You look at the calendar, packed full of meetings, and wonder how in the world you’re going to get everything done today. And tomorrow looks just as busy.
Or maybe you glance at your phone to see it’s 4:30, and you feel a sense of dread knowing you have deadlines to hit and not enough time. So, you’re looking at another night of work when you’d rather be doing anything else.
If these scenarios sound familiar, get in line. All of us struggle with protecting our time. It’s easy to get caught up in meetings, emails, and the million other things that pull at our time and attention every day. Things that ultimately rob us of the opportunity to do focused work.
And while we all want to do better work, at the end of the day, most of us desire to work less.
We want to spend less time in meetings and more time with our families, or doing things we enjoy.
And for those who are self-employed, commanding your time means earning more income.
If you’re saying to yourself, “there’s gotta be another way,” you’re right. It takes a lot of practice and even more discipline, but here are a few ways (and there are many more) to protect your time and calendar.
Don’t Go to Meetings Without an Agenda
If you think about unstructured meetings you’ve attended, you can picture the 10-15 minutes of idle conversation, the flurry of late arrivers, and technology issues that can derail things before the meeting even starts.
If that happens three to four times per day, you’ve now lost 300 minutes per week. Throw in unnecessary discussion points that cause a meeting to run long, or worse, create another meeting, and you’re losing hours each week.
When organizing a meeting, always bring an agenda with discussion points to facilitate the conversation. And if you’re attending a meeting where no agenda has been created, reach out to the organizer and ask for one. By following a structure, meetings will be more productive, and you’ll walk away feeling like it was time well spent instead of looking for something to clear your headache.
Side note on those catchup conversations that often happen in the first 10-15 minutes. They’re not a bad thing unless they disrupt the reason you’re meeting in the first place. It’s a good idea to build in time for those conversations on your agenda. You’ll connect with colleagues and clients and still have time for an effective meeting.
Protect Your Productive Hours
Disruptions are a leading cause of feeling like you’re not getting enough done.
It’s also just how life is sometimes. Errands need to be taken care of, kids dropped off (you get the idea).
So with all of these things in mind, it’s essential to protect your most productive hours; whatever time of day that may be, put it on your calendar. Block it off. And when someone asks you to meet during that time frame, suggest meeting later in the day, or catching up via email. It’s okay to set boundaries and say “no.” In fact, if you’re going to protect your time, it’s a must-do.
Use Technology as a Force for Good
We’re not going to talk about your phones being a distraction. Instead, we’ll make the argument that between your phone, and a few other resources, technology can be a powerful tool in the fight to protect your time.
Most smartphones have a downtime or focus mode. Think of it as a gatekeeper of your time. Set up a focus period to dive deep and avoid emails or notifications.
It’s almost too easy to send a video meeting link and have a conversation.
Instead of having a check-in to ask a question that could spiral into a longer meeting, consider using recording apps like Loom or BombBomb.
You can share your screen, ask questions, and offer your thoughts without the need to schedule a meeting on already busy calendars.
Another benefit to these recording tools: they give you and the person you’re speaking to time to think.
They can also rewatch the video, providing everyone with more time to solve a problem or think through options without giving immediate feedback.
The Community Has Good Advice
Protecting your time is an ongoing practice. Sometimes you’ll crush it, and other days, time may crush you. The most important thing is to evaluate if how you’re spending your days is keeping you on a path to achieving your goals.
These few tips only scratch the surface of how to protect your time. And we’re not the experts in the room. Our members have some good ideas too, which you can read right here.
Ley’s an awesome human. You’ll see him at both 80808 and Bull Street. Ley does good work: he helps people facing mental illness and challenges. In many ways, his work pays homage to the legacy of Bull Street and the patients who received care in the South Carolina State Mental Hospital. We could go on about Ley, but we’ll let him do the talking.
Tell Us About What You Do. Brag a Little (50 words or less)
I am a behavior analyst, a gerontologist, and a small business owner. My specialties include behavioral gerontology and the behavioral presentations of neurological disorders, in addition to working with criminal offenders with intellectual disabilities. Primarily, I work with adults with a dual diagnosis of intellectual disability and mental illness living in community residential homes, providing behavior analytic services.
What Are Your Passions? What Do You Love Doing? Business or Personal.
Simply put, my passion professionally is helping people with unique challenges live higher-quality lives, whether they are 1 day old or 100+ years old.
