Being an entrepreneur is all about freedom, right? Kicking off the constraints of employment and answering to no one but yourself. Picking and choosing the work you do and building a thriving business around what you most love doing. Scheduling your own days and having time outside of work to pursue your passions and spend time with the people you love.
But if that’s the case, how did you end up feeling so stressed and overwhelmed? And what are you doing chained to your desk, with less time for yourself and your family than you’ve ever had before?
If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels and working harder than ever, don’t despair. The dream of having the balance between a successful business and a great work-life balance is within your grasp – it’s just time to change how you think about balance and how you’re going about it.
The fact is, when you’re running a business, you need to think and act like a businesswoman. And that means being strategic, single-minded and focused about what you do. Yes, you can have flexibility in how you manage your time – as long as you’re also working consistently towards your goals.
Grabbing the reins
Entrepreneurship starts with inspiration. If you’re a creative thinker and a dreamer it can be very tempting to spend all your time musing on your grand vision for the future, without actually doing anything to bring it to life.
But if you want to transform that amazing idea into a thriving business it’s going to take hard work, determination and discipline. If you really want to get out there and make a difference in the world you need to start making and honouring commitments – to yourself, your business and your clients.
- No business will grow and thrive without momentum: until you start to find an audience, build a reputation and deliver real value, your idea will remain just that. Despite all your skills and your passionate intentions, you’ll be helping no one. And the fact is, momentum only comes with action: from taking one small step after another, day after day, and having the discipline and determination not to give up no matter how scary, hard or confusing it feels.
- The key to building your reputation is consistency. Your customers or community need to know what they can expect from you, and when. They need to know that they can rely on you to deliver what you’ve promised. And consistent output comes from consistent input – deciding what you need to do, creating a schedule and sticking to it.
Ok, so now for the good news… none of this is as hard as it sounds. By putting in place some solid, effective systems you can build a productive and professional business environment, move consistently towards your goals, and still have time to hang out with your loved ones and nurture your creative spark.
The first part of transforming busyness into business is getting clear on every single thing you do on a day-to-day basis in your business. Get out a piece of paper and a pen, and write down every single activity you do in your business. Once that’s done, it’s time to work out the wider categories that each of these individual activities fit into. Take different highlighters and work out which activities can be grouped together.
This may be tedious and boring but it’s an extremely important step in the process so don’t overlook it.
Spending the time on this foundational work will enable you to identify which systems are working well in your business as well as the parts that need some TLC (tender loving care). In addition, you’ll have a clear idea of how to start creating processes that are truly suited to the specific needs of your business.
Once you’ve completed this exercise and you’ve pinpointed all the areas that need work, it’s time to zero in on which of the following 5 most important pillars you need to start systematising in order to overcome overwhelming, chaotic busyness.
- Marketing, which includes lead generation, relationship building building, lead nurturing and strategic and referral partner management.
- Client Management comprises of client intake and onboarding, customer service experience, and project completion activities.
- Project Management involves processes, procedures and systems to make projects happen on time and budget
- Administration, which focuses on internal operations.
- Financial Information, which includes invoicing, forecasting, budgeting, bookkeeping, and accounting.
These are the key areas that you need to be focussing on to help you get your life back in balance. The right approach will depend on your style and personality, so do experiment until you find what works best for you.
Over time you should be able to build up some of these foundational systems to help you stay disciplined in your business to ensure that you’re making the most of the time and effort you’re spending in your business.
Setting up and systemising your business will help you in the following key areas:
- Planning: Your time is your single most precious resource, so you need to spend it wisely. Setting up systems and standard operating procedures will help you to prioritise your tasks, organise your day and stay focused on activities that will bring you closer to your goals.
- Opportunities: One of the secrets to business success is knowing when to say no. Some opportunities will simply distract you from your path. Systematically evaluating prospects based on how well they fit with your goals and values can save you a huge amount of time and money.
- Tracking: No matter how carefully you plan them, your projects won’t always turn out the way you expect – and things can change pretty quickly in business. Keeping an eye on what’s working and what isn’t is absolutely vital, so you’ll know when to power ahead, when to pull back and when to pivot. Even something as simple as a basic spreadsheet to monitor progress against your KPIs can really help keep your business on track.
- Customers: Keeping customers top of mind is critical is another fundamental aspect of building a successful business, so systemising your processes will help track who your customers are, what you know about them and what they need from you so they can truly feel loved and nurtured.
- Operational: Every business needs to keep on top of essentials like paying bills, collecting payments and keeping records. Whether you prefer to do these yourself or outsource them, it’s vital that you have good systems in place to make sure they don’t get missed.
- Motivational: Self-discipline is hard work! It can be really tough staying focused and inspired unless you regularly stop and take stock of your achievements. Adopting simple routines at the start and end of your day to focus your thoughts and acknowledge how far you’ve come can make a massive difference to your mindset and motivation.
- Self-care: As quiet, gentle women we all tend to put everyone else above us on the priority list. But remember that, as an entrepreneur, YOU are the heart and soul of your business. Unless you schedule regular time to focus on your physical and mental health and wellbeing, you won’t have the energy and resources you need to get out there and make a real impact in the world.
- Tooling up: The best news of all is that once you know what systems you want to put in place, there are hundreds of fabulous tools out there to help you become more efficient and productive. The right tools can save you a huge amount of time and effort – and it won’t even cost much in the early stages, as many of the best software and apps are completely free.
Try some of these, for starters:
- Project management: Systems like Trello and 17hats make it super easy to keep track of goals, workflows and deadlines and coordinate all the different strands of even the most complex projects. If you’re managing a team or outsourcing work to contractors, a good project management system will help you keep in touch and track everyone’s progress, so that nothing falls through the cracks.
- Capturing ideas: Evernote is a brilliant, versatile app for saving your ideas wherever and whenever inspiration strikes. Make written or voice notes or clip in articles, videos or photos – all stamped automatically with the time, date and location. Best of all, you can tag notes to a specific project, or simply search based on a single word within the content.
- Social media syndication: It can be a complex and time-consuming job to keep track of all your social media accounts and ensure the right content is posted, on the right network, at the right time. Syndication apps like Buffer and Edgar make short work of it, allowing you to upload and schedule your content to go out at the perfect moment.
- File storage and sharing: Whether you’re working solo or with a team, cloud storage tools like Dropbox and Google Drive make it incredibly easy and efficient to store, access and share your files from anywhere, at any time, on any device.
- Communication: Remote working is so common these days that tools like Zoom or Skype have become almost essential to doing business. Low cost VOIP services make possible to work efficiently with clients and contractors anywhere in the world.
Now have your say!
What’s the no 1 time-saving tool or system you use in your business?