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.
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.