As a solopreneur, time management is the key to achieving the level of productivity that I need for success. I've had to become an expert in identifying free time hidden in my calendar, choosing which tasks are worth spending time on, and otherwise managing my schedule to accomplish my goals with limited time.
One thing I struggled with was the fragmented nature of my days. In the course of a single day, I might have an in-person meeting, several phone calls, a podcast interview, and plenty of independent tasks to complete.
While I tried my best to batch my calls and in-person meetings close together, to optimize the way I was spending time and to reduce switching gears multiple times, it was largely dependent on when my clients and partners were available.
It wasn't working.
Since I live just outside New York City, I found myself having to commute into NYC several days a week for a single 30-minute meeting. All of that commute time was largely unproductive and reduced my ability to take calls or complete other work. This meant I had to start taking calls earlier and later than I wanted, and working on independent work far outside normal hours.
Something had to be done.
Introducing: The Un-Bookable Day
I knew of a few people who had carved out specific hours every day for focused work, but I didn't think that would be enough. I decided I needed an entire day: I implemented an un-bookable day on my calendar, once per week.
The day itself rotates, depending on immovable meetings or events, but every five-day workweek now includes a full day where I do not accept any bookings.
None. No meetings. No calls. No interviews. No appointments.
To be clear, I'm still working. For me, it's not about creating a four-day workweek, where I can spend a day watching Netflix or lounging on the couch. Instead, un-bookable days are dedicated to independent work, projects, and focused time that I get to allot and organize myself. On these days, I decide my priorities, and I'm free to switch gears (or not) on my own terms.
How to Implement Un-Bookable Days
You may have anxiety about drawing lines and boundaries around your calendar. That's fine. Here are a few tips to go about implementing it and making the most of it.
- Block It Off: I know this sounds simple, but you need to actually go into your calendar and physically block your day off, from whatever time your day opens to whatever time it closes (for me, it's 9:30-6). This is key for a few reasons. First, this is new, and you may otherwise forget that you've carved this time out for focused work on your own. Second, if anyone else has access to your calendar, they will see that you're unavailable. And third, having the calendar physically blocked off will make it easier for you to stand your ground. Speaking of which...
- Stand Your Ground: Inevitably, someone is going to ask for a meeting or a call on your no-book day. It's going to happen. In order for this to work, you MUST stand your ground and maintain that you are not available on that day. Having physically blocked off the hours on your calendar will help with this. You can truthfully say that you are booked up and unavailable, and offer up alternative times. If a situation arises where you cannot find another time that works, or waiting a week isn't possible, then consider shifting your un-bookable day to another day that week. Protect that time and it will work to your advantage.
- Develop a Script: If you're not great at pushing back, or you're worried that you'll be easily pressured to abandon your un-bookable day, then develop a script so you know how to respond. You should be able to confidently say that you're unavailable without feeling like you have to explain or defend yourself, and there's no need to tell anyone that your un-bookable day is the reason. Just as you would if you had other meetings or events that day, practice naturally saying "I'm booked up on Monday," or simply "I'm not able to have a call this Monday." Blocking off your calendar can help you with this mindset.
- Decide Your Priorities: You're not guaranteed to get things done on your un-bookable day simply because it's blank. In fact, because it's blank, it's incredibly important that you make the effort to set your own priorities for this time and decide, ahead of time, what you'll work on. Perhaps you function better with some flexibility and would prefer to tackle a to-do list on your own terms, but you might take it a step further and block off specific hours for specific tasks you want to focus on, ensuring that you make the most of the time you've carved out for yourself to do focused and productive work.