Get to Inbox Zero in an Hour – Part 2

Yesterday I shared how my plan to tackle the inbox was… complicated. Well, today I’m going to finally share how I got back to Inbox Zero or very close to it. I’m spilling all of my tricks here so take good notes, okay?


12:40 pm

Fortified with coffee, slightly damp pants and the desire to not make Monday morning horrible I open up Chrome and my email account. Note: this is my business email, I’ve managed to keep the personal one mostly up to date this week. I use Gmail and share how you can get set up in our free course here.

Get to Inbox Zero in an Hour – Part 1

This is going to be great, I thought, with the self satisfied smirk that comes with a great idea, I can get caught up and show everyone exactly how easy it is to manage email well with our systems. I had the plan: I’ll live blog in one long document my process of clearing out my inbox after a week of vacation.

I was ready. Willing. And then, predictably, chaos.

Lesson 1, I thought to myself, is to get into work mode. You know the one. Where you’re fully dressed, even though it’s the weekend and lazy Sundays were designed for a reason. I put on my watch, because every good business person wears a watch.

Back up Your Business

When it comes to running our businesses, there always seems to be more work than time which is why we often ignore those things that are important but not urgent. Well consider this your wake up call.

At any moment your computer could crash, get hacked, stolen, have a hardware failure… and not only will your business be at risk but, trust me, it’s also very stressful.

Here’s our 3 step system to ensuring all of our business data is protected and accessible.

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Step 1: Use the Cloud

By now everyone has heard of “the cloud” and whether you love it or distrust online storage solutions, they’re here to stay. And cheaper than you could imagine.

If all of your data is on a physical drive such as USB memory drive, external hard drive or computer then check out this comprehensive article on “the cloud” and your options.

But here’s the thing… don’t wait for the perfect solution. Pick one and stick with it. We love Dropbox and it’s new 1TB solution for business is ideal!

Action Step: Sign up for a cloud account just for business and link it to your business computers for easy uploading.

Step 2: Don’t dump files, organize them

The worst thing about a sudden computer crash is that you’re trying to save anything you can and often don’t care where it ends up. This strategy of “throw everything in a bag and go” is like moving by putting ALL of your belongings in a truck and dumping it in the living room of your new place.

No one is going to feel motivated to sort through that mess.

Instead, consider a few of the categories that your files fall into and set up folders, and subfolders, as much as necessary to capture your data. Let me give you an example using our video files:

Main folder: SGS – Videos
Sub folders: SGS – Raw Video Footage, SGS – edited videos, SGS – optimized and final videos

And contracts:

Main folder: SGS – Legal Contracts
Sub folders: SGS – Current client contracts, SGS – Past client contracts, SGS – Team member contracts

Now, that’s what works for me, it’s entirely possible that your brain arranges data much differently so use what works for you.

Action Step: Instead of creating 1,000 folders, make new ones as you move over files from your computer.

Step 3: Put it on auto-pilot or make a date

With some cloud solutions you can enable a regular backup that scans the folders you select and updates any file with the newest version. You’ll want to make sure the syncing doesn’t slow down your computer but that starts getting very technical and out of my depth!

If you would rather not auto-sync your data then make a date. Personally, I love weekly reminders on Friday to update the most recent files and take anything stored exclusively on my computer and move a copy to the cloud.

Note: When I’m doing a lot of copy writing or in the middle of the launch I might do this daily – losing all that work? Sucks.

While the initial migration might feel like a never ending project, once you get it set up maintenance is fairly simple. Best of all is knowing that your business won’t be crippled by losing all of your files.

Action Step: Add an hour or two to your calendar each week (make it recurring for simplicity) to either move files to a new storage solution or maintain the system.

Now, you might be looking at a pile of USB drives and maybe even own an external hard drive and thinking “how does this fit in?”

Bonus Step: Once you’ve got your hard drive handled, going through those USB drives is the next step. Copy anything you still need to the cloud storage.

USB drives are fairly cheap these days so I’ve made it a point to clear and toss any under 1GB (yes I still had a 250MB drive hanging around…) and then save the rest for sending files to the printer in town or for personal use. For example, make copies of loan docs, car titles and your birth certificate and put that drive in a safety deposit box or safe.

USB drives are not ideal storage solutions for your business files.

If you have an external hard drive you might find it’s useful for large file storage, such as all those video heavy courses you purchased and want for reference. After moving all our files to the cloud the 2TB external hard drive will be primary back up for all those personal files and photos.

Action Step: Don’t forget about your personal files and find a solution that you’re comfortable with for those pictures, bank documents and such that are NOT accessible by your team. Your motto here is “don’t cross the streams!”


5 Ways to Save with Your Operations Manual

There isn’t a business owner I know who doesn’t want more time, income or support.