Personally, my passion lies in becoming a global citizen through participating in my local community, advocacy for the silent, life-long learning, and trying novel experiences.
What is one wealth building, debt elimination, or personal finance tip that you would share with the community?
Treat your personal finances like a business. If your personal finances were a business, would you be open or closed?
What’s Been The Hardest Part of Your Journey?
I am a behavior analyst and a gerontologist – nothing less and certainly nothing more. I never set out to be a business owner. The ongoing challenges related to business strategy and business management, in addition to the continuing education related to navigating business ownership, are constant companions.
What’s Been The Most Rewarding Part of Your Journey?
The most rewarding part is knowing our team makes a positive difference when we work – every day. We are catalysts for happiness, promoters of success, and advocates for those who have no voice. Intrinsic value is difficult to quantify but to qualify personally, I would describe myself as an incredibly wealthy man.
How Has SOCO Supported You On This Journey?
Confidence. Support. Trust. Friendship. Guidance. Who has a thesaurus? SOCO has taken professional networking, dumped it in the trash, set it ablaze, and pushed it out to sea. SOCO is based on naturally occurring conversations, happening repeatedly over time, which form into friendships and true connectedness, as opposed to professional speed dating at networking events. From a small business perspective, SOCO will be an imperative component for the next levels of success I achieve, no matter what that may look like. It is impossible to overstate the benefits of being surrounded by other business owners who encompass the entire continuum of business, from conception to success (as identified by the person!).
At the end of each year, we ask our SOCO members to reflect on the previous months and share some of their biggest “wins” — the things they are most proud of and most excited about, whether personal or professional. Every year, we are blown away by what our members accomplish, from making incredible business moves, paying off mountains of debt, to experiencing major personal growth. We share the wins with all of you to brag about the amazing community that we’re so proud of at SOCO; and to inspire and motivate everyone who might be reading. Enjoy!
For me, 2019 was an evolution of 2018. In 2018 I became debt free while completing my best year ever in business. In 2019 my business grew by roughly 25% over 2018 which has allowed me to fully fund my emergency fund, set my eyes on future plans, and begin working towards them. I was not able to take much of a vacation all year (outside of some long weekends) so my plan is to take 3 weeks off at the end of this year and enjoy some time with family and also take a few of those days for some R&R for myself. — Zoltan Borbely
I needed a kick in the butt and realization that I’ve already done a lot this year and to cut myself some slack:
Successfully got married to someone who pushes me to be my best and loves me for the nut -job I truly am
Successfully wrapped up my largest profiting freelance contract to date
Rode (5) new mountains this season, got nearly a dozen days on snow, pushed WELL outside of my comfort zone on some of the wildest and steepest terrain. Involved sleeping in a converted Church hostel in Revelstoke, driving from AB to BC solo, and snowshoeing RMNP in Colorado. Need more of that this winter.
Went from never kayaking as of June to paddling Class 3 rapids and owning a few whitewater boats (I don’t have a problem, you have a problem!)
Dropped some obligation and things I had previously committed time to in years prior to free up the above two items which truly make me happier.
Continued growth on a longer project with Krumware that allowed me to grow my product management and strategic side of the design realm to a recognizable level. (No metrics, just proud). Also weathered another Hurricane season where we helped aid in lifesaving efforts with our software we built.
“Recovered” from a shoulder injury that kept me from doing any pressing or pulling of any type for the last 3 years. Finally able to do pull-ups, deadlifts, and even press overhead (relatively) pain free. That alone is important to think back on and be extremely thankful for.
Built a killer garden, replaced all doors in the house, have our living room almost wrapped up (from a complete gut and renovation) for paint and hanging speakers and a number of other gains on the house. — Dan Marino, Creative Director, Krumware
With each year of freelancing, I’m always surprised by the many ways God provides for me and our family. This year, I’m especially grateful he led me to SOCO in March. By having the set time and place to work—and through meeting some incredible clients here!—I’ve had my most profitable year yet with about 50% growth over my previous best year. On a personal note, we entered the year by moving to Columbia to stay with family while we figured out our next steps. We are very excited and thankful that God has opened doors for us to stay here, and we expect to close on our new home and move in by Christmas! — Kaleigh Cox, Freelance Writer
It sounds like 2019 was a great year to be a freelancer! Although I only work for one client, I’m technically a freelancer, and I’ve also had the best year of my career in 2019. I just kicked off some exciting new projects, so 2020 is shaping up to be even better (especially now that I have such a great environment to work in). My two young kids are happy and healthy, and life is generally good. — Matt Frankel
In 2018, I made the switch from full-time employee with side-gigs to full-time freelance. In September 2019, I hit one full year of working for myself. I contributed to a client landing 300k in business through sales and marketing, I learned a lot about working as a writer, and I’m proud of the flexibility I’ve created for our family. On top of that, I made some incredible new friends.
