Welcome back to the little piece of the internet where I share my experiences as a CPA for creative entrepreneurs. Every month, I share some of the more common questions or challenges I have seen over the past decade.
This month, I want to talk about finding the best tools to support and manage your business. This is one of the most important topics I discuss with my clients. If your systems or tools don’t fit you and aren’t helping you with the right areas, then you have the unfortunate privilege of spending more time than needed on the back end of your ministry.
How do you figure out where to add tools?
The first step to finding tools to help you in running the business end of your ministry is to figure out where your “time wormholes” are. Let me define “time wormhole” for you, as it might not be a familiar term:
A time wormhole is a task that fills you with dread, which is not related to the core activity of your business and takes more than 3 hours a month from your life with little to no immediate return.
Some time wormholes are the result of our own lack of discipline. The classic time suck that is our own fault is social media. We don’t have to spend a couple hours a day on Facebook, but some days that’s exactly what we do. Time wormhole.
It’s much more interesting to think of time wormholes that are important for the business side of your ministry to function well but just aren’t fun. In my experience, a time wormhole can be identified with a three-part test:
If you miss one deadline, it’s an accident. If you start missing deadlines regularly, you have a time wormhole.
When your pace slows significantly on a certain task, you might be battling a time wormhole.
Frustration or emotional disdain:
If you find yourself getting flustered or even feeling disdain toward a task, this could be a time wormhole.
Time wormholes are different for each person, but here are some that have come up in my conversations with creative entrepreneurs:
- Tracking mileage
- Keeping receipts for trips
- Maintaining a to-do for more than 15 hours without losing it
- Keeping your website updated and visually engaging
What do you do once you find a time wormhole?
The good news is that we live in the world of smartphones and ten billion apps. Like the old iPhone commercial, there’s an app for that. No matter what the time wormhole is, there’s bound to be a smartphone app that will allow you to simplify your processes.
Since I mentioned a few specific problems earlier, let me give you my recommendations for those common time wormholes.
The single best app on the market for tracking mileage is MileIQ. This app automatically tracks all your travel by using the GPS on your phone. Then, whenever it’s convenient, you go through the trips it records and categorizes each trip as business or personal. You can also mark trips as medical or for charitable work. And the reporting from this app is beautiful and simple.
For keeping receipts, there are a variety of apps that will store your receipts in secure locations with a simple photo. I happen to use CamScanner because it automatically loads photos to my Google Drive and doesn’t keep any photos in the phone itself. There are other apps that are equally powerful too.
I use ToDoist as a digital to-do list. There are other tools like Wunderlist and about a zillion others. I prefer ToDoist because it syncs across PC, Android, iPhone, and Macs, and can be integrated with your Google account as well. I specifically enjoy that reminders can be set up within the app too, which expands its use to include due dates for events and proposals. Honestly, this might be the most important app for me to function in my business.
One of the biggest time wormholes for me has historically been web design and updates, but I recently found Thrive Themes. This is a point-and-click visual designer that quickly creates epic and beautiful sites. Take a look at my writer’s site for an example – this took me about 2 hours.
Don’t lose sight of the main thing
If we’re not careful, we can get app-happy, and try to find an app for everything. We must keep our eyes on the main thing – simplification. So, if an app doesn’t actually save time, drop it. Immediately. The whole idea is to maximize the time you can spend on your ministry.
Chris Morris lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and three teenagers. He self-identifies as a coffee snob. He focuses his CPA firm on creative entrepreneurs because their passion is contagious, and every day is a new adventure with his clients.