Looking to save time? Or to be frank, simply to limit the amount of time you spend on admin tasks?
I happen to be one of those rare nerds that absolutely loves everything admin - I love planning, organising, managing numbers and data - yes nerd, I know. There aren't many business owners that can say the same but luckily there are some great tips to save you time on admin.
The easiest and most effective option is to outsource your admin to an admin nerd. This will completely free your time to focus on the areas that need your attention: business growth, sales, and sustainability. If you outsource to an all round executive assistant / office manager, you may even find someone to also take care of bookkeeping, social accounts, customer service, and other ad hoc tasks.
This is particularly a great strategy if your business requires a lot of your attention, you have goals to grow your business, admin tasks get forgotten or start to build up and/or you are not great at managing your time.
Tip: Many business owners try to do it all themselves, managing their businesses and all its needs. It is impossible to create a growing and sustainable business model while doing it all yourself. If you invest well in people, you will reap the benefits.
Time Manage and Prioritise |
One big, long to do list is not going to get you anywhere. The key is to manage your time - prioritise and organise your to do list, block out periods on your calendar to address tasks and stick to it, set time for repetitive tasks such as scheduling social media or blog posts. I have one day a month blocked to create and schedule social media and blog posts for the rest of the month and spend time doing any other low priority ad hoc tasks.
In addition to monthly scheduling, I time block my day to include admin tasks: I open at 8am and spend my first half hour on emails, during the day I only address priority emails and I leave a 30 minute period at the end of the day to answer any others. Friday's are my quietest day so I spend an hour every Friday morning on bookkeeping and financial management. I schedule in updating my business plan and reflecting on my goals. This ensures everything that needs to be addressed is addressed and lower priority tasks don't take away my focus but are not forgotten either.
Tip: It may seem counter productive to spend time planning to be productive, but the more time you spend putting systems in place that work for you, the more time you will have to work on your business.
Project Management |
I like anyone else love the post-it notes but trying to organise yourself in this way will only cause you to spend more time organising your organisational system! Choosing a project management tool that works for you is the best way to stay on top of your admin and reduce the time spent on these tasks. I use ClickUp to manage my tasks, set priorities and reminders, time block and ensure everything is recorded as it comes in. ClickUp is opened as soon as I open at 8am and is referred back to as I move about my day to ensure everything is recorded.
Use alerts and reminders on your projects, tasks and appointments to ensure nothing gets forgotten.
Tip: If you have a calender on your website or social media to allow clients to book time with you, do not forget to update this to block out time you've scheduled for admin.
Financial Control |
One of the biggest headaches for small businesses is chasing their money. If you do not have effective admin processes created, you could spend more of your time chasing late payments than you actually spent on the service. Ensure you have contracts, policies and terms in place, they are communicated clearly and expectations are understood. If you use accounting software, set up automatic payment reminders. If you don't, time block a day each week to send invoices and follow ups - generate SOPs for this process.
Bookkeeping is another - many small business owners are not too versed in the bookkeeping process and either keep inaccurate records or only update their books infrequently. Understanding your cashflow and keeping a record of your tax obligations will help you stay out of trouble down the line. Effective and efficient bookkeeping systems and processes will ensure you are making decisions based on accurate and up to date financial information. It is also less likely that you will make a mistake if you keep regular records - it isn't fun trying to find an error when you've just entered 150 transactions.
Add your accounts payable to your accounting software! If you don't use software, add them to your calendar with reminders. Being late to pay an invoice may not seem like a big deal but your relationships with your suppliers are key to better rates and better service. Your suppliers have the power to get you out of a pickle with a last minute order or make your life difficult with delays, treat them well and your business will benefit.
Tip: Create email templates for invoicing, reminders and follow ups to save you time trying to politely but firmly receive payment. I save a copy in my draft emails so I can quickly copy, paste, personalise and send.
Data Cleansing and Filing |
This doesn't immediately seem important however not having your data organised can cause many problems and even impact your professional image.
Ever had a client ask you to send a copy of a product or service completed three months ago and spent an hour or two searching your emails and files to see where you would have left a copy?
Ever had a client you quoted or did an introductory call with last year would now like to proceed and for the life of you, you cannot reminder a thing about them or what they wanted?
Ever had an employee ask a question about their employment contract or details about their entitlements and had to shift through piles of paperwork to find it?
Cleansing your data into simple, easily accessible documents such as Employee and Client files will save you a lot of time searching and ensure you look professional in all your interactions. Creating an accurate, straight forward filing system will ensure everything is at your fingertips and you can demonstrate consistency for your clients. If you have employees or plan to have employees in the future, an online filing system allows multiple employees to update documents, access information and file according to your system. It also ensures if your computer crashes, you are not having sitting in the corner having a nervous breakdown.
Filing is also important for your financial management. It is likely at some point you will have a legal body request evidence of your claims so ensuring your receipts are recorded and filed properly is a vital step to ensuring you do not see any fines. Most receipts will fade in time so an electronic system for receipt filing is recommended. If you use accounting software such as Xero, upload your receipts to your Xero, this will not only speed up bookkeeping but will ensure nothing gets lost. If you don't, where possible, get receipts emailed to your account and file them regularly in your online filing system under appropriate folders for organisation.
Tip: Online storage such as Dropbox/OneDrive or project management such as ClickUp is a great way to keep your information together and gives you the option to provide permissions for who can access what.
Automate and Streamline |
Wherever possible, automate and streamline your processes to reduce the amount of time you spend on them. Bookkeeping systems can be automated with great accounting programs such as Xero. You can even speed up the time spent on spreadsheets if you know the tricks such as linking and formulas.
Create SOPs as you go about your tasks so when it comes to outsourcing or onboarding employees, you have a quick reference point and you have a document to share with staff, saving you time on training.
For your emails, set up rules to sort your incoming emails. If you subscribe to a lot of channels and websites to stay up to date with information, have them go to a separate folder automatically and review once at the end of the day. This will limit what is in your mailbox and ensure you aren't missing important emails amongst the onslaught.
If you take bookings and appointments with clients, create/use a booking service so clients can head directly to your website to book appointments rather than having to go through you.
Tip: I have linked templates available in the shop that will help you stay on top of your finances and limit the amount of entry needed for your bookkeeping.
Use Technology |
I have seen it before, there are many people who struggle to let go of the whole pen and paper system. I myself had some difficulty letting go of my notepad and post-it notes, however when it comes to productivity, nothing beats technology. Some of the tips mentioned above to stay on top of your admin work the best when paired with technology. You gain access to reminders, linked systems, automation, collaborative documents, speed, accuracy and so much more. If you're still using the paper system, it might be time to start transferring to digital record keeping - you will not only boost your productivity but the planet will thank you.
Tip: It can take some time to adjust to digital records, take your time, don't be hard on yourself and seek help to get your systems in order.
Review Regularly |
Because admin is often dismissed as not important, it often does not find a place in reflections or reviews. However, reviewing and updating your systems regularly is key to maintaining productivity, streamlining processes and enhancing functionality.
Tip: Include admin processes in your business plan and SOPs to ensure they are receiving the attention they need.