Here are 5 ways that an Operations Manual will save your ass(ets) every single day.

1. Save time remember stuff

Have you ever written one of those beautiful emails, to a lead or client, maybe to an editor, and then lost it in the annuals of your outbox?

Ever created a beautiful campaign, graphic or video and then can’t find it when you need to reference it most?

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Enter the Operations Manual: Instead of spending all your time playing hide and seek with assets in your business, the Operations Manual, which we call a Playbook, is your resource for holding all that genius. So it’s right where you need it, when you need it.

2. Save time teaching others

A great thing about team support is less of your time doing stuff.

A potential downside is more time teaching stuff.

So your Operations Manual is the place not just for reference but teaching materials. Videos showing how a blog post gets published. A checklist for new sponsors. A description of how to fill out an invoice.

All of these things are easily accessible in your Operations Manual so you spend less time teaching and get that free time you wanted when you hired some help.

3. Save money on your team

When it’s easier to train employees you’ll save money.

When you have templates for copy or sales pages or campaigns the experts you hire spend far less time and cost less money to do their jobs.

And every single day those systems are in place your team should be more efficient and thus more effective in their jobs.

4. Save money by reducing refunds

Ever have a refund request because you didn’t deliver something to a client? Ever worry about it?

Systems are not just for how you run your business but how you serve clients. It doesn’t matter what you sell, you need a system. And following those systems because they’re easily accessible in your Operations Manual means happier clients, fewer refunds and more cash in your bank.

5. Save time with support that delivers

Almost every online business owner has experienced a bad VA. And most Virtual Assistants have had bad clients.

Does that mean everyone out there is a bad person? No! It simply means that communication is often the most difficult part of these relationships.

Giving access to your Operations Manual should teach your team member how things are run, what s/he needs to be doing on a regular basis, how things work. Which means you’ll get real support which both saves your time, grows your business and improves quality of life.

Action Step: Set aside 30 minutes this week to work on your latest module from Your Creative Business Playbook.

What to do When Success Means More Work

“This is the best thing ever!” You think as the initial euphoria of closing that big client, getting the media feature or hiring that team member sets in. You’re screaming from the rooftops and overflowing with gratitude and joy and… 10 minutes later reality sets in.

That client is excited and sends 12 emails in an hour.
The speaking opportunity you’re applying for is going to need your media kit asap.
Your new team member is ready for training and your schedule is slammed.

And all of a sudden the success that you’ve been dreaming of is not sipping mojitos from a beach lounger but a burden of more work and responsibility that’s pulling you down from the euphoric high that comes with getting exactly what you wanted.

Here are 3 ways to enjoy your success when you’re stressed:

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1. Don’t stop celebrating
Achieving your goals doesn’t mean work ends and you immediately enter a life of luxury. So while you work on the next steps in your business keep a spirit of gratitude. This is mostly a mindset challenge because you could be thinking “Jeeze, give me 10 minutes before you start harassing me for x, y and z!” Or change your perspective and approach the situation by thinking “I’m grateful that so and so is helping me see that I will need x, y and z prepared. I’ll put these together right away and send them over now.”

Once you get the right mindset you can focus your energy on creative and productive endeavors like completing the worksheet, files or whatever is needed instead of complaining about it. So once it’s done you want to…

2. Document like it’s going out of style
One of the problems with growing your business is that mo’ money, mo’ work. More clients, more management. More team members, more interruptions.

So instead of winging it, document how you do things. When this type of client signs on we send x, y and z. Or when a new team member is hired we request a, b and c.

Create that media packet and save a copy with your intro email and headshot in a folder for the next speaking opportunity that crosses your path.

This doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to do. And don’t wait for the mythical “later” – write it down right now when you’re in the moment and document your process. This will help you with Step 3…

3. Automate to create freedom
really want a picture from Braveheart here… alas. Freedom is more than having income or media exposure or a team, it’s all about whether or not you’re needed on the front line of every emergency.

So systems that automate response or trigger actions are invaluable because they’ll save you time, shortcut the training process (“it happens automagically” is my favorite explanation) and will work where people fail.

Those documents you wrote down are now your “I’m so tired and can’t remember what happens next” checklist. Or what you hand off to an assistant to do for you. Or, better still, the process you automate in a sequence so that purchase —>welcome packet -→ forms to sign → schedule first appointment.

Let’s map that out for a new team member. Hired —>paperwork to complete -→ training packet to read —→ first training call scheduled.

Easy peasy!

Now you can hired 12 people in an afternoon without the paperwork taking a week. Or sign 7 new clients and serve them all efficiently and completely at once.

Best of all is that instead of holding yourself back and not reaching for those opportunities for success, you’ll tackle them head on with the knowledge that you’ll be able to handle anything that comes your way!

Action Step: Choose one area of your business where more success currently means more work and begin your documentation today.