How To Go From Chaos To Calm In 5 Easy Steps with Katie Macdonald

This week’s interview is with Katie, who initially came on board my business as my virtual assistant. Now, she’s so much more than that. As well as sharing our journey, we talk about how to find a VA for your own business. We cover 5 things that you can do within your own business to help improve your organisation, which is what Katie does for me on a day to day basis. The episode is a light-hearted and honest discussion about what I do well and what I am not so great at, making it another one of my favourite episodes so far.

  • Project management platforms are perfect for a business hub, as you can see exactly what you’re doing and when. Not only that, but it gives you confidence that you’re on the right track.
  • If you can, try not to keep more than one notebook. Once you’ve written your meeting notes down, transfer them into your business hub and project management platform.
  • Try to keep everything in one place if you can.
  • Use your calendar to dedicate time to certain tasks. Block it out and be as disciplined as you can. If you don’t, overwhelm will start to kick in.
  • It’s important to be flexible, but you need to be as strict as you possibly can.
  • Have a daily or weekly review to look over everything. Look at where you are, what has slipped and what you need to look at in the following week. Not only that but think about what has gone well.
  • You need to get your business to a place where you can feel comfortable enough to leave. Whether it’s for a day or for a two-week vacation, you can’t be IN your business all the time.
  • If you want a team to give you the freedom to step away, start now.
  • Recording your screen when you’re carrying out important business processes is a great way to pass important training on to your team.
  • In order to achieve points 1, 2, 3 and 4, you need to build habits to make things stick. Whilst that means giving things time, it will be worth it in the end.
  • Don’t give your ideas and time away for free.
  • xx

Unless you have the foundations in place to make your business succeed, it won’t work. You can have incredible ideas but without the systems there to back you up, chances are they won’t come to light.

  • Introducing Katie – 02:56
  • How Katie Plays a Huge Part in my Business – 07:20
  • #1 Build Your Business Hub – 19:35
  • #2 Be Organised and Intentional About How You Spend Your Time – 26:36
  • #3 Stay in Control of Your Business – 32:41
  • #4 Ensure You Have Systems and Processes in Place – 35:50
  • #5 Build Habits to Make Things Stick – 42:20
Transcript below


Hello and welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. I'm smiling already because I've just been re-listening to the episode, so when I batch content I batch interviews and then I do the intros and [inaudible 00:00:46] afterwards and I have to sometimes re-listen back through to the interview just like sections of it, and this week's interview, honestly, I love. So this week's interview is with Katie who works with me and has worked with me the longest. She's been with me quite a few years now, and Katie came on board as a virtual assistant and has become so much more than that. Just hearing us talk, honestly, it makes me smile so much. I love, it to bits, I totally, totally do.

Basically this episode is two fold. One, if you were thinking about getting a VA or thinking about how that might work, we share our journey about how I find Katie, what we did in the initial days. Some of this is hilarious as well because I was an idiot basically and Katie sorted me out. Then we go through five things that Katie does or Katie suggests that you do in your business that will help you be really, really on it and really organised in your business. This is what Katie's job basically is for me, is to try and get me organised. There's some things I do all right, other things I do dismally and we're really honest about that.

So today's episode is a very frank, open discussion about how Katie came on board, worked with me, what she does, and then these five brilliant things that you're going to be able to do in your business, and if you're better behaved than I am, then you're going to do them more successfully than I did and won't need Katie to keep trying to batter you into submission to get these things done.

So it's a great episode. Like I said, I love it for so many reasons because one, Katie is so smart at this and really she's been amazing in my business, hence why she's been in it for so long. And two, I think it's a really nice personal insight and we're kind of following along the personal theme around the fact that we have the 100th episode when I just thought this would be a really another nice one to follow up with. So this one I'm really excited about. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think. Let Katie know what you think as well and I'll just hand you over to us. Here we go.


Introducing Katie


So today I am very, very excited. I'm always excited, but I am super excited today to welcome the podcast guest because today it's my very, very lovely friend and member of my team, Katie McDonald. Hello, Katie.

Hello. Hi, thank you for inviting me.

Honestly, this is so weird, but cool.

It really is.

We speak on Zoom all the time. We do meet in person as well, but we speak on Zoom all the time, so to sit here and do a recording and the other people are going to listen to our conversation, god help them. If they'd listened to some of them, that wouldn't have been so great, I'm sure.

No, but this one is going to be fine. We can do this.

We're professionals, Katie. We can totally do this.

We are. We are at all times, yes.

So, Katie, let's start by explaining who you are and what you do and if you want to check in a bit about what you do for me, then that's cool. Up to you, you crack on.

I'm not sure what you'd call me really. We've had this conversation lots of the times haven't we?

We do.

What actually am I?


I think essentially I am a virtual assistant and online business manager. I've been doing that for 10 years next year, which is amazing to think that it's been going for so long.

That is Crazy.

Came from an exec PA background, which I think most VA's probably do, will start off that way. Never really had the thought of running my own business, just kind of found this VA idea, which was very big in America at the time, and thought, “Yeah, I'd quite like to give that a go.” So started alongside my day job and then had the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy in 2012, so I did dead and thought, “Well it's kind of now or never really,” and gave it a go and yeah, eight years later here I am.

Wow. Yeah.

So it's brilliant.

That's crazy. So you work with lots of other people as well and I've worked at different business people in different industries and different things, haven't you?

Yep, I have. I've got a real mix of clients, which I love because I think the variety is great. I get to do lots of different things, no two days are the same. It's mainly people who do run their own business. I know some VA's work with corporate organisations, but now I'm very much the entrepreneurial end of the scale.

