It looks like everyone these days is on the Marie Kondo train, and I’m right there with them!
If you feel like your business is a monster which is taking over your life, as opposed to supporting your life, it might just be time to tidy that thing up!
So today I want to talk about how to tidy up your business so it’s more organized, easier to make and follow through on plans and, obviously, sparks joy.
Here’s some steps that’ll get you going!
Because we’re entrepreneurs, we can’t ignore the fact that our lives and businesses are intertwined, so we’re going to work through this topic on both the life and business level.
I am a firm believer that whenever someone says “I don’t have time” it’s a straight up load of nonsense.
Here’s the thing, we find time for the things which are important to us, our priorities. And then we say “we don’t have time” about everything else.
“I don’t have time to clean my apartment” actually just means “I have other priorities that are more important to me than a spotless kitchen sink.”
And you know what, that’s totally cool.
The problem and frustration arises (at least for me) when we don’t have time for our priorities because other non-priority stuff is taking up our time.
Our time should go where our priorities are, and asking yourself this next question will help you determine your priorities and plan your life and business around them.
Question 1: What matters most to me? What is my top priority right now? What order do my priorities come in?
When I started my business I have no shame in saying that it was priority number 1 and it absolutely came first. My priority list looked like so:
Pay off student debt
Gonna be honest, learning German was no where on that list (I live in Germany btw), and so I spent years in Germany before I got around to learning the language. And rightfully so, because it wasn’t on my priority list. (Much to the annoyance of my German boyfriend’s family.) Those 3 things were as much as I could handle.
I worked all hours of the day, night and weekends, because building the business was priority number one. Taking calls from clients came before spending time with my boyfriend.
My priorities have changed now. The business is running well, and I’ll be honest, I wanted my life back.
Now my priorities look like so:
Healthy body & mind
Successful & fulfilling business
Doing good in the world and giving back
I won’t give you a specific number of priorities that you can have because it’s pretty tough to nail an exact number that’s okay for everyone in their season of life, though I normally have 5.
But, say if you’re a new Mom, you might just have 1: Keep baby alive.
A word of caution: When you go to set your list of priorities, let’s be realistic here, if everything is a priority, nothing a priority, and you’ll continue to wander through life like a chicken with your head cut off. Which is of course v not attractive and v not productive. Only add as many priorities as you can actually manage in that season.
So now you hopefully have your priorities listed, in order, you might be wondering, how does that actually take shape in my life? Practically, how do I organize around my priorities?
For example, I don’t work weekends anymore. Because that’s when I spend time with my fiancé, and he’s priority number one.
I go to the gym or do some sort of athletic activity 3 times a week. Sometimes I wake up late and think “ah darn, I don’t have time for the gym, I need to get to work!” but I remember my priority list and that healthy body & mind (part of which means exercising) comes before business. So just this morning, I was supposed to get up at 7 but I got out of bed at 9. Regardless, I still went to the gym, because it’s higher on my priority list than business, and so I just started work later.
Healthy body and mind comes before being financially free, meaning I spend on organic food, a gym membership, and a therapist without any guilt, because that comes before finances.
You get the point hopefully.
You can only start organizing around your priorities once you’ve defined them. And btw, this might take some time to get your priorities in an order that feels right in your gut.
When I started this, I wrote my priority list daily when I did my journaling. Sometimes you feel pressure from the outside to order your priorities in a different way than feels right to you (my boyfriends family felt strongly that learning German should be my top priority. I didn’t.)
But when you write down your priority list daily, if something isn’t sitting right with you, you’ll change it again and again every day until you get it in an order which feels good. So def write your priority list down daily, and then tweak it’s order until it feels right
Then start organizing your time, energy and money around your priorities. You’ll never have that frustrated feeling again of wanting to get to something, but “life” getting in the way.
Oh and lastly, if people judge your priorities, that’s their problem, not yours.
Example, J.K. Rowling’s priority back in the day was to finish book 7 of Harry Potter. It came before her husband, kids, etc. So what did she do? She rented a room at a hotel in Edinburgh and holed up there until the book was finished. Her kids and husband had to figure out life without her, because she needed to spend time on her priority, getting the book done, not making lunches and picking kids up from school.
Yeah I’m sure some people will judge her saying she’s a bad mother for abandoning her family for a few weeks to work, but that’s their problem, not hers.
This is the obvious jumping off point, but it’s also a veryyy scary question, so while asking the question might be easy, giving an answer is quite the opposite.
As I’m sure you know v well, businesses can be freaking stressful to run.
(Take this from the girl who rocked up to her dermatologist looking like a Dalmatian, only with red spots all over, not black. What was the reason? “Stress” said the dermatologist. . . Awesome. )
But what specifically is stressful? And what work actually brings you joy in your day?
Every year in December, I do my reflecting, dreaming and planning for the year ahead. (Here’s a post on how exactly I do that.)
A major part of that process is writing down all the feels. Here’s a selection of the questions I answer:
Question 2: What did I love this year? What did I really enjoy in my business? What work was really joyful and fulfilling to complete?
Question 3: What did I hate working on this year? What did I just avoid working on because I hate it so much? What was really disappointing or upsetting in my business?
No matter what your answers are, even if it’s that your primary product/service brings you only stress and no joy, it’s the truth and that’s okay.
“Everything is figureoutable,” as Marie Forleo says.
