As an entrepreneur you are always in a rush. With so many projects to do and people to interact with, each day can seem a blur. But you can make running your business easier by taking time to slow down and work with a purpose.
Here are five ways to do it:
1. Start Every Day With a Plan
It almost goes without saying, but you need a plan. Just like you have a plan for how your business will function and operate in the long term, you need a set of guidelines for each and every day.
Having a daily plan will help you stay organized and on track. Try closing out each day by making a plan for the next day. What items need to get done? What meetings are coming up? Do you have personal matters to attend to or other scheduling work-arounds to account for?
The plan will help you create a realistic view of what you can (and can't) do in a day, so that you spend less time spinning your wheels worrying about work to do and more time getting things accomplished. When making your daily plan, remember to think about goals for today, this month and this year so that you are chipping away at bigger tasks all the time. You can also use tools like project management tools like ActiveCollab and Basecamp to help manage these tasks.
2. Use a To-Do List
Every small business owner will tell you “there's just so much to do!" Use a list or check sheet to keep track of everything. This is different than a plan, because the to-do list includes small tasks—not long range concepts such as check inventory—that you can complete quickly. There can be multiple to-dos for items in your plans.
A to-do list can be on paper or a digital tool such as Todoist or Wunderlist. It will help you stay on track of things that need to be done and give you a little high when you can mark tasks as complete. (The little wins sometimes matter the most!)
Break your list into multiple parts that are in line with short- and long-term goals for your business. Keep an eye on your to-do list so that you can see what needs to be worked on now and things on the horizon that you need to consider.
3. Keep Up with Finances on a Schedule
One of the most overwhelming aspects of running a small business can be bills … and taxes. You need to develop a schedule for accounts payable and stick to it.
- Daily: Keep track of all receipts and invoices. Use a consistent filing system.
- Weekly: Tally up financial ins and outs for the week so you know where the business stands.
- Monthly: Pay all invoices, bills and payroll if you have it. (Set aside dedicated time for this and it will go faster.)
- Quarterly: Pay taxes and meet with your accountant to make sure your business is on track for the year. Make adjustments as needed.
- Annually: File taxes on time and set financial goals for the coming year (Avalara has some great tax resources).
4. Set Goals That You Can Actually Achieve
Your business will not become Amazon.com overnight. Realistically, it will never reach Amazon-type status. Set goals that are reasonable and realistic for your business in your industry and with the resources available. (You can't sell millions of pillowcases a year if you sew them by hand.)
Goals should help you scale up the business incrementally in small steps. If a goal is completely overwhelming, it is probably too big. Break it down into parts that you can actually accomplish.
A good methodology for creating realistic goals is to use SMART goals, meaning every goal should be specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based. If you can check off all five of those elements, chances are the goal is achievable.
5. Keep Track of Spent Time
One of the best ways to make running a business seem easy is to keep track of how you are spending time. This will help you find traps in your schedule, where hours are lost dealing with issues that might be better to contract out (such as accounting) or stop doing altogether (posting to Facebook every three hours).
You'll see what parts of your day correlate to your small business strategy and what parts do not. Eliminate the “do not's" from your work schedule.
You'll be amazed at how much less frazzled you'll feel. (And there's even software to help.)
Organization is a key component of running a small business with ease. Simple exercises in goal development, financial planning and scheduling can make a lot of difference.
You just have to take the first step and get started. Go for it!
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