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Ways to be More Productive and Organized as a Small Business Owner
Chapter One - Introduction
It's easy to get lost in the chaos that comes with being a small business owner. There's much to do and there's probably a lot on your mind. Should I hire an employee? How will I pay them? I'm getting tons of emails – what do I do with them all and how do I keep the important ones? Am I spending too much? Should I attend this meeting? Luckily, you don't have to do this alone. You are fortunate enough to live in the twenty-first century. We have phones that can schedule meetings for us and apps that can help us keep track of breaking news. As a small business owner, keeping organized will help you become more productive in the long run, and isn't that how every business should be?
Throughout this eBook, we will show you the best tools to help you become a better, more organized business man or woman. We will discuss everything from keeping emails organized to managing employees and money, attending meetings, traveling tips, and much more. We will discuss programs and apps that can help you in your day to day activities and help keep you organized and productive. Many of these tools can be used on your computer or laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and can easily fit right into your pocket. Keep this eBook with you as well, and you will never be without a guiding hand.
Before we dive into specifics, let's start by going over some basic points to keeping yourself productive and organized, whether at work, at home, on the go, or even during down time. While there are many programs and apps that can help keep you organized and productive, you should be sure not to overlook some of these simple things, too!
Keep track of your time. As a small business owner, you have very hectic days every week. It can be easy to lose track of the days as you do task after task to keep your business running. Keep a journal of the things you spend your time on, even down to the smallest detail, like grabbing lunch. Write down the specific task at hand, how long you spend doing it, when you do it most often (if it's a task you do daily), if there were any interruptions or distractions, along with how long much time that took away from the task, and other important details. At the end of each day, review these notes. You may start to see some patterns. Maybe you will realize that a different time of the day tends to have less interruptions. Plan to get the important things done during the time. Adjust your daily tasks accordingly and to a way that best fits you and your business's needs.
Have a purpose to each day. Focus on what is the most important task to accomplish for that day. Don't stray from your work, and keep the lesser important items for the end of the day. That way, it's not a huge deal if you don't get to them until the following day.
Ask yourself: is what you're doing productive? If it's not, get rid of the distraction. Turn off wifi if you find yourself surfing Facebook. But, you can also reward yourself when you've completed a project. Take a few minutes to do something you enjoy. Just set some time for it that's not too long and return to your work afterwards.
Don't be afraid to learn from others. Read and subscribe to blogs that are related to you. Check the comments, too, and see what others have to say. Share some of your suggestions and build a relationship with these people. More often than not, they will have other ideas that you might not have thought of. Two brains are better than one!
Don't underestimate the power of exercise and taking breaks. It's a great way to help relieve stress, even if all you do is take a walk around the block.
Ask for help. Face it – you can't possibly handle every single thing that comes to running your business. That's why you have employees on your team. Trust in them and ask them to help you complete different tasks. Give them the deadline and the resources they need to best help you complete the job at hand. Communication is key. Don't expect people to be able to read your mind. Step to the plate and deliver the message. This is the only way for your employees to learn and grow, thus making your business more productive in the future.
Don't try to multi-task. Switching between tasks can do more harm than good. You could lose more time than you realize by multi-tasking. It will only slow down your production and possibly even cause for mix ups and confusions, which will only lead to more problems in the future.
Chew gum. Not only does it reduce the levels of stress, but a study from researchers at Cardiff University in Wales discovered that those who chew gum are able to complete a greater load of work. It increases cortisol, which brings on lower levels or perceived stress, thus improving arousal and alertness.
Don't procrastinate. Getting started on a project right away is the only way to avoid procrastination. Procrastinating will only need to sour moods and decreased productivity. Starting a project not only will ensure it will get done, but any interruptions from the task will cause a discomfort, making you want to finish the task at hand. The key is to just dive right in.
Plan naps during breaks. Taking 20 minute naps will increase your performance and mental alertness. A mid-day nap is best. Be sure not to sleep too long or you will wake up groggy (and with lost time!)
Don't worry about being perfect. Spending too much time on perfecting a project could be more than unnecessary and could result in getting less done. It's better to get things done than to have them be perfect. You can use any down time later to tweak and perfect these things when you don't have other projects waiting for your attention.
Get a good night's sleep. Stick to the same bed time every night. Do not stay up any later, especially to do more work. If it's not done by this time, it can wait until tomorrow. And, if you've planned out your priorities, all that could be left at the end of the day will be stuff that can wait until tomorrow. Getting a good night's sleep is key to keeping productive at work. Lack of sleep can impair innovative thinking and decision making. You will work slower and will make projects seem much harder than they are. Even cutting down on your sleep by an hour can reduce your daytime alertness. It will impair your ability to remember and process information. There are a lot of great tools to keeping productive, but don't underestimate the pillow!
Have a good diet! Eating healthy has a huge impact on productivity. Researchers from UCLA found that your brain works best when there is 25 grams of glucose in the blood. You can get this exact amount just by eating a banana. It will keep you brain alert and focused. When glucose levels are too low, you could be come easily distracted.
Having two monitors can also boos productivity. With two monitors in front of you, it will be easier to view multiple applications at once, preventing you from switching between windows. It will make transferring information easier and more efficient.
