152 FS Managing Your Schedule

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01:57 - Tools and Scheduling Apps

08:16 - Prioritizing and Planning a Productive Day (Making a Commitment and Sticking to a System)

18:27 - Getting Started

25:17 - Booking and Filling Time Gaps

  • Following Up with Past Clients and Contacting New Leads

28:16 - Weekly / Monthly Reviews

29:29 - Avoiding Scheduling Conflicts and Being Consistent with Your Scheduling

  • Expectation Setting with Clients
  • Being (or at least) Appearing to be “In Demand”

41:14 - Routines

47:08 - Keep Some Flexibility in Your Schedule and Setting Minimums to Avoid Stress

49:01 - Offloading to Free Up Your Schedule

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Reuven)The Complete Guide to Finding and Selling eCommerce Clients: Learn How to Find, Price, and Sell Clients on Your High-Value Service by Brennan Dunn (Eric)Starcraft II (Chuck)

Q&A Signup: Freelancers’ Answers

Transcript

ERIC: This week, we’re talking about sleep and lack of it. REUVEN: [Chuckles] CHUCK: Sleep? What’s sleep?[This episode is brought to you by Audible. Audible is the first place I go to keep my business skills sharp. They offer over 150,000 books on business, finance, planning and much more. They also have a great selection of fiction that keeps me entertained when I'm just not up for some serious content. I love it because I can buy a book, download it to my iPhone, and listen while running errands or at the gym. Get your free trial at freelancersshow.com/audible]**[This episode is brought to you by Code School. Code School offers interactive online courses in Ruby, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and iOS. Their courses are fun and interesting and include exercises for the student. To level up your development skills, go to freelancersshow.com/codeschool]****[This episode is brought to you by ProXPN. If you are out and about on public Wi-Fi, you never know who might be listening. With ProXPN, you no longer have to worry. ProXPN is a VPN solution which sends all of your traffic over a secure connection to one of their servers around the world. To sign up, go to ProXPN.com and use the promo code tmtcs (short for teach me to code screencasts) to get 10% off for life]****CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 152 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello. CHUCK: We also have Reuven Lerner REUVEN: Hello. CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. I needed a break last night, so I started playing StarCraft and then I realized it was 1:30 in the morning so I went to bed. So I’m a little sleep-deprived but that’s life. This week, we’re going to be talking about managing our daily, weekly schedules. I think we might get into some planning stuff, a little bit further down the road. As far as planning out work but mostly we’re just going to be talking about scheduling. I’m curious, do you guys have tools that you use to manage your schedules, manage the stuff that you have going on? ERIC:**I have a calendar, [inaudible 02:07] calendar for actual client meeting and stuff like that but also use it as an actual separate calendar in my account for scheduling client work, so I’ll know for this week I’m working for this client. I actually have a calendar for my run, so I’ll know this week in particular I have a recovery week so I’m not running that hard but last week I had a lot of time spent running so I had to account for that each day like, “Oh, I’m going to be out for two hours today, so I need to get up earlier. I need to get my stuff done early so I can go in the afternoon.**CHUCK: That makes sense. I use Google Calendar as well, and I use BusyCal on my Mac to manage my calendar. That way if I’m offline, I can still see it. ERIC: I just use the website for Google Calendar, but on my iPhone I use Sunrise, which I think recently they got acquired by Microsoft so we’ll see how that lasts. I use that, and I use another free app on there. I don’t like Apple’s version, but anything that integrates with Google’s calendar is pretty good for me. Especially in the – I think it’s called the today view; when you swipe down I will show all the stuff I have going on. That combined, I think it’s built-in – Google Calendar can email you in the morning like, here’s your schedule for the day. That’s mostly what I use for scheduling specific activities I have to go to. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. And I do the same thing. I don’t use a separate calendar for work; I just use the calendar that’s my primary calendar on Google Calendars. Then all of the shows obviously have their own calendars. Then if there’s something very specific, I should probably create a calendar for family events but it just goes in the same calendar as all the work stuff. ERIC: I got my calendar, my exercise stuff which is just running, scheduling which I said is for client work. I also use that if a client mentions that they’re going to be away on vacation during a certain time, I’ll put that in there just so I know I probably shouldn’t email him or if I need to get stuff, I have to get that early. That’s it, and then there are personal calendars. I actually have nine calendars in Google Calendar. REUVEN: Wow, I also use Google Calendar on the back end but I almost never use the actual Google website. Either I use it on my phone or more likely on my Mac; I just use the regular built-in calendar most of the time. That basically does the job for me. I just have one calendar, and I use that for everything, whether it’s personal stuff or for client stuff. Maybe one of these days I’ll switch over to using multiple calendars but truth be told I’m just interested in knowing am I booked or am I not, and if I am then what am I doing. Then synchronize it with Google Calendar without too much trouble up to a little bit of time for me to figure it out but then it’s just me. Then I just mark down whatever I got whether it’s personal stuff or business stuff. Then I recently – I think we’re talking about this a little bit, we can get into this more – but I have recently started trying out different online tools so that clients could schedule with me. Because I was just really tired of the back and forth, “Are you available on this Tuesday?” “No, but I’m available on Thursday.” “Oh, but that’s not good. How about next Wednesday?” Having an online tool, the tool that we’ve mentioned in the past, and I’ve heard there are some others as well, “Alright, you can book.me and at Calendly.” Calendly looks like it’s a little slicker so I’ve started trying a little bit I’m thinking I may switch over, I think Eric’s done that, I think he mentioned that a week or two ago. But just the ability that I have now to tell people, “I’m available on my calendar, like go book yourself,” has just been incredibly freeing. ERIC:**One thing I want to mention since I switched to Sunrise, I’m not using it as heavily, but I use an app called Do, like something as do today. It’s basically a timer – it has a timer like you have tea brewing or take [inaudible 05:48] in an hour, but it also has alarms and its way more powerful than any built in ones I’ve seen on the iPhone. The big thing I do is in the morning I get that email from Google Calendar of like, “Here are the five meetings you have today,” I’ll put all those in to-do. I’ll figure out, “Okay this meeting, the podcast I just need to show up for it, I don’t need to prepare for it so I’ll set the reminder five minutes before the podcast starts,” just to sit down get something to drink. But if I have a client meeting, I should, today in the afternoon, I have a pretty intense one, I set it a reminder 45 minutes ahead of time so I can actually wrap up what I’m doing, get all the stuff together, start working on, and get all the topics we’re going to talk about ready to go. So it’s nice because I can put in a little buffer that I need for it. The big thing is unlike most calendars things where it’s really easy to dismiss, like set up a half for the Do app, is make an alarm every minute until I either delay it or say it’s done. So if I walk with my phone for a few minutes, I won’t miss a notification that I have a meeting in a little bit. It’ll just keep going off and off. I found that’s really helpful because sometimes you just get stuck into something and forget about a meeting. I know a lot of people, especially when you use Outlook, it’s really easy to get into a habit of response of like dismissing any notification coming up without actually seeing what’s it’s telling you to do.