Follow-up on leads: it’s amazing how many sole traders miss out on business opportunities because they don’t take the time and effort to follow up on leads, send out quote as soon as possible, reply to questions from potential customers, etc. I can fully understand that doing the work for existing customers is on top of your list of things to do, but we all depend on the next customer to come in to keep our heads above water! Just remember: there are lots of other fish in the sea, and someone else might be responding quicker, or be more focused on making it happen. If that potential customer is one you’d like to snag, make sure you lose no time over it.
Keeping books, tax matters: I can see that many entrepreneurs do not like dealing with the nitty-gritty of receipts, expenses, invoices and payments. YES: it takes a special kind of mind to make a living off these things, but simply keeping your paperwork in order, especially when it comes to financial matters, should be your top priority at all times. The taxman could call at any time of the year and you don’t want to be caught with your books three months behind the times. If you really are struggling with doing these things, THIS is the one area where outsourcing makes perfect sense for a small business.
Chasing payments: Even if you are diligent with invoicing your customers and paying your bills, are you actually checking your bank accounts for received payments and consolidate those with your outgoing invoices? If you are using a professional bookkeeping software package, that could be included to some degree, but it still takes a business owner to look at those things regularly and to make sure you chase those payments with your customers. Because if you don’t, they will postpone payments eventually. And you don’t want them to go down that slippery slope.
Filing: That FILING tray I mentioned earlier does not empty itself, you’ll have to make sure to transfer those papers into a filing system (folders, hanging files, etc.) eventually. There is something to be said for doing this earlier rather than later, but when it comes to filing there are other issues at play, including that filing is not just about adding the new papers, but to occasionally consider taking some of the old papers out and having them gobbled up by the shredder.
Emptying the waste paper basket(s): this will sound like an silly one, but you’d be surprised how long it takes for many people to do this. I guess it seems too simple a task to think about, and of course it is not really practical issue at all. However, one of the things that makes an office more likely to work properly, is the fact that your subconscious mind is not constantly reminded of things that need to be done: seeing an overflowing waste bin, being confronted with piles of unsorted papers, etc. will distract our unconscious mind from the task at hand. Simple tip: empty that basket as a matter of closing down your day, every day.
Reading up on legal matters: being your own boss also means that you have to keep on top of legal developments, especially where it come to your legal obligations when running a business, but also where this concerns opportunities to save some money on taxes, or avoid having to pay certain taxes through a simple little change in your setup. It’s also helpful to stay appraised of those little loopholes that make your business more profitable or easier to run.
Following up on subscriptions, insurance, automatic payments, etc.: this is not quite the same type of repetitive task as it is usually only relevant about once a year, but certainly worth doing. It pays to look at prices before the time when your subscription for any supplier is automatically extended by another year. Usually, we only become aware that the deadline has passed once it’s too late to make changes. It’s useful to have a timeline for these things and incorporate them into our routine things to do.
As you can see, a lot of stuff can and should be done regularly. I’m not saying that all those things need doing every day, every week, or every month, but it pays to think ahead of time and plan them in as small tasks for a period of relative calm or a part of the week that is usually a little calmer. In any case, make time for these things. Regularly.
I’d like to end this with a last word on the subject of “leaving things for later”. There ARE things that work better if you let them accumulate a little, and surprisingly the big culprit here is filing: it can indeed be easier to leave the filing for a couple of weeks and then do one big session of sorting, hole punching and filing. Why? Because you can bring a number of papers relating to the same subject into the same file all at once, rather than taking one page, bring out the hole puncher, put it back, find the folder and open it, place the paper in it, and return the folder to its place. You get my drift: it’s all in the balance, just don’t let it build up too long!
Next week: Start the day with a difficult task
Ask the ClutterMeister
Some pertinent ideas from the 'old office dog' who has seen it all, to help clear away the mess in your office.
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My name is Tilo Flache and it is my mission to help my clients organise and declutter their work spaces.