Keeping plans or pictures of nature in your office can also boost productivity and creativity, along with overall wellbeing. Working by a window can also help, as natural light can increase energy and creativity, thus leading to greater productivity.
Prepare for the next day. Set out an outfit and get your lunch ready the night before. That way, you won't have as much to do in the morning. The less chaotic your mornings are, the better your day will be.
Chapter Two - Emails
Email is certainly nothing new in this day and age, and free accounts can be made easily with a variety of companies (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook and AOL, just to name a few.) Spam filters have come a long way in protecting you from viruses and unwanted emails and your inbox can be organized in a way like never before. So, how do you get the most out of all that your email has to offer?
Start with setting up your contact list. Your inbox has all these features that basically tell it what's important and what isn't. You might often see messages saying “add us to your contact list to make sure you get our emails!” If it's in your address book, your inbox will recognize that address and send it directly to your inbox instead of in Spam where sometimes, emails get lost. This will help to make sure you get anything important right away. Hosts like Gmail will even mark specific items as 'important' for you, based on who you frequently interact with and the contents in the message. These messages are marked with a yellow star, and Gmail even lets you search only important emails, bringing those emails up first for your attention.
You can even go a step further by organizing your contact list. Groups can be made and contacts can be added to specific groups, depending on your needs. Employee emails can go in one group, important contacts can go in another, and so on. You can even email a specific group without having to select every name on the list. Easy, right?
Another great feature most email providers offer is the use of folders. Sometimes, you may have an email that is necessary to save, such as digital receipts, etc. You don't have to let them sit in your inbox, taking up space and making things look cluttered. Make a folder for that! You can have a variety of folders for anything you need. You could label one folder 'receipts,' for example. Every time you get a receipt in your email, simply choose the option to move it to a specified folder. It will be out of your inbox, keeping it clutter free, but also safely tucked away for when you will need it later.
Some even have color coordinated labels that can be used. Use these colors to your advantage. For example, use the red label for emails that require immediate action, and green that require a response.
Some providers will even go a step further and can recognize dates, phone numbers, and addresses. Say, for example, you get an email about a meeting you need to attend. The email reads: “The meeting will be held in the conference room at 123 Main Street at 10:00 AM. Please call 1-800-555-5555 with any questions.” Your email provider will pick up on these keywords: 123 Main Street and 10:00 AM. It will even pick up the phone number. As you read the message, you may get a notification or see a box appear on the side. Your email may be asking you if you would like to add that meeting to your calendar. It may also sync with a map host, such as google maps, and show you the location provided. You can even save the phone number easily to your contact list if you'd like.
Smartphones are becoming smarter than ever. By simply checking your email on your device, it could automatically add these things right to your phone instead of on your computer. Now, your phone can remind you of your upcoming meeting. It can tell you what time you need to leave to get there on time, and even direct you if you are unsure. It's like having a personal assistant, right in your pocket! It will also notify you when a new email has come in, so you don't have to constantly check your email. It would be a good habit to only check your email a few times a day. Once in the morning, once midday, and once before the end of the day would be best.
Don't feel obligated to respond to every email, either. Focus on the ones that need urgent responses or are relevant to the tasks for that day, and leave the others for later when you have some down time to read and respond to them.
When you know you will be away for a while and unable to check email as often, you can set up an auto reply. This will let everyone know that you are unavailable as soon as they email you. You can set your auto reply to say anything you'd like, including how to reach you in an emergency. If you mention a time when you will be able to check email, make sure you stick to that!
If you're worried about missing anything important, you can use software like AwayFind. You tell the program what people or topics are important that you do not want to miss and it will send you a text or even a phone call when you get an email that matches your criteria.
You may also find that you are getting a lot of newsletter type emails. Perhaps you've subscribed to a variety of websites; even social media websites will email you from time to time with updates, notifications, etc. Chances are, you don't need to know every time someone likes your page or shares your post. Leave these notifications for yourself the next time you log in for review. Instead, simply click 'unsubscribe' on all these pesky emails. This will help keep your inbox free of unimportant emails. Feel free to go into your account settings as well. From there, you can choose specifically what you'd like to be emailed about. More often than not, you won't need to have anything emailed to you. You can use services like unroll.me to give you a complete list of emails you're subscribed to, allowing you to easily edit your subscription or simply unsubscribe.
As you are writing and responding to emails, don't be afraid to use bullet points to quickly get your points across. This isn't your college English class – as far as emails go, paragraphs are over rated. They're almost messier. It looks long, tedious, and will cause people to skim the email, possibly missing important information. Bulleting your points can provide an easy on the eyes email which makes the important bits stand right out. No excuse to skim! Don't underestimate subject lines, either. If you're email is important, make sure you note that in the subject line by writing 'time sensitive.' Subject lines are the first thing people see when viewing their inbox. Having an appropriate subject line will help you determine what needs to be looked at right away and what can wait until later.
Also, it's important to remember that even though email can be easy, it's not always the best or quickest solution. Sometimes, it's much easier to pick up the phone and call to get the quick answer you need, as opposed to waiting for someone to reply. Email can be instant, but don't underestimate the phone, either!
