How to Run Your Remote Business, Rather than Letting Your Business Run You

I’m fond of saying, “You can run your business rather than let it run you.” To which my clients usually respond, “That sounds great!  But, uhm, how?”

Laundry can dictate your schedule if you don't plan appropriately!

First, allow me to give you an example to cement what I mean by running your business rather than letting it run you.  This example is not about business at all but instead about underwear.

In many households, it’s common for people to put off doing their laundry until their laundry really needs to be done. The indicator usually being a need for clean underwear.  Whether underwear or a kid’s soccer uniform, we typically don’t realize it’s needed until, well, it’s NEEDED.  And that leaves us scrambling to get it done or prioritizing it over other important things.

The household dictates when laundry is done and therefore is running you rather than you running it.

The solution then is to establish a laundry day and get in the habit of doing laundry on that day so that you are in control. First, you have to get a few things into place, like making sure everyone has enough underwear to make it through a whole week.  You also have to consider your general schedule and which day it makes sense to do the laundry so that you have enough time to complete the process and things like sports uniforms are clean on time. It may also involve deciding on alternatives, like what happens if you need something washed sooner or how to space out laundry days for large households.

For example, in my house, we have a laundry day for parent laundry, another for kids, and the teen has their own.  I also have a specific day I do towels. If my laundry day is Sunday, but I spill something on my favorite cardigan, it’s easy to throw it in on Wednesday with the kids’ laundry. 

Additionally, I have reminders set for myself on their laundry days to check and ensure they actually got their stuff into the wash and out of the dryer.

These things combined take no real additional work, needed to be decided and set up once, and put me in control.  I don’t have to abandon other important tasks because I hear, “Mooooom, I don’t have any clean underwear!” Nor do I have to remember when was the last time handtowels were changed and washed (ick).

Our goal, whether in running our business or our household, is to avoid being reactionary.

So let’s look at a few specific methods we can incorporate into our businesses to accomplish just that.

Embrace Disciplined Flow

Every Damn Lists are to do lists of things you do every damn day, week, month, etc

I will be the first to say that “disciplined” is not a trait I identify with. After 30+ years, I’ve finally accepted that about myself. But what I have recognized is that there is an advantage to having flexible but defined routines. Realizing this allowed me to create what I like to call “disciplined flow,” allowing me to indulge in both structure and flexibility.

The most concrete example of this that I can bring you is what I commonly refer to as “EDLs” or “Every Damn Lists.” As in, these are the things I do “Every Damn Day” or “Every Damn Week.”

The most significant value that EDLs bring to my business is that they reduce the number of decisions I’m faced with daily. They serve as a safety net to ensure that nothing important falls through the cracks caused by my executive dysfunction and lack of short-term memory.  If they can benefit my ADHD brain, which struggles severely with basic things like this, they’re likely to help people who don’t struggle with those things.

The beauty in EDLs is that you don’t have to follow them perfectly. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that many people fall to that when it comes to systems.  “I made this system, but I didn’t follow it for the last two days, so I guess I’ll need to abandon it.” That doesn’t apply here.

If you create your Every Damn Day list but spend three days not doing them, you can still pick up where you left off. It’s still serving you if you did it four days out of seven (or less).

Over the years, I’ve taken my EDLs a step further by dividing them into “bare-bones,” “realistic,” and “ideal” levels.  The bare-bones tasks are what I truly strive to do every damn day (week, whatever). The upper levels are more of a menu that I get to pick from if I’ve completed the bare-bones tasks and still have time/energy/etc. It’s okay if they don’t get done as frequently, but the more often they get done, the more in control I get to be.

This structure also plays to the flexibility and novelty required by my neurodivergence and chronic illness.  Because the decision-making has already been done, I don’t get stuck feeling overwhelmed or overly boxed in.

EDLs also serve as a safety net, ensuring that essential tasks that need to be done more periodically are not overlooked or forgotten.

Use an Inbox

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A popular productivity technique I’ve encountered over the years is the “two-minute rule.”  And for many people, it’s a fantastic tool.  If something takes you less than two minutes, just do it right away.

