How I Use Checklists To Run My Business

by KenSilver 19 replies
My online business has a series of sequential, recurring and mostly daily to-do steps that it needs to accomplish, or die. Items like:

- process all manual orders
- write article for newsletter and publish
- put article on blog
- write weekly article for directories
- answer client support issues
- back up databases
- check auto backups
- check order links for sales page working

And so on, right to the end task: "Clear desk completely."

There's a lot of stuff to do, even though some steps might only take a minute or two. I have about 35 daily checklist items that must be done for my business to survive and thrive. And these steps have to be done religiously every day. When there's a lot going on you have to be on top of the stuff that matters, whether it's organizational or marketing. Most small businesses have the same requirement.

But a lot of business owners don't do enough. While I'm an enthusiast of Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour WorkWeek, the reality is that a substantial or growing business needs more than an hour a day to be continually successful. So the list of essential to-do's is a large part of the success operation.

I've had many headaches over the years trying to design and run a perfect checklist system. Seems so simple to do, but it's not. One of the problems was finding a way to separate the daily tasks from the weekly ones. I kept a paper diary for a while and wrote the tasks on Post-It notes, shifting them all to the next page as required. Very messy.

Then I used the checklist in an Outlook email message that I kept in a folder titled "-DAILY". The hyphen ensured that it stayed at the top of my folder list. As each day went past I would prefix the completed task with an 'x' if completed, or a '-' if not. At the end of the week I would wipe out all the x's and -'s and start again. But that was unwieldy and time consuming, and it was often hard to see where I was at any time of the week.

The commercial programs available weren't much better either. They were often clunky and unattractive in a DOS format kind of way, and didn't present the checklist as I thought it should be set out, or buried it in other less effective areas. None really had a common enough structure.

Until I came across Gtdagenda.com, a web based task management system (no affiliation, except as a happy user).

It has a number of goal setting and task devices built around David Allen's cult of efficiency, "Getting Things Done" (the gtd part of the program), but that wasn't what attracted me. It was the checklist system, which has proven to be an exact match for my needs.

After years of trying other things, this program has finally fitted around what I need, almost intuitively. The layout and methodology is very good. If you're task-oriented as I am, this has got to be the best way to cover your dailies. And as you 'do the business' each day, you have the confidence of knowing that your butt is covered and nothing falls through the cracks. And being web based, you know it's not going to leave you high and dry when your PC crashes.

Best way is to take a look - it's self explanatory. There's a free option too, with a limited number of items (free) through to unlimited, starting from under $4/mth.

Since I started using Gtdagenda this last week, I've actually become more efficient and motivated. Using just a checklist system - I know, sounds crazy - but it works beautifully.
#main internet marketing discussion forum #business #checklists #run
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  • Profile picture of the author SpicyRobby
    Originally Posted by KenSilver View Post

    My online business has a series of sequential, recurring and mostly daily to-do steps that it needs to accomplish, or die. Items like:

    - process all manual orders
    - write article for newsletter and publish
    - put article on blog
    - write weekly article for directories
    - answer client support issues
    - back up databases
    - check auto backups
    - check order links for sales page working

    And so on, right to the end task: "Clear desk completely."

    There's a lot of stuff to do, even though some steps might only take a minute or two. I have about 35 daily checklist items that must be done for my business to survive and thrive. And these steps have to be done religiously every day. When there's a lot going on you have to be on top of the stuff that matters, whether it's organizational or marketing. Most small businesses have the same requirement.

    But a lot of business owners don't do enough. While I'm an enthusiast of Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour WorkWeek, the reality is that a substantial or growing business needs more than an hour a day to be continually successful. So the list of essential to-do's is a large part of the success operation.

    I've had many headaches over the years trying to design and run a perfect checklist system. Seems so simple to do, but it's not. One of the problems was finding a way to separate the daily tasks from the weekly ones. I kept a paper diary for a while and wrote the tasks on Post-It notes, shifting them all to the next page as required. Very messy.

    Then I used the checklist in an Outlook email message that I kept in a folder titled "-DAILY". The hyphen ensured that it stayed at the top of my folder list. As each day went past I would prefix the completed task with an 'x' if completed, or a '-' if not. At the end of the week I would wipe out all the x's and -'s and start again. But that was unwieldy and time consuming, and it was often hard to see where I was at any time of the week.

