Do you crave a day-to-day routine you can follow to keep everything moving along in your business? A plan that you can consistently follow so that you know what to expect and where your time will be spent?
Maybe you’ve even tried creating a regular schedule for yourself, but then feel totally defeated when your plan goes up in flames because something “popped up” that threw everything else off. Does this sound familiar or is Nicole the only one? 🙂
In this episode, Nicole dives into why creating routines are so challenging for business owners and shares easy tips to start creating the structure that you crave. If you want to create a personalized routine that works for you no matter what season of life you’re in, you’ll definitely want to tune into this episode!
Hey everyone. Nicole here and welcome back to the show. Today we are talking about creating routines and why they can be helpful and also talk about why it can feel really frustrating to create a routine. Because if you are like me, and a lot of people I’ve been talking to, you may find that you go and have every intention of creating a routine and following it, and then a few days in it just totally gets turned upside down.
And I think that’s something that we are all facing on different levels because of business changes, because of life changes, because of just the way that the world is working right now. There’s a lot going on.
And it’s hilarious because I sat down this morning to take a look at the podcast episodes that I was planning to record today. And when I looked at this one, I just laughed because literally this morning, my husband and I were planning to do a family photo shoot. We had our outfits picked out. We had everything ready to go. And last night my son, who’s 19 months old, was up probably every two hours. I was exhausted. I woke up just not feeling great. My husband woke up and was looking at the weather and it was really cold outside and we were supposed to do this photo shoot outside. And he says to me, “is there a reason why we are doing this in the morning?” And, I felt so overwhelmed, and just totally thrown off because I had done all of this preparation to find a photographer, to get our act together, and of course the morning of was just a total disaster. There was frost on the ground. And so ultimately we decided to cancel, but it just opened up this conversation for us personally on how we could establish more of a routine in our lives while also accommodating the things that are outside of our control.
And this happens in personal life, it happens in business, and oftentimes they are tied together because we are human. And if we’re up at night not sleeping or something gets thrown off in our household schedule that then impacts our work. A lot of people are working from home right now. A lot of the clients that I have always worked remotely, mostly online, and so this is something that I think everyone is constantly navigating.
So I wanted to start off by that story because, it’s really shaped this conversation for me. This has been a topic that’s come up with clients in the past, and I think what we need to do here is really understand what is it that we are craving when we say that we would like to have a routine? And potentially redefine what a routine looks like for us.
So when you look up the definition a routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed and it’s funny talking about personal life. When I think of the word routine, I think of a bedtime routine because I have a 19 month old and when I hear the word routine, I just think of how it, how I’ve been told so many times that it’s important to have a bedtime routine. And that it’s important for the bedtime routine to be flexible because you’re not always going to be in the same environment or have the same circumstances or situations happen every day that’s going to allow you to have a perfectly scheduled bedtime, but it is still really important. So, what I’ve come to find out is that sometimes the bedtime routine is 30 to 40 minutes long. Sometimes it’s five minutes long.
But the reason why the routine is important is because it starts to set up our bodies to remember that it’s time to sleep. And so this is especially true for babies. I think it’s true for adults too. I’ll be the first to admit not so great with the bedtime routine . However, if I can brush my teeth, I put lotion on my face that I put on every night and every morning there’s a really nice smell to it and it just like, makes me feel a bit more relaxed. So maybe I do have a bit of a routine. There are some nights that I spend watching TV way too late because that’s just what life sometimes is.
Okay, so let’s talk, let’s bring this back to business.
Why are routines important? So with routines when we perform behaviors over and over again that is how we create habits. And with the right habits, we are able to make progress, we’re able to see change, we’re able to improve, we’re able to grow and develop. We’re able to just get things done and we’re able to fulfill our business needs, we’re able to show up for our team and our clients.
It sometimes having a routine produces the feeling of, being more on top of things, being more organized. There’s things that are there’s a control aspect to it, and, I think one of the things that’s important to consider as you are establishing a routine is what season of business or life are you in right now?
And we just actually spoke about this on my last call for my AGENCY program where there are a few members inside of the program that are in a growth season right now after being in a maintenance season for several months. So let me explain the differences.
For example, a maintenance season may be that you have 10 clients and you serve those 10 clients in a standard retainer package for 12 months.
A growth season may be where you have the 10 clients and you’re also onboarding. Five more clients, right? So not only do you have to continue to maintain the counts that you already have, you also have to onboard and then accommodate this additional, these additional clients. And oftentimes the first few months of working with a client, or at least the initial kickoff is a lot more work because you are trying to gather the information, understand the client, understand their business and needs, so that then you can start going and fulfilling on a more regular basis.
So, I want you to think for yourself right now, am I in growth mode? Or am I in maintenance mode? Because that does make a difference when it comes to your routine.
I’m going to take this back to personal again. So we recently moved to a new home, a new state, and are settling down. Doesn’t feel like we’re settling or we have settled quite yet, but we’re starting to get there.
