10 Simple Systems that Will Save You at Least 300 Hours a Year

Heidi DeCoux

People often ask me how I get so much done.     

My big secret is SYSTEMS.  

Having systems in all areas of your life – personally and professionally – is a game-changer.  I’m going to share with you 10 of my systems that you can copy, modify or use as inspiration to create your own systems.

One of the best things about systems is that once they’re set up they immediately start saving you a ton of time, energy and bandwidth and most systems are free or low-cost to create.  

Below is a behind-the-scenes peek into 10 of my systems which I hope inspires you to create your own systems (or copy mine!).

1.  PASSWORD SYSTEM

I keep all of my logins in a secure system that is installed on all of my devices.  There are several programs that do this, I use 1Password.  This allows me to have a unique and difficult password for every account and have the ability to access any account from any device within a few seconds.  

2.  MEETING REMINDER SYSTEM

When I sit down to drink my first cup of coffee in the morning, I pull up my calendar and set phone alarms for the day.  I set an alarm to go off 3-5 minutes before each Zoom/phone meeting.  If I need to leave the house for anything, I set an alarm for 10 minutes before I need to leave.  If I need to be showered and ready, I set an alarm for when I need to jump in the shower.  Basically my entire day is run by phone alarms.  It allows me to stay focused on what I’m currently doing and ensures I don’t miss anything.  

3.  AN SOP SYSTEM

SOP = Standard Operating Procedure.  I have an SOP for almost everything – in my businesses and home life.   SOP’s free up a ton of brain space and help ensure you don’t forget things.  Below are details about a few of my SOP’s. 

End of Year Tax Checklist:
I have a tax checklist I follow in February each year that walks me through preparing and sending all of my financial data to my CPA so he can create my tax returns.  My checklist is a template in a project management system so all I have to do each year is duplicate the template and follow the checklist.  In the checklist I have notes, links and details which allows me to pull together all of my data very quickly. 

Monthly Financials:
For my businesses, non-profit and personal life I have financial SOP’s that my team and I follow.  This ensures that everything is being tracked and handled properly and all financial data tracking is up to date. 

Events:
I regularly host cocktail parties in my home, and I regularly host and co-host public and private events.  For every type of event I host, I have a template for it in my project management system.  This allows me to simply rinse and repeat each event. Each step of the SOP has all of the details and links I need so that I can pull off well-organized and successful events with little time and effort. 

Tracking Contacts:
I use a CRM (Client Relationship Management System) to keep track of my network of contacts.  The system I use is Cloze and I have a process I follow when adding new people which includes extensive tagging to ensure that I can easily find people even if I can’t remember their name.  The tagging system I use is – Who, What, When, Where, Why.  I put in a tag for as many of those as possible when adding a new person to my system.  This way if all I can remember about someone is that I met them in Austin at a friends house, I can simply type in Austin and the friend’s name, I should be able to find the person I’m looking for.  

4.  TRAVEL SYSTEM

If you travel regularly, I recommend adopting a travel system that works for you.  Here on my blog I shared my complete travel system including my packing system and travel tips & tricks.   My system includes:

  • Upcoming Trips Spreadsheet with notes, reminders & details
  • Everything in My Pre-Packed Bag
  • Packing Checklist that I review before every trip
  • My Airport “Uniform”
  • My Travel Hacks 
  • Plane Productivity

You can check out my travel system, packing tips & travel hacks here.

5.  LINKS SYSTEM

Instead of spending precious minutes tracking down links for documents, spreadsheets and folders that I access regularly, I have a well organized bookmark system.  In addition, I find it helpful to also have a “Home Life Master Doc” and a Master Doc for each of my businesses and my nonprofit.  Master Doc’s are simply Google Sheets that link to all of the stuff you and your team access regularly.  For your business Master Doc, encourage your team to keep the Master Doc open at all times in their far left hand browser tab.  In my experience this improves productivity by ensuring everyone can access all key links within a couple seconds.

