Creating systems and processes for your business and personal life is one of the most powerful and productive things you could do for yourself. Individuals with organized systems are better able to delegate tasks and communicate with the people in their lives about how to get things done.
As a creative entrepreneur, you want to live a creative lifestyle and spend your days making the things that bring you the most joy. But you also know you have responsibilities and you have things you need to get done in your small business.
I have good news for you! You can absolutely live a creative life and a productive life at the same time. The secret is systems.
Living a creative lifestyle will come much more easily when you develop the right systems. Creating systems for your life and your creative business will help you get more done and have more time to do the things you love doing.
What Are Systems?
A system is a series of steps that you go through the same way every time you do a task. This standardized process helps you reach the same result every time. It ensures quality and efficiency.
Systems can be complex processes you use in your business, or they can be simple routines that you use in your daily life. We develop many of the systems we already have in our lives so naturally that we don’t even notice them.
However, if you really want to tap into the incredible power of systems, you must build them intentionally. When developing your systems, be mindful of the goals you want to reach and the timelines you have set for yourself to reach those goals.
Using systems mindfully will help you reach your goals faster. It will also help you delegate the tasks you would rather leave to someone else and better communicate how you want them done.
Systems will help you eliminate the feeling that you have to do everything yourself and give you the freedom to focus your time on the things you most enjoy.
Steps to Creating Systems
There are 4 simple steps to creating systems. (Well, 5 if you include the “pre-step” of refining your goals.)
If you need help narrowing down your business goals, check out my post about Setting Achievable Goals That Actually Motivate You. After you have decided on the goals you want to focus on, then you can begin creating your systems using these 4 steps.
- Step 1 – Make a list. Brainstorm and list out all the tasks that need to be completed.
- Step 2 – Write down the steps required to complete those tasks.
- Step 3 – Write out a detailed description of each step.
- Step 4 – Incorporate checks and balances into the systems to add accountability.
An important factor that many people overlook is that systems need to be recorded. You can write them down or detail them in a video. But until you record them, those systems will always be fluid and at the mercy of your memory.
I recommend writing down your systems first and refining them on paper before you teach them to someone else. Then, if you prefer video systems, you can record your videos once the system has been fully validated.
Now, let’s look at how you can apply these 4 steps to your creative business and to your everyday life.
Creating Systems and Processes For Small Business
Creating systems and processes for your business is a little more complicated than creating them for your everyday life. Your systems need to reflect your business goals and help you reach those goals. These systems will also need to be honed and tested thoroughly, and recorded in greater detail since you may have to teach them to multiple people.
Systems are important in business because they ensure quality control in your processes. Once you begin to hire help and delegate tasks, systems will ensure that these tasks are performed to the standards that you and your customers expect.
Follow these 4 steps to create systems and processes for your small business:
Step 1 – Make a List
Brainstorm all the different tasks that you perform in your business regularly. Write all the tasks you can think of that need to be done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Give extra focus to the tasks that you find the least exciting. These are the tasks you will probably want to delegate one day, and should have a detailed system in place for when you pass them off to the next person.
Some things on your list might include: Order supplies, update social media accounts, send out customer orders, clean up work space, write blog posts, update expense spreadsheet, check and respond to messages, edit photos and videos, check on marketing campaigns, etc
Step 2 – Write Down the Steps
Next, take one task at a time and write everything you do right now to complete that task most effectively. This will take some time, so plan to do this over several days or even weeks.
Don’t rush through. Instead take time to really consider each tasks and even go through the task as you write down your steps.
I like to write these steps down in list format. One of the best ways I have found for creating systems in my own businesses is to start with a checklist for each large task. This checklist includes an ordered list of steps to complete the task to the highest standard.
As you do this, make sure to include the little things.
Don’t leave out the small steps in a task just because they seem obvious.
They may be obvious to you because you have been doing this task for a long time, but someone who has never done this before might not realize how important this small step is.
Once you have your checklist, look through and make sure that each step is truly helping you accomplish the overall goal. This is the best time to assess the process itself and add extra steps that you know would bring out a better outcome.
This is also a great time to remove steps that take extra time without actually yielding the best results. When you are satisfied that your checklist is the best one for this task, move on to the next step.
In one of my businesses, our martial arts school, I expected my employees to clean the bathroom. I made them a simple checklist of the things they needed to clean, thinking their standards for a clean bathroom would be the same as mine. I forgot that most of our employees at the time were teenage boys who had never deep cleaned a bathroom in their lives.
Every day I walked into a semi-clean bathroom. There were dust bunnies left in the corners, drips under the toilet bowl, and half the time, they didn’t even restock the toilet paper. That bathroom did not meet my standards, and I was sure it would not meet the standards of the other moms who would be bringing their kids into the school throughout the day.
Finally, I fixed the problem by cleaning the bathroom myself and documenting every little step I took along the way, right down to sanitizing the toilet lever and dusting the door frame.
I showed them how to do it properly and then presented them with a more comprehensive checklist. They did a much better job after that, and we’ve actually had moms compliment us on the cleanliness of our bathrooms many times since then.
