When most people see the term “system” they associate it to something complicated or in the personal development world, something you need to buy. In reality, systems are simply a set of steps to follow and creating systems is a powerful way to become more efficient by minimizing the duplication of effort.
I have systems for a lot of the things I do professionally – and I’m always tweaking them and adding more. Sometimes my bigger systems have smaller ones within them. For example, I have a system for creating a new course and within that, there are systems for creating the audio program for the course as well as the course workbook.
The nice thing about this is that it saves me time because I’m not duplicating my efforts. The workbooks for my courses all use the same template so I don’t have to go through the trouble of setting margins, footers and figuring out which fonts to use. These standards benefit those who take the course as everything has the same familiar look and the courses all follow the same three part format.
The other advantage is that everything is done in a manner so that I can hand it off to someone else – which means I can then focus on running and growing my business. The challenge that so many smaller businesses face is that they are a one person shop. You see this all the time with service businesses ranging from hairdressers and masseuses to professional services such as doctors and lawyers. But many speakers and consultants run into this problem as well. Even though they own businesses, their success is bound by time – and their time has to be split among providing their service and running their business.
Systems help out because they document tasks so they can be delegated to an assistant – virtual or otherwise. Consider this, if you’re a moderately successful speaker, you might average about $100-500 per hour presenting. A good virtual assistant might run you about $20-30 per hour. In theory, wouldn’t it be great to delegate tasks like basic bookkeeping and combing the various social media services for new business to an assistant while you’re out presenting? Of course, life doesn’t always work that way but there are only so many hours in the day so if you have a profitable business, wouldn’t it make sense to pawn off the mundane tasks that take time but not a lot of skill so you can focus on tasks like connecting new clients?
A number of people who take my classes on “Promoting Your Business Online” ask me if I could just do the work for them. Part of the reason is they lack the technical skills and patience to deal with the various services to establish a suitable online presence. So in eight hours, they would accomplish what I could do for them in one. I’m immersed in the technology and have a set of systems developed, which is why I can do things more effectively for them.
The nice thing about systems is that they are easy to create. Here’s my quick process:
- Identify a task that is repeatable and requires little decision making.
- Break the task down into steps.
- Document what you do for each step by creating a simple task list (a numbered or bulleted list will do).
- Look at the steps and see if rearranging them will make them more efficient. For example, can you group all the tasks that require you to use a certain tool (such as your computer or a program) together so you don’t have find the tool, use it and then put it away multiple times?
- Run through the list and see if anything is unclear or requires a decision. If so, clarify it.
Once you’ve created the system, test it out a few times. You might find that while you’re doing it, you find better and faster ways to do it so then update your documentation. Even if you don’t outsource the task, you’ll have a standard way of doing that task that keeps you focused and efficient. You may be able to copy the system and add slight modifications to perform a new task.
If you’re not sure where to start out, try creating form letters and/or document templates. If you find that you’re always setting the margins a certain way and picking a particular font for the documents you create, then create a template that already has this done for you (your word processing program’s documentation will tell you how to do this). If your sales letters or event invitations use the same basic format, create a sample one so that you just need to change the name, date and details rather than starting from scratch each time.
Creating systems is a great way to add time to your day and set your business up for growth. Give it a try to see how it can help you.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.