How to prioritize for a sane life: lessons from 7 years as a solopreneur

Jackie Colburn
6 min readApr 18


I’ve been working for myself for about 7 years now, and I’m always surprised when someone expresses interest in how I manage the different moving parts. People are sometimes amazed to find me at a noon weekday yoga class, or able to plan an intentional break from projects.

It’s not for a lack of work (my professional plate is as full as ever), and it’s not for a lack of personal commitments (ahem, I have a preschooler). The credit is really owed to organizational skills and prioritization.

In recent months, I’ve been encouraged to stop and reflect on this after receiving questions like:

“I’d love to shadow you for a day”

“I’d love to know what your days look like and how you plan them”

“I think of you as MOST organized and that’s why I ask you for help in organizing my own business”

As a result of these questions, I started to pay close attention to the things I’ve learned and refined over the years that help me manage my day-to-day life in a way that’s organized, enjoyable and sustainable.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at 6 “secrets” I have committed to memory, which you can most certainly lift and apply to your own life in any way that feels supportive.

1. Plan your day.

Whether you call it day-blocking, calendaring, or simply “taking time to think about your day,” this step is key. My approach is to make a list of the things I want to get done, preview meetings and required activities I’ve committed to, then plan for everything by blocking time for each on my calendar.

Simple? Yes. Obvious? Maybe. But do most people do it? I don’t think so.

A tool I’ve found particularly helpful in kick-starting this habit is the Self Journal (links to this resource and more can be found below). I don’t use it religiously anymore, but think it’s a good starting point for anyone trying to cultivate this practice.

2. Proactively prioritize.

Prioritize the things that make you like your life, then block time for them in advance (by weeks and months if you have to!).

For me, this means scheduling a block for reading every Thursday morning and another for yoga class every Wednesday at noon. It’s not that these commitments never get deprioritized — they do when I have a workshop to facilitate — but they don’t get pushed for smaller meetings, or little to-dos. Because they’re on my calendar, I honor and prioritize them just as I would anything else.

3. Batch stuff.

This technique isn’t new, but it’s incredibly effective. My friends John and Jake talk about it in their book “Make Time,” and I have to say, I think it’s a game changer.

The idea is to batch things — small things, admin things, email things — then do them in one swoop. It’s effective because it keeps you from being interrupted by little stuff when you’re trying to do focused or intense work.

Personally, I like to save the small stuff for times when I don’t have a ton of energy but do have enough brain power to get things done. I recommend scheduling a chunk of time during an afternoon to tackle them all at once. Keep a running list of to-dos in your planner / notebook / list app so that you know exactly what to address when the time comes.

Finally — and this is important — once you write the small things down, stop letting them rattle around in your brain and trust that they’ll get resolved during your scheduled “batch” time.

4. Remind yourself.

A to-do list is one thing, but a reminder to do the things on your list is another.

Similar to holding time on your calendar to batch the little things, create calendar events for future, time-sensitive tasks. Doing this is great because 1) it reminds you to do something by a certain deadline and, 2) it holds the space you need to get it done.

For example, I add blocks on my calendar for things like invoicing, or paying taxes, or working on blog posts. This way I don’t end up crunched for time or overwhelmed when the deadline approaches.

This is honestly a really helpful technique for feeling more in control of the not-so-fun yet necessary things required to function as a solopreneur (and an adult in general).

5. Accept (and expect) the hard stuff.

Building on the last point, life as a solopreneur or small-business owner is often filled with many things that you don’t necessarily love to do (this is probably true of many conventional jobs as well).

The idea is to find the right balance between the amount of time you spend doing what you love and the amount of time you spend doing the not-so-fun (yet necessary) things.

I feel avoidant when it comes to paying my taxes and marketing myself. Because I don’t love either, I hold time in the morning to tackle them when I’m fresh and more resilient. I also accept that they’re part of the job and need to be done — an attitude shift that helps me move through these tasks without also being mad at them.

That said, I do think that if you spend most of your time not liking what you’re doing, it might be time to take an honest look at your work plate and see if you can shift to a more balanced scenario. I used this audit when I first made the move from a 9–5 to solopreneurship, and it helped me get really clear about what I wanted:

6. Do the most important thing first.

If you have a big, important task to complete, do it before other tasks, and when you can dedicate most of your energy to making sure that it’s great. For me, that means first-thing in the morning when I’m alert and not yet fatigued by the commitments of the day.

Maybe you need to write a proposal, put together a presentation, or facilitate a big meeting — make it a priority rather than bogging down your brain power with little tasks (that could be batched for another time).

When you have a project or assignment that requires your energetic A-Game, make sure you’re working on it when you have the gusto to do it really well.

Balancing your day requires a lot of dedication and intention, especially in a world where so many different stimuli compete for our attention. Whether you’re a solopreneur or simply trying to get a better handle on how you spend your time, these 6 habits will help you cultivate a more organized, enjoyable and sustainable schedule (they did for me!).

I love hearing questions / comments / ideas from others, so please feel free to comment, reach out with your thoughts, and drop a few claps if you enjoyed this post.



Jackie Colburn

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