15 practical, effective ways to organize your business (and your life)

Here are 15 ways to organize your ecommerce business and your life.

Staying organized is tricky even for people who are naturally orderly and systematic. When you have a lot going on it’s easy for things to get away from you. Plus, it can be hard to not get distracted or off track.

To help stay organized, you need to take a proactive approach by planning ahead, setting up systems, finding ways to automate tasks, and outsourcing. Doing these things takes some time and effort on the front end, but in the long run, it is so worth it. And you’ll feel a lot less stressed and overwhelmed.

Below, I go over 15 strategies for how you can stay more on top of your workload and personal to-do lists, and free up more of your time in the process.

I also link to several tools and resources. Some of which I’ve used personally and love, and others, I’ve read about and think are worth a try.

Let’s take a look…

Automate Whatever You Can 

Automating tasks makes your life much easier. And while you may not think so at first, there are actually lots of things, both personal and business-related, that you can affordably automate.

For example, lots of grocery stores offer delivery options. You just make a list and place the order. Then, you can continue re-ordering using the same list and have your groceries delivered. Or, you could have the grocery store prep your order for you and then you can pick it up. As a third option, you could subscribe to AmazonFresh, pick out your groceries, place your order, and often times be able to have your order delivered the same day.

Another task you can easily automate is paying your bills. Most of the time, there’s an option to go paperless and to set up automatic payments. This is typically the case for paying for utilities, Internet, gym memberships, and credit cards. Automating your bill-paying also prevents you from forgetting to pay your bills so you can avoid penalties for late payments.

In terms of business things you could automate, awhile back I wrote a post about marketing automations, which details some really helpful ways to automate a variety of common business tasks.

Plan Your Social Media Campaigns in Advance

I highly recommend doing this, as it’s a huge time savor. Rather than logging into all of your social media accounts and posting content each day, you can take a couple of hours one day and schedule a whole bunch of social media content to be posted over the course of the next few weeks or months or however long.

The top four tools I recommend for doing this are…

  1. Hootsuite
  2. MeetEdgar
  3. BufferApp
  4. PostDynamo

Use Cloud-Based Tools to Store and Save Receipts, Invoices, and Other Documents

Going digital and using cloud-based tools is a much more effective way of managing and saving things like receipts, invoices, and other important documents.

Working with paper documents creates a lot of clutter and things can get disorganized really quickly. In lieu of paper, I recommend using the following (free) cloud-based tools:

  • Evernote Scannable to scan items anytime you need to work with paper documents
  • Dropbox to save documents, organize them into folders, and easily access them even when you’re not online
  • Google Drive as another means of saving and storing documents (it’s also a good way to collaborate on projects if you share them with other people)

Create a System for Managing Customer Support

Customer support is a hugely important part of running a business. And one of the simplest ways to save time and still provide stellar support is to create a list of the most common questions and issues that come up and then create response scripts that you can copy and paste as needed.

I’ve written a couple posts on this topic in the past, and you can feel free to use the scripts I came up with, which you’ll find by clicking the links below:

Customer Service Scripts: Use these to handle any problems smoothly

Here Are 10 Script Templates for Tricky Customer Service Scenarios

Manage Your Passwords

First off, do not use the same password for everything. I know it’s tempting and would make life easier, but it’s not a wise thing to do. With that being the case, given the number of accounts most people have, it would be next to impossible to remember all of your usernames and passwords off the top of your head.

One thing you can do is maintain a document with all the login information for all the accounts you have.

Or, you can use the 1Password app, which remembers all of your passwords and enables you to log in with just one click. Pricing starts at $2.99 a month.

Another tool you can use is RoboForm. This is what I personally use, and it’s free! RoboForm also enables one-click logins; it’s supported on multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android; and it provides offline access.

Create a Workspace That Works For Your Flow

If you’re happy in your environment, you’re more likely to be more productive and motivated about your work.