**REUVEN:**Right, I do have it set up on Google Calendar that it emails or SMS’ me, I think, 20 minutes before something takes place. [Inaudible 07:15] You can adjust that, and I don’t know why I’ve chosen 20 minutes but it’s nice to know, “Aha! I’ve got such and such coming up.” I also have it where if I had a whole day blocked off, then it would tell me 5pm the day before, but I found that more annoying that useful so I got rid of that.**CHUCK: Yeah, I just get notified ten minutes before any given event and that’s usually enough time because most of the events are online stuff so I just have to be at my computer. REUVEN: Right. ERIC: Yeah, I just find for some of that stuff it’s nice because if you have to prep for a meeting or do stuff for a meeting, it’s always better to do it right before. You could do it at the beginning of your day then set it aside and comeback to it, but I found that having it fresh in my head is always better so that’s why I adapted to this system. So I would actually like – you schedule these blocks of time in your calendar and then you extend it out – do you need to travel, do you need to prep for it – and so that tells you what time each day you have that’s taken up by what you’re going to do. CHUCK: Yep. So I guess one of the things I have been struggling with is that I have a lot going on so I have been trying to figure out how to get all of this stuff done that I needed to do. So this comes down to partially prioritizing and partially planning, and I’m getting better at it. But I’m curious, do you guys have specific things or tricks that you do to make sure you have a productive day that gets done what needs to be done? ERIC: I have a lot of them. REUVEN: I'm, somehow, not surprised. CHUCK: Me either. ERIC: I’m trying to think of where to start because I have at least tried to connect everything – or not everything – some things I do every day into my annual goals, so it goes through several different levels. Mostly what I do is I still do pomodoro technique, which is basically you work, focus on something for 25 minutes then you take up to a five minute break, and you just keep cycling that back and forth. So what I do in the morning – or actually in the night before now – I will sit down and say, “Okay, based on the last week I’m averaging, we'll say, eight pomodoros a day.” So eight of those cycles and there’s a lot of those un-pomodoro time. So what I’ll do is I’ll write the three big things I need to get done tomorrow are, set up the server, contact a client, and then start writing for a blog post. So I’ll write all those down and I’ll pick one that’s the most important thing. So if everything else doesn’t happen, that’s the one thing I want to get done. Then I’ll budget; I'll start writing; I’ll take two pomodoros, so about an hour. Setting up the server’s going to take four, so that’s about two hours. I basically do that, and then if there’s any time left over, I’ll just add another task of like, “Let’s do some email stuff” or maybe I’ll need to start doing some sales follow-up. So I’ll just slot that in until I fill all the pomodoro budget I have for the day. Then when I start working, I’ll just start on the number one most important task and then do the other of the three that are the important ones and just, when all of that’s done if I still have time, I’ll work on the filler tasks. That’s how I basically brand my day from day. REUVEN:**It sounds almost like you’re running an agile team on your own [crosstalk 10:21] where you’ve got things in the hopper. You estimate as best as you can, but your estimates might be off in which case, the things that have highest priority are the things you get to.**ERIC: Something I didn’t mention because I don’t want to get too deep into planning but I – especially the most important task of the day, that relates back to what I want to do this week. Ideally all three of the most important tasks are related to my weekly goals which I set up the past Sunday. Those weekly goals all relate to my monthly goals and those monthly goals are all components of my quarterly goals. Like I said, it all trickles back to, “This quarter on this year, I want to focus on this thing,” that trickles down to, “I want to write more blog posts to get newsletter subscribers.” Like you said the interesting thing with the pomodoro technique, I don’t follow the exact technique but what you do is you estimate, and then as you work on it you put an X like, “Okay, I use this, I use this.” And so I can see really easily like setting up the server actually took, three hours instead of two hours. I can see I need to – I’m slower in setting up servers than I estimated so next time I’ll need to budget it that way. Or in fact yesterday I finished early and so I had extra three pomodoros so I finished early and just picked up something from my to-do list of like, “Okay, here’s something unscheduled,” but it’s a bonus thing so I’ll get that done and then finish that and did another one, then did another one. So it’s nice because I can see if I’m not productive at all, at least I’ll get my most important stuff done. But if I’m really productive I can get all that done plus extra fillers stuff, plus even go above and beyond my estimate for the day. REUVEN: I think – I certainly am not nearly as structured as you are in terms of pomodoros and so forth, but I definitely try to have a to-do list for each day. I try – although I think try is perhaps pushing it to say, “I think I can get the following things done this day.” And I am unfortunately, consistently off and over optimistic. So instead of saying, “Gee, I really don’t think I’ll be able to do X, Y, and Z all in one day.” I'll say, “Well, I’ll try really harder, and maybe I can be extra super productive that day.” And then of course at the end of the day, I’m frustrated I’ve not gotten done the 200 things that I listed for myself. ERIC: Yeah, I used to have that problem too. Then what I did, I think I started it maybe five or six months ago, but I have a Google spreadsheet where at the end of every week, I go through and log, “I did this many pomodoros of work, this many pomodoros of meetings,” because I want to track meetings so differently. So in the spreadsheet I put that in for every day at work. Then I have a calculation that does a seven day running average. I think it’s actually factored in five days just for five