Organize Your Business

JEEP Dispatcher assembly line

Most small businesses don’t work like an assembly line, at least not at first. Depending on the owner, it might never be a goal of your business to work that way (it’s certainly not my goal). But we do tend to want to have a way to focus on our business, and we do care about which tasks matter most. Here’s how I set about doing my business on any given day. Not the ideal that people would have you follow, but this is the real way I work on my business.

A Simple Framework

  1. Long term goals.
  2. Important projects.
  3. Urgent tasks.
  4. Maintenance tasks.

Promotion/Lead Generation First

In any given day, I make sure to do something that helps grow the business. That might be sending out an email newsletter. It’s definitely a blog post here on [chrisbrogan.com]. It might be doing an interview for someone else. It definitely includes using Twitter and Facebook to further grow awareness and attention.

The reason lead generation and promotion come first is that it’s a way to ensure that my business is seen, even while I’m working on all the more important stuff that’s invisible. Answering customer service requests are very important, but I do that shortly after I launch whatever attention/awareness effort I can muster for a day.

Team Project Work Second

Next, if there are projects that require more than me, I make sure I contribute my parts and let those projects run in parallel to other things I’m doing. Because that way, I really can extend myself. If Rob and Liz and John and Josh and Anne all know what they’re doing on projects that advance the business, then they are working to grow things while I’m doing other things, so project work is my second biggest priority. Yours might be delegation work. It’s the same, more or less.

Absolutely Screaming Critical Tasks Third

If you’ve got tasks due that are deadline-specific and really really REALLY deadline specific, those are third in my day. Why not first? Because I’m going to get them done, but if I work on lead gen and project contributions, then I know that I’ve got air coverage (lead gen) and ground support (project teams working), so I can focus on this very specific sniper-level task.

Correspondence Fourth

Now think about this. Where do you normally put things like email, comments, etc? You put them top of the list, right? No matter what you SAY you work on as priorities, your inbox is your first stop. But if you can muster this level of control, if you can push email and responses and thinking about what’s growing in your inbox until it’s the fourth thing in your day, then you’re working from power.

Yes, some jobs are highly dependent on what comes in from email. If so, you might have some kind of filter system that pulls the absolutely critical work emails from the rest of the pile. But still, make the rest of the heap fourth. Email is a system that delivers other people’s priorities to your attention. It’s up to you to decide when that priority should be managed into your world. It’s not the other way around.

In the Macro

If you looked at the four things above without the business labels, it’d look like this:

  1. Long term goals.
  2. Important projects.
  3. Urgent tasks.
  4. Maintenance tasks.

That’s fairly close to how I manage my family life, though the deadline work (urgent tasks) usually have to get handled on the schedule that imposes itself in the family world. Meaning, if my daughter misses the bus, I can’t put that off until the 3rd thing I worry about in a day. But beyond that, even when putting my family first, I look at our long term perspective on things and try to balance them. Time at home is important. Buying a new home that fits the family is even more important in the longer run, so I add it to the balance.

How Does This Fit Your Reality?

Does this make sense in how you organize your time? Would it work for your business? How would you tweak this to match your own needs and goals?

There’s never a one-size fits all method for business. This is just one to consider, based on the reality of what seems to make my own business run and one that I’ve witnessed being used by some other companies in similar formats. I’m most curious as to what YOU do and how this maps. What are your thoughts?

Oh, and if this sparks a post, feel free to link back to this post so that people here can follow along.

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  • http://twitter.com/AspenDance Victoria Strauser

    That’s an interesting take on prioritizing, and a new one for me. I have heard about putting off the inbox and tackling my highest priority first – but I like this structure better. I’ll give it a try!

  • http://www.skinnable.com/ mahjong

    Organizing your business clutter is made simpler with the time management tips. Keep your business finances separate from your personal finances. Most small businesses don’t work like an assembly line.

  • http://www.globalcopywriting.com/ globalcopywrite

     Hi Chris,

    I love this ‘pay yourself first’ idea. It’s amazing I haven’t realized before reading this how disruptive email is to my day. It’s particularly frustrating because I have two hard and fast rules I live by:

    1) Pay into long-term savings/retirement before any other money is spent or budgeted NO MATTER WHAT
    2) The phone is for MY convenience so I don’t answer it when I’m working on a project, in meetings, spending time with my family and certainly not during meal time.

    Why haven’t I figured out the thing about email? Why am I working on my own blog in the evening, the worst time of the day for energy and creative levels for me? 

    This post is transforming and I don’t say that lightly. Thanks. 

    • http://www.joshchandler.me Josh Chandler

      There certainly needs to be boundaries established in our business routine. It’s also a matter of whether you work best early in the morning, or late at night. 

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  • Brittany Hardy

     Chris, I’ve been reading your blog for some time, but this is my first comment. I found this post of yours to be challenging enough to comment. I am an extremely disciplined and Type A sort of person, but the idea of leaving emails for the end of the day (or last on the list) would mean a total reversal in my way of doing things! They DO scream at me and I DO want to deal with them first and/or as soon as they come in. But I see the health and helpfulness in controlling them, not the other way around. So thanks.

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  • http://twitter.com/WebDivaAshley Ashley N. Cline

    This post is so helpful to me – I am a one man show – who use to juggle taking care of my son WHILE working, I recently enrolled him into daycare and now have a full day to focus my attention – which sometimes leaves me clueless as to where to begin.

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  • http://www.johnmcdougle.com John McDougle

    I find this post a great support to my evolving way of working. I am trying to be disciplined about my inbox but it is a struggle. Certainly putting the long term stuff first leaves me feeling good through the rest of the day. When it comes to important projects, I’m working on time chunking by booking appointments with myself to make sure I have uninterrupted time.

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    Nice work! unless untill you do not organise each and every department, sucess can’t come to you, i think first of all the small business runner should set their objective, and create a frame work to acheive the objective.

  • http://www.goingpublic.us/ going public

    Great work! this very knowledgeable post, i am agree with your break up of different task,by organizing your different departmetn in micro parts,it will increase business efficiency and cost effective, well organize scare resources can maximize its utilization.

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  • http://gotoloa.com Loa

    This is difficult for me. My business is growing fast and hard for me, a non-business thinking type to stick with a format. It makes sense and presents a huge challenge as there are so many entities to my business. I will give it a try.

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    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

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  • http://www.beemobile.se/ Piotr Kundu

    Chris, thanks for the post. I start my day with my Inbox, but I bloody well know, that won’t get me anywhere close to todays goals and it will easily waste 1-2 hours of my time (prospecting time). Email is this centuries biggest pain for business, it distances us from our clients, gives us excuse not to call or visit them and as you said, it brings other peoples issues to us.