Below is a small sampling of what you could include in your Business Master Doc (set your doc up with categories to make it easy to scan).

Reports & Tracking

Monthly P&L’s and Balance Sheets
Budget & Projections
Weekly Marketing Stats
Organic Traffic Reports
Paid Ad Traffic Reports
Email Stat Reports
How to Fill Out Marketing Stats Report (SOP)

Marketing

Marketing & Editorial Calendar
Social Media Posting Schedule
Site Map
Domains List & Short URL Doc
URL & Pixel Tracking Doc
UTM Tagging Doc
CRM Tagging Doc

Back Office

Rolodex of Vendors
Contact List of Everyone in the Company
Payroll Details (who gets paid what, when & how)
Canned Responses for Customer Service

6.  FINANCIAL TRACKING & PLANNING SYSTEM

Years ago I took a course by Ramit Sethi called How To Win The Game of Advanced Personal Finance.

In the course he showed how to set up a smart and efficient financial tracking and planning system that takes approximately 1-hour a month to maintain and shows you everything you need to know about your finances in realtime. 

I recommend starting with Ramit’s book – I Will Teach You To Be Rich.  Then exploring his personal finance programs.  I’ve read his book and taken a number of his courses and they’ve all  been game-changers for me.  

As part of my personal financial system, my best friend and I have a 30-minute finance meeting every month with each other and go over our reports and goals, hold each other accountable and help each other make financial strategy decisions.  This meeting is a recurring event on our calendars (occurs on the same day & time each month). 

7.   SLEEP SYSTEM

A few years ago I went on a mission to get better sleep.  I wanted to fall asleep faster, prevent tossing and turning, sleep longer & deeper, and wake up refreshed, so I took a sleep course by Dr. Michael Brues who’s known as “America’s #1 Sleep Doctor”. 

It worked!  I now consider myself a good-sleeper.  But it wasn’t just a couple strategies that did it for me, it was approaching sleep differently – creating a system around sleep.  You can see my entire sleep system over on my blog.  

8.  FOOD SYSTEM

You gotta eat everyday (or at least most days).  Setting up food systems that support you helps ensure that you eat healthy, and saves you a TON of time and energy.  Below are my food systems.  Your systems may need to look different than mine because you may have a completely different set of facts than me.  For example, if you have a family and/or fewer financial resources, you may need to get more creative when establishing your systems.  The key is to create a system that works for you.  It can look extremely different from my system, and work really well for you. 

Groceries – my housekeeper does my grocery shopping.  She keeps my fridge and cupboards stocked with all of the regular stuff.  Everything else gets added to the shopping list on Alexa which she has downloaded to her phone so she always has an updated shopping list and she checks off items as she purchases them. 

Meals –  I make the same healthy breakfast every weekday (so no decision-making needed).

On Monday mornings I have a chef that comes to my home and cooks 8 healthy meals for me.  He puts them into these glass containers in my fridge.  This gives me lunch and dinner every day until Friday.  All I need to do is heat them up on the stove, which takes 3-5 minutes.  Then, Friday to Sunday I make simple fast healthy dishes with pantry staples that I always have on hand, and I generally go out to eat a couple times over the weekend. 

My bestie and I created a Restaurant & Entertainment Spreadsheet were we log all of our favorite restaurants, Uber eats and entertainment, and we have a tab with all of places we want to try.  When it’s time choose a restaurant or find something to do, we just refer to our spreadsheet and are able to make a decision within a couple minutes. 

When I’m doing my own cooking, I often use recipes from the Flavcity 5-Ingredient Cookbook which are all fast and healthy.  When I find good recipes online, I save them in Evernote so I can pull them up in a few seconds from any of my devices.

