September is about new beginnings - back to school, back to work and new routines. In North America, September always seems to be the unofficial new year. As we leave behind the fun and frolic of summer and refocus on our businesses, it's likely time to revise our schedules as well. So here's to fresh starts as we talk about how to set up a weekly plan and make the best use of our time.

You may refer to a schedule as an agenda, timetable, calendar, plan or to-do list. Whatever you call it, if you don't have one, I encourage you to create and follow one. Why?


• with a schedule you have a place to put your to-do's. Rather than having a loose idea in your mind of what needs to be done, a schedule gets your list out of your head and gives you a solid guide to follow.

• your schedule organizes your work day so that one task flows into the next almost effortlessly. No more scattered thinking, scrambling to make sure you get everything done before running out of time or forgetting something.

• it is an effective planning tool. Once you have your tasks plotted you will have a visual of what your week looks like. For example, you may see that you have a block of time available each week that will allow you to take on another client. Or perhaps you will realize that you've taken on too much and will have to scale back in one area.

Having your days planned out is so important to your business. It has a positive effect on your state of mind, your productivity and in turn your bottom line. Since I started using a schedule it has made a huge difference in my workdays. It is a simple system to get your office back on track. It is easy to set up and maintain and no costly equipment or supplies are needed.

So let's get started! Grab a pen and paper or create a document on your computer.

Here are the 5 simple steps:

1. Determine your hours and days of work and draw a chart in the form of a table with days of the week across the top and hours of the day down the left side. It's important to set boundaries as to when you're available and to let your clients know how and when they can contact you. If this is your own business, you get to make up whatever works for you and makes sense for your industry. If you're just starting out it's tempting to announce that you are available 24/7 in order to get clients. That can actually be bad for business. Only promise what you can deliver. You probably don't want to be 'on call' when you're sleeping or with family!

2. Divide your activities into any number of manageable categories. For example, as a home-based service business my main categories are Client Work, Business Development, Home Office, Personal and Family. For easy reference, colour-code each category.

3. List what items fall under each category. For instance, under Client Work list who your clients are, under Business Development list what networking events you attend and for Home Office list tasks such as tracking business expenses.

4. Block off times for each category. It has been said that we overestimate what we can do in a day. Remember that your daily tasks will typically take longer than expected so be generous with the time you assign to each category and each task. (The good news is that we underestimate what we can do in a year so plan big for that!)

5. Now you have your template. Fill in the blanks with your to-do's and you're off to the races.

Modify your schedule as needed. It can take many tries and tweaks before you find what works for you and it will change as your business evolves. I challenge you to create a schedule and use it for a month and see the positive difference it makes in your business. I'd love to hear what you come up with!

Author's Bio: 

As a Business Support Specialist to small business owners, Jennifer Hazlett provides technical and administrative assistance specializing in planning, implementing and managing various internet marketing strategies. Jennifer combines her current work experience with her extensive corporate background to create programs and services that help the small business owner get their business going, growing or back on track. Sign up at Jennifer's website, Alternate Admin for your complimentary report "101 Ways to Boost Business with a Virtual Assistant" and receive her free monthly ezine "Home Sweet Home Office" full of practical tips, tricks, tools and resources for the small business owner.