Creating a Foolproof System for Just About Everything

Over and over again I hear the same tired excuse from people that they just don’t have enough time… “Oh I’d love to blog more but I just can’t find the time…”, “I can’t possibly reply to all my emails, I just get too many…”, “Yeah I’d love to take a holiday/work on a personal project/spend more time with my loved ones, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day…”

Now forgive me as this is probably going to irritate you but seriously? Let’s cut the crap. Yes when you run your own business free time can be a luxury, and finding extra time is difficult, but if you really really want to do something then you’ll find it. Be honest with yourself now – is it really lack of time or lack of effort that you’re suffering from?

No one is telling you that you have to blog/reply to all your emails/take a break/do a personal project/edit a wedding in two days/turn around design commissions in a week etc etc, and if you don’t want to then fine… so let it go and stop making excuses. But if you do want to make some changes then stop blaming the imaginary time stealing fairy, take some responsibility and prioritise!

OK so now I’ve beaten that out of you, how exactly does one regain control and get things done? Well, in a nutshell, to feel in control of your business you need to keep on top of your work as much as possible. That may sound totally obvious and easier said than done but honestly, it really doesn’t have to be that hard. It’s easy to be in control if you create a system and stick to it. Set up a process for anything and everything that needs constant attention. Emails, social media, editing, bookkeeping, blogging… basically anything that you have to tackle on a regular basis.

Email

Oh the dreaded inbox. A source of such joy (Enquiries! New opportunities! Messages of love!) but also such stress (1057 unread emails, arrgh!) So how do you keep on top of it all?

I get between 200 and 300 emails a day. And yes, every one gets a reply, usually within 48 hours. So am I some kind of mutant fast-typing superwoman? Er no… but what I am is strict with myself and in lieu of superhuman speedy fingers I have a plethora of templates at my disposal.

I figured out pretty early on that a) I couldn’t possibly write custom replies for every email I receive and b) that the majority of the emails I get fall into similar categories – i.e. submissions, advertising enquires, press releases/crap from PR companies, and questions from my readers. So I wrote draft replies for each of these options (and the potential follow up emails) which I can send back to each email that comes in with seven mouse clicks or less (yep, I counted…) and BAM! Done!

Of course there are some messages that don’t fit into these drafts (namely when readers ask for advice) but honestly… that’s probably less than 10% of the emails I receive. If you don’t have any draft replies in place, do it. Do it now!

Do I wish I could send in depth replies who everyone to sends me an email? Of course. Is there anyway I could physically do that whist simultaneously completing every other task I have to do on a daily basis? Christ, no. But you know what? I just have to let that go. My feeling on the matter is that people (especially if they’re sending me a submission) would rather get a template reply which answers their query as soon as possible over waiting days or even weeks for an eloquently written and personalised retort.

Emails can be a massive time suck but they don’t have to be. I usually tackle my inbox first thing in the morning, for about an hour. Then, if I have the rest of my work completed, again for about an hour mid-afternoon. It’s not the most exciting part of my job but it is definitely one of the most important.