Make a 3-year plan: Step 5 - Make a weekly schedule and get to work!
How to apply big corporate strategy planning to your small business
A big corporate company has a long term as well as short term strategy that includes everything, every function and employee to ensure that they are reaching the business goals. This type of planning - a 3-year plan - is something I learned and lived by when working as a marketing project manager for a big global car brand, before I started Bear Bell Productions.
As I had no experience in running my own business, or knowledge of how you succeed as a pattern designer it was close at hand to plan my own business in the same way as I had learned from corporate life. And I found that it’s a great way to stay on track, know exactly what to do and not and how to stay focused - even for a small one-woman company. Perhaps even better than for a big one.
In a series of articles about how to make a 3-year plan you can learn how to apply big corporate strategies to your own business/blog/project like this too - and make sure you’ll make that big goal of yours happen.
This is what we have covered in the 3-year plan so far
Step 1: Set the big goal, where we want to be in 3 years - with a vision and a mission for your business.
Step 2: Set measurable objectives that defines what realises that big goal using the different functions within your business.
Step 3: Set milestones for year 1 and 2 up to that big goal in 3 years, plus set ratios for each year to understand what needs to be done in order to stay on the right track and work towards the big goal.
Step 4: Defined the main project for the first year, planned when during the year each project is to be done and also made an activity plan for each project.
<< If you missed the previous steps you can find all articles here >>
Now it’s time for step 5 and this is where we make sure that we move things forward a little bit every day.
A plan is just a plan. Now let's start getting things done!
During the process of making this 3-year plan we have really dug deep into the functions and tasks of our small creative businesses and if you haven’t before you most probably have understood that you do A LOT OF STUFF. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that needs to get done in order to reach our goal, that your freeze, procrastinate and get nothing done instead, even now that we have split the big goal into milestones and smaller manageable steps. And perhaps you still have a feeling of ”where to start?”
But now you have a plan. You have set your objectives, you have even made an action plan for all those projects that will develop your business and get you to that big goal.
But a plan is just a plan. We have to actually implement it into our work day too and get the tasks done if we want to reach that barrel of gold at the end of the rainbow. The plan tells us what it is that we need to do and also when it’s going to be finished. Now we have to decide when we are going to do the work.
For this I usually make a weekly schedule where I have a set time slot for my projects to ensure that I work a little bit on all of those projects every week and not just keep them in a fancy plan on my computer or pinboard.
Make a list of your daily tasks
In the previous step I mentioned the difference between a project and the daily tasks. After defining what we need to do in order to reach our big goals - from the vision down to the smallest task - these projects may seem to be the most important actions of our businesses.
But those daily task can not be neglected now just because we’ve identified and planned the big ladder towards success, we have to dedicate some time for both into our weekly schedule.
If you haven’t gotten one already, make a list of all your daily tasks - a to-do list of those tasks that are either repeated over the weeks over and over again or short term actions that happen now and then. But don’t include the tasks of the main projects on this list. Keep them separated for now.
Those business functions again
Looking at both our projects and our daily tasks we can recognise that we have both the project- and daily tasks represented within our business functions.
Project vs dailies within the marketing, product and sales departments
Within the design studio function there is the big projects of creating pattern collections and the portfolio, but there are some daily tasks as well, like creating image content for social media posts and the website, keeping the website updated and so on.
Within the product department for physical and digital products we have the big project of developing a product lineup for the web shop, but we also have daily tasks such as producing products, or updating prices, monitoring suppliers for examples.
The sales department handles and track all the sales from the webshop/print on demand services on a daily basis (preferrably). But they also work on a larger project of finding a better webshop platform that can show prices in different currencies and charge the customers with alternative solutions.
The finance department is making invoices for clients, paying invoices from suppliers and doing all the accounting tasks, as well as making a new report for a better monitoring of profit and loss on a monthly basis as a bigger development project.
When we make the weekly schedule we have to make place for both big projects and the small daily tasks.
When you make your daily task to-do list start with one function at a time and see what tasks within that function you can come up with.
Then we can start allotting time in our week for both daily tasks and project tasks.
Dividing your week into sessions
My workday begins around 8 in the morning and then I’m at it till around 4 in the afternoon when I go and pick up my kids.
During this time I try to fit in 4-5 working sessions, where I dedicate each session to a specific function or sub function. This way I don’t work on the same task for too long.
It can look something like this:
8-10 - Marketing; I start with some of the daily tasks on my to-do list, like posting something on Instagram and then I move over to work on one of the bigger projects, like redoing the website.
10-12 - Design Studio: I might start off with some daily tasks again, creating images for my next blog post and then turn my focus to a project like a work in progress pattern collection.
12-12:30 - Lunch
12:30-13.00 - Finance: I do some daily tasks like accounting or make an invoice.
13-16 - Product; where I work on producing a new Skillshare course, or researching new products for the webshop.
Altering between functions like this makes sure that I both get my daily tasks done and also move forward a little bit with some of my main projects. The next day I might dedicate to other functions, projects and tasks. That way my days get varied and more fun instead of having the same schedule day after day.
This is what my actual schedule can look like:
As you can see there is a lot of time dedicated to marketing and design studio to-do’s right now. This is because I’m in a phase where those functions needs to move forward in a faster pace than the other functions, according to my project plan. In a couple of weeks when some of the marketing projects will be finished I’ll dedicate more time to ”product” and my projects within that function. The amount of time dedicated to each function depends on where in the project activity plan I am, client work and the size of my to-do list.
Use your project plan & to-do list to plan your week
To create your weekly schedule you need to first refer to your different functions and the projects that you have set out to do. Then the activity plan to align what tasks that are scheduled for this specific week and how much time that you think they will need.
You also have to consider your to-do list. Are there a lot of urgent matters to attend or not - this also has an effect on how much time each function will need during the week.
Then dedicate time for those functions in your schedule according to this.
A tip is to check your to-do do list with your daily tasks and pick some things that feels easy/necessary or important to get done at the beginning of each session. It’s a flexible list that is controlled by what’s happening at the moment.
For the main projects you decide ahead what project you should work on on a specific day and session in your schedule, to ensure that you are up to speed with the action plan.
Free download: Weekly schedule template
I have created a weekly schedule template for you to download, print and use if you’d like, or use it as inspiration to make your own weekly schedule template.
<< Get your weekly schedule template >>
Plan your week ahead
Since you will be moving forward in your projects and eventually finish them, and your to-do list changes as you cross your completed tasks your weeks will not need the same schedule. Sometimes you can reuse your schedule for a couple or a few weeks, but keep referring to your project plan and to-do list to make sure your function sessions and the allotted time for them is realisic and according to what’s happening in your business right now.
In my weekly schedule I have 30 minutes dedicated at the end of every week to review the past week and plan the next one. Or sometimes I do that first thing on Monday morning, which makes me up to speed right away of what needs to be done.
In the companion workbook you find more guidance on how to plan your weekly schedule.
There is one more article in this series left. In the next one I will talk about how to review your 3-year plan when one year has passed and it’s time for planning the next one.