So this is what I would consider a growth mode personally, because there’s a lot of things that are happening that are outside of our normal routine. So when we were moving, we obviously had to pack, we had to get a moving truck, we had to hire people to load the moving truck.
We ended up buying a house, so there was a lot of things with that. We had some construction happening. There was a lot with that. And we were starting to figure out what support we needed here trying to find a babysitter for our son. Right. A lot of what I would call one time projects that took up a lot of time in addition to both my husband and I continuing to work and our child continuing to be taken care of, including our dog child, Scout. So trying to keep everything going. Make sure that we had food and meals and dinners and that the house was clean and laundry was done, but also trying to implement all of these other one time projects and it has felt really hard and difficult.
The same thing goes in business. So if you are at a point right now where you are taking on an influx of clients, then that is growth mode. So it is very likely that you are having to do some additional onboarding work. You may even be needing to hire more team members. You might even also need to be revisiting your Foundations of your business to make sure that your delivery processes work, that you’re offering still work, that your financials still work.
There is a lot of effort that goes into growth mode, which is why oftentimes when business owners are in growth mode, they get burnt out. It’s a lot of the business owners that I work with, and what I help them do is to really get their foundations in place, put in the team, and the management strategies and structures, and although we’ll keep having to work this system where you need to go back and you need to evaluate. Eventually, it is in more of a maintenance mode, even if you are doing what I call growth projects, which are internal projects to improve your operations so that you can move from being constantly in reactive mode to proactive mode. And as I say that, I’m realizing there is kind of a tie to the idea of routine, right?
When you’re constantly in reactive mode, it may feel like you can never really get ahead, right? And that’s what a lot of business owners crave is just being able to have that clarity and direction and focus to be able to get ahead in their business or not feel constantly behind.
Okay, so now that you’ve identified which mode you’re in. I want you to go into the next section of this podcast that I’m gonna be talking about, some tips for you to understand what it is that’s going on and how you might be able to make it feel more organized.
The first thing that I recommend doing is getting everything in one place. So what I mean by everything is everything that you need to get done. If you are in growth mode right now and you have one time projects that you need to implement, list out all of those projects and list out everything that requires ongoing maintenance.
What are your day to day deliverables that you have regardless of whether or not your business is growing? List those out in a piece of paper. So for example, let’s say you are onboarding a new team member that’s going to be helping you with strategy and you’ve never had someone help you with strategy before. A one time project might be creating your standard operating procedure that contains your personal intellectual property on how you support your clients with strategy, which can be very difficult for business owners to do. And so this is going to take more brain power, right?
If you are, already operating and maybe more in maintenance mode. Then a project that you might have maybe updating your standard operating procedures, but you’re not creating like brand new, never before done things. So that’s the difference. So write out, what are these one time projects and then what are the ongoing maintenance pieces of it?
The next option that I have for you is to debrief. Debrief with yourself. Take a look at everything and see what’s working and what’s not working for me right now. Okay.
For example, it could be that you are getting emails from team at 6:00 PM and maybe 6:00 PM is when you typically sign off and you’re getting information from your team. And then you are, just constantly thinking all night about these projects that you’re implementing, that you are not able to really sleep or unwind to be able to be present for the next day for you to actually implement some of these things.
Or maybe you’re working at night and in the morning and in the middle of the day and it just feels like you never stop working. It may be that you just literally have too much to do. That you cannot do everything that you’ve written down. Okay, so what’s working? What’s not working? Really identify what that is.
And then I would also advise coming up with creative solutions, and this can be really challenging when you are in the thick of it. I know this personally and also professionally.
This is when it’s a great opportunity to surround yourself with other agency owners that are going through some of the similar challenges or maybe have gone through the similar challenges that you have.
So this is something that we always bring to calls inside of AGENCY so that we can really mastermind and brainstorm together so that you’re able to think outside of the box and not only by getting some examples of what other people have done, but by working with some other minds to say, “Okay, how do I get this done and also not burn myself out. What are some things that maybe I need to delete off of this list? What are some of the things I might need to delegate off of this list? What are some things that just need to be delayed because they’re not a priority?”
So really getting strategic and being able to come up with creative solutions is very important. It’s something that you can do by yourself. It’s totally possible. I usually recommend getting outside of your typical environment. Even if it’s just something as simple as going to a coffee shop and grabbing a coffee or a tea, and just sitting down with yourself or with a journal and just brainstorming or going for a walk.
This can just be ways that you can start to get outside of your regular environment so that you can start thinking outside of what you would normally come up with. And oftentimes I have found that agency owners are doers. It’s like, “I can just take it on. I’ll just get it done. Just put it on my list. I’ll check it off the list.” This is very common.
So what we want to start, as you shift into being the CEO of your business, we want you to start becoming better at forming creative solutions. And so how do we create a win-win for everyone? That’s something that I want you to have at the top of your mind.
