“Sorry, I’ve been really busy…” How many times have you heard that, received it in an email, or said it yourself?
Too many to count?
Everyone is busy, busy, busy these days. But, busy is not the same as productive.
Sure, you may be working non-stop from dawn to dusk, but are you hitting deadlines on time, clearing your to-do list and staying on top of your messages and emails?
Small business owners can’t always afford to hire someone to take care of the little things for them. So you juggle all the roles of owner, assistant, accountant, salesperson and more.
If you’re spending too much time just trying to stay organised and figure out what you should be working on, you’ll end up frazzled and exhausted.
But with the right tools, you can get off the hamster wheel of busy, get more of the right stuff done and even cut back your working hours to a more sensible – and healthy – level.
Here are my favourite tools to help busy entrepreneurs control the chaos and organise their businesses.
Any links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links, which means if you buy through them I might get a small commission (that will probably be spent on pretty fonts). This is at no extra cost to you and I only share products and services that I use and love.
1. Google Calendar
Google Calendar is incredibly handy. It, along with Asana (see below), basically runs my life. Personal appointments, tasks and reminders go in there along with all the business ones. And because it syncs across all my devices, I can check my schedule from my phone, tablet or computer.
Events can be colour coded according to type, so meetings can be a different colour from client projects, and dentist appointments can be another colour again. I can see at a glance what I need to do and when.
Google Calendar will sync with your Gmail account, so if you get an email with a hotel booking confirmation, Google can see that and add your trip to your calendar. That’s a pretty cool time-saver!
And you can have more than one calendar, so you can filter your events and tasks, or share some of them with other people while keeping others private. You could have one calendar to organise your client appointments and work, another for personal stuff, and another could be used as an editorial calendar for your blog.
Asana is what I use for project management and it’s been instrumental in simplifying and organising my business.
Projects run much more smoothly with Asana than when I was using email to manage them. It’s easier to keep track of deadlines, messages and progress in the app than through my inbox.
Each stage of a project is a task within an Asana project, assigned to either you or your client and it also has a due date. That means you both know what you need to work on and when it’s needed so the project will finish on time. And Asana sends email reminders when tasks are due, so there’s less need to remind clients to provide info or feedback.
Asana integrates with Google Calendar so deadlines will appear in your calendar, helping you plan your schedule.
You might also like: 4 Reasons you should be using a project management app
Do you hate the back and forth email conversation that usually happens when trying to arrange meetings?
“I can do Wednesday at 3pm.”
“No sorry, I’m doing the school run then but I can do Friday at 1pm.”
“No good, I’ll be in another meeting then. How about…”
And so on.
It sucks up so much time, but use a scheduling app like Acuity* and you can cut this out. In Acuity you set up the days and times that you’re available for meetings and then you simply give people the link to the booking page so they can pick a slot that works for them.
You can create different appointment types, with different durations, venues and availability. You get the basic functionality with the free plan, but for a small fee Acuity will sync up with your Google Calendar and even PayPal, so if you want people to be able to pay for certain types of appointment you can do that.
This helped me get super organised with my schedule, as I realised I work best with only a few meetings per week. I’m your classic introvert you see, so there’s a limit on how much time I can comfortably spend in meetings and calls without feeling utterly drained.
So I decided to only have meetings on certain days, while at specific other times I’m available for short calls if my clients want a quick catch-up on our projects. And on other days my time can be completely reserved for getting work done. As soon as I set these boundaries I started saving time on arranging meetings, and my productivity went way up.
4. Dropbox & Google Drive
Dropbox* is great for storing and organising files, as well as sharing files with clients and getting files from them, like the content for their website.
Files are securely stored in the cloud, so you access them across multiple devices – great if you have more than one computer or need to access files when you’re away from your desk.
You can also share files or folders with others so you can collaborate on files and projects. That means instead of clients sending loads of emails to get all their info and web content to you, they can put a bunch of documents, images and so on into your shared folder and you can both access them.
Google Drive is an alternative to Dropbox, that also offers cloud storage and file sharing. Plus, it’s free for quite a large amount of storage.
When I started my business, I kept track of my finances using spreadsheets, helped along with a couple of books on small business accounting and taxes, plus a whole lot of searching through the HMRC website for advice.
Not fun. At all.
After a while I switched to FreeAgent and what a difference it made! I wish I’d skipped the spreadsheet stage and gone with an accounting app right from the start as it would have saved me so much time and stress.
Because I’m a designer, not an accountant. So I don’t want to be spending ages on bookkeeping and filling in my self-assessment. Or figuring out how to use Excel properly 😉
Does that sound like you too?
FreeAgent makes creating quotes and invoices really easy, and can even send out automatic reminders if invoices go overdue. It’s easy to see when invoices you send out are due to be paid, and when you need to pay the bills you’ve received, so you can manage your money more easily.
It can also connect with some bank accounts and PayPal to automatically import transactions and then you just need to assign them to the right income or expense category, so bookkeeping takes less time.
One of my favourite features is the Tax Timeline, as it automatically calculates how much tax you should need to pay. If you keep your books up to date, you’ll have an up to date tax projection and you can tell whether you’ve set aside enough money to cover it. So there’s no nasty surprises at tax return time.
Want to save 10% on a FreeAgent subscription? Sign up for a free trial at http://fre.ag/41qk3gwm* and we’ll both get a 10% discount!
6. Password Manager
How many passwords have you got?
Some days it feels like a million, right? And do you ever forget any of them?
I have way too many accounts and apps needing passwords, and since they all have to be different, there’s simply no room in my brain to store them all.
Logins can also be shared with others, which is great if you ever need to access a client’s account. Like if you’re helping them set up their Acuity appointment calendar for example. It’s a secure way to collaborate, as when the login is shared via the password manager, you can login to their account without ever seeing their password.
Banish the busy
Life is complicated enough, but if you use the right tools to organise your small business you can banish the busy work. That gives you more time to spend on the work you really love.
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