6 Signs You Need Better Project Planning

6 Signs You Need Better Project Planning

6 Signs You Need Better Project Planning for Your Business

Are you a big idea person who struggles to make your vision a reality? Do you find yourself scrambling to put together launches, presentations, and sales pitches right up to the last minute? Is your to-do list a pile of sticky notes sprinkled throughout your house? If you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or confused when it comes to project planning, raise your hand because you’re not alone. 

As a Project Manager, I’ve worked with many clients who have fantastic ideas and businesses and the talent to pull it off, but they are still struggling to hit their goals. When that’s happening, usually it’s because there isn’t much focus on planning — or their current planning strategy isn’t working. 

If this all sounds too familiar, here are a few signs that it’s time to take a new approach to planning projects within your business — and how you can make changes.

The Symptom: You’re rushing into big projects

If you always feel like you’re scrambling right up to the last second with big projects like launches, you’ve got a problem managing your time. You may need help with better scheduling or aren’t giving yourself enough time for each task. Do you even know how long certain tasks take to complete? If the answer is no, that’s a hint that you’ve got an issue.

The Treatment: Working backward

Open up your calendar, set a date for when you want to accomplish your next project, and then list out all the tasks. How long will each of those tasks take individually? Once you’ve got the list of everything you need, you’ll likely realize it takes more time than you think! For example, if you need to have a sales page up at least one week before launch, you have to have the design ready for review at least a few days before that and copy a few days before that. That’s going to change your timeline! 

When you break down projects into action steps like this, you will realistically see when you need to start working on everything, so it launches on time (and without chaos). If you do this exercise and realize you should’ve started weeks ago, it’s a good sign you need to move the date out — or put in some extra hours to get it done.

The Symptom: You’re missing deadlines

Missed deadlines often can feel like big, red “F” marks (even when we’re long out of school). If you or your team keep missing deadlines, it’s easy to let frustration, shame, or guilt overrule your reaction. That’s why it’s especially important to dig into the “why” behind the missed deadlines with open communication—even if you’re only talking to yourself.

Treatment 1: Talk it out

Check in with a team meeting about what’s going on behind the scenes. Set and help keep a tone of open engagement and curiosity to steer away from potential finger-pointing or playing any blame game. 

It’s often better to adjust the project plan than it is to force an otherwise trustworthy individual into a process that can’t work for them. Start by giving each member of your team my free Skills and Strengths Assessment to take stock of the gaps on your team, as well as their preferred communication methods (and how they prefer to be incentivized!)

Treatment 2: Hack your task management

If you’re using a task management system like ClickUp (full disclosure: that’s my affiliate link), Asana, or Teamwork, use their built-in features to keep things humming.

  • Play tag! Build the habit for team members to “tag” the person affected when they’ve completed their task. Most systems allow you to tag team members by using the “@” symbol.
  • Alternatively, if you’re a little more tech-inclined, set up task relationships (or “dependencies”) so that when one task gets completed, the next one in line becomes available.
  • Use date ranges and time estimates. The way many of us use our task management apps means that we may only see a task appear on the day it’s marked “due”. And if a task takes a lot of time, that’s a missed-deadline guarantee. When assigning tasks, try to include a rough idea of how long it should take and, when possible, include a start date in addition to the due date.
6 Signs You Need better Project Planning

The Symptom: You lack follow-through

A lack of follow-through can often more accurately be diagnosed as a lack of clarity. When I work with a client who struggles to stay motivated or doesn’t know what to do next, they usually have a few unanswered questions hiding in their plan. They can see their end goal but there are a few muddy areas when it comes to specifics.

Treatment 1: Move information out of your head with a brain dump

When you have no idea where to start, sometimes the easiest (and most helpful) action is taking all that stuff in your head and just getting it out. A simple brain dump is straightforward and so helpful! All you do is set a timer and start writing. 

Don’t worry about formatting, ideas, or making it perfect. Put whatever words, phrases, diagrams, or thoughts you have floating in your head on the page. When the timer goes off, put it aside for a bit and then return to it. 

When you come back to it, you’ll likely be able to take the ideas from your brain dump and organize them into a clearer plan for moving forward.

Treatment 2: Ask yourself two magic questions

Think about the place in your plan where you feel stuck and ask yourself:

If I were going to sit down right now to complete this task, could I? If not, why not?

Is there another job that actually needs to be done first? A decision that needs to be made or research that needs to be done? 

With these new discoveries, ask the question again. Is that new task one you could do right now? If not, why not?

I envision this process as starting with a boulder (this big, unwieldy, heavy thing) and breaking it up into smaller pieces you can sort and handle easily. Make the pieces (tasks) as small as you need to make them until they feel doable.

The Symptom: Your team is stuck

If you feel like your team is spinning their wheels or constantly asking you what to do next, it’s time to get detail-oriented. Delegating tasks to your team isn’t as simple as saying, “Do this,” or “Do that.” You have to be specific about what you want, why you need it, and how it should be done. Otherwise, your team may not have enough to get the work done, or the work they turn in wouldn’t hit the mark.