So other things. Prioritize. We talked a little bit about that and find ways to protect your time. So it may be saying no to obligations. It may be saying no to some of the tasks on your list. It may be saying no to a client who’s coming to you and asking you know, your team to do additional work that you just know that you’re not able to fulfill. It could be setting up better boundaries in the future for for the work that you do.
So I would also take a look at your calendar when it comes to protecting your time and thinking about what is it that I need to rearrange. For some clients, they have set some boundaries around when they take client calls. So they used to take client calls any day of the week, and then they decided to only make two days of the week available.
I’ve had some clients who have decided that on Fridays they’re only going to do internal projects. They’re not going to really be available to team. They’re not going to be answering questions. And that’s their time. And then they set up their business to work in that way.
I want to be very clear. I’m not saying just disappear from your business, especially if your business isn’t built to have you be away for a day. But focus on setting up those systems so that you can be, and maybe it’s just an hour in the morning, maybe it’s two hours in the morning, maybe it’s an hour or two at night. Experiment with some of these things to see what works best for you.
So what’s interesting is once you create and start experimenting with some of these rules, for example, protecting your calendar, having certain buckets of time for things, figuring out and experimenting with what doesn’t fit.
So I challenged an AGENCY client to do this, where she had said that one of her goals was to sign off at 5:00 PM at the end of the day. And after learning a bit more about her business and understanding the obligations, what I said is, “Well, why don’t you start implementing this now? And if something keeps you working past 5:00 PM, document it, write it down, see what it is, so that we can figure out how to better rearrange your schedule to make it work in the future.”
And what was fascinating is that she started implementing this and it was really just setting the boundary for herself. She was almost immediately able to stop working at 5:00 PM at night and still get everything done. There were a few times where things went over and she realized she needed to hire in some support, but it actually was a lot easier than she thought it was.
So as you start implementing some of these rules and boundaries, see: is this just as simple as me being more structured and me having the boundary and focusing, or are there other things that need to be set up inside of my business to make this possible?
So again, I’m not saying just disregard all of your responsibilities, but start tracking it. Start experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t work. You may have to come up with some alternative solutions, like, Well, what’s the solution? Do you actually need to open up another day or do you need to remove yourself from some calls?
Is it really necessary for you to be on all of those calls? Maybe you need to hire someone. Maybe you just need to find an alternative solution. Maybe nobody needs those extra calls. I have had clients before that have decreased the amount of calls that they’ve had with their clients, and it’s actually worked better for both the client and the company.
It’s not always the case. I don’t just tell people that they need to remove calls from their calendars and that their clients will handle it and deal with it, right? We wanna make sure that the delivery process that you’ve set up supports your clients without that call, but sometimes the solution is as easy as that.
I’ve had other business owners who have leadership teams and implementers inside of those teams, and they’ve tried to experiment with different call times, and they’ve found that a lot of the meetings that they were having, it was better to have the check-ins on Slack then an actual call. They didn’t get rid of all of the calls, but they got rid of some of them and it actually, she checked in with the team and it worked better for everyone. So really starting to think outside of the box to find an alternative solution. Maybe you need to raise your rates. Again, not always just blanket advice, but it might be a signal that something needs to be looked at and examined.
So that’s what I want you to take a look at when it comes to creating this routine, when it comes to figuring out a schedule for yourself. Again, what season of business are you in? Extreme growth, maintenance mode, and really be aware of that. There are going to be times where you need to work more in your business than others.
If you know that you’re working more on one time projects or going to give you that time back in the future. I think that’s a really great investment of your time. If you are just trying to do way too much all of the time for everyone at all hours, then that’s where we want to play around with– what are some things that you need to change so that it works better for you.
And the last thing I want to mention is sometimes we just need to think really small. So like the bedtime routine. Maybe not every night my kid’s not going to get the bath with the lotion and, three books and, I don’t know, whatever else we do together. Maybe there’s gonna be some nights where we do a dinner on the road, we come home, we don’t take a bath, we do a wet washcloth, we do one book or a short book or whatever he has the attention span for these days and then we put him to bed and it’s a few minutes, right?
The same goes for you. Maybe you are you’re not gonna be able to do the perfect routine that you laid out for yourself, but maybe you could just do one to two things.
Like I had mentioned, I, every night I just try and put on this lotion on my face, which just lets me feel like a little bit calm, like I’m ready to settle down for the night. So when it comes to your business, you can think about the same things.
If you decide that Mondays are for marketing and you have something pop up or a project pop up, a one time project that takes priority. Maybe instead of getting all of the marketing done that you had planned for that day, you get one thing done and then you focus in on the other priority. So think small because it’s really those small things that we’re able to implement that will really give us the biggest return over time, and that’s what we’re looking for.
So thank you for joining me today. I would love to know what are your thoughts on creating a routine, especially when things feel like they’re changing all of the time. You can send me a DM on Instagram. I’m @nicolejacksonmiller, and I would love to hear from you. I’ll see you next week!