3 Tips for Successfully Managing Your Day-to-Day Workload

3 Tips for Successfully Managing Your Day-to-Day Workload

Time management is the bane of every solopreneur’s life!

There is so much to do in your business on a day-to-day basis that it’s very easy for time to run away with you. Before you know it an hour has disappeared and you’re not much further forward.

Let me share with you today a tool that I use regularly to help me manage my day-to-day workload.  It’s a simple tool … and everyone has it — including you!

And my tool is … SPREADSHEETS!

They have so many more uses than just calculating figures. They are also a great tool to help you manage your time effectively.

As a busy soloprofessional you are not only working for your clients, but you have to work ON your business too. Effective time management is crucial for developing and growing your business, as well as income generating activities.

Below are my top 3 tips for effective time management using spreadsheets.

1. Create a Work Schedule

When I started to get busier I realized I needed a system that would allow me to anticipate or schedule in client’s work. I designed a really simple spreadsheet with the weeks along the top and the client’s down the side. I encourage my clients to book work with me in advance so that I can put this in my schedule. For regular clients I can book in so many hours for them each week, and because my spreadsheet totals the number of hours booked each week I can see what my commitments are and what I have left.

I find that it’s really working, not only because my clients can get ‘booked in’, but when I get an enquiry for new work I can look at my schedule to see if I can meet their deadline.

This system works well for me!

If you find yourself having time management issues with your clients, then give my system a go!

2. To Do List

How do you manage your day-to-day tasks? Do you have a notebook for your To Do lists and cross out each one as you go along? Or do you have little yellow post-its stuck all over the place? Is this really the best way of managing your daily tasks?

Spreadsheets are a great way for you to organise your To Do list. Set up headings in the first row and add your tasks below. You can then sort your list by any column that you choose, making it an interactive To Do list. And best of all, your list is contained in one place.

Create a shortcut to your To Do list and place it on your desktop so that you can access it easily, or just keep it open and minimise your screen each time you’re not using it.

Make your To Do list even more interactive by filtering out those tasks that have already been completed. How? Use the AutoFilter built into Excel!

3. Plan Projects and Activities

How do you keep a track of what needs to be done and when?

The answer’s simple — set up a spreadsheet!

Spreadsheets also accept date formats and this makes them a great tool for tracking projects or planning activities. You can easily use AutoFill to create a date timeline too. Use the column headings for your dates, and the rows for your activities.

Use the cell where the date meets the activity to enter notes, To Do, or anything else relating to your project or activity. Once an activity is complete you can use the strikeout feature to cross it off!

As you work along the timeline, you can hide the columns with past dates, showing only those columns for current and future dates. And if you want to be really creative, use different colours for the cells to represent different activities, i.e. blue cells = to be done; red cells = overdue etc.

Follow these 3 time management tips, and you will soon be using more time more wisely!

Where are you struggling to stay on top of your day-to-day workload? Let me know in the comments below. I answer all questions, and I love to help!

(c) 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Register for the FREE Online Training From CHAOS To CALM TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

Top Gmail Productivity Tools

Top Gmail Productivity Tools

Having access to all of your information from your tablet, iPad, smartphone, laptop, desktop etc. is the norm these days.

So you need to find a simple way to easily access this information and streamline the process.

As an Android/PC gal, I love Google Tools to help me stay organized and on top of all my emails, documents, workflows etc. and having access to this information from wherever I am makes it a whole lot easier to be more efficient.

Several years ago I was a die-hard Outlook user. But it was only accessible from my desktop PC … in my office.

Then I started to travel more and more (both for business and personal) and found I needed something that was more efficient (this was even before smartphones became the norm).

Enter Gmail … and Google’s various tools.

Making the switch was a big learning curve for me and, initially I got frustrated that I couldn’t do some of the things in Gmail that I used to easily be able to do in Outlook. However with a bit of perseverance and re-thinking the way I worked, I found some great Gmail productivity tools that allow me to do pretty much the same things as I used to do in Outlook. And today I’m going to share them with you!

