Archive for Systems

Last Pass Will Get Your Passwords Organized

I have been using Last Pass for several years.  Last Pass is a password manager, that means you only have to remember 1 password instead of many.  It can also help by creating unique passwords for you.  You put your business at risk if you use the same password on all your logins, this system makes it easy to get unique passwords for all your logins and make sure you can remember all those passwords.

By only having to remember one password, your brain can be free to remember other more important things.  I’m going to date myself a bit here but bear with me.  Long ago, we all used to have to remember people phone numbers.  If we couldn’t remember we had phone books, large ones from the phone company, smaller ones next to our phone at home and even smaller still to carry around in our purses.  Then phones started getting smarter, you were now able to program up to 10 phone numbers in your phone, such convenience.  Of course, nowadays with real smart phones, we have our ‘phone books’ with us all the time.

The concept of Last Pass is the same, we have our passwords with us all the time.  I do still have my old password book – because every so often I will find that I have missed adding something to Last Pass, but it really is just a dust collector at this point.

A feature I haven’t really mentioned is the fact that you can add an extension to your browser on your laptop and I also have Last Pass installed on my phone and my tablet.  It goes without saying that once you change a password, it is saved to all your devices automatically.  And the best part of all is that it is free.  If you wish to upgrade to their premium service it is only $12/year, but the free version will be enough for most folks.

There are other password managers out there, but I have only ever used this one, and I have never had any reason to look elsewhere.  If you want to do more research just google, but make sure you use a system, as your business grows you will have more and more passwords to remember, you do not want to use the same password over and over.

Last Pass also has the option to allow you to seperate which logins are for business and which are for personal use, creating a more organized life yoru for you.

I’m Lori Winslow, the Organized Solopreneur.  I help solopreneurs get their business and their life organized.  To get started, pick up a copy of my Top 10 Ways to Get Your Solopreneur Business Organized.

Outsourcing Requires Organization

You can’t do everything on your own – and you shouldn’t.  As a solopreneur, you are not looking for employees, your solution is outsourcing.  To get the most out of outsourcing, it requires organization.  You have to be able to keep track of the jobs you have assigned to what people, when the requested work will be completed, how much you paid for the job, etc.  And you will also need to be able to tell the person what you want done, and sometimes that will require step by step instructions.  

I truly believe you will not reach your highest business goals without getting your business organized.  As your business grows, being organized will become even more important, the sooner you get on top of this issue, the better off you will be.  

Online, we use VA’s or Virtual Assistants most commonly for our outsourcing needs.  You can find lots of great VA’s and some that are not so great.  Like anything, you may not find the right person the first try, that doesn’t mean quit, hopefully you will learn something from the experience and you will use that information to make a more informed choice the next time.  The best way to see if you are a good fit with a person you wish to hire, is to start with small tasks, or smaller jobs, as they prove themselves a good fit, then continue to add to their workload as you see fit.   A great way to find a good VA is to ask other solopreneurs who they use and/or who they would recommend, this will often get you a better match with fewer headaches.  And a great place to meet these other solopreneurs is Facebook groups.

In addition to VA’s there are many sites that offer specific services by the job.  Fiverr.com is a site that allows people offer services starting at $5.  Other sites like upwork.com have various levels of service, from individual jobs, to long term commitments.  These sites work best if you are specific in your needs.  If you are vague, you will not likely get the results you are looking for.  If you are looking for research on a topic, be as specific as possible, if you like to include stats, ask them to research stats related to the requested topic.  If you want articles from popular publications and not lesser known places, or vice versa, say so in your instructions.  I have used Fiverr in the past and had mixed results, so I stopped using them, but they have worked on improving the site and I have been meaning to give them another try, so I encourage you to as well.

So, now you have hired someone, now you need to tell them what to do, the easiest way to do this is to already have step by step instructions in place.  For example, publishing a blog post, sounds simple, but there are several steps involved.  I need to have a topic or research a topic, then I need a headline, from there, I actually have to write the blog post.  I like to add images to most of my posts, so after I write the post, I pick out the images I would like to add.  If there are links to be added, I do that right about here.  Then I check the SEO with a plug in I have installed on my site.  I also add my tags and categories, then once everything is done, then I hit the publish button.  So if I was going to have someone help me in this process, I would need to be able to know which steps and so perhaps all I do is the actual writing and I have my VA do all the other steps.  I’m free to do what I do best and they do what they do best.  A win for everybody, but if you aren’t organized, you will not be able to relay step by step instructions and you will likely be disappointed with the results.

As you can clearly see, getting your business organized will help you increase your bottom line and help you to outsource tasks to keep you loving your business.  Please let us know how you do with outsourcing in the comments below.

I Just Love Doing A Time Study – Don’t You?

A Time Study Gives You So Much Information

As the name implies you are going to study how you spend your time, in detail.  We all have repetitive tasks and we have a general idea of how long it takes to complete those tasks, but do you really know how long they take?  And what happens when you have a new task, how do you know how long you are spending on that task?  How do you know where you are wasting time and what you should be outsourcing?

First you need to take your most common tasks and set a timer to see how long you spend completing the task.  Now the important part here is to time yourself more than once doing each task.  Timing yourself once doesn’t count.  If it is a daily task, you want to track your time for at least 10 different days.  Tasks that are done multiple times a day, I suggest you track your time on these tasks for a full week.  The tasks that are done more sporadically are harder to pin down, but still worth the effort.

Write it Down

I know old fashioned pen and paper – they help to provide a visual reminder.  I suggest you keep a seperate piece of paper for each timed task, and break down the tasks and time each element or step needed to complete the task.

