This gives me a bird’s eye view of the week ahead and what needs to be completed.
When you’ve got a lot to do, and your energy is starting to wane, things can easily slip through the cracks.
The part that eludes many is that if they’d planned well, not only would they safeguard against forgetting important appointments, but they would also be able to make more time for meditation, rest, recreation, and sleep, which would ultimately make them more effective.
Yes, it sounds counterintuitive. Because planning feels like work. That’s because it is. But it’s an important work. Just like reading. And it helps you prioritize, create more time, and approach every week with a sense of peace and confidence.
I did not come up with the LifeSheet system. I first learned about it from James Schramko, who has a great training on it.
Schramko suggests setting up your LifeSheet within Google Drive, using Google Sheets, because of how searchable they are. This is my preference too.
I think it best to create a new LifeSheet every year and label them appropriately. This way, you can learn from each year past and avoid clutter.
Within Google Sheets, you can create tabs for anything you wish. I currently have tabs for Mission, Ideas, Concepts, Rules, Projects, Content Distribution, Post Ideas, Courses, and Medium Posts.
I could talk about each of these and share in detail what is stored in them. But suffice it to say, this is what has worked for me. And while I have taken certain ideas from Schramko, I have made my LifeSheet my own.
If you’re thinking about making your own, I would suggest doing the same. Customize your LifeSheet to serve you. That said, I’ll still offer some ideas and tips on how you can use your LifeSheet to stay organized. You can:
I have been using the same, physical, desktop calendar pad from Staples since 2016. Now I feel naked without it.
This is where I keep track of meetings (mostly virtual these days), appointments, important deadlines, and so forth.
I have never gone completely digital with my scheduling, though I certainly take advantage of digital calendar and scheduling tools as well.
Sometimes I will also log content I’ve completed in my physical calendar, so I know when to put together the next piece by.
There are other tools I use that help me stay organized to varying degrees. Here’s what they are:
Yellow legal pad. Perfect for tracking to-do items, especially admin related tasks.
Calendly. For scheduling appointments. I simply don’t have time for the typical back and forth on email. So, I use Calendly. I make Wednesdays and Thursdays available for ad hoc meetings and those booking can choose a time that’s convenient for them. I get notifications in my email and they are converted to local time.
iPad. This is where I keep my #StrategySunday minutes. I use my Apple Pencil to handwrite notes.
There are a few books that have shaped my organization habits and have made a tangible difference in my work life. They are as follows:
The 4-Hour Workweek(affiliate link) by Tim Ferriss. I blame Tim Ferriss for the de-prioritization of email in my life. I jest, but it’s kind of true. From him I learned that most communication is not life or death, make or break. It’s not urgent if it’s not urgent to you.
Getting Things Done(affiliate link) by David Allen. Allen advocates a paper-based system for organization and productivity. As he states in his book, you can take his system piecemeal and apply it to your own efforts, which is exactly what I have done. I don’t follow GTD to the letter. I just took the parts that made sense to me and left the rest alone. As noted earlier, I utilize both a desktop calendar pad and a yellow legal pad for the paper-based part of my system.
No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs(affiliate link) by Dan S. Kennedy. I have never come across anyone who better understands or values time as much as Kennedy does. if you want to know how to manage your time like a pro, this book is it. Kennedy’s book will also help you determine your value and exactly how much you would need to charge per hour to earn what you’re worth. The main thing I’ve done because of this book is ensure I have long blocks of “busy” time where no one can contact or distract me from my work.
The better organized you are, the more productive you will be. You will capture more ideas, prioritize better, make better use of your time, and more. As result, you will also make more.
How you organize is up to you. But I point to multiple methods and resources above that could be of tremendous help. I also publish on productivity every Wednesday, so for more tips, you can keep an eye on the blog too.
How do you stay organized? What methods have worked for you?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
Regardless of what business you’re in, standard operating procedures are vital.
The same can certainly be said for careers in music or creativity, since a high level of self-direction is required.
