|A mentor of mine once said “you can’t actually manage your time, you can only manage yourself”. Wise and logical words. So what tools do I use to manage myself, my time, my team and my business?Managing myselfI use a Blackberry phone that synchronises with Microsoft Outlook on my laptop. This means I have access to my calendar, emails and contacts when I am out and about at appointments. It is very useful to have this information at my fingertips. Not only can I answer emails on the fly if I have time between appointments, but I also have access to my calendar to make further appointments with clients. It’s also very handy to have all my contact details available if I need to make some phone calls.
I have never quite got the hang of an electronic to-do list (or task list) as I tend to work better with good old-fashioned pen and paper to write down my tasks. I use a few things to manage this: I have my trusty red Kikki-k diary which not only looks beautiful but is functional as it has a week to a page. I don’t use this diary for appointments but for tasks that need to be completed on a particular day. I love the feeling of crossing things off as it adds to my sense of accomplishment!
I use an online software system called Backpack for my marketing calendar (I’ll discuss this aspect later). I also use the reminder systems to email me reminders of particular tasks that are extremely important to my business but not time critical. I find that I pay more attention to the reminders in my inbox than if I were to write them in my diary. I know this because in the past I have simply crossed tasks off in my diary and transferred them to the next day. This cycle would continue until eventually a task got crossed off and not re-written, clearing it from the forefront of my mind but keeping it in my sub-conscious to nag at me forever.
I’m also an information lover. I am constantly reading books, listening to mp3’s and coming across useful information on the internet. To keep track of it all, I use an online system called Evernote. It has many uses but I mainly use it as an electronic filing cabinet. There is a feature called “clip to Evernote” for your browser that allows you to “print” an interesting website page or part of a page to Evernote and then tag it appropriately. Later, if you’re looking for information that you found about Facebook for example, you search for the tag ”facebook” and peruse the notes that appear under that tag to find the article. I also use it to keep a list of books to buy that I come across.
Managing my business
For managing the bookwork of my business I use MYOB, but only because I am a professional partner of that software due to the nature of my business. I am also a professional partner of QuickBooks, which we use for clients’ accounting too. However, if I was not a professional partner of either of these I would most definitely use an online accounting system called Saasu. Not only is it simple to use but you can also give your accountant/bookkeeper access to either do the work for you or to check what you have been doing. It has payroll, foreign currency and you pay a flat fee each year that includes all updates. The best thing is you can try it for free to see if you like it!
I also use Zohocrm, a free online customer relationship management tool to manage my marketing funnel database of leads, prospects, clients and where they are in that process. I use this as a follow up mechanism for each stage of marketing to be done.
My marketing calendar and tasks however are in Backpack. This is a great online tool that allows you to create pages for your strategy and plot the particular tasks associated with that strategy into the calendar so you know exactly what you should be doing to achieve your marketing goals. The calendar then synchronises with your chosen calendar (i.e. Outlook, Google etc) so you can see these tasks at a glance beside your normal calendar when planning your weeks.
I also use a year-at-a-glance wall planner for my marketing, so I can see the entire year at a glance, not just month by month.
Managing teams and projects
As our team do not always see each other in person, we needed a way to communicate with each other on issues that may have arisen and tasks to be completed. We found our solution with Basecamp. Not only does it allow you to communicate with your team by project, you can also invite others to contribute or have access to the project. It is brilliant for tracking messages and their status. It saves a lot of time because you no longer have to search your inbox for related emails on a single subject. You can also assign and cross items off a common to- do list, and post information in writeboards. You can upload multiple versions of files. Everything is in one central place. It’s a great collaboration tool that can be used amongst your team.
Not all of us are comfortable using technology-based systems and yet there are some of us that use them extensively. I tend to use bits and pieces of many systems to create an “overall system” that works for me.
Do my systems evolve? Of course! I gravitate towards systems more or less depending on what projects I am working on at the time. Will I be using all of these systems in the same way next year? Maybe not, but one thing’s for sure, I will always use systems to enhance productivity for my business.