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Dividing up business tasks

Have you ever looked at how you divide up the work in your business?

Last November, I wrote about looking at tasks rather than entire jobs when deciding on who is needed in a team (or who does what in an existing team).

Look at tasks not roles

Tasks interconnect like branches

As a sole trader it can be overwhelming how many things you have to do.

It can also be overwhelming to think about what you could outsource or employ someone for to gain more control.

I know if I look at what I’d like to get someone else to do (and already do so for some tasks), it seems like a mix of tasks that wouldn’t be easy to give to one role. Or would require a lot of training if I did give it to one person.

However, by taking it one task at a time I was able to see what could be done by others.

So I outsourced the data entry of my accounts to a bookkeeper. Later, I also got her to compile some quarterly stats reports for me.

I got someone else to manage sending out email messages – I write the content but someone else gets it into the email system, manages the email list and sends them for me.

Hiring one person or handing out many tasks at once would obviously free up more time instantly (excluding training time anyway). But if it is too hard to set that up, it won’t happen so a series of small improvements was much more effective for me.

Would you find it easier to look at tasks than jobs, too?

identifying annual report tasks

Pile of reportsI find it interesting how little many people know about the process of writing and preparing annual reports.

Many people just accept an annual report exists, glance it and forget about it. Other people think annual reports are a good idea and that someone can just sit down for a few hours (maybe a couple of days) to write the report.

If only it was that simple!

I have already started on one client’s annual report – it won’t be released until September, so that gives you some idea of how long it can take.

So here is a list of tasks involved in producing a professional report that meets all legal, business and branding requirements professionally:

  1. checking what legal and regulatory requirements apply and ensuring those requirements are met. I often start with  checklist of topics to include so I don’t forget any of them
  2. deciding on a theme, if suitable, as this will influence the exact wording and design, and possibly some of the actual content
  3. collating relevant information, such as major events, financial reports, directors’ details and performance data
  4. arranging the design and layout – this may mean finding a designer or using an in-house person, but will require time and various drafts
  5. writing the actual content – which may include writing the bulk of individual reports (Chair’s report, CEO Report and so on) and writing marketing material
  6. collating relevant images to be used in the report – or editing and approving those collected by the designer
  7. deciding on marketing elements and then preparing them – you can insert ads for various products/services or even accept external ads as long as you have space and it meets all relevant rules
  8. editing, rearranging and refining to get everything to fit nicely!
  9. coordinating feedback from a variety of people (for example, technical, financial, legal, marketing and company experts)
  10. reviewing final drafts to ensure the report meets the requirements from step 1, meets the business style guide, has all spelling and grammar correct, is readable, appears professional and somewhat attractive, has all correct numbers (check phone numbers, ABNs and addresses are perfect as typos are easily missed) and is approved by the responsible people
  11. arranging printing – even with digital copies available, some printed copies are usually required – and digital access (formatting and uploading the document and adjusting webpages and links to make it accessible)

There also the additional tasks of arranging distribution (so designing and printing envelopes, arranging mailing lists and stuffing envelopes) and any other materials to go with the annual report (such as member statements, renewal forms and marketing flyers) that may be part of ‘writing the annual report’ or managed by someone else.

It is a lot of work and there is certainly some pride in the final result of your hard work, but it can be a little frustrating when you realise that many people just don’t open or read the annual reports they are given!

Take 30 minutes…

If you suddenly found yourself with an extra 30 minutes, what would you do with your time? Would you waste it, fill it with the ordinary or do something different?old fashioned stopwatch sitting on a keyboard

Chris Brogan and many people in his blog community gave some ideas on filling an unexpected half hour in order to make use of their ‘spare time’. Some of my favourites on the list are relaxing (meditating, walking, etc), a quick burst of filing or tidying, give some recommendations/referrals, contact people on a personal level (it can be a business contact, but chat to them instead of always focussing on what has to be done) and catching up on some reading/learning.

Moving on from that list, I like the idea of making half an hour a day for these sorts of tasks. Maybe start your day with them, lift the ‘low’ times around lunchtime or finish off the working day, but make a time to do some little tasks.

Why? Those little tasks can be very important – to your calmness, clarity, happiness, productivity, relationships and creativity. And doing them regularly for a short time will keep things under control.

I’m going to give it a try, now that I’ve been inspired. Could you benefit from making 30 minutes a day, too?

Fear – the biggest time waster!

You might think surfing the web, playing games online or deleting spam are some of the biggest time wasters in your business, but I suggest that fear may actually be the biggest waste of all.

Think about it – if you fear making cold calls, you will suddenly find time to tidy your desk, sort emails and check links on your website! Or fear of a big project may make you procrastinate submitting your application, so much so that you do a rushed job and miss out.

Fear means we don’t get tasks done, and they stay in our minds so we can’t focus 100% on other tasks either. Although I don’t always do it myself, lol, I believe that the things we fear in business are the things we need to do NOW so we can get passed them. That doesn’t mean we won’t be scared of them next time they come around, but maybe we’ll know we can survive them!

As Michelle says in her ShelDesign blog,“if we let fear control our actions, it WILL steal our dreams.” And losing our dreams is a huge waste of our time.

How do you manage fear in your business? Do you find fear of failure or fear of success to be a bigger issue for you?

Explaining outsourcing

What is outsourcing and why should you care?

Outsourcing is simply getting someone else to do a task or tasks for you. It can be a simple task (e.g. getting someone to stuff envelopes or do a letterbox drop for you) or a skilled task (e.g. hiring a professional web designer, accountant, writer or photographer)

Some of the benefits to you and your business if you outsource are:

many hands make light work

Many hands make light work – it’s true!

  • save time as someone else does some of the work
  • you gain expert knowledge in many cases
  • you can potentially learn from the supplier
  • you can gain an outside perspective (great as a sole trader)
  • you may get a more professional result which will attract more customers
  • the project is likely to be finished sooner than you could do it on top of the other tasks you are performing

Although there is a cost to outsourcing, that is often paid for with the advantages above – for example, Brad designed his own website and it took 9 months before it was ready to launch. Later he realised that he could have paid Jim to design it and it would have been launched within a month, giving Brad an extra 8 months of sales to help pay for Jim’s service.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed in your business or are desperate for another day every week, outsourcing may be your best option.

If you have already done some outsourcing, how did you find the experience?

 

*Image courtesy of 123rf