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.

40 Hours. Every Week?

Hey, quick question:

How the hell do people work 40 hours in a week?

Every week?

As I write this, I’ve just come from two entire weeks in Columbus Ohio, where I led a data viz workshop every single day.

I left my rental apartment at 8am and got back at 4:30pm. This is an 8.5 hour day, with a whole one-hour lunch in the middle.

So that’s 42.5 hours per week at their office. (You know I was bringing multiberry muffins to the security guard by the end of my second week.)

About 10 days into this experience, I was texting friends with the same question I’m asking you:

How the hell do people do this?

In order to be out the door by 8am, I was getting up at 6.

Taking 20 minutes to stretch, foregoing my usual yoga routine and meditation time, but just doing the basic maintenance all my freakin physical therapists tell me I have to do before my body parts fall off.

Making coffee and brekkie and packing lunch. Taking the supplements and drinking the green powder. Cleaning up the kitchen.

Putting on all the makeup and doing all the hair (aka getting on the Hot Girl Hamster Wheel, as it’s called on The Money with Katie Show).

And hustling down High St.

By the time I got back to the apartment at 4:30pm, I was famished, so I dove into dinner prep.

Running to the grocery store.

Spending perhaps an hour over the whole day connecting with friends and family.

Hitting up taekwondo twice a week.

Laundering and vacuuming.

Showering and grooming.

Sleeping 8 hours.

Totally unable to keep up with all the other emails in my inbox.

Entirely forgetting that I’m supposed to be researching a new car because the mechanic said mine could catch on fire.

Definitely not following up with the contractor on the bathroom repairs.

Barely noticing all these other Life Things that are just on hold for two weeks while I tread water, until I get back home to my way-less-than-40-hour schedule.

And that’s without having to raise small children or care for elders or even take a dog for a walk.

Come to think of it, the only time of my life when I was able to put in 40 hour weeks was when I was a young adult with no family or responsibilities.

Beyond that time, I think we all have to sacrifice something to keep afloat in a 40-hour work week world. We skimp on sleep.
We grab convenience foods and jeopardize our health because there’s literally no time to eat fresh.
We don’t have hobbies.
We skip exercise.
We don’t nurture our friendships.
We get sick a lot.

Something gives, because something’s gotta give.

I don’t see a way to live a healthy life and also work 40 hours a week. The math aint mathin.

Unless, of course, you have a partner who can manage your household and get your groceries and cook your meals and nurture your social relations. Unless, that is, you have a traditional wife.

Which were exactly the circumstances under which we got to a 40-hour work week. Our elders unionized to get working conditions DOWN to 40 hours. And that was a plausible scenario when people primarily lived in hetero households (even as they did whatever they wanted elsewhere) in which the husband worked and the wife did every fucking other thing under the sun.

In these modern times, a 40-hour work week simply isn’t sustainable.

We don’t need more articles teaching us about batch cooking.

We don’t need another podcast extoling the virtues of a treadmill desk.

Enough with the efficiency hacks showing us how to shoehorn even more around and within and in addition to the 40-hour work week.

We actually need some of that time back.

At Evergreen Data, a typical work week is 26-30 hours and that’s plenty.

40 hours is an outdated construct meant for a different society than the one we live in today.

Reason #4,325 why you need to start your own business. You set your schedule.

Then you go live your life.

Batch, Please

Working from home has so many upsides: a 30-second commute, a dress code that includes slippers, and free cat pets all day long.

Working from home also has a major downside: Interruptions.

UPS ringing the bell with another delivery. My partner telling me he’s going out. Even good interruptions like a delicious hug from my teen before he goes to school and that purring cat finding a home on my lap – still interruptions.

When our brains have to switch gears, even momentarily, it takes us a ton of time to get back on track – like 25 minutes to refocus and get back in the groove. For every distraction.

This article from the American Psychological Association says we lose 40% of our productivity when we task switch.

There’s a switch cost.

While I’m tempted to put a KEEP OUT sign on my office door, I have to admit that it’s me. Hi. I’m the problem. It’s me.

Like, just now, in real time as I’m writing this to you, I stopped writing after “It’s me” and sang a little Taylor Swift in my head, checked my email, picked up my phone, read a story about how China says it successfully cloned 3 highly productive super cows, and then stared at the keyboard for a while. Why? I even knew what I wanted to write next.

I think I’m not alone.

We’re all highly distractable.

Our brains are delicate little things. If they start to get overwhelmed, they check out. Our sweet lil brains are actually trying to protect us by being so weak. We can’t totally eliminate this issue. But on the other hand, I don’t really have 25 spare minutes to give up for every distraction in my day.

Our weak brains are why multitasking doesn’t really work. If I’m cleaning my desk while “watching” a webinar, I’m not going to pick up most of what the speaker is saying. Even if I believe I’m listening, as in, I could repeat back their last few words, those words don’t have a chance to land in my heart and resonate. Because I’m divided.

Single-tasking, or monotasking, is always more effective. It’s that seemingly contradictory notion that you have to slow down to make progress. One thing at a time, done well, is more productive and effective than two things you half-ass.

Even though Taylor Swift is still running around in the back of my brain somewhere.

The way to make single-tasking really work for you:


Batching means you collect all the very closely related tasks and do them in the same span of time. A single-tasking streak.

Let’s take every entrepreneur’s favorite job: Chasing down clients who owe you money.

Step One: Psych yourself up to address this. That’ll take an hour and a latte run.

Step Two: Open your computer, get into your invoicing program, and locate the unpaid invoices and the date you sent them.

Step Three: Dig through your emails to find the last time you communicated with that client.

Step Four: Write an email that perfectly balances humor and professionalism while thinking to yourself “eff you, pay me.”

Step Five: Reread it five times. Remove some exclamation points.

Step Six: Hit send.

Ok so if you chase one invoice per day, girl that’s your whole morning.

But if you batch your invoice-chasing all in one sitting, you at least don’t have to repeat the costly steps one and two over and over. The time it takes to write the second email will be a fraction of the first because you already did all the hard work (and who am I kidding, I know you’re gonna copy/paste).

I block my batches in my calendar.

Today, for example, is blog writing day. I’m in the zone and I stay here, just writing love letters to you. I don’t have to re-get in the zone for each new post.

Big Boss Time is when I have to make hard policy decisions, write difficult emails, and fire clients.

Follow Up Hour is when I reply to all the folks who contacted me looking for workshops.

Video Day happens because I want to get into full hair and makeup as infrequently as possible.

My brain feels less stressed and more streamlined when I batch my work. Batching reduces the switch cost.

What could you be batching? Give your batch time a fun name and then email it to me.