Getting a dog still feels like the biggest win though. — Laura Bosco, Freelance Writer
Had an awesome year with the business and hit some big milestones I’ve been shooting for – also pumped to have joined SOCO and found a consistent rhythm and focus with getting work done since I have little munchkins distracting me at home 24/7. All that was great, but the biggest win for my family was bringing home our new lil guy to the fam. — Ben Landers
Feb 2019: Kicked off year winning 5 Addy awards at my full-time job.
June 2019: Unexpectedly lost full-time job. Returned to freelancing.
Oct 2019: Turned down FT job offer with ATL production company. Established an LLC.
July to Dec 2019: Regained energy + sanity. Increased earnings 300%.
Nov 2019: 1st TV ad broadcast nationally — Tyler Matthews, Freelance Videographer + Producer
Feb. 2019: Finalized my decision to change careers and kicked off a job search after five years as an educator.
March 2019: Directed a movement- and ensemble-based play I was enormously proud of.
April 2019: Was offered two jobs and ended up accepting a content creation position with 6AM City in which I’d be writing branded content for COLAtoday, CHStoday, GVLtoday, AVLtoday, LALtoday and NOOGAtoday. (We added RALtoday in October and expect to grow into more markets this year!) Writing full-time had always been my dream, and this was exciting as hell.
May 2019: Wrapped up my time as a middle school theatre teacher for good, saying goodbye to students I loved and a system I did not.
Summer 2019: Settled into my role at 6AM and as a member of the SOCO community, traveled to Arches National Park and Daytona Beach, tackled grief after losing two beloved members of my family (and appreciated having a job that treated me like a human and gave me the time and support I needed), and established an exercise routine I could stick to.
It’s been a year of major growth and a lot of change, and I’m looking forward to more growth (albeit less change) in 2020!
— Kayla Machado, Content Creator at 6am City
My big win for 2019 is joining the Fivable family. —Amanda Goforth, UI/UX Designer
Doubled our revenue, and had our most profitable year ever. We did our first ever profit share with our team and partners and it felt so good to write those checks.
Grew our team to 8
Had a client pass $1m annual revenue and another is about halfway there (can’t share this outside of this channel)
Fired two of our most difficult clients and drastically improved our processes so that our team is less stressed and doing better work
Went through a fuck ton of therapy and learned a lot about myself and how to be happier and healthier in the process
Restored an old sailboat
Went sky diving with my little sister
Had a blog post go viral
Worked out more consistently than I ever have before
— Andrew Askins, CEO of KRIT + Startup Watching
I think it’s too early to call anything a win, but I had a big change in 2019, which is that after 24 years at Apparel magazine, I accepted a new job as an research analyst at IDC, which I started nine weeks ago, and so far I am really enjoying it and happy with my decision. — Jordan Kalman Speer, Remote Worker, Writer
My big win this year was probably being named “rock star of the month” at work for my contributions to get a major feature over the finish line and being the go-to guy for the other product teams that relied on that feature once it was released. — Mike Yount
Taught a short summer class in Cellphone Filmmaking that continues in a minimalist meetup version once a week.
Made a super short film this summer, honoring Septima Poinsette Clark for The Supper Table Project, sponsored by Jasper.
Saw more students transform than ever this semester. Four classes in basic script writing offered for the first time ever next semester. I’ll be teaching three.
Created several art pieces and moved the studio into living space.
Moved into a great new space in August. Changed my life.
Full recovery from a broken shoulder without surgery. After a lot of tests for other health things, declared very healthy.
