Every single month when I get my period it surprises me. That means I get surprised by that 12 times a year. Why? Because my months are so freaking jam packed and there’s so much going on in my head at any given point in time I literally never, ever remember when I last had it. Even if it was 3 days ago. Sometimes when I get a few stomach pangs I think ta-da I must be getting it! Clever me just intuitively knowing! Days later it still hasn’t arrived.
Do you know what that is other than too much information? It’s crazy. It’s crazy that I never know. It’s crazy that I’m guessing. It’s crazy that some days I don’t wear the white jeans because hey ho, today might be the day but it could also be in two weeks because who the hell knows.
You know what I could do? Write it in my freaking calendar. So I never have to give it head space again. Done.
And if you’re still with me (and I apologize, kind of), a lot of things in life and business are like that. It takes a couple of minutes of extra effort (or sometimes a few hours, days or weeks) and then like magic it’s on auto and you’re not spending extra time worrying, stressing, working more or using up vital head space.
I’ve been on a bit of an automating roll lately because it’s awesome to be busy (and I know we’re going through a phase of ‘busy isn’t an answer nor is it cool and busy business means successful so stuff you but I also want my business to be busy’) but busy also comes with it’s many hours, growth management (that can come as a sudden surprise) and a distant dream of holidays. And yeah, I have the same excuse as all of us – I don’t have the time. But at midnight some days it happens. It has to happen. It saves me hours and days of time over the course of a year for each task not to mention all that extra ‘stuff’ I just don’t have to think about it. Plus it gives me back mental room for creativity, helps my clients & makes life for everyone a lot better.
It’s about making it a priority.
It’s a little pain, and a lot of gain.
The best advice I could ever give anyone starting a business or growing one ever other than ‘start’ and ‘keep going’ is set your systems up now (and yesterday would’ve been better).
Inquiries to answer to? I’ve got a handy little zap set up that moves all my contact form inquiries through this site and creates it it’s own little card on my inquiry list on the project management board in Trello so I never miss one again (automatically with a colored label so I know where it came from). Try Zapier or IFTTT to set up zaps!
Services inquiry to work with you? I’ve got a beautiful, easy little 18 page booklet that covers nearly everything you’d want to know before we chat further that will be sent out with a little personal email. It works in so many ways but it ensures I’m not answering similar emails constantly, it leaves a good impression, it makes me really comfortable in what we’re offering and it essentially ‘filters’ clients if we’re not a good fit (if the website hasn’t already) so it wastes nobody’s time.
Sorting out a time to schedule a call? A quick link to the booking system on this site and we’re set. In your own time zone, with reminders, appointments in everyones calendar and all that jazz. Try Acuity or Appointlet if you’re looking.
Payments to manage for projects ahead of time? Again I’ve got a zap set up for this one. For BrandBurst (a small project I run with 2 other awesome ladies) we have a payment system and we share a Google file that we consistently update to manage all our wonderful clients. But I’ve also got it set up so when we receive a payment that creates a card automatically in my ‘burst booked’ list in Trello (on a separate BrandBurst board). When the questionnaire that Lyndz & I need is completed after the session with Bec, the card gets added to the ‘questionnaire completed’ list and I know I’ll be starting on it shortly.
Questionnaires & Client Intake? The above leads me very easily into this. Either have questionnaires embedded in your site for easy submit or (especially if they’re longer) create branded PDFs (that are filleroutable) send them to your client and they can type, save and voila you’re done.
Always forgetting calls, groceries or things to do? Put it in your calendar. Now. Put it in your tasklist. Now. Try Wunderlist. It’s gorgeous and syncs across all your devices. No more attempting to remember and getting frustrated you don’t!
Creating an invoice? Use a system where you can reuse line items and don’t just guess your prices each time. Come up with a pricing system so you’re not left calculating costs (and so you know you’re actually going to make money, not work for a few dollars an hour and start to resent what you do). Try Pancake, Harvest or Solo.
Forgetting how many hours to charge or even knowing how many hours you spent doing that? Use an automatic timer! Try Toggl, Rescue Time or many of the invoicing systems (like the ones mentioned above) have it inbuilt.
Losing files or digging around for them? Set up a file structure that works for you. For example all my client projects start with an abbreviation of the client business or name and are ordered in specific folders (like invoicing, legal, website which has subfolders like graphics etc). This is all then backed up in Dropbox and once a week I do a Time Machine back up (a hard lesson after having to reconstruct an entire operating system no less than 3 times in one week).
Type the same email over and over? Create a frequently asked questions page on your site that you can point people to and/or create blog posts about it. Then copy the last email you wrote, make a bit of a template out of it and save it in your drafts folder with the subject & template. If you’re using gmail you’ve got a few other tricks up your sleeve like canned responses. Or outline it on your site on a page somewhere (like the process image we now have!). Or you can have an auto responder if you’re into that.
Always flicking back to a tab? Pin that baby! Depending on your browser, right click and hit pin. For me Gists (where I store code I’ve written) and Trello are always and forever pinned because I access them multiple times per day. Anything to save scrolling through 37 open tabs!
Developer always in FTP? Using something like Filezilla and add the sites you regularly have to access to your Site Manager. No searching around your forever inbox for usernames and passwords anymore.
Do something on your website or blog posts frequently? Ask a developer to come up with an easier solution for you! For example, if you spend 45 minutes formatting a blog post or a page in similar ways each time, get a template custom coded up so this can reduce down to 5 minutes. Or perhaps it needs a shortcode (something we build into all custom clients sites now) that you can regularly use. It costs money but if you save 5 hours a week, which is 20 a month you could either spend a helluva lot more time with friends or family, be in the bath every week day for an hour or you know…do 20 hours extra work to bring more money in!
Frequently accessing numerous apps? Create a dashboard to see it all in the once place! Try Leftronic, Geckoboard, Ducksboard or if you’re a developer and happy with the Sinatra framework create your own gorgeous dashboards with Dashing.
There are so many insanely, amazing things you can use these days to make technology actually work for you (not ensure it takes up more time than ever before).
Make it a goal to automate or streamline one or two process every week and in a few months you’ll find life is a hell of a lot smoother.
It’s an ongoing process. Things change. New stuff happens. Growth can be wonderful and wonderfully painful. But business (and life) doesn’t have to be so hard. It’s smart to set these things up. You shouldn’t be slogging through. You don’t become a more qualified entrepreneur by doing a whole heap of crap that makes you busier than you should be.
My next on the hit list? A better team management tool so we can all be comfortable and on the same page, a custom client dashboard tool, and further down the track a whole different way of reading this blog and templates for me to make it a better experience.
It’s never going to be perfect and it’s never going to be the ‘one solution that will solve everything for life now and ever amen’. But it will help. It will streamline. It will free your time up. You will get time to exercise. And make love. It will help your clients and help you get more clients. It is worth it.
Have a system you love that’s your secret little hack or does one of the above strike your fancy?