How I Control My Schedule – Starting With the Big Picture

Since I became self-employed in 2003, I’ve always looked for better ways to control my schedule.

Like most entrepreneurs, I’ve struggles with work / life balance – from too much work to too much play.

Thousands of entrepreneurs know about this simple concept from one of my heroes, Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach®, but I wanted to share my adaptation.

I found through my experience in the Strategic Coach® program that not everyone has the tools to implement the system when the rubber meets the road.

Here’s how it works…

I purchased a wall calendar on Amazon and a pack of transparent round stickers in four colors (see Amazon links below).   When you’re ready to get started, you can follow these simple steps (three of Dan’s principles sandwiched between a pair of my add-ons).

  1. I start out the year by marking in Red all the days that are just out of my control.  This is an eye-opener that I highly recommend you complete with your spouse.  Between weddings, holidays and all the other traditions that spawn annual events, you’ll be shocked to see how many days are gone before you get started.
  2. Mark your Free Days in Green – the days you plan to take vacation, spend time with your family and enjoying things you enjoy.  Dan and his wife advocate 150 free days a year!  Now a free day is 24 hours, MIDNIGHT TO MIDNIGHT, with no work.  If that concept sounds impossible to you, then you need to keep reading!
  3. Mark your Focus Days in Yellow.  On Focus days, you’re spending your time doing the activities that bring the most value to you and your business.  Planning these days in advance will help you better prepare to make the most out of your opportunities.
  4. Mark your Buffer Days in Blue.  The remainder of the days are there for you to plan, prep, primp and practice so you can shine on your Focus Days and rest on your Free Days.
  5. Reflect Monthly. Each month, take 15-20 minutes to look over your calendar and find out how you did.  I chose transparent stickers so I can put an “actual” sticker over my “proposed” sticker.  My goal is to see more Green than Red, of course!    Taking time to reflect on your past month will help you consistently increase the quality of your future months.

My cross country coach always said, “The hardest part of running is putting your shoes on.”  The same is true here.

The whole thing starts with the first action on your part.  Check out the following links to put this system to work today.

In The Time Breakthrough™ Dan Sullivan will introduce you to an entirely new way of understanding and managing personal time. Learn how to use The Entrepreneurial Time System® to improve your results and spend greater amounts of time doing what you love.

The 21-Day Time Breakthrough Workbook, included in this package, provides a practical way to make the concepts learned from the audio CD and mini-booklet a daily habit. Instead of feeling trapped, enjoy a life that becomes increasingly rejuvenating, creative, integrated, and enjoyable.

You can purchase The Time Breakthrough™ by visiting the Strategic Coach® Store





Is Earning a Comfortable Living Killing Your Business?

Curiosity killed the cat, but being too comfortable can kill your business.

Ask yourself:

“How does this apply to me?”

“What do my customers really want?”

“I wonder what would happen if I spent (at least) twice as much time on revenue-generating activities?”

“What are my competitors doing to take market share.”

Every day, you do the things you know.

What can you do to create a false sense of urgency today?

Instead, you’ll probably clean your desktop and inbox, respond to emails and phone calls, pay bills, put out fires and search the internet and waiting…

You’ll spend most of your time doing things you’re most comfortable doing.

You’ll do the things that don’t cause you any pain, discomfort or anxiety.

But growth isn’t comfortable.

You know what you need to be doing…

It’s time to get uncomfortable.



Writing an Employee Handbook? Start with an Outline

Writing an employee handbook is no simple task. You’ll have better luck if you start with an outline that will allow you to make key decisions about how you will handle employee relations. This list may seem formal, but if you’re focused on growth, you’ll need it at some point in the future anyway.

I run across small business owners who have grown over the years, often starting by hiring family, friends or acquaintances as employees. When the need arises for a handbook, it is easy to procrastinate. Ultimately, you need to have an attorney look over your handbook, but if you would like to put in the time to save yourself some money, here’s a comprehensive outline with critical areas in bold.

  • Employee acknowledgement form – For your records, documents that the employee received and read the handbook.
  • Community relations – encourages clients to maintain a professional image.
  • Equal opportunity employment
  • Harassment – You should define both workplace harassment and sexual harassment AND describe the process for reporting both.
  • Nature of employment – Make it clear that employment is “at will” and that the handbook does not create a contract of employment.
  • Business ethics and conduct – requires employee to follow all laws and regulations.
  • Employment classifications – clearly lays out various levels of employment from owner down to part-time help.
  • Personal data change policy – Explains that the employee must communicate changes to address or other contact information in a timely manner.
  • Performance evaluation content and frequency – setting expectations about these reviews is an important step toward employee accountability.
  • Job duties and responsibilities Laying out job responsibilities and setting the expectation that they are subject to change without notice are two key points you must cover.
  • Disciplinary process – Lay out the steps for discipline, typically a verbal warning, one or two written warnings and termination. It also helps to list acts that could lead to disciplinary action and those which will result in immediate termination.
  • Attendance and work hours Resist the temptation of being too loose with employee schedules. If you give an inch…
  • Lunch period – Again, failing to have a policy about hours will always lead to employees taking advantage of your time and money. Be sure and spell it out.
  • Breaks and rest – Lay out a fair and reasonable break time in the morning and afternoon and make sure your employees use this time.
  • Inclement weather policy – Make it clear who they should contact if they can’t make it to work.
  • Timekeeping – Make sure each employee documents and signs off on their time sheets and maintain them for your records.
  • Overtime – Make it clear when it is acceptable and how much you will pay for it.
  • Pay practices You’ll need to make it clear when your employees will be paid.
  • Bereavement leave – If you have a policy, get it down on paper. This is one area where employers can quickly get into an unfavorable situation if they don’t have a consistent policy.
  • Maternity leave – This is another touchy area that you should address before it becomes an issue.
  • Jury duty – Most businesses offer regular pay during jury duty. You may decide to limit the number of days that you will pay.
  • Military leave – Military leaves are governed by federal and state law. See applicable regulations if you choose to include this section.
  • Eligibility for benefits – Set a waiting period for benefits.
  • Retirement plan – Include details on the match, if you choose to set up a retirement plan.
  • Group insurance –
  • Paid time off (vacation)- Usually based on years of employment. Be sure to include a process for multiple requests.
  • Holidays – “Will be we be off the day after Thanksgiving?” Realize that your employees will likely be hesitant to ask if you don’t provide this information well in advance. Set it once and stick with it… you can always offer a “bonus” day off.
  • Internet and social media policy – Clarify the policy upfront to avoid any surprises.
  • Safety and health – Encourage your employees to report concerns or violations to management.
  • Workplace violence – Enact a zero-tolerance policy.
  • Visitors to the workplace – This is another area that can make for an awkward and uncomfortable situation if you don’t spell it out before a violation.
  • Property inspection – You may reserve the right to impect company property without prior notice.
  • Smoking policy
  • Drug and alcohol free workplace – If you plan on conducting random drug screenings, let your employment know.
  • Confidentiality policy
  • Dress code
  • Grievance policy – Having a process for handling grievances is the first step to keeping small issues from blowing up.
  • Separation of employment – One heavily disputed area involves when an employee began getting paid (often a full pay period behind) and received their final paycheck. Make sure you note your policy to avoid confusion (and a potential lawsuit).

Writing an employee handbook from scratch is a daunting task.  After reviewing this outline carefully, you should be in a better position to create a draft, or hire someone to draft the document for you.

If you plan to use an attorney to draft the handbook, rather than just review it, being clear about these points will allow you to get a reasonably firm quote from them.