As I shared in my last post, I made the decision years ago to modify my work life using a thematic work day system. I’ve even learned how to use the same principles and concepts to blend in a similar system for my personal life, where the two systems complement rather than collide with each other. Let me first break down the professional application and then show you how the personal element is seamlessly blended in.

Monday Management Day

I’m focused on all-things management, outlook for the week, start-of-week client check-in, deep dive into business emails, reply to student emails, grade course work, post to class discussion forums. This is the day I check to see which bills have been paid, are pending bank processing, and still need to be handled. I’m operations focused. I’m looking at what was leftover from the previous week, what surfaced over the weekend that needs my attention.

Tuesday Product Day

I’m focused on blog writing, podcast researching and outlining, handling R&D for courses I’m designing, grading course work, recording any audio and videos. I set aside time to work on any current book project.

It’s all about the products!

Wednesday Marketing Day

Artwork for the podcast is designed, edited, proofed (3 weeks out), the focus is also on social media posts, promotional efforts, drafting newsletters, artwork prep for books, grading course work (does it ever stop?), and I’m prepping myself for my weekly live seminar for one of my college courses.

Thursday Client Day

I’m checking in with clients, reports are sent to them on this day, I’m usually posting to my class discussion forums, and if needed I’m recording class videos for my students (to help them through any sticky points). This doesn’t mean that if a client reaches out to me on Tuesday (the day after our Monday outlook day) that I’m not going to engage with them until Thursday. No, it means I’m focused on coming with solutions on Thursday. I’m going to address their concerns, problems, issues, ideas on Thursday— and they are confident that what I’m bringing is value-packed. It’s an internal focus that also has external benefits. My clients benefit from this system that molds and disciplines me.

Friday Team & Overflow Day

This is a great day for outreach to teams, send gift cards, team events, etc. Just recently, I intentionally restructured my day so that it ends early so I can get a head start on the weekend. This is now my light workload day. But it requires great discipline Monday through Thursday to pull this off. On Friday, I’m focused on whatever needs to be done in the writing process for my books. I will even pop into a class discussion and see what’s evolving in the forum. Yes, working on the book is something that is Tuesday-aligned, and discussion forum posting is Thursday-aligned, but it is also what I see as my overflow day to invest in activities that need extra attention.

If a client had a question or concern after Thursday’s reporting, Friday is when I want to address it. Well, actually I want it addressed on Thursday, but I know that sometimes things have to marinate or be examined from different directions, and that may mean questions surfacing the next day. I don’t want them calling me over the weekend. Not anymore. When I reach out to them on Friday to wish them a relaxing weekend I always say, “I will chat with you on Monday!” This didn’t use to be the case. I used to reserve Fridays for client reporting. This always meant a 7-day workweek and both ends of my candle burning, faster and faster each week. But no longer! And guess what? Some of my clients have asked how they can adopt this (or a similar) system for their business and personal lives. Once again, this system has internal and external benefits.

Saturday Personal Development

I’ve claimed this day for a full immersion experience. I’m focused on me and my development, recharging, and re-engaging. I’m deep-diving in my language lessons through Duolingo. I’m exploring my family tree and following up on leads from my research. I’m getting the chance to read more leisure books. I’m also doing research for the books and articles that writing. I’m spending a few hours writing or editing a book. I might pop over to pin some ideas in Pinterest (a rare occurrence, but when it comes to mind I jump on it). I might spend some time outlining ideas that came to me in a dream. I’m finishing any laundry I didn’t finish on Friday.

And since I made the brainiac move to take three courses through a local college, I usually double-check to ensure that I’ve completed my course work by or before Saturday. One class just recently ended and the other two will end this month. Remind me not to take three classes ever again while trying to juggle all that is on my plate. I have no clue why I thought it would be “okay”. I’m a weirdo, clearly. But determined to finish what I started and to do it with excellence, I’m exhaustingly pleased with the A’s I’ve been maintaining this semester. But I won’t torture myself like this again. Oh no no no!

My phone is setup using one of the Focus features, restricting calls, texts, and notifications from anyone not on my “Favorites” list. It took my clients a few weeks but now they have learned and now believe me when I say, “I will chat with you on Monday”. This has been a lifesaver. Even if I do have an idea for something work-related, my day is so mellow that it doesn’t feel like work. I jump in and then jump out.

