Do you ever forget to do something? Have you ever forgotten to do a clients work or to lodge something with a Government body? Most Small Business Owners are so busy now that there are often things that they forget. Not on purpose and not because they are not a good business owner, but because they are so busy that things just slip their minds.
Well forgetting to do things for clients and other organisations is the fastest way to go out of business. Its something that you have to control now and it doesn’t matter what industry you are in, if you can’t keep track of your work, what needs to be done and what doesn’t then you will be out of business in no time at all.
Over the years working with clients from all different industries I have come across quite a few different ways to track work, so over the next few weeks I want to share with you what I consider to be the best ways.
Put it on your Calendar
Some people may have diaries, some may have electronic calendars, it doesn’t matter what version you use, just use it. Desktop Diaries work wonderful for Mechanics, Restaurants, Pubs, even Doctors/Dentists. It is old style, but still works effectively. But there are also many electronic Calendars/Diaries that you can use effectively as well. Just make sure you use it.
Do you have a To Do List? I use to have a To Do Book. I would right everything that I had to do in the book and then never remember to do it. Or only get some of it done. Then one day I came across an article about how to get rid of your To Do List. The best tip that article had was to put your To Do List on your calendar, schedule the work there as if it was an appointment.
So you hate bookkeeping and never get around to doing it. Work out what the most productive time of the week is for you and put your bookkeeping into that spot. I find for most people 1st thing Monday Morning for an hour is the best time to do your bookkeeping. Don’t schedule it for last thing Friday Afternoon, as you will never get it done, you will always find something else to do instead.
You need to do your banking, or return calls to people. Schedule it, put it in your calendar for 1st thing when you get back from lunch. You need to reply to emails, instead of doing it as the emails come in, put aside a time each day, say 4pm and reply to the emails that have come in. Your clients/suppliers/friends will all start to get use to your calendar and know that you will ring them back, straight after lunch, or reply to their email at 4pm each day.
Something random that you don’t do all the time comes up, schedule it, have a time each day that you attend to ‘odd jobs’ and put it in that timeslot.
But most importantly ALL work should be put on your calendar, every job that comes in needs to be scheduled on your calendar. Get into the habit, so if it isn’t on your calendar then you will forget about it. When someone contacts you about doing work, you can be firm with them and not overbook yourself, because your calendar is in front of you. No, sorry I can’t do that tomorrow at 2, but I do have 3pm available. Clients understand that you are busy and even though they believe their work is the most important work in the world, they do understand and appreciate it if you sound organised and schedule their work for a certain time and get it done then.
If you run a calendar then you MUST be firm with your clients. They must understand that the way you keep on top of your work is by scheduling everything, even the little things like, emails, bookkeeping, ordering of parts. And by getting into the habit of doing things the same time every day things start to not be lost in the system somewhere and you start to feel in control.
Creating Manilla folders
Calendars are great for scheduling work, keeping basic notes on what projects you are working on, but what if you need some more in-depth information?
Mechanics use job cards to track each job they have on every day, a car is booked in on the calendar and then a job card is written which contains all the information about that car and what is needs to be done to it. That job card is active until the work is finished and the owner has been invoiced and picked the car up.
I have a client who is a refrigeration mechanic. He writes all his appointments into his diary and then he has an invoice book where he writes instructions to himself. So for every job that is written in the diary an invoice is started, it states the name of the client, the address, the make and model of the appliance, the fault reported at the time of the call. Once the job is completed he writes the details of the repair, the costing of parts and labour and then gives the customer a copy and he keeps a copy.
It all seems really simple doesn’t it. But what if you don’t use job cards or prefilled invoices? And what about the things that are on your To Do List that you have also scheduled into you calendar? The bookkeeping, the emails, the phone calls. How is all of the information for that kept in the one place for you to go back to time and time again?
This is where Manilla Folders come in handy. For every project you have running, for anything on your to do list, if you have a Manilla folder made up and sitting in a stand waiting to be accessed then you would forget very little.
Job cards work well for Mechanics, prefilled Invoices work well for Refrigeration Mechanics and maybe other people as well. But if you have a client / job that isn’t dealt with on the same day or over a few days, then things can get messy.
If you sat down on a Monday Morning to do your bookkeeping and had to spend the whole time searching for everything you needed then the chance of actually getting the work done would be slim. But what if you during the week every time you received a bill or purchased something and got a receipt, or opened the mail and received bank statements, that you put all this into a Manilla folder. Then it comes around to Monday morning and all you have to do it pull out that Manilla folder and start your bookkeeping.
Or you had a sheet printed out and every time you received a phone call that didn’t take two seconds to deal with you wrote their name and phone number and a brief description on what they wanted to talk to you about, then you kept the sheet was kept in a Manilla folder marked ‘Phone Calls to Return’. Later when it was scheduled, you would grab out the Manilla Folder and could call them back.
Or you were a Graphic Designer, you have someone ring you and organise a time to meet over doing their design work, you create a Manilla folder for them; write down the business details and what they were looking for. When you meet with them you take the folder with you and you put in any sketches you do for them, any samples of things they give you etc etc. When you get back to the office that Manilla folder stays in the rack as active until you complete it.
Everything is scheduled and everything is in the one place, less chance for you to forget things and more chance of you being organised and in control.
I would love to hear from you about how you keep track of your jobs/projects and how you use your diary/calendar effectively.
I have attached a copy of the sheet you could use for your phone calls.