Many people’s workspaces are cluttered and not well organized. Start by throwing things out that you don’t need and designating a proper place for everything you do need. Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, turns organization into an art form. And the basic premise of her philosophy is to identify the items and objects that bring you joy and then throw out anything that doesn’t. You can read more about her suggestions here.

In addition to making your workspace as joyful as possible, you also want to make it as effective as possible. For example, if you drink a lot of water throughout the day, instead of getting up over and over again to refill your glass, you could keep a water pitcher on your desk for easy access.

Or, if you’re easily fatigued sitting down all day, you might consider investing in a treadmill desk or a more ergonomic chair.

Organize Your Computer Files

Going paperless is great. But that doesn’t mean you should leave your computer files in disarray. When your computer files aren’t organized, you end up wasting time searching for files when you can’t remember their exact names.

So create appropriately named folders on your computer and take the extra 5 seconds it takes to put each file you create or download into the correct folder. You should also delete all of the files you no longer need. Or, if you think you’ll need those files later on, you can back them up and store them elsewhere in order to free up space.

Keep Track of Your Time

We’re all guilty of wasting some time throughout the day. But if you track your time, you might discover that you waste a lot more time than you realize or that certain tasks are taking a lot longer to complete than they need to.

I find it crazy helpful to keep track of my time in 15-minute increments. I often will set a timer to do this too. I bought a simple kitchen timer on Amazon that is profoundly helpful.

Or, if you don’t want to keep track of your time yourself, Toggl is an app you can use. You can try it for free for 30 days. After that, pricing starts at $9 a month.

Develop a System for Managing Your Inbox

Your inbox is something that can get out of hand super easily, especially if you have multiple email accounts like I do. I get thousands of emails a week and it would be impossible to handle all of those emails without some kind of system in place.

Fortunately, I have a few wonderful, dedicated assistants to help manage my inboxes. But if an email management VA isn’t in your budget, here are two email management tools you can try:

Plan Ahead for Taxes

If you don’t plan ahead for taxes, you can end up owing a lot of money — money that you may not be prepared to lose  come April 15th.

So don’t get caught off-guard. Set aside a designated amount of money each week or set up your bank account to deduct that amount each week and then put that money aside for taxes in a separate account.

Additionally, starting at $5 a month (after a 30-day free trial), QuickBooks is accounting software that calculates your quarterly tax payments (among other things) so you can stay on top of how much money you owe. QuickBooks helps you organize your income and expenses into tax categories and it makes it easy to collaborate with your accountant.

Take Away Distractions

It is ridiculously easy to get distracted when you’re working online. To help with this, I highly recommend using an app, like SelfControl or News Feed Eradicator for Facebook.

SelfControl is for Mac users. And News Feed Eradicator can be added to Chrome. Both of these apps make it so that you can block your own access to specific, distracting websites for however long you need. This way, you can concentrate more easily and get more work done.

(I talk about a number of tools like these in more detail in several of my books.  To learn more, go here.)

Take Uber/Lyft

This may seem like an odd addition to this list, but I find that taking inexpensive car services like Uber and Lyft saves me a ton of time. (I personally prefer Lyft because Uber’s CEO isn’t the best dude, but both services get the job done.)

And whichever one you prefer, using a car service instead of driving yourself allows you to save time trying to find parking spots. Plus, you can work while you’re traveling, especially if you have an air card or download the Gmail Offline extension and enable Google Drive to operate offline.

Get Laser-Focused on Your Goals

This strategy turns into a huge time saver in the long run because you learn to say “no” a lot more easily once you have your goals honed in.

Choose your top goals for the next 12 weeks. Then, choose 1-3 things that are important to get done each day you plan on working.

You can write down your list ahead of time for the following day. Or, to save time, you can do what I refer to as “Power Hours.” (Click here to learn more about my power hours.)

Outsource Whenever Possible

Last week, I talked about the value of outsourcing and how to find high-quality virtual assistants and graphic designers.