    The commercial programs available weren't much better either. They were often clunky and unattractive in a DOS format kind of way, and didn't present the checklist as I thought it should be set out, or buried it in other less effective areas. None really had a common enough structure.

    Until I came across Gtdagenda.com, a web based task management system (no affiliation, except as a happy user).

    It has a number of goal setting and task devices built around David Allen's cult of efficiency, "Getting Things Done" (the gtd part of the program), but that wasn't what attracted me. It was the checklist system, which has proven to be an exact match for my needs.

    After years of trying other things, this program has finally fitted around what I need, almost intuitively. The layout and methodology is very good. If you're task-oriented as I am, this has got to be the best way to cover your dailies. And as you 'do the business' each day, you have the confidence of knowing that your butt is covered and nothing falls through the cracks. And being web based, you know it's not going to leave you high and dry when your PC crashes.

    Best way is to take a look - it's self explanatory. There's a free option too, with a limited number of items (free) through to unlimited, starting from under $4/mth.

    Since I started using Gtdagenda this last week, I've actually become more efficient and motivated. Using just a checklist system - I know, sounds crazy - but it works beautifully.
    Thanks Ken,

    Will definitely look into this as the planning has always been my weakest side.

    I've a few notepads for keeping the records or checklists - but I constantly forget looking into them etc. etc...

    I'll explore this Gtagenda and see if it is the right solution for me.

    Rgds,

    Robert
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    • Profile picture of the author Lloyd Buchinski
      Thanks for the information. I will be trying this out. It's nice to get the info
      from someone who uses it too. Too much info around is just because someone
      heard it or read it somewhere and just starts repeating it.

      I'm pretty enthusiastic about checklists. I once went through my morning
      coffee making routine and then ran off to get something useful done while it
      got made, then came back to fine out I'd missed putting the pot in place before
      turning the machine on. Guess a checklist wouldn't hurt me there either, but I
      haven't actually gone quite that far.
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      • Profile picture of the author Colin Evans
        Hi Ken,

        I'm a big a checklist fan...

        Aside from the reminders on what and when to do something, checklists are great for outsourcing - you know you've got your checklists right when anybody can take them (and your supporting "how to" documents) and do anything you can...
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        Sig not working today - too hung over...

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        • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
          I automate everything so that my only tasks are:

          1) Check orders my automated fraud scoring code marked as high risk payments
          2) Respond to customer support mails

          And I do it 2-3 times a week at most, leaving the rest to more interesting things, like developing new products or finding new promotion venues. I handle over 20,000 customers per year without any employees and got through an expensive private university debt free. It helps that I'm a CS major

          A few ideas that may work for others:

          - All website files are stored on a hosted Subversion repository, so it's replicated to at least 3 physical locations without any extra work (http://www.cvsdude.com)

          - Databases back themselves up nightly and sync up their backups so there are copies in at least two physical locations at all times

          - Have authors write articles for websites in advance, and set them to post on future dates in WordPress so there's no manual posting to do all year (I use WordPress as the CMS for sites that look nothing like blogs)

          - Monitoring services can be configured to check for specific content in your pages every X minutes, sending you e-mail and SMS alerts whenever something changes (http://www.alertra.com)
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          • Profile picture of the author Dave Ryan
            Standard operating procedures are solid... It's kind of the foundation for business.

            When you create a system for your work you can then go ahead and pay someone else to do it all for you as well

            Dave
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            • Profile picture of the author jedz
              Banned
              How?? Simple.

              Discipline and Motivation. If you have these things then you'll reach the end of your list saying....Good Job!!
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          • Profile picture of the author KenSilver
            Originally Posted by Dan Grossman View Post

            I automate everything...[/url])
            Dan, useful stuff - thanks for the ideas! I'm always keen to know more about how people automate their business.

            I thought I had mine highly automated too when I read your list, but reliability is low in the online world. For example, I subscribed to a "server down" service, but found that my ISP was blocking their emails. No amount of whitelisting got them accepted.

