Simplify Your Business in 31 Days

 

Day 1 - simple and easy are not the same thing - simple is the opposite of complicated. Complicated means stress and overwhelm in your business, and that's what we're working on in the next 31 days. Today we start with awareness - write down when you're feeling overwhelmed and what you're doing when you're feeling that way. Let's call it the warm-up, ok?

For the rest of the challenge, there will be 5 topics with 5 prompts/tips each, and after each topic, we'll do a day of awareness. It's almost as if I have this all planned out {and I pretty much do - takes away the overwhelm 😉 }

 

Day 2 - First of five topics in the Simplify Your Business Challenge is Time Management {oh yeah, we're going there first}. Time is precious and non-renewable and I'm almost willing to bet that you sometimes feel you don't have enough of it throughout the day. The real issue is not time, it's expectations and scheduling. Because you need/want the project, don't want to disappoint the client, or underestimate how long a project {or meeting} will actually take. 

When you schedule your day, commit to not planning out more than 2/3 of it. Leave time in the morning and in the afternoon that's unscheduled to account for unexpected emails/calls/meetings/projects. And if you ever end up with some extra time on your hands? Start working into your afternoon or next day schedule {getting stuff done ahead of time is glorious!}. Or - gasp - go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, read a book. Worried that your clients and customers won't be on board with your new time management strategy? We'll talk about that for Day 3. 

 

 

Day 3 - Simplify Your Business - Day 2/5 of Time Management. A big part of time management is setting expectations. If you tell your customers or clients you're available for them 24/7, then they expect exactly that. And while for some trades it's necessary to have an emergency service available at all times, it doesn't mean it has to be you. Even if your business is likely to require availability at all times, you still have a choice whether you want to offer that service! For most entrepreneurs "regular" hours will do just fine. I used to promise impossible deadlines all the time. And then work weekends and nights to meet them. There may be times you have to do this temporarily, but if your business can only survive if you work yourself into a nervous breakdown, then it's time to reconsider your business model or strategy or both. When you take on the next project make sure you clearly communicate the expected time before you can start. You can even add something to your website/contact form/social channels like "now booking xx weeks ahead". One more expectation hack coming at you for Day 4!

 

Day 4 - Simplify Your Business - Day 3/5 of Time Management. After talking about setting expectations with people you're already communicating with, let's talk about setting expectations with people who are trying to connect with you. I have seen notification badges on people's mail apps that have outrageous numbers like 1,472 on them, meaning they have that many unread emails. That makes me very uncomfortable and almost a little panicky. Not because I'm judging them, but because I imagine the amount of stress they must be under when they see that number. I don't even want to think about how many voicemails and text messages there could be! Does this sound familiar to you? Here's what I suggest: have a voicemail message that indicates how long it might take to hear back from you, and possibly offer another way of reaching out to you {if you'd rather not return phone calls}. For your emails, have an auto-responder. Make sure your business hours are clear on your website and let people know it might take a few days to hear back from you. We've talked about expectations and scheduling so far, Day 5 will be all about prioritizing.

 

Day 5 - Simplify your Business - Day 4/5 of Time Management. Do you ever get emails with a request that could easily wait but you tackle it right away because it won't take long and it ends up throwing off your whole schedule? Quit doing that. If it's useful, set up different email folders like "today", "tomorrow", "this week" etc. and drop the emails into the appropriate folders when they come in {plus, don't forget about the auto-reply we talked about yesterday}. 

Do the same with projects you're taking on. It's perfectly ok to ask your client how urgent it is, and you'll be surprised how many say that it can wait for 2, 3, 4, weeks. {And really, you cannot make it your problem if a client comes to you last minute, you can only do so much!} Schedule those projects for when they are due to be worked on, and forget about them until then. 

 

Day 6 - Simplify Your Business - Day 5/5 of Time Management. The last tip for simplifying your business in the time management category is an extension of setting expectations. It's simple: you don't always have to be ON. Set hours and expectations around your response and project times, but also know that you don't have to be tethered to your phone at all times. It's ok to leave your phone at home when you go out for dinner with your partner and friends. It's ok to not even look at your phone for a whole weekend! One part of time management is to not manage it, and give yourself unstructured time to reflect and reset. Be creative. Take a nap. Clear your mind. Own some of your time instead of managing it. 

 

Day 7 - Simplify your Business - Awareness/Reflection. How did the last 5 days go for you? Did you discover anything useful you might be able to implement in your business? Pay some extra attention to your time and time management today and decide what will be useful for you. What will make your business life less complicated? Do that.