There's really no better way to organize your email, on your computer, laptop, tablet, or on your smartphone. And that's just the first step to being more proficient as a small business owner!
Chapter Three - Managing Money
While you're running your business, there could be a lot of money coming in and going out, and keeping that money organized is key to keeping your business successful in the future. Keeping track of all expenses is easy to do in programs such as excel as long as you keep up with it. Other useful programs include inDinero and Expensify.
InDinero is dedicated to helping first time, small business owners in their day to day business and to help them grow their company. They help mainly with the financial needs of businesses by updating books so you, the small business owner, can focus on running this business. They take care of the data entry, filing taxes, and ensuring payroll is done correctly.
Expensify keeps track of any and all expenses for you, including invoices and receipts. They even have a mobile app, perfect for the traveling business owner, which allows you to snap pictures of your receipts, create expense reports, and much more. They even have a mobile app which allows you to take picture of your receipts on the go, create expense reports, and much more! What's even better – you can use the app even when you're not online. Access travel plans and track your mileage, too!
For a monthly fee, Quickbooks can also be a really useful tool. Quickbooks allows you to keep track of your expenses and invoices on your own. It allows you to send and receive payments and transactions, create a payroll, and maintain business accounting. While this may seem a little more tedious, it does offer a great community of experts willing to help point you in the direction you need, whether it be accountants or classes to learn something new about the program. Quickbooks Simple Starts is a smaller program at a reduced price that allows you to handle the necessities of small business ownership (track incomes and expenses, create invoices, store receipts and client and customer information, and more). It is also compatible with Quicken and TurboTax.
It's important to keep your personal finances and business finances separate. Opening a separate bank account for your business will help keep you organized – you will be able to see the money going in and going out. Personal finances apps could even be useful if you adjust it to your business. You can use it to keep track of what you're spending and what the business is making. See where your money goes – from employees, to products, marketing and advertising, etc. And see what money is coming in – sales, profit, and so on. This will give you a quick and easy look at your company's finances and will keep you on the right track, whether it's avoiding unnecessary advertising, or making more products to meet the demand in sales.
Apps to help you organize your money include Invoice2go, Mint, and even PayPal. All work in similar ways by keeping track of your money coming in and going out. Also consider Tsheets Time Tracker to track time spent at work and on projects. Most of these apps are free to use. If you're willing to spend a little money, there are many more with more advanced options that you can try. But these free apps work just as well, especially if you're on a budget.
Also consider apps like Tydlig. Tydlig is a useful calculator app with a twist. It allows you to enter multi-step equations and save the information when you're done with it, allowing you to go back and see each step and calculation. The history is stored and can be shared and saved as PDFs and Word documents, perfect for sharing in meetings or for your own personal view.
Using these apps will benefit you and your business by keeping track of your business's expenses. Always know what your company's money is doing, where it's going, and how it's being used. You will have peace of mind, allowing you to worry about growing your business.
Also consider a cash flow budget to help ensure that you can pay all your expenses. Be proactive and use it to manage your revenues and expenses. Make sure you keep it up to date and adjust it so it reflects any changes made in your company. Recognize which items will have the most impact on your cash flow. Some items may be easy to adjust, such as your marketing budget, while others cannot, such as the price of your products. Keep this into consideration when making adjustments. Allow yourself enough of a budget in each category, but not more than is necessary on items that maybe aren't as necessary. Look for ways to cut back as appropriate.
If payment from customers is involved, consider ways to get customers to pay quickly to avoid late payments and fees. Consider discounts for early payments. And make sure your own payments are on time, as well. Keep your payables up to date and review regularly to ensure how well you are keeping up with your own credit obligations. Consider creating an aging schedule to show how much you owe, to whom, and if you are current or past due on any bills. Put money aside for an emergency fund. Review your company's cash flow history for patterns to help you determine how much can be set aside every month.
If you have employees, consider obtaining an employer identification number (EIN). This is a specific tax number for your business, like a social security number, for your individual taxes. It's a good way to avoid identity theft and is the number you would give to those you do business with. You can apply for free at the IRS website.
If you are a very new small business owner, there are some additional steps you should take to ensure your business is successful. Along with keeping track of the expenses needed to start and grow your business, consider the minimum cost of living and pay yourself first. Figure out how much money you will need to live on and withdraw that for you business's income as your payment. You can invest the remainder of the profits back into the company for growth.
Do not feel the need to hire employees right away. The biggest expense in any small business is covering payroll. Avoid hiring staff, even when the work loads get tough. Never hire until you absolutely need the help. Then, start small and allow employees to work to their full potential. As your company grows, so will your staff, in time.
If you feel you will need to borrow money, figure out how much you will need to borrow. Instead of taking out one lump sum, consider taking out smaller amounts so that you do not have to pay as much interest, especially if you will not be using all the money at once. You will end up saving a lot of money this way in the long run.
If you will need contractors or vendors, don't be afraid to negotiate the terms of agreement. Use companies that will allow you to pay up to thirty days after the receipt of their services as opposed to paying right away. This will allow you to better budget your money over the month, giving you room to pay for bills, payroll, etc, and saving up to make that payment to the contractor and vendor when you are ready.