The Treatment: Use Standard Processes (SOPs) and encourage questions

If you want your team to do the work as well as you would, you’ve got to give them the tools they need. A library of SOPs (aka Instruction Manuals, Team Processes, Operational Guides, How-Tos) comes in handy at times like this! Then, if your team needs to know how to do something, they can just look up the SOP. Also, encourage a collaborative, open environment so team members feel like they can ask questions when they need help!

The Symptom: Your work isn’t moving you closer to your goals

The whole point of owning your own business is to meet your goals. It’s why you set them in the first place. But if you find you’re spending hours and hours working, but you still aren’t closer to your overall goal, something’s not adding up. It’s either that your goals aren’t aligned with what you do or that your work doesn’t align with your goals.

The treatment: Track your time

Usually, when we aren’t seeing progress, we’re spending too much time on tasks that aren’t making an impact. For example, you will not reach revenue goals if you’re constantly sending emails to clients but not doing client work. So do a time study — track your time for an entire week and see where you spend your time. 

If you realize you’re spending your time on things that can be outsourced, that may be your next step. On the other hand, if you realize that you’re spending time where you need to be, it might be time to evaluate your goals. Are they a bit of a stretch? Is it aligned with what you want to do? If the answer is no, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and set some new goals.

The Symptom: You’re doing work that you thought you “should” do

If you spend hours checking off tasks on a to-do list just because other businesses or your competitors are doing it – stop. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Does this help my business?’’ Stop wasting your time and energy on what you think you need to do, and focus instead on what you know you need to do.

The Treatment: Kill your darlings

When you do your time study, this will help you see where you’re spending time that isn’t helping. Remember, your time is an investment, and you need to get a good return on how you spend it. For example, you might realize that you don’t need to spend so much time making TikToks because they aren’t bringing in leads. Instead, you may realize that you need to spend MORE time creating LinkedIn content because that’s where your leads are coming in.

A final note on improving your project planning: Customize it!

Your business is unique, so why are you using the same old plans and processes as everyone else? There is no one-size-fits-all way to run. Instead, find what works best for your business and focus your time and energy there. Develop planning techniques and strategies that work for your needs. Otherwise, you’ll find that you’re running into these problems repeatedly without ever finding a solution. 

If you aren’t sure what works best for you, let me help. My UNSTUCK program helps business owners find the support to develop planning strategies and processes that WORK for them. Together, we will find strategies to help you stay motivated and get work done, so you’ll feel less overwhelmed and stressed!

Didn’t Hit Your Quarterly Goals? Read This | Efficient/Creative

Didn’t Hit Your Quarterly Goals? Read This | Efficient/Creative

Didn’t Hit Your Quarterly Goals? Let’s Talk About It

The end of the quarter is here and I have some exciting news for you: I didn’t hit all of my quarterly goals. Before you clutch your pearls, let me tell you something else: There is NO shame in not finishing your goals. 

It took me some time to feel OKAY about not completing my goals. The hustle shame is real and, as entrepreneurs, we’re constantly told to do more. But I learned a long time ago that I’m not always a completionist. Sometimes, the best thing is to walk away from something that’s not bringing me joy or helping me anymore. 

But if you’re reviewing your quarterly progress or looking at your metrics and feeling like you didn’t do enough, let’s talk about shame as business owners — and how learning to let go and say “No” can help us overcome it.

Do you have to be a ‘completionist’?

You don’t have to finish everything you start, contrary to what your parents, grandparents, or guardians may have said. 

After graduating high school, I decided I would read all of the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Well, I got through all but the last 100 pages (yup, RIGHT up to the very end), and that was it for me. I wasn’t feeling any joy and realized I was just forcing myself to read. So I shut the book and never picked it up again. This story HORRIFIES my completionist husband, so if you’re similarly appalled, you’re not alone.

Now, before you come for me, Tolkien-heads, I’ve seen all the movies. The books were just not my cup of tea. 

no shame if you missed your quarterly goals

What does this have to do with you and your business? I hope it demonstrates that you DON’T need to be a completionist (or obliger) as a business owner. You’re not in grade school anymore. There’s no one waiting to give you a shiny perfect reading award for finishing every page.

You started your business to be in control. 

If you get to choose where your time and energy goes, why waste it? 

Of course, I’m not telling you to throw your goals out the window or to give up striving toward your big vision for your business. I believe that you need to honor your commitments to your clients, customers, and partners. However, it is up to you to decide the direction of your business, and sometimes it’s okay to pivot or say no to future or current projects.

Watch out for shiny object syndrome

Many of us–especially those of us with ADHD–set many goals because it can be hard to nail down your focus to one thing. Sometimes, the new thing we want to try seems more appealing.

