Thursday, August 21, 2008

How I Found A Checklist To Run My Online Business

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.

That's until I came across gtdagenda, a web based task management system.

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.