Managing time effectively is about more than upping your productivity. It helps you think creatively, enjoy your work, and get a work/life balance that benefits you and your business. Time management is key to feeling good about what you do, but to do that, you need systems. Here are some examples of systems that can help you organise your time so that you become more organised and efficient.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of time management systems, it’s a good idea to think about who you are. Your personality plays a key role in how you tackle tasks, your style of operating, and how you interact with others. When coming up with systems to help you manage time, something that works with your personality is going to be better than something that doesn’t fit well.
Tried and Tested Time Management Systems
This is a great idea for all those procrastinators out there (you know who you are!). The Pomodoro Technique is where you use a timer set for a specific amount of time. During that time you commit to working on a task without distractions. When the timer stops, you stop. Traditionally the timer is set for 25 minutes, followed by a short break, but you can set it higher or lower to suit your individual preference.
What is good about this is that you can fool your brain into working on those less appealing tasks. After all, we can all stand 15 minutes of concentrated effort, even if we don’t feel like it. But, what happens during that time is that we often find our flow. It becomes easier to finish the task. And if you don’t, then at least you have made progress, which is better than still being stuck procrastinating! All you need for this is a timer and willingness to commit.
Forget to-do lists, time blocking is a far more effective method of organising your time and tasks. Time blocking gives you a visual representation of how your day, week or month is planned out. There are apps out there you can use, good old Google Calendar or even a spreadsheet works as a daily planner.
Using colours for time blocks helps you differentiate between activities. For example, you could use different colours for different clients, or one colour for admin type tasks and another for scheduled meetings. You don’t have to stop with work either, you could schedule time blocks to include time spent with family, exercise and relaxation.
Time blocking helps you get a balance between work and life, because you can see exactly where your time is being spent. If your planner shows too much of one colour, then maybe it’s time to delegate or make some changes.
The 1-3-5 System
Rather than a traditional to-do list (that often simply makes us feel overwhelmed), the 1-3-5 system is where you write down a series of tasks you want to complete that day.
- 1 high priority task/ large task
- 3 medium tasks
- 5 small tasks
This makes your priorities easier to manage, and helps you to make progress without feeling overwhelmed. It is amazing what you can achieve, and how much better your time is spent when you have a system, as you stop wasting energy trying to do it all at once.
Most of us will be familiar with time tracking apps. Many entrepreneurs and freelancers use them to track billable hours. But, it is also very useful as a tool to show you what you spend most time doing. Time tracking apps that I use are Rescue Time, and Timing App. These can be set to run in the background so you can review how you spend your time when it suits you.
Having this insight means you can devise a new schedule where you spend appropriate amounts of time on tasks, and organise your time more effectively. It helps you to see where to streamline your processes, such as through using automation. Or what tasks you could outsource to a VA or OBM.
My Business Task Audit is another way to gain that insight into time spent on tasks. Its free, and could give you that organisational push you need to take control of your time, rather than it controlling you.
When we have poor time management, we have more stress and are less productive. Having some simple systems in place can transform how you work, increase your energy levels and make you feel more positive. It is amazing how a simple shift in how we spend our time can transform how effective we are at work, as well as how we feel.
If you are looking for some help in developing systems and processes that can make more of your time, feel free to get in touch!
In your business, have you ever stopped to really consider how many tasks you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? It may surprise you. It’s no wonder that so many of us feel overwhelmed at times. What if there was a way to cut down on tasks, without compromising on the quality and quantity of your output? Well, there is! It’s called the art of delegation!
What can I delegate?
Delegating is where you offload some of your tasks to others, freeing up your valuable time. When you are busy with the day-to-day operations, it can be hard to know exactly what can be delegated and to whom. First, you need a breakdown of all the jobs you do within your business, and that’s where the Business Task Audit can help. It helps you identify everything that you do, so you can get a clear idea of what can be outsourced to someone else.
Benefits of delegation
The most obvious benefit of delegating tasks is that it helps you to manage your time. This enables you to improve your focus on other jobs, or creative thinking, strategizing, or even just have some time to yourself!
If you are not ready to hire someone, or outsource tasks, you can make use of automation tools to help you work smarter. Rather than delegate to a person, hand over your email marketing, social media, call scheduling and more to software and apps instead!
Better time management has the added effect of making you more productive and drives forward the growth of your business. So, delegate those time-consuming tasks!