Therapy that continues to fuel positive personal growth
— Faye Riley
This year was a strange year full of positive changes for me, some less obviously positive than others. My biggest win is that I got rid of the pit of toxicity I found myself drowning in, and I finally reached out and started working on my mental health. I’ve gained healthy weight, a boat load of confidence, and I can honestly say I’m happy for the first time in a long time. I’ve been excelling at work and in my relationships with family and friends. I’ve realized how lucky I am and started to slow down and enjoy the little things now that anxiety isn’t suffocating me 24/7. I wasn’t going to share this as it’s been a very personal journey, but I feel the need to encourage anyone considering seeking mental health help to do so. The amount of positive change you will see across all assets of your life is unbelievable. — Kelsey Baker
I launched my official company https://www.hellosmallbatch.co/ earlier this year and have made it a 1+ year of being a freelancer. I have worked with countless local restaurants on their branding, photography, social media and love what I do every day. Some of my work has been in Southern Living and Food Network!
On the other edge of my freelance hustle (photography) I’ve connected and captured a ton of memories with soooo many families, babies, dogs, surprise engagements and even my first two weddings! I also created and launched that official website this year as well https://www.simplylynnluc.com/
Last year, I quit my career in advertising after 7 years because I believed in an awesome community called SOCO. This year, I helpedGreg Hilton + team open up a new space (yasss 80808) and have made so many connections within this community on a work + personal level! I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve carried a ton of beers with many of you folks–and I’m so thankful for all of it.
Stuck with therapy for over a year and am so much more balanced than I ever thought I could be. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year or two but I’ve finally learned to manage my anxiety and how important self-care + boundaries are to a successful work/life/relationship balance.
I was named as one of Columbia, SC’s (4) ambassadors for their pilot year. I got to showcase this city that I love and was featured across video, digital and print! (look ma, I’m famous!)
Finally got over my fear and self-consciousness of being in front of a crowd + in front of a camera. I’m still not 100% at public speaking but I don’t black out during it anymore haha.
— Lynn Luc, SOCO Community Engagement Manager
Here it goes… closing out 2019 with some big wins. Personal:
1. Divorce – After a very long separation my divorce was finalized earlier this month. What a relief knowing that I can officially close this chapter in my life and move ahead.
2. Dumped my flooded house – After 13 months my short sale contract finally closed. Another headache behind me, and ironically the same week as the divorce was finalized… so I like now like to say a Marie Kondo’d my life in one week.
3. Moved Back to the Midlands – I’ve dreamed of moving back home for the last decade, and I finally moved back in late summer. I’m falling in love with the new, improved Soda City… so much has changed in 15 years!
4. Bucket List – This year I fulfilled a childhood dream to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in person.
5. Completed 3 half marathons this year.
1. Survived 2019 – This year was met with struggles of all kinds from personal chaos (flood & divorce) to staff turnover to mass media scares in the DR. Although my year end numbers aren’t where they should be I’m just grateful to celebrate another year in business.
2. Awarded NEST Elite Agency – For the second consecutive year our agency received this prestigious designation from our consortia.
3. Celebrated Grand Opening of Hard Rock Los Cabos Resort – I earned a Silver Platinum Sales Award from Hard Rock Resorts and attended the grand opening ceremonies at Hard Rock Los Cabos. The events included concerts from Enrique Iglesias and Bret Michaels and pool parties hosted by Lil Jon. I even smashed a guitar at the opening event! — Tara McCoy, Travel Consultant
Best revenue year since firm began, anchored by completion of approximately $15 million total compensation class action settlement. Moved to 80808 and became even more enmeshed in community that we love. Got a baller digital fireplace for our new 808 crib. — Dave Maxfield, Consumer Protection Lawyer
I went out of the country for the first time – spent a week and a half in Trinidad doing missions work and was able to bring my 10-year-old daughter with me (exposure) She was also baptized in the Nylon Pool (in the ocean off of Tabogo. unplanned by us)!!
Invested in my personal development (during that I traveled to Chicago and New York for conferences/seminars and got a chance to spend time with hard-working individuals that I’ve been listening to and watching for several years)
Completed a performing art project in collaboration with a few just-getting-started dance companies for the Columbia Museum of Art. Super proud of the work that was created, even more, excited about the short documentary that is being put together for it.
