Running your own business means wearing every hat possible: sales, marketing, HR, accounts, R&D… So how do you manage your time effectively to reduce the stress of admin?
There is a lot of admin when creating and running a new venture. From company tax registration to bank account administration, not to mention meeting notes, schedules, and emails, it can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of ways to become more productive, in less time – including several tips to reduce your business admin demands.
Do You Really Need To Do That?
Take time every morning to plan your day. Refuse to do anything else until the plan is complete. This will give you goals for the day, helping to ensure a regular sense of achievement (even in the tough times). It’ll also make you double-check that the admin you’re drowning in is actually necessary.
If you’re not sure how to plan your day effectively, try the quadrant trick: divide a page into four quadrants, by drawing a line vertically and another line horizontally across the centre of the page. The top left square is “Must Do Today”. The top right square is “Would Like To Do Today”. The bottom left square is “Could Do Tomorrow, But Must Be Done Soon”, while the bottom right square is “Do It Next Week”.
Anything in the top two squares needs doing today. The rest can be rescheduled to a quieter time, or even delegated to someone else if possible. (This is especially true if you find household chores like ‘do the laundry’ creeping in on this to do list!). Anything in the bottom right square needs some consideration: is it a task you actually need to complete at all? Drop anything that isn’t essential to business growth.
Challenge Working From Home Distractions
Working from home is tough: those who don’t do it think you sit around in your jammies all day, for a start. This mentality can also spread to anyone you share your home with – meaning daily interruptions while you’re working on your latest project.
Create clear boundaries: nobody is allowed in your office space, for example. If you have children at home, set specific times that they can come and play with you – and use this time away from your desk to rejuvenate, too.
Delegate Anything And Everything For Maximum Business Growth
We get it: your business is your baby and you trust only yourself to do everything well. But that’s not true! There are things you can pass off to other, more qualified, people, to reduce your admin time and let you focus on the important stuff like product development and lead generation.
Even if you’re still in the early days of your startup business, see where you can delegate some of your administrative tasks. For example, if you’re not great with maths, hire an accountant. The expert knowledge they have will mean your tax returns are completed more quickly, more accurately, and they’ll know exactly what you can deduct, too!
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If your business is going well, but not yet well enough to support another employee, consider taking on freelancers to cover some tasks. This might be a virtual assistant to do your business admin (that’s one way of eliminating most of it!), a writer to create your content, a web designer to deliver a better website, or a sales person motivated by commission to help bring in more leads.
You could delegate in the other direction: make more time for your business by farming out household duties. If you have older children, get them to wash up after dinner, clean their own rooms, and learn to do the laundry. If you don’t have free slave labour in the house, consider hiring a weekly cleaner, or arranging a laundry pick-up service.
You can also automate your home life wherever possible. It sounds sterile, but wait! Think about your weekly grocery shop: if you buy the same things week in, week out, surely a saved shopping list on a supermarket site will chop hours of time out of your schedule? No more trips to the shops – just get it delivered at home (and take advantage of the cheapest middle-of-the-day delivery slots, too!).
It’s these little things that can add up throughout the week and eat away at your precious time. This is especially true if you’re grinding away at the 9-5 and running your business as a side hustle.
Take Time Out
It sounds counter-productive to have down-time from work, but it’s essential to your mental health and preventing burnout. Taking time away from your desk will also help spur your creative thinking, as you involve yourself with other tasks or interests that aren’t work-related.
This could be anything from going for a walk around the park to visiting the local art gallery, or meeting a friend for coffee, or attending a book group. Whatever you fancy, make sure it’s true away time: set your phone to silent, and pay full attention to being in the present moment.
Network, Network, Network
Your professional network is your safety net. It can help bring you opportunities, gain business advice, meet coaches and mentors… and save you from refusing work you can’t afford to turn down.
If you’re a freelance writer, for example, a new client might ask you to design some banners for their website, or write content for their AdWords campaign. Rather than saying this is something you don’t do (and therefore risking the whole project), build up your network of related businesses, such as marketing specialists and graphic designers, and pass on elements of a project to them.
As a new business, it’s hard to turn down any opportunity. However, weigh up each one as it comes along and try to ask yourself three things:
- Will this provide a long-term income, or is it a one-off project?
- Do I have space in my schedule to realistically take this on?
- Will this have a positive impact on my business growth?
If you answer ‘no’ or even ‘maybe’ to any of the above, say no. Clients will respect you for standing your ground, and it also creates the appearance of demand: if you’re not available, it means other people are using your skills, too. If the client really wants to work with you, they’ll be happy to wait.
Automate Wherever Possible
There are so many productivity apps, dynamic to-do lists, and communication programmes available these days, it’s no excuse to avoid using them!
Some apps, such as Skype, will help you speed up client communications, as well as improve your relationship with them. Rather than spending time travelling to meetings, set up Skype calls. You’ll be able to cover in a quick conversation what could take tens or hundreds of emails, and your clients will feel more connected to you by seeing you ‘in person’ on the screen.
Other software, such as Freshbooks, will automate your accounting processes, including creating invoices and balancing your books. This type of software does have a minimal monthly cost, but it is less than having an accountant on retainer (and you can hire one just for the end-of-year return, instead).
It's understandable that you don’t want to let your business into the big, wide, world without your full control over it. However, business admin is a massive time drain and, as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to focus on your key tasks (business growth, lead generation, networking, brand development, The Big Strategy). This means cutting back anywhere you can on time spent on boring, repetitive, or purely unnecessary tasks, using some of the tips we’ve shared!