But for other people, that rule is a gateway to disaster.  More specifically, a gateway to rabbit holes. Sure, that task will take less than two minutes, but it leads you to another “quick task” and then another, or right down a rabbit hole of distraction.  Before you know it, it’s been two hours, and you can’t even remember what you were supposed to be doing before you thought you’d just “take care of that real quick.”

But on the other hand, if you don’t do it right now, there’s a chance you’ll blink and forget about the task or idea entirely.

I give you one of the most straightforward tools to stay in control of your day: the inbox. The key here is not to overcomplicate this. Your inbox should be an easily accessed and hard-to-lose safe space for tasks and ideas.

My Inboxes are a page in Notion and a small dry erase board by my desk. 

I have Notion set up as a favorite “share” option on my phone, so if I’m scrolling and come across an idea or have a task pop up in my DMs (like fixing a typo on a landing page), I can take a quick screenshot or otherwise share a link, whatever, to my inbox page.  I also have it as a shortcut on my main screen to pop right in and add things. 

Next to my desk is a small dry erase board and marker (I love the fine-point ones!). Sometimes, even opening Notion on my computer can take too long or be too much of a distraction.  Or I’m avoiding opening tech of any sort for the moment.

Regardless of which I use, I know that every task or idea has a safe place.  And I’ve built it into my EDLs to check and process these inboxes regularly. On my Every Damn Day list, I have a task to review my inboxes.  This means I look through them and take action on anything that needs somewhat immediate attention.  This is time set aside for those two-minute tasks, essentially. It’s protected and prioritized so that I don’t risk falling down a rabbit hole or have a safe buffer to do so.

On my Every Damn Week list, I have a task to process my inboxes.  This means that instead of just looking over them and putting out fires, I take the time to add remaining tasks to my task manager so I can plan to do them, organize any ideas and resources, or otherwise handle items that remain. If for some reason, I skip the daily review or weekly processing tasks, the items are still safely in the inboxes for later.

What you use for your inboxes is less important than building a habit of using them. The Notes app on your phone, Evernote, Google Keep, anything like that would work. A simple notebook for the analog side would work.

Automate

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The last of the three primary tools that allow me to be less reactionary are automations. While there are many places automations can help in our businesses, when we’re talking about reducing the need to be reactionary, client onboarding is perhaps the most effective place to implement them.

It’s generally considered good practice to respond to inquiries and such relatively quickly.  Logically speaking, potential clients are most interested when they first reach out.  And you can harness this by making that process as easy as possible for them. For example, implement an automated scheduling system if you take consult or discover calls. This puts you in control, makes it easy for the client, and takes manual tasks off your plate. If you have a contact form, make sure you have a confirmation email or redirect letting them know it was submitted, setting expectations for your response time, and giving them other ways to connect with you in the meantime (like directing them to related content, resources, or your online community).

Likewise, another place to set up automations is around your proposal and invoicing.  After years of working with clients online, I’ve realized that when people are ready to say “yes!” they are ready right then and there. So I’ve incorporated that into my automations to allow them to move at their own pace while freeing me from babysitting my inbox when I have an open proposal.

When someone accepts one of my proposals, their contract and invoice are immediately available to them, followed by an email detailing their next steps to get started.  All while I’m out grocery shopping, hiking, or enjoying some downtime. Clients feel well taken care of, and I’m still in control of my day.

Final Thoughts

Running your business rather than allowing it to run you comes down to creating systems that enable you to be less reactionary.  Embracing disciplined flow, using an inbox, and utilizing automations are just a few paths to achieving this.

By taking control of the various aspects of your business that usually dictate when and how you do things, you can craft a more sustainable business that supports your lifestyle rather than the other way around.

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Author

Dani Schnakenberg

Dani is a Business Systems Strategist. She helps entrepreneurs who want to ditch overwhelm to create a sustainable, dreamy business through establishing boundaries and systems that work for them.  After 7 years in entrepreneurship, she knows that it doesn’t have to be all about the hustle and grind. It’s the systems and processes that we build that allow us to build empires and live dreamy lives all at the same time.

When she’s not nerding out over workflows, spreadsheets, and statistics, you can find Dani traveling with her husband and five kids, taking in a baseball game, or getting a little bit of peace and quiet on her yoga mat. Get all of Dani’s best tips, tricks, and tutorials at https://simplifiedbusinesssystems.com.

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