            Now I check my sites manually each day, and the side benefit is that I often find ways to improve them from something I may have picked up that day.
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  • Profile picture of the author Tuzic
    Banned
    Hi,

    yes i agree having a good, productive, organised system is the core for a good business & better control

    as then you can concentrate on moving forward & progressing.
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Bruno
      Its good to see you have a daily system, but theres one critical aspect missing from your routine and system....

      There is no mention of tasks that will move your business forward. They are just tasks to run your business to maintain.

      If you don't ad tasks in your business each day to move your business forward it will never gain momentum.

      What you can do is include 2 major tasks that can move your business forward each day.


      Frank Bruno
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      • Profile picture of the author KenSilver
        Originally Posted by Frank Bruno View Post

        Its good to see you have a daily system, but theres one critical aspect missing from your routine and system....

        There is no mention of tasks that will move your business forward. They are just tasks to run your business to maintain...
        Of course you're right Frank, and I haven't included that part of my daily checklist life. I'm talking about pure maintenance - the stuff that will clog my business up if I don't perform.

        But since using checklists in one form or another, I've found they free up a lot of worry time so I can relax and develop new projects more easily.

        .
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        • Profile picture of the author DanGTD
          Hi Ken,

          I am glad that you like the Checklists section from Gtdagenda.

          Pretty soon they will be linked (optional) to projects and/or goals, and hopefully they will be even more useful.

          Dan
          http://www.Gtdagenda.com
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          http://www.Gtdagenda.com - use Gtdagenda to manage your Projects and get things done. Now with an Android App.
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          • Profile picture of the author Frank Ayres
            That is a good idea i am very unorganised with my business
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            • Profile picture of the author KenSilver
              Originally Posted by SpudDS View Post

              That is a good idea i am very unorganised with my business
              I'm sorry to say I don't think it will stop you being disorganised. As I found out many years ago - brain mess comes from within, and has to be fixed there first

              But checklists do make the best of whatever you have. I've been a checklist and to-do person forever, but they all fell down in one respect or the other until now.

              For example, I bought an iPhone partly because I thought I could tap out a list on the fly and work entirely from it without relying on paper. Now I find it easier to scribble the item down on a yellow Post-It (I have them everywhere in the house), stick it to my hand until I get down to my office computer, and transfer it to gtdagenda. Then when I need to go shopping etc, I print out the list. The iPhone only gets used as a phone.

              It annoys me that I'm not fully digital, but sometimes convenience has a strange way of messing with your aspirations.
              .
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          • Profile picture of the author summerm
            Hi Dan,
            Tried out your system since I've been looking for a task management system. Some suggestions, take em or leave em-- but if you plan to take em, please let me know as I'll be more likely to choose your software:
            • Ability to move tasks between projects (critical for software development since projects will likely be something like "Release 1", "Release 1")
            • Ability to undo a delete (after typing in multiple tasks, i created a new task, then changed my mind about the new task and hit "delete"-- instead of just deleting the currently active task, it went and deleted several others that must have been previously selected :-( )
            • Time reports to be able to analyze productivity of workers
            • "Time estimate" task feature to be set on or near task creation
            Thanks!

            Originally Posted by DanGTD View Post

            Hi Ken,

            I am glad that you like the Checklists section from Gtdagenda.

            Pretty soon they will be linked (optional) to projects and/or goals, and hopefully they will be even more useful.

            Dan
            Gtdagenda.com
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  • Profile picture of the author johnpaulgrant
    Yes standard procedure manuals are exactly how i tell all my clients to operate, as most of our clients are internet business startups.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dan Grossman
    Netvibes todo lists
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    Improvely: Built to track, test and optimize your marketing.

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  • Profile picture of the author dsmpublishing
    It seems weird hearing this from a bloke i thought it was only women that wrote to do lists of their daily duties!!!

    kind regards


    sam
    X
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  • Profile picture of the author Andy Crofford
    I like checklists as well. The program I use is called Remember The Milk (Remember The Milk: Online to do list and task management).

    Not sure if GTDAgenda does something different but it would be nice to be able to save lists and check them off each time you are doing something such as setting up a website.
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