‘Shiny object syndrome’ pulls us away from what we know we need to do and makes us feel like we’re making progress when really we’re not. Before you know it, you forget about goal #1 while you work on goal #2 until you see something else–and so the cycle goes. 

While ‘shiny object syndrome’ can be an issue all in itself (hello, overcommitment), it can also lead to a lack of motivation.

When you’ve figured out how to do something well, it can start to feel boring after a while. Then you find yourself pushing through to the end, just to finish something. But when your motivation is just checking a box to say “You did it!” what’s the point?

What to do when you feel stuck

Are you feeling stuck right now, despite all the projects you started and quarterly goals you set for yourself 3 months ago? I’ve been there and so have many of my clients.

When my clients get stuck, I try to get to the bottom of the feeling. Maybe it is a lack of motivation or a strong case of shiny object syndrome. Sometimes they just need to set aside the project and take a break before coming back to it. And sometimes, they just need to step away entirely or say “No.”

Before I decide (for myself or my clients) that it’s okay to step away and not complete a goal, I go through a checklist. This checklist helps me decide if this is one of those times where I grit my teeth and get it done or if I should step away.

The “Feeling Stuck” Checklist

Question #1: Have I sat with the ‘stuckness’?

Sometimes, you have to sit with the feeling of being stumped and unmotivated, and you’ve got to identify the emotion behind it. Do you just feel ill-equipped and need more resources to help you finish? Or are you feeling resistance because it’s something that doesn’t align with your values? 

When you reflect on WHY you feel stuck, you’ll often find that you’re not sure what the next step is. Instead of quitting, get more clarity on your next steps instead of stepping away entirely.

Question #2: Am I still (truly) motivated by this goal?

Your priorities are going to shift over time, and that’s okay. Let it go if your goal doesn’t fit your values or priorities now.

Question #3: Do I need support?

Is this something you can do on your own, or is this something you need to delegate to someone else with more training?

There is NO shame in asking for help when you don’t have the resources or if your project doesn’t mesh well with your real life. Sometimes we don’t realize how taxing a project can be until we take it on.

Even if you want to do it yourself, some gentle accountability support can help you develop your consistency muscle! (I can help with this, but even partnering with a trusted colleague for some extra accountability can be a helpful boost.)

Question #4: Do I need to sleep on it?

Sometimes, the mind is willing, but the body is weak.

When you’re tired and overwhelmed, you might think it’s time to give up this goal. You can only do so much. But before you press the detonator, de-prioritize your to-do list and take a nap (literally or figuratively).

There’s nothing wrong with saying “not right now” and putting yourself first. After a little rest—or some time with a favorite hobby, you might even find that you have the energy to tackle your goal or a clearer mind to decide if it’s worth completing.

The best way to end shame? Normalize saying no.

I hope my mental checklist can help you decide if your Q1 (or any other) goals are worth carrying into Q2 and beyond. It works for me and my clients who are feeling overwhelmed by their lack of progress or shifting priorities.

But there’s one more element to ending the shame around not meeting our goals: Saying no.

“No” is empowering. Saying no is important if you want to overcome the shame around not finishing goals or finishing projects because, as Greg McKeown (and maybe others before him) put it, “if it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”

Remember, my friend; working hard doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Don’t be afraid to kon-mari your business projects. If it’s not bringing you joy, it’s time to go. 

You can take a step back and say, “Thank you, I’ve learned what I need to from this, but now I’m done.” That’s powerful!

7 strategies to plan for the unexpected | The Efficient/Creative

7 strategies to plan for the unexpected | The Efficient/Creative

7 Strategies to Help Your Business Weather “Uncertain Times”

If there is one lesson every entrepreneur eventually learns, it is that you can’t control everything. Even as humans, we know that nothing is certain, and that applies even more in our businesses. What we’re not taught as business owners is how to plan for the unexpected.

We’ve all faced the COVID-19 pandemic, a recession, an attempted coup in the U.S., police brutality, and war in multiple parts of the world. These events come up and take us by surprise — and often derail our energy, our resources, and our plans.

Since early 2020, entrepreneurs have learned how crucial it is to embrace uncertainty. But embracing uncertainty in an ever-changing world isn’t always easy. So what can you do to keep your business running, even when it feels like everything is up in the air? Here are seven strategies to keep your business on track during uncertain times.

7 ways to plan for the unexpected

Remember, nothing is certain.

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you know that you run on a dash of faith and a whole lot of caffeine. Every time you start a new project or invest a little more in your business, you’re taking another leap of faith – sometimes without a parachute. 

Even with the best planning and intentions, you aren’t always guaranteed to succeed because we can’t control the world around us. You have to be willing to embrace that uncertainty and recognize that we don’t have control over all of the outcomes.

How to plan for the unexpected in your business

Choose what’s important and then prioritize it.

What is the most important thing to you and your business? Is building a consistent client base the most important? Do you need to create a new offer to serve more people at a different price point? Are you serving the customers you already have? Or, do you need to take a step back and spend more time with your family? 

