As an entrepreneur I have been involved in a few groups of wonderful creatives who are on the same journey of figuring out this whole ‘business owner’ thing as they go – just like the rest of us. One thing that has come up over and over again is the idea of ‘time’ and how there’s just never enough of it!
Many new creative business owners start with the yearning to be kicking butt as master of their own destiny, calling all the shots and taking time off whenever they want (thank-you very much!).
The reality is that we often work harder and longer hours than we ever did for ‘the man’ because we are suddenly passionate and driven to make sure our beautiful new business-baby survives and grows up to be a healthy and thriving financial answer to all our dreams.
Here’s where I’ve hit on something really important lately. It’s cool to be passionate about your business and work long into the night photographing, posting and littering the internet with our social media posts. However, what happens when we NEED to take a break but feel like it’s all overwhelming and we CAN’T stop without everything falling in a heap.
Here’s where you need your organizational framework.
Yes, it sounds extremely boring when you say it like that BUT you will find that organizing your business and your life will make you more productive and absolutely able to take a day off, a holiday or even a sabbatical without your business (or you) falling apart.
Here’s my top 4 tips for getting your business organized and therefore YOU on the way to stressing less.
Sounds so simple but lists are the absolute cornerstone of getting stuff done. We make grocery lists, house cleaning lists and school lunch lists but some people don’t make ANY business lists.
I have my own list-making process which combines a Morning Brain Dump where I get everything out of my head and onto paper into four quadrants (Must, Should, Could and Want To).
This simple act of getting things down on paper can completely change my dayand stop me from getting that ‘overwhelmed’ feeling. It can also help if you need to take a holiday. What do you absolutely NEED to get done before you can take some downtime – are all those things on your old list which is as long as your arm necessary or could they be relegated to the Should, Could or Want To quadrants?
2. Schedule It
When you have a lot on the go, it’s easy to just get down to doing all the things which seem most pressing and not really thinking about what’s really going to get your further in your business. But when you’ve got a great idea and you know it’s going to make a difference, don’t just wait until there’s time to get it done, write a schedule and stick to it!
You also have to make time for the things which you don’t like doing. Develop habits that make you front up to these boring or slightly odious tasks and you will find that you breeze through them and you’ll feel a lot better too without them hanging over your head.
I plug everything from my dump sheet into a Daily Schedule Sheet which sets up my Work and Play blocks for the day. You could also use Google Calendar to schedule up tasks to do over the coming weeks and months so that you make the time to get them done.
3. File Management
It might not be fun and it definitely starts with a little hard work but making sure your files are in order can save you so much time and energy when you need to be focussing elsewhere.
Get a Dropbox, iCloud account, Google Drive or similar and plan to back up everything to this service. You can also have the files on your computer but I choose to have my ‘working files’ on my Dropbox.
Label them clearly with various tasks in your business.
- Social Media
Then make subcategories to keep everything in its place.
E.g. for your ‘Social Media’ folder…
- Google Plus+
This way you can keep everything in order and a few clicks away when you need it. You can even add subcategories to these folders to keep everything super easy to find.
I also download all documents attached to emails (like receipts, fliers, news articles etc.) and file them under these folders. Then instead of taking time out to search through my email, I can find them at a moment’s notice.
4. Email Zeroing
This is the one time management strategy which I have sworn by for over five years and it has kept me sane whilst running a bricks and mortar store which housed 150 artists and I received up to 100 emails a day. Yep, it was a bit of a marathon to get through them but here’s how I managed it.
I only ever sat down to look at my emails when I was ready to deal with them.This meant no sneaky checking on my phone, no looking at them while I had customers in the store and certainly not on the weekend. I would use an hour before I opened to open my emails and respond to each one then and there.
Then as each was answered, I filed the email into folders in my Gmail (similar to my folders listed above) and saved any attachments to my Dropbox.
If there was something I needed to action, I wrote it down in my diary as a list.
If I needed to follow something up in the future, it went into my Google Calendar with an alert to remind me to get it done.
By the end of the hour, my email inbox needed to be completely empty so I knew that everything WOULD get done or had been actioned for the day.
This simple tip saved me countless hours every day and meant that I didn’t need to stop over and over again just ‘checking’ if I had any emails. I simply waited until there was enough time to go over the whole process again in one sitting.
So if you’re struggling with having enough hours in the day, take a moment to think about what you do from moment to moment. Can you streamline some of your administrative tasks so you can get on with the fun stuff?