Yeah, and now have a team.

I do.

So people that work with you because you're so busy and so in demand.

I have two lovely associates, yes.

Which then come up with you, which is super cool as well because I mean sometimes, especially on a VA type business, if you are a VA and I know some people who listen are VA's, it must be hard to think, “How am I going to grow this?” because when you're someone's assistant or your someone's number two or second in command or whatever they want you.

Yeah they do, yeah.

And then try and work out what goes to other people or how other people can manage things must be tricky.

It is. I think I've been very lucky with my client base and for Amy… Well, Zita joined me first a couple of years ago now and then Amy joined last year, but all my clients have been so open and supportive to me wanting to grow the business that it's been quite easy to integrate them in. I'm still very much involved with all of the clients. Although some of them now might be more day-to-day supported by Amy or Zita, I'm still very much there and know what's going on. I think for me that's quite important. I never really wanted to grow to an agency model where I was very hands off. So I'm very lucky that my clients have accepted Amy and Zita and just been very supportive of that.

Yeah, that's cool, really cool. We want to talk about, because you do some stuff online yourself, obviously you've got your own personal brand, you put your own stuff out there and we do want to talk about something that you do to help businesses in terms of taking them from chaos to calm in five steps if we're going to be going through that, but I want to just talk briefly about you and me in this business and how you came about.


How Katie Plays a Huge Part in my Business


So Katie was my first team member and I knew I needed help, but I had no idea what it was or what it looked like or anything. I've told this story a few times and Katie knows it, that I downloaded Jean Lehnas lead magnet on how to hire a VA and it was very much based in the Philippines and hiring of Filipino VA. Although it was great advice, I felt that I needed someone within arms reach or someone that I knew, someone that someone could recommend, someone that I have more of a connection to because this is the first person in my business and it was a bit scary, you don't know how that's going to go.

So Katie and I's paths across a few years before where she had actually gone to the agency that I was working at to have her branding done, and one of the designers who is a good friend of mine, Nick, he was doing all the work. KTM was still with Katie even after we both left the company. So I contacted him and said, “You do work for that Katie, don't you?” because of Katie, “You do work for her don't you?” And he's like, “Yeah.” I said, “What's she liked?” and he's like, “Oh, I think she's amazing, and I think at [inaudible 00:08:30] she's amazing.”

So anyway, we met for a coffee and we had a chat and you told me what you did and we tried to work out what on earth it was I wanted or needed, but what was super funny was… This is before like the real online-ness of what we do now and you were like, “So we'll have Skype calls,” and I was like, “Why?” Like, “Why can we not meet just in person? You live like half an hour down the road.”

[crosstalk 00:08:55]

Yeah, exactly. Like, “Why are we going to speak on Skype?” and I'd never done that and I was like… This sounds like I'm so flipping stuck in my ways, but I hadn't because it'd never comes up. I mean, I've done Skypes, but I haven't had a working relationship with someone over Skype. Anyway, we started working together. I still didn't know what I wanted you to do, you still didn't know what I needed from you, and it was just one of those things that we worked out as we went along,

And it kind of evolved, didn't it, as we got into the business together?

Yeah, and you see things in the business that I didn't see. So Katie, the one thing that I would highly recommend and one of the reasons we're going to talk about her five ways to cast calm is because when you start your business, you know you're good at the thing that you're selling, right? So I'm good at [inaudible 00:09:46] Someone else might sell shoes, they're good at making and selling shoes. Someone else might be a trainer, they're good at that. We're not business people. When you start your business you're not, you're an employee if that's what you were doing and you were good at that thing.

So then you start your business thinking, “How hard can it be? I just do my thing every day.” Oh my goodness, like obviously, but one thing that you did is you came in and looked at what I was doing and was like, “You need to sort this out, man. This is ridiculous,” because-

What have I done?

I just had… yeah, like, “Can I really help this person?” because I just have no structure to the business, did I?

No… Well, you thought you did because you were serving your clients really well, you were doing really well as a business owner. So you thought you did, but I came in and was like, “Whoa.”

“No, you're not.”

Yeah, and I think what's interesting is that sometimes, and we've spoken about this as well, you're so in your business yourself and you're so focused on your clients and what work you do and you've got all these big ideas of where you want to take your business, but you forget that unless you've got the foundation and the systems in place to do that, it won't work. I think that's what we found quite quickly, is you had all these great plans and yet we were like, “Oh, but how's that going to work and what's in place for this?” So it was interesting to look at that and peel everything back.

And it took me from being a one-person business that did everything and it was all in my head and it was all on me, to then how are you going to scale, and that's not necessarily what everybody wants to do. Not everybody wants to scale.

No, they don't, no.

But I did and as I've scaled in a different way to maybe what we imagined in the early days, but I could never have done that without that help. There is no way on this earth I could have got to the team I've got now, done the stuff I've done without you coming in and going, “You need to sort that out, you need to sort that out. What is this?”

“What is this?”

Yeah, what's funny though, is when people bring on someone like you, and it's funny that we don't know what to call you, which makes us laugh.

It does, yeah.

I always say that you're the number two in the business. Like Katie oversees the business with me. So I would not to class Katie as a VA because there are things that I, A, wouldn't give… I have Sophia that obviously works in the business while she's manages the podcast. There are things I'd give Sophia and there's things I give Katie and also I think Katie's role in the business has become way more then some of the VA tasks that I would have initially have thought of. It's not to say and Katie doesn't sit in and go, “That's not me anymore. I don't do that. So do you know who I am? I don't sent your emails for you, don't be insane. Who did these [inaudible 00:12:50] and get over yourself,” but you still do some tasks that someone would class as a VA task.

