As I alluded to in "Respect the Energy, a No-Pressure Approach to Plans," for the good part of 3 years I'd been operating with very little structure, allowing the ebb and flow of my energy to guide my actions. During this time, as I became increasingly engaged in work with another business owner, my activities were often tied to his available energy and work flow, as well as the relatively few commitments associated with our work.
My move from Sedona, Arizona to Denver, Colorado precipitated a dissolution of that partnership, and a common transitional dilemma. Not only am I in a new place, geographically, my dedication to a clear purpose and direction has also been severed. Lost, restless, uncertain, all adjectives that can be used to describe my outlook on the rougher days. These are normal responses to any dramatic change in circumstances. Knowing this doesn't make it any easier when in the midst of the free-fall!
Last week I got an intuitive hit on what was happening to me, and found a book about how to recover your sense of direction and purpose after an intense engagement ends. The authors suggested that creating some kind of routine, any kind of routine, is one way to start to feel "normal" and productive again. Then I remembered. I already have a tool to do just that, the Visual Workflow Planner, a tool I've used with many of my business clients when focus and direction eluded them. Hopeful, I retrieved the latest version - last updated 4 years ago - and modified it to match my current circumstances and objectives. The updated Workflow Planner follows.
Factors Influencing The Plan
I have noticed that I tend to run out of energy by 2:00 pm. Consequently, this latest version is a lot lighter, commitment-wise, than my previous version. It makes for a short workday, but it doesn't mean I can't accomplish something. Even if I move just one project forward each day, I recognize that as a good thing. This is true for you, too. If you don't have the capacity to work "normal" work hours, it doesn't mean you can't be productive! As a matter of fact, I might suggest that the less time available, the more judicious you have to be. You don't have time to mess around with things that don't actually matter.
I'm excited. Resurrecting this simple organizing system has already empowered me in 3 ways.
1. The simple act of updating the Workflow Plan had an immediate impact on my ability to focus, and on my energy! My guess: the act of resurrecting some structure in the midst of this transition reminds me that I have a say so about what happens in my business and my life.
2. I originally designed the Planner to incorporate recurring personal commitments, too, as most self-employed business owners tend to discount their personal life. Seeing, on paper, the absence of personal commitments reminds me that, when I'm ready, I can look for fun, non-work projects to add to my weekly plan.
3. It gives me permission to stop working, too. This is not an immediately perceptible bonus, but I think it's one of the most powerful. When you don't have a lot of in-time commitments, and are in a rebuilding mode, the tendency is to think you have to keep working, working, working. Not true.
Revisiting my Workflow Plan reminds me of the early years in my coaching practice, and my work with newly independent, self-employed service professionals. Without the inherent structure of working for a company (another kind of loss), most of them struggled to understand the best use of their time in service of the business, and had no idea what to focus on and when. When I sketched out that first Visual Workflow Planner for a client who was challenged with these exact issues, I knew I was onto something: a visual map that could help owners focus their efforts, increase their effectiveness, and stress less about what wasn't getting done.
5 Ways to Increase Capacity with the Visual Workflow Planner
If you are interested in trying this approach to organizing your activities - business and personal - I invite you to request a copy of 5 Ways to Increase Your Capacity with the Visual Workflow Planner, and see how it can help you become more focused, and productive too. If you have questions about the Workflow Planner, feel free to post in comments, or contact me directly through my website.