In addition to the sites I mentioned in that post, Fiverr is a great resource to find inexpensive, fast outsourcing help. I’ve used Fiverr for a whole bunch of tasks, like creating designs, having product videos made, coming up with blog post ideas, and a whole lot more.

I also recently had Fiverr help me with some Low Hanging System critiques that had been sitting in limbo for forever because they take ages to edit. So I hired someone on Fiverr, and presto! The task was completed super fast and for not a lot of money.

To get help making calls, which I personally hate doing, I use MyFancyHands, and they will actually make the calls for me!

If you want to learn more about outsourcing and how to do it effectively, you can check out my outsourcing course Work Less to Live More: Outsourcing

Organize Your Thoughts

Evernote is AMAZING for this. You can put down all of your random notes and things you want to remember in there so you can keep everything in one place.

For example, you can jot down all of your health information (I have a health “notebook” that I use that to write down notes and scan in important health information).  Or, I also use Evernote to keep track of my travel notes, as a way of remembering where I’ve been, which airlines I prefer, et cetera. Plus, I house my product testimonials in Evernote.

Really, you can use it for anything! Evernote will help you stay a lot more organized in both your life and business.

What do you think of this list of organizational strategies? Do you do anything else to stay organized that you can share? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Here are 15 ways to organize your ecommerce business and your life.

May 2018 Brags

This is the May installment of my brag post series.

Wins are generally pretty random / in no particular order.

1. I put an offer on a dream home and it was accepted!

The house is STUNNING and my first “living” home purchase.

While the house seems a bit big, I followed my heart which kept calling me towards it. I’m thrilled! It has an extra bedroom and a playroom for Gabe, offices for Don and I, a jacuzzi tub looking outside, and a killer deck.

The house is in Pennsylvania. Although PA isn’t my favorite state in the world, being near my nephew is the most important thing to me (and Don – he loves him!) Eventually Don and I want places both here and in L.A..

We settle in July.

2. Don and I have been doing wonderfully. I don’t post about it much but we’d gone through some very rough periods.

I started tracking our relationship so I could make logical (not emotional!) decisions about it. And thanks to some fundamental changes, it’s going beautifully again.

The picture below shows how I’ve felt about our relationship each day.

“Green” is amazing, “orange” is happy, “yellow” is okay.

This feels somewhat weird to post about but it also truly is a huge win and seems like it belongs here.

3. I donated enough to plant a substantial amount of trees with NationalForests.org.

When I first started CustomHappy, I wanted to make sure we had safeguards in place to keep things running as consciously as possible. I felt (and feel) sick at the thought of making the world worse with all of our shipping. I want to leave the world better than I found it – not vice versa.

Because of that I plant trees to help offset any carbon footprint we make, use recyclable foam mailers, make sure we do a lot of recycling, etc, and I was due for another big plant donation.

4.  Speaking of CustomHappy – we got some pretty cool endorsements over the last few months.

You can check out the full list at http://rachelrofe.com/chplaylist and more are coming.

5. And since we’re on the warehouse, I may as well mention that in May we shipped out over 68,000 “print on demand” items and another several thousand regular fulfillment items.

6. Don and I moved from our beautiful home in Las Vegas on May 31st. Although it seems weird, I’m celebrating that we both were so sad to leave it that we cried. We had great times in that beautiful home and are grateful for it.

I kept second-guessing our decision to leave, but we got some clear signs that it was time to leave (for now, at least).

The day before we left we spent the entire day walking around Vegas and doing fun things. This picture is of from during the game of gigantic Connect 4 we played at a random bar we found. :)

7. So that we wouldn’t waste excess food we had when we moved, I put up a Craigslist ad giving away what we had left.

A man came to take it and said it was a huge blessing for him. He’d just gotten a job which was great in the long-term, but it made him lose his government assistance in the short-term. He wasn’t sure how he was going to eat until he got his first paycheck.

I felt grateful to be able to help.

8. Speaking of gratitude, I’ve been filling out gratitude lists near-daily. It’s nice to have that habit, especially coupled with meditation (which I’ve been slacking on a little but I did get to “300 minutes meditated” on May 5th).