day work week. And so tell me this – for Monday, I’ve averaged seven pomodoros, and so if I have a really productive week, and next or this week that I’m working, I average 12, so five more. Then the week after, it’ll say, “Hey, your average has gone up, so you can actually schedule more work.” It’s interesting because it’s like that revert to mean idea of ,“Okay, I think I might be productive but I’m actually productive.” And it gives me a check and balance of like, “I’m really not being very productive,” and so I’m not going to over schedule myself and get really flustered because I’m not getting all the work done or feel like I have to stay up to one am in the morning working on stuff. REUVEN: Right. CHUCK: You guys talking about pomodoros, it reminds me of the way that John Sonmez does his stuff. He uses his Kanban flow and then his goal is to get eight pomodoros in; I think it’s eight pomodoros in a day. Anyway, there’s a certain number of pomodoros minimum that he wants to get in a day. Then he just has all of his stuff for the week or the month in a backlog, then he just moves it over to the day and then works through it. He tries to plan out his week that way but it doesn’t always work out because some things take longer than you expect. Then that worked really well for a couple of weeks that I did it. The issue that I had was that I – well, I don’t know exactly the issue was but I didn’t stick with it. I think you need a system to manage some of that stuff. ERIC: I actually created three separate Kanban software systems either into Redmine or separately. I love the Kanban idea. In fact I’m actually testing out a paper one on my desk right now. More of just as the – not replace what I’m doing but just a visual representation of what I’ve done this week, not what I’m doing but what I’ve done. I think you just have to figure out what works for you. All of my stuff is actually really simple, but it’s been simple then I would try something new. Then if it worked I’d add to it. So it sounds complex but all of the concepts are actually very simple. And I can remove – I can always remove my pomodoros stuff on paper if I wanted to, or I can remove my to-do backlog if I wanted to. I like what you said how John has this, we’ll say a budget of eight a day, eight pomodoros a day, and then works on that then whenever that’s done, he can pick up from the backlog. I think that’s a pretty good thing especially if you make your eight pomodoros the most important stuff or your longer terms goals. If you’re trying to write a book, it’ll be like writing stuff or editing stuff. Then you can have email low priorities stuff be like the filler tasks. CHUCK: Yeah, definitely. The thing is I don’t think he limits himself to just eight pomodoros, he just makes sure he gets at least that many in. ERIC: Yeah, like the minimum level. CHUCK: Yeah, so anyway, I think the idea really works. Kanban flow actually has a pomodoro timer built in, and it’ll track how many pomodoros you spent on a task. That’s another thing I really like about the approach. And honestly – I hate to say it – but the thing that I really struggle with is not necessarily finding a system that works, but just sticking to a system. ERIC:**Yep, that’s the thing. If sticking to a diet and exercise plan was easy everyone would be thin. That’s the habitual change, that’s the hard part to do. I don’t know your [inaudible 16:14] Chuck but you probably trying to overcome dozens or at least a few decades worth of how you’re working to try and say switching to Kanban flow. I myself, I’ve used pomodoros before I was even freelancing. So what is that, 2006, 2007? I mean I’ve been using Getting Things Done even longer than that. This stuff is easy for me, it might sound impressive but I’ve been doing it for ten years or so now.**REUVEN: So for you it sounds like the default way of working. When you have something to do you don’t say, “Oh, I really have to remember to put it into my workflow,” it flows naturally, so to speak at this point. ERIC:**Yeah, right now my default – if my wife says, “You need to do something,” or [inaudible 16:55] off doing something like oh I forgot about this task but I have an idea.” I open up my phone, run a program, put it in there, I know that it’s going to show in my to-do list and I’m going to to review it within a week or so. It’s automatic; I don’t have to go through a certain process or do things with it.**CHUCK: Yeah, I think this really just has driven me back to just using the system and just making sure that I’m using the system. One of the things that are on my schedule for Friday is to plan out next week. So then I just fill in this Kanban board for next week. I think really what it all boils down to is just making the commitment. Then what, what do you do when you slip up? ERIC: I think making the commitment’s important but you can’t just say I’m going to start using Kanban flow for my schedule. That’s not the be-all end-all, you’re making a commitment but that’s going to take energy. I think the big thing I found for myself is that if I commit to something too big – even if I get all riled up and excited about it and all that – I actually know underneath that this is a huge commitment and I’m not ready for it and I will self-sabotage myself out of it. So I might start using Kanban flow for a while and then I won’t do it for this week because I don’t need it for this and that. I think what’s more important is you make sure that the things you’re committing to are improvements but they’re not such a huge improvement that’s going to just completely blow you out of the water. It’s like tiny changes or simple changes instead of big like, “Let’s restructure the entire company type changes.” REUVEN: So where’s a good place to start? Let’s say I want to get on board in terms of how am I going to schedule out my days? What’s a good way to start on that without necessarily getting frustrated by trying one of these techniques and then just saying, “Wow, this is just a lot to do.” ERIC: I mean of all the stuff I’ve done, the one that’s actually had the biggest payoff that was the most surprising is the MIT idea; it's the most important task. That’s where you pick up to three a day. It’s the idea of even if everything goes crazy, you don’t get anything else done, if you get these three done, you’ve had a good day. I think Steven Pressfield gave me an idea for one where instead of having three – you can still have three but you have one that’s I call it my dragon task. It’s the, “If I’m going to go out and slay this dragon – this task – I’ve had a successful day.” If I get nothing else done but that one thing, it’s been successful. I think if you just sit down either the night before or the morning of or whatever, and you define that one task that you can do, I think that would give you a very good powerful win that you can use to build on to do other things. Because if you make that something that ties to your goals or very important stuff, even if it’s something you’re going to do anyways, it can self-reinforce itself. REUVEN: Yeah, that makes sense. Moreover, I often find that I get frustrated saying, “Wow, I had these 20 things to do today and I didn’t get all of them done.” But if I were to look at it more objectively and say, “Wow, I got this really important thing done,” then I’ll be much happier with myself and with my progress. It’s really a lot of perspective that’s important there. So sounds like having that slaying that