Bottom line – Spell out the systems and processes for your business in fully comprehensive steps. If a step is not in writing, it doesn’t exist.
Step 3 – Explain the Details
Create a detailed explanation of each step on the checklist. You may complete the checklist on your own with no explanation about what each step entails, but anyone you delegate to in the future may not understand completely. Go down your checklist and write the nuances and details of each step.
Here are a few examples of details you might want to include:
Are there a certain number of hashtags that you want included in each social media post?
Do you want your art supplies organized in a specific way when someone is cleaning up for you?
Should new orders be recorded in a specific format?
These details will be important in making sure that the system you are creating is clear and easy to follow. This will also make it easier to train others on how to do things exactly how you do them. If you want these tasks done “right” you need to explain what right is.
Step 4 – Include Accountability
Incorporate a check and balance into your systems. As you write your systems, pair processes together that will affect each other. Then build checks and balances into those complimenting systems. This will help you stay accountable to your systems and make sure that you and anyone working with you is following the system correctly.
One way I do this in my business is to require an extra recording step at the end of the most important systems. Many of the checklists in my business require that the completed checklist gets emailed to me when finished.
Another way to do this is to make yourself a result sheet that allows you to record your daily results of each task.
This extra step is significant, because I can tell immediately if my employees finished their checklists or not. And for my own tasks, it gives me a metric to use for comparisons later when I am troubleshooting and refining systems.
Finally, expect to update systems regularly, and make a system for yourself on how to do that, as your business grows
Creating Systems for Everyday Life
Living a creative lifestyle becomes much easier when you know the most important things in your life are handled. Many of us already have daily routines that we adhere to. These routines are really just simplified systems. To create systems for your life, you need to first sit down and decide what you want to accomplish.
What do you wish you had more time for, and what tasks to you wish you could delegate to someone else? Those you plan to delegate should be recorded in more detail, but all of your systems should be written down somewhere for you to reference any time you get off track.
This will also help you keep things in order when schedules change or when you need to rely on someone else to help you out.
When my husband and I are on a business trip and a nanny or grandma has to take the kids to school, having a written system ensures that the kid’s routine isn’t messed up, and it makes things easier for the temporary care-giver to understand what they need from her in the morning.
Here is how you would use the 4 step system process for your home life.
Step 1 – Make A List
Write everything you want and need to get accomplished in a specific period of time. Focus on the tasks that will need to be repeated regularly. You don’t need to build systems for tasks you will only complete once.
For example, my personal weekly list includes my weekly exercise routine, getting the kids ready for school, laundry, pet care, and building a meal plan.
Step 2 – Write Down the Steps
Choose one task from your list to focus on at a time. Write down the steps involved in that task. Make it in a checklist format.
The steps for getting the kids ready for school include:
- Wake up the kids
- Set out their clothes (for the younger ones.)
- Make breakfast, or delegate it to dad.
- Make sure each kid has a proper lunch.
- Make sure each kid brushes their hair and teeth
- Get backpacks ready to go
- Get shoes and socks and backpacks on
- Check that everyone looks tidy and is ready for the day
- Get kids into the car
- Lock the front door.
Step 3 – Explain the Details
Write a detailed description of each step.
- Wake up the kids at 6:25. Wake up the toddler last because he will want to be carried down the stairs.
- Set out the kids’s clothes by first checking the weather for the day. Choose an appropriate outfit that they will be comfortable in. The outfit should match in color and include a jacket if the weather is below 60 F. Kids will wear tennis shoes unless it’s raining, at which time they can wear rain boots.
- Breakfast should include protein, bread and fruit. See the meal plan on the refrigerator for further details. Breakfast should be ready no later than 6:45 and kids should finish eating by 7:05.
Step 4 – Include Accountability
If you haven’t already done so, include an accountability step close to the end of the system. This is less important for personal checklists, but I still find it helpful in my own life. Accountability can be incorporated via an app or written verification, but make sure it’s something you can go back and check on later to make sure you or the person you are trusting follows your system.
Once the front door is locked, check the security system to make sure that the house is secured. Security system will time-stamp the lock so I can make sure the kids got out of the door on time.
Use these systems to create a schedule for yourself that will help you get things done and make time for your creative endeavors. Personal systems and routines can be more fluid than business systems. They don’t even always need to be in writing.
However, if you are like me and enjoy checking things off of your list or if you plan on hiring help for some of your at-home responsibilities, written systems are the way to go.
This process will help you use the power of systems to keep your life organized and give you more time to enjoy your creative lifestyle.
Setting systems up in your life and business takes time to complete, but it has tremendous benefits in the long run. Systemizing important things in your life will help you ensure consistent quality and safeguard routines.
Creating systems and processes for your business is a must for professional success. You cannot delegate effectively or run an efficient team without systems in place for everyone to follow.
And creating systems in your daily life can keep important tasks organized, so you can allow more flexibility in the rest of your life.
People who have systems in place are better able to delegate tasks, and communicate with their teams. They are more productive and successful in the long run.