Keeping organized and on top of your expenses is the only way to benefit your business in the long run. Keep track of anything and everything and review budgets at least once a week. Recognizing patterns and adjusting your cash flow as necessary will go a long way in keeping your business afloat and successful in the future.
Chapter Four - Social Media
Social media can be a valuable tool for any small business owner. With it, you can connect with your customers, share updates, and even reach out to potential networking opportunities. There are so many different websites that offer valuable connections that it can seem overwhelming. Thankfully, there are websites like Hootsuite that can help you manage all these social networking websites right on one website! Hootsuite gives you the option to connect a variety of profiles right there, allowing you to easily post statuses to every social media website at once. You can link your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Yahoo, Tumblr, Instagram, and Wordpress accounts all in one account right on Hootsuite. They offer a free plan which would be more than enough for any small business, but paid for plans with additional features are available as well.
Hootsuite offers an easy to navigate page which displays all of your accounts together and even allows you to post to all social networking websites at once. You can also schedule specific posts at different times throughout the day, keeping your social media blogs looking active at all times without you constantly being online yourself. You will no longer spend hours online, logging in to each website to post the same status or post. And no need to remember different passwords, either! Hootsuite has a lot to offer the business social networker, and once you start, you'll never want to be without it.
You can also take advantage of scheduled posts, specifically on Twitter, by using TweetLater. TweetLater does exactly as the name suggests – it saves your tweets to post at a later time. You can schedule tweets however you'd like. If you're someone who wants to use more than three social media sites, TweetLater can be useful to add to your bookmarks bar, since Hootsuite only allows three profiles under the free version. GizaPage, a website similar to Hootsuite, can also be used. It organized all your social networking profiles into one location.
It's also important to remember how you appear to others on social media. Keeping an image for yourself is key to keeping a good image for your business. Think of how you want to be (and how you want your business to be) regarded. Set the tone for your social networking appropriately. If you're a clothing company, for example, targeted at teens and young adults, your language will and should be different than if you are running a major advertising company. Remember your audience and act accordingly. What's even better, you can target your posts and ads on social networking site to your target audience. Give it a try to attract the crowd you want.
While social media can be a distraction, it's a great way to stay connected with the world, your customers, and even with other businesses. So, while you may not want to encourage employees to spend a lot of personal time on Facebook or Twitter, it may be helpful to have them tweet and share for the company so you don't have to all the time. Plus, it helps to have additional hands on deck for the business owner who aren't as internet savvy.
Remember: not every post, tweet, or status update needs to be original. Re-tweets, reblogs, and shares can also be of use if they are related to your company and could be of use to your followers. It also shows interest in other businesses that are similar to yours and, in turn, that could offer valuable connections and rewards in the future. You can also spend time engaging your followers. Ask questions and encourage them to share their opinions and ideas, whether on a product or aspect of your business, or something fun and unrelated. Keeping them interested and active will result in more exposure to your business. Asking them for their opinions lets them know they are valued and will give you insight on how your customers view your business. Use this information to your advantage and adjust as necessary.
Don't let social media become a distraction, either. Programs like Rescue Time run in the background of your computer, measuring how you spend your time. Reviewing these results can allow you to make better decisions. Turn off wifi if you don't need it to prevent you from logging in to Facebook. You can also use Get Concentrating, another useful tool that helps you focus on important tasks by temporarily blocking social media websites.
Plan time to be on social networking websites only for business purposes. If you think you will be too tempted, using the programs mentioned, like Hootsuite, will help keep your mind off social media. Plan some time at the end of the day to update Hootsuite as necessary, or during your lunch break. Feel free to jot down Tweet and status ideas throughout your day as you think of things. Keep a small journal of these ideas so that you can review them and post them when you have time.
Chapter Five - News and Trends
With the invention of social media, keeping up with news and trends couldn't be easier. You no longer have to wait for the evening news or for the paper to show up at your doorstep. Following your favorite news stations has never been easier, allowing for everyone to get constant updates on what's going on in their world. And with these new hashtags, you can easily keep up with the latest trends and even participate in them yourself. #socool, right?
Keeping informed can help you make better decisions for your business in the short-term and long-term, especially when it comes to sales and marketing. You will get an advantage in your business that could possibly get you ahead of your competitors and allow you to take advantage of opportunities. Knowing what's important for your business and in your field will also help you develop expertise to run you business better and ear the respect of those around you.
It's easy to follow news and trends through social media using specific hashtags that relate to you or your business. You can even get notified when someone uses a hashtag that you follow. This is a great way to stay connected with the world and your customers, and to make sure you're never the last to know anything.
You can also set up Google News Alerts for your business, industry, etc. Google Alerts notifies you when resources with specific key words show up in Google's search engine. You can change these settings to notify you daily, weekly, or monthly in the keywords of your choosing. Updates can be sent right to your email. This will free up your time and prevent you from searching the web for hours.
LinkedIn Pulse can also help small business owners connect with industry news. The app allows users to personalize their reading experience. You can download articles to read later or when on the go, you can connect with other professionals, and can enhance your network.