dragon idea is not only a good way – it’s a more reasonable way to measure your progress. It’s also more reasonable way for you to set expectations and manage them for yourself. ERIC: Yeah, this goes a lot of productivity advice and I think some people get shocked by it, but my to-do list ranges from 600-1000 items long at any given time. I might spend some time cleaning it up and basically throwing away 200 something items. I’m fine with that, it works for me because that’s not a list of stuff I have to do, it’s a list of ideas of what I want to do. And they’re prioritized, they’re categorized, all that. Even if I’m only doing the one or two things a day, I know that those are the one or two things out of that thousand list that are the most important or the most valuable or the most time sensitive. So I have the freedom of, “I can pick from this list.” I don’t have to come up with something from scratch each day or try to keep in my head like, “What am I working on this year?” I can trust my list to do that for me. REUVEN: Does your to-do list include all the things you need to do for various clients as well, or is it just your own personal stuff? ERIC: It’s mostly personal stuff but it’s basically everything except for bug reports or stuff like that for clients. I have a project management system for that just for visibility. Sometimes what I’ll do is I will throw an issue, “Hey work on issue 1, 2, 3,” for a client as a to-do item and that’s only because that’s a very important one; I don’t want to miss it. For client stuff I’ll typically say, “Work on Acme Corporation for this week.” That’s a to-do item and that’s just a long to-do item, and when it’s done I just cross it off. CHUCK: And then you just manage the minutia of, “I’m going to work on these stories or whatever that’s all,” in your project management software? ERIC: Yeah. I mean this is one area I fall down on. Getting Things Done says break a task down so it’s the next action. Mine are like that; some of them are more just a project or it’s like stored externally so it’s not one list for everything. But I kind of – because I work with one client a week – I have a good catch of, “Okay, here’s my to-do list but I also know this week I have to look at the client’s to do list.” If I wasn’t working for a client or I didn’t have any real need to have external visibility, I would probably put all of that stuff in my to-do list. It’s easier, it’s one place then if I don’t need to share it then there’s no sense to doing it. But just the reality of how my business works, I need to have a list there and a list for each client. CHUCK: Yeah, I was going to say it seems like for me anyway, it’d be easier to have everything in one place and so having to track back and forth might be a little bit of whatever. But just putting something on my list or blocking it out on my calendar. However I decided to do it, I tried both ways and neither one really sit out to me as better than the other; I just need to stick to one. It seemed to me that just doing that and going to the other system to get whatever tasks I have out of it, makes a lot of sense. ERIC: Yeah, I’m trying to remember. Getting Things Done talks about this but it’s also the idea of you have multiple inboxes, you have your email inbox, you have your physical inbox, your mailbox is another inbox, a voicemail’s an inbox. It doesn’t make sense to cram all that into one. It doesn’t make sense to try and force everything to send you letters in your mailbox. So use what you have but just make sure that you’re checking them all the time. And so it’s the same thing for my to-do list. I know I have these other to-do list and it’s in the forefront of my head so I know to check them when it’s their time. And since I guess I only do work with one client at a time, it’s easy to know based on my calendar, because I have that scheduling block out like, “I’m working for Acme so I need to remember to look at Acme’s list but I don’t need to look at Joe Bob’s list.” CHUCK: Yeah, the other thing that I can see there is that if you have one master to-do list, then you can put in the to-do list, go check the other inboxes. And so that just becomes part of your deal. I think he has some routine that he has you do in Getting Things Done to do that and to work on that stuff as part of your review process. ERIC:**Yeah, and I think routine’s a good word for that. I’ve been doing a lot of work – lot’s not a lot, lot but I’ve been doing some work – working on reoccurring tasks, so I have a script that basically adds in stuff that happens every week. So just [inaudible 24:31] or just append it to the end, and stuff like do a weekly review, pay bills – that sort of thing. But one thing you could do is you could make it your daily routine in the morning of when you’re checking what you’re going to do today, is you check all those lists. Especially when you’re working with multiple clients or you have employees or it’s high activity that you’re not doing. You can make it a daily – like a check-in. I take five minutes and see what happened on this project. It might be nothing on a certain one, but you might catch something or catch a to-do item that you need to deal with right away. So you can look at those to-do lists as not just lists but also as inboxes. It’s a to-do list but if it changes, it becomes an inbox or some kind of activity there you need to process.**CHUCK: Right, that makes sense. REUVEN:**I find a lot of my scheduling is different from what you guys are describing in part because I do so much training. So that’s typically going to be one full day on-site with a client. So that’s just one of this I like about training is it is very easily blocked out, very clear, “I am going to company X, I am spending all day on-site with them doing Y.” The only tricky thing there is them, I’m booked now several months in advance, and so I’ve got to make sure that I know where I’m going on each day that I’m going somewhere, but it’s a huge amount of peace of mind. What then happens though is I have clients who come to me on project work and they say, “We’d like to meet with you, when can we meet with you?” And so having these calendars scheduling programs, having the different ways that people can get in touch with me, can schedule time, becomes increasingly crucial. If I have holes – if I see toward the end of the month, [inaudible 26:11] the following month, what I’ll often do is call clients who I know might want time and say, “Listen, I’m – with now at the end of let’s say it’s the end of March, let’s talk about do you need time in April? I have four days, three days free whatever it’s going to be.” I find that people respond really well to that. It’s good for everyone. It’s good for me in that it allows me to fill my time and them that they know I care about them and they get time with me as well.