You know you need to get your online business organized but feeling absolutely overwhelmed? Knowing how to organize your online business starts with knowing what areas to focus on and then having a variety of ideas on how to make it happen.
No online business is the same just like no business owner is the same. Organizing your business online does not have to be as challenging as you think. Really. You just need the right approach for you.
Read my complete guide and get your online business organized at last. It will save you so much time later. (Plus get my free downloadable organize your online business worksheet.)
Two Roads Diverge To Organize Your Online Business
This is not a Robert Frost poem and there are many paths to organize your online business but I suggest you start one of two ways to beat the overwhelm to organize your online business at last.
- Start with the most disorganized area of your business and whip it into shape. Then it will all feel easier from there. Or…
- Start with the area you think will be easiest to organize for a quick win and then build momentum.
Take whichever path you think will make you feel the best and help you stick with it.
I’ve included a lot of information, videos, and different ways to plan and organize in this post with videos and tips from other entrepreneurs. This is not so you try to use every single tip. Everything will not work for you but some will. The point is to help you find the systems that you can work with and use to meet your goals.
Key Areas To Organize Your Online Business
Here are the key areas we will focus on organizing:
There are many factors in business and life success. And let’s be honest, we can not control a lot of things. But, something we all get the same amount of is time.
Being wise with our time is not just about the hours, it is also about our energy and our focus.
Maybe you just want to dive right into the practical, actionable tips, but I ask you to take a moment and ask yourself,
Why is good time management important to me?
How would your life be different if you better managed your time? Would your business grow faster? Would you have more time for family, friends, a hobby? More time to help, give back, do something you love? More time to relax and just be? How Would you feel as a person?
This is important to reflect on because it does take time and energy upfront to build and maintain systems, but the reward of more time freedom and less stress later is so worth it.
Make a plan and work the plan.
You can do this however works for you. A physical planner, a digital one, a printable calendar or digital one, or in a project management system like Trello (my personal favorite). Or a combination.
Track Where You Are Currently
Before you create your plan, evaluate how you are currently using your time. You can do this by simply writing down what you’re spending time on and how long throughout your work day. Or you could use an online tracking software. If you use a smart device like an iPad, you can also view the screen time summary.
Dorie Clark wrote a post for HBR about how beneficial 30 days of time tracking was for her. But 30 days can feel a bit overwhelming. Start with a week. I bet you will be surprised at just how much time you can save with some simple tweaks.
You may even find yourself adjusting what you’re spending time on just because you have to track it. It’s getting real!
Here’s the 10 Best Time Tracking Apps according to Zapier.
Once you know what activities are taking the most of your time, you can evaluate if the time spent on them is reasonable or needs improvement.
Now Figure Out Where You Are Going
Here’s where you make adjustments and review your “To Dos.” Personally, I find it so satisfying to check stuff off of a To Do list that I tend to get my list done even if it is not scheduled. But actually scheduling your To Dos with a real date and time makes it so much more likely that you will get them done.
I have a week board on Trello that allows me to just drag my To Dos over to a day and time block. I like to brainstorm the the things I need to get done for the week, put them on This Week’s Priorities card, and then drag them to the appropriate day and time block.
But you can do this with whatever planner you use.
Think about any appointments, meetings, holidays, family obligations and go ahead and schedule those in as well.
Remember, I mentioned that it is not just about time management but your energy and focus too?
You will want to schedule more creative tasks for when you work best and feel the best and the more mundane tasks at times when you know you will likely be tired and unmotivated.
Think about scheduling in activities that will boost your energy throughout the day too like a quick workout or walk outside.
This is not about packing something into every single minute. In fact, schedule in some space for yourself. Things happen and you need time to just be too. The morning is a great time to reflect before you “Hit the deck running” as my college dean used to say.
What if, instead of reaching for our phone, we grabbed our morning coffee, cleared our head and made a plan specifying exactly what we needed to achieve that day to make it a successful day? The data says that we’d be far happier and more productive if we took that simple reflecting step instead of checking email. Mark Murphy, Forbes
These 12-Minute Reflection Exercises Could Nearly Double Your Productivity And Happinesss
Time management can give you more freedom, not less if you do it right.
Schedule in the things you need to get done to move forward. That’s the key- the things that actually move you and your business forward, not the time sucks that get you no where. And schedule in the things you want to do too.
Remember that your life, business, and activities will change. Just keep tweaking and adjusting as needed.
Apps and Websites
Once upon a time I had a floppy disk.
If you are younger than me, you may not even know what that is. A ski game where you attempted to dodge all the trees and rocks was the extent of my computer usage.
Remember this friend?
Well those days are long gone and now digital clutter is a real thing. Now we have so much access to information online, on our computers, and smart devices. It’s marvelous really. But it can also be an overwhelming amount of chaos.
Digital clutter can cause stress to your mind just like the physical clutter in your home and office. Digital clutter can also clutter our brains in a way that makes us less productive and creative.
With devices getting smaller and their capacities larger we can easily become digital hoarders.
