A career in special events is fast-paced and demanding. Your weekends are spent producing lavish weddings and galas on-site, while your weekdays are filled with client appointments, vendor meetings, marketing efforts and all the other operational tasks that keep your business running successfully.
Amidst all that, we must somehow carve out time for ourselves--time for personal development, educational opportunities, family time and relaxation. Many seasoned event professionals laugh at the idea of a work-life balance and instead adhere to the “work is life” school of thought.
Unfortunately, these people are also the ones most likely to suffer from being overwhelmed and, eventually, burnout. Preventing burnout takes proactive thinking and smart organization, but the effort is well worth a life where work and life responsibilities can coexist peacefully.
The secret to this elusive work-life balance is in your business systems and work flow.
Discovering Your Systems and Work Flow
If you’re wondering what that means, rest assured that you likely already have systems in place.
Think about planning a wedding or a corporate event--what are the steps that will take you from planning to execution? Is there a formula that you follow each time? What programs or tools help you along the way? All of these aspects together are what form a work flow.
However, just because you have a system going doesn’t mean that it’s working for you. If you are continually feeling scatterbrained and in a state of hustle with little time to rest, your business processes could likely use some tweaking to get your company to peak efficiency.
Systems and processes standardize the way you do business, essentially taking out the “guesswork” of what comes next. Much like following a recipe in the kitchen, your work flow allows you to rely on what is already proven to work--that way, you can reclaim your time and mental space for other projects, responsibilities and priorities.
A bonus of having streamlined systems in place is that you (and your team, if applicable) provide a consistent client experience that runs like clockwork, getting you off the hamster wheel and back into creative mode.
Refining Your Processes
Consider your big dreams and plans for growth--how do you expect to achieve them if you’re stuck in the same cycle day after day? I’m a firm believer that there’s always room for improvement, especially in a business sense.
If you’re ready to refine your processes and work flow, your first step is to evaluate what is currently working. Take a moment to jot down all the tasks that end up filling your calendar--social media, email marketing, sales meetings, bookkeeping, following up with leads, creative ideation, planning, coordinating with other vendors, on-site execution and so on. This list will vary depending on your business, but you need to get a comprehensive view of the operations that keep your business going. Include your responsibilities, as well as those of your team if you have one.
Once you’re armed with your list, it’s time to work through each thing one by one. Ask yourself: How could I make this task easier? Is it possible to delegate it to someone else? Can I automate this task? You’ll soon start to identify gaps in your work flow that can be patched with the help of someone else or with a digital program.
Consider platforms that can support your efforts and simplify your day-to-day responsibilities. A few examples include Aisle Planner, Honeybook, Dubsado and 17 Hats for planning purposes. Quickbooks is excellent for bookkeeping, and I like Buffer for social media. However, these are just my opinions based on what I’ve found to work for me. You’ll likely need to experiment with a few programs to find the best one(s) that fit your business structure.
Implementing New Systems
Change can be challenging in a business setting--especially when you have a team. When you’ve identified a new system or have tweaked a process for efficiency, don’t expect the shift to take hold overnight. You need to learn the new process and build it into a habit through repeated exposure; if you have a team, you’ll also have to coach them through the transition.
Of course, the goal of refining your work flow and upgrading your systems is to find more time and mental clarity to pursue new projects, spend more time with family, and afford yourself some much-needed rest. Thus, it makes sense that you’d want to ensure that your changes are having an impact, which you can do through continued evaluation.
After a few months, take a moment to assess where you are with these new implementations in place. Have you started a project that had stayed on the back burner? Do you get to enjoy a mindful lunch more often during the week? Is your team stepping up to the plate?
Regular evaluation is the most effective way to maintain the efficiency of your business operations, as you’ll always be tuned in to what is and is not working. Your employees can also be a treasure trove of information, as they’re typically the ones getting their hands the dirtiest.
What it all boils down to is the hardest part of running a lean and efficient business is creating and sticking to the ideal systems and work flow that work for you. Rest assured that if you do, you will find more time in your schedule for yourself, your family and your friends.
Jennifer Taylor is the founder and owner of Taylor’d Event Group, an event planning company that serves local and destination clients in Washington State and Maui, Hawaii. She is also the principal of Jen Taylor Consulting, a consulting firm that works with creative businesses of all sizes to implement streamlined work flows and organized systems to find more time and space for business growth and personal development.