The media isn't the only way for you to stay in the loop. Connecting with other business owners and those in a related field could provide valuable information for you and your business. You can connect through trade shows and conferences or other networking opportunities.
Blogs can also provide honest, professional, and valuable insight on things relevant to your business or industry. You can even subscribe to specific blogs and be updated when there is a new post. Don't be afraid to participate in forums, either. Discussing with other business owners will keep you in the loop and even bring you a little more attention. Become a valued and respectable member and you will go far.
Make time in your day to review some of these resources. Save them to your bookmarks – you can even dedicate a folder to them – and get in the habit of checking them at least once a week. Share the information you see as well with your employees and other people in your business, through meetings or in company newsletters. If you don't have time at work, try outside of work, or on your way to work. Listen to podcasts while you drive or review blogs while you're on the bus, train, or plane.
Chapter Six - Managing Employees
So, you have a business, and you have employees. Employees come with a whole new territory that can be overwhelming for a new business owner. There's a lot involved, from the hiring process, to payroll, and everything in between. And, like everything else we've discussed thus far, there's an app for that! Staff Bubble, to be precise.
Staff Bubble helps you deal with everything there is to deal with when it comes to employees, from attendance management to training logs. It allows multiple user log ins as well. They offer advanced recruitment hiring solutions to help you stay confident that you've hired the right person. It keeps track of attendance from holidays to sick leave and makes adjustment as necessary. You can keep track of performance and create alerts for appointments, interviews, etc.
Staff Bubble allows you to keep managing employees simple, quick, and organized. No more need for filing cabinets and folders labeled in alphabetical order. Spending less time digging through papers means more time for you to continue to focus on the business at hand, ensuring a bright future for you, your employees, and your customers.
Find the right people on your team that fit the jobs that need to be done. Trust them to execute the projects at hand, regardless if you think you can do it better. This is the only way to allow your team to grow which will, in turn, allow your company to grow as a whole. Let yourself hand off tasks to others. It will free up your own time for other, more important projects and will relieve the stress of trying to do it all.
Make sure every employee is aware of what they are accountable for. This will cause employees to work more meticulously. Take cautions rather than risks. Follow up with your employees and set goals for them. Offer rewards and incentives to keep them on track. Give them freedom to operator in a matter than works best for them and allow them to be creative and share their ideas. Take their ideas into consideration – you never know who has a great idea that will help improve the company. Encourage them to share these ideas with you. Trust in them to deliver the best results for your business. Encourage them and teach them along the way. Manage, but don't control everything they do. Let them work in a way that best fits them while staying on track.
Encourage team work. The more minds at work, the more that can get accomplished, and the happier your employees will be. Allow them to discuss, share, and work together, so they do not have to work alone. Let them bring the best out of each other and thus bring out the best of your company. Make projects and tasks interesting. Learn who your employees are and give them jobs that you think would best suit their interests to keep them engaged and productive.
Try Zenefits for all your human resources needs. Keep track of benefits, payroll, time off, and more on one platform. Zenefits will even do some of the work for you. If you're hiring a new employee, you can simply enter in a few necessary fields and Zenefits will do the rest. They will get the employee to sign their agreements online, they will collect the employee's personal, bank, and tax info, they will add said employee to your payroll and benefits, and they will even fill out, file, and store everything online. What's even better is that Zenefits is free and there are no contracts or agreements for you, the small business owner. And if you already have another HR system in place, Zenefits allows you to easily transfer that information onto their services.
Managing your employees has never been easier when you take advantages of the programs available to you. Keep on top of your employees' files, whether on one of these programs or on your own, and update as necessary. Give them opportunities to grow and succeed in your company and reward them when appropriate. Encourage them to use their creativity and share their ideas with you. Employees that feel like they are a valued member of your team will work harder and be more productive, thus ensuring your company's continued success.
Chapter Seven - To-do Lists
The to-do list; feared and dreaded by many. As a small business owner, however, you will quickly learn that your to-do lists could really save you when things get crazy. You may even begin to rely on your to-do lists and feel lost without them. They're as simple to set up as you would think. All you need is a notebook and a pen or pencil, or your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, if you prefer those instead.
Sales Meeting at 10
Call Joe to discuss contract agreement
Hang flyers for company party
Send out summer news letters
Update Facebook Page with newest product and coupons
Add product to website
Take it one step further and organize your list by importance, or by times!
10:00 – Sales Meeting
11:00 - Call Joe to discuss contract agreement
1:00 - Hang flyers for company party
2:00 - Send out summer news letter
3:00 - Update Facebook Page with newest product and coupons
4:00 - Add product to website
If you find that some tasks are much larger, break them down into smaller tasks. Allow these tasks to span out over a period of time if there is a future due date. Allow yourself plenty of time each day to work on these tasks so that you are not rushing to get it complete the day before.
Encourage employees to use to-do lists, as well. There's a geat feeling behind crossing something off the list. Hold on to these lists and when it comes time for an annual review, they will have great talking points for everything they've accomplished.