Should I outsource to a VA or an OBM?
A VA (virtual assistant) can be a fantastic asset to your business. They are usually well-versed in many of those repetitive admin tasks, understand how to use lots of different software and business tools, and can help take some of those everyday jobs off your list.
But, what if you want to outsource more complex projects? That is where an OBM (online business manager) can help. An OBM can handle entire projects, use their analytical skills to improve workflows, and can assist you in strategic planning for the growth of your business. They can look closely at your business systems and create alternative ways of working that are more effective. An OBM has those higher-level management skills. They get to know your business and bring fresh ideas that could help take it to the next level. Read more about the differences between a VA and OBM.
Take the leap!
So often as business owners, we feel as if we must be in control of all aspects of our business. This means that we under-delegate, or think that in order for things to be done right, we must do it ourselves. After all, it would take time and effort to train someone new. Or, perhaps it is a fear of failure that makes it so hard to let go of our ways of doing things.
It is important to remember that delegation will benefit your business. When you are juggling too many tasks, YOU are the one who is more likely to make mistakes. Whether you hire an OBM, a VA, or pass some extra tasks on to your existing team members, delegation will help your business run smoothly and lower your stress levels!
If you’re ready to take charge of overwhelm and make better use of your time, begin by downloading my Business Task Audit. It’s a simple process, and a valuable experience. When you see how much time you could save and how much more you could achieve by delegating, you’ll be excited to start!
Do your workflows enhance your business? Or do they hold you back? Do you even have effective workflows in place, or are you scrambling to get tasks done and solve the problems that arise each month? It’s a common issue among many businesses, in that you and your team are so caught up in managing the day-to-day, there never seems to be the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Yet, getting the right workflows in place is essential for saving time and improving efficiency.
What is a workflow?
A workflow is a set of actions and results that must be performed in order to get a job done. To map out a workflow, you can use digital tools and software, stick notes to a wall, or even use good old-fashioned pen and paper to recreate the processes and show them as a flow chart. This gives you a visual, step-by-step guide to how things are currently working and who is responsible for each part of the process. Having a bird’s eye view makes the big problems obvious, or could highlight the smaller sticking-points you were not aware of, putting you in the position to make effective changes.
Taking the time to map out your current workflows is key to getting a full understanding of how your business runs. To get the most from mapping workflows, begin with the areas of your business that cause you the most hold-ups. This helps you to get the urgent changes in progress and bring the most benefits to your business.
If you have a team of staff, a workflow map means everyone knows exactly what is expected of them, and in what order. When looking at workflows, it is important to get input and feedback from team members who are carrying out the processes, as they know first-hand what works well and what the hurdles are.
Mapping workflows allows you to create simple processes to save time, such as automating actions that are repeated frequently. For example, in setting up email auto responders or creating templates to use for common documents, you and your team are already saving time and energy. When you begin to look at your workflows in more detail, you will see even more ways to improve efficiency. No matter how busy your day-to-day operations are, it is worth taking the time to map workflows because the benefits are exponential.
Benefits of Effective Workflows
Effective workflows can help simplify tasks, cut out unnecessary steps that are a waste of time and productivity, and create a streamlined approach that runs almost on auto-pilot. This not only benefits your own team, but efficient workflows create a good experience for your customers and clients.
Effective workflows set standards for your business that are always upheld and can be relied upon by yourself, your team and your clients. It eliminates unnecessary work, reduces errors, saves time and boosts productivity. Not only that, but when jobs are broken down into smaller tasks, it lessens that sense of overwhelm that contributes to work-stress.
It’s amazing how many positive effects come from efficient workflows, not only for a business but also for the team behind it. When everyone is working ‘from the same page’ it increases communication, team spirit and even brand image. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, from business owners and staff to customers or clients.
Ready to start?
When you are caught up in the daily grind of running of your business, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to stop what you are doing to map workflows, or review existing ones. As an online business manager (OBM) I can help you improve the way you work, creating a more efficient and productive environment from which you can drive the growth of your business. If that sounds good, get in touch to see how we could work together!
Tools help us to organise and manage work effectively and efficiently, and as many small businesses and entrepreneurs use them, there are an increasing amount available. From CRM systems and project management, to email marketing and workflow automation, there are hundreds of tools to choose from. So, how do we know which is best for the job? Here’s a quick guide to ten of the best tools every small business should use.
