How I Use Time-Blocking to Structure My Work Day

How I Use Time-Blocking to Structure My Work Day

Whether you work part-time or full-time, one job or four, in an office or at home, creating a structure for your work day is important to your productivity, creativity, and ultimately, how you feel about your work.

And for those of you who work for yourself and work from home (at least part of the time), boundaries become a necessary part of structuring your day.

Are you prone to burnout? 
Do you work until late at night, on the weekends, and even on vacation?
Do you struggle to follow-through on certain projects?
Do you lose motivation easily?

Setting a few boundaries, blocking your time, and figuring out what time of day you do your best work can help set you up for success each and every day.

Today, I’m walking you through my own process for structuring my work days.

Like many of you, I wear many hats during the week: church musician, worship planner, piano teacher, blogger, small business owner. Sometimes, it feels like I’m just keeping the plates spinning, not necessarily making any progress (how many of you can relate to that?).  

But, with the help of time-blocking and being intentional about how I use my working hours, I’m beginning to reap the rewards of a more focused, productive work-week.

The Secrets of Batching in Freelance Work

The Secrets of Batching in Freelance Work

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your to-do list? Ever have trouble knowing where to start? Do you feel like you spend your time flitting from one activity to the next just trying to get everything done and keep all those plates spinning? I feel you. Being a freelancer is tough work and the balancing act of working on many projects at once is no joke. The solution? Batching.

Described in the book, Getting Things Done, batching is a process of grouping like tasks together and doing them at the same time (source). Batching is great for emails, phone calls, social media, errands, paying bills, planning, cooking, cleaning, and much more.

Think about it: If you need to run to the Post Office, deposit a few checks at the bank, and pick up something quick at the grocery store, would you make three separate trips during the day, or try to run all three errands while you're out? If possible, it probably makes sense to try to get all your errands done in one trip. Similarly, if you're cooking dinner, would you start sautéing, then file a few loose receipts, then go check the mail? I hope not! When you're cooking, you chop, sauté, stir, serve, and eat, without stopping in the middle to change gears and do something else.

Want to know a few secrets? Here's why batching is the way to go:

Navigating the Home-Buying Process as a Freelancer: An Inside Look

Navigating the Home-Buying Process as a Freelancer: An Inside Look

Buying a home is a huge step in life, and though they make it look so simple on TV, it is no easy feat. Especially if you're a freelancer. Since SD and I are both freelancers, this meant our home-buying process was a little more complicated and drawn out than "normal." For those of you who are thinking about and planning for buying a home at some point, here is an inside look at our process, with a few helpful tips thrown in for good measure!

Gather Financial Documents

The first step in our mortgage application process was to pull together several documents:

- Tax returns (last two years)
- W-2s (last year)
- Pay stubs (current year)
- All bank statements
- checking, savings (last two months)
- Investment accounts
- Roth, IRAs (last quarter)

The Business of Music: 18 Helpful Resources

The Business of Music: 18 Helpful Resources

As any professional musician will tell you, a career in music is more than just artistry and performance; the business side of music is a crucial component of a successful career in the arts.

The business side of things may include managing gig contracts, paying estimated taxes, sending studio invoices, setting rates, sending emails, professional networking, and attending conferences.

Many professional musicians do more than one thing - performing, teaching, gigging, writing, etc. You are your own small business and tending to the things that keep your business running is an important part of building a successful career. You don't need a degree in business to manage everything I outlined above, but you should take steps to be informed.

There are lots of helpful books, articles, and blogs out there to help get you started. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

A few years ago, I wrote a "Day in the Life" post. Lots of things have changed since then, so I thought it might be nice to share an updated version with y'all. Come see what a typical day in my life looks like! My desk, in a corner of our cozy living room

9:05 a.m. - I carry my coffee (half espresso, half hot chocolate) to my desk in the living room and turn on my laptop. I check my email to make sure there's nothing urgent, but I don't normally respond to things right away. I prefer to take a little time in the morning to read (articles and a few of my favorite blogs) and check in on social media and our websites. After this, I respond to a few quick emails, proof my newsletter one last time in MailChimp, and schedule it to send.

How to Create Email Newsletters with MailChimp

How to Create Email Newsletters with MailChimp

How many times do you find yourself typing out a list of familiar email addresses so you can send a group email?

I do this all the time. Emails to my piano studio, our two bell choirs, students in my class, etc. 

Today, I'm excited to introduce you to MailChimp - an easy-to-use email marketing program that lets you design and send email newsletters.

MailChimp is a great way to organize email lists, create branded emails, and quickly and easily put together newsletters based on existing templates. With the free account you can send 12,000 emails a month to up to 2,000 subscribers. Whether you're a performer, a private teacher, a church musician, or a small business owner, MailChimp can help you send beautiful, professional (branded!) emails in no time.

A Girl with Many Hats

As a musician, teacher, director, self-starter, etc., etc., I wear many hats. While I am certainly grateful for so many opportunities to work in music, it can be challenging to juggle multiple to-do lists, lesson plans, and professional responsibilities in a given week.  One of my goals for 2012 is balance: setting boundaries, giving my full attention to one thing at a time, and handling the day-to-day craziness with grace.  I am still working on this (read: Have you met me?  I am the QUEEN of multi-tasking!)  What I’ve learned, however is that trying to manage everything all at once can be is overwhelming and leaves me feeling under-prepared and very unbalanced.

Taking things one at a time, focusing on the task before me, making effective decisions, and moving forward one step at a time (rather than getting carried away) leaves me feeling much more in control, balanced, and empowered to do great things.

On a weekly basis, I am a piano teacher, a choir director, an adjunct professor, a pianist and organist, an artistic director, and a web designer (my latest self-taught venture).  This is not a 9-5 job.  Each requires 100% of me – my time, my energy, my creativity, my attention.  Confession: It is impossible for me to be all of these things at once.

My days are far from cookie cutter – things will always come up that distract me and vie for my attention.  The key (I’m learning) is to segment my time the best I can and to make choices that prepare for and support success.  Success does not mean being superwoman and doing the work of 10 men four days a week.  Instead, success means achieving that equilibrium of balance, control, and accomplishment… and learning to wear one hat at a time.