The key to making to-do lists work is to stick by them! Put them in a reasonable order that makes sense so you can go right down the list. Cross things off as they are completed. This will not only help you manage your time each day, but will give you a sense of accomplishment when you finish a task. Give yourself enough reasonable time to complete each item on the list. If you finish early, use this time to get ahead on the next item, or reward yourself with a quick break or a treat.
There are some great apps, too, that can help your set up, organize, and complete your to-do list, such as Clear, Any.do, and Google Tasks. Google Tasks can sync with Gmail, Google calendar, and the mobile app, making it easy to view your to-do list on the go. With Clear, you can add your to-do list to organize your day and can be easily synced with the iCloud. It will set reminders for you and allow you to check off each task as it's finished. Gneo, another app for your to-do lists, goes one step further, giving you a look at the day's most important tasks, based on their urgency. It will sync with your calendars to show when you have time between appointments to complete each task. Also consider Trello for keeping track of projects and deadlines, and Basecamp for project management.
Keep a journal of your daily tasks. Keep track of how long you spend on each task so you can see where you spend the most of your time. Keep track of the big things and the little things, including checking email, surfing the web, and taking breaks. At the end of each day or week, look back on your notes and see what you can eliminate. What are you spending too much time on, or not enough?
Following your to-do list will help to make sure that all of your day's tasks get tone timely and efficiently. Stick to your list – it will become your business's Bible. Keep on task and keep your list updated, and you will be sure to get all your work done without missing anything.
What apps do you use in your business?
Chapter Eight - Meetings
Meetings. They're long. Dry. Tedious. But they can be an important aspect to running your business and provide a lot of useful or necessary information. As a small business owner, it is important to be selective about the meetings you attend. Each meeting should have a purpose, whether it's a meeting for all small business owners with advice and suggestions on staying in business, or a meeting for your employees to go over statistics, work place ethics, etc.
Make sure each meeting is scheduled on a day that works best for you and those who will be participating. If it's a busy week, you may want to plan a lunch meeting. Providing food and drinks can help make this seem less tedious. If it's a slower week, try planning a meeting in mid morning while people are still fresh. According to research done in 2009 by WhenIsGood.net, the best time of the week for a meeting is 3 p.m. on Tuesdays. This will most likely not interfere with any deadlines since it's early enough in the week. Keep track of all scheduled meetings in your calendar, whether on your phone or in a planner that stays with you at all times. Mark the date down on a larger desk calendar so you will see it every day. The more you mark it down and look at it, the more likely you will be to remember the date and prepare for it.
When setting up your meeting, it's important to make sure the right people attend. Having unnecessary people will just waste time, and not having enough of the right people could result in employees missing out on valuable information. Keeping groups smaller are better and may mean setting up more than one meeting with different people with only key employees attending. Creating consequences and rewards for attendance can also encourage participation, thus leading to a successful meeting and improvement in your business and workforce. Make sure employees take start times seriously. If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late. If you're late... well, you can make that consequence up! Maybe they will have to buy lunch at the next meeting, or stay later to help clean up. In turn, reward those who are early, productive, and active in the meeting.
For meetings that require the presence of those in various locations, try hosting a webinar through AnyMeeting. AnyMeeting allows you to hold online meetings and conferences in small or large groups. You can share your screen, record meetings, play YouTube videos, present PowerPoint slides, integrate with Twitter and Facebook, and is even mobile friendly. You can also consider ooVoo, Skype, Google+ Hangouts, HipChat, TinyChat, GoToMeeting, and Sqwiggle. All have various features, some free, some for a fee, and are all worth checking into for your webinar needs.
The key is to make the meeting valuable and necessary. Is you don't know why the meeting is taking place or what the goal of it is, then it probably isn't necessary and will just result in wasted time. Make any necessary research or preparation ahead of time in order to conduct meetings efficiently and to avoid any confusion during the meeting while you listen and participate. If you are hosting the meeting, make sure you have all the information needed to conduct the meeting. Think of it like a presentation you probably did in school. It should be organized and follow a logical order. The best way to do those is to outline everything you want to discuss. Your outline could be something as simple as this:
Ask for suggestions on improving next quarter
Review quarterly retreat information
Review plan for the next quarter
Discuss last quarter's sales
Once you have an idea of everything you want to discuss, you can go through and organize it. What makes sense to talk about first, and what makes sense to talk about last? Plan your meeting so that each topic flows from one to the next. You may organize the above list like so:
Discuss last quarter's sales
Review plan for next quarter
Ask for suggestions on improving next quarter
Review quarterly retreat information
With your outline now organized, you can move on to adding details to each point. Be specific! You want to be able to read your notes the next day and know exactly what you're talking about.
Discuss last quarter's sales
– We were much lower this year compared to last year. This is where we were low. This was our worst day.
Review plan for next quarter
– Last year, we were at this point. Based on our current rate, we will be at this point next quarter.
Ask for suggestions on improving next quarter
– How can we do better next quarter? (take suggestions from employees and discuss)
Review quarterly retreat information
– Final payments due next week. We will be meeting at the airport at this date and time. Please remember to bring sunscreen.