1. Email Signatures

Problem: One of my biggest frustrations at first was that Gmail didn’t put my email signature at the bottom of my messages; instead it put it at the bottom of the conversation thread. If there were several emails within the conversation thread, this meant that my signature appeared way down at the bottom.

Solution: If you go to your Gmail settings and click on Labs, scroll down until you find the Signature Tweaks Lab and enable it. This means that my email signature now appears at the bottom of my email message instead at the bottom of the conversation thread. I also have different email signatures set up for different email accounts, and Gmail automatically puts the right signature for the right account.

Also check out Wise Stamp for professional looking signatures — works great with Gmail (I use it).

2. Email Templates

Problem: For those repetitive emails I used to have email templates created in Outlook, so I just chose the template I wanted and away I went. I couldn’t find this same functionality in Gmail initially, so was copying and pasting from Outlook into Gmail each time I wanted to use an email template.

Solution: Again, if you go to your Gmail settings and click on Labs, scroll down until you find the Canned Responses Lab and enable it. Voila! I can now create email templates in Gmail in the same way I used to create email templates in Outlook. So I simply took all my Outlook templates and copied and pasted them into new canned responses in my Gmail account.

3. Mail Merge

Problem: One of the things I loved about Outlook was the ability to create mail merges, i.e. send personalized emails to a group of people by using the Mail Merge feature in Word. It would automatically send them to my Outlook as emails.

Solution: This was a harder one to solve and took quite a bit of digging around to find the solution … but I felt sure it had to be there. And it was! Here’s a link to a video tutorial that shows you exactly how to create mail merges using Gmail. It requires you download a spreadsheet and save it in your Google docs, but it’s such a huge timesaver.

Click Here to watch the Mail Merge Video

So there you go … my top three favorite Gmail tools to increase my productivity. And if you know of any others do let me know. I love new gadgets!

4. Boomerang

Another of my favorites is Boomerang for Gmail.  If you’ve ever wanted to send your emails on a specific day/time (rather than the send immediately option that you currently have with Gmail); or you want emails to return to the top of your inbox on a specified date so that you can be reminded to do something, Boomerang will do just that!  It’s a great find, and makes my Gmail feel more like my Outlook used to be.

5. Drag

Another great tool that I’ve just discovered is called Drag. It transforms your Gmail into organized Task Lists. It’s a free Chrome extension that turns your inbox into a manageable workspace (just like Trello, but for Gmail).

Which of these Gmail productivity tools are you going to enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.

(c) 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Register for the FREE Online Training From CHAOS To CALM TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

Gmail Email Management: Create Filters and Labels for Quick and Easy Email Organization

Gmail Email Management: Create Filters and Labels for Quick and Easy Email Organization

Sometimes it’s the simple tweaks that can make all the difference!

And your “tweaking” your email system by automating and organizing is where you can see the biggest difference in your day-to-day productivity.

It’s time to ditch the email overwhelm and get organized!

We all know that email is a huge source of overwhelm for many solopreneurs, and also one of the biggest time drains. However, email is essential to a solopreneur’s success, so you have to find a way of organizing your emails. If organized properly you’ll quickly and easily be able to:

  • Focus on the top priority emails first
  • Skim your emails and see which ones need your attention
  • Get quick and easy access

Now, I’m a huge Outlook fan and have written about how you can organize your Outlook inbox through setting up Rules and Filters. But recently, due to a LOT of business and personal travel which has taken me away from my office, I’ve had to work off my laptop, which posed the question of …

How do I access my emails?

Gmail was the obvious answer – I simply forward all of my email accounts on to my Gmail account and voila! I have access to all of my emails!


But…

All of a sudden all the wonderful rules and filters I’d created in Outlook didn’t  transfer to Gmail (obviously!), and so I ended up with this huge glob of emails in my Gmail account … and I mean there were hundreds. So, the Queen of Office Organization suddenly found herself overwhelmed by emails!