Yeah, for sure, yeah.

But you have a much greater sight of the business as a whole and how the teamwork and who they are and what they do and, and when I… not that I ever step out of the business fully, I'm not very good at that.

No. We haven't haven't managed that yet.

Not quite. Katie's has it in her own business, which is amazing and her team does an amazing job of looking after me-

It did, yeah.

… and I didn't need much looking after, to be fair. I'm not high maintenance. I'm like Katie.

No, you're not. Not at all.

She said that really genuinely I think a lot of people listening would think, “Really? Actually I think she is high maintenance.” But no, I think I know what I like to… This is going to say awful, but use you for in the nicest sense of the word because what I use Katie for now is not so much of the VA task, but more we have calls every week and we talk about business and we talk about what have I done this week, and Katie is absolutely imperative in the business.

When I look at like… and I'm not just saying this to be nice because she's on this podcast, I would say it anyway, but when I look at the financials of the business and who we pay, there's some team members that are dependent on clients because they do client work and until the Academy grows bigger they will have to stay dependent on that client work, and for me, Katie was never that. Katie might have come in initially, me thinking “You're in for this,” but actually you are now as much a fixed cost as having to pay for hosting on the website. Do you know what I mean? It's a no brainer because-

That's lovely. Thank you, yeah.

Also for me, and if anybody's listening, having that person who is not your husband or your wife or your partner that you can talk to that has some amazing experience in lots of different industries, doing lots of different things and working with lots of different people, to then get on a call and go… I nearly swore then. That would have been the first time I've ever sworn on the podcast. That's because me and you are talking. That's what that is.

You nearly forgot yourself.

I nearly genuinely swore. Katie, they'll never believe this, because I've never sworn on the podcast and I can occasionally swear, as Katie will well know, when we've had a few difficult calls.


So yeah, but when things aren't going so well… God, that was so funny. I'd have like absolutely howled if I swore.


Yeah, remember what we're doing. You know, things aren't going so well to get on a call with Katie and don't get me wrong, I can literally tell you that two days ago I did exactly that. We're recording this end of November 2019, I'm five years into my business and I still had to do that two days ago because sometimes you just need to do that.

You do.

You need someone in your team or you need someone on your side that is more than just a fulfilling of something.


For me, that's what you are. You are very much part of who we are, what we do, the direction we go in, and I think we have a relationship now where you can literally go-


“No, Teresa. [inaudible 00:16:07] What a ridiculous idea. You're crazy.” Yeah.

Yeah, because I have that knowledge of you and I know you very well and I have that knowledge of the business. So yeah, sometimes I can word things in such a way that it's beneficial. It makes you think differently and I think that's important, and I think that's how my own business and my own role has evolved in that because of the knowledge I have of online business, because I'm in this world myself, I can be that sounding board and that somebody that you can really talk to on that level, which as you said, sometimes husband, wife, partner, even your closest friends that might not be in the same situation, they don't fully understand what it's like, so to have that person I think is really important.

That the really cool bit about it because you are in a position where you have your own business so it would be different. Like if I bought some on full time into the business, even if I thought they were second in command,

We did think of that didn't we at one time.

We did, yeah.

We thought that might work.

Yeah, and actually for your role, I think I actually really like the fact that you are almost in the same position as me as in you're a business owner too and you're feeling some of the pains I feel-

Yeah, absolutely.

… going through some of the things I go through and we watched some of the same people and we follow some of the same stuff. So for me, I think that is particularly helpful when trying to help me with my business and deal with my staff. Also the other bit, and we've managed it, I would say, pretty well, in terms of we become friends.

Yeah, we have.

And we spent two weeks in San Diego together, didn't we? Which was really, it was so cool.

And our husbands went off and we did things.

Boy things.

Yeah, boy things.

And we did conference things.


But it was good fun.

It was good fun.

Again, the other thing that's really interesting working this closely with Katie, is that because we have become friends, the personal stuff that impacts us in our business, which it always does… you know, we'd like to think that we're so much more professional than that-

Yeah, it does.

… but if something's going on in the house. Life's busy. If one of the kids is under whatever, it does have a huge effect and a lot of what we've done together is also been if I've had a terrible day because something's happened personally and I need to come back into focus, you're that kind of voice of reason and that voice of calmness that will go, “Okay, right. You're having a terrible day. What three things do you need to finish up today? What can I do? How can I help? Who can I speak to?” and I think just to have that is phenomenal. Well, and I've said it before, my business would not be the business today if it hadn't had been for Katie and what she put in place-

[crosstalk 00:19:01] can see that on the podcast.

We'll have to make some sound effect noise yet [crosstalk 00:19:07] sound effects. But yeah, it wouldn't be because we put certain things in place that changed how we did things for the whole lot better. So what we're going to do is we're going to go through Katie's five things, all right? I'm not, Katie is, and then if I can think of things that we've done in our business that I can then chip in and say, then I'll totally do that.

Yeah. Okay.


#1 Build Your Business Hub


Over to you. Let's go with number one. It's like some of the problems.

Yeah, in at number one, I think this is probably would be my number one obviously go to, you have to have in your business and this is what I've got myself and what I try to put in place with my clients and Teresa smiling at me now because she knows what I'm about to say, and that is to build your business hub.

So the one place online that you can go to and see at a glance what you've got to do today, tomorrow, next week, what projects you've got coming up, what status things are at if you work with a team. I recommend Teamwork for this, but there are other project management platforms like Asana is also, a really good one, but I think to have a really good business hub and to use it is so important because then you do know what status you're at. You do know where your business is at any one time and you can also think if you have new clients inquiries, have I got time to take this on? Can I actually fit this into my business?