From here, you will have a good, solid idea of how the meeting will run. You can now add any additional items to the meeting, such as graphs, to go along with your notes. Providing visuals will go a long way in conducting a successful meeting and will help you get your points across. Ask employees what they learned at the end of each meeting. This can ensure that everyone is on the same page. Allow time for questions and concerns and discuss any matters that are brought up.
Keep meetings shorter rather than longer. If you have too much to go over in fifteen to twenty minutes, consider allowing breaks for people to stretch their legs and grab a snack, or split the content up into different meeting sessions. It has been scientifically proven that eighteen minutes fits in with the research on attention spans. This is about how long most people can pay attention before their minds start to wander and they check out. Our bodies require large amounts of glucose, oxygen, and blood flow when the brain takes in new information. This will cause people to feel tired quickly. So, shorter meetings means more productivity! Set a timer if you think it is needed. Eliminate distractions by encourage employees to leave laptops and cell phones out of the meeting. If the meeting is short enough, they won't miss much, anyway.
If you are participating in a meeting, it is just as important to be ahead of the game. Do your research ahead of time. Make sure you have all important information. If you know ahead of time what will be discussed, gather that information. If it's a sales meeting, make sure you have all relevant information: current sales numbers, last year's sales, etc. Jot down some of your own ideas to bring to the table during the meeting. This will help you stay on track and engaged during the meeting.
It can also be important to take notes during the meeting. Keep track of key points and ideas. Use your notes to your advantage and develop your own ideas from them. It can be difficult to get everything down, so just keep track of what sounds important. If you can't keep up, try recording the meeting so you can review it later to jot down some notes. That way, you will be able to pause, rewind, and fast forward as necessary. Once you get your notes down, review them while it's still fresh in your mind.
Try to stay away from laptops for initial note taking if possible. Research shows that taking notes by hand results in recalling more of the information given. It will also help keep you focused and away from the distractions of social media. Rewrite or retype your notes neatly later so it is easier for you to read. You can then make connections as necessary and organize your business, or even your to-do list, appropriately.
You can also use apps like Notability and MindNode to keep track of your notes. Notability allows you to types essays, outlines, and lists, and even import forms and presentations. You can edit PDFs, replay audio notes, and organize, search, and share notes. You can even annotate and illustrate if necessary. MindNode allows you to organize your thoughts easily by writing down your ideas. The app than provides a visual representation of all your ideas – a perfect visual for visual people. It will create diagrams to share with employees or clients quickly.
Never discard your notes as they can become valuable bits of information at another point in the future. Keep them organized in a folder on your computer or in a filing cabinet. Make sure each one is dated appropriately and keep them in a logical order. The more organized you keep things now, the easier things will be for you in the future.
Don't attend unnecessary meetings. Meeting for the benefit of networking can be useful, but plan your time accordingly. There's no need to attend every networking meeting offered. Spread these kind of meetings out between time and place. Don't go to the same networking meeting twice. Chances are, you'll just meet the same people you already know. Expand on the networking. This can be done best when traveling to new places.
Recognize what's important and what isn't will help you stay more productive. For example, a meeting with your managers about last quarter's sales will be more important than attending a meeting on how to write a newsletter. If you feel this could be of use, but doesn't strike you as necessary, try sending another employee to the meeting. Let them report to you with the results of the meeting, and if possible, let them conduct the next project using what they've learned to their benefit. This will show that you trust your employees to make the right decision and could allow for great production from employees who are happily taking on new tasks and challenges to prove their worth.
Chapter Nine - Traveling
Traveling can be overwhelming for the business owner. You just can't bring your office with you. Or can you? With all the technology we have available at our fingertips, we can make traveling a much more pleasant experience. Traveling light is key. But, how do you travel light when you're leaving your entire office? It's easier to take your office with you than you think. Think tablets and laptops! Think Cloud storage! If you have an idea of what you will need during your trip, you can upload those documents right to your Cloud storage, which can be easily access on your laptop or tablet when you're ready to use them. It's a good habit to get into to back all your documents up to the Cloud for access anywhere, any time. And don't forget those chargers!
As we already discussed, your devices can easily keep you up to date with your emails, news alerts, social networking, and so much more. But don't overload yourself with devices. It's best to keep as little with you as possible. Try sticking to just your smartphone and laptop or tablet. Your smartphone will help you on the go when you don't have access to wifi, and your laptop or tablet will allow you to work when you get the chance in your busy day.
Even though you're on the go, you should not stop your other habits. Remember those to-do lists? Those are just as valuable while you're traveling! It will help you stay on track, keep organized, and get things done in a timely and efficient matter. And they're great busy work when you're sitting on the bus or plane. Be sure to sync your calendars across all your devices as well. Update your calendar with every event and add important details, such as flight numbers, addresses, etc. Also, while it may seem silly and overlooked, keep your devices updated with shortcuts to save you time. This will allow you to open up exactly what you need, when you need it, without having to search your computer or documents.
Also consider some of these apps when you're traveling or just generally on the go.
