This week we're joined by Pro member Kate Jordin, from The Bake Well Tart. Kate is a woman of many talents. Not only is she a smashing cake decorator, but she's also incredibly good at planning and being organised! We're super pleased Kate has shared some of her top tips with us, on how to plan like a pro.
It’s super late, you’re dog tired but you just can’t seem to fall asleep because all the things you have to do tomorrow keep dancing around in your head… does that sound familiar? Or have you ever experienced that cold sweat stomach drop feeling because you nearly missed an order?
I don’t know about you, but throughout the day I get enquiries and orders from numerous different sources - phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, conversations on the school run… all on top of all the non-cake related day-to-day litany of family life. My head is often spinning by lunchtime.
Without my lists and planners I would be completely lost, and I know not everyone loves planning like I do, but if you do it effectively then it will make your life easier, and more enjoyable… yes really!
My need to plan everything to the nth degree is partly driven from a fear of forgetting something, and partly from a genetic disposition to plan or organise everything. That’s right, I blame my parents. Though with several different planners, including laminated wall charts and to-do lists, two diaries, numerous spreadsheets to work out quotes and costings, and a business plan I might be overdoing it a tad… but I do love planning! And it's not just about the stationery... honestly, it's not, planning helps me focus on the tasks ahead, organise my time more effectively and stop me panicking about forgetting something.
There are lots of different ways to plan for something, so first of all be clear of what you want your outcome to be. What are you planning for?
So, let’s get started.
Brainstorming / Mind-mapping
If you are planning a rebrand, trying to settle on a name for your business or choose an idea for a competition, then you need a brainstorm session. My favourite technique for this is with a sheet of A3 paper and a mind-map, though mood boards can also be great. Note down all the key words, phrases, feelings and important points that relate to what you are working on, as well as doodles, pictures and photos if they are relevant. What you are trying to do is get everything that’s in your head down on paper, it doesn’t need to be neat or pretty, it’s just offloading onto paper.
- Just start, don’t worry if none of it makes sense to begin with - remember it is a process, it will flow as soon as you start putting things down.
- When you think you’ve finished getting everything down but no inspiration has leapt out at you, walk away from it for a bit. Have a cup of tea, or even sleep on it. When you come back to it, you will often see things differently and your answer will be right there.
If you are trying to work out quotes and costings then spreadsheets are a fantastic way to do the hard work for you. They can take a while to set up with all the necessary information, but it is well worth the effort to save you time in the future.
- Make formulas your friend. Spreadsheets are super clever and can save you a whole load of time if you know how to use them properly. If you are not confident, or a little rusty then there are a plethora of templates available, how-to videos on YouTube and free tutorials just a Google search away.
- Remember to update your information with any price changes so you are still quoting accurately.
Personally I can’t get through the day without making a list, and I tend to have a monthly, weekly and daily to do lists running at the same time, which are cross referenced with my laminated wall chart. I told you I love planning.
Lists are obviously the most basic and quick planning tool, but can be one of the most useful. Though there are numerous apps available, and if that works better for you then go for it*, but I am a bit of an old-fashioned sort and actually prefer the pen and paper version. Ok so it might be a little bit about the stationery...
- Always include a couple of things that have just been, or are very nearly completed to give you a bit of a boost before you even start. It’s not cheating, it’s just being kind to yourself.
- Be realistic! It is always better to list fewer things to do and over achieve than list too many and feel like you’ve achieved nothing. Hence my reason behind the monthly, weekly and daily lists, some jobs need to be broken down into more manageable smaller tasks.
*note from editor - Todoist is a wonderful list-making app for mobile and desktop!
Wall planners and diaries
I love my wall planner, it is an A3 laminated, magnetic thing of wonder. It has made my life so much easier because I can plan up to five weeks ahead for cake orders, and break everything down into daily tasks. It is really important to me to have a clear, up-to-date visual reminder of what I have coming up in the next few weeks, so if I get a call or message I can instantly see what availability I have. I can see how much time I have on any given day so I can factor in family life with cake orders and plan my time more effectively.
I also have a diary specifically for cake orders, which comes with me everywhere, and is my reference point for the specific details of each order.
- Invest, or make, a laminated wall planner specifically for cake orders and update it regularly.
- Keep a separate planner and diary for cake orders but don’t forget to cross reference them with your family calendar and/or diary - otherwise you’ll think you’ve got a whole morning to do cake prep when actually you’re supposed to be at a dentist appointment!
It is easy to get put off the idea of doing a business plan… we cakey people are all creative types at heart really, and business plans are a bit, well, dry aren’t they? They don’t need to be, remember this is a way of helping you plan the future of your business, which direction you want to go in and what your projections for the future might be. In short, if you are feeling a bit lost or uninspired, writing a business plan could re-energise and re-focus you. You obviously do need a business plan in place if you are going to ask for a business loan, and many banks now want to see a business plan to open a business bank account too. It can take a while, so it’s really one of those tasks that is better being broken down into more manageable chunks.
- Use a template, there are lots of free options available that you can edit for your specific needs.
- Update and refer back to your business plan every year- are you on track or have you veered off in a different direction? Adjust accordingly.
So that’s about it. If you are a planner-phobe, then I hope I’ve convinced you that doing a bit of planning helps you use your time more efficiently and effectively, makes your life a lot easier, and it can even be a little bit fun. And if all else fails, it’s a great excuse to get some lovely new stationery.
How do you stay organised? Share your tips below. And if you'd like to sign up to Pro membership, like Kate has, take a look at our membership options.