9. A HUGE business-win: I’ve been doing weekly “15-5” reports with my mentor where I summarize my work done for the week,  any victories / lessons, and a couple other small things.

Sending this to him each week has helped me profoundly on focusing on my most impactful action items (not the small busy work!).

(Side note – another thing I’ve been doing that’s been very helpful is tracking my time in 15 minute increments. That exercise can really help show you where time-suck black holes are.)

10. We launched the LHS Design Club (sort of – we still need an official sales letter). Even though I could do a better job advertising it, we have welcomed in some new members. Once I make an official letter and advertise it heavier I think this will be a super powerful, popular tool for LHS members.

I’m celebrating updating the letter and getting it out there to some capacity.

11. The weekly webinars for Jumpstart members are going great and LHS and Jumpstart people are still seeing excellent results. Here are some of May’s wins:

12. I posted a new mug to Amazon that got to the “bestseller” charts within a day. At the time of writing it’s #15 and we’ve sold a ton of them.

13. Gabe came and visited us for a while! I actually took him from PA to Las Vegas and he was an absolute angel on the plane. It’s such a win to spend time with him.

14. My investments are doing well! My stocks on Robinhood are increasing in value, I made some good crypto moves, Wealthfront is still plugging along. My ROI is up from last month:

I think that’s everything for now. Please feel free to share your wins too, I’d love to read them!

Need some help? Here’s where you can find high quality VAs and graphic designers

When it comes to our work and our personal lives, we could all use a little help now and again (or — let’s be honest — on a daily basis).

I’m personally a huge fan of outsourcing. And over the years, I’ve worked with some really fantastic people, many of whom I still do business with.

I know letting go of control can be hard. Many people get stuck in the mentality of  wanting to do everything themselves to make sure everything’s done “right.”

This can be a tough mental hurdle to get over. But the reality is there are a ton of really high-quality outsourcers ready and available to perform a variety of tasks. And often times, these outsources can perform an even better job because they have a lot of experience and it’s hard for you, or any business owner, to be an expert at everything.

So if you want to give outsourcing a try, I’ve compiled a list of really good places to find virtual assistants. The list also includes sites that are especially good for finding graphic designers. If you’re involved with the Low Hanging System, these sites could really be useful and huge time-savors.

The list kicks off with the Low Hanging System Designs Club, a new membership program I recently launched to help people meet their graphic design needs…

Resources To Meet Your Graphic Design Needs

Low Hanging System Design Club

We just started offering this membership program to help meet people’s graphic design needs for the Low Hanging System model.

With the LHS Design Club membership you get 50 designs each month.

They’re LHS-style – black text, based off of sell-able phrases, and can be used on mugs or any other products you’d like.

We don’t even have an official sales letter yet because we’ve been popping on referrals only, but that’s what the deal is.  Lots of people have been getting results with this.

You can either ask for random designs or specific niche ideas (you can use rachelrofe.com/masterlist or rachelrofe.com/spotniches to get ideas).

For as long as you keep up with your automatic monthly payments you’ll continue receiving designs.

You’re also encouraged to contact us each month about whether you want to receive random designs or designs pertaining to specific niches (you can use rachelrofe.com/masterlist to get ideas).

You’ll usually receive your designs within 14-30 days, but just be aware that it may sometimes take a little longer.

Upwork 

Upwork is another resource that offers a variety of VA services, one of which is graphic design.

I’ve hired some incredible graphic designers that I’ve used on an ongoing basis for years now.

I’ve also used Upwork for the following tasks: compiling pictures into CorelDraw, customer support, bookkeeping, and data-entry work.

With Upwork, you can pay freelancers by the hour or you can settle on a fixed price for your entire project.

OnlineJobs.PH

Some LHS users have used this site to find excellent designers. The Pro version of the site costs $69 a month but you can dig around for free (with limited functions) first.

After posting a job you’ll be able to interview candidates so you can find the perfect fit. You can then negotiate salary and time worked and discuss expectations.