9.  CLEANING, LAUNDRY, ERRANDS SYSTEM

My housekeeper comes for six hours on Mondays and Thursdays (yes I unapologetically have a well-paid housekeeper 12+ hours a week and if I had a family I would have her full-time).  She does all of my cleaning, laundry, ironing, errands and coordinates and manages maintenance people.  When I’m traveling, she does deep cleaning such as cleaning all of the grout on tile floors, cleaning curtains, couch covers, and ceiling fans.  She has a system she follows which ensures that I always have a clean house, stocked fridge, and clean and pressed clothing.

When I have parties, she works extra hours to prep for the party, work at the party and do the clean-up after the party.  

One of the greatest challenges for women in our society right now is the amount of free labor they do every week – and at the top of the list is cleaning, laundry, cooking and errands. 

A 2020 analysis from Oxfam found that the economic value of unpaid labor is a staggering $10.9 trillion. That’s more than the combined revenue of the 50 largest companies on 2019’s Fortune Global 500 list, including Walmart, Apple and Amazon.

Worldwide, more than 75% of that labor is done by women and girls and even in so-called “developed” economies like the US, women still report spending more than 4 hours a day on unpaid labor, compared to just over 2 for men. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the mental and emotional labor women provide behind the scenes that is both expected and totally unnoticed: dealing with family conflict, nurturing children, managing care structures, remembering special dates, etc.

And during the pandemic, the gap grew even wider, especially for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous women: four times as many women dropped out of the labor force by September 2020, and a quarter of those reported that they left because they had no access to childcare.

If you have a spouse/partner, my biggest advice is to set boundaries, and come up with a fair and equitable household plan. If your partner is male, he should be doing at least 60% of the household management, and child-rearing if you have children. Women tend to do most of the emotional labor, so they should be doing less than 50% of the physical household management to help compensate. And if you’re starting a new business, your partner should take on the majority of household management so that you can focus on your business, even if you are making zero dollars in the beginning. If that seems strange to hear, consider how women do this for men who are starting businesses all the time.

For most women, this concept is revolutionary and seems impossible. It’s what’s required and needs to be the new normal. Make it your normal.

10.  CALENDAR INVITE SYSTEM

Whenever I create a new event in my calendar, in the notes section I add the agenda, pertinent links and details, and the location (Zoom link, address, phone number, whatever the location is).  I send a calendar invite to all parties that will be attending.  I don’t host meetings that don’t have a clear agenda and rarely will attend a meeting without a clear agenda. 

Most meetings are scheduled automatically through my online scheduler (or I schedule through someone else’s online scheduler).  I refuse to go back and forth to schedule a meeting – that’s a waste of everyone’s time.  If someone won’t use my online scheduler and they won’t send me a link to theirs, I generally won’t meet with them.   There are a lot of great online schedulers available, I use Calendly. 

For quick easy reference I keep all of my online scheduler links in 1Password (this allows me to pull up my scheduling links, choose one and send it out in 3 seconds).  You can create different types of meetings/events in your online scheduler.  For example, you could set up a 20-Minute General Meeting link, a 30-Minute Prospective Client Meeting link, a 60-Minute Paid Consulting Client link, and any other specific meeting types you want.  Then based on who wants to meet with you and for what purpose, you send them the corresponding link so they can schedule with you.  

Your online scheduler will automatically send out meeting reminder emails and text messages (if you configure it to do so).  

If you don’t have an online scheduler, this is the first system you should set up.  It’ll take you 30-60 minutes to set up and configure and will immediately make your life easier.  

Now that you got a behind-the-scenes peek into 10 of my systems, I hope you’re inspired to create your own systems.  

The key to a good system is it needs to be efficient, intuitive and easy to maintain.  Don’t create complicated systems!!  Create SUPER simple systems that are as automated as possible.  

With good systems you can save yourself hundreds (or even thousands) of hours every year and a LOT of mental bandwidth which you can use to increase your income, launch a non-profit, take up a new hobby, get into the best shape of your life, or do a legacy project.

Cheers to systems,

Heidi DeCoux