- Asana – a tool that allows multiple teams to work on multiple projects. Tasks can be viewed as lists or scheduled into a calendar, and messages or updates to do with tasks are clear to see. Asana can email your team each day to remind them of their daily goals. Its intuitive interface makes it one of the most popular management tools in use.
- ClickUp – an effective tool for teams to collaborate on multiple projects. There are some cool features that make it different from Asana, such as being able to turn comments in to tasks to assign to others, plus its Forever Free plan means you can use it for unlimited projects and unlimited users.
- MailChimp – with MailChimp, you can manage your email subscribers, set up auto-responders, send lead magnets, and split-test campaigns to see what works well. You can also create templates to save you time writing emails, plus it provides excellent real-time tracking of how people respond to your emails, such as who opens them, what links are clicked, who unsubscribes and what email addresses bounce. This popular email marketing platform has a free plan to get started with.
- InfusionSoft – this tool is great if you want everything that MailChimp does, but combined with some awesome customer relationship management (CRM) features. Use InfusionSoft to help convert leads into sales, segment your subscribers to send specific emails to different groups, and use the built-in ecommerce platform to sell to them directly.
- Hootsuite – a useful tool that manages all your social media platforms in one place. You can pre-write and schedule your tweets and posts in advance, respond to new comments, see your feeds and new followers all within Hootsuite. This saves you hours of time going between social media platforms and makes it easy to engage with followers.
Files and Documents
- Google Drive – Google Drive makes it easy and convenient to share and store files. This cloud-storage platform means that anyone can view a file provided they have internet access and an invite. For business owners, you can allow team access so people can work in collaboration on documents and spreadsheets, and they are synced in real-time. That means that anytime someone views a file, it is always up-to-date. In addition to file sharing, it is also easy to connect with your team through chats and video using Google Meet.
- Calendly – an absolute time-saver when it comes to arranging meetings and calls, Calendly allows you to communicate your availability through a link, and customers or clients can book a call when it is convenient for them. This simple scheduling program syncs with your calendar, so you always know who is booked in and when. It also integrates with Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The free version is ideal for one user, and the price is low for other plans with more features.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- HubSpot –a marketing and sales platform that is full of features to help attract customers, sell to them, and turn them into repeat buyers. It has the tools ready to create a fantastic customer experience as they journey through the sales process and learn more about your brand. It includes features such as email marketing, advert software, website tools and a service hub where you can collaborate with your team. HubSpot is an all-in-one solution to scaling up a business.
- Zoho – this CRM platform is similar to HubSpot, however it is more streamlined in terms of features. For example, it does not have the team collaboration ability that HubSpot does, but not all business owners want an all-in-one solution. Although the CRM part of HubSpot is free, Zoho offers cheaper pricing plans overall.
- Zapier – this platform allows for easy sharing of information between apps, helping to automate workflows. Connect two or more apps to create a ‘zap’, which then triggers more actions that you set, automating those repetitive tasks and saving you time. With over 3000 apps to choose from, there is not much that Zapier can’t connect!
Using the right tools for business is a must, as working efficiently saves you time and money. When you are not chasing to keep up, you can put your energy into developing and scaling your business further. If you are looking for advice on setting up systems to help you work smarter, or would like help to implement the right tools for your business, feel free to get in touch!
Simply put, business systems are a combination of strategies, tools and processes that help coordinate activities and allow people to work together and to achieve a specific goal, or solve a problem. No matter what the task, a series of actions need to be completed in order to get it done. Systems may work well, or they may not! But, every business, even the smallest, needs effective systems in place to facilitate the day to day running, encourage growth and maximise profits.
The right systems bring many benefits to a business. Not only do they ensure that the needs of both the business and its customers/clients are met, but it does so in a way that makes operations cost-effective and efficient.
Types of Business Systems
Every business needs systems, but what they are and the priority of each one will depend on the business niche and the business goals. As a rule, each business area typically has its own systems that enables movement in steps from point A to point B. Areas of business such as payroll, human resources, inventory management, marketing and accounts each has a set of actions, processes and software that are different from one another, but they all add to the journey that achieves a goal or solves a problem.
Some systems may be small, such as sending out email campaigns. Others may be larger and more complex, such as on-boarding new clients or staff members. It is also important to work out who is responsible for running each system, so that it works properly. For example, if a payroll system does not have someone to ensure all the necessary inputs are made in the right time frames, it would lead to a lot of unhappy employees!