I think it also builds confidence because you know you've got a handle on everything you need to have a handle on and I use my business hub not only for client work but also for stuff that I'm doing for myself. So projects for my own business or blog posting or social media stuff all goes into one place so I can see everything that's going on. Now-

Shall we talk about what to practise?

Shall we talk about this within Teresa's business? This is probably, and I think it's fair to say we have not done this halfway, I don't think we have, and we've tried.

No, and who's fault is that, Katie?

That is yours.

It is.

Yeah, it's is. We you have tried three times, have we now. I think.

I'm looking like… at not each other. Yeah, seriously, I get it.

We have tried, haven't we?


Yeah, and you bought into it completely-

I totally understand why we should do this.

… and you see why we needed it and how great it would be, but

Yeah, I think that-

… we just couldn't-

… it gets a head.

Exactly, yeah.

So only you could see it, because we'd get on a call and I'd be like, “I'm overwhelmed, Katie. I got all this work.”

And I'm like, “But I can't see anything. Why is it in a [inaudible 00:21:54]. Where you have you put it?” And you called it the notebook and be look, “Woo-hoo.”

And she scolded me like you're in detention, honestly, and if she could see my desk right now, Katie and I [inaudible 00:22:06] in so many ways, we could not be further apart on this one.


So my desk right now as I speak, has got one, two, three, four, four notebooks, and about seven bits of paper. Katie's having a little hernia, like going to sick [inaudible 00:22:22]. Oh, and these notebooks are for different things, right? Katie has one notebook, she'll do a call with me, she'll be writing it down, she gets off the call, it goes into Teamwork. She's put dates on things, she knows when she needs to follow up by. She's like a machine, this woman-


But for whatever reason, I've really struggled by the teams-

You have, yeah.

And I haven't [inaudible 00:22:46]

Yeah, absolutely and Sofia use it for their regular tasks and they get along fine with it, but it's just something we haven't been able to really integrate in for you. I think we've tried different platforms. We've tried a few times, but I think I'm also a big advocate of using what works for you and if you work with notebooks and you work with post-its and things and that is how you function best, then that's what you should do because I know when we tried to use Teamwork, I think some of it was in Teamwork and then some of it would be in your notebook and it was all getting really scattered just because they don't work that way and that's fine.

I think from my perspective-

If you can, then for sure that's the best thing to do.

Absolutely, and I think we have weekly calls where a lot of our work together happens, but for me to be able to go into a project management system and see what you've got on your plate as well, so I can then go, “Okay, I can take that off, that off, that off, that off,” and do that for you. I don't have that visibility in the same way, so it's been quite a learning curve for me as well, but I think we do all right without-

I think we do fine.


I think I totally am bought into the idea of it because it's things like when you write your to do list, you write everything on it and you look at that list and you're like, “Agh,” and actually the truth is that might not need doing till next week or that might not be an urgent thing or you could put that off until tomorrow or whatever.

So I actually am trying something else. I don't think I've told Katie this. She's going to shout at me because she loves Teamwork. So I'm trying a thing that was on AppSumo for free for a year.

Oh, you did say actually.

… called Marvellous Marvin is it? I'll link to it and I don't know if it's still on AppSumo. It's just basically literally a list, but you can put dates on it and then you can drag things from master lists onto today or whatever. So I'm trying that because the only thing is my head never stops and I lie in bed and I need somewhere, I might have a notebook or whatever and I go out and I'm like, “Oh I need to put this down and I need to do this.” So that was the idea because they've got an app and things. Anyway it might last a week.

Are you using it at the moment?

I say yes, but I literally have three to-do lists on my paper.

You've got a notebook on the [crosstalk 00:25:11]

So yeah, [inaudible 00:25:12] Anyway, [inaudible 00:25:12] on, brilliant. So everyone go get it to do list thing and like I said there are some free ones and paid ones.

Yeah. There are some free ones. I think most platforms will have a free version and then yes, if you upgrade you get different functionality and things, but yeah.

And you can have team members and stuff and again-

You can have team members, you can put them on your phone, on your laptop, on your desktop so everything syncs. So that would be my go-to. If you're going to do anything start with that.

Yeah, brilliant. Quickly on Teamwork as well. One thing, because someone asked me the other day, I had a meeting with a client and he's like, “How do you manage all these people that are not in the same country as you?” and it's like, “They track their time.” Now I've worked with them all for such a long time, I don't think they track their time anymore, I wouldn't have a clue, but I trust them implicitly because I've worked with them so long, but Teamwork has a time tracking system in it, doesn't it?

It does, yeah, which-

So that's helpful as well.

Yeah. Yeah, if you wanted to see your team members and how they were working on different projects and the time, especially if you're outsourcing from a client that you've contracted with them for a certain amount of time, it's really useful to have it all in one place. I'm a big fan of having as many things as you can within the same platform. It's not always possible, but yeah.

But Teamwork does cover quite a lot of stuff.

It does, yeah.


#2 Be Organised and Intentional About How You Spend Your Time


Okay. Number two.

So number two would be to get really organised and intentional about how you spend your time because that will improve your productivity and therefore your mindset because you'll feel like you're getting loads done and you're whizzing through that to-do list that's in your notebook or in Asana or whatever you've chosen. So I think-

How did we do that?

I think if that is discipline. A lot of that is about discipline and it does take some time, especially if you're somebody who gets distracted very easily by social media or you have a lot of notifications going on… Top tip, turn off your notifications. You don't need to know what's happening on Instagram all the time or who's messaging you. You might think differently, but it's-

No, no, I totally agree. When trying to be productive-

Yeah, you have to be focused.

