Believe it or not, the Sara(h)s work completely differently. And that works for us!
We have both worked dilligently to find a strong work-life balance; stay on top of everything while “working from home” – especially now that we have been in different cities for about a year AND expanding across the US; and, while we do have some overlapping strengths, we make sure that each of us takes care of tasks that’s within our individual skillsets.
If you are anything like us, your day-to-day life can be quite chaotic. Staying focused is crucial to getting everything done in a timely manner. Some of the techniques that have worked for us may not be for everyone, but we thought we’d share in hopes of inspiring others as we dive into 2017!
Making lists, Prioritizing
One of the most important things that we do throughout the day is make lists. It may sound a little rudimentary, but trust us, it works!
We are constantly creating and updating a variety of lists of day-to-day tasks, reoccurring tasks, and high (or low) priority tasks. This helps us stay focused because we know what needs to be done, who is doing what, and about how long each task will take.
Because we need to be up-to-date on our schedules, we have a shared online calendar that includes District Bliss, our individual businesses, and our personal lives (because, yes, we have those). We also each keep a written calendar with both a monthly and daily view that allows each of us to write a to-do list alongside each day’s schedule. We prefer the Day Designer by Whitney English (you can try it for free here), but we’ve heard great things about other day planners, too!
At the end of the day, we list the items that we didn’t get to during the day and re-prioritize the tasks. This is the beginning of our lists for the following day. Repeat for the beginning/end of each week. We’ve found this helps us rest easier after the work day is over and take some time “off” during the weekend; knowing we have already acknowledged what needs to be worked on at the beginning of the next work day keeps us from mentally making lists throughout the rest of the night or stressing out about the upcoming week.
Finding your routine
We each do this very differently. Sarah gets up early to eat and enjoy her coffee, take care of the dogs, and exercise. Then, she sits down and starts her to-do list.
Sara wakes up later, makes coffee and sits at the breakfast bar to answer emails before beginning her to-do list.
At the end of the day, Sarah closes up shop earlier than Sara. During the time period where one of us is not working, the other makes a list of updates and to-do items as needed. That way, we make sure that not only are we staying organized ourselves, but we’re helping the other one to stay on top of everything at the same time.
Finishing one item on your to-do list before moving on to another
Sarah is great at this. Sara is not the best. Unfortunately, some of the jobs Sara is responsible for are drop-everything items, like the website; if there’s an issue with the website, Sara needs to stop what she’s doing and fix that before continuing with anything else. That can often throw a wrench in the system for Sara and slow things down (sometimes a lot). When that’s part of the job, it’s important to note where the stopping point in the current task is and pick back up at the same place as soon as the “emergency” item is completed. Otherwise, it is VERY easy to get derailed.
Having a designated work space
This is very important for Sara, but slightly less important for Sarah. Either way, we both live in city apartments. Needless to say, we’re not exactly “flush” when it comes to space.
Sara starts the day at the breakfast bar. As soon as her emails are complete, she moves to her home office and remains there until lunch time. With Eatel Business tools and phone solutions, it’s easy for Sara to stay connected and available for contact throughout the day, wherever she happens to be. Home offices are usually places where one can escape the usual distractions of home life in order to get on with some hard work. This is made easier when they are furnished with office essentials like those found at OfficeMonster.co.uk which help to differentiate workspaces from home spaces. She eats lunch in the kitchen, leaving her computer in the office, and then either returns to her office or uses her dedicated workspace in the kitchen for the rest of the day.
Sarah has a desk or works in the family room. She also works in various coffee shops and cafes around the city. Her routine is much less dependent on where she is and more connected to her to-do list. She’s able to stay focused and accomplish what she needs to regardless of where she’s sitting. Wherever you choose to work, you need to make sure that it is a clear working space without the distraction of clutter or mess. One way to avoid clutter is to digitize your files. I’m not really sure what kind of businesses still operate off paper alone nowadays when software is readily available that assists your business in going paperless (http://www.filecenterdms.com). Going paperless is not only eco-friendly, but it also helps efficiency and helps keep your work area clear.
One of the reasons that this works for each of us is the specific roles within our business. Unless something totally crazy happens, Sarah can move down her list task by task. Sara often has unexpected items come up that require immediate attention, so the location and designated spaces are directly tied to her routine and make her feel like she has a little bit of control over the everyday chaos.
Another great thing we have noticed that helps is eating right – and trying to avoid snacking when we’re bored or just need a mental break! We both love oatmeal, fruit smoothies, and fresh squeezed juices. When we really feel like we need a snack, we try to grab something like a few almonds so we’re getting protein and energy.
Scheduling time during the day to exercise
Sarah loves strength training and pilates, while Sara loves yoga. Not only do we feel healthier, but exercising helps us to clear our minds, reset, and have “me time” which energizes our brains for the rest of the day.
Sarah’s a morning workout gal, while Sara likes to use that 2:30pm time period as a mental break.
Whatever your schedule, being consistent helps with the whole “routine” aspect of the work day.
Knowing your “stress schedule” and adapting
There are times of the year, month, week where we know that we will be more stressed out. For example, if we have a period of time where we have a lot of bookings or a ton of events (because those things tend to happen all at once at two totally different times), we know that we are both going to be pretty stressed out. And this is not a good feeling to have. Sometimes these stressful emotions have the ability to take over our lives; making it harder to focus on the tasks at hand. I’m sure at one point or another, we’ve both considered taking some form of cannabis that can help with stress and inhaling them through some of the different products that are on fat buddha Glass, or somewhere similar. Even though we haven’t done this ourselves just yet, it sure has crossed our minds when we’ve been completely consumed by stress.
There are also times of the year when we know that the other person will be stressed out or just generally more busy. For example, Sarah’s wedding anniversary, birthday, and Thanksgiving are pretty much back-to-back. Sara’s birthday is smack-dab in the middle of Christmas and New Years. We anticipate these times and make sure to pick up any slack because we respect eachother’s time and we want the other person to acheive the best work-life balance possible.
Find a way to “finish” your work day
This is another spot where we are completely different.
The last thing Sarah does to finish her work day, which is generally in the early evening, is organize and clean her workspace. It is critical for her to feel mentally organized; if her office is a mess, her brain is all over the place when she’s trying to sleep. Without getting a goodnight’s sleep, no one wakes up feeling refreshed and ready to work.
Once she has cleaned up her space and organized for the next day, she’s able to take the rest of the evening to relax and enjoy time with her friends, husband, and pups.
Sara lives in a bit of organized chaos. Since she works later into the evening, she ends her day with a shower, a glass of wine, or a cup of tea. Sometimes she’ll bring her laptop over to the breakfast bar and chat with her husband while he makes a late dinner. (Fun fact: neither Sara(h) cooks! lol)
Sara likes to end her day with something creative, so she’ll generally identify whatever her most creative task is – even if it’s just making a simple graphic – and move that to the end of the day. Because Sara is an artist to the core, that makes her feel rejuvenated and successful before closing up shop.