**ERIC: Yeah, now if you can turn that into like a system or a process, I think you’d be doing really good. If you had a month to review where you look ahead a month or maybe six weeks and said, “Okay, I have these gaps the process says I should start contacting past clients or leads to try to get that filled.” Then that way as part of your weekly or monthly review, like you’re constantly doing it, you would actually become seen as someone who’s very proactive and very good about scheduling and planning stuff out in the long term. REUVEN: There’s a period about a year, a year and a half when I was doing that very regularly. That’s probably before the so many courses were scheduled so far in advance so I felt more of a need to do it. But I definitely found that people responded well. I think you’re right, people saw it as a positive thing on my part, not just as a convenient one. CHUCK: Yeah, I can definitely see that as well where people see that you’re organized and take that as a good omen. ERIC: Yeah, I don’t – I have no clue how much but a significant amount of my incoming clients have come from clients that I’ve followed up on and kept following up on. I’ve had one where it was like nine months of follow ups and I want it. It was a relatively large project, there’s a couple where it’s six months, there’s actually one I’m working with right now. I think it’s five months of follow up and they’re now a client. This would have been something that I would have written off in the past, but I built the follow up system. So actually schedule time for that, and actually try to get them in and try to get them to do stuff. Most people don’t follow up, most people don’t schedule or plan ahead, and so you can be the top 1% just by doing a little bit of effort in this area. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So do you do – when you do your weekly review or monthly review, do you do that at the same time every month, or at the same time every week? ERIC: No, I mean it’s – I used to do it on the weekend but I have a toddler now and I think that has spending time with her, spending time with family and family obligations that we would have done in the middle of the week they get pushed to the weekend now. And so I’ve actually found weekend time as very scarce. So what I’ve actually been doing is trying to do my weekly review like Friday afternoon or Friday night. It's kind of also a wrap up of the week. Then month review is pretty much the first weekend or first Friday after a month has ended. So it’s not consistent; it’s just a more intense version of the weekly review. CHUCK: Gotcha. ERIC: I think in the past – we'll say the past seven years at least – I think I’ve probably missed six weekly reviews. It’s become that habit for me. I know a few of them was because I was sick in bed; the few of the other ones I was so busy that I put it off and I would actually – I think a few I might’ve put off and then did a midweek review just to critical stuff. So there’s – it’s still there and I still do it; I just don’t do the full scan of my to-do list. REUVEN: So Eric, has it ever happened – I guess probably not so much because you’re working with one client a week. But does it ever happen when you have schedule conflicts, when someone says, “I really need to meet with you in such and such a date an emergency situation.” I’m wondering what do you do A, if there’s a conflict and B, how do you fit people in? Or do you just say, “No, can’t fit you in this week. I’m dealing with somebody else.” ERIC: It’s rare, I think it’s kind of a factor of I do a lot of expectation setting with clients and then I – just the type of work I do. I have a one client – he still is – but I try not to do server stuff or like where something can actually catch on fire type idea. I will have meeting conflict sometimes using the scheduling software that I use that you mentioned earlier like Calendly or YouCanBookMe. That alleviates some of the problem because I actually – I think it’s set for – people can’t book within 16 hours. So you can't book a meeting in two hours with me. You have to book it almost a day ahead of time, and it’s 16 hours because of time zone stuff. REUVEN: That is so clever. It forces people to not have emergencies. It doesn’t force them not to have emergencies but they can’t inflict their emergencies on you, I guess is a better way to say it. ERIC: Yeah, it’s an expectation. The expectation is you are not going to – I’m not going to have available time to meet that short notice. The exceptions are the client I’m working on for the week, I think about how to do it a few minutes ago but I will let them book whenever. If they needed a call right now, we can do a call right now because I’m working for them. What I’ve been thinking of doing is also setting up my stuff, so I’m working every week but it’s a four day week instead of a five day week. And then like Curtis, he has a Friday free, so I’m thinking I might start doing that where I have Fridays are set free to deal with emergencies or if people want to have a lot of meeting I can just shove everyone to that one day. But I don’t get conflicts that much because I work for a limited number of clients. Sales calls usually aren’t urgent so they can be pushed out 16, 24 hours sometimes. Sometimes people schedule like a week in advance, so that’s not really that big of a deal because I said, “My calendar’s here, here’s my availabilities.” Sometimes I’ll even say, “It’s getting booked up or I have this upcoming things,” and so I’ll put a bit if urgency in my message to try to tell them, “Pick a time that’s open now because you might not get a time later on.” REUVEN: Yeah, I’m often telling that to people. I say, “Look if you think,” I just been with a client this week, it was last week and they say, “Yeah, we’re probably going to want to meet with you, once a week, two weeks.” I said, “Look, my schedule’s so crazy nowadays; if you’re thinking seriously about doing this, we should book this. Then if you can’t tell me a few days in advance hopefully so I can get other stuff done or schedule it. If you’re even thinking about doing it, now is the time, because otherwise, it’s not just going to happen.” This is not only true and useful for me but it creates a sense of urgency with the client. They understand that my time is valuable and that they’re getting value, but I’m a precious commodity. Which is I think good for in a marketing sense as well. CHUCK: Yeah, it never hurts to appear to be in demand, right? REUVEN: Right, and actually these online calendaring systems have made that even more obvious. I’m like, “Well, find a date.” And I’ve had several people coming back to me and say, “Oh my god, what are you talking about? I can’t find anything.” So then we talk and figure something out. But yeah, it’s nice to feel in demand. CHUCK: That’s one thing that I’ve been thinking about. I need to just pick up one of those calendaring systems. I’ve been putting it off. What I’d like to do is just set aside one day of those kinds of meetings like Monday or Thursday, or Friday – whatever I decide to do. Then effectively then what I can do is I can say, “Look, these are the times that I’m free,” and then they can pick one and then if none of those days works and it’s something that I really do want to take on, then I can figure out whether or not it’s worth sacrificing for. ERIC: Right, I think that’s the big draw. Those tools, your default calendar your default schedule looks like this. If you need to go around it and say schedule something at nine o’clock at night that is way out of your availabilities zone. You can do that, but you can just use the email, the old methods. That should be the five percent of the time that you need it. CHUCK: Yeah and I can work that in my on boarding workflow so that is happens when I want or I need it to and it’s not this major thing. Trying to find the time with somebody is a pain, and so being able to send them the calendar invite would actually be really nice. ERIC: One thing I – I experimented with it. I think it was a different system and I'm getting that