 

Day 8 - Simplify Your Business - Day 1/5 of Working in Your Business. For the next 5 days we'll talk about working *in* your business as opposed to *on* your business {that comes next}. Working *in* your business is about working with clients, getting through meetings, making sure your day-to-day operations run smoothly; it's being in the trenches, where you probably spend most of your time if you're a solopreneur or freelancer. Have you ever felt overwhelmed with your daily workload and how things just never seem to run smoothly? Simplifying that is what we're talking about for the next five days. Step 1: take time to reset with reflection after a meeting or finishing a project. You don't have to take the rest of the day off, but take 15 minutes to reflect {and maybe take some notes}. How did the meeting/project go? What did you learn? What kind of adjustments can you make moving forward? What felt stressful? Becoming aware of challenges in the small picture will help you simplify the big picture. 

 

Day 9 - Simplify Your Business - Day 2/5 of Working in Your Business. Put a time limit on meetings. Yes, even meetings with clients. Every meeting you go into needs to have an agenda or purpose, and the goal is to get through the agenda and move on. I've come out of meetings with a feeling of "that's two hours of my life I'll never get back" - have you? If you're leading the meeting make sure that you have a clear agenda, and if someone else is leading it, then ask for an agenda. It's perfectly ok to protect your time and energy and leave a meeting that's all over the place and doesn't accomplishing anything. 

 

Day 10 - Simplify Your Business - Day 3/5 of Working in Your Business. Keep your workspace clean and tidy. Seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many of my clients slip back into chaos after tidying up. This is not about what brings you joy {even though I sure hope that running a business brings you joy, otherwise you have bigger problems than a clean desk}. It's about what lets you keep an overview of tasks, having everything you need at your fingertips, and not wasting any time searching. Consider taking part of your desk into the virtual space. Look around in your workplace - is there anything you need and use all the time that could be done digitally? Like planning your day, client files, and more. Using digital tools available for scheduling and organizing will free up desk and mind space for you.

 

Day 11 - Simplify Your Business - Day 4/5 of Working in Your Business. Create processes and systems. Yesterday we talked about making your work space digital - do the same thing with your systems and processes. Un-complicate your workload by having systems in place for onboarding clients, project workflow, and accounts payable/receivable. When I create a new small business website for a client, I add a project to my Asana task list, create a folder with the client name in my Google Drive, and put a copy of my "small business website checklist" into the folder. Start working on your systems and processes today to simplify your business!

 

Day 12 - Simplify Your Business - Day 5/5 of Working in Your Business. Outsource or hire. When you first start your business, you're probably going to do most of {everything} yourself. Even though you're not great at everything, but that's often a reality for new entrepreneurs. Once you're at a point when you make ends meet and want to start growing or scaling your business, it's time to hire or outsource. Sounds easy, eh? It's not. Because since you've been doing everything yourself up until now, you're going to have a hard time deciding what to outsource and who to trust. {I know, right?!?} Start with the tasks you a) don't enjoy and b) are not good at. Then make a list of how you would like to see those tasks handled, like a job description or hiring guideline. If you're not ready for the commitment of hiring someone - even part time - then look for a virtual assistant or freelancer you can subcontract to. 

 

Day 13 - Simplify your Business - Awareness/Reflection. How did the last 5 days go for you? Did you discover anything useful you might be able to implement in your business? Pay some extra attention to your business processes and systems today and decide what will be useful for you. What will make your business life less complicated? Do that.

 

 

Day 14 - Simplify Your Business - Day 1/5 of Working on your Business. For the next 5 days we'll talk about working *on* your business as opposed to *in* your business. It's about the work that happens behind the scenes, the strategy and business planning, the plans for taking your business to the next level and for world domination. Basically the stuff you really want to do but never find the time, because you have to make ends meet. Sound familiar? There is a solution for that! Work on your business first thing in the morning {or whenever you have the most energy}. Schedule it and make it a non-negotiable part of your day, even if it's only 15 minutes. Making new connections, setting goals and checking in on the progress, updating your website...It's vital for keeping your business relevant and moving forward. Which task are you tackling first?

 

Day 15 - Simplify Your Business - Day 2/5 of Working on your Business. At the foundation of your life and your business lie your beliefs and values. I'm not talking about religious beliefs {but that can of course be part of it as well}, I'm talking about what you believe the world to be, what you value, what matters to you. It's a default setting, a gut feeling, something you just know. And it's also something that many people compromise on daily. I'm by no means perfect, but I make an effort every single day to stay true to myself and what I believe in. Even if it's uncomfortable. Even if it means I will lose out on a project. Even if it means someone won't talk to me anymore or even badmouth me. Because every time I have ignored my gut feeling, it has turned into a total shitshow. Define your values and beliefs for yourself and your business, and stick with them. And guess what, it makes running your business so much simpler - because you know what the right decision is without having to go through a weekend bootcamp to find out.