You can manage time worked with TimeProof and pay workers with PayPal.

I haven’t used this site extensively but have heard some great things.

The following 2 are ones I can’t personally endorse as I haven’t used them but they come highly rated:

Premier VEBA *

I haven’t used this company myself, but VEBA provides a number of services in addition to graphic design, including virtual office support, writing, sales and marketing, and finance.

When it comes to graphic design, Premier VEBA can help you create logos, packaging, illustrations for a book, or new designs for your business.

According to the website, pricing is assessed independently and figured out on a per-project basis. You can consult with graphic designers for free, though, to see if working together would be a good fit both in terms of your ideas and in terms of the price.

Premier VEBA is open to projects of all sizes and in collaborating for both long- and short-term projects.

Call Arup *

I haven’t used this company myself,  but Call Arup is a really affordable place to find graphic designers as well as other types of virtual assistants. Call Arup’s graphic design services include…

  • logo creation
  • flyer, banner, and brochure designs
  • letter head designs
  • business card designs
  • book cover/catalogue designs
  • and whiteboard videos.

You pay freelancers just $6 an hour. And tasks are generally completed within a few hours (the site stipulates that there’s a same-day turnaround time). You have a private dashboard so you can track the amount of time that’s spent. Plus, you can find help for a variety of other tasks in addition to graphic design, including…

  • administrative assistant services
  • marketing support
  • product research and analysis
  • social media management
  • bookkeeping
  • and ecommerce support.

* I haven’t used this company myself, but it comes highly rated.

Resources To Find Virtual Assistants

My Fancy Hands

I use My Fancy Hands all the time and have posted about them before here. I love them. Whether you need help researching complex tax laws or booking a flight to see an old friend, My Fancy Hands has a VA ready to offer assistance within the hour. They can help with pretty much any task.

Some additional benefits include the ability to…

  • Submit requests by phone, web, text, and email.
  • Have My Fancy Hands not only research products but purchase them for you too.
  • Set up recurring tasks.
  • See how much time and effort My Fancy Hands has saved you by using their outsourcing services.

My Fancy Hands operates on a credit basis and each 20-minute task you request uses up 1 credit. Pricing starts at $29.99 for 5 requests a month.

Upwork 

I’m listing Upwork under this section too because Upwork is a really great tool to find virtual assistants for lots of types of tasks. And like I said above, I’ve used Upwork to get help with a number of my business’ day-to-day operations in addition to graphic design.

You’ll need to post a job and then review the list of candidates who submit applications. Upwork also offers a service to help handpick pre-vetted freelancers who meed your specified needs for you to work with.

Zirtual

I haven’t used Zirtual myself, but it looks somewhat similar to My Fancy Hands in that it can help you with just about anything, including both personal and business-related tasks. Here are a few of the things Zirtual can assist you with:

  • Social media and marketing
  • Travel planning
  • Invoices
  • Price and product comparisons
  • Scheduling and planning
  • Research

Pricing is a quite a bit more expensive than My Fancy Hands, though, starting at $398 a month for 1 user and 12 hours of task work.

Zirtual user, John Saunders, says, “Zirtual has been a pleasure and has paid for itself in saved time and money. Assistant has been very professional and responsive throughout.”

Amazon Mechanical Turk 

With Mechanical Turk, as a “requester,” you create a task and then gain access to the “global, on-demand 24/7 workforce” with over 500,000 workers from 190 countries.

(You can also sign up as a “worker” if you want and get paid to complete simple tasks.)

You can create tasks about writing, collecting data, tagging images, transcribing documents, etc. And you can have multiple workers working on each task so there is a very fast turnaround time with projects. Mechanical Turk is best used for small-scale, repetitive tasks.

Virtual Assistant USA

As the name implies, all Virtual Assistant USA’s VAs reside in the United States. Working with VAs in other parts of the world can be challenging due to extreme time differences so it’s nice working with VAs who are more local so your working hours are more or less the same.

