How to reduce the overwhelm in running your own business and get laser focused
Have you ever heard the expression “Fail to plan, plan to fail?”
If we don’t plan where we are going – either in life or in business – then how will we get there? We will just plod on being victims of our circumstances instead of taking control and actually creating the career (or life) we desire. If you were travelling somewhere you’d never been before, would you get in your car without using a map or a Sat Nav? Or would you get on a train or plane without having planned your onward journey? Chances are, you’ll lose your way and it will take you a lot longer to get where you want to go. Yet with a bit of planning, your journey goes much more smoothly. It’s the same with your career and with life in general so if you want success in either, you need to get more comfortable with planning. I focus specifically on business in this post though the principles are the same in life too.
Planning is a major part of all business activity and used in most large corporations. However, if you’ve just started working for yourself, and with no-one looking over your shoulder, there are so many different things demanding your attention and it’s easy get distracted. You are juggling lots of different things and it can be difficult to prioritise and hard to know where to direct your focus.
In addition to actually selling your product or service you might also be doing bookkeeping (even if you have an accountant), scheduling and following up appointments, other admin tasks, updating and backing up your website, consistently creating and scheduling social media content, creating email campaigns, designing new products / services, market research, networking, producing literature or organising events (such as exhibitions, workshops, retreats), preparing to give a speech, webinar, podcast or training session, monitoring your business performance and tweaking your marketing activity accordingly.
Gosh, it’s exhausting isn’t it? Lots of exciting things to be done but what do you do first, how do you structure your day, week, month or year when you’re just starting out?
Here are my tips for making sure you stay focused and on track so that you’re always heading towards your goals instead of getting side-tracked every step of the way. Of course nothing is set in stone and certain circumstances may require some flexibility in your schedule but at least by following these tips you’ll be able to get back on track in no time!
1. Create a vision
Start with an overall dream, vision or goal for your business. Where do you see it in 1,2 or 5 years’ time? Don’t worry if your vision changes along the way. As your business evolves so will your vision. But write down your current vision!
2. Write down your goal
Plan how you will reach your vision. Set yourself business goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound. For example: I want to earn £x in revenue / make £x profit within the next 12 months. Ensure you have a system in place to measure your progress.
3. Break your overall goal down into smaller ones
Write down what will help you to achieve your dream – i.e. break down your main goal into smaller ones. This might be attracting x number of clients, selling x number of items, attracting £x amount of repeat business from existing customers / clients (through the same, or different products / services) within a specific time frame.
4. Choose strategies / activities to achieve your goal
Decide how you’re going to achieve your smaller goal(s).
For example, if your goal is to attract x new clients in the next 6 months your strategy might be to:
i) Create a series of monthly email opt-ins to grow your email list by x each month
ii) Attend 2 networking meetings a week
iii) Post twice a day on facebook & Instagram
iv) Run a paid for facebook advert
v) Engage twice a day in other facebook groups
If your goal is to earn £x in sales / profit from selling your products online your strategy might be to:
i) Direct traffic to your online shop through a special offer that you promote on social media (facebook, Instagram, twitter, Pinterest)
ii) Direct traffic to your online shop through Google Adwords
iii) Direct traffic to your online shop through SEO
iv) Advertise online or engage in affiliate marketing activity
5. Schedule your activity
Once you have clear written goal and strategies, put together a marketing activity schedule of what needs to be done when. You can plan this in whatever way suits you – it could be a spreadsheet or you may want to research what marketing activity schedule templates are available online.
6. Structure your days and weeks
Start to build some structure into your days. You’ll need to allow extra time and some flexibility in this to deal with interruptions, unforeseen circumstances etc. There are various ways you can plan your day / week depending on what suits you. You may prefer a ‘To Do’ list though beware of making this too long and unrealistic and repeatedly carrying tasks over to the next day. Or a method that I prefer to use in conjunction with my ‘To Do’ list (where I have just 3 key things that must get done that day, followed by say 4-5 less important tasks) is to schedule my day / week. I have set times each day for checking emails, engaging in facebook groups, general online networking and content creation for opt-ins and courses. I have a set day for admin (website backup, updating accounting info, tidying of online files / folders), a set morning / afternoon for blog writing, a set morning / afternoon for creating and scheduling social media content (including sourcing and tweaking images) and of course I work this around coaching my clients which means that I sometimes have to juggle everything around.
7. Monitor your performance regularly
You might monitor your progress weekly, monthly or both and you’ll need to schedule in time to do this. It’s a good idea to monitor performance not just against your overall goal but look at how well each piece of marketing activity is working. What response levels are you getting, how many conversions, how much engagement on social media etc? Decide what’s important to you – for example if you are selling goods online then traffic to your website is important but conversions into sales is even more important so you’ll be monitoring both traffic levels (to see if you are increasing the amount of traffic to your site) and you’ll be monitoring conversion rates (to see how much of this traffic is converting). Facebook likes for your business page are great but if you’re not getting any engagement then these are useless. Engagement is key! Look at patterns of activity – for example when your business was performing well, what did you do differently? If you are a service based business and experience a drop in clients, consider what might have caused this – what have you been doing differently lately? There are so many things you can measure and these are just a couple of examples.
On a final note, all of this will be a continual, ongoing process which you will tweak and change along the way as you learn more about what does and doesn’t work in your business. You might change the way you schedule your day to accommodate more clients or you might decide that you need to delegate more as your business grows. You will be monitoring and reviewing your business and tweaking your marketing activity all the time.
With the right amount of planning and incorporating some structure into your time, running your own business can turn from overwhelming to an exciting, enlightening and exhilarating ride. Enjoy!
To loving your work, loving your life, living your dreams.