Enter…

Gmail Filters and Labels.

With a bit of research I found I could easily recreate the rules and filters I’d set up in my Outlook account to also work in my Gmail account – they’re just called Filters and Labels in Gmail. And once I knew how to do this organizing my emails became a cinch!

So, here’s how you can do this in your own Gmail account too:

1: In your Gmail account, click on Options > Mail Settings.

2: Click on the Filters link.

3: Click on Create a New Filter link.

4: At this screen you can now specify your filter criteria. It can be anything:

  • From a specific email address
  • To a specific email address
  • With certain words in the subject line
  • Specify certain words etc.

5: Once you’ve specified your criteria click on Next Step.

6: On your next screen you then say what you want to happen with your email:

  • Skip the Inbox – this is an essential part of the filtering process. If you want to actually Move your email as it arrives so it ends up in an alternate folder (which is another name for a Label) then you want to make sure this box is ticked. If you don’t tick it you’ll end up with two copies of your email – one in your Inbox and the other assigned to your Label.
  • Apply the Label – this is also another essential part of the filtering process. This is where you automatically assign a Label to an email and, if you’ve selected Skip the Inbox, your email will be assigned directly to this Label. From here you can also create a new Label.

There are also other options you can choose here too, but the ones I use the most are Skip the Inbox and Apply the Label.

7: You can also apply your newly created filter to other emails that meet your criteria. Simply check the box that says Also apply filter to X message below.

8: Click on Create Filter and you’re done!

You can create as many Filters and Labels as you want. Some examples of different Filters/Labels you may want to create are for:

  • Individual clients
  • Newsletters/Ezines
  • Networking Groups
  • Social media notifications
  • New subscriber notifications
  • New order notifications

This is just one of the many systems that are simple to create and yet make a HUGE difference in the overall success of your business. Once you’ve taken control of your emails you’ll become much more productive and efficient.

Where are you struggling to manage your inbox? Post in the comments below; I’d love to help.

© 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Get your free Systems Checklist TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

3 Simple Steps To Manage Your Budget And Cashflow

3 Simple Steps To Manage Your Budget And Cashflow

Along with paper piles, budget and Cashflow is another area that can be a huge source of overwhelm and frustration! 

And I bet the very title of this article made you think twice about reading it 🙂

In your corporate days you would have had a bookkeeping/accounting department that took care of all of this for you – they paid the invoices, they tracked the receivables, they tracked the income, and they told you the bottom line!

Now that you’re running your own business you are also the Chief Financial Officer, and it can be very overwhelming.  However, it needn’t be… let me share with you three simple steps that you can put in place to manage your budget and Cashflow.

But first, let’s start with what is a Cashflow projection?

One important area of your Financial Management System is that of a Cashflow projection.  Put simply, a Cashflow projection shows whether your anticipated income will be able to cover your expected (projected) expenses and this report is very beneficial to you in your business.

It is an annual report and, if set up correctly, will show you how cash will flow through your business throughout the current financial year.  I’ve been using a Cashflow report in my business for many years and find it invaluable.  Just recently the chance to participate in a high-profile teleclass series came up, and because I have my financial systems in place, I knew straightaway that it was something I could take part in!

Step 1 – Create Your Cashflow Report

This is very easy to do using a spreadsheet.  Create a column that lists all of your expenses, i.e. office supplies, legal & professional fees, membership, advertising etc. and a column for each month of the year.  You will need to create formulae that will tell you your total income, total expenses, and subtracts the expenses from the income, and also carries forward any amounts from month-to-month.  This is so you can see how your finances are ‘flowing’ throughout the year.

Step 2 – Input Your Data

Taking your financial data from your bookkeeping system input your actual income and expenses, and list any projected expenses in the appropriate row/column.  Your Cashflow report will now show you at-a-glance any time periods for which you will need to be especially aware of.  For example you may have a lot of expenses in one particular month so you’ll know that the previous month you’ll need to make sure that you have the funds kept back in your bank account to take care of those upcoming expenses.