Systems define the scope of every task. They help you focus on what needs to be accomplished. They help you achieve consistent results. And, because they are finite in focus, ultimately, they help you save time in your day. That’s the foundation of productivity and effectiveness.
By the way, I’m looking for amazing people like you to become patrons of my podcast. So, if you like what I’m up to here, please consider supporting my work on Patreon.
Why it Took Me So Long to Create Systems
Having talked to over 100 business owners specifically about systems and operations, I had a good handle on how important systems are. I knew they would prove crucial to my projects and businesses too.
I knew about all the books (The E-Myth, Checklist Manifesto, The 4-Hour Workweek, etc.), all the tools (Basecamp, Atlassian, Process Street, etc.) and all the methods. Basically, I had all the answers. Yet, I struggled.
I would create systems, but most of the time they would end up sitting in some forgotten folder I would rarely access. I wasn’t great at updating them or with the ongoing creation of new systems either.
And, they were all over the place. I had systems in Word docs, Google Docs, Evernote, Asana, SweetProcess and elsewhere.
I don’t know anyone as knowledgeable as James Schramko when it comes to these kinds of things, and I respect him besides.
The previously mentioned post features multiple checklists that look like this:
That’s all I needed to see. Now I was confident I had a format that would work for me.
Technically, the above would be considered a minimum viable procedure because it does not feature a detailed explanation of each step, but hell, I’m a CEO, okay? I will get my assistant to handle the rest (I’m being tongue in cheek here).
Anyway, the point is that if there’s someone you admire and respect, ask them how they’re creating their systems and get them to show you. You’re more likely to adopt a process you feel confident about.
So, This is What I Did (This is How to Create Systems, Step by Step)
Are you still with me? Good. Because this is where I show a step by step process you can use for your projects and business. This is how to create systems.
First, I created a new folder on my desktop and called it “SOPs”.
I know this kind of goes contrary to what I said earlier about frameworks. I don’t know why I went with “SOPs.” Maybe it’s a bit of a mind hack or just the fact that it would make the folder easier to find. Ultimately, I still call them “frameworks.”
Then, I created a folder specifically for Music Entrepreneur HQ (as you can see, I have other projects requiring frameworks):
Then, I started making folders for different areas of the business (still very much a work in progress):
And, of course, within those folders exist multiple Word docs containing the systems (because let’s face it – there’s never just one thing to do in any area of your career or business):
Finally, here’s what my podcast promotion checklist looks like (I feel like I’m giving away a bit of the secret sauce here):
And, that’s it! How simple was that?
Pro tip: One day, all my systems will live in the cloud and yours should too. Why? Because eventually you will be handing off certain tasks to your team!
I know it can be easy to let your perfectionist tendencies get in the way of making frameworks (aren’t we all perfectionist as creatives?) but if you just start getting things out of your head and onto paper, not only will you feel a lot better, your productivity will begin to soar.
And, don’t forget – if you aren’t happy with anything, you can always tweak. There are no mistakes. You will add and subtract to your checklists as needed. System creation is an ongoing process (I just saw something to add to one of my checklists while writing this post!).
Remember – put away the artist hat when you’re working on the business side of things.
Do You Struggle with System Creation as a Creative?
Boring, tedious, unpleasant things are a part of life and business. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to be tended to.
Systems are usually one of those things. They aren’t exactly sexy or fun.
But as I explained at the outset, having them makes you far more productive. Honestly, I prefer the term “effective” to “productive”, but I know more people readily understand the term “productive,” which is why I use it (another great example of how certain language lands with different people).
So, do you struggle with systems? You’re literally not alone. You just read my story and saw all my flaws and analysis paralysis on display. Plus, no exaggeration, what I just shared with you represents about five to six years of struggle.
You will never have to struggle same way I did if you use the above process and get started today.
Either way, I don’t want you to leave here without making a commitment to yourself. It’s time to create systems.