… I'm a big advocate. I'll check it first thing when I sit down… Well, I check it, the minute I get up, I check it when I sit in the office and then I try really hard to not look at it again until lunch time because like you said, otherwise you're constantly on it-

Time, yeah.

… and we're talking… This is what Katie would literally smack me for if she could reach through the screen, we're talking and my emails are just notified up in that top corner-

You see.

… and I got distracted for a minute.

You see, yeah.

It was a good email, by the way, but I got distracted.

[inaudible 00:27:50] thought.

Katie's Siri just got-

Now Siri has just gone off.

She's having a panic attack. It's going crazy-

Talking about distractions.

Right, focus now. Yes, you do have to watch that because even if Siri is on silent. I'm going to set my-

I know. My phone is on silent, yeah.

Yeah, even if it's silent it makes a noise.


Yeah. I had that last night. So yeah, so focus.

So yeah, to get really disciplined about how you spend your time and the things that you're working on. So one thing that's a really good way of getting into this way of working is use your calendar more. We always just use our calendar for putting in appointments or phone calls or something. Block out time to do certain tasks. So if you've got a big project you spend half an hour, block out 9:00 to 9:30 for that work, and be really disciplined because I find that if it's in your diary, most people will do it, whereas if it's just in a list, you can skim it and like, “Oh I don't, feel like doing that,” or, “[inaudible 00:28:47] and then it all mounts up and that's when overwhelm kicks in because you feel like you're not getting anything done.

So it is about how you structure your time as well as how you structure your to-do lists and what you have to do.

Again, that was something you did for me when I started and it didn't always work because you do have to be a little bit flexible with some things-

You do. Absolutely, yeah.

… especially when you're working with clients. Or for me now, I have to be flexible when it comes to interviewing people for a podcast. So Mike Stelzner, I interviewed at 10:00 PM. Ideally, I'd not booked things [inaudible 00:29:21] at 10:00 PM, but sometimes you have to make exceptions, but you did that for me and we started to look at, “Actually, I don't want to go out on a Friday and see clients,” or “I don't want to do a meeting on a Monday because I want to organise the week,” or because we have Calendly where people can book-in calls, not just for podcasts but other things.

Again, you're like, “When is your most optimum time?” and we squeeze into that time. So that really helped me because I am one of those people that if I had a meeting at, even if it's a meeting on Zoom at say 10:00 and then one at 12:00, I'd nothing between those two calls or I'd do very little. So for me, trying to make everything as close together and then having a whole day when you're not doing anything is really helpful. So that made a big difference in my business.

Yeah. I think it is important to be flexible, and this may tie in with having boundaries for your business as well. It's easy to just let calls slip in or meetings run over or something and yet it sounds… and when I do suggest this to clients sometimes they're like, “Oh no, that's too rigid. I can't work like that.” It sounds like it's almost too much of a hard way of working and a lot of people that I work with want flexibility in their business and that's fine, but you still have to be able to do what you need to do and get that done, but also feel like you're making progress, and often if you're all over the place and you've got no structure to your time in the day, then the feelings of overwhelm kick in very quickly.

Yeah, and you very good-

I put everything in my diary, including my lunch. I put my lunch in, everything and-

That's brilliant.

… some people go, “How can you work like that? That seems so rigid.”

But you can.

Hey, it works for me, but I still have flexibility. I can still do other things in a day, but I think for me it is about knowing what time I'm building in for me and for what I need to do as well as clients as well, yeah.

And I'm going to get a gold star on that because literally it is in a notebook though, it's not on a thing, but I literally have… and every morning, I say I try, I don't always do this, I have like 10:00 till 10:30 I'm doing this… Or you can't see it.

[crosstalk 00:31:33]

I'm going to show you.

Yeah, I can see-

You know, 11:00 till 11:30, I'm doing this and I have to say when I'm disciplined enough to do that, I stick to it because the other thing is, I don't know about you, but you think to yourself, “Oh, I'll put that off, I'll put that off because that's going to take ages,” and it doesn't.

Yeah, it doesn't if you do it. Often, those things are like 10 minutes.

Yeah, literally.

[crosstalk 00:31:50] and once I'm building that up to be so big, yeah.

And just keep putting it off and putting it off and it absolutely doesn't need to do that. So yeah, those sort of things are really, really helpful, and sometimes you do just have to be super strict with yourself and go, “I'm not going to do that,” or, “I saw that email coming in, but I need to write this thing and until I finish writing it I'm not going to go and look at thing.”

Yeah, and it is about discipline and changing the way that you work, but still making sure that the way that you're trying to work works for you. It's no good trying to force yourself to work the way other people work because you think they're mega productive or they must get loads done, so you're going to copy them, because it doesn't work for everyone, but you have to find a way of being disciplined that works for you.


#3 Stay in Control of Your Business


Fab. Okay, number three.

So this is about staying in control of your business, which I think links back to why it's so good to have a business hub because you can do weekly, daily reviews of where your business is at, what you've got coming up, what space you might have to take on new clients, what's urgent, what needs to be outsourced and you can have that as an overview of your business in one go, and that makes you feel like you know all your moving parts are fine, you're under control and you can focus on what you need to do.

I think that's really important to build in those, even if it's not a daily review, even if it's just a weekly review on a Friday afternoon to just look over everything. I think, “Right, where am I at? What slipped? What's not happened? What do I need to do next week?” but also, what's gone really well? What are you celebrating that week? What are you really pleased that you got done or what excellent client work have you done that you're really proud of? I think to have that review time is really important.

Do you do that every week?