Completed my second full year in business full-time and my first full year not being subcontracted work (so truly hunting, gathering, cooking and feeding solo)
Generated 35.41% more gross revenue and 27.93% more net profit for Star Accounting and Business Solutions
Was able to pay myself and assistance for the third Dance in Collaboration camp through my art business i am art (first time getting really paid)
Did my first keynote speech for Midlands Tech Artworks Conference
Emotionally and spiritually stronger than I was a year ago
This year marked a full 10 years of being an intentional mom!
Each year that I have sat down and written out my blessing for the year, I am amazed at how much has happened and how much I forgot about in a short period of time. It’s worth doing this at least half a year to keep good in the forefront
— Starlitt Miller, Business Consultant + Workflow Strategist
In this day and age, it’s never been easier to set up a side hustle – paid work that supplements your main job. There are a lot of tools that help you get started quickly, and many more that can connect you to clients all around the globe.
A good number of our members have these paying side hustles. Many of them are making and doing incredible things, too.
Successful side hustles aren’t easy, though, so we gathered everyone together in September to talk through doing them well. We asked questions around what they are, how to do them, and strategies that help you do great work and keep your sanity.
Why have a side hustle?
The answers are pretty varied. Our members have picked up extra gigs because:
From getting out of debt to finding more fulfillment, our members pick up jobs because they’re aiming for some big goal. Or a nice mailbox surprise:
Pricing your side hustle
A lot of members pick up a side hustle for extra cash flow, so we delved into pricing during our chat. When it comes to setting rates, here’s what the community has learned:
Make sure you’re not undercharging. Talk to other people in your field, do some research, and experiment with raising your rates.
Defining blurred lines and boundaries
The things members work on outside of their day jobs are pretty darn cool. That can make it really hard to set boundaries and get full-time work done.
Luckily, members had some great thoughts on how to do this:
Two words that came up often were priorities and time management. You have to have those to balance multiple types of work. (Check out the Productivity session recap for more great related thoughts!)
Be careful about how and when you hustle
Side hustles are incredibly rewarding. They’re also incredibly challenging. For example, it’s pretty easy to get yourself into this situation:
It’s also important to mention that side hustles aren’t for every person or every season. Here are some things to consider if you’re asking if a side hustle is right for you:
Remember, don’t start something if you can’t deliver on it, or struggle to deliver what’s already on your plate!
Find your people
If you’re already a member, join in our on next Slack Session by joining the #Slack_Sessions channel. You can read through past chats and see when the next one is scheduled. We’re better when we work together, so we’d be delighted to see you in the next one.
If you’re not a member, did you know you can schedule a free tour to check out our space and meet some of our people? Set up a time – we’d love to show you around!
As creators, we push ourselves daily to do our best work. This often involves finding inspiration outside of work.
Yet American culture is notorious for long work days and poor work/life balance.
This tension is one reason work/life balance is a trending topic in the work community right now. It feels like a life-sized version of Jenga that– quite frankly – is impossible to win!
As Marc framed it,
He’s not the only one who feels this way.
In July, members gathered together in Slack to chat through this issue. What does balance mean? Is it possible? How do other gig workers handle this?
Read below for some of their insights.
Two definitions of work/life balance Picture a set of scales where work is on the left side and life is on the right side. For many members, work/life balance means keeping these scales in equilibrium.
Others, though, enjoy work so much that they have little interest in the “balance” described above. These entrepreneurs find work energizing; they have little interest in other hobbies.
For this second group, balance is devoting the maximum amount of time to the work they love, without adverse effects to close relationships.
What we stand to lose Members who’d like to equalize life and work lose far more than Netflix-and-chill time when the scales tip heavily toward work:
There are real emotional, mental, and physical side effects to overwork. Noticing those side effects is one way we can recognize when we’re imbalanced.
How we walk the line Balance is difficult, but it is not impossible. Members use a variety of creative constraints to strike balance and avoid the adverse side effects of overwork:
Speaking of exercise, we wouldn’t be surprised if a SOCO kickball team came out of this comment:
When things get out of whack, hit reset
Life will always toss us curve balls that throw off our balance. When members reach inevitable tipping points, they reboot in a few ways:
One other balancing act secret…
Turns out, one other way members find balance is SOCO! (We’re blushing.)
Want to join in the next discussion? You’ll need to be in our #Slack_Sessions channel as a member. Check out memberships here. We’d love to chat with you about our spaces and benefits!
Already a member? Awesome. Join the #Slack_Sessions channel today so you can stay up to date on the next chat!