by Michelle Nickolaisen | Featured Contributor
Most creative types hate planning with a fervor normally reserved for dentist visits and cleaning the litterbox. They find it boring, dry, and would generally much rather be doing things than planning them. I get it, I do! An overabundance of planning is definitely not a good thing, but neither is lots of action without focus or direction. Since it’s the beginning of a fresh new year, full of hopes, resolutions, & goals, let’s talk about painless business planning.
1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
Choosing to focus on one project or area for your business can feel suffocating. Juggling many different projects is part of what keeps many creative people going, but at the same time, not having clear priorities is part of what keeps a lot of creative businesses floundering and spinning their wheels.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Choose 1-3 priorities and know what they are at any given time. These can change – I usually have monthly priorities, and then also decide on priorities for each week. This way, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stuck, you can look at your priorities and focus on them instead of taking a bunch of meaningless action.
- Be clear on your next actions for those priorities (more on that in the next tip).
- Give yourself time to work on other projects. Whether it’s at the end of the day when you’ve made all the progress you can on your priorities, or one day a week that’s a “free day” or some combination of the two, unfocused play-work is excellent for productivity and creativity; it’s just not necessarily the best way to do everything all the time.
How do you choose your priorities? A lot of traditional business planning focuses on the long term (5-10 years); since I work mostly with online businesses in areas that are constantly changing, shifting, and evolving, I usually recommend people set priorities based on 1-3 year goals.
2. Break it down
Once you know what your goals are and your priorities as a result of those goals, you need to make sure that you’re constantly breaking those down into small, doable actions. If one of your priorities is “list building”, then some of the categories you’ll be working on will be “guest posting”, “joint venture classes”, and so on; and the actions on your “guest posting” task list will include things like “research potential places to guest post”, “brainstorm guest post topics”, etc.
Some suggestions for breaking your goals down:
- Have a list of tasks that can be done in very short periods of time – 15 minutes or less. It’s a good idea to have all of these in one spot so that when you have a few minutes to spare, you can choose the next thing off the “quickie list” and get it done.
- Make sure to know which tasks are delegate-able and which aren’t. Even if you aren’t currently delegating, it’s a good idea to do this as practice for when you do add team members – it prevents that pesky “I’m paying you but I’m not sure what to tell you to do” scenario that’s so common.
- Again, we’re going for focused work, not work for the sake of work. This means that you need to know exactly how each of your tasks relates back to your larger goal – make sure that each & every single one is actively moving you forward on your goal.
3. Figure out what’s repeatable
“Systematizing your business” can sound really intimidating (and/or bring to mind skeezy corporate types). Really, it’s all about figuring out what you’re doing over and over again, and making sure you’re doing that as effectively as possible (and that you know what that repeating process consists of, so that you don’t get lost along the way). For example, if you’re regularly guest posting, you’ll want to create a guest posting system – even something as simple as a list of what to do, who’s doing it, and when/how often to do it.
Some tips when systematizing:
- Document them! If you’re currently a solopreneur, documenting your systems can seem a bit silly, but it’ll come in handy the next time you go through the actions – you’ll find yourself getting lost less and getting more done in less time. Those documents will also be a massive lifesaver when you start adding team members to your business.
- Go over your systems regularly and fine tune them. You can set aside time to do this once a month or less, depending on how complex your systems are. The idea is to make sure that everything is running as smoothly as possible, that there are no unnecessary steps, and that there’s not any duplication of effort (meaning: two team members aren’t doing the same thing, or you aren’t doing the same thing at two different parts of the process to no extra effect).
(If you’d like to learn more about systematizing your business without boredom or ick, check out my free Systems 101 e-course.)
Business planning is a huge topic, so I can’t cover all of it in just one blog post, but these are my top three tips to make your business planning as easy + painless + effective as possible. Bonus points if your planning process includes colored markers and massive sheets of paper!
Get it Together Guru for Creative Entrepreneurs – Michelle Nickolaisen of Bombchelle Austin, TX
Michelle is a project + operations wrangler for creative businesses, who also writes & teaches about productivity, organization, & systems (that don’t suck) for creatives. She lives in Austin, TX with her Shiba Inu & loves Buffy, dark chocolate, and tacos. Find her on the web at Bombchelle, on Facebook, or on Twitter.
From Michelle’s site: “My name is Michelle, and I’m an expert at finding out how + why something works (and then putting that knowledge to usually-good use), being grade-A curious, & getting things Done with a capital-D. I work with with creatives who have an established business, who are ready to launch something new or who want to go in a new path, who tend to get stuck going from innovation into action. If you’re working with me, you can expect sass + laughter, fun surprises, and lots of action.”