Successful business systems create easy workflows, but it is important to realise that systems also need to be flexible so they can be adapted when business needs change. For example, a change in the market, new rules and regulations, or changing demands of a supplier, could create gaps in output or bottle necks that slow down productivity. Having flexible systems in place helps to keep business flowing during times of change.
Whatever the purpose of a system, it needs to run smoothly to reduce the need for additional work and supervision, allowing business owners and their staff to work smarter, not harder.
Do your business systems need upgrading?
Good business systems create standards for consistent output, streamlining your processes and operations. This also makes your business more profitable. However, creating the right systems and implementing them can be a challenge, especially where old systems that worked previously are no longer up to the job.
Sometimes when we have done things in a certain way for a long time, it can be daunting to make changes, especially when there are many other correlating links in the chain of action that may also need to be changed. That is when hiring an Online Business Manager (OBM) can help.
Developing new systems can be a time consuming process, but it is worth it in the long run. An OBM can look at the systems you already have in place and, with a fresh set of eyes, can see what works well and what could be improved. They have the skills and expertise to tweak existing systems, or completely overhaul them, by developing new processes and finding the right tools to create better workflows for your business.
When business systems work well, it means that time and energy is not wasted and can be channelled into new areas of development, or give business owners the chance of a better work/life balance. If that sounds interesting, get in touch to see how we can work together!
When you run a business, there are always ongoing jobs that take up precious time. It can be frustrating to spend hours on tasks that need doing, yet which don’t necessarily push your business forward, bring in money, or drive growth. Luckily, there are some ways to make life easier and free up more time to focus on other areas of your business, and that is by using automation tools. Here’s a quick guide to some business processes and workflows that can be automated, and some of the best tools to use.
Even though we live in the digital era, accounting still uses many different processes and ways to gather information. It may involve data entry into numerous spreadsheets, electronic and paper invoices, filing, and using a calculator. But, using automation tools can save you time, eliminate human error, and give you the convenience of retrieving information whenever you need it. What’s more, many of the tools will merge seamlessly with your accounting software and can interact with one another. For example, payments that arrive through a gateway such as Stripe or PayPal can assimilate with accounting software, for an invoice or receipt to be created using a tool such as Zapier.
Not just for accounting, Zapier is a fantastic tool for connecting different apps and automating many business processes. It allows data to be shared from many apps you use, and passes information between them, so workflows become more streamlined.
Call scheduling tools make it easy for clients or people interested in your services to book a time slot for a call. It is then automatically added to a calendar so you can see exactly what is booked in on any day. This saves you time on sending correspondence via email to arrange appointments, and organising your diary.
Some of the best call scheduling tools are Calendly, ScheduleOnce, HubSpot and YouCanBook.me (I use this one), and most will also sync with Google apps such as Google Calendar and Gmail.
Creating an engaged community around your business is an essential part of marketing, but posting on social media takes time. This is especially true if you have an audience on many different platforms. One great way to save time is to use social media scheduling tools. This means you can batch create posts and set them to be published at the best times of day to reach your audience, and it can be done in advance.
Tools such as Hootsuite can schedule posts across different platforms, and you can also reply to comments, see new followers and keep an eye on your timeline too. Other options include Social Sprout, Buffer and Later. The key features of many of these tools allow you manage multiple social media platforms from one place, saving time.
Lead Magnets and Email Marketing
When someone lands on your website, one of the best ways for them to become a customer or client is to offer them something, in return for their email address. Once you have a subscriber, you can then contact them directly with news of the services you provide. Lead magnets include useful resources, such as a planner or template, an eBook, a mini email course or taster coaching session.
Once you have your lead magnet created, it can automatically be sent once a website visitor has opted in. Every new subscriber will follow the same path, and receive a lead magnet and set of follow up emails over time, automatically. One of the most commonly used tools for this is MailChimp. Other options include ActiveCampaign, InfusionSoft and ConvertKit.
Using automation tools can be a great benefit to your business, and many are free to begin with. As your business grows, or you increase your use of the tools, you may need to upgrade to use additional features. When running a business, smooth workflows makes all the difference. If you want some helpful advice on how we can work together to streamline your processes, feel free to get in touch.