 

Day 16 - Simplify Your Business - Day 3/5 of Working on your Business. Make sure that any pro bono and volunteer work you agree to is in line with your business values. I get requests to volunteer my time to set up social media accounts for charities all the time. I get requests to donate money, lend a hand, create a marketing strategy. The list goes on. There are many noble causes and worthy battles are fought on a daily basis. But guess what - I don't agree with all of them and I 100% reserve the right to turn down any and all charitable requests if it's not in line with what I believe in. Just because it's a non-profit organization does not mean it's a good cause {or not out to stuff the pockets of some people, for that matter}. Just because it's a registered charity doesn't mean the money will go to the cause and not be sucked up by inflated administrative costs. {And, in related news: just because someone is a lawyer or doctor or any other licensed profession - it doesn't mean they are good and will tell you the truth. Do your due diligence. Question authority.}

It all comes back to your values, and sticking to them. Know your values, then set a yearly time and money budget for your pro bono and volunteer work, and then filter each request through your business values until your budget is allocated.

 

Day 17 - Simplify Your Business - Day 4/5 of Working on your Business. Being a hardass and ever compromising in your business is the way to go, right? Wrong! I'm a big believer in picking your battles, in life and in business. That doesn't mean you have to be a push-over. Pick your non-negotiables and compromise on the rest when it makes sense. And you guessed it, your non-negotiables have everything to do with your values. Let me give you an example: integrity is one of my core values, and I will never work for or collaborate with a business that's not properly licensed or has the appropriate health certifications if applicable. And by that I don't mean the business has to be a licensed profession, but it has to have a proper business license and follow all the rules. Because everything else does not jive with integrity, and it hurts other businesses who are doing it the right way. What are your non-negotiables?

 

Day 18 - Simplify Your Business - Day 5/5 of Working on your Business. Create Your Business MasterFile. What's the first step in simplifying? Getting organized. And I made something to help you with that. It's an online course called Create Your Business MasterFile, and it guides you through 10 steps to get your business documents organized in Google Drive, so you never have to look for another document again when your accountant/banker/lawyer asks for it.

It's simple and fun - and I made it even better by pairing the perfect drink with each task. Whether you like cocktails, mocktails, wine, beer, or tea - I've got you covered.

Check it out at businessmasterfile.ca and sign up to get a free sample of the course there!

Working on your business has never been this simple. 

 

Day 19 - Simplify your Business - Awareness/Reflection. How did the last 5 days go for you? Did you discover anything useful you might be able to implement in your business? Pay some extra attention to your goals and strategy today and decide what will be useful for you. What will make your business life less complicated? Do that.

 

Day 20 - Simplify Your Business - Day 1/5 Social Media. Switch to Facebook Business Manager. You know how scrolling on Facebook and going down the rabbit hole of how everyone's business is better than yours is a thing? It's not anymore with the Facebook Business Manager. Manage your own page {or several pages} and ad account on this platform, and take another step towards simpler and better with your business. Does that mean you should not be on FB at all anymore? Nope. Schedule in time to socialize and interact, and monitor your business in the Business Manager to streamline. Find out how to get set up here.

 

Day 21 - Simplify Your Business - Day 2/5 Social Media. I'm a fan of social media, but when Facebook came out with the "page response times" I was pissed {I might still not be over it}. How can it be that a business owner gets judged by their response time to a Facebook message. That's total BS. Yes, you can set an auto-responder, but what's the point? And if you see "typically replies within a few hours", how is that not good enough? What kind of emergencies do you send Facebook messages for? If it needs to be immediate, then pick up the phone {hi, my name is Kerstin and I'm Generation X. We use phones}. But I digress. The point is - and this will help you simplify - to implement social media blackout times. One night per week, every weekend, a few days a month. It's up to you, but I highly recommend you try it. Because social media will still be there when you get back and dealing with a real person who just needed a break is so much better than with autoresponders. {If you are worried about missing messages, then turn on text notifications or set an auto-responder that prompts people to email or call instead. Allthenotifications will be there when you get back.}

 

Day 22 - Simplify Your Business - Day 3/5 Social Media. Keep it Real. Be the same online as you are in real life. Have you ever dealt with a business online, then end up going to their store and are supremely disappointed because all the pictures were staged and especially the personality was staged? It's a reason not to do business with you for your customers, and it's also very exhausting for you. Having to maintain two different identities? Too much work. And what would your grandma say about this?

 

Day 23 - Simplify Your Business - Day 4/5 Social Media. It's ok not to be on every platform. When I start working with a new client I always look at all their social media platforms and their website. And more often than not, they will have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp, SnapChat, and more. Also more often than not, their presence is sporadic on all those channels, because who has the energy to keep up with all those platforms? Ask yourself - where can you connect best with your target market? Where do they hang out? How do they like to interact? What type on content do they like to consume? Answer those questions and then pick one or two networks and be really good at those. The end. 