Don’t be afraid to figure out what your most important goal is, and then be willing to prioritize that goal, or say “No” to projects that don’t get you closer to that goal. Notice how I said the most important goal? Not the most important 11 goals? I know that, for the “doers” among us, prioritizing one thing might feel like saying no to the other 47 ideas you have percolating in the back of your mind or project management system. When it comes to prioritizing, saying “No” doesn’t mean “Never.” It can just mean “Not right now.” 

What’s more? When you start to prioritize what really matters to you and your business now, you’re free to permanently let go of goals that aren’t really connected to your needs.

Plan to be flexible.

You can’t control what is going on in the world, but you can control how you react. There may be times when you need to be more flexible with your business plans. For example, the killing of George Floyd in 2020 sparked protests and demonstrations worldwide. Many businesses and entrepreneurs recognized that this was a crucial moment when they needed to reflect and listen. 

As a result, companies paused launches, took down content, and amplified the important voices of people who deserved the spotlight most in that moment. A wise entrepreneur needs to recognize the times when it’s essential to pause and let more important events unfold. When we focus on being flexible with our plans and goals, we can participate in meaningful conversations and help amplify the voices of others. 

Giving yourself the flexibility to pause plans or take a step back can also help reduce your stress if things aren’t proceeding the way you planned (no world events required).

Build up your tolerance for uncertainty.

As an entrepreneur, you may always feel like you’re sprinting to the ‘better times’ — when things won’t be quite so busy or quite so hard. Running your own business isn’t a sprint, though. It’s a marathon. You have to train a lot of different systems to work efficiently for that kind of endurance. In your business, one of those essential systems is its tolerance for uncertainty, because the truth is… We don’t always control the outcomes in our life or business. 

Instead of assuming you have to hustle harder to make things happen, why not try a different training approach and build up your tolerance for uncertainty instead? To do this, you can ask yourself questions like:

  1. What do I do when my plans fall apart?
  2. What can I do to stabilize my business right now? 
  3. What are my goals? 
  4. Are my systems working? 
  5. Does my whole business fall apart if I take a few days off? 
  6. Are my offers the best way to serve my customers

If taking this type of business inventory stresses you out, it’s time to build up your uncertainty muscle. You can only do this by asking these questions, making your plans, doing the work, and learning to adapt to changes!

Create smaller milestones.

Remember before the ‘unprecedented times’ hit and you could plan big goals for your business a year—or more—in advance? (Those were the days.) But as we are learning, when things are uncertain, you can’t rely on overly complicated plans. To plan for the unexpected means you have to adapt, which may mean you need to go smaller. 

So when you are planning a new task or project, do a mental walkthrough from your perspective or from your clients’ perspective. Then, simplify things. Instead of taking your client from point A to Z, focus on how you can take them from point A to B and then B to C. These smaller milestones are easier to manage when things are uncertain for you — and your clients — when bandwidth is already stretched thin. 

Example: If you typically sell custom website builds, you might consider shifting to a 1-day website VIP day where you build the shell of a site and give people directions to customize or build out the rest. This gives you dedicated time without a long runway.

Another example? If you have a launch planned, make sure you’re hitting on how your new offer can help save people time. You might even want to share exact timelines or calendars so they know exactly what they can get done and when.

Give yourself some extra buffer time.

I’ll just be honest: You’re just making things harder if you aren’t adding in some extra buffer time when planning around uncertainty. Adding in a little extra time is a great way to make sure you can adapt and be flexible if something changes.

For example, if you have a launch coming up, give yourself extra time to create the copy and graphics and start promoting. Something might change in the world that may require you to alter or change these deliverables, so a little extra time will be worth it.

Even planning for a little spare time on your launch windows or delivery times for client work can make a big difference. You never know what will come up, so having a little extra time banked in your calendar is always helpful!

Take care of yourself!

Remember, you can’t take care of everything on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, take a step back, or take a break.

It’s easy as a business owner, when things get challenging or stressful, to forget yourself and throw everything you have into fixing the problem or issue. But, you can’t control everything going on in the world or how it will affect your business.

You’ll be better able to plan for the unexpected when you take care of your needs first and then focus on your business.

More resources for “unprecedented times”

As business owners, it would be great if our plans always worked out the way we imagined, but that’s not always the case. We don’t work in bubbles and what happens in the world affects even our best-laid plans.

So, during these “unprecedented times,” when it feels like everything is up in the air, follow these principles. They can help you stay in control while still embracing uncertainty when times are tough!

I also know that, when we feel a squeeze in our businesses, personal lives, or industries, it can put a lot of pressure on us to do more. I recently wrote about this pressure and how to handle it, in this blog:

Pandemic-Pressure

4 Ways Your Project Plan Is Crying For Help (and How to Fix It)

4 Ways Your Project Plan Is Crying For Help (and How to Fix It)

The idea of creating a project plan is daunting—whether it’s for a product marketing launch or any other project. There are so many factors to consider, including the technology required, design, branding, content creation and more. This is enough to make most people want to just quit before they’ve even started! Don’t worry though. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to an project that’s actually successful—and doesn’t make you run for the hills.