Sunday Rest Day

I’m totally disconnected from pretty much everything. I just adopted this a couple of weeks ago and it has been an absolute blessing. Before, Sunday was my overflow day, and I was miserable, because it felt like a 7-day workweek. Now, I have my phone setup to use one of the Focus features, restricting calls, texts, and notifications from anyone not on my “Favorites” list. This is my day for lounging, reading books, watching TV (since I don’t watch it during the week anymore), and maybe I will head to the park or the beach, or visit family for a few hours. If I’m inspired to write then I write. If I’m not, then I don’t.

Each Day

Before my day begins I’m focused on these steps:

  • Studying my Breaking Bread With Natasha post for the day
  • Studying my Bible lesson plan: I usually follow one or two plans using a Bible app
  • Read from a spiritual book/devotional
  • Prayer and meditation time
  • Listen to a spiritual message
  • Listen to a leadership/business message
  • Journal time: I’m getting better at this now that it is plugged into my morning routine
  • Workout 30-60 minutes

With the exception of working out, I complete these things before checking emails, texts, social media, or doing much of anything else. I’ve done all of these things before my workout and before breakfast. Most days I make sure to continue ignoring email and social media until I’ve completed my workout. On the weekends I may not workout, it depends how much I committed to exercising during the workweek, and if I feel like it.

My evening routine includes:

  • Practicing my languages using the Duolingo app: I’m actively learning three, passively practicing two, and two languages are on hold (because they require more attention as they aren’t Latin-based and have more inflections, symbols, and accents than the others)
  • Listening to an audiobook and/or reading a book for leisure
  • Double-checking my to-do list and calendar for the next day (even though there are some nights where I forget or am too tired to care).

Thematic days may be the very thing missing in your life or it might confuse and frustrate you even more. I have to admit, the thematic system requires major discipline. You can’t focus on anything else but what is designated for that day. For instance, I’m not dealing with marketing stuff on Management Monday.

Yes, there is some flow-through with products on Marketing and Client day, because you of course will be talking about your products on those days, but what’s the driving force? What is the main focus? What energy is being exerted?

On Thursday I’m focused on my clients, their wants and needs. Whether the client is through Foreman & Associates, or the customers who buy my books, or the students who pay to attend my classes. I won’t cut into that day talking about podcast artwork. That has to wait until next Wednesday. I had all day on Wednesday to get that sorted out. It can wait.

Unless it’s a crisis or has the potential to become one, I don’t deviate from the themed day. And if I do, I recalibrate the entire week so that I don’t create a domino effect.

Working in themes means treating each day like it’s game day. A sports team is playing another team on a given day. They aren’t thinking about the team they will be playing on another day. At a track meet, the athlete isn’t thinking about their next race or event, their focused on what’s in front of them. Laser-focused. Focus on today’s battle and get that win. That is kinda what a thematic work day can be molded into. True intentionality.

You can build in an overflow day like I did, allowing you to catch-up or just drill down more on something that you don’t want to put off to another day or week. You can structure your days as you see fit. You might decide that you need Tuesday and Thursday to be your product/service day. You might dread Monday and choose to approach it from a different standpoint than a focus on operations. Whatever you need to create structure and order, find it, do it, and maintain it.

If You Want Freedom, Take It or Make It

We all talk about freedom and what it looks like to us, but how are we taking ahold of it and making it our reality? I’m tired of dreaming about the future life of less stress and bustling from my hustling. I’m defining the ever-expanding concept of freedom for me. I’m determining how and when my hours are spent, and with whom. I’m learning the love that comes from saying, “No” to all things and people who aren’t positively pouring into me, my mission, and my purpose. They no longer get priority.

I’m no longer breaking my neck to be “On” for everyone else. There’s no peace in the chaos so I’m choosing the calm. I’m choosing boundaries and sticking to them.

Don’t tell me what can’t be done just because it doesn’t align with the status quo. Change disrupts status quo. Innovation disrupts status quo. You and I don’t have to choose to a life of status quo.

But What Happens When The Unexpected Occurs

And to those who want to come with the what-ifs, I can say that yes, all of this, my system and the way I now operate, is still doable in the uncertainty of change. Even when the storm rolls in I can adjust my thinking and approach with a makeshift system, to deal with the temporary, without buckling under the pressure. By conditioning myself with a system I am now better prepared for the unknowns. I’m actually anticipating change. I’m making moves that will force change. Each day is like the training I underwent in college as a track sprinter, and the training I took part in as a strength athlete. Change comes but your foundation remains the same.