 

Day 24 - Simplify Your Business - Day 5/5 Social Media. Let it Go {that troll never bothered you anyway}. Has anyone ever gotten under your skin on social media? I have been called a left-wing Nazi, I think that's my favourite one so far. What did I do when this happened? Absolutely nothing. Well, not absolutely nothing - I blocked the troll and deleted his comment, but I didn't engage. I also delete mansplaining comments with pleasure. And I block and delete other women who are acting like total assholes {women who are not able to tolerate another woman's success are a thing, unfortunately}. I may not own my followers or business page {Facebook does}, but I damn well get to choose who can post there and which comments I tolerate. I spent and spend a lot of money to advertise and manage my reputation, and not engaging with haters and simply moving on, is, well, simplifying my business considerably.

 

Day 25 - Simplify your Business - Awareness/Reflection. How did the last 5 days go for you? Did you discover anything useful you might be able to implement in your business? Pay some extra attention to how you use and interact on social media today and decide what will be useful for you. What will make your business life less complicated? Do that.

 

 

Day 26 - Simplify Your Business - Day 1/5 Stress and Workload. Self care starts with your mindset. Because behind your overwhelm is your mindset that you are in charge of others’ well-being/education/work/volunteering… {the list goes on}. You’re putting the weight of the world on your shoulders, and that’s keeping you from even thinking about taking the first step, let alone creating a regular practice of self and business care. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and find yourself spiralling to the edge of your sanity, ask yourself these questions: What exactly overwhelms you in this moment, what is happening? Is it your responsibility? If yes, how will you deal with it. If no, how can you change your reaction to it?

 

Day 27 - Simplify Your Business - Day 2/5 Stress and Workload. Monotask. I believe that one of the main sources of overwhelm - coming in as a close second right after taking on things that are not your responsibility - is multitasking. Imagine concentrating on one thing, and one thing only for 30 minutes. No writing down something in your calendar real quick while you’re texting with a client while you’re starting to prepare dinner while you’re running through the house searching for a book that’s due at the library. Just one thing. 30 minutes. Imagine how much less you would miss if you took 30 minutes to map out tasks in your calendar. Imagine how much better that conversation with your client would be if you gave it your full attention. Imagine how much better your dinner would taste if you didn’t forget about the spices. Imagine the great lesson your kid would learn if they had to find that library book themselves, return it, and pay the fine.

 

Day 28 - Simplify Your Business - Day 3/5 Stress and Workload. Just because you know how to do something, doesn't mean you have to do it. Set boundaries! If you don’t want to work with someone, that does not mean you have to burn any bridges. There does not have to be any drama, or hard feelings. It’s simply a business decision based on your preferences - you decide, you implement, you move on. There is no lengthy explanation needed, where you try to justify your decision because you feel bad about saying no. Resist the urge to explain yourself, and keep it short and to the point. And, if you’re ever stuck for words, then do like E.B. White who famously turned down a position in the Eisenhower administration with the words: "I must decline, for secret reasons."

 

Day 29 - Simplify Your Business - Day 4/5 Stress and Workload. No judgment - no reaction. Do you have some of your clients mentally tagged as “pain in the ass” or “high maintenance”? {That’s really a rhetorical question, I know you do.} Do you dread opening emails and answering phone calls from them? Why are those clients on your proverbial shitlist? Was it a one-time interaction that set the tone? What would have to happen to wipe the slate clean and untag them? What would happen if you didn’t react to some of their quirks? What would happen if you did not judge and categorize them, but treat each interaction as a fresh start? During the next interaction with the client, give them your full attention and don’t judge or categorize them, then notice how this has affected your relationship.

 

Day 30 - Simplify Your Business - Day 5/5 Stress and Workload. This too shall pass. It does, even if it doesn't seem like it at the moment. And until it passes, you concentrate on your mantra. Don't have one yet? Find one. I'll share mine with you: Batten Down The Hatches. It reminds me to take a deep breath and listen within. It’s an instant switch to shift into mindfulness and be fully aware of the present moment. How am I doing? How does the situation make me feel? Does something feel “off”? Using a mantra can be your way to keep mindfulness from slipping away in the daily craziness of business. Every time I feel stressed and overwhelmed, I batten down the hatches {and I actually say that I’m doing that, because I like to feel like a pirate}. What will you pick as your mantra?

 

Day 31 - Simplify your Business - Awareness/Reflection. How did the last 5 days go for you? Did you discover anything useful you might be able to implement in your business? Pay some extra attention to what makes you feel overwhelm and whether you have firm boundaries, then decide what will be useful for you. What will make your business life less complicated? Do that.

 

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