This was a question posed on the community forum recently.
Systems, structure and smart, intentioned business policies are what allow me to find time for everything.
Of course, there are always a few folks who rebel at the idea of structure, their usual argument being, “I went into business for myself to have more freedom, not more restriction!”
But here’s the thing: When you operate without structure, without foundation, without systems, you actually create more burden, more chaos and less freedom and choice.
It’s systems and infrastructure that give you more flexibility and time to live and enjoy life.
So here are some of the simple policies and systems I have in place that give me lots of room to move around in my business with less stress and more time and flexibility.
- Assign one day a week for administration. It can be any day of the week you like. Mine happens to be Mondays. The point is that on that day, you focus only on administration in your business. This can also be a day you set aside to focus on training or skills improvement or research. Whatever you like. On my admin day, I am officially closed to clients and they all know this. I don’t talk to clients, I don’t respond to clients and I don’t do any client work.
- Assign one day a week for meetings. Years ago I used to take meetings, both scheduled and on the fly, on every day of the week. At the time, I had a separate bookkeeping division in my practice and unintentionally fell into a routine of weekly office calls for those local clients. Omigawd! Talk about crazy-making. Don’t even ask me what on earth I was thinking back then, lol. I definitely wasn’t thinking ahead about how doing all that would affect my business (and my sanity) down the road. Eventually I realized it just could not continue. It was very stressful, it put huge demands on my time (which reduced the number of people I could work with) and made it really difficult to transition into real work and concentration. My life and business did a complete 360 (for the better!) the day I decided to a) never to make in-person office calls again, and b) allow only scheduled/by appointment meetings, never on the fly.
- Schedule all calls and meetings (especially when it comes to consultations). I know this is a repeat of #2, but it merits its own bullet. When you interrupt yourself to take a call, you are not only losing that time for the duration of the call, but also the time it takes to transition back into working concentration (which can take up to 20 minutes or more). Sometimes, your entire flow can be thrown off. Not to mention the fact that you simply can’t be on your best game flying by the seat of your pants. You’ll be far more successful and make a way better impression if you schedule and then prepare in advance for those client consultations and weekly meetings. What I do instead is focus folks on email communication. I can more easily coordinate scheduling that way. If they do happen to call the office, they can leave a message, and I have a set routine when it comes to checking Voicemail and returning calls. Primarily, however, the standard and policy in my business is email communication.
- Don’t work with anyone and everyone. I have a very clear and specific market I work with. Trying to do everything, be everything, for anyone and everyone simply does not work, particularly for solopreneurs like us Administrative Consultants. When you focus on a specific target market and know very clearly and definitively what you are and what you do for that market (and what you don’t), you end up not having to constantly switch mental gears all the time (which is time wasting and energy draining in itself). The work then becomes easier and takes less time, your business gets easier and quicker to run and administer, and your service and responsiveness improves as a result. I guarantee, you will make your business and your life so much easier and less stressful, with more time and freedom for your own life, if you do the same.
- Keep things simple. I’ve noticed that a lot of people when they’re new in this business like to “play office.” They love to shuffle papers, create endless binders and enter every little detail into some kind of project management software. I think it makes them feel official and productive. You may have time for that now when you only have one or two clients, but that isn’t going to work when you’re juggling a full practice. You want to structure your practice for the full-roster business in your future, not the business you have today or you’l never be able to grow financially. And that means not complicating your business needlessly. Most of your work and communication and updates with clients requires nothing more then simple email. And re-entering info and details you already have in an email into some project management tool is not only re-work, it’s overkill. That’s more time you’re spending on administration, one more layer you are creating open to human error. And all that time and energy you spend on that is time and energy you won’t get to spend living life. I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I went into my business was to improve my quality of life and have more time for it, not to work day in and day out in my business, much as I do love it. You will find balance is impossible if you complicate your business and increase your admin in those ways and it’s really unnecessary.
- Charge good and well! If you don’t charge enough, you will have to work harder and take on more clients to make the money you need, while having even less time and being more stressed on top of it. And that’s a recipe for failure—for you and your clients. It literally doesn’t serve anyone for you not to charge properly, professionally and profitably. No matter what the penny-pinchers and the business ignoramuses howl, you charging well is actually a service to clients. It’s what will allow you to stay in business and work with fewer clients, which means you’ll have more high quality, personalized time and attention for those clients you do work with.