In 2020 and 2021 I was like a person in quick sand—flapping around, exhausted, and drowning — and then I realized that freedom from that trap comes from being still, flat, and calm. By re-adopting and better aligning myself to a system that is designed for a person who thrives in structure, but is flexible to change, I can claim the peace and freedom that I desire. It’s not for everyone, but it’s working for me, and maybe it will work for you. Try it out and let me know!

Love,

Natasha

Copyright 2022. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Some people have asked me to about how I stay organized. I don’t. Haaa just kidding. I do a pretty good job and lately I’ve been doing better. It can get a little chaotic trying to juggle the hats of entrepreneur, author, professor, blogger, and podcast host. And then, let’s not forget that I do have a life outside of my professional one. I’ve had more than my share of seasons of burn-out and not too long ago I thought I was going to be in a hospital bed if I didn’t get things together. On Tuesday, Foreman & Associates released a blog post on productivity tips to use when taking work breaks, and I’m determined to implement them in my life. Let me share with you some of the things that I do and the tools that I use to keep me from running around like a wild woman.

Tools

As I’ve shared on the Don’t Call It Small…Business podcast (DCIS), in Episode 72, I’m old school with a lot of things, and that includes note-taking, journaling, and tracking my master calendar.

I like using paper, pencil, and pen

I use notebooks for outlining the topics, themes, and schedules for blogs and podcast. I use them to help me write my books, and whenever I have an idea for a future book. I track my writing progress using a notebook, summarizing what I accomplished during a writing session.

Whether I’m meeting with clients or students, you can guarantee that I’m taking notes by hand. Thank goodness I’m a fast writer and have my own form of shorthand that allows me to quickly capture the information shared. I use client notebooks where I keep track of my projects, notes, reminders, tasks, and more.

I use a paper organizer, to-do list, and calendar system. I like to write out my schedule and to-do’s so that I’m mindful and intentional with what I am committing to. I try to map out my schedule and tasks weekly, so that I can have a decent outlook and can make changes as-needed. As I explained during Episode 72 of DCIS, I like the tactile exchange of energy when writing instrument meets paper.

But I Like Tech Too!

Don’t get me wrong, I also like tech. I was born a techie! I convert high priority tasks, appointments, and events to my online calendar and app, so that I’m synced across all devices. Which apps do I use?

  • Focus (iOS feature): I use the Do Not Disturb, Personal, Sleep, and Work features to the fullest. I have it shared across all of my devices and boy howdy does it work! When I’m in Do Not Disturb mode I tell my mom and sister in advance, because I have it setup that I can’t be contacted by anyone (no how and no way) and there are absolutely no notifications from people or apps during the designated period. In the other three modes only my “Favorites” list can reach me. Everyone else and everything else is silenced. They are automated to trigger the moment I do certain things or open certain apps on my devices. This has been so helpful with keeping me focused and limiting my distractions.
  • Screen Time (iOS feature): I use this to restrict my access to apps, set limits based on my contacts, and more. Once screen time kicks in I have to override the system to access an app, web page, etc. I have to make that choice to go around the system, which means it better be a good reason. I love this feature because it keeps me off of social media. I only get a certain amount of minutes each day before it kicks me out. When I do an override it is usually for 15 minutes or if I need something really quick, I will select “for 1 minute” and I get in and get out before the system shuts me out. This has helped me be more focused, intentional, and disciplined.
  • Podio: I compartmentalize my business ventures as virtual “offices” with this app; I will admit that I’ve slacked off on using this app over the past year, but that’s not a reflection on Podio.
  • Evernote: I use it for research, to bookmark a website that I’m interested in, and more
  • Google Sheets app (to quickly access info from my mobile device)
  • Google Docs app (for the same reason as above)
  • Reminders app for iOS: I set it up to annoy me into compliance. Basically, I schedule enough repeat reminders until completion, and trust me you will get the task done. I even set reminders to water my plants, make phone calls, get my nails done, and to force me to sit my butt down and enjoy a pamper day (full body skin detox and more)
  • Grammarly is a lifesaver folks! I try to remember to use it for everything. Sometimes you can type too fast for your own good and miss some major mistakes.
  • Voice Memos app for iOS: I love it, especially when I’m driving and clearly can’t write and drive.

