Lets talk about working smarter not harder

Aug 11, 2011 by

Post-it notes

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I had an interesting conversation on Twitter recently with someone who wants to outsource but their business isn’t quite at a point where they feel they can afford to.  Now there are two ways of looking at this, one being can you afford not to outsource?

Can you really handle everything yourself, is it worth working all the hours and making yourself ill? Bearing in mind if you’re ill then no one will be doing the work and your income will probably dry up.  But outsourcing is a different subject for another day and has already been mentioned on here before.

If you find you don’t have time to do everything yourself or money to spare to outsource it, then have a look at what you are doing, what systems you are using. It could be you come from a corporate background and are used to someone doing things for you, or you have had the benefit of bespoke systems to work with and feel you can’t avoid working with pen and paper without them.

Lets talk about working smarter!

Why do you have a paper list of things to do, of notes, and the like. I read somewhere recently that a piece of paper on your desk distracts you up to five times a day. That’s not productive. You can’t take those bits of paper with you everywhere you go can you.  So here are my top tools for helping you work smarter.


How do I describe Evernote? It’s like a filofax on steroids or a filing cabinet in your pocket! It’s one of the first things I add to any new machine, and works and syncs with your pc, laptop, tablet or smart phone.  Imagine thousands of post it notes all over your desk, gather them all up and put them together and you have Evernote.

Evernote is capable of much more than I use it for, and I use it daily. It’s an electronic filing cabinet which you can separate into different notebooks. For example one notebook could be called personal, another business, or marketing, etc.  You can then create individual notes within those notebooks so think of the notebook as the filing cabinet drawer and then the notes as the pieces of paper you would keep in there.

Evermote allows you to make audio notes (perfect for those of you who have great ideas in the middle of the night and have the phone at your bedside), typed notes, you can enter urls, screenshots, Evernote makes an excellent screen capture tool as you can specify exactly what part of the image is clipped.

No matter where you install Evernote it syncs across your devices. This means that whichever device you are on your information is there.  If you have the premium account then it syncs even when you are not connected to the internet, if regular version you can specify favourites so these will appear even if you haven’t got internet access at the time.  I went premium at the beginning of the year and its worth its weight to me.

What sort of things can you make notes on? Well I have all those little snippets of information that you put somewhere safe and forget, I record my insurance numbers, passport numbers, expiry numbers, coded log in details, even useful wordpress plug ins or html snippets.

I could fill a whole post on how wonderful Evernote is but I have other tools to share, check out Evernote for free today


Xero is not just cloud accounting, its showing you a snapshot of your business, as a business owner you must know the state of your business in order to manage it effectively. It’s no good getting a report once a month thats out of date by the time you get it, with Xero you can see who owes you, what you owe and your P&L in seconds. Even if you choose not to do your own books you need to know this information and have access to it daily.  Because of the ingenious bank feeds and reconciliation the time you spend doing the books is greatly reduced. With repeating invoicing saving you time on those regular invoices each month, to the copy invoice helping you make sure you don’t forget to invoice the balance when you invoice the deposit, to the flexible invoice templates.  One of my team swears Xero taught her bookkeeping by stealth, it’s too simple a system to feel like bookkeeping, and you can grant your accountant or bookkeeper access so they can keep an eye on it as well.

Bookkeeping is probably one of the most common pains we find for small business owners, but it really needn’t be.  Simply switch to a system that puts you back in the driving seat and it stops being  a chore.


You’ve left corporate land and the bespoke CRM, it doesn’t mean you have to revert to Outlook and a task list and note book.  CapsuleCRM is a simple cloud based CRM system that is hugely popular with its users, you only have to look at my Twitter stream to see how many advocates it has.  From creating your database through its simple import process, no complicated import system here, to helping you keep on top of your task list, sales pipeline and projects CapsuleCRM has it all. It integrates with Xero, so immediately cut out data duplication, and can see from within CapsuleCRM what the financial situation and history is on a particular contact. It has social media integration, linking your contact with their Twitter account, blog, website, phone, skype, LinkedIn profile and Facebook page.  Everything you need is there in front of you.

It’s a simple system to learn, but a powerful system to use.  It also integrates with MailChimp, allowing you to monitor the marketing activity on an individual contact record, did they receive the newsletter, open it or click on it, and also add them to your MailChimp list without having to leave your CRM.

The email dropbox and website contact form integration make it easy to record contact in the contact history without any extra effort on your part, and the Google Apps integration goes one step further, allowing you to add tasks, emails and the like to your contact record from within Gmail itself.

You can sign up for a free CapsuleCRM account for up to 2 users/200 contacts which makes an excellent trial and just upgrade when and if you are ready.

The key thing with the systems mentioned above is that they will grow and evolve with your business, they will not just act as make do tools for now.  You may be in the early days of your business but you should be looking at implementing processes and systems that will grow as your business grows, not systems that will hamper your growth in the future.

These systems will also allow you to collaborate with others when you are ready to outsource as they allow you to share the system with other users.  All of them are accessible via your smartphone or tablet so there is no excuse for not being able to access your data when you are out and about (I’m assuming you are using a smartphone already, it’s one of the most vital tools in your toolkit atfer all).

Are you just working to get by right now, or are you looking to the future, working smarter now so that as your business grows, your systems and processes evolve with it?



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1 Comment

  1. (I think) it was Peter Drucker who said (something along the lines of)
    “No point doing well something that does not need doing at all”

    In other words, I could outsource the counting of paperclips quite easily but that doesn’t need doing very often…


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