Just about every new small business start-up is faced with the same problem – how to manage about five hundred tasks at once!
It is not only the every day tasks of running a business that needs managing, such as answering emails, responding to telephone messages, and opening the post, it is also all the other juggling balls you are keeping in the air.
Throw in to the mix your product or service development, social media marketing and profile establishment, collaborations with another person or company, researching and monitoring your closest competition, customer order fulfilment, invoicing and payment management, book keeping and banking – and then trying to maintain a healthy personal, social and family life on top too!
How on earth can one person manage that many time-sensitive jobs at once?
Some people manage quite well by employing good old-fashioned data management systems such as post-it notes on an empty office wall, or using pins and cork boards to stick up and re-arrange tasks in order of priority. Then there is always the fail-safe ‘to-do’ list where you write down your daily tasks and cross them off as you complete them.
All the above are tried and tested systems that have been around for years, but they can be a bit haphazard, and also be subject to disruption – especially if you are working out of a home office where your system is open to interference from your kids little fingers!
Organise yourself the easy way!
Another down-side of having a physical board or wall for your organisation is that they are not exactly portable. It would make sense in this case to switch to using an online data management tool to organise yourself with. There are a few data management tools online to choose from, Trello for instance is one of the better tools to come out in recent years, and the basic version is free.
I will use Trello here as an example of how an online data management tool can be very useful for the sole trader or single entrepreneur simply because I like it a lot, but you can choose to go with whichever one that takes your fancy.
With Trello you can create simple project management boards. These boards are made up of cards that can be expanded to give you tiers of data. Think along similar lines to Pinterest but in text format rather than visual. Having said that, you are free to add images to your boards if you want to.
I find Trello much more user-friendly than some professional project management programmes that have been around for the past few years. I have tried a couple over the years and never really got on well with them, finding them overly complicated to use. With Trello I find I only need about half and hour to get myself organised, and have never needed to upgrade from the free basic version.
I like the fact that you can just jump straight in with this handy tool. There are no complicated programmes to learn, and you don’t have to have to follow any sort of routine to use it. You can simply brainstorm your ideas randomly, and then start to bring them all together into something that makes sense.
The drag and drop element makes it as easy to use as rearranging post-it notes on a wall, and you can easily change the status of each task as they become priority without having to amend any text or re-type anything.
The mobile app gives you access via your phone, tablet, and laptop – great for when you are on the move and want to add to your boards, or check contact details for your next client etc.
The ability to drill-down through the data on your boards and cards is very useful, and you can add stars to mark anything that suddenly becomes a priority, or needs a bit of extra attention.
Once you have completed a project, you don’t have to delete it completely from your board. You can archive the project so you can keep a record of all the data, but the card you assigned to that task will not be hogging any space on your visual board.
Trello will never let you forget any tasks either! There is a clever in-built function that makes your older cards look aged, indicating that you have not been active on this project for a while.
I really like the fact that this is so accessible, and I can throw anything on there, including ideas for new blog posts, names and web addresses for interesting companies that I need to check out, telephone numbers, and even family and friends upcoming birthday dates, and ideas for gifts that I see while out and about.
The biggest benefit for me is being able to split up my tasks into different sections to make manageable chunks of activity. Having a single ‘to-do’ list can sometimes become overwhelming when you have a huge list of absolutely everything that needs doing on there. When you have to mentally change hats throughout the day, like a lot of sole-traders and entrepreneur’s have to do, it helps to be able to switch to the right mind-set for that portion of the day.
For example, this morning while writing this post I have my blogging hat on. Come mid-day I will have my volunteer hat on for an hour as I help with a local charity. My mum hat will then be on for lunch and a dentist appointment. This afternoon until 3pm I will have my research and web content writer hat on. From 3pm I will be wearing my mum hat again for home education work and dinner. This evening I will don my romantic fiction writer hat for a couple of hours before returning to being mum once again for the bedtime routine. Trello will help me to achieve this whole hat-switching/mindset changing thing.
So if you are in a position where you have to wear a lot of different hats throughout the day, then I would seriously recommend you go online to find a good data management tool to keep your different hats organised.