I do. Every Friday afternoon I will just take an hour and I will look over everything that's gone on, everything that we've got coming up for the following week and almost just take a breath because sometimes I get to Friday and think… I always say, “Friday again? I just left Monday,” and that's really important and I think then you don't feel overwhelmed, you know where you are with things and that makes you feel really in control of your business because there is a lot of moving parts in what we do and sometimes they can take over and I think it's important that they don't and you keep a handle on that.

And especially with your type of business or my type of business where… Well not so much now because I don't do so much of it now, but in the early days where it was all client staff you're not just trying to manage and controls your business, when you look at each of those people, you're having to control a load of stuff within their staff.

So Katie and I have had a client in the past that was in common. It was actually Katie's client and she recommended me and we helped him launch his membership and it was actually lovely because there was lots of things that Katie was doing and lots of things that I was doing and the fact that we knew each other and we could all work together as a really good three was great, but it was interesting because that was a big project-

Yeah, it was huge.

… so for him that was massive, but for us that was just one part of all the other moving parts and that's why having that being able to step out and go, “Okay, so that's where I am with that, that's fine. That's where I am with that, that's okay. That's what I need to do some work on that,” and to just review it. I have to say I'm not as good as you, Katie. I have all good intentions, but I don't necessarily do that every week. I do try and do it every so often, but I need to get better at that. That's on my to-do list.

Yeah, in your notebook.


#4 Ensure You Have Systems and Processes in Place


Okay. Yeah, in my notebook. It's on a scruff of paper somewhere, [inaudible 00:35:43] of it, I'll find it. Okay. Number four.

Systems and processes. I can hear the groans now in the audience-

Yeah, they're like, “Ugh.”

… because it is the boring stuff and depending on whether you want to build a team or not and you might not need something as rigid as having documented systems and processes, but I can vouch myself when I think I took on my associate, I was going on holiday this year, I think I Screencast videoed myself for about six weeks before I went on holiday-

That's amazing.

… trying to document everything I did to make sure that they knew how to do everything and all my clients were going to be well served while I was away. That's so important to have that directory of systems and processes so everyone knows, “That's how you do that. That's how you do that,” and if somebody's away, somebody else can pick it up. I'm not sure whether, if you're not planning on having a team, this is that important, but I think you need at least some sort of master document that you can pull together with most of what you do on it, so if something was to happen, because let's face it, we are our businesses at the end of the day, somebody else can go in and think, “Right, this is what I need to do as a minimum. I know where I'm going.”

There's a few things there that you just said. Well one, you took, was it two weeks you were away for?

Two weeks, yeah.

Completely out of the business.

Completely out-

She didn't look at an email, you didn't-

Scariest thing I've ever done.

And I can totally get it because I've never really done it. There have been times where Katie has looked after the business and she's then had contact with me or I then chipped in when I needed to, but I've never been brave enough to turn my emails off on my phone, to not look at my own stuff. I just… and again, the other problem is I'm so active on social media. I think people would think I've died. “She's dead.” No, at a holiday, and the thing is, I like posting stuff on there anyway, but for you to do that was amazing and I think is the one thing that I wish I was better at because actually I think as business owners we should be taking that time.

Also, I think the best thing that we've got this far in this business is the podcast. Sophia knows every single step of everything she's got to do, I've recorded videos for all the various different steps. If Sophia decided, I hope not, Sophia, if you're listening, but if Sophia decided tomorrow she didn't want to work with me anymore then I have all that stuff and we have that process in place. Like I said, I hope she doesn't. She's lovely and amazing, but that's the whole thing, isn't it? It's kind of future proofing yourself for that as well.

It is for sure, and I think we can sometimes get caught up in our own businesses, that everything just becomes second nature to us and we just do it so naturally and we don't often think that, “Okay, well I want to grow a team, but so much of it is with me. I need to get out of this, I need to be able to share it with somebody else,” and it's really important.

Going on holiday for two weeks and taking my emails off my phone was quite scary, to say the least, but I knew that I'd done the groundwork to make sure that nothing happened, and Amy and Zita knew how they could get hold of me if the sky was about to fall in, which was my kind of, if anything is going to be go wrong, please tell me now. Nothing did.

No, and it's great.

So it was great. I think for me, or for so many of us who run our own businesses, we do want that freedom as well as that choice of what we work with and who we work with-

Of course.

… but often the freedom part gets left because we are so much our businesses, it's so hard to leave them behind. So it was a big step, but I would recommend it.

Isn't that interesting because I think often, not that I came into my own business for this reason, I came in because I need to pay a mortgage, but the reason people often go into their own business is, “I want freedom.” Oh, good luck with that because actually that is not an easy thing to do in your business.

It's not, no.

And I was listening to a podcast of someone who's hopefully going to go on this podcast, and they said, yes, but we've got to book it. When she talks to parents and they go, Oh, I'm going to take the summer off,” she's like, “Are you insane? You can't take summer off. It doesn't work like that. You won't have a business by the other end of the summer,” and unfortunately, depending on your business-


… I'm not going to say because some people are going to sit there go, “I manage to take the summer off every year.”

“I've done it. I do it,” yeah, absolutely and some people-

They'll pay, but-

I think if you start your business… I think for me, my business grew quite quickly, but I didn't build in that when I probably should have done, which is why now I say to people, “If you're wanting a team and you're wanting that freedom to step away-

Do this now.

… start now. Start before you even think you're going to want a team because you will thank yourself later for sure.” Yeah.

