Guest Post by Robin Suomi, MBA, Owner, Startup to Growth, LLC
You started your business so YOU could be your own boss and call the shots, right? You were excited about getting those first clients. It was a busy time, but you made it through. You knew you wouldn’t keep up that pace forever. Those crazy hours were just for your startup phase.
Then one day you realized that things had not changed: You are still working long hours, feeling increasingly overwhelmed and afraid you would never catch up. What the heck? That is not how it is supposed to be.
The good news is that there are many choices you can make and tools you can use to gain control of your business day and stop the overwhelm. Now is the best time to take a hard look at your processes, change the procedures that need changing and tame your overwhelm. The bad news is that this requires some hard decisions and discipline on your part.
Here are five positive steps to take that will help you get your business life under control and be more productive. Then you can use your “saved” time to work on new products/services, work more billable hours, and do whatever else is on your checklist that will grow your business…with a guilt-free conscience. Ready to start?
- Templates. This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Set up templates for the standard email responses you need to send out by email, social media, messenger, etc. An inquiry about your product? Setting up a meeting? I would like to introduce you to so-and-so? No problem. Write your standard responses and store them in a file called “Templates.” They will likely cover 80 percent of your responses. Spend a few moments to customize each response. Done.
- Phone. This is a bit controversial, depending upon your industry and where you live in the county, but here’s my advice: Pick up the phone and call the person you are trying to reach that hasn’t gotten back to you! This has saved me sooooo much time! You can immediately stop the back-and-forth, time-burning email tag if you phone them, speak for 60 seconds, get your answer, and move on. You can send a confirming email if you do need a paper trail. Done.
- Finances. Store your financial data, both income and expenses, in one place, and process it regularly. Most small businesses, especially in the beginning, can process this data weekly, or even monthly. Your system can be physical, including file folders; it can be 100 percent digital; or, it can be a combination of the two. If you are outsourcing your bookkeeping, it is still important to organize your data regularly and send it to your service provider on a regular basis. Get your system in place and calendar regular time to complete these tasks. Done.
- Calendar. Did I just say calendar? Whether your calendar is paper or digital, make sure you know what you are supposed to do when. As I pointed out under the Finances tip, use your calendar to set some time aside to work on organizing your income/expenses. Set aside regular blocks of time to work on marketing, business planning, setting meetings, creating/revising your products/services, etc., whatever your priority projects are. Make sure you have a system in place to set up new appointments quickly and accurately so you can stay organized and forego the embarrassment of missing a scheduled meeting. There are many apps that can help, from project management to calendaring tools. Done.
- Checklist. This is perhaps one of the easiest organizing tools. Again, it can be paper or digital. I personally use both, and in a way that probably only makes sense to me! I create daily and weekly “must do” checklists, which all support my monthly goals. And my monthly goals support my business plan. Here’s where the hard decisions and discipline really come into play. Yes, you can attend X meeting, but is attending X meeting the “highest and best use” of your time? Does it substantively help you reach your goals? If not, don’t attend. To rephrase that: Learn to say, “No,” and stick to it! Create your checklist, using whatever method – paper or digital or hybrid – that makes the most sense to you. Use it religiously. Done.
I hope these tips help you tame overwhelm and become more organized. When you free up your schedule by organizing repetitive, standard tasks to get more done in less time, you can use the time you are saving to help you grow your business while having more fun along the way! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Robin Suomi has worked with thousands of small business owners to start and grow their businesses through coaching, membership programs, professional development and training workshops. Her passion is to help you become better…whatever that looks like in your life.