Archives For Productivity

Entrepreneurs need tools to keep us organized on the go.

I’ve had a lot of people asking me about my entrepreneurial must-haves lately. This post is all about some of the essentials in my toolkit!

Slack

Plain and simple, Slack keeps my entire team coordinated. It literally saves dozens of emails per day. Email is an asynchronous communication tool, whereas Slack is real time. That’s invaluable.

We use Slack to communicate with each other, with clients, and frankly, to get shit done more quickly.

Bartender

This is a Mac app that compacts everything on my menu down into one simple little toggle. I don’t like a lot of clutter on my desktop. This keeps it all in one space and helps me to focus.

WinStreak

This is super simple but important app. Some background: there are studies out there that show if you track the wins of your day it will transform your entire outlook. And not just on your work life but on your entire life!

There’s a subconscious level that needs to know that you are getting the right stuff done. This app allows you to record those wins so that your subconscious mindset stays in victory-mode.

Field Notes

These little notebooks are super helpful for me as I work towards getting away from screens for the majority of my day. It used to be that if I took a walk in the skywalks to clear my head, I’d have to pull out a smartphone for note taking when inspiration hit.

I’d pull out my phone and then my walk turned into screentime. Thanks to Field Notes I now have a notebook in case inspiration strikes. These guys are very helpful to clear my mind and keep me truly unplugged when I need it.

Clamcase for the iPad Mini

I just got this but I can already tell it’s going to be amazing. It actually turns your iPad into a mini computer. The best part? The hinge goes all the way around so I can go from laptop to tablet as needed. It also works really well in airplanes.

Command Bag by Timbuk2

The bag itself is a perfect travel carry-on. It’s TSA friendly so you don’t have to take your computer out, which saves a lot of annoyance. It’s also a solid computer bag. There’s tons of space.

There are also separate sleeves for your iPad and your laptop. Plus, it has a pouch on the back that can go over your carry-on handle. It stacks right on top of it and stays there!

Packing Cubes

These are 3 little pouches (small, medium, and large) that I use to organize my luggage when travelling. They organize all the stuff in your carry-on by compressing things so that you can fit more into your carry-on.

It makes it really easy to separate your items by however you prefer to categorize! Workout stuff in one, regular clothes in another, socks and other stuff in the third. However. Just put it all together and compress it down.

I can’t remember the last time I checked a bag thanks to these guys!

Unu Charging Phone Case

This is a matte black battery case for an iPhone 5, and it’s available for other models. It looks good (not clunky) and it easily adds a half day of battery. When you travel a ton, you know that’s a necessity.

Those are just some of the essentials in my toolkit. If you haven’t already, click the links above to further explore these tools.

What about you guys? What are your must-haves?

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Systems are going to run your business, whether you’ve crafted them or whether they are running by default. Systems are simply how the world works!

Hopefully by now you have taken some time to analyze your current systems in place. Maybe you’ve found some things to celebrate! Maybe you’ve found some broken systems.

This post will cover 5 more critical systems. I’m confident you will be able to walk away from this post with direction to both fix and build your own network of systems.

Productivity System

A productivity system’s purpose is to manage how you work. Not enough people take this seriously! We tend to think that either we’re expert multi-taskers (multi-tasking is the sworn enemy of productivity, by the way) or we wind up running from fire to fire, with no intentionality in place.

A productivity system gives you a way to approach your work. You can find several out there if you look; I personally swear by the Pomodoro Method. It allows me to approach work in a systematic way.

The method means focusing on a specific task for a certain amount of time, say 25 minutes, and then taking a break.

Focus, break, focus, break.

On the surface this sounds dead simple, but truly focusing on only one task for 25 minutes can prove very difficult. This is coming from a guy who through who couldn’t focus AT ALL through grade school, and not much better beyond!

Yet the hardest part about sitting still in grade school was never knowing how long the task at hand would last. It was this open-ended time commitment and that was really hard for me to account for.

This system is my solution. Even if it’s the most unpleasant task on the planet, I only have to focus on it for 25 minutes at a time. Chances are I can get it done before that time limit is up. I bet you could, too!

What I have not found to be helpful when seeking productivity are apps.

Using an app opens the door to the black hole of the smart phone. Those little red notifiers are competing for attention, and before you know it you’re in a Twitter conversation, snapchatting for just a second, and miles away from your task.

A system helps automate self-control. You don’t have to conjure it up, it’s built into the system itself. You can’t be pulled into a distraction if the distractions are out of sight and mind.

Time Management

Time management systems are a way to divvy up certain types of tasks for specific days. My days are divided into catch-up days, money-making days, and free/relaxation days.

I purposefully align my week as much as possible to have the tasks that I accomplish fit into those pre-specified days.

What does your business require? What 3-4 categories do you need to chunk your week into to make sure everything is accomplished with as much focus and purpose as possible? Organizing your days to a specified rhythm will bring much more flow to your work and results.

Cash Flow System

Confession: for the first 9 months of business I had no idea what was coming in or going out financially. I had no idea of numbers keeping the business going.

I realized that if that did not change there would be no business. I used the excuses of being new, or of having time for that later. But I realized that from day one a person can have someone on board to help them manage their accounts if they prioritize it.

I’ve had a money person on board for a while now, which is how I have established a cash flow system. For me, this looks like getting 3 reports on a regular basis:

  • A daily report which shows me profit and loss for the previous day, 90 day averages for income, expenses, and cash reserve.

  • Weekly profit/loss statements, because I have weekly income to monitor.

  • Monthly profit/loss as well, to give me an overall shape of where things are heading.