set up now because I actually just started paying for Calendar.ly because I’m using it so heavily now. But I have public events where it’s like sales calls or on boarding stuff or just stuff where it’s like they’re not necessarily a client; it’s outside of that week they’re working with me. So those strict timelines of when they can be scheduled. But then I’m going to have different event types that are for the client I’m currently working with so if they need – I can tell them I want just a one hour notice to book a meeting or two hour notice, and lessen the restriction so that they can use the same system, they can book, if their server’s on fire, they can use that stuff. So it even means there are less of those exceptional cases. It makes that consistent interface for them to just, “This is how you schedule with Eric.” You just use a different task for which you want to do. REUVEN: So you can assign different priorities or different scheduling rules for different people. ERIC: Yeah, what it is is that you have a different event type and so you send them a different link. I have my intro call, my sales call and I will send that link to people and it says – I think it has 10:40 to 4 o’clock. That’s the one that must be scheduled 16 hours in advance, but I could have another one that’s like client meetings for 60 minutes and that must be scheduled an hour in advance, and that can be say like 9 am to 5 pm, except for Fridays. Or you can tweak and change that idea. You can do this without Calendar.ly, you can just set rules for yourself of like; here is the different meeting slots available so it’s not – it’s more of a process instead of just an ad hoc thing you do every time someone wants to talk with you. REUVEN: This reminds me of – I had a professor in college who’s great and her rule was that she will always give you an extension if you ask at least 24 hours in advance. But if you ask in less than that then forget about it. It was a brilliant forcing function because obviously most college students will just work on everything the night before and this was explicitly designed to get you not to do that. So it’s nice to know that you can do that with clients too. ERIC:**Yeah, [inaudible 36:26] that I do a lot of expectation setting. One client I worked with a bit ago, he understood it and when we wrapped up the week he’s like, “I’d like to do another week or two in the future. Let’s start planning out the dates because I know your availability gets sucked up easily.” So for him we took a few minutes to plan that out and I actually penciled that in on my calendar. I’ll use put the week and put the client in but I’ll put proposed around it meaning the client wants this but it’s not locked down into a contract. So I can at a glance, “Oh this client wants something in May and then July.” So if I have another client that’s going to have a schedule conflict like we’re talking about earlier, I can go back to this first client and say, “Hey, you got first dibs, this client has a signed contract. If you sign a contract now and book it in March, I’ll work through the conflict and I'll make sure that you get it.” But that way they get the expectation set that book early, book in advance that sort of idea.**CHUCK: I definitely like that idea where you basically come back and say, you tentatively wanted it but you got to make up your mind now because otherwise I’m going to give it to somebody else. ERIC: Yeah, I have one person that wants my time next week. We’re in the contract negotiation phase but he’s like we want you in as soon as possible and I’m actually taking some time off around it so it’s either next week or it’s a few months down the road. He’s actually pushing really hard on his legal team and on other things just to get stuff moved through so he can actually get this week. If not, I’ll either sell to another client who needs the work or I’ll just take it as an off week and just basically get ready for a vacation I’m taking. CHUCK: Sounds good to me. Honestly I think my biggest problem is that yeah, I have a bunch of people that come to me and they want specific, “Hey can we talk about this or can we have a call about sponsoring shows or can we–” things like where it’s not an immediate thing in. So I think just by forcing them into my own time table so I know that my Thursday and Friday for example will be free; I think that will make a huge difference. ERIC:**Yeah, my wife, she works in HR and I’ve talked about her before but she has to do a ton of meeting. She basically runs all the interviews for the company so it’s like first, second, third, fourth. And it’s not just phone interviews but it’s also having candidates come in and that requires her setting a buffer so she has to be ready when they might show up early. She has to be available so she can do other work while people are interviewing. She has to do wrap up and then also actually talking to managers that did the interviews, getting their feedback. So she shared her calendar with me – I have it as a purple color. Whenever I turn her calendar on Google Calendar, I can’t see anything but purple. Her days are [crosstalk 39:10] everywhere. But I showed her Calendar.ly and say “Hey, you could use this, you could set up – I only want to do interviews Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursday in the afternoon. And just send your candidates this link and they can pick it and they can actually self-select what slots they want.” I don’t know if she’s used to it yet, but just the idea of she can force people on to this instead of doing a back and forth with the email. You guys almost agree on a time and then no one actually confirms it and someone misses the meeting or some other bs like that. If you have a lot of people coming to you wanting to do meetings to talk, having some system to put them in, it’s going to help you a lot but it’s also going to give them – the person requesting a bit of confidence of, “Oh, Chuck uses this system. It’s really nicely designed, he must do a lot of these schedules and he must understand how to do a meeting. I have confidence that the meeting’s only going to take 30 minutes not two hours or that Chucks going to show up, this and that. So it actually helps both sides or all sides of the group.**REUVEN: Absolutely. Right, it becomes an extension of you, an extension of your business. I almost started using a VA to do scheduling while I discover these systems and part of it was just to deal with the overload and part of it was yeah, I wanted to present more of a professional front. I discovered that I was only going to be using the VA for scheduling and this is not only cheaper but way easier. ERIC: And I mean we – for the show – we have guests on and we have done some stuff for the calendar, and so now we have a specific slide like it’s once a month or something twice a month on longer months of, “Here’s when we can have guests on.” So it’s not like a random a guest can show up at any time for the show, it’s like, “Here’s the slots for the show that we have, which one works best for you?” I was looking at it the other day and we have guests scheduled out for a few months now versus before we would get them all on a big group. So we’d have ton of guest interviews and then it would be like we don’t have any for a little while. So I think having some system – whatever it is for your scheduling – is really good and it really helps have some consistency with how you’re doing it. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So Eric, you typed routines in the chat and that’s something that – it’s another type of system. Do you have particular routines that you go through maybe to start your day or to end your day or to get your week moving, or how do you use routines to manage your time? ERIC: Yeah, so it’s an extension of what I mentioned earlier where you got the – try one thing that’s really simple, and if it works keep it and you can either add to it or change it. My morning routine’s actually gotten really screwed up in the past. I want to say three months, I think since the holidays. I think the holidays threw me for a loop and I haven’t ever landed, and so it used to be like I would get up, get my daughter off to school, get my wife off to work, and then I would have breakfast, maybe run, do that sort of thing, come in to work and I have my morning work routine. But it seems like all of the stuff before work has gotten so screwed up now that it’s just up in the air; it’s actually causing a ton of stress for me. I’ve actually been – I guess in the past week or so – tracing it, trying to figure out what’s going on. I think it’s actually all the way link back to I’m not going to bed early enough. So I’m going to bed late, I wake up drowsy – not fully rested – can’t really get into the routine and get started which then pushes back my work routine and just my whole – anything before noon is just so screwed up now. It’s so stressful and draining that in the mid-afternoon it actually affects me and I’m not as productive as I would like to be. My – what is it, my seven day pomodoro trend line has actually gone down like I’ve been doing – having to do lower amount of pomodoros than usual. CHUCK: So how do you correct something like that? ERIC: Well I think the first thing is finding out what the problem is, so I think, like I said, I’m pretty confident it's sleep – it’s the quantity of sleep. So what I’m trying to do is set up a routine for my night so I can wind down earlier. The other thing my wife is, she’s starting to commute into Portland so we have to wake up about an hour earlier. That’s a little time shift screwed me around. But find the problem, find out what it is and see if you can change it. So like I said, got to bed earlier, see if I can get started. I’m also getting a lot stricter on like – the numbers are made up, but from 8:10 in the morning to 8:20 in the morning I’m going to have some breakfast. From 8:20 to say 9:30 I’m going to go out for a run or do some exercise and try to get really not hard but get really strict on myself. Here is the routine – X, then Y and then Z. and see if I can use that to bootstrap myself into a new morning habit and try to use that for a little while. CHUCK: Gotcha. I really like the idea just from the – getting things going if you – how do I put it? If you set yourself up for certain things then the other things that you’re trying to set yourself up for will naturally follow. So if you get yourself into the routine of reading a book or if you’re religious, reading your scriptures or praying or meditating or thinking or whatever it is, you get into that routine and then you have something else that follows that, that follows that. Then you get into your client work or you get into your product, work or writing your book, you start to acclimate to that and you’re immediately – when you come in to your office, you just start your routine and you just progress in to being productive. I like that idea. ERIC:**Yeah, I have got that pretty well set up on the night time. It starts basically when my wife goes to bed because I go to bed later than her. I have about six or seven habits I have built up, some of them – I’m looking at now – some of them I’ve done and I have over 400 days streak on it. I actually started it like a year ago and it’s still going on. And it’s very strong, I don’t even think about it. I just come in here and know to do Yoga, I know to do a little bit of push-ups, some body weight exercises; I started to do some journaling. Some of these I added in the past few months, and they’ve added in and been completely seamless. [Inaudible 45:05] a week of it, it was already an engrained habit. The problem is, like I said, is the morning thing. It was – I never have an actual habit loop of the queue and the habit and all that, and so I just had the usual things I do, and so when – I’m blaming the holidays because that’s what I think it is. So when the holidays came around it threw that loop away and I got completely screwed up. I haven’t been able to rebuild it from scratch. So I diagnosed the problem now and I think it’s time to like, “Okay, the first step is to pick something that’s pretty easy that I can do that I can start building on.” Then like I said maybe it’s like writing for a book or maybe working on a product and just start from there and try to build my day around that thing. But I think most schedules and routines, you have to strike a balance between, “This is your schedule that you do every day, and this is the flexibility that you have on your schedule.” I think if you work at home or if you do freelancing full time, you have a lot of flexibility and it might be painful but – not painful, it might be hard to actually force some of this structure for some of the frameworks around your schedule because especially if you came from a corporate world where that’s passed down to you. You don’t have control over it, you might resist it a little bit you might actually need some of that. Depending on your personality, depending on how you work, you might need a lot more structure than you actually have right now. So I think you need to be aware of that. Do like what I did, try a bunch of things and see what works, it might be that having four, five hours in the morning to just be completely creative and free is actually the structure you need. You don’t actually need frameworks or stuff like that in place, and maybe you just have a little bit here and there just for client interactions. But if you’re felling pain, or anxiety or stress about your schedule, take that as a sign that something in your schedule is not right. What you’re doing right now, what your system is right now is wrong in some way, if it’s causing friction.**CHUCK: Right. REUVEN: I think you guys mentioned this a little bit, I just want to stress. It’s really important to keep some flexibility somewhere in your schedule because things will come up. I’m really encountering this now where I basically have almost no time to talk to people, new people, which is good in some ways but sometimes I do need a pipeline of new clients. I do need to have meeting with them sometimes. So try and make sure you scheduled in that time for new business, for taking care of accounting, for taking care of that day to day stuff that you need to do for your business to remain stable. Don't neglect that and fill your schedule with client stuff. CHUCK: Yup. ERIC: And another thing, I like the idea of setting minimums per day. That’s the idea of the MIT stuff, but there have been times where my daughter would get really sick. She was perfectly fine in the morning then she’d come home like 10 am and I would have to watch her because my wife, she already has this stuff schedule. So you have to account for – it’s not an emergency, 911 go to the hospital emergency, and it’s not a client emergency, but it is something that you didn’t predict, and it completely disrupts your schedule. So on those days if I have client calls that I can reschedule, I’ll reschedule them. If she’s okay, and I can work for maybe an hour or two or maybe my wife going to come home in the afternoon, I focus on just that one dragon task and just forget about everything else. I actually have a lot of this written down in a process of if this happens, here’s what I’d do. I even have something similar for if I’m sick. If I’m working for a client and I get sick, here’s how I basically reduce the work load, or reduce what I’m going to do so that everyone stays happy. I know that I’m ahead of time so I’m not stressing about it, sniffling at the keyboard, trying to work until two a.m. in the morning, making the illness worse. REUVEN: Really the solution is, for your daughter, to schedule her illnesses sixteen hours in advance with you. ERIC:**Yeah, right [chuckles].