Title Card: 4 Ways You're Making Your Launch Harder on Yourself (and how to make it easier)

1. You’re not thinking through the step-by-step details in your project plan

Make a Project plan that isn’t a just a quick to-do list

If your project plan is like more like a hasty to-do list, then you’re leaving out vital steps that will cost you time, energy, and even money in the long run.

You may have seen me tell this story before, but it’s the perfect example (and I see it happen all the time.)

How business owners typically set a project end date (a familiar story)

A business owner came to me for help planning her launch and when I asked her timeframe, she threw out a launch date that was a few weeks away. After we created the roadmap together, we saw she’d need at least 8 weeks to complete her project plan.

So why did she think her project could be done in 3 weeks when it really needed 8? Because she hadn’t really thought through the details. She had an idea of what needed to be done, but hadn’t considered every step of the process.

What would have happened if we hadn’t made a detailed project plan for her launch?

Could she have launched in 3 weeks? Maybe! But she would have added to her stress as she was forced to make some hard decisions:

  • Outsource the work to get it done on time? Is there room in the budget for that? How would that impact the launch ROI? Who should she hire? Is there time to research and interview contractors?
  • Cut back on the launch plans in order to focus her time on the bare minimum required?
  • Change her goal date to add another 3 weeks (surely doubling her time is enough, right?) And then doing that again when she realizes the launch still isn’t ready after 6 weeks?

I hear about project stress like this all the time. And all of it can have been avoided by making sure your project plan is sufficiently detailed from the beginning.

 

2. Your project plan timelines aren’t realistic

If you don’t leave enough time in your project plan for required tasks, then trying to follow it is a stressful exercise in futility (and a lack of sleep).

When you launch your program or project, the first thing to do is to plan it out. I’ll go into the detailed step-by-step of project planning another time, but you’re creating a roadmap of what needs to be done and when. After you see what the tasks are, you estimate how long it will take for each task and set deadlines accordingly.

Estimating time for a project can be difficult—and that’s okay

This can be really difficult if you are planning something new—there’s always uncertainty about how long tasks will take (and that’s okay). If you’re not sure what your time estimate should be, think about a worst-case scenario so that you have the time necessary in the event of delays or problems.

Think through a worst case scenario (include buffer time)

In other words, leave some buffer time when you’re unsure in case something comes up that was not planned for. Don’t put yourself under more pressure than what’s best for your well-being. A plan with a spacious timeline will always feel better than a rushed plan.

 

3. Your plan (or goals) are too focused on perfection

 

Think of this plan as “version 1.1” (or 1.2… or 3.1)

Say it with me: your first doesn’t need to be your best. If you feel like everything needs to be perfect from the get-go, you’ll develop an all-or-nothing mindset that’s sure to bring on a sense of dread and defeat. Consider this plan to be an iteration of your ultimate vision. 

No one is watching every (virtual) thing you do

Help manage your inner critic by reminding yourself that no one is paying the same level of attention to your stuff as you are (as a perfectionist Enneagram 1, believe me: I am saying this to myself most of all.)

Get started: done is better than perfect

It’s not about making your goal fit some idea of what “the best” looks like to you, but actually getting it out there so that you can start collecting feedback and know what needs to be done next. Each time you repeat a launch, you can adjust, improve, and add a new idea or feature that excites you.

 

4. You are giving all your project goals equal importance

 

What parts of your project plan are critical? And which ones can you let go?

Setting priorities is essential to being able to adjust your plan as needed with minimal stress. If you know what your priorities are, then it’s easier to let go of the stuff that’s not supporting your most valued goals. It’s okay to let some tasks—and some goals!—be less important than others.

What is important to you?

Think about what’s truly important to you for this project—not what’s important to that famous business coach or what Big Man McCEO says your “key performance indicators” should be. You might decide that some of your priorities are numbers-based (hitting a financial target, for instance—especially if it’s based on your actual budget goals and not just a vanity number… but I digress).

Your priorities aren’t just about your business goals

But it’s just as vital to consider how you want to feel or ways that you want to grow through your launching/project cycle process. Maybe you want to maintain better boundaries around your work time or get more comfortable being in front of the camera.

Choose and rank these priorities early in your project planning process. Then, if you begin to feel overwhelmed or need to pivot, you’ll already have the decision-making criteria you need to move forward—with minimal hand-wringing.

If you have struggled in the past with any (or all!) of these, there is help! Project planning and consulting can give you the support you need all the way through your project, from digging into the details in planning to helping you stay prioritized and focused during implementation. Let me hear about your upcoming project by sending me an email at kate[at]theefficientcreative[dot]com.