Some of the numbers are redundant, but I’d rather be over-educated on my numbers than under-educated. I don’t think enough entrepreneurs realize the power of numbers!

Seeing those numbers has been a mind-shift. This system has helped me to realize that I’m running a real business and not just working on a hobby. Those numbers impact me, my family, and every single team member and their families.

Integrating my cash-flow system has been the single most important change that I have implemented since starting this business. What gets measured gets managed – money doesn’t magically show up.

Challenge Time

I want to  challenge every entrepreneur reading this to hire a bookkeeper.

There are way too many of us who simply buy a license for QuickBooks and resolve to do our own books, but it just never gets done.

Spending $30-40 an hour to have someone else do this will make you more money and reduce your stress. Yes, the smaller you are the tighter your budget may be – but that also means fewer hours (fewer dollars) going to that accountant. You need to consider it. You need to take it seriously.

Marketing System

You cannot leave your lead nurturing system up to chance. You need to outline a path and engineer a process for your leads to go through.

This can happen on many different levels and in many different ways. My company has a process for converting leads into Think Tank Sessions. We have a different process for how we get people from being social media contacts into joining the email list into becoming full-fledged clients.

Marketing systems do not have to be complex! They aren’t rocket science. But if you don’t outline yours and give it intentionality, it will default to haphazard chaos. That means no results.

On-Boarding System

It is also important to have an onboarding system for clients. This process could be a need for you if you have created an application, if you have clients, and even if you don’t have clients!

Why? Because as an entrepreneur you are serving somebody. How you onboard those folks is critical to the long term success of your business.

An onboarding system sets expectations from the get-go for whomever you are serving. It basically says, when X happens; we do Y!

If this, then that.

I have started implementing 30, 60, and 90 day checklists with every client. That way if a client is unhappy we know it as soon as possible and can fix it.

We also know if there’s room for improvement. I want to be proactive in finding out what that is and fixing it. The only way to do this consistently is by having a system in place and sticking to it.

The Goal of a System of Systems

When you approach your business as a system of systems it will allow the business to eventually run independently of you. If you want your business to be sustainable, that should be your goal!

Let’s look at it through the lens of a final analogy: your business as a person. More specifically, as your baby – which in many ways all of our businesses are!

Now, a baby needs a mother to grow and to be nurtured and to be cared for literally 24/7 for the first 9 months of its existence. Eventually, however, the cord has to be cut. Your business is the same way – if you want it to be sustainable.

Yet a lot of entrepreneurs never get to the point where they cut the cord of the business. Cutting the cord doesn’t mean that the baby doesn’t need its mom anymore! It just means that the relationship between mom and baby is different. The baby is learning how to grow and develop and function on its own.

Having a business is the exact same thing. There are way too many entrepreneurs who are 5, 10, 15 years into it and they still have the cord connected to their business. They are not allowing that business the chance to grow and develop beyond its infancy.

Personally, I don’t want a codependent business. There’s no freedom in that.

I want a business that can grow into its own with my guidance. How will I achieve that? By continuing to build my system of systems!

What systems will you put into place this week?

 

There is a component of business that could support or derail your entrepreneurial goals depending on the amount of intentionality you bring to it.

One of the reasons why a lot of entrepreneurs and businesses don’t make it is because they don’t have a support system, which we’ve already discussed. Failing to build a system of systems is another lesser known reason why people fail.

The further I get into my own business, the more I’m starting to see some trends emerge which will derail any growing venture if they go on without accountability.

I’m way more interested in building something that is sustainable. That means building solid systems for each component of the business. Even if that means it may not grow as fast, I know it’s more sound from a principles aspect.

At this stage, it honestly means that at times we are just slogging it out as we build these systems. But we are building them to a point where eventually the business will be self-sustainable. That is my goal!

I’ll cover one system that I know you can all implement on some level today. The rest of the systems will be discussed in Part Two, coming Thursday.

The First System

Content needs a system. As an entrepreneur you are learning so much every day – and the world NEEDS your experience!

But be honest – part of being an entrepreneur is devoting resources to moving the business forward. When it comes to making choices on how to spend your time, creating content around what you are learning is too often cut.

I’m guilty of this myself! Which is why I’m building a system to capture these important moments and publish them. It is critical.

My Content System

My system is very straightforward. On Friday, I have an interview with one of my content writers. Blog post production occurs that weekend. Content is then scheduled throughout the week on web, email, and social channels.

Why this system? Because I wasn’t producing content. I knew that unless I built this system nothing was going to be different. It would be the exact same thing over and over.

I always said, “Publishing, blogging, and getting content out there is so important!” But my actions didn’t reflect it. Building this system was essential to getting my desired results. Sound familiar?

Your Systems Define Your Results

Often times we don’t see the results we want and can’t figure out why. The problem is not usually solved by making one or two or even three changes.

The problem is usually a system that we have allowed to be established by default. By default, it produces the results it’s created to produce.

Think of an assembly line. If you have an assembly line that produces widgets and one of the mechanisms isn’t working, you’d be silly to continue to let the system run without fixing the system.

What Systems are You Running?

If you are have a business, either part or full time, you have systems which are running by default. Systems running by default means they are running without intentionality. Without intentionality, you cannot steer a business. You have a broken assembly line.

I challenge you to take time this week to recognize the systems your business is running. What is working? What needs to be fixed?

Come back for Part Two of this post on Thursday!

The systems we’ll be discussing are:

  • Productivity

  • Time Management

  • Cash-flow

  • Marketing

  • On-boarding (for both team members and clients)
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