**CHUCK: I totally agree. The other thing that I’ve been finding is that I need to take a little bit of time just to figure out some of the processes or figuring out what I can offload to somebody else to free up my schedule. Sometimes that works out really well and sometimes it’s really hard to do, but just by doing that eventually, by sheer attrition, you get a lot of things off your plate that you don’t need to have on your plate. ERIC:**A really easy way for that I think it was from the Ultimate Sales Machine book – have a workshop. It [inaudible 49:35] a workshop every week. What I’ve been doing in the past month is I’m taking that thirty minute time and I’m basically going through my processes and basically documenting either something coming up or something that happened that was the problem. Like I have a productized consulting service I’m doing for a client this week. So last week I spent the time to document; here’s how we’d go through this process and deliver it to them. I’ve done this in the past, how I’m marketing stuff or how I’m doing this, how I’m doing that. And just taking 30 minutes every week, it’s not a lot but it can – I can probably get one or two processed documents out of it. It’s a very little task, it’s not very hard to do or stressful. So I can put it at the very end of my day when I’m completely drained but I don’t feel like emailing or opening up conversations with clients over the weekend. That’s what I would recommend.**CHUCK: Yeah. Alright, any other deep thought on managing schedules? REUVEN: None at hand. CHUCK: Alright, let’s go ahead and do picks then. Reuven, do you want to start us off with picks? REUVEN:**Sure, so I’ve got just a fun pick. [Inaudible 50:37] mentioned a new show that was out on Netflix. I said, “Okay, I’ll take a look at it.” I’ve seen a few episodes; it’s actually rather amusing. It’s called Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt. And the basic premise is that these four women were in an apocalyptic cult kept underground for I think 15 years. And so they’re finally released and she then goes to live as a late 20 year old woman who has been underground for fifteen years in Manhattan. So it’s a fish out of water story but it’s amusing. Not the most brilliant comedy ever but definitely, as I like to say, mindless fun. It’s on Netflix; I think its 13 episodes are out as the like to say nowadays. So you can – what’s it called, you can binge watch. Of course you should put that in your schedule. Eric, do you have television watching in your schedule?ERIC: Not really, I take Friday nights and Saturday nights and basically when my daughter’s done, it’s like freebie time so I’ll read. Friday nights and Saturday nights are when I watch videos because if I stay up a little later because it’s not a work night, it’s okay. I guess I do have TV time on my schedule but it’s not actually scheduled. I don’t have a Calendar.ly event for it. REUVEN: I’m so envious of your ability to be so organized. ERIC: I could just say your wife would like to have TV time with you this Friday, approve or deny? CHUCK:[Chuckles] I was going to say, you make your wife us Calendly to watch a movie with you.**REUVEN:So did you schedule that 12 hours in advance dear? [Chuckles].CHUCK: Yeah, I could just guess at how that would go over. You didn’t schedule to sleep in the bed with me tonight, 12 hours in advance dear, have fun on the couch. REUVEN: Anyway, that’s my pick for this week. CHUCK: Nice. Eric, do you have some picks for us? ERIC:Yeah, so I got a pick. It’s a big [inaudible 52:25] blog post by Brennan Dunn, its called The Complete Guide to Finding and Selling eCommerce Clients. But I will say that title, while it’s true, I think it even says in here, it’s not the best title for it. The subtitle is really what it’s about, its Learn how to Find, Price, and Sell Clients on Your High-Value Service. Basically if you’re looking to do your productized consulting which is basically – we talked about it in December a lot. This is a very good post for that. I’ve actually separately been doing almost the exact same steps that Brennan’s laying out here; I think I’m on step two or three. So if you’re looking to do that or you’re interested in, this is one of the better how-to’s I’ve seen for doing productized consulting.CHUCK: Cool. So I’ve been gone the last two weeks. One of the things they did at NG Conf was the second night of NG Conf they had a party, and the party was actually an amateur Star Craft II tournament, and then they had some professional Star Craft players come and do basically an exhibition round where it was best of seven. They made it to six games before one of them won. Anyway that got me back to Star Craft II so that’s what I’m going to pick. ERIC: That’s just not good for your schedule. CHUCK: Yeah, you should schedule that and stick to your schedule. It’s also, it’s not super productive to stay up until 1:30 at night playing it. However, I did need some kind of mental rest. And I think it’s important to make sure you get that in so you’re probably better off scheduling that and planning for it if you can, as opposed to just working and then getting to the end and going, “Alright, I need downtime somehow.” Anyway, that’s my pick. I’m sticking to it. Next week – by the time this comes out we will have already done it but it’ll be up on YouTube – we’re going to be doing our Q&A, so looking forward to that. One other thing I want to point out is if you go to the freelancershow.com and you look at the top, there is an email field and if you fill that in then you will start getting emailed when we have a new episode out, so you can get that as well. So go check that stuff out. The Freelancer Show Q&A is at freelancersanswers.com and you can sign up for the next Q&A which will be next month. There you go, thanks for listening. We’ll catch on next week. [This episode is sponsored by MadGlory. You've been building software for a long time and sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. Work piles up, hiring sucks and it's hard to get projects out the door. Check out MadGlory. They're a small shop with experience shipping big products. They're smart, dedicated, will augment your team and work as hard as you do. Find them online at MadGlory.com or on Twitter @MadGlory.]**[Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net]**[Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN. Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit cachefly.com to learn more]**[Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wanna support the show? 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