3 ways you can reduce your workload

I’ve previously talked about my struggle with the inner control freak. It came mostly from feelings that I couldn’t afford to get help or that someone else couldn’t do it quite as well as I can. I’ll admit that for a long time, the only person who could set up a new client in our systems was me. I was also the only one who could create an invoice. I was the only one who could assign a phone number to a new client. The result: our client service suffered and I became seriously overworked, overstressed and extremely dissatisfied.

To overcome all this I’ve worked hard to get past the thought that I had to be in control of every.single.task in my business. I have set up a system of documented procedures. And I had to let my team become Masters of their own Universe. To their credit, the ABS Office team have stepped up to the plate with howls of “Why haven’t you done this sooner?”. They have enthusiastically embraced the new ‘Life without Anna’ paradigm.

Maybe a little too enthusiastically… hmmm… But it’s made for a easier work environment, for me at least, and a better business.

I keep asking myself: Why didn’t I do this sooner? Why have I let myself get so entangled in every minute detail of my business? Why haven’t I delegated before? After all, isn’t this exactly what I’m encouraging our clients to do?

But enough of the self-flagellation because, looking on the bright side, I can say that I ‘get it’.

I ‘get’ why business owners don’t delegate and I also ‘get’ why they should.

Effective delegation is a learned skill and there is plenty of literature out there to assist anyone who needs to brush up on their delegating skills. The issue for most business owners is that there is no-one to whom they can delegate. The owner is it.

If this is you, and you’re struggling to reduce your own self-imposed workload, you have 3 choices:

1. Employ someone to whom you can delegate tasks and responsibilities.

If you have the work and the funds to support an employee, this is an ideal choice. There are definitely pros and cons associated with hiring employees. On the plus side:

  • You have control over when they work and what they do.
  • You can potentially train the person up to do everything that you do, therefore giving you some freedom.

On the negative side:

  • Recruiting your first employee can be a daunting task for some. I covered the process of employing a new receptionist in some recent posts – here’s the first one.
  • You can be left in the lurch if the employee decides to move on.
  • You still have to cover their work when they’re on leave or even just at lunch.

2. Review your processes and look for efficiency savings.

What are you doing that is perhaps either unnecessary or outdated? Look for things like:

  • Keeping a paper diary. You have to carry this around with you and you’re lost without it. You could move to Google calendar and make appointments on the fly. Your calendar can be synced to your smartphone, tablet and PC. You can even share your calendar with key clients. That way, if you’re both trying to set up an appointment time to suit both of you, they have the benefit of being able to see when you’re free. Go one step further and have them share their calendar with you! It’s easy to do and you don’t have to share the actual details, just when you’re busy or free.
  • Responding to enquiries – are you copying and pasting responses from previous emails, all because you don’t like ‘cookie cutter’ auto responders? You can set up email templates that contain the bulk of the information that you send to your enquirers. You can then customise the response as you send it, without the cut and paste calamity that can ensue when you’re in a hurry.
  • Still using spreadsheets to manage your customer database? If your database is small, you can use something like Capsule CRM for free. Yes, it takes a bit to get it set up, but NOW is the time to do it. As your business grows you will eventually have to move to some form of customer management software. The bigger your customer database, the longer it will take to cut over to the new software.

3. Outsource some of the tasks to an expert in that field.

You really have to look at the opportunity cost of doing it yourself. If you can find an expert who can complete the task in half the time it takes you to do it, then why haven’t you done it?

  • Bookkeeping – If you’re the sort of person who does not like doing the accounts, then this is a must. You need to establish good bookkeeping procedures early on if you want to grow a successful and sustainable business. I would recommend that you retain all the responsibility for paying any accounts, though. A one-man show should be able to keep track of the incomings and outgoings so that dodgy invoices do not slip through the cracks. You simply hire someone to collate and enter the accounts and then present you with reports each week. One of those reports is a “Payables List”, showing what’s due and when. You owe it to yourself to ensure you know enough about your accounting system to be able to get behind each item and check that it’s legit.
  • Marketing – For most businesses today, marketing means having a social media presence. A social media specialist will help you to establish that presence. A good one will assess your business and your industry and advise you which platforms yield the most benefit to you. There are numerous Virtual Assistant services that will establish and manage your marketing for you.
  • Administration – Responding to website enquiries, phone answering, booking your appointments, following up on correspondence – all these things can be outsourced to a Virtual Assistant. Be careful though, the term Virtual Assistant has come to mean many things. Many VAs offer administration services, others focus on social media. When you’re researching a VA service, pay attention to their ‘Services’ page. Don’t expect that a VA who focuses on Marketing will want to answer your phones on a full time basis. Check your priorities for your work – if you’re looking to outsource your appointment bookings and general phone answering, you should look for a team based VA or Virtual Receptionist service. That way you’re covered for lunch breaks and personal leave. If you are looking for a Personal Assistant, then a VA who works on their own may be an ideal choice.

If you know of any other ways a business owner can lighten their load, feel free to leave a comment below.

On a lighter note, I created a little video for any practitioners out there who are struggling with having to do it all:

Release yourself from small business slavery

Release yourself from small business slavery

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