5 Crucial Tips for Keeping Your Business On Track in 2020
Updated: Jan 18
December is a great time to reflect on business strategy. It’s so easy to allow our priorities to get out of whack. Some things are strategically important, but aren’t urgent. Some things are urgent, but aren’t strategically important. Some things you must do yourself, other things can be passed off, and some just don’t need to be done. There are only so many hours in a day, and oh-so-many deadlines to meet. So how do we keep our strategy and priorities on task? Here are 5 crucial tips I’ve learned to keep your business on track in 2020 (and how I totally failed at them).
1. Setting Goals & Priorities
I know, you don’t have time for it—that’s kind of the point. When you devote all your time to the day-to-day stuff, you sacrifice long-terms goals. Make time to sit down with pen and paper and think through: What’s really important to me? Am I actually working on it? How much time should I spend on it? This will set you up to control your schedule, instead of letting it control you.
My Newbie Fail: I didn’t set high-level goals or strategies, I just worked on client projects and randomly decided to make a website and social media accounts. My business didn’t really gain momentum until I put some structure and direction around what I was doing.
“When I had 1 child in my home, I was always “too busy.” Now that I have 4 children in my home, I’m just as busy. I realized my failure to prioritize was preventing me from doing important things—not my circumstances. —Me
2. Weekly and Monthly Planning
Great, I sound like my mother. But she was right—planning is the best way to make sure everything gets done. Get a planner with both monthly and weekly views. Fill in critical due dates on the monthly calendar, and at the beginning of each week, fill in appointments and daily tasks to meet
those due dates. This allows you to make time for strategic tasks and work on important things daily or weekly, rather than last-minute.
My Newbie Fail: I didn’t plan ahead, except for due dates and a general to-do list. Each day I had to decide what I should work on, and it was easy to get off track. I ended up cramming important tasks into the thirteenth hour, which stressed me out, which meant my family had to deal with Mrs. Hyde. ➡️
3. Business Plan
This is one thing that many small businesses don’t have, to their detriment. Once you set out your goals and priorities, you’re halfway to a business plan—so why not finish it with a plan for execution? You can go crazy with these, including hundreds of sections, but this article from Forbes gives 10 essential components, which is a perfect starting point. Begin by outlining a simple plan and adding to it over time.
My Newbie Fail: Naturally, I didn’t have a plan when I began client work, before I even considered becoming a freelancer and business owner. But once I decided to take the plunge, I should have stopped and made a plan. It was the better part of a year until I realized I was operating aimlessly. I now have a plan in place, but I followed my own advice by starting simple. I plan to expand and revise as time goes by.
Pro Tip: Make sure you include a marketing plan!
4. Track Your Time
As a business owner, freelancer, or entrepreneur, you have to quote customers, which means you need to know how long it takes to complete your work. Tracking your time gives you the info needed to price your services and plan (see points 1 and 2). Download a time-tracking app (there are several free ones) and use categories within the projects. Also, take a look back quarterly and yearly to see what you’re spending the most time on… and if that needs to change.
My Newbie Fail: When I started out, I didn’t track my time at all. When I quoted new projects, I had no idea how much to charge. So I guessed… and boy, did I underestimate. I started generic tracking, but I needed granular information to estimate different types of projects. I used good ole’ pen and paper, which took forever to calculate and didn’t provide much analysis. I’ve moved to a free app, Toggl, which provides easy tracking and insightful reporting.
5. Say No
Reality check: you can’t do everything. The more you try, the more you’ll stretch yourself thin. Learning new things and exercising new “muscles” takes time and energy. This is worth it for things that fall within your business plan, and there’s room to experiment in different areas—but it’s important to preserve energy for achieving strategic goals. Before you accept a project or chase an opportunity, ask yourself: Does this line up with my business plan? Is the payout worth the cost to my time? Do I enjoy this work and/or am I good at it? In addition to being good business sense, saying no helps you keep your sanity (which is kind of important).
My Newbie Fail: I said yes to everything that came my way, whether I had time for it or not. I
sought out opportunities that didn’t make sense and often weren’t enjoyable. Then I didn’t have time for my goals, priorities, and strategizing, I was stressed out, and I was humiliated when I had to back out of several of these projects.
Seek the Lord
This one’s (obviously) meant for Christian business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. Seeking the Lord’s will through prayer and scripture is crucial to your business strategy, planning, and execution. You should be working with wisdom (Colossians 4:5-6) and honorable conduct (1 Peter 2:12). You need flexibility and peace to understand that the Lord directs your path (Proverbs 16:9), which allows you to be ready for unexpected opportunities or course corrections. And ultimately, the point of work is to glorify and reflect God’s character (John 5:17, Colossians 3:23).
In case you hadn’t picked up on it, planning, strategy, and prioritizing are pretty important for success and sanity. You’ll notice I didn’t call this piece “5 Quick & Easy Tips,” because they’re not. They may not be fun, but they are crucial to keeping your business on track, which inevitably leads to success. Now’s the time! Schedule a few hours to think about these things. It doesn’t have to be perfect or permanent—just get started and see how much less stress and more success you’ll have.