Can I just add like another tiny thing on that, is that the ScreenFlow stuff, basically where you record yourself doing stuff and there's lots of other systems that do it, but you can record yourself and not only is it good because you are giving something to someone else and they know exactly what you want doing, but actually I've done it the other way round, where one of my team, Steve, did tech stuff and I didn't know how he did it. So for instance, he used to update the podcast and me and I got him to record himself, how he did it because I was basically putting a fairly important aspect of my business in the hands of someone else, and granted he'd worked with me for years again, so I wasn't concerned for him, but what if he went ill? What if something happened? What if anything? So I needed to know how to do that. Although I didn't do it every week, he did it, I needed to know as much as people need to know how I do things. So yeah, two way thing.

I think that's important. And I think I do work that way with clients. where I may create something, build something for them, set up a new email list or whatever, but I always make sure that they know what to do. They don't always want to know what to do because they think, “Well, I've got you. I don't need to,” but they really do. I think that's really important, is it's great to work with other people in your business, but at the end of the day it's still your business and you still need to know what's going on-

How to do these things, for sure.

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.


#5 Build Habits to Make Things Stick


Okay. We are on to the final one, number five.

Number five, and this ties all of the others together, which is making things stick. Building habits to make things stick. So have it so using your new business hub, getting to grips with how that works for you, building something that you can enjoy using that you can rely on, but you know when you do your weekly reviews it's going to show you everything you need.

The same with building in time and being intentional about how you use your time. That doesn't happen overnight, especially if you've got quite a freestyle way of working and you suddenly know, “Okay, I need to be disciplined but it's not in my nature. How am I going to do it?” You need to give these things time to actually bed into your business and to build that habit. That can be really hard because our default settings are so strong that if we've been doing something for years and then all of a sudden we realise we might not want to change the way we work, but we know that if we want our business to go where we want it to go, we have to change and that can be quite hard to do, but it's really important that we stick to it regularly and check-in and make sure that everything's still going to plan and don't give up too soon. I think some people will think, “Oh, it's not working. I'll just go back to how I wanted to.”

I think, and I might be wrong, but I'm sure it takes, is it 14 times of doing something regularly before it's classed as a habit? Don't Google, I might be wrong, but there is some time scale where you have to-

Yeah, I think there's conflicting answers, isn't there, but that definitely is a thing, isn't it?

You have to do something-

You have to do it so many times, yeah.

Yeah, before it can actually be classed as a habit, but I've known people who their business is in complete chaos and they've put these five things into place and it's taken time, but now they're like, “I don't know why I didn't do this before. This is so simple and yet I refuted it for so long, but it's made a massive difference.”

And being on the receiving end of it, it does. Like I said, I've not been the best student the whole way through. Some things I really struggle with, but-

Independent, let's call it that.

Yeah, that's like my school reports, “Strong character,” Yeah, “Real will for this.”

But that's really good because some people would just say, “Oh well, Katie is saying I have to do it this way so I have to do it,” and then they quietly there grinding their teeth thinking, “Why am I doing this? I hate it,” and that's the last thing I would ever want. It has to work for you as a business owner and yes, there has to be an element of it being able to work for me as I'm the one who's providing support for you, but it's good that you haven't always gone along with Asana or Teamwork because it would have probably caused you more overwhelm then I'm trying to take away from you. So it's good as well.

Yeah, and I think, like you said, there's degrees of stuff isn't there? So there is so much, and it's funny because we talked about doing this interview and I was like, “We could talk about what you've done for my business,” and then when you try and think back, you've been with me-

You can't stop-

… how many years now? Four. Three, four years.

Four I think. Four now, yeah.

We couldn't make a list, which is ridiculous because Katie's done so much with the business, but it's kind of like you'd introduce one thing and then it would just turn into the thing that we do and then you'd introduce something else and it would turn into thing that we do. One of the things that actually, and I've talked about it, I'm sure, before, that actually made the biggest difference was Katie is like… Having someone on your team's like they're your cheerleader, they're on your side.

So when I would go to Katie in the early days and go, “Oh I've got a meeting with this woman who's interested in some social media stuff,” and I'd say to Katie, “I don't think she can afford it,” and you never want to be presumptuous, you never want to assume that someone can't. Anyway, I'd go along at my meeting, I'd be in that meeting for three hours. She would pick every single idea at my brain because I let it come out. I'm not blaming her and blaming me entirely because I'm like, “Oh you could do this and do this and do this because I just love it.”

I literally used to pour everything out my brain, I'd then get back to the office having spent three hours out of the office, I'd then spend an hour writing a proposal, I'd email the proposal, she'd then be on the list, chased because of course you'd never get a straight answer back, so then I'd be chasing her and chasing her and chasing her, and then eventually she'd go, “I can't afford you. Sorry.” And I spent all that time and what was brilliant, was Katie came in and was like, “This is ridiculous. You can't keep doing this. You can't run a business like this,” and we put in one of the most simplest, easiest things ever and the difference it made is phenomenal.

So when someone inquired, and this happens on both sides actually, the agency side and the [inaudible 00:47:18] now, but it goes to me and Katie, so I do see it, especially [inaudible 00:47:24] and stuff. I probably pay more attention to that than Katie does, but on the agency side, Katie would deal with that inquiry and she would have herself a quick conversation with me and I'd go, “Yeah, that looks cool. I think I can do something,” and then she would go back to them and go, “Here's a link to Teresa's diary. Do you want to book in a 30 minute call?”

One, pulling me out of that initial conversation was great because it stepped me up to another level. Two, it meant I got on the phone with them or got on a Zoom or Skype or whatever so I could judge whether I was a good fit for them and whether they were a good fit for us, and then by the end of that call or in an email afterwards, but it was an email, not proposal, I would say my pricing, and if at that point they went, “Oh no, actually this doesn't work for me,” then I've wasted, what, no more than an hour tops. That just made a massive, massive difference.

