FAQ – How to juggle things when you get busy

There are times in life when everything seems to happen at once, and for decorators that’s often towards the end of the summer when we’re trying to get exteriors done before the autumn kicks in, people are on holidays, family weddings, our own gardens to keep on top of, let alone all the unexpected things that get thrown into the air when we’re juggling all that. 

How do we cope?

Even better, how do we thrive when there’s so much to do?

Emotions are good
The first thing to recognise is that some of the emotions we might feel are helpful. Feeling a bit stressed when you’re busy is very similar biochemically to feeling excited. Our bodies and minds feel more energised and on edge, but we can use that energy to really blitz through things.

To start, first stop
That’s all very well, but what do we do first? Where do we start? The best thing to do to begin with is not start but stop. Stop and plan. Get things down on paper – real paper, with a pen. Writing down a list of all the things you have to do is not only practically useful, but also mentally useful because it gets what’s swimming around your brain onto something physical, tangible and in black and white. The simple, tactile act of writing is calming – and seeing things written down helps to slow down the brain, creating less of a mental swirl and more of a linear and logical way of thinking. 

Weekly priorities
Once you have everything down, it’s time to prioritise. A handy way of doing this is breaking things down into what needs doing this week, then next week, then the week after – for at least a month, preferably three months. Write down what the priorities are for each week – including this week.

Daily breakdown
You can then break those weeks down into days – what do you need to do tomorrow that will make the day after better? What do you need to do the day after to make the next day better? This allows you to be ahead of the game – you can buy materials ahead of time, you can contact people ahead of time, so they know what’s going on. Everybody wins.

Hourly breakdown
I used to think that this was a waste of time, until I started doing it. Breaking the day down into hour chunks is great for creating structure and clarity. Of course, there may be interruptions. Some things take longer than you think. That’s fine – it’s not cast in iron, it’s a guide, a useful prompt. Include in your plan some time to contact clients, ring the decorator’s merchants to make sure they have what you need in stock, and plan in time for breaks and the admin stuff that means you get paid, and your marketing gets done. You can include prompts like “take a photo for social media or the website” – doing that once a day means you end up with easy, sharable content. 

There are always tasks which other people will do quicker than you and free up both your time and your headspace. Things like accounts, or blog writing, or social media posting… Maybe you love tasks like that, but if you don’t then it can be really liberating to pay someone else to do it. It was such a weight off my mind when I got an accountant to take all the stress out of the annual accounts, and now taking care of things like VAT and payroll – it’s well worth the money. 

The important stuff
It’s easy to get caught up in the here and now but planning in time to do the ‘other stuff’ is important. Sort out your tools, clean the van, take a loved one out for a meal… when we’re really busy it’s easy for things like this to take a back seat – but they’re really important. Making time for family and friends is time never wasted – especially when we’re busy and might not have so much time to give. 

You don’t have to juggle everything
There are times when you have to put some of what you’re juggling down. But if it’s important, don’t leave it too long. If you don’t do your marketing, for instance, you might find you’ve got less work in a few months’ time. It’s all about prioritising and keeping on top of one thing at a time by being organised. 

Keep on keeping on
The key is to be purposefully busy. You decide what time you’re going to give something and stick to it. There will be times when you just have to put in those extra hours, but then make sure you have time to do the personal stuff that matters.