Small business owners have big to-do lists. After client meetings, sales calls, and employee trainings, product development still has to happen. Payroll still needs to be submitted. Accounting is a headache that never ends.
Before you lose your mind trying to balance everything, you need to make a plan. Your sanity, not to mention your company’s success, requires you to streamline tasks that aren’t central to your business. By decluttering and outsourcing certain processes, you can spend more time on those that actually require the owner’s touch.
Not sure where to begin? Six steps stand between you and a simpler business:
- Start with high-stress, low-reward work.
Some things on your to-do list, you could do all day with a smile. Others, though, you’d rather never touch again. Unless they’re mission-critical responsibilities like investor meetings, focus on offloading the most onerous ones first.
Does mowing make you miserable? LawnGuru cuts lawns with a click. Hate everything HR? OnPay automates everything from payroll to compliance audits. Transcribe far too many phone calls? Rev offers automated and manual options. Even if you can’t afford to outsource everything on your list, you’ll make it feel significantly smaller by eliminating the worst offenders.
2. Get an administrative assistant.
Yes, it can be difficult to trust someone you don’t know with your schedule and communications. But just think back to how much time you’ve spent in the past week setting up calls and sending emails. Sites like Upwork and Zirtual can connect you with virtual assistants who are surprisingly capable.
Today’s virtual assistants aren’t simple secretaries, either. Invoicing, data entry, travel planning, scheduling, email review, and more are fair game. Consider keeping customer service internal, though: Virtual assistants aren’t experts on your product or positioning. Your customer relationships matter more than saving an hour here and there on service calls.
- Minimize social media time.
Outsourcing social media is tricky. Even if you trust others to write your posts, can they respond appropriately to trolls? What about private messages from partners or clients? Remember, anything posted online is permanent if someone cares to search for it.
Use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule out social media content. Small businesses should be posting a few times per week, if not daily, on platforms that are popular with their users. Do you really want to spend time every weekend updating your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Is analyzing the performance of every post yourself actually worth your time?
- Quit managing projects on paper.
Are you seeing the trend? Software can make your life easier and your to-do lists shorter. If ground zero of your project management is a paper notebook, swap it for a platform like Trello or Hive. Both sites let you delegate responsibilities to your employees, check in on project statuses, and send out updates without leaving your desk.
Invite contractors and partners to take part, too. Say you’re working with a freelancer to develop an email campaign. You need to know which emails he or she has written the copy and done the design for. That person needs to know whether you’ve cleaned your contact list and reviewed each email. A shared board with a check-box system can tell you both at a glance where the project stands.
5. Track time automatically.
With an automated time-tracking system, you can get insight into what eats your time and that of your employees — without wasting time logging those hours manually. Once you see how your time is spent, you can figure out where your inefficiencies and broken processes are hiding. Timely turns on with a click, aggregates similar entries, and learns from edits you make to your timesheet.
Automatic time-tracking is especially critical for service-based businesses. Guessing at the amount of time spent on projects becomes a serious problem if clients ask for documentation. Overbilling isn’t fair to them, and under-reporting your hours shortchanges you. Plus, tracking time accurately lets you spot similarities between top clients, helping you to sell more efficiently.
Pretty much every process involved in managing a small business can be made simpler and faster through technology. Know your priorities, outsource selectively, and get the right tools for the tasks you want to tackle yourself. Soon, your to-do list won’t look quite so daunting.