It sped it up, it was really succinct, and it's little things like that and it's getting organised in those ways that you might initially think, “Oh, but I like meeting people for coffee,” and it's like, “Yeah I did.” However, I've got to think that do I want clients, do I want to grow the business, do I want this and you have to do some things that are more structured things. Also, my final thought on the structure stuff is, because I am probably the worst person. Like I said, Katie and I are so similar, but so opposite. She literally is a machine. She not only… I've just got to share this. I love to share your secrets, Katie. Not only does Katie book her lunch in her diary, she knows exactly what she's having for lunch every single day.

Yep. Meal planning.

I can't even tell you. Like this stuff just literally makes me howl. I'm in complete admiration because I am the worst at this sort of stuff. I'm so, so bad and she's really good at going around, “I'm going to do this, I'm going to stick to it and it's going to be great.”


So I completely lost my train… Oh, no, that's what I was going to say. So the thing that I find really interesting is when we look at, and Katie and I will often talk about big people, and I'm talking Tony Robbins level and Rachel Hollis and the big people in our industry, they actually are very, very structured.

Take Tony Robbins, for instance, and we read Miracle Morning and Mel Robbins five second rule and all this sort of thing, and when you read all these books or take in all this content from all these big very successful entrepreneurs, they do tend to have a really sharp direct structure that they're following, don't they?

Yeah, they do, and often the structure they're following is actually really simple. I think people think-

Yeah, it's not rocket science.

No, like you were just saying about having the Calendly link and booking appointments with that. That is such a little simple tweak to make, but it made a massive difference, and I think getting organised, being structured, planning your lunch, they're not big scary things. It's just discipline and it's just tweaking things and introducing some simple things that can make a big difference. I do put on my meals-

That's hilarious.

… which I know people think, “Oh, That is so…” but it spent from going to the fridge and not having anything to eat.

Anything to eat.

So yeah, and now that makes a huge difference. Setting out a plan, shop.

I love it.

I know what I'm having, for sure.

Yeah, honestly, Katie's like… I want to be like even when I'm grown up, Katie. One day. One day I'm going to be that [inaudible 00:50:54] like literally [inaudible 00:50:57] and in my world. Like Paul will say to me… and this is my husband then. It's not for Katie's benefit, it's for your benefit if you're listening, just in case you haven't heard me talk about Paul, he'll constantly go, “What we having to eat?” and then we literally sit there and go, “Oh, what should we have to eat?” and we're a nightmare, we're an absolute nightmare, and then there's nothing in. So I totally get it. I just wish I could be a bit more like you, Katie.

I think one of the things there that adds to overwhelmed when you work for yourself and you work from home is your personal to-dos can get left. So things like the weekly shop. I once lost a load of washing that had been in the tumble dryer for four days because I completely forgot that I'd put it in because you just get so caught up in your business, in your home.

That's hilarious.

Therefore that separation between work and home life can just become totally blurred, which is why I do put in things now. So yeah, I do do weekly meal plans and I do all of that because I was getting overwhelmed by the fact that my personal side of the house life stuff wasn't getting done, and it's really important that those things don't get overlooked.

Yeah, I know.

Because otherwise you don't do your best work in your business because you're worrying about why you like the washing is gone.

Yeah. “I have half my wardrobe.” See I'm very lucky that although Mr. Campbell is not here all the time, my husband's surname is Campbell. I just that like people would know, he does do a lot of that stuff. I am very, very lucky, although he does spend a lot of time away as well. So when he's not here I have to try and flag it all and it is flagging, it's like, “I've got no uniform.” “Oh, I need to do some washing.” [inaudible 00:52:36] Katie, thank you so much.

Oh, thank you for having me. I've really enjoyed it.

I've loved your tips. They're very good, and like I said, as someone that has worked with Katie for a long time and probably one of the hardest people in terms of trying to whip me into shape because I do like to rebel, I am a bit like that. Someone tells me what to do, I like to do the opposite. I'm like a petulant child, but honestly there's small steps have made a huge, huge difference to my business and I genuinely wouldn't have the business I have today if it haven't been for you. So thank you, Katie.

You're very welcome. Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's lovely of you to say. Thank you.

It's been a pleasure to have you on.

Thank you for having me.

No worries. I loved that. It was just like talking to my friend and we are friends after working together for so long. It's so nice that we've been able to get that side of the relationship together as well, which is lovely, lovely.

So yeah, I really enjoyed that episode. I hope you did. Like I said, Katie has been amazing in my business. These tips, they might sound very simple and it's funny, just quickly, one of the tips that she talks about when she was like blocking out calendars and stuff, Katie tried to get me to do this ages and ages and ages ago, and I couldn't stick to it, I couldn't keep in that structure, and weirdly this year I've done it and this year in my diary is like a morning routine, lunch, nap. If Michael Hyatt says it's okay, I say it's okay. So what time I shut down, what time school runs. So I know exactly where I am and what I'm doing and I know what blocks of time I've got available.

So honestly, it's not that suddenly you have to do it and you get it today and if you don't get it today, you're never going to get it. I'm now getting some of these things because it took from all that time in order to sink in or for me to really see the benefit of it. So if she hadn't introduced me to it in the first place, I probably wouldn't be ready to do it now, even though it took a little while.

So like I said, I hope you enjoyed that. I thought it was really good fun. I love chatting to her and she is wonderful. Anyway, I will link up to all of her stuff in the show notes. As always head to, that is right, isn't it? Yeah, 102. Perfect. Right guys, I will see you next week for another solo episode and until then, have a wonderful week.