Struggle to Manage Tasks? 7 Ways to Build a More Organized Business

Struggle to Manage Tasks? 7 Ways to Build a More Organized Business

5 Habits to Break for better task management

Most of us want a more organized business, but it can be tough to manage tasks (especially if you’re managing with limited resources). There are a lot of moving pieces in running the day-to-day of your business (and even more when it’s time to launch). It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the admin and feel like your creative business is running off the rails. But it truly is possible to feel confident managing the details of your daily business processes and projects (like launches!) Here are 5 reasons small business owners struggle to manage tasks (plus some simple ways to organize, plan, and prioritize your work.)

Storing information in too many places makes it hard to manage tasks.

Good habit to manage tasks #1: Consolidate where you store your ideas, projects, and tasks

In the Age of the App, there’s no shortage of tech promising to be the “perfect tool” to help you manage your business. And those of us who know we need to be more organized can be huge suckers for the promise of an out-of-the-box tech fix. Spoiler alert: there’s no one perfect tool for organizing in business (but that doesn’t keep us from trying many of them out.)

Many of us online entrepreneurs wind up with information stored across multiple apps and services. When you’re trying to manage a lot of tasks, having multiple “storage locations” for information adds unnecessary mental load and can make you feel less in control in your business.

The obvious answer is to use fewer apps as storage locations. Consolidate or eliminate apps, software, and platforms so you have fewer places where details can wind up. Of course, the next obvious question is…

Which apps should I choose to manage tasks?

Start by looking at what you already use. Where are you currently storing information (ideas, plans, articles you intended to go back to, to-do items, business tasks, personal lists)? Do you use different tools on different devices (phone, computer, tablet)? For now, just keep it to what you actively have used in the last few months (this isn’t time to dig through the archives). Make a list so you can see them in front of you!

From this list, narrow down your apps by thinking through these questions:

  • Which ones already tend to be your go-to tools?
  • Which feel less limited in their application & can be used for a variety of purposes?
  • Which do you have the easiest access to (for instance, they have a phone app that’s pretty easy to navigate?)

Make it easy to stay organized by making it a habit

For the storage places you choose to keep, make it as easy as possible to access them when you need them. Move that app to the first screen of your phone so you see it first. Add a shortcut of that site to your desktop.

And similarly, if there’s a storage spot you’ve decided to eliminate, make it harder to access so you’re less tempted to grab it in the moment. Move the app to a subfolder that you have to scroll to access.

Avoiding team meetings makes it hard to manage tasks.

Many business owners, especially when they have just one or two contractors, consider team meetings an “only when necessary” event. Unfortunately, this means too many solopreneurs only meet with their team when there’s a big project—or a problem.

However, if you’re not having regular conversations with your team, you’re missing out on one of the easiest ways to keep your finger on the pulse of your business.

“Another meeting that could have been an email”

I know it’s popular to hate on meetings. The idea of having a whole day of meetings but very little implementation time can remind many of us of our previous days “in corporate.” And if you’re a creative business owner who is also introverted, the freedom to have as few meetings as possible can be awfully tempting.

BUT.

Often, having a meeting is hands-down the fastest and easiest way to stay up to date, come to a decision, or move a project forward.

Good habit to manage tasks #2: Regular meetings make managing tasks and teams easier

You really don’t have to go back to a corporate model of “all hands” meetings every day if you don’t want to. But you should make them regular. Depending on the size & experience of your team, the status and complexity of any projects you’re working on, and the amount of work you’re outsourcing, you may decide to meet more or less frequently.

Start with one or two team meetings per month and see how it helps you stay on track with managing the moving pieces. You may decide that’s enough or that you need to meet more often. You may also choose to meet with different team members at different frequencies. For instance, I meet with my right-hand gal once a week, but the full team only once a month right now and that works for us. I don’t recommend meeting less than once a month, though.

Putting off your business admin makes it hard to manage tasks.

If thinking about your managing your business admin makes you just want to take a nap, then there’s no secret why managing those tasks feels like a huge drain on your energy. But, as you already know, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you run, there is always going to be admin. If your CEO personality is more of the, “Don’t bore me with the details,” variety, then you might want to consider outsourcing this aspect of your business.

Good habit to manage tasks #3: Outsource admin or management if you can…

Without getting into the details of the different types of online business administration job roles (that’s coming in another post), I want to mention some important rules-of-thumb when it comes to outsourcing business management.

…but know what you’re hiring for

The first hire many of us make in our online businesses is a Virtual Assistant contractor. You can find a great VA to take on pretty much any type of admin (or even some creative work) in your business. However, Virtual Assistants are not managers.

If you’re in early stages, look for a VA who can work somewhat independently. Be aware, you’ll still need to give them tasks, make sure they have specific requirements & procedures, and do some amount of follow-up and management. But if you can, give them the info they need and allow them to work and report back to you on progress so you don’t need to chase them for info.

