How to Create Effective Systems for Your Business
Do you want to streamline your business (or personal life) so you can be more productive with your time?
Depending on where you are at in your life and business, you may immediately raise your hand and say, "Yes, that's me!" Or you may find yourself sheepishly backing away from reading the rest of this post because you find you are already overwhelmed.
Maybe you've tried making significant changes in the past, and it never seemed to help.
Maybe you've tried, but suddenly everything became too complicated, complex, or it didn't work.
Maybe you haven't tried because it seems like too much work or after working on all of your Client work you haven't had the time.
I get it. I've been where you are. I understand this may sound crazy for me to admit, but it's true.
You see, I started my business with my newborn baby. I started building my business slowly and only worked a few hours each week. The income from my business would be supplemental and used to build up our savings and paying down my student loan debt. So, I made the decision to start off slow instead of jumping into my business with both feet. I figured that I would try new tools and systems and implement ideas as I went along. When able, I'd add more hours or Clients as my schedule and lifestyle allowed.
A few years later, we had relocated to another part of the country, and my husband shifted his career, and with it, so did our income. We found ourselves in a season where I quickly needed to expand and scale my business. At the time, we had two girls (3 and 6-months old), and things were suddenly more complicated than they were before. I found myself exhausted, depleted, overwhelmed, scattered, stressed, and occasionally out of sorts with those closest to me.
My Clients always got the best of my allocated time and energy, after all, I was getting paid to support them. They received excellent support for their businesses, but my business projects were on standby. I was unable to move my own business forward, and I continued to lose momentum over and over again.
I needed more time. I needed more energy. I needed to take on more Clients, and I needed to increase my income. But I didn't have any plan or system in place to make that happen, let alone happen quickly.
That is until I started to implement systems into my business and daily schedule.
Why are systems so important? Will it really save time, energy, or help make me more profitable? Won’t it just slow me down?
The initial investment of time and energy seemed daunting from the start. These were two things that I didn't have in excess but also knew that the payoff would be more than worth it in the end.
I found myself overwhelmed by the very idea of the thing I needed most: systems.
I knew that implementing systems and processes would increase my productivity, provide momentum, and help me scale my business. Becoming organized takes a little extra forethought, but it pays off big in the area of efficiency.
I had very few systems or processes in place for my business, and if I did, they were undocumented.
When things went well, I wasn't able to replicate them.
When things went poorly or didn't get done, I'd chalk it up to my being too busy.
So many problems or roadblocks could have easily been avoided by introducing a simple system. A system that could handle both my business tasks and projects as well as a way to prioritize my to-do list for household projects, planning meals, and running errands.
I was disorganized, inefficient, and there was too much to do that I didn't know where to start.
I knew there were so many repetitive tasks that I could delegate, but everything was in my head. Even my husband was unaware of how he could help.
I was stuck doing everything myself, and I was overwhelmed. I knew things would never change until I took the time to get these ideas and tasks out of my head and put them onto paper.
I knew that I couldn't scale my business unless I made a change.
Can you relate?
After months of floundering, trying to do #allthethings, and feeling overwhelmed without an end in sight, I was able to get back on track due to one simple-fix: systems. I made my business activities my priority, re-allocated my time and energy and began to take action.
Now it's time for you to do the same.
My objective today is to remove any barriers that may be in your head about creating a system so you too can feel what I feel: solace.
sol·ace: comfort, cheer, support and relief in a time of need or distress
Let's talk about how to create effective systems for yourself and your business.
What is a System, Automation, Process, Workflow, or SOP?
A system is a group of items, working together to synchronize as a whole. Think of synchronized swimmers. They are each independent, but when they come together, they form a bigger picture and accomplish a great purpose.
Automation is taking recurring tasks, or processes and allowing technology to handle these tasks for you, rather than you having to complete each tasks yourself manually. It should operate on the back-end of your business without replacing the relational side of your business. Automation enables you to minimize cost while also improving efficiency and productivity. The key here is to select the right back-end operations to offload and automate, such as remedial tasks. Once something is automated, it will free up your time so you can accomplish other duties that may require a personalized touch.
A process is simply a series of steps or actions to complete a goal. Processes used in tandem together can become valuable systems!
A workflow is a clear guide that will indicate tasks to complete, and in what order. It will help you set clear expectations, streamline processes, and achieve goals. Teams frequently use it, but you can also apply a workflow to how you structure your day. By implementing workflows, you can streamline your team's workday and get more done.
SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedure, which is a set of processes that are completed in the same way each time. It is step-by-step instructions for more in complex or detailed work. An SOP will help you, or your support team, prevent wasted time, and keep you from floundering. Instead, an SOP keeps you on a progressive track where everything is laid out in an efficient order.
What SHOULD you Systemize? What should you NOT systemize?
Systems are the way to "work smarter, not harder" that you can implement in all areas of life. You may already have systems in place, and not even realize it! Take a moment to consider what systems you may already have in place:
What are the things you do each morning to start your day?
Do you have a tool or process for adding items to your shopping list? For instance, we use Alexa to add items to our AnyList shopping list.
How do you meal plan for the week? Where do you store your recipes?
Do you do laundry on only on certain days of the week?
What do you do with all the paperwork (or artwork) your kids bring home from school?
For each of these things, you may already have a system in place for how you handle these things, and by implementing them, you are more organized and less stressed.
When you are trying to determine what tasks to start with, consider events, activities, or recurring tasks or that require a lot of attention. What could you delegate? All of these items could qualify as something you should systemize. As it relates to your business, you may want to start implementing systems as they relate to payroll, bookkeeping, social media, content development, storing digital files, clearing off your desk, inbox management, calendar scheduling, responding to customer inquiries, etc.
While I believe many things can be improved after putting a system in place, items that are creative in nature or that happen infrequently may be things better left without the extra effort of a system.
The key here being that if your other systems are continually running well, these unusual things that pop up won’t derail your ‘everyday’ processes, because you will have freed up time to account for it!
How can you create a System?
Creating a system is fairly simple, though it may be time-consuming at first.
Select an area of your business that is currently causing you stress or is out of control, and then ask yourself what activities associated with this area of business are repetitive, recurring, or time-consuming? Do you have an idea? Great, you’ve just identified the first area to implement a system.
Now that you’ve identified an area where you need to implement a system, focus on one repetitive, recurring, or time-consuming task and write out a list of progressive steps to complete a task, in logical order. If you decide to do this digitally, you can easily move steps around or add to them as you develop your system. Consider the most efficient way to get a task done in the least amount of time possible.
Once you have your list, identify which steps of the process can or should be delegated. Are there any items you need to handle or approve? Are there any items that can or should be completed by someone else?
The most important part of this process is NOT creating the system, but implementing it and improving it. As you develop and refine your system, you’ll need to refer to your system frequently until it becomes more of a habit, but I also encourage you to regularly review any systems you have in place to see if they are continuing to meet your growing needs.
Once solidified, your new system, automation, process, or workflow could be converted into an SOP. As your business grows and expands, you will find the value and importance of documenting and implementing SOP’s in your business, especially when bringing on new team members. Keep in mind, that your new team members (new employees, contractors, and support staff) will adopt these SOP’s, refer to them, improve them, and these very systems will help you stay consistent and accountable to the vision and mission of your business and brand.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Stressed?
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