It will also show you if you can afford to make an investment in your business, whether that’s signing up for a new service or membership club, taking out an advertisement, or buying new equipment.

Your Cashflow projection can also be used as a budget planner.  You can plan out when annual memberships are due and put those in ahead of time.  You can also add in an amount for when your taxes are due.  This will provide you with a really good feel of how cash is flowing through your business, month after month, throughout the year, and you can also tell how much you can take off for owners draw, but still leave enough to cover the anticipated expenses.

Step 3 – Schedule In The Time

Now that you have your Cashflow report in place, it’s important that you update it regularly so that you can stay aware of how cash is flowing through your business, and take any actions necessary so that you have enough to cover all of your anticipated expenses.

I recommend scheduling in at least 30 minutes once a month to update this critical financial management report.

A Final Thought…

Having an annual Cashflow projection will provide you with all of the information you need so that you can keep on top of your business financially and know where you are.

If you have a bookkeeper taking care of all your financial records for you, ask them to prepare your monthly Cashflow report for you.

Where do you need help with your financial management system? Post in the comments below; I’d love to help.

© 2017 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Get your free Systems Checklist TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.

 

Spring Clean Your Client Database

Spring Clean Your Client Database

You work hard to build your subscriber database … so why would you want to delete subscribers?

Like your desk becoming overrun with paper piles, or your PC becoming littered with folders and files, so too can your client database (ecommerce system) become disorganized and out-of-control. It’s a good idea to go through it at least three times a year, and see what can be re-organized or deleted.

Three key areas that you will want to look at:

1. Contacts/Subscribers: This is a BIG area that you need to stay on top of.  Did you know that if you continually email to subscribers who NEVER open your emails, you get penalized by your ISP – it’s seen as a form of spam? Also, if you’re running a double opt-in list, such as I do through 1ShoppingCart, I bet if you go through and look at all those subscribers who have NEVER confirmed their email address, you’ll find hundreds, or even thousands of unconfirmed subscribers. If someone doesn’t confirm their subscription to your list right away, chances are they never will!

Given this, two areas that you need to focus on during your clean up are:

i. Segmenting your database between those who open your emails and those who don’t.  And for those contacts who haven’t opened an email in the last 90 days, take them out of your main email list and move them into a re-engagement campaign.  And if they don’t take action after that, delete them.

ii. Deleting bad email address, i.e. those that hard bounce or have technical issues, and those subscribers who have never confirmed their optin request (if you’re running a double opt-in system).

Here’s the thing, with many of these ecommerce systems you’re charged for the number of contacts in your database – whether they are confirmed or not! So if you’re getting close to your quota, and your contact database is filled with people who you can never email, you’re not making the space for new people to come into your community. Same too goes for people who never open your emails.

first-1000-subs-checklist

2. Autoresponders/Email Lists: as you go through your business throughout the year, you’ll probably create different lists of subscribers for different activities, e.g. product purchases, free teleclass registration, online program registration, internal lists, lists that are segmented etc. etc. and you can quickly end up with hundreds of different lists of subscribers (autoresponders in 1ShoppingCart / tags in Infusionsoft).

Your system will quickly become cluttered with all of these different lists, and it will make finding specific lists harder. Having to sift through a ton of different lists to find the one that you want (because you can’t remember what you called it) wastes time.

Clear up your autoresponder lists by going through each of these lists and deleting the one(s) that you no longer need. Don’t worry … when you delete an autoresponder (or tag if you’re using Infusionsoft) you are not deleting your contacts; you’re simply deleting the list.

3. Products: As with autoresponders/email lists, you can very quickly build up a library of different products that you’ve offered over the years. Again, go through your list of products and delete all the one(s) that you no longer sell or need.

Again, deleting your products doesn’t mean you’re deleting contacts; you’re simply deleting the product. Your contacts are still there, plus their purchasing history is still intact too. So you can still see which product(s) they bought, and when.