Online Business Managers, Directors of Operations, Project Managers can help you manage tasks

Online Business Managers do manage your team & keep track of all the details, but that training and experience comes at a cost. OBMs and DOOs generally start at around $3000 per month to manage the day-to-day business and team. Project manager costs vary based on the size and scope of the project, but the key difference there is that a Project Manager isn’t your day-to-day operations manager.

If you know that dealing with the daily details of running your business is a huge struggle for you, OBMs and DOOs are a fantastic resource. If your revenue won’t yet support this hire, then keeping that goal in mind can be a motivating addition to your vision board!

Knowing your goal (but not how you’ll get there) makes it hard to manage tasks.

I am SO thankful for Visionaries. Y’all give us those dream destinations so clearly, it’s like we’re almost there. You really are in the driver’s seat—but every driver needs a good navigator to show them how to get where they’re going.

If you’ve ever driven in an unfamiliar town with no map and unreliable GPS, then you know that you can wind up where you meant to go… but you probably had to take some wrong turns to get there.

It’s the same with your business. Wherever the path to your goal is a little hazy, you’ll struggle more to manage moving the team forward. And just like driving in a new area without GPS, it’ll take longer to get there, you’ll use more gas, and you’ll get pretty stressed out about it.

Good habit to manage tasks #4: Break down the tasks and get them out of your head

If you feel like you’ve got a general path (i.e. a task list) but you’re dropping the ball, start by getting more specific on the “how”. Is there anything that you need to have, do, or know before you can get to that next task?

Don’t just answer that question in your head. Get it out of your head and into a method where you can see it. Make a task in your task management system (and assign it to yourself or your team.) Add it to your checklist, to-do list, what have you. Put that proverbial pin in the roadmap so you can track your incremental progress.

Being TOO focused on details makes it hard to manage tasks.

Good habit to manage tasks #5: Strive for a balance when you plan projects

This is the other side of the coin. Just as a the lack of a detail view can make it impossible to keep track of all the moving pieces in your business, the same is true for getting too granular. If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking, “Wait, why am I doing this? Does it really matter if I order the blue pens instead of the green pens?” then you know what I’m talking about.

Good habit to manage tasks #6: Remind yourself of your Big Goal (again and again)

Keep the big goal front and center—literally. As you work, especially if you notice you might be veering off, literally read your goal again and think about your current task. Is it genuinely supporting the big goal? Is it disconnected or a distraction? Is it required or can you reach your goal without it (and maybe set this extra detail aside for a later version?) I’m definitely a gal who gets “lost in the details” pretty easily, and it often helps me to literally write the main goal on a post-it near my workspace and stick it where I can glance over to it easily to keep that end goal top-of-mind as I work.

Good habit to manage tasks #7: Keep an outside perspective close by

When your natural tendency is to veer off into the weeds, one of the easiest ways to stay focused on the main path is having another person nearby who can help redirect you when needed.

Some of us truly perform better when we have a colleague, friend, or partner who can say, “Woman, you are amazing and I love your brain, but you need to set that distraction to the side and get back on track with me. Let’s go.”

If you know that you struggle to maintain the big picture, then reach out to someone who can help hold you accountable. Preferably, this would be someone who understands your business and goals: for example, a colleague in your co-working group would be more beneficial than your best gal pal or your significant other.

If you’re finding it difficult to organize, plan, and prioritize your work and your team, you’re not alone. Take a moment to appreciate the amount you’re already overseeing! Managing all of the operations of a business—plus a life—is hard work. Businesses are complex systems and we are not meant to run them all by ourselves.

I love helping business owners with accountability, planning, business systems, or team communication. To see how I can help you keep a more organized business and manage tasks, tell me about what’s feeling difficult, then book a free call.

The Top 5 Forgotten To-Dos in Online Launches

The Top 5 Forgotten To-Dos in Online Launches

Title-Image-Top-5-Forgotten-Tasks-in-Online-Launches

When it comes to planning (and implementing) a project like an online launch, the old saying is true: the devil’s in the details. And if you’ve ever launched a program, product, or new offer online and had to either 1) edit down your plans at the last minute or 2) push back your original launch date—maybe multiple times!—then you’re no stranger to those forgotten details popping up to haunt you.

Forgotten tasks in a launch don’t just frustrate you and your team. They can literally cost you—both in lost hours and revenue—and take an emotional toll by eroding trust in yourself. In some cases, they can even erode your audience’s trust in your business. In my years of project management with online creative businesses, these are the most common overlooked to-dos that I see in online launches. Add these tasks (and plenty of time for them!) in your next launch plan to start out ahead of the game.

Don’t Forget: Research

It’s a classic example of the type of forgotten task that can add days (or weeks!) to any plan. Your to-do list says something like “Decide on a new platform for client scheduling.”

Great! That’s a clear, actionable task, right? And “deciding” or “choosing” or “selecting” is something that you do all the time—you can decide something in the blink of an eye! Unless it’s where to have dinner on date night, for some reason that decision takes forever.

