having done that by afternoon.
Here’s what my schedule looked like when I first started drafting it in Notion:
In reviewing this new plan, I found that I was able to fit in pretty much everything on my wishlist:
Pretty good, right?
Shifting my morning wake-up call was clearly the key to making this new calendar and schedule work. By looking it objectively, I was able to free up three (!) extra hours during peak energy levels for getting some of the harder work done for myself. Not to mention, all of it would be done before the rest of my family was even awake. Talk about feeling empowered!
Now, you might say: “Well, hang on Caroline, isn’t getting up that early hard? I thought you were a night owl.” Well, yes, but if I don’t change (and continue to do the same thing), how can I expect different results? Sometimes we have to do what’s hard. Change is always hard. That’s not even a consideration here. If you’re only into doing what’s easy, entrepreneurship isn’t the way to go. I’m all in when it comes to making improvements.
With any project and any major change, you have to give it enough time to see if it actually works. I can’t just try this for one day, cry about it being difficult, and give up. No. In its current form, this schedule is still only a hypothesis, a theory. Now comes the fun part – the implementation. The reason I’m running this project now is to test it out and gradually make the shift, so that I can a hit the ground running at the start of 2024. That’s right. I’m giving myself three whole months of testing to refine these new routines.
Shifting myself from being a night owl to an early bird may take a moment, but I believe the benefits will far outweigh the cost. And…objectivity will be my best friend during the transition time. I’m two weeks into my experiment at this point, and so far, I’ve felt a noticeable difference. Because of that, I’m all in and pretty darn sure I’ll work as expected. By the end of the year, I will have moved this new schedule from theory to practice, and we will have our answer then. I will be back with another update soon to share my takeaways.
Hi there! I’m Caroline, and I’m here to help you get organized and be more productive, so that you can live better and have time for what matters.
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I'm Caroline, a.k.a. "The Swedish Organizer," and I'm here to help you finish what you start. Effortlessly.
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