If you hate offering your primary service, it’s not the end of the world. In order to find a solution though, you need to get really specific here.
Maybe it’s not that you hate your primary product/service, but you hate that your projects always drag on past their deadline. Or maybe you hate all the back and forth emails of communication with clients. Or maybe you hate editing the videos that are part of your product.
No matter what it is, it’s okay, because there’s always a solution.
If you hate drag-on projects, you can set up your projects to be deadline-based, not outcome-based. (Eg. “Hire me for a day” or “1 hour office hours” are prime example of a solution to this.)
If you hate back and forth emails for edits, do a live editing video call.
If you hate editing videos, bring on a video editor.
Or maybe your business just feels like a hot mess and your marketing message is all over the place. Maybe you’re offering so many different things in your business, and you’d be better served by just focusing all your time and energy on the most profit-producing, or unique, or joy-creating product/service.
I know being “so busy” is the hot trend RN, because in a messed up way it somehow tells the world we’re super in-demand and super successful, but I’d argue that that’s a lie we needs to let go of.
There is a significant amount of joy and calm that can come from a simple, niche business.
Not to mention, it’s easier to run. Meaning you can finally run your life, instead of your business running it for you.
Okay so now you’ve identified the things that are definitely NOT bringing you joy and found a solution to them…
What about the things that do actually bring you joy in your business?
Once you get the stuff off your plate that you hate, or have changed it so it’s not sucking up your time and energy, you can consciously spend more of your hours on the joy-producing tasks in your business.
Technology are tools that are there to help support us in our businesses and lives. But often our tech systems and tools are overlapping and therefore inefficient, or are just straight up disorganized.
Now would be a good time to take a critical look at every software and program you use, as well as the physical tools you make use of in your business, and then ask if they’re really serving you and your business.
I took a look at my paper planner a couple years ago and determined that as much as I love cute stationary, and I mean shopping for an adorable paper planner really did bring me joy each year, I knew it had to go. It just was a super inefficient system for organizing my business from, especially as I knew I was going to be bringing on my first team member and therefore needed to put my planning online.
Maybe for you it’s not a planner issue, but that you’re storing some files on your desktop and others in Google Drive. Or you have both a Crowdcast webinar software plan and a Zoom plan for online meetings, and one system would actually suffice for both. (Also something I realized personally recently.)
So next up ask yourself the question…
Question 4: What tools and tech am I using? Is each of these tools & tech actually serving the business well? Or is there overlap? Is there a better tool/tech I could make use of?
Question 5: Are the tools & tech I use organized as optimally as possible?
Once you’ve got your answers, correct appropriately.
Getting to the end of the day and find yourself frustrated that while you were working all day, you don’t feel like you got anything of real importance done? Or that all these small tasks kept popping up and taking you away from the stuff you really need to be doing?
Maybe you haven’t had a weekend fully free from your business in forever, or your evenings are always cut into by phone calls with people in other time zones.
Whatever it is, it’s time to get honest again and ask yourself the tough questions.
Question 6: What is it about your schedule that you dislike? What are the tasks and activities that cut into your day in a way you hate?
And then from there, plan a new work schedule which enhances your productivity and satisfaction.
For example, I hate that I would have phone calls almost every day of the week. I wanted to get out of my apartment and go to a coffee shop to work, but almost every day there was a call or live video that meant I’d need to be home to complete that task.
So I eventually settled on Tuesdays being my calls and meetings day. I go into Tuesdays knowing full well that if nothing really gets done work-wise, that’s okay. Because the day is meant for my mastermind meeting, my team meeting, interviewing guests on the podcast, etc.
I know that I also absolutely hated it when anything got in my way of getting work accomplished on Mondays. I feel fabulous about myself when I start the week strong and kill my work on Mondays. So I make sure to not allow any minor distracting tasks to get onto my Monday schedule. Instead, Fridays I’m pretty useless and not very motivated. So small bits and pieces get put onto Fridays.
And here’s the real gem of all the steps!
When you have processes in place, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and get more done.
(Meaning, you can have more priorities on your list, woot woot!)
If you find that you’re always forgetting things here and there (eg. forgetting to send a client a certain file, or forgetting to prep something for a launch, or forgetting some other little piece of a project which needs to get done), basically you know that you seriously need some processes in your life.
In order to create processes, you’ve got to go through a task step by step and consciously stop yourself from running on to the next task in the process, and take 3 seconds to write down what you’re doing.
I store all my processes in Asana. I have a process for blogging, podcasting, launching a course, building a course, hiring and onboarding a team member, doing my annual business planning, and back in the day when I still did web designs for clients, a process for that too.
So look at the major projects in your business (hopefully my list of projects above helps you to determine yours), and ask yourself the following:
Question 7: What are all the steps and tasks that need to get done in order to complete this project?
Write out all of those steps and keep them in a handy location, such as Asana if you use it.
Then, when you go to create your next blog post or complete a client project or launch a project, you don’t even need to turn on your brain, you just follow the process step-by-step.
Processes really are a game changer for the productivity of your business, and for assuring every project you put out into the world is of top-quality, because it’s completed through the same perfected method, every single time.
By the way, I’m going to be launching a shop of digital products v soon, and my first line of products will be my process templates! If you have no interest in reinventing the wheel and you want a proven process handed straight to you, instead of creating it yourself, you can get on the waitlist for the process templates (and snag an early bird discount) by popping in your email below.