If you’re currently an online coach or want to be, I bet it has something to do with wanting freedom, flexibility, and autonomy. Gone are the days of punching a clock, answering to someone else, or working for things you don’t believe in. You now have the power to create your own schedule, do work that matters, and change the world! There’s just one caveat: with this newfound freedom comes great responsibility.
Being an entrepreneur and online coach has its advantages and challenges. One of its greatest benefits—flexibility—is a double-edged sword. Working when and where you want is liberating but can also lead to a lack of productivity. Without a good framework, you can easily fall into the trap of working more than ever but with less effectiveness.
It is important to identify the difference between being busy and being productive. Today it’s a badge of honor to be busy. The real goal, however, should be productivity, because I’m sure you became an online coach not only to help your clients and but also to have more time to live the life you want.
If you feel like you’ve been riding the hamster wheel by being busy rather than productive, I’m going to share with you some tools I’ve learned over the years to keep you on track and be more efficient with your time. You’ll soon find that having a structure in place will leave you with more time and energy to grow your business and enjoy the rest of your life.
1) Book yourself to book yourself
Discipline equals freedom. While at first, structure may seem suffocating, I promise it enables you to find more time to do the things you love while enjoying more energy to pour into your work.
The first step in this process is to schedule an hour on your calendar each week for the sole purpose of planning out each day of that week. Write the schedule down on paper or enter it into your online calendar. Planning out every single day of the week will empower you to dive directly into your work each day.
Get as detailed as possible by including what time you wake up, write your programming, coach in person, take client phone calls, plan out your marketing, etc. Schedule both work and play activities, including time with friends and getting in a workout.
I know what you’re thinking. This does not sound like freedom. Well, here’s the deal: By having a plan and setting a schedule, you eliminate distractions and prevent “to-do list” overload, which in the past has meant getting very little, if anything, done, or done well.
2) Schedule your time off first
Now that you’re on board with picking an hour each week to set your schedule, let’s talk about how to schedule your time. First, you’re going to schedule your “play” time. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out. You’re going to prioritize all the things that “fill your cup”—that bring enjoyment and are in alignment with your life goals.
This includes everything from working out, social activities, date nights, going for a hike, or any other hobbies you enjoy. As an entrepreneur, I’m sure you’re a determined and hard worker. This usually translates into always getting your work done even if that means losing sleep or working weekends. If you schedule your “fun” activities last, there’s a good chance you’ll never get to them.
Such activities are important because they give you energy and prevent burnout. This is why you became an online coach in the first place! By taking time to focus on yourself, you can be more present and effective when helping your clients. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
3) Batching and blocking
Once you have your free time scheduled, fill in the week with what’s important for your business. Consider what time you want to start working, how long you want to work each day, and what time you want to stop working. Having these parameters will create rhythm and consistency in your life. Deadlines actually give you more freedom and prevent you from burning the midnight oil.
Now here’s the secret sauce that has increased my productivity tenfold: “batching.” When it comes to scheduling, you want to “batch” similar items together to stay on task and get focused. Recognize all the things you need to do each day, such as checking in with clients, responding to email, working on marketing, programming, or coaching in person. Once you have that list, schedule blocks of time based on each category.
For example, when it comes to programming, you could create a two-hour block of time in which programming is the only thing you’ll do. At first, two hours may seem like a long time, and fatigue may kick in; however, it will allow you to be more productive. Your mind will be focused on the single task of programming, thus guaranteeing you get it done and done well.
If you’re like me, you may think that bouncing from task to task (“multitasking”) keeps you fresh and makes things interesting. The problem is that it can take up to 30 minutes to get into a new task any time you switch from one to another. If you program for one athlete, then decide to write a post for social media, program for another athlete, check your email, then go over your books, that’s two hours of potential time wasted by working in fits and starts and failing to get any one task done completely!
By batching, you can knock out programming for all clients in half the time it would otherwise take you.
Instead of checking email all day long and getting distracted, pick one or two times a day that you will sit down and respond to everyone. Batch your in-person clients or calls by scheduling them in sequence. If you schedule four hours for coaching clients or calls at one time, you’ll kill all that inefficient, wasted time spreading out clients here and there throughout the day.
True focus comes hours into an activity. And you can train your attention with practice. If this is new to you, start with an hour of time and build as this new focus becomes more natural.
4) Pay attention to your energy
Once you get a schedule down, it’s time to start paying attention to your energy. Differentiate between tasks that require the most energy and ones that are easier to accomplish. This is important when scheduling your day and the time of day in which to take on each item.
If program design is the most rigorous part of your work, requiring a lot of your concentration, then schedule this earlier in the day when you’re fresh and have the attention to create. Leave minuscule tasks that don’t require as much energy, like checking email, for later in the day.
You can also spread out those tasks that require more energy to different days of the week. One day may be spent only on programming, while another day is spent creating new content for your website or building out systems.
Also consider what things give you energy. If interacting with clients fills you up, then consider scheduling client calls or in-person coaching later in the day, knowing it will leave you finishing the day feeling refreshed.
Ultimately, this will lead you to getting more done in less time, and it will feel like less work.
5) Putting it into practice
We have now created a plan and structure that increases productivity, leaves you more energized, and gives you time to live the life you always imagined. This will allow you to let your work be your work and your play be your play. The final step is to implement the plan and stay present.
When it comes to getting the actual work done, first plan out things like food, coffee, water, etc., so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing to get them. Early on I loved the idea of working from coffee shops; however, time can easily get wasted waiting in lines, driving to and from, or having to leave because you get hungry (and don’t want to indulge in the coffee shop fare).
Put your phone on silent and remove any other distractions that might prevent you from doing your work. If you’ve scheduled two hours to update your website, then only work on the website at that time. Once that block of time is up and the task at hand is completed, you can allow yourself a break before the next task (which should always be part of your original schedule!).
Keep a pen and notepad nearby. Even though you’re going to focus on one task at a time, you may have that next best idea to improve your business. Rather than stopping entirely to work on that idea, just write it down and revisit it later.
Set some nonnegotiable boundaries and get accountability. It’s likely you’re going through this process alone, so it can be a great help to tell friends or family of your plans. Have them hold you accountable, at least early on in this new work process, by reviewing your schedule and how closely you followed it.
Finally, it’s important to realize that this is all highly individualized. Test out these principles and see what works best for you. These tools are a guide, and ultimately you get to choose the best way to use them that fits your personality, lifestyle, and career/life goals.