I'm an organizer so I blog about organizing and anything that can be related back to organizing. I never stray: never assuming readers want to know what's in my fridge or medicine cabinet. I like to keep my platform pure and stick to what I know best. I was both nervous and excited when given an open invitation to write on the inner-workings of my business for my friend Racheal Cook'sblog tour. I had my newsletter readers vote though on what they wanted to read and "A day in the life" was the clear winner. This is a very transparent account not just of how my days flow, but where I know there's room for improvement. First, please join the blog tour here to read all 30 posts from 30 seasoned women business owners. Read yesterday's post from Cerries Mooney here and Jen Louden will post tomorrow here.
Rise n Shine:
I've alway said, and am very serious about it: one of the best things about self-employment is sleeping in. I wish I was an early riser, but am not (yet). My alarm usually goes off at about 7:30am or 8am. 10 out of 10 mornings, I snooze it until my feet hit the ground at 8:00am or 8:30am. Every morning I tell myself tomorrow will be different. It never is. Sometimes I beat myself up about it, comparing myself to the Forbes Magazine cover models who claim their secret sauce is a 5am alarm. I'm learning though to just relish in the fact that I have a career that allows me the luxury of 8-9 hours of sleep! If it's a rare morning where I have to arrive somewhere early, I have no problem waking much earlier.
Meditate first, no matter what:
If the alarm doesn't get me, it's the devastatingly handsome Bengal cat, Zucca, screaming in my face that does. Right after feeding Zucca, I meditate for 20 minutes before checking email or any social media. I nail this essential routine about 4 out of 5 weekdays. I learned Transcendental Meditation a few years ago. T.M. is a simple meditation technique that is done twice a day for 20 minutes. I've slipped on the twice/day part (and yes, I do notice a difference), but am still quite good about getting in at least a morning meditation. If that doesn't happen, I make sure to meditate early evening. It settles everything in me, feeling like a shower for the brain. My clients are essentially hiring me to deliver a calmness to their lives. It's important to me that I walk the walk and have a well from which to draw. It's this early mediation that keeps me truly relaxed and centered in the face of the chaos I hang out in every day!
Breakfast: I'm worthless if I'm hungry and I don't always have the luxury (or discipline) of lunch. I'd rather have a wholesome, hearty breakfast and skip lunch, then skip breakfast and have a quick, unhealthy lunch on the go. Most mornings I make a big plate of eggs, greens and toast*. I'm not a coffee drinker because who needs coffee when the world has chai?! A close Indian friend of mine taught me her family's chai recipe from scratch, so if I have time, I brew a pot of chai from fresh ingredients and a little treasure box of loose tea and spices. That piping hot homemade cup is one of life's greatest pleasures. *It wouldn't be fair for me to not disclose that sometimes the first words out of my boyfriend's mouth in the morning are "how would you like your eggs?" I lucked out.
This is where the days become much less routine:
No-client zones: I never work Monday mornings or Friday afternoons. These are golden hours where I prep for the week and clean up emails from the week. Monday mornings I have a Skype call with my assistant in Portugal. These blocks of time are really just an email scramble - albeit a very productive one! I take care of the "Oh s#*t, I can't believe I haven't written them back yet!" emails.
Getting around in DC:
I live in Silver Spring, MD right on the Washington, DC line. Living inside the Beltway means that it can take me anywhere from 25min to an hour + to work with a client in VA. It may take 15 minutes to get to a DC client, and 45+ minutes to drive home. I have a unique schedule, but not a unique problem of having to schedule all activities around our legendary traffic. It's a blessing when I have clients within a 5 mile radius!
The ideal day: Driving out to the Shenandoah's, hiking, and unpacking a picnic at a winery. Oh, wait, I have a business to run. (This happened twice last week though when I stumbled across a blissful 5-day weekend…..a NYC trip fell through.)
I typically work with clients in 3 hour blocks. I'm truly appreciative to be self-employed and busy - certainly a problem to have. Hours spent with clients are my favorite part of the week. Lately I've been averaging 5-6 clients per week. I start anywhere from 9:00 am to 3:00pm.
An ideal day for me is one of these:
- Working 9:30am - 12:30pm and work from home in the afternoon.
- Going to yoga in the morning, having lunch at home, and working 2:00pm - 5:00pm.
Some version of this happens about twice/week. I practice Ashtanga yoga on average 3x/week - twice on weekends and once during the week. If I could just wake up earlier (see above), I could work yoga in 4-5x!
The rare "light" day: If I have no clients on the calendar, I catch up on my business and/or catch up on cleaning my house. It's no surprise that I secretly love housekeeping…. so much so that it is my procrastination tool of choice. Can't think of what to title my newsletter? Let's dust the tables! Stuck on how to craft that email I've been putting off? Let's scrub the stovetop! Thanks to my chores list though, I'm good at keeping this to a minimum, but it still happens. I cannot focus in a cluttered space. Forget about sitting down to work if the sink isn't empty.