Heres and example:  Writing a Blog Post – I want to know the total time it takes, but there are several steps involved.  I have to have a topic, then create an outline, choose photos or graphics to use in the post, add monetization (if appropirate), make sure there is a call to action.  That is all just the preperation steps, and each one should have it’s own start and end time, as well as a start and end time for all of the prep work, and this is just one part of the total time it takes to write a blog post.  I hope you get the idea.

Now I want you to do this for each task you do.  If you love data, you will love doing a time study.  If you hate data, you will be amazed at all you will learn about how you are spending your time, and you will hardly even notice it came from data ;).

What Do You Do With All This Knowledge?

As I said, this will give you lots of information and you will have to decide what you want to act upon now, and what you want to disregard.  You get to see if it really takes you as long as you think it does for your tasks.  This can be very helpful when you are ready to outsource, you know how long it takes to complete the given task and you know how much your are willing to pay to gain back that amount of time.

You will have some data that you think is interesting, but you won’t know how to apply it to make improvements in your business, don’t let this bother you, just let it go.  In the future it may becomemore relevant, or maybe not.  My point here is to act upon the information that is relevant to improving your business right now, and do it.

Time is our most precious resource, the one thing we can never replace, make sure you are using your time wisely.

Please share your experience in the comments below.

Is Your Email Inbox Out of Control?

I realized last week that there are several emails that I just delete as soon as I see who the sender is.  So the obvious next question was “why don’t I just unsubscribe?”  Personall, I just don’t like to unsubscribe if I have purchased a product from that person.  So I didn’t hit delete when I received the next email, I researched, and in many cases, I had never made the purchase.

Trash Bin IconI unsubscribed.  I then deleted any emails I may have saved of theirs, because if I stopped opening the emails and removed myself from the list, I didn’t need to read or re-read anything I had saved.  I use gmail and create lots of folders, so once the folders were empty, I deleted those too.

It was liberating.  Like taking the bra off at the end of the day liberating.

It encouraged me to keep looking and find more to get rid of.  By the time I was done I had deleted 15 folders (some of these I had unsubscribed previously, but never deleted the emails or folders).

Now it is easier to find items in my inbox and I don’t have as much coming in.  And if I’m honest I’m sure I could cut back even further.

One of the reasons I was able to make these drastic actions is that I have been more clear on my business model.  I love to learn, but it can be distracting when trying to build a business.  Some days I feel like a dog – Squirrel.  My attention flits from one topic to the next.  I have literally stood in my dining room and turned around 4 times trying to decide what I wanted to do first/next.  This has included too many interests in business as well.  But focus and commitment have allowed me to be more organized and really to allow me to grow my business and my life.

The hardest part of organizing is the idea of letting go.  We have all had that experience that as soon as you throw something away you end up needing it, so we hang on to more than we need.  If your inbox is full or emails that don’t bring you joy, can you unsubscibe from the sender?  Can you have an assistant handle them?

Email is a part of our lives, and as solopreneurs, we have to juggle our work and non-work emails, often at the same time, we need to have a system, but before we can even develop a system we have to be clear on what emails are priorities, what emails bring us joy, and what emails can we don’t really want.

I know that cleaning up your email inbox may not seem like a priority, if you have too much email, like I did, it really will free up your time.  Just don’t get lost down a rabbit trail – be decisive.

I would love to hear how you did in the comments below.

Do You Use An Alarm Clock In Your Business?

I have been playing around with using more and more alarm’s as reminders in several areas of my life – including my business.

The idea developed from a podcast from Gretchin Rubin, the author of  The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, where they talked about useing an alarm clock to go to bed, as well as to wake up in the morning. The overall goal was to improve your sleep patterns and overall happiness in life. I liked the idea and did start setting an alarm to go to bed at night – and guess what – I have been having the most amazing sleep of my life. It really worked for me. I’ll admit, I don’t always go to bed when the alarm goes off, but it reminds my every night, so I feel in control. I can go to bed or stay up a little longer, or even a lot longer.

The word control can be off-putting to some people, but the overall sensation is less chaos. I don’t suddenly realize it’s already midnight and I should have gone to bed hours ago. I tend to get lost in books and movies and loose track of time :). I’m making the decision about my actions, but my alarm reminds not to forget to make that conscious decision.

Okay so now that I’m sleeping better, I think there must be more I can do with this alarm system. But don’t go overboard, an alarm going off every 10 minutes all day every day will not make you productive or happy.

I have used the alarm system so I don’t spend too much time sitting behind my computer. When I sit down to write and concetrate on the task at hand I can write for 45 minutes tops and then the words become gibberish. I tend to stray way off topic, so I set my alarm for 30 minutes and whether I’m done or not, I stop and get up or at least switch tasks. I’m pretty sure back in school they used to teach us that 20 minutes was ideal study time and then you needed a break – guess they were right.

I also use an alarm to remind me to go back and finish the task I interuppted if I didn’t finish what I was working on. So if I’m working on a blog post and the alarm goes off signalling my 30 minutes is up and I’m not done, I set an alarm for 1-2 hours later to remind me to go back and finish what I started.

This can be accomplished using reminders, but I like the added benefit of the snooze button. I can use the snooze if I need a little bit more time, or if I don’t turn the alarm off, it goes into snooze mode and reminds me again. This has made all the difference in my keeping track off all the things I want to accomplish in a day.

take some time to discover old fashioned tag

I have been using alarms when I put in a load of laundry to remind me to go change loads. I set the alarm to remind me to give the dog his pills. I have found lots of wonderful ways to use alarms in my life and in my business, so I encourage you, if this ideal appeals to you at all, give it a try. Start small and if it feels comfortable and you feel that you are improving your efficiency add more. Don’t start off by using too many alarms, you will get overwhelmed and you not even remember why you set each alarm.

Let me know if you like this system and how it works for you in the comments below.