A Practical Guide to Task Management for Small Businesses : Under30CEO A Practical Guide to Task Management for Small Businesses : Under30CEO
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A Practical Guide to Task Management for Small Businesses

| June 16, 2013 | 9 Comments

Small Business Task ManagementAre you worried about your accounting or keep forgetting those good ideas that come up from time to time? You’re probably one of the countless entrepreneurs lacking a solid routine for information storage and project processing. By applying a simple process-based approach to managing your projects on all levels, your productivity level is likely to skyrocket.

Step #1 – Store your ideas / “things to do”

Good and bad ideas up in an entrepreneurial mind all the time. So do worries about things that have to be done or projects that aren’t moving forward as well as planned. The amount of data we process in our brains on a daily basis is too large for “instant actions”. Instead, we need to continuously store our ideas and things we need to do for future reference and implementation in a step-by-step action plan.

1        Create an “Ideas / Things to do” spreadsheet

2        Create categories to separate ideas related to different aspects of your business (i.e. finance, business development, marketing, product development, etc.)

3        Create sub-categories (i.e. SEO, Adwords in the marketing category)

4        Start writing down ideas and list things you need to do (i.e. “Create MailChimp Newsletter”)

Step #2 – Weekly selection

Every Sunday evening, I review my “ideas / things to do” file and pick a few that I consider to be important. Personally, I tend to avoid working with long-term deadlines and set the deadline for next Friday (5  days later). This way, I can keep a laser focus on a few important projects at a time instead of working with too many, which can be very frustrating.

1        Select a number of ideas from your “Ideas / Things to do” spreadsheet

2        Create a  new Project Plan Folder (one for each category)

3        Create a new spreadsheet (one for each project related to the category)

Step #3 – Turn your projects into an actionable task list

Let’s assume that you want to set up a MailChimp Newsletter. The problem is that you can’t just “set up” a MailChimp Newsletter. It’s a process that requires implementation on the website, customization of the newsletter sign-up forms and writing confirmation email templates among other tasks. A rule I keep is that I never work with undefined “projects” and always break down even the smallest objective into a number of tasks that I need to execute in order to accomplish a milestone.

1        Identify key issues (i.e. “How do I set up MailChimp on my WordPress site?”

2        Identify milestones (i.e. “MailChimp form integrated on my WordPress site”)

3        Identify all tasks required to solve a key issue and reach a milestone

4        Set task deadlines

Tools

Google Drive

Since I’m working on line, I prefer to store and process information on line rather than using pen and paper. Google Drive is a :freemium” cloud storage service that also has a built-in “office package” complete with spreadsheets, folders and documents. Google Drive can be reached from anywhere, which is a huge benefit since I can write down my ideas as they come, instead of waiting until I’m back in my office.

My Google Drive task management structure:

1        Ideas / To Do Spreadsheet (in Google Drive root folder)

2        Category Folder (i.e. Business Development)

3        Project Plan Spreadsheet (i.e. Online Marketing)

4        Project Plan Plan Spreadsheet Subcategory (i.e. MailChimp)

5        Task List

Evernote

Opening a spreadsheet hidden multiple layers of folders in Google Drive is not always convenient when storing ideas “on the go”. Evernote is a free app that’s perfect for taking notes anywhere with one tap on the screen.  Personally I only use Evernote as a tool for temporary storage and keep a strict routine to move all the data into the Google Drive Spreadsheets during my weekly review. I know that I’m less stressed when all work/life related stuff can be found at the same place.

Other suggestions

  • Highlight a task with a color and write down the date. You’ll be more motivated when you can see exactly what has been accomplished during the week.
  • Your processing system doesn’t have to be limited to business-related projects. In fact, you’ll get better results if you include projects and things to do that are related to your private life as well. The more you can unload your mind, the less stressed you’ll be and the better you’ll become at focusing on what really matters.
  • The system won’t work if you don’t respect it and start to skip deadlines and stop turning your ideas into actionable tasks. The system cannot manage itself and it shall be the core of your work/life routine.

It does require discipline to maintain a well functioning Task Management System. But the benefits are huge for small business owners; this is a fast track to greatly improving your productivity and reduce stress. You can only feel relaxed when you are in control and your projects move forward – and you can only be productive when you are relaxed enough to keep a laser focus on your daily work

Fredrik Groenkvist is the Co-Founder of ChinaImportal.com, a Shanghai based information services company who provides startups and small businesses with an online system for managing production in Asia.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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Category: Entrepreneurship, Startup Advice

  • Eileen

    Asana Task Management has proven to be a great tool for my business.

  • Fred

    I would also recommend you to use Azendoo as a Task Management app. And it’s integrated to Evernote

  • wurzy05

    Great Idea’s but would have suggest free Project Management programs like Asana, Trello or Insightly versus a spreadsheet. Or at the least Google Tasks if you’re using Google Drive.

  • http://www.callbox.com.my/ Christine Steffensen

    So right! Having a to do list and crossing out those finished tasks is an effective way of ensuring that you’ll get to meet your deadlines. Thanks for tools listed above. I sure agree with Evernote, I’m currently using it. :)

  • http://about.me/annakaliska Kala

    You should also check out SmartGTD app based on GTD methodology. App works great with Evernote and many other tools :)

  • Phick Steven

    I would like to suggest Replicon for the task management software. The most wonderful and trusted tools as far.

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  • guptaabhijit318

    Excellent as well extremely helpful post. The information in this article is really unique and helpful for me. After reading this article, I have some ideas for myself. I am following your articles recently. Thanks for sharing this post.

  • Arlen Mark

    I would also recommend you to use proofhub.com as a project management tool. Integrated with Google drive and drop box. Simple, intuitive and feature rich.