The Best Time Management Systems for Entrepreneurs

The Best Time Management Systems for Entrepreneurs

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

Pomodoro Technique

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.

Time Blocking

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.

Time-Tracking

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!

Effective Workflows – the Top Secret to Efficiency in Your Business!

Effective Workflows – the Top Secret to Efficiency in Your Business!

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.

Mapping Workflows

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!

10 Best Tools Every Small Business Should Use

10 Best Tools Every Small Business Should Use

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.

Project Management

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Email Marketing

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Social Media

  1. 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

  1. 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.

Scheduling

  1. 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Workflows

  1. 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!

The Differences Between a VA and an OBM Explained

The Differences Between a VA and an OBM Explained

Sometimes the words ‘Virtual Assistant’ (VA) and ‘Online Business Manager’ (OBM) are used interchangeably. While both are support roles for a business, there are some key differences between the two. If you’ve been considering hiring a VA or OBM, knowing the difference will help you decide what level of service you need for your business. 

What is the role of a VA?

When your business grows and tasks become too much to handle with the capacity and resources you have, outsourcing to a VA is a great option. Whether it is help with general admin, or specialist tasks such as social media management, a VA has the expertise to take on many common business processes on your behalf. A VA takes direction from you, so when you want help, you send your VA tasks for completion.

A VA often works for a number of clients, each for an agreed amount of hours per week.

What does an OBM do?

An online business manager is less task oriented than a VA, rather they focus their expertise on helping you manage your business to drive growth and increase revenue. Partnering with an OBM means you allow them to understand your business inside out, and use their knowledge to work independently and manage things as they see fit. The advantage with this is that you do not have to micro-manage, an OBM can solve problems and keep your business running smoothly without your input.

Another advantage of working with an OBM is that you can take time off work or put your effort into new projects without worrying about the details of your existing business. Your OBM handles it all!

Adding to the confusion between the two roles, there may be some VA’s that also offer OBM services, but an OBM typically dedicates more time to their clients and has a deeper level of business management knowledge. An OBM tends to have fewer clients, and charges a higher rate due to their higher level of business acumen and expertise.

Do you need an OBM or a VA?

The level of help you need, how much control you are willing to hand over, as well as your budget, will be factors in deciding whether to hire a VA or an OBM for your business.

If you are looking for someone to oversee the complete management of a project, want to hand over the running of some parts of your business, or need help with planning and strategy to take your business forward, an OBM is the right choice for you.

If you need more staffing power to speed up day to day tasks, you like to keep a close eye on your operations, or would prefer to hand over the less exciting jobs to free up your time, a VA is there to help.

It is easy to see why the two roles are often confused with one another, as there is some overlap with the types of activities that a VA does, and an OBM will oversee. But when you really understand the difference, the two roles are distinct.

There are many great reasons to hire an OBM, especially for small business owners and entrepreneurs who typically lack a balance in their professional and personal life. There may also be a point where you feel as if you are spending too much time managing your business, and not doing the creative thinking that made you start your business in the first place. Whatever the reason for hiring an OBM, it can make a huge difference to your time, stress levels and overall well-being, as well as enabling new business growth and direction.

If you are looking for an OBM to help take your business forward, feel free to get in touch.

How Automation Tools Can Boost Your Business

How Automation Tools Can Boost Your Business

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.

Accounting

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

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.

Social Media

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.