What most business owners forget to plan for are the things that need to happen in order to make that important decision.

  • What functionalities are non-negotiables (or nice-to-haves) when it comes to choosing a platform/software/equipment/team member/coach/program/etc.?
  • What other criteria do you need to consider for each option (e.g. budget, design, end-user experience, customization options)?
  • Which criterion is the most important? (Pro tip: knowing this in advance can help keep you from getting stuck in analysis paralysis)
  • Do you need to take advantage of any free trials before making a decision (add time for each into your plan!)

“Research options for a new platform” is just as important an action item in your plan as “choosing” is, so add it to your plan, along with a reasonable amount of time for conducting the research.

Don’t Forget: Technical or Logistical Details

The specific tasks you might include here are going to vary based on what you’re launching, and you may not always know what’s needed in advance. Especially if you’re working with a new platform or software. It’s a classic case of “you don’t know what you don’t know,” but that doesn’t mean that you can’t plan for it.

For example, your task list might say “Set up new course platform” and you might expect to spend a couple of days to complete it. But once you start to dig in, you realize each of your modules needs its own slide deck (something you hadn’t planned for) and the platform needs to be connected with your scheduler, but FIRST you were going to merge your schedulers because they haven’t been syncing to your calendar correctly, but before you do that, you’ve got to (etc, etc…)

So what felt like a simple enough task at the beginning has suddenly become a big task with a lot of prerequisites. When this happens and a deadline is looming, you’ll quickly figure out that you’ve got two options:

  • Work nonstop to try to finish everything
  • Slash your priorities down to the bare minimum

If your launch (or offer) includes aspects that are new to you or your team, expect the unexpected and give yourself some extra time to work out those pieces.

Don’t Forget: Editing Your Content

No matter what kind of content you’re creating to go with your offer (from sales pages to video reels to the emails you’re sending to welcome new clients), it’s pretty common to think of content creation as:

Step 1: Create

Step 2: Publish

And while I may be a little bit of a stickler for proofreading (thanks to that B.A. in English!), it will almost always be worth your time to add Step 1.5 in there: edit your content.

This isn’t about being a perfectionist or mining your content for every possible error. I’m a firm believer that “done is better than perfect.” But there’s a middle ground between firing off your message as soon as it leaves your fingers and waiting until every star is perfectly aligned.

If you’re the kind of person who edits as you go, that’s great, but there’s nothing like getting a fresh pair of eyes on your content before it goes live. Next time you’re planning the content pieces of your launch, consider adding in a little extra time for one of these options:

  1. Sleep on it. Let your new content “rest” overnight and come back to it the next day with a fresh perspective. 99 times out of 100, you will notice a few quick improvements that will help your content be that much stronger.
  2. Take a walk. Even 20 minutes away from the computer to walk the dog can give you the distance you need to double-check your content before moving it down the assembly line.
  3. Hand it off. Enlist a detailed assistant, trusted colleague, or freelance editor. Having another brain try to interpret your content can be invaluable to making sure your message is understood. Keep in mind that your launch plan will need to account for all of the time between when you send them the content and when you can expect to receive it back (make sure you ask them for this info in advance.)

Don’t Forget: Testing

I’ve worked with enough solopreneurs over the years to know most of us don’t really want to put in the time & effort for a full beta launch (complete with market research, surveys, and product iterations). Most of the time, we just want to get the thing out into the world so we can stop investing our time and energy and start seeing a return.

So before your eyes glaze over, let me just say that those things (market research, beta launches) are amazing if you have the time & resources for them, but otherwise this is The Bare Minimum Version So You Can Continue with Your Life.

Please, for the love of Future You, run a test of your process/client workflow/anything that’s supposed to run or happen automatically in the background. Make sure it works the way you intend before you open it to the public. Otherwise, you’re going to get an email from Confused or Angry Purchaser about something that doesn’t work and you’ll have to put out that fire (and maybe even pause your launch while you figure it out).

Don’t Forget: Planning for Potential Obstacles

When you start to wrap up the planning portion of your launch, I know you are ready to stop planning and get moving, but this may be the most important one—don’t overlook it!

Once you’ve mapped out a plan for your launch, take a bird’s eye view of the to-dos in your plan and ask yourself, “Where do I expect to hit a snag?”

Chances are good that you already have an inkling of some places where you might struggle or feel a little stuck. What are those potential obstacles? And how could you plan in advance to get around them?

Write these down—both the potential obstacles and your mitigation ideas—they’re just as important to your successful plan as the tasks themselves.

 

How about you? Have you ever had adjust your launch plan due to some forgotten tasks? This is one reason why project planners exist—we excel in helping you dig into the details so you can minimize forgotten to-dos. Curious what forgotten details you might be leaving out of your launch? Reach out to me at kate[at]theefficientcreative[dot]com and tell me about it. I’ve got a brand new offer coming out that may be perfect to help you have your best launch yet.