So now is the time to look through your apps and decide what ones you really need. If there are apps that you use very rarely, you may want to delete them and just re-download them as needed.
Also explore better alternatives. Maybe you are using multiple apps to accomplish a task when one newer app would do.
Consider sorting your apps into groups aka digital folders for different areas of your life.
App Grouping Ideas:
Place your most used apps at the top of your device for easy access.
If you are using the apps and they are adding value to your life and business then by all means keep them. Just be intentional and choose.
We all know that Bookmarks section on our browsers is like a black hole. A resource I’m really loving for better organizing online websites and apps and work with Focus is Idenati.
It helps you create an organized digital command center that works for you. I have a whole post about it here: How To Create A Digital Command Center for Better Focus
Let’s talk computer files and physical files. I know it is not the most attractive topic, but it is important stuff to sort out.
Having just cleaned out a rather large bag of old paperwork from the office, I know the overwhelm and pain that documents can create. But also the joy of letting old stuff go that you are no longer working on.
If you digitize your physical documents you may not need much room. A simple file box could do. If you need more room for physical files, consider a file cabinet. There are some really lovely ones out there now that can beautify your space too.
In those file boxes or cabinets you can put hanging dividers each representing a main section with a label and then you can place your related folders into each of those sections.
On your computer or online in Google Docs you can do essentially the same thing. Creating main sections and subsections as needed just with digital folders instead.
This helps with email too which we will get into next.
You may not want to take the time to file every single thing when you get it so have a specific place to collect papers that need to be filed and schedule time once a week to take care of it. Trays or racks are a nice dropping point for papers until you are ready to file. But stick to your weekly schedule or it will just become another area of clutter.
I love Cloud Based storage like Google Drive. But this too can become a mess. Google Drive works great for me as I also use Google Docs for client work and blog content. I pay $1.99 per month for extra Google Cloud Storage so I have plenty of room for my photos, documents, and files. I love the automatic backups. If you have lost your work on a document before you know how devastating that can be.
I like Jason’s video on organizing your digital files with Google Drive.
Jason added a folder for old projects so they are not mixed in with what you are currently working on but still available if needed. Also a separate folder for public projects.
He added folders within the main folders to store files needed for each aspect of business. This system can be adapted to what you need. Within team files, Jason has a tutorial video available so any new team members can get on board fast which is great. Systems and processes take time to set up in the beginning but save so much time later explaining, answering questions, finding what you need, etc. When you organize your online business at the beginning you will be so thankful when things get more busy.
As you grow, you can just keep adding on and adjusting. Start organizing as soon as possible because the more you grow and the more content you create the bigger mess to sort out later.
Email is another area in your business that can quickly get out of control. You can use a service like Unroll.me to see a list of your subscriptions and unsubscribe from everything you no longer need.
Personally, I have 4 yes 4 email accounts and things can get pretty crazy and I have been way too obsessed with checking emails multiple times a day and let me tell you, it is just not necessary. Days when I am out and cannot check my email, guess what? The world does not end. Nothing happens bad at all. Don’t let email take over your life.
If you use Gmail like myself, you can control the inbox overload with filters and labels. Here’s how…
You can clear your email by deleting any emails you do not need and archiving others that you do not need now. Unsubscribe from anything no longer serving you. Then organize with filters and labels.
There is also a plugin for gmail called Boomerang that allows you to have certain emails come into your inbox at a better time for you. You can also schedule emails for later and it has an AI assistant that helps you write better emails.
Simpletivity has a nice video on how to create labels and filters in Gmail.
Filters help get certain messages out of your main inbox into their own category for less clutter and more focus. Maybe you have the same clients that email you, you could filter all client emails to go to a client label. You can do this with automated emails you need to keep, newsletters, etc.
Using the label colors is a great way to make your emails stand out. You can create a color coding system for yourself so you know what color goes with a category/label of emails.
Once systems are in place, it is important to still not overcheck your inbox. As Steve says, it can take up to 23 minutes to get back into a state of productivity after we have lost our focus so diving into that inbox multiple times a day can waste a large amount of time.
I just signed up for Steve’s free Inbox Zero mini course myself. For each email commit to taking one of these actions:
I also like Steve’s advice to use Slack or a communication platform instead of email to communicate with your team. This can work with clients too to greatly reduce the emails in your inbox and help you see important messages without them getting buried.
Social Media and Content
Aww. Social media. So many platforms, so little time. If you have been around here a while you may know I am a big proponent of focusing on less social media platforms with higher quality of output. My main one right now is Pinterest and I use Tailwind to help me with that.
But whatever social media platforms you decide to use for your business, it is a good idea to get organized and know what content is going out and when. I’m using Time Saving Templates to help with this process because it was just so overwhelming in the past.
I’ve talked before about my Ivory Mix Marketing planner Trello board. I love it. I have a full post on my social media workflow in the works, so stay tuned, but basically I have created a process for myself with that Marketing planner. I plan the coming month’s content by reviewing both fun and international holidays, what blog posts are coming up, what posts I want to re-share, and create social media content around those in Canva.
