The biggest day-to-day problem that I’ve had (and I’m assuming many of you can relate to) is having too many different large projects going on at a time. At MediaLeaf we nearly always have one or two new web apps in development as well as the day to day work on our existing businesses. Each of those things is a major time consumer, requiring dedicated attention from both marketing and development.
My current count has MediaLeaf with 6 different businesses, each with a varying degree of work required. The established businesses need less development work and more time spent on marketing and social media. The new businesses need more development work on new features, pivots, bugs, etc. All of the businesses require some amount of customer support. MediaLeaf itself requires a substantial amount of time spent on finance, payroll, taxes, legal, etc. That’s a lot of work that needs to be done on a continual basis, especially for a small team.
A multitude of problems can arise from situations like this. This entire list is from personal experience.
- Entire projects get neglected due to fire-fighting on existing businesses
- Development time suffers due to large customer support burdens
- Marketing and social media marketing suffer because of development on new projects
There are certainly many more combinations or problems and responsibilities that fall by the wayside in busy companies. The most important factors are how you combat these situations and minimize them as much as possible. Any CEO in a small company has to understand that fire-fighting is going to be a constant. Unless you have a staff of at least 15 people you are always going to have nearly your whole team working on priority issues.
Tips for Handling Excessive Workloads
Here are a few of things that I’ve implemented at MediaLeaf to help us cope with the vast amount of work that we have to accomplish with our small team.
1. Schedule Work In Weekly Chunks
At the beginning of each week you should set a direction for that week. The primary objective that you choose to work on for the week should be the single most important thing that is facing your company. It can be development work on a new startup that you have coming or maybe it’s adding a new feature to an existing business. The point is that you should just choose one theme for the week. This helps everyone on the team understand what the priority is and helps keep attention where it needs to be. If you have smaller projects then it may make sense to schedule work in daily chunks instead of weekly.
2. Customer Support Doesn’t Have to Be Continuous
Customer support has always been a significant proportion of our time spent, so we’ve experimented with various methods of fitting it into the daily routine. We don’t have a dedicated support team, so support duties are spread to everyone in the company. Support is always a priority and takes up time each day, but don’t make it take more time than it needs by constantly checking to see what work is out there.
We’ve went through periods where we did all customer support tickets once per day (we don’t do phone or live chat support) and we’ve had times where we answered tickets consistently as they came in. Here’s what we’ve learned: it doesn’t matter how often you do support, as long as you do it and do it well. Customers don’t really care if they have to wait 24 hours for a response if they get a good response and are satisfied. Our current process is to answer tickets about 3 times per day, and those times vary depending on who has the support duties for the day. We never have customers tell us that our response times are too slow, so we feel pretty good about our what we’re doing.
3. Push Administrative and Financial Work To Once Per Week
Financial work, such as handling payroll, paying taxes, etc. can all be accomplished in day, probably even in a single morning. You should do the same with administrative work, such as filing, ordering office supplies, and general organization around the office. Pushing these routine, but not time critical, tasks to a regularly scheduled day will let you get them done when they need to be done without letting them affect the more important tasks.
4. Follow Your Favorite Productivity System
A good personal productivity system, such as Getting Things Done (affiliate link), The 4-Hour Workweek (affiliate link), or anything else that works for you is always a good idea. You only have so much time to work, so you have to be sure that you’re getting as much done in that amount of times as possible.
What advice do you have for handling incredibly large workloads? How do you manage multiple companies or large projects?