Raking it in without
breaking your soul

👯‍♀️ Calendar + To Do List 👯‍♀️

This is simple math but incredibly hard to pull off: your calendar and your to do list have to equal each other. They have to walk in the same step. Be a symbiotic pair.

If your to do list for Wednesday looks like this:

Write a blog post
Develop proposal for ERC
Prep the workshop for VGB
Develop draft #1 of GF dashboard
Send 2 month check in email to LP
Plan next week’s social media posts
Revise the visuals for NYS workshop
Follow up with JB about potential gig
Meet with developers to review decision tree

But your Wednesday calendar looks like this:

That math ain’t mathin. More than half the to do list doesn’t have a space in the calendar where it’ll actually get done. The calendar, likewise, has no breathing room for handling the miscellanea of running a business.

So, what happens?

People cut the yoga and meditation time.
Skip the gym.
Forego the family time.
Sit back down at the computer after 8:30pm and knock out a few more hours.
Scrimp sleep and all the things that keep your mental health in check.

You can only do that for so long before you burn out.

You’ll know it’s getting bad when you get that dread in your stomach pit about a half hour after you wake up.

Or when you wake up at 3am thinking about all the things you have to do.

You work weekends (or, since you can work whenever you want, you’re working when you don’t actually want to be).

You get mad at the project manager for doing her job because she’s assigning you tasks in Asana.

The little dictator on your shoulder is both pressuring you and panicking at the same time.

At least, this is how I know burnout is at my doorstep. What are your signs? Email me.

If you’re having any of these experiences, it’s a warning light from Burnout Beacon. And the first place to look for the fix is the matchup between your calendar and your to do list.

My burnout prevention routine: On a Friday, open the calendar and to do list.

Look at the to do list and rearrange or regroup similar tasks. Like, if I need to follow up with potential clients and check in with past clients and send warm up emails for upcoming workshop participants, those are all inbox activities. So I group them together into the same day with my to do list.

I’m batching the to do list.

Then I look ahead at the coming week and put blocks in the calendar (even as small as 15 minutes, so long as that’s realistic) for everything on my to do list, starting with the most urgent activities.

Whatever remains on the to do list gets rescheduled to the following week.

In theory, this means I don’t ever get that crushing panic because I know there’s time allotted for me to deal with everything I need to do. It may still feel like a lot, but I know I have the space to handle it all.

If, after a few weeks, I notice that I’m rescheduling the same activities again and again, that’s my sign that I simply don’t have the time to do everything I’d like to do right now. I’ve probably taken on more than five projects.

I move those perpetually rescheduled activities off my to do list (seeing them turn red invites guilt) and onto a post it note titled with a future month. I can do it. Later.

If I were really good at time management, I wouldn’t be waiting until Friday to look at next week’s schedule. At that point, it’s almost too late, you know? Sometimes I’ve just overcommitted myself.

Proper time management would probably plan a quarter in advance. (Is this what Lean Six Sigmas do? I’ve never really known.)

But the reality is you can’t schedule that far ahead, even if you have current projects that will run that time. Clients are late. You need a sick day. Life happens.

So it isn’t helpful or wise to pop “plan next week’s social media posts” into a 3pm on a Thursday three months from now. Having to move it, because life came up, will be annoying.

There’s a sweet spot between overplanning and acting like your to do list and your calendar have never met.

Get them better acquainted and let me know how it goes.

Small Projects are a PITA

Sarah posted in our group chat “Ok, I have to admit, I underestimated the budget for this project. They didn’t have many funds and the scope was reasonable… but the admin! I’m spending almost as much time doing admin tasks as I am actually working on the project.”

Yes, my dear Sarah. This is why small projects are a PITA (one of the only acronyms you actually need to know).

I’m not saying you should never take a small project, so don’t hit reply and email me in all caps just yet. 

Small projects are often the ones that steal your heart.

They’re that local non-profit that you’ve always loved. They’re the scrappy folks, just like you. 

You’re in solidarity. So you say yes. 

Then you engage in the same tasks you have to do for any project, no matter the size, aka, the administrivia.

Administrivia is all the little stuff that isn’t directly about providing the actual service.


The contracting.

Plan development.

Client hand-holding.

Filling out the time sheet.

Sending updates each week.

Getting into the vendor system.

Scanning receipts for reimbursement.

I’m allergic to administrivia. 

And the thing is – it’s essentially the same for all-sized projects. Which means when the project is small, you spend a ton of time, relatively speaking, on the administrivia.

That’s usually the stuff we don’t account for when we’re looking at our calendar and thinking “yeah, I can take on that small project.” 

The extra bonus sucky part about administrivia is that it isn’t the stuff that lights us up. Our hearts glow when we’re actually working directly with the client, not when we’re chasing down payment on the overdue invoice. 

When we spend hours each week on administrivia tasks that we don’t love, we feed the resentment monster and put out the welcome mat for burnout.  

I got an email from someone in response to my 5 Projects advice, saying she is *happy* to have 15 small projects at once.

I’m definitely not trying to call anyone out, so I won’t share any further details. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the tone of the email was like this: 

Her burnout was evident. Even if she truly loved each of her 15 projects.

Let’s say you’ve got 15 small projects right now and you need to find a way to reduce the effort while still fulfilling your scope with the quality you’re known for. Here’s what you can do.

Cut down administrivia.

  • Reduce paperwork, like charge a flat fee instead of getting reimbursed and having to scan and email receipts.
  • Be honest “The size of the budget for this project doesn’t allow for x. If you need that level of administrative oversight, we’d need to find more funding.” And sometimes they will! But often they’ll say “Ok no prob.”

Consolidate efforts.

  • Is there a way you could turn this into a group thing? Like if you have several small projects and they all need a meeting about why you collect survey data in a specific way, can you get them all on the phone at the same time? If they all need a monthly update, can you schedule one 1-hour Zoom and assign each person a 15-minute slot? Can you negotiate to ditch the monthly update altogether? (After all, it’s easy to argue that a monthly update is administrivia.)
  • Use this as an opportunity to build some systems. Are you writing the same messages over and over? What can you begin to copy/paste? Are you going for a 45-minute walk to psych yourself up for writing those emails asking when to expect payment on the invoice? Batch invoicing – write those emails all in one sitting.

Shoot bigger.

  • Start talks about phase 2 or contract extensions right now. Maybe you can turn this into a bigger package.
  • Seek out the funders, who can support your technical assistance for lots of their small grantees, but under one funding umbrella.
  • Aim for 1-2 big projects to replace a few small projects. That way you aren’t completely ditching your tried-and-true bread-and-butter. But you’ll get a better balance. I promise, you’ll find heart-stealing projects that are bigger, too.

What else could you do to cut down on administrivia and make small projects more viable? Any ideas? What’s your least favorite administrivia task? Email me. 

It can feel scary to level up your game and start going after bigger clients. Can seem like you’ll lose your soul if you do. In Boost & Bloom, I’ll teach you how to grow with your soul intact. Enrollment opens February 1. I’ll open the doors early for people on the VIP list – and give ya a discount. Get on the VIP list here.