As social media is not my main focus at the moment, I’m working more on blog SEO, I create weekly not daily content.
The content has due dates and I move them over to Done once published.
You can organize your social media content in Google Drive also as shown in Jason’s Google video.
There are many ways to organize social media content so just find a way that works for you. The key is to have templates and a system. To not allow it to happen haphazardly or it will just be so time-consuming and stressful.
Latasha James talks about how she develops a social media strategy as a social media manager in this video. These are great tips about getting clarity even if you are just managing your own social media.
You have to have a goal or you don’t know where you are going. You need specific numbers or a way to quantify when they goals have been met.
Know your avatar- the person you are trying to reach with your content. This is always good to review before you start creating content to make sure it is focused and targeted.
Create your social media content calendar, create the content, and then schedule the content to go. Also schedule time to check back in with the content to respond to any comments or questions.
How to get it done:
In the video, Erin talks about planning and workflow which we will get into more next.
I’m all about using templates, presets, and professional stock photos because they save so much time!
Kimberly has a nice “Napkin Content Strategy” to get an overall content plan fast.
We have already hit on planning in some of the other sections but here we will focus more on a total content plan and business plan.
I like this video by Gillian because I also started without money and without a clue what I was going to do. But I knew I wanted to learn to work online because I was moving abroad and needed a mobile job.
I started learning and fumbling around with no real plan or focus. The name Immensely Social here on the blog came to be because I started in social media management. I have done freelance writing and other things. But have struggled for years. It took me a long time to figure out how truly valuable focus is and a plan. So don’t waste time like I did.
Get a plan.
You can always adjust and grow as needed.
Gillian’s Business Plan suggestions:
- Production and Delivery
Even if you have been in business for quite some time, writing a business plan can be a great way to regain focus and review any areas that need adjusting.
Maybe you saw Erin uses Asana for her planning. I love Trello and Google Suite for all my business planning. I use it for editorial calendars, social media, blogging courses, and more. Others like Notion, digital planners, or physical planners. Find a project management system that works for you even if it is a paper planner. Watch some YouTube tutorials to get the most out of whatever system you choose.
To learn Trello I took a course called Trello For Business by Abagail and Emily of Boss Project. They gave me ready to go biz boards that helped me understand how Trello works fast.
Remember, often less is more when you organize your online business. The more simple the system the better.
Krist uses Notion and has some great tips:
Being able to move stuff around is one of the things that I love about digital planning in Trello too like Krist said. Where I live abroad, things take quite a bit longer than expected when I go out and schedules can get very delayed. I don’t like have things scribbled out in a paper planner. With Trello I can just change dates and move things over. Though I do still love paper planners too.
Planning, content creation, and the things we have already talked about can be part of your workflow. But, I wanted to separate this out to share what exactly a workflow is and how you can create and use them because they can be life changing.
A workflow is simply the way you work and get stuff done, your process. But by actually putting focus on how you get certain things done, you can create systems and templates to do it better and faster and consistently again and again.
Workflows are a great way to organize your online business.
You could have a blogging workflow that involves writing, editing, graphics creation, etc. A video workflow that involves scripting, finding props, filming, editing, and more. You could even have a client workflow that involves onboarding, project work, editing, and invoicing.
So how do you create an effective workflow?
Look at the resources you have- your project management system, equipment, platforms, etc. List out what you need to get done and who needs to do it- some tasks can be delegated. Work your projects and document the steps you take. Review. Is the process effective? Does anything need to be changed? Make any needed changes and document again whether in a Trello board, in a document, or chart.
You just created a workflow that you can use again and again.
This is important for a couple of reasons- sometimes even when we do something often we forget little steps that are important. A workflow helps us make sure every step is completed. Another reason is even if you do not have a team yet, it will be so much easier to delegate tasks later if an effective workflow is already in place.
Here is a monthly content planning workflow example from my Ivory Mix Marketing Planner
I am not an accountant and this section is in no way meant as financial advice. Here I just want to share some resources with you to help you organize online business finances.
I use Quickbooks self-employed to manage my online businesses finances along with Mint and PayPal. I hear FreshBooks is also great for small business owners. Ashlyn has a workflow for managing finances which is a great idea to stay consistent and on top of things.
If you are the one managing both your home/personal finances and your business finances it can be a challenge.
Steps from Ashlyn:
I have taken one of Shanna Skidmore’s courses also. She focuses on creative business with intention and has some great info. I think her sister is a small business accountant.
Ashlyn mentions SteadfastBookkeeping which I have not personally used but looks like a great resource and team.
And also important, how to pay yourself…something I have failed at so hard.
Like we talked about in the beginning, organizing all areas of your business can be overwhelming. Save this post, Pin it, Bookmark it so you can come back and just take things category by category. It will be so worth it in the end.
Visit the Resources page for more productivity and organizing your online business resources.
Have a tip to share with our community to help organize your online business? Leave it in the comments!
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