Most entrepreneurs run a very tight business, keeping the administrative costs as low as possible and devoting all their funds to the marketing and product development side of their business. This is the right thing to do. But administrative tasks and task management can become overwhelming. You need the right organizational systems in place to keep all your responsibilities and priorities visible and manageable.
I’m often asked what I use personally for organizational systems. In fact, the system that I use is used by my whole organization and it’s also used by many of our clients. I’m sharing it to give you an idea of a tried-and-true system that you could implement as-is, or if you don’t prefer these specific tools, a concept of how you can assemble a strong organizational system for yourself.
1. Google Apps for email, calendar, etc. Partly because it’s such a good email system, partly because it’s so fantastic for collaboration with other members of your organization, and partly because it integrates with so many 3rd party apps and can be used on any mobile device. $50/user/year.
2. Capsule CRM. Integrates tightly with Google Apps. Stores all customer email communication and makes all that info visible to everyone in the organization. This eliminates the problem of having vital customer information trapped in someone else’s email box. It also eliminates the need to copy everyone on a bunch of emails.
While in an email from a customer you can save the email to Capsule, initiate a task with a due date, assign the task to another member of your organization, etc. Capsule also manages all your contacts, so if you change any contact information in Capsule, it pushes the changes to the individual Gmail accounts so that the information is synced on mobile devices.
Capsule also has a lot of features for creating “standard” to-do lists for things like follow-up after a trade show, new customer orientation, etc., and it integrates nicely with MailChimp and many other online and email marketing systems. $12/user/month.
3. Astrid. While most “to-dos” are related to customer requirements (and can be captured and managed in Capsule), not all of them are. For the rest, I use Astrid. Also a tight integration with Google Apps, available from any mobile device. (Free or very inexpensive Pro program. I haven’t had the need to upgrade to the paid version – the free version is excellent).
Astrid is also my go-to program when I’m on the run. Any task that pops into my head can be entered right into my mobile device (using voice or the keypad).
4. TeamBox for project management (my own projects or client projects). Anything that needs to be detailed as a project – an event plan, a system implementation, preparing for a trade show, a new marketing project – i.e., any list of integrated actions that make up a whole – I put in TeamBox. The individual to-dos from Teambox also show up on my daily calendar. Free for up to 5 simultaneous projects. If you’re managing more projects than that at a time, it’s $25/month for unlimited projects with 1-5 users, and ramps up with the number of users.
5. Every day in my calendar I can see my scheduled meetings/events, my Capsule (customer) to-dos, my TeamBox (project) to-dos, and my Astrid (miscellaneous) to-dos. I can complete them from the calendar without going into the program, but a double-click takes me right into the individual programs.
All of this is cloud-based, so it’s always backed up and visible from anywhere.
That’s my set-up! It sounds like a lot, but I rarely leave my email dashboard in Google for anything. If I have a miscellaneous to-do pop into my head, I hit the Astrid link at the top of the dashboard. If I have a customer to-do, I do it within the email that brought it to my attention. I do set up projects within the TeamBox environment – that’s part of thinking through the project requirements – but then the daily task management shows up right on my Google Apps calendar. So spend my time doing the things that need to be done rather than managing an ever-changing to-do list.
Whatever you decide to use, make sure you have a system in place that requires a minimum of maintenance. You want to spend your time doing the things that make you money – not managing the task lists.