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We are often so busy juggling our clients, our team and our own business day-to-day operations that it can be hard to remember to come up for air. Also called a strategy day, a CEO day is some time that you take out of the daily grind to focus on achieving your high-level business goals.
When you are up against it, it can be so easy to get swept away with it all and before you know it, your own business has fallen by the wayside. The best way to combat this is to carve out some non-negotiable time to refocus on your business direction, take some time to review what is working and what you need to tweak and get your headspace back to a place of clarity.
Today I am sharing with you the way I plan my own monthly strategy day; I have done this since day dot in my business and I have found that it has done wonders for keeping me on track and productive!
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Setting the CEO Day Scene
It can be really difficult getting your brain to adjust from the detail of working in the day-to-day to then getting all high level and strategic and then back down again in the same day; I liken it to the mental equivalent to getting vertigo when you take high-speed elevators from the ground floor to the top of a skyscraper and back down again! Here are some steps that you can take to set yourself up to be as productive and creative as possible.
Take A Day
Getting strategic takes a bit of a shift of thinking that I think to get the most of, you need to try and dedicate a full day to.
I recommend taking a day as early in the month as possible, ideally on the first day of your working week when you are feeling as refreshed as possible. If things are really that crazy in your business, do it on a weekend.
Leave the Office
Get out of your usual space. Whether to a coffee shop, a co-working space or an AirBnb (or, if the 2020 stay at home hangover is continuing in your corner of the world, a room in your house that you don’t usually work from).
Getting you out of your usual space will get you in a more creative mood and it will be easier to focus and ignore the many distractions that usually surround you. Let your team know you are out of the office for the day and resist the distraction of checking emails, Slack and Voxer all day, you can check-in in the morning, but then shut them down.
Your Clients Will Survive Without You for 24 Hours
On this note, no client work! This is the day to focus on your business, not your clients’. Make sure your diary is clear, you don’t want to have any meetings break up your rhythm.
Bring a little sparkle to your day; go out for lunch or get your favourite food delivered (sushi for me!). Breaking out of your usual routine will keep you in a great mindset and is a little reward for what you achieved the previous month.
Plan a chilled evening. The idea here is to review, reset and refocus, so give yourself a break and recharge! This can be a relaxing evening at home with no jobs, or a date night. I used to love (again, pre-2020) looking for last-minute evening spa packages which you can often pick up quite cheap on weekdays.
What to Do on Your CEO Day
Back in corporate, no strategy day was complete without an agenda and the same goes for entrepreneurship!
Send Client Invoices
While I have a CRM (I use Dubsado) that could automatically send invoices out, I think this is a really good exercise for seeing what is actually coming in and whether any clients need their retainers increased (I generally require clients to increase if they exceed their retained hours three months in a row). Crucially, I do not send the emails now, I record them as an action in my project management tool.
Review Previous Month’s Performance
There are a few steps to this, but I recommend starting with your previous months’ metrics and how you are tracking year-on-year and year-to-date. I find a dashboard is a great visual representation of this, which you can either complete yourself or have a member of your team pull together. Presenting data in this manner makes it really easy to see what’s working well for you and where to focus your efforts.
Review your wins and learnings from the previous month. What tasks actually moved your business in the direction you want it to (your metrics will help determine this). One example in my own business is that I write four SEO and/or Pinterest optimised blog posts a month with the aim of increasing website traffic and increasing email list subscribers. I use my google analytics to track how many people are directed to my site from Pinterest and Google and then the conversion rate to my email list to analyse whether this strategy is working.
Think about what didn’t go so well, think about why and how you can adjust your approach next time to get the result you want.
Planning the Upcoming Month
The next step is to plan out your upcoming month at task level in line with your quarterly and annual goals while taking into account any adjustments you need to make based on your reflections and takeaways from the previous month.
I have in the past (maybe still now!) had a tendency to overestimate what I can feasibly get done in 30 days which just leads to stress and a bit of a despondent feeling at the end of the month when you haven’t ticked off all those tasks. The way I get around this now is by actually planning everything out in my calendar.
Step 1: Recurring Tasks & Meetings
Start with the recurring tasks that you do every day or every week, then add in your client work and slots for discovery calls (I take a maximum of two 30 minute discovery calls a day and so allocate an hour. I rarely actually have two, so best case scenario I get some time back!). Don’t forget any client or internal meetings. It’s ok if you don’t know exactly when they are yet, just block the time out and you can move it around when it’s confirmed.