Virtual Assistant USA’s VAs provide the following types of assistance:

  • administrative
  • technology
  • creative/marketing
  • strategy

With Virtual Assistant USA, you don’t have a minimum number of hours that you have to use each week or month and you pay for only the amount of time you use, “down to the minute,” the site says.

Virtual Assistant USA user, Sirena Pellarollo, says, “I am impressed with the team at Virtual Assist USA. They are reliable, trustworthy, and the work is amazing. I finally feel that I have someone who knows what they’re doing. I feel relieved to have a team that I can trust to have my back.”

Time Etc

Time Etc operates only with US-based VAs who have at least 5 years of work experience. The company uses a 10-step selection process so you can feel more confident that you’re going to be working with someone who’s reliable and trustworthy.

Time Etc also lets you start with a free trial, during which they match you with a VA and you get your first task completed for free. Here are a few of the types of things a Time Etc VA can help you with:

  • manage your schedule
  • find the best value flight to a particular destination
  • write a blog post
  • do some research
  • post some tweets.

Time Etc user, Martha Veon, says, “I am a entrepreneur building a business from the ground up. I had been working solo until I discovered TimeEtc. I had gotten so bogged down I was not moving forward. I wish I had found Time Etc. much sooner. It has proven to be the wisest investment I have made for my business yet.”

People Per Hour

There are three ways you can work with VAs on People Per Hour:

  1. Browse “hourlies” – You can search the fixed-price offers that people post and put a downpayment on any offer that meets your needs.
  2. Post a job – You can specify what you need done and  relevant people will be notified about submitting a proposal. You then select the best person and put a downpayment to start the job and release the final payment once the job is complete.
  3. Search profiles and contact people directly – You can also search for people by skill, location, or portfolio and contact them about a specific proposal. And if they agree, you put a downpayment and complete the payment once the job is done.

According to Top Freelancer Websites, People Per Hour received a rating of 89 out of 100 and their review says:

“People Per Hour is intuitive, trendy and packed with professional freelancers for businesses to choose from. You can access a wide range of freelancers around the world, or even pick local talent for your business needs.

All of your business activity can be managed from one account as both a buyer or seller.

Everything is done through escrow, so you know that you only make payment once you’re satisfied with the work that is done customer service is attentive to your needs and works hard to resolve queries.”

The most significant cons noted by the site are that the user interface sometimes can feel a bit clunky and the fees and commissions could be costly for people on tighter budgets.

U Assist Me

U Assist Me VAs provide services like clerical duties, bookkeeping, social media management, and scheduling. They also offer specialty services, including writing, programming, and graphic design.

And what sets about U Assist Me VAs from other virtual assistants is they all work in the same office so you have more assurance in terms of quality, timeliness, and overall satisfaction.

U Assist Me user, Giselle Langley, says, “Uassistme = GREAT! I can’t thank enough these guys for all the help they’ve given me and my company during the time we had hired their services. My VA is pretty much part of my family now because they take care a lot of the little things that I don’t have the time to do so.”

My Tasker

My Tasker tries to make everything as convenient as possible, offering a range of plans and pricing as well as an exclusive trial. Services include…

  • administrative
  • accounting
  • writing and editing
  • web design and development
  • digital marketing
  • IT support

My Tasker user, Jonathan January, says, “I have been working with MyTasker for a number of years and I never run out of areas where they can help me. The quality and timeliness of their services is in my opinion the best in the industry. I highly recommend them.”

OnlineJobs.PH

I know some people who use this site to find people in the Philippines to help with their business-related tasks. The Pro version of the site costs $69 a month.

After posting a job, you’ll be able to interview candidates so you can find the perfect fit. You can then negotiate salary and time worked and discuss expectations. You can manage time worked with TimeProof and pay workers with PayPal.

I really hope you find this list of places to find VAs and graphic designers helpful. If you end up using one of these resources, get in touch and let me know how it goes!

Here's where you can find virtual assistants and graphic designers to help with your ecommerce business.