Tricks

Okay I wouldn’t call them tricks, but rather a system, and one that I can’t take credit for creating. Years ago, I read an article about how Jack Dorsey operates multiple companies (at the time, Twitter and Square), and he shared that his days are thematic. I can’t recall where he initially learned the skill from, but he did credit another entrepreneur. Anyway, I analyzed the process and fell in love. I adopted it and have to admit, any time I deviate from a thematic approach I find myself in chaos. I need structure like I need air. Last year I swayed and boy did I feel it. I’ve buckled down and gotten serious this year and the past few weeks have been like floating on clouds of joy. Let’s look at all that I juggle professionally:

  • Professor: I don’t think I ever have a day off in the eyes of my college students. Every day I’m receiving a “Professor Foreman” email and I smile. I teach classes at two institutions and both have their unique culture and expectations. I have courses to develop, curriculum to keep fresh and challenging, assignments to read and grade, projects to oversee, and more much.
  • As a published author my writing never stops. I’m currently in the editing phase of my third set of books, as part of the Seek Him book series. Once this set is finalized and the printer gets to work on it, my eyes have to pivot to the next book that I have on the calendar that is supposed to be released this Fall (sssh don’t tell anyone) and next Spring another book is slated for release. Yes, I do have scheduled breaks that I’m taking in between all of these, but the inspiration doesn’t stop flowing in just because I’m on break.
  • Foreman & Associates, LLC (F&A): consulting and professional development firm: I have clients who have to be reminded that they aren’t my only clients; I just love them for wanting me all to themselves (that’s what I tell myself). There’s been some major overhauling of F&A over the years, and especially this year (thank you global pandemic for the wake-up call). Bittersweet is an understatement.
  • Don’t Call It Small…Business podcast: weekly I’m focused on delivering content on themes and topics that listeners have requested, and that have been presented through my own experiences. Sometimes I interview people. You can say that it falls under the professional development arm of Foreman & Associates. And I don’t want to forget that I have to devote time finding companies and professionals to show some love to during our Business Shout-Out segment.
  • Blogs, blogs, and more blogs: Since 2009, I’ve been blogging through BreakingBreadWithNatasha.com and today I made an announcement that the blog is transitioning from five days per week to seven days of sharing scriptures, reflections, and prayers. I have an audio version that is available for readers who want to listen while they read, or just listen. Of course, there’s this blog site, you know, the one you’re reading right now. Yep. I’ve been blogging here since 2011 I think. I’m not consistent with it like my Breaking Bread one. Lastly, and just as important, I write posts for my business ventures.

Thematic Weeks

How do I break all of this down in themes?

  • Monday Management Day
  • Tuesday Product Day
  • Wednesday Marketing Day
  • Thursday Client Day
  • Friday Team & Overflow Day
  • Saturday Personal Development
  • Sunday Rest Day

I will explain each day in detail in another post.

I Finally Stick to My Designated Hours

Thanks to my apps I have alarms set that guide me through my prayer and journal time, workout time, my work hours, work wind-down period, and then “work day is over”. When that alarm notifies me that it’s time to start preparing to wind down for the day, I make sure that I’m going at a pace that will allow me hit my mark. No goofing off and absolutely no distractions. I refuse to take calls or respond to emails and texts during this period.

If I’m serious about my time then I have to give it my all. When the alarm notifies me that my day is done, guess what? Daggumit I’m done. Whatever I didn’t finish can wait until tomorrow. If it’s something tightly theme-based then most likely it’s a deliverable that can wait until the next week. I’ve been getting in the habit of working ahead of schedule so that I’m a week ahead, in some instances.

I’ve only gotten into this rhythm over the past few weeks and I can say, so far so good. I’m less stressed and sleeping much better, waking up feeling well-rested. I’m learning to say no, even if money is on the table. Guess what? The money means absolutely nothing if I’m not alive to invest it or spend it. I’m learning to prioritize better and to be intentional about the hours that make up each day.

Final Tips

You probably noticed that I shared tips throughout this post. My suggestion to you is to find out how you’re wired and what type of structure and ecosystem that you need to operate within. What works for one person may not work for you. What works for you may be a nightmare for me. Make sense? You may not work well with the old school pencil and paper or it may be your saving grace.

Thematic days may be exactly what you need. As I stated earlier, in my next post, I will invest time in explaining how I build out and support my themed days, and how this system has benefited me personally and professionally.

That’s All Folks!

Well, there you go. That’s basically how I run my life, stay organized, and sane. This is how I’m reclaiming my life and closing the door and gates on the old mindset of 90+ hour work weeks, that almost landed me in the grave 65+ years (or thereabouts) too early. I hope that what I’ve shared here helps you, helps someone. Please share with friends, family, and colleagues. And just like that, one of my alarms has alerted me that my time is up. So, now I must go. I will see y’all next week!

Love,

Natasha

Copyright 2022. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.