Lots of new entrepreneurs that I meet struggle with establishing structure — both in their businesses and in their day-to-day life. Their businesses are often run without many or any clearly established processes or systems, so in many ways the business is run from the owner’s head, so to speak. If someone (including the business owner) forgets how to tie a particular knot, a whole lot of time and energy can be wasted in re-figuring it out.

Really, systems and structure are nothing to fret about — and they are a critical element of building a strong, growing business. Remember, even really simple systems can be super effective. Sometimes a system is nothing more than a checklist or a list of steps for how to complete a certain task like preparing a spa treatment room for a client, or how to close out the cash register at the end of the day. With a solid set of procedures for various business operations (which should be in writing), you’ll improve consistency, which is a big element of customer satisfaction. Procedures and systems also help avoid errors and maximize efficiency, which in turn help keep costs down.

On a personal level, having no established schedule or structure for your day can also weigh you down. For most people, having at least some regular times for certain activities helps them be more productive and efficient overall. Establishing just a little structure in your days and weeks — say, you schedule Tuesday mornings (or maybe the 1st Tuesday each month) for doing marketing strategy and planning, and Friday mornings for entering receipts into your bookkeeping system — will still allow for the freedom and flexibility that probably attracted you to self-employment, but will streamline your operations and help you accomplish more for the same or less effort.

In fact, a huge benefit of systematizing is that it allows a business owner to actually take time off. Without any systems in place, you’ll need to be hands-on a lot of the time, basically tethering you to the business. If one of the reasons you want to leave your job and become self-employed is that you want more freedom in your life, putting good systems in place will help you achieve that. Otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll become a slave to your business just like you were a slave to your job.

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