Step 2: Identify Time Remaining for Your Business Tasks
The time you have remaining is the actual amount of time that you have to work on tasks in your own business. Work out what your priorities are, how long you estimate they take and add them into the remaining slots in your calendar. It will fill up faster than you’d like!
Step 3: Give Yourself Buffer Time
Try and leave an hour every day free for “reactive” tasks. Much as we’d love to be able to plan for everything, realistically things will always come at you left-field and you need to reserve time to deal with them.
Use the “show as free” functions in your calendar where relevant so it doesn’t interfere with your availability in your scheduler or CRM tool. Things will absolutely be moved around as you move through the month, the aim here is just to get an actual understanding of how much time you actually have to allocate to your own business tasks after you have planned in all your non-negotiable activities.
Step 4: Add Tasks to Your Project Management Tool
Finally, map everything out task-by-task in your PM tool with due dates. I set non-time sensitive tasks to have a deadline of a Friday, so I have the flexibility to move the allocated work slot around in the week as my meeting and client schedule starts to firm up.
Review Team Performance and Plan New Hires
This can be tricky, particularly if you are not used to managing a team, but is a critical part to keep your operation moving smoothly. Review what you think each team member did well and what you think they could have done differently and note both down to feedback in your next 1:1 (these are great planned the day after your CEO day while it is still fresh in your mind).
Also, review if the tasks they are performing are moving your business in the right direction. Are there any tasks that need to be tweaked or responsibilities that need to change?
Finally, map out your next quarter hires. Tempting as it is, do not wait until you are screaming out for someone to help you out, you need to be hiring someone three months before this stage, plus the month that it actually takes to recruit. I know this can sound counterintuitive, but the reality is that, from my experience, it takes three months to get a new hire up to speed and delivering consistent value (it’s no coincidence that the probation period in employment contracts is often three months) and this initial period also takes a time investment from you.
If you wait until you are stretched too thin, finding the time to onboard them and train them becomes tricky, the likelihood is you won’t do as good a job at it and consequently it will take longer to get them actually taking work off your plate.
It can be SO easy to do that masterclass or course module, tick it off as a win and then never actually implement any of it (sound familiar?!). The key to actually absorbing the information you just learnt it to action it straight away, or at least plan out the actions in your PM tool (with deadlines!).
Taking some time out from your daily business operations is a great time to do some personal development and actually action your learnings.
There is nothing like a bit of a digital declutter to bring back the clarity and make you feel more energised! The least brain intensive task is best left to last, get a glass of wine, put your favourite playlist on and smile!
1. Sort Your Desktop & Downloads
Rename, file and delete everything in your downloads and desktop folders.
2. Repeat with Dropbox and/or Google Workspace
Go and do the same in your Dropbox and/or Google Workspace (if you have a team, stick to just the documents and folders you are responsible for), everything should be in a folder! The test here is if you can identify every file by its name and put your hands on any business document in less than 30 seconds.
3. File Those Random Thoughts!
Where is the place you write random notes (I know you have one!)? It could be on sticky notes on your desktop, in your notes app or in your project management software.
4. Inbox Zero
Head to your emails and get yourself down to inbox zero! Or as close as, just leave the emails you actually need to respond to…you can do that tomorrow!
5. Sort Your Screenshots
Sort through screenshots and photos. There is a bit of overlap here with your personal life, but I find about 50% of the photos and videos I have taken over the month need either be deleted (when you take multiple pictures of the same thing) or I need to do something with (I screenshot everything from courses I want to do more research into to useful tips I see on Instagram). Action (add the task to your PM software, or even better, do it now!) and delete!
6. Tidy Your Project Management Tool
Go into your PM software and tidy up. Do any tasks need to have due dates or status’ changed?
Are there any other settings or little admin tasks you have been meaning to do that drive you a bit crackers or take up valuable extra seconds every day? One thing I did recently was to organise my Chrome favourites toolbar into folders and add some extensions, took me 20 minutes and I save several minutes a day hunting for links or opening new application tabs!
That’s A Wrap: Planning Your CEO Day to Achieve Your Business Goals
Taking some time to reset and focus on our high-level business goals is critical for actually achieving them, but finding the time to get out of the nitty-gritty of the daily grind can often be challenging to carve out time for.
Taking a day a month is an important activity to keep you on track to achieve your goals and take some much-needed space from delivering your all for your clients and putting some energy back into your own business.
You know what to do, get your CEO day recurring in your diary and set up your agenda items in your PM tool!