Scanner Pro by Readdle – transform your mobile device into a portable scanner. This app will allow you to scan documents by taking a picture. You can then upload to Dropbox, Google Drive, or even Evernote, or simply save it right to your device and send directly in an email. It even allows you to sign documents right on your device
PDF Expert 5 – if you find you work with PDFs frequently, this app will be useful for your phone or tablet. It allows you to easily read, annotate, and edit PDF documents. You can highlight sections, make handwritten notes, sign, and even merge PDFs.
Consider TextGrabber + Translator to edit and translate documents and images into over 40 languages. It will also read it aloud to you.
Get Pocket and Instapaper are two great apps that will allow you to put articles, videos, and websites saved from anywhere right into the app, allowing you to read and review at a later point.
Dropbook, Google Drive, and the Cloud are also useful programs and apps that will allow you to save documents any time, anywhere, and receive them any time, anywhere, and on any device. Move important documents from your office computer to one of these apps and quickly grab them later while you're on the road, right from your smartphone or tablet.
In the midst of your travels, there's a lot to handle ahead of time, including travel and hotel arrangements. Tripit is also another great program which allows you to easily keep track of your travel plans. As soon as you make your bookings, Tripit will take care of the rest. All you have to do is forward your hotel, flight, car rental, and restaurant confirmation emails to them. (If you use Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook, that can all be done automatically!) Once that's done, Tripit will turn your emails into an itinerary for every trip so your travel plans are all in one place.It will give you dates, times, confirmation numbers, directions, maps, weather, and much more! You will be able to view your itinerary anytime, on any device, and even when you are offline. Tripit has a free version and a monthly paid version so you can choose what works best for you and your needs.
Make sure to choose a hotel that accommodates your needs. At the end of the day, your hotel will be your home. Consider amenities such as free wifi, printing services, continental breakfasts, or even dry cleaning services. Look for affordable, yet reputable. Check reviews from websites like TripExpert.com to help you choose the right place to stay based on that qualifications you are looking for.
It may also benefit you to have noise-canceling headphones on you at all times. This can help increase your productivity when on the bus or plane or even on coffee break at a busy cafe. If you're someone who enjoys working out, remember to bring your workout clothes so you can run or lift away the stress. And don't forget the music! It's also important not to let your fast paced life go to your stomach. Avoid fast food restaurants and eat healthy – your body and mind will thank you! You will be happier, healthier, and more productive with the right brain food in your system! Bring snacks on the go so you don't over eat during meal times.
Consider taking duplicates of everything. Keep some that will always stay in a backpack that you will travel and attend meetings with, and keep the extras back at your hotel. Traveling will use the most power, so keep yourself prepared.
If you're traveling to another country, make sure you have a translation app on hand, like WayGo, which can instantly translate Asian characters into English. And Gengo's interactive business culture guide will allow you to easily navigate foreign territory.
You may find yourself attending meetings while you're traveling. Try to fit in as many meetings as possible, especially on days where you don't have much planned. Let your networking meetings by key while you travel. Allow yourself to visit new places and meet new people. You never know what connections you could make. Take advantage of this while you're traveling. Attending the most meetings will maximize your potential for a return trip and will allow you to get the most out of the trip.
A great program you can use during your travels is called Evernote. It allows you to keep all your ideas together, in one place and you can sync that information across all your devices so you always have them on hand. You can use it for contacts, picture, and even audio. It's great for meetings, too! Especially when you can't take notes as quickly or efficiently as you'd like.
If you are spending time in your hotel room and find that you can't concentrate while doing work, try finding a different place that will be comfortable for you. You could try a coffee shop or a library to set up your temporary office. You can even find temporary office spaces in major cities that you can use for meetings that may not work well in a library or coffee shop.
Take advantage of down time to stay organized and finish some work that has been put off. But don't over work yourself, either. Even though you'll be very busy during your trip, don't forget to plan time to talk to friends and family. This will definitely keep you motivated and happy. The last thing you need is to be stressed, lonely, or depressed. Adding familiarity to your travels will go a long way. Spend some time at the gym or pool or with a relaxing dinner for yourself. Balance your time between work and play. Plan out your trip accordingly. Plan time for work first, and then time to relax afterwards. Plus, the more you get done now, the more you can relax on the trip home and before returning to the office. Nothing sounds better than relaxing after a business trip!
Chapter Ten - Conclusion
Running a small business can be very time consuming and stressful if you aren't quite sure what needs to be done. Fortunately, you don't have to do it alone. There are many different tools you can use to aid in your day to day needs, many that are available on the go and right at your finger tips! And there are hundreds upon thousands of other people who have been there and done that before.
Take these people and tools into consideration and use their advice, knowledge, and support to your advantage. Never underestimate the power of being organized and getting things done in a timely manner. These things and more will be the deciding factors as to whether your business sinks or floats. Staying organized and productive will help your business stay afloat and will earn you respect in your field and as a small business owner. Go forth and succeed!
For your convenience, let's go over some of the apps and programs mentioned throughout this eBook. Refer to this page in the future to find all our suggestions in one place!
For Managing Money
Quickbooks Simple Starts
Tsheets Time Tracker
For Social Media
For News and Trends
Google News Alerts
For Managing Employees
For To-do Lists
PDF Expert 5
TextGrabber + Translator
© 2015 Katrina