I sometimes get more done on days when I see a client than on days that are wide open. Thanks to the Pomodoro Technique and some very crafty to-do lists, I work very efficiently with limited blocks of time. I'd like to be better at dividing work-at-home days into reactive work (responding to emails) vs. creative work (writing, planning, recording videos, etc.) "Light" days sometimes feel like my busiest, with me realizing I'm still in my pjs at 5pm but have just moved mountains...
The full day:
I have the energy to work with two clients per day, but this requires two things: 1. A solid hour and a half in-between clients. 2. A delicious dinner and a margarita waiting for me at the end. Forget about blogging or responding to emails on these days. I can only pull this off 2 days/week max. If I felt like client #2 was receiving a compromised service in any way, I wouldn't do it. Last week I worked 10:30am - 1:30pm and 3:00pm - 6:00pm. Client #2 benefitted from an energized organizer fueled by her favorite lunch: an Indian buffet. I start getting the shakes if I don't park myself in front of a bottomless vat of chicken tikka masala at least once per week. That, literally, is my secret sauce.
Dinner: I eat around 7:00pm or 8:00pm. After finishing with my client(s) I usually have a good hour or two to work before I meet up with my boyfriend, a friend, or my family for dinner. I eat out more than I'd like to, but certainly cook more at home in the winter.
Late night: I used to work and email until midnight or 1:00am. I hit a wall with that years ago though. I know I get fuzzy by 9pm, so plan accordingly, but still sometimes find myself getting the inbox down as late as 11:00pm. My newsletter goes out on Wednesdays, so, most Tuesday nights I'm finishing up the posts so my assistant in Portugal can program it overnight. Writing my newsletters and posts is actually quite enjoyable, I just wish I finished it up about 24 hours earlier. I'm very firm about my rule of no Facebook after 10:00pm! I read for about 15 minutes in bed before lights out at midnight. Wish that were closer to 11:00pm.
The truth: Everything above is true, but for it to read even truer, every other sentence should read "Reply to emails." For every billable hour, I probably work five hours behind the scenes. I feel like I spend my life on email and I'm not sure how to change this.
I'm a very good organizer and get a tremendous amount done to reach those who need me the most, but the emails run me down. The days I throw my hands up and don't respond to emails, it piles up and my heart sinks. Right now I have 144 emails in my inbox, which is about 124 above my comfort zone. I just spent a weekend enjoying myself: yoga, plant shopping, dinner out, yoga, and brunch, but now am looking at a Sunday night of getting that number down to 75 if I'm lucky.
I's a sunny 60 degree Sunday afternoon and I just sent my boyfriend home. He's been waiting to hike with me all day but I still have work to do even though I'm a better time manager than I've ever been. Also, in the past year I have learned to delegate. I'd like to delegate more and manage time better on a macro scale. I cross a lot off my list day-to-day, but around the next bend will be setting bigger project goals and setting aside days to execute them. When I've done this, I've shocked myself at how quickly I can produce. I've pulled a lot off in the last few months and am now confident that with short deadlines I can complete anything.
I started my organizing business in 2001. Many of the last 14 years were spent wanting so badly to "be busy," but I just didn't know what that was and admittedly didn't always have the motivation to do it when the path was clear. I've sent out countless notes in bottles and now that they're floating back to me in the form of magnificent professional opportunities, I'm working my tail off.
It feels like every week something rolls in that just knocks the socks off of the people close to me. (I don't share a ton on social media, so I have a lot brewing that only those close to me hear about). My good friend Lauren Fritsch also wrote an article as part of this blog tour: More Than Enough. In it she talks about feeling like she hasn't accomplished enough even though she has recently achieved so many of the specific goals she set years ago. I relate. I sometimes feel like I'm making up for lost time. I recently told my ever-patient boyfriend, "To some extent this will probably never end. I'll reach a goal and want more because I'm learning that it's about the thrill of the ride."
I get that building a business takes work. I'm fortunate to have found work I love at age 21 in 2001. I am doing my best and am starting to feel very proud of myself. A large percentage of my to-do lists are tasks I enjoy. I know I'll hit my stride with better delegating of everything else. If emailing at midnight every now and again is the worst of my troubles, then I'm very blessed. It's good to be Kacy Paide.
So, it is a beautiful day for hiking, but it's also a beautiful day for sitting on my couch with my windows open and blogging about doing the work I love. This past weekend someone asked me: "What is the most fun job you've ever had?" The answer was easy: "This one."
Thank you for reading. Enough about me! Did anything surprise you in this post? What routines do you have in place that help you to protect your personal time? Is there anything else you'd like to know about how I run my business? Like this departure from organizing advice? Please share in the comments! I'll do my best to answer questions in future posts if I can't fully answer in comments.