Having a system in place where you are constantly monitoring the health of your client database is a good system to have.  It means that you’re consistently emailing to a high-quality list of people who open and read your emails.

Note: I did this exercise recently, and deleted over 3,000 subscribers … and it felt good!

Where do you need help in cleaning up your client database? Post in the comments below and let me know; I’d love to help.

(c) 2016 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Get your free List Building System Checklist TODAY and start to grow your list so you can ensure a constant flow of clients.

 

5 Reasons to Automate and Streamline Your Business

“You need to investment in a system for where you want to go, not where you are now.”

Any client that has worked with me over the past 15 years knows that I say that a lot.

And that’s because I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a conversation with a business owner who has wanted me to help them set up their systems, whether that’s:

  • Creating an automated system to deliver their free report.
  • Having a system in place so that attendees can register for their teleclasses.
  • Creating a system so that customers can purchase products and/or programs via their website.

All of these business owners have ONE thing in common – they want the system to make it all work, but they’re not prepared to INVEST in the right system.

I usually tell them that if they want to do all of the above (and more) they need an all-in-one ecommerce system, such as 1ShoppingCart** or Infusionsoft**, which can do all of the above, plus so much more!

The response I usually get to this advice is, “I can’t afford it”, or “I don’t want to make that kind of investment”.  But what they are really saying is, “I’m not serious about my business so I don’t want to pay for that kind of system.”

Here’s the thing… when you don’t have the right system in place…

  • You make it difficult for clients to do business with you
  • You make it difficult for you to run your business efficiently and effectively
  • Bottom line — you lose revenues

So today I want to share with you my top five reasons why having an all-in-one ecommerce system is CRUCIAL to your business success:

systems_checklist_ v2_552px

 

1.  Your Client Database Is All Together In One Place.  If you’ve ever tried to fudge together two different systems to make everything work (the voice of experience is talking to you here!), then you know exactly the kind of hassle you’re setting yourself up for. You have some clients in one database, other clients in the other database, and even clients in both databases.  This makes sending out broadcasts, emails, and other materials messy.  Some clients may get them once, some twice, and some not at all!

2.  Easily Upgrade To Paid Programs And Products. When you’re ready to start introducing paid programs and products into your business it’s easy to do.  You already have the infrastructure in place, so it’s just a case of adding in the shopping cart elements, and you’re ready to start accepting payments.

3. Tracking Your Business Is Easy.  One area that business owners ignore is their numbers.  They very rarely look at their broadcast rates, open rates, sources of new subscribers, or any other important data that will tell them how their business is doing, which will help them plan effectively for future revenues.  When you’re using an all-in-one ecommerce system, all the critical business planning data is right there at your fingertips, so you always know how your business is performing. And you can make adjustments accordingly.

4. Create Your Own Personal Sales Army.  Once your business has grown to a certain level, you’ll be ready to add an Affiliate Program to it. An affiliate program is basically your own personal sales army of affiliates who recommend your products and programs to their networks.  This is a great way to automate sales and widen your networking reach, without you having to do any additional work … your affiliates do the work for you.  And when you are using an all-in-one ecommerce system, adding this piece to your business is really simple.  The affiliate program is part of the all-in-one ecommerce system, so it’s right there waiting for you to use it.

5. Automate and Streamline.  My favorite part about all of this is when you’re running your entire business through just the ONE system, you can very easily automate and streamline a large part of your business activities, from upselling to products and programs, to marketing.  What could be more hassle-free than that!

Having an all-in-one ecommerce system in place is at the heart of running a thriving and profitable online business.  If you are serious about building your online business, don’t even consider any other option.  Make the decision now to invest in the right system that will grow as your business grows.

** These are not the only two all-in-one ecommerce systems available, but they are the two that I am very familiar with, which is why I referenced them.

Where are you struggling to automate and streamline your business? Leave me your answer in the comments below; I’d love to help.

© 2016 Tracey Lawton Training & Consulting LLC

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Get your free Systems Checklist TODAY and see if you have all of your bases covered.