Difference between a system and a process

And Why Your Small Business Needs Both

I have openly admitted on several occasions how detailed I am when it comes to my business.

There was this post here: How to Organize Your Social Media To-Do List where I showed you how I use the GTD (Getting Things Done) method to organize my social media updates.

Then came this one: Productivity Tips to Get More Done in Less Time where I shared the secret sauce to developing an organization system that works with the way you work.

If you haven’t realized it by now, let me just confess the truth: I’m an organizational nerd with a slight touch of OCD.

If I were a cartoon super hero, Chaos would be my nemesis.

{ OK, that just sounds cool. I might have to work on that cartoon idea. }

Which comes first: the system or the process?

Let’s talk about the difference between a system and a process. Then I’ll show you why having both of these programs are so important to help you grow your small business.

A PROCESS is a series of ordered activities to help you get something done.

An example of a process would be the steps you take when you make a sale. Let’s say you sell an online product like a workbook – first you’d follow your steps to market your workbook. Then when someone buys the workbook, the sale gets processed through PayPal.

You get an email telling you the sale was approved and processed through the PayPal payment program. You email out the workbook to the buyer or you have a program that sends out the file. Then you transfer the money into your checking account and cha-ching, another sale.

All of the steps I listed is the PROCESS you take to make a sale of your online workbook.

Put all of those steps together and you have a SYSTEM or specifically, your online workbook sales system.

Without these steps in place, you could easily be wasting your time by not knowing what to do next or worse, repeating steps and adding more work to your already overcrowded day.

Where does one begin and the other one start?

Think about all the things that you do in your day that just seem to take way to much time to get done. If it’s not something that will immediately make you money, you probably find yourself constantly putting it off and moving it to the next day on your to-do list.

I know how that one works because I catch myself doing it all the time.

When something on my list seems like it’s taking too long, it’s easy to just skip it and to chalk it up to saying, “Oh I’m just too busy to get to it right now.” Which then gets followed by this one, “We all get busy and my schedule is overloaded this week.”

But when the same thing shows up in my list every week and I haven’t done it in over 3 weeks, then it’s a sign to develop a system.

Let me walk you through a process I use to develop a streamlined system. Recently, I’ve been working through the process to help me update my weekly tweets and I’ve been using these steps to help me create a better Twitter updating system.

1. Analysis

The first step is to gather up all your information about what you’re trying to make more efficient and what your final goal is for your new system.

Here’s the information I’ve pulled together regarding what I’m trying to do with my Twitter updates:

  • Currently I’m using the free version of Hootsuite to update my Twitter posts every week. I only use the program for Twitter and LinkedIn so I haven’t seen the need to upgrade to the Pro version of the program.
  • The free version of Hootsuite doesn’t allow for me to post up images with my tweets. It shows the text copy but not the actual image, just a link in Twitter to see the image.
  • I know that using images in Twitter will give me more ReTweets, Favorites and will help my tweets get noticed more in that crowded Twitter feed.
  • Twitter’s internal scheduler will allow my tweets to show the images without adding the extra link. So I set up an account with Twitter to use their scheduler.
  • Twitter’s internal scheduler does not have a link shortner so I need to use my Bit.ly account when I post to this program.
  • I realize that there are other scheduling programs that I could use but at this point, I didn’t want to add in a new learning curve or an added expense to sign on to another program.

My final goal: To update my Twitter posts with images using the Twitter internal schedule and to decide if I should keep using Hootsuite to post the tweets that just have links. The goal is to be able to schedule my tweets for the week, which program do I use and how to keep the time I do this under an hour.

2. System Step Brainstorm

This is the part that takes a bit of time. It’s all about defining in detail the smaller parts of the process and learning which program does what.

It was during this step that I’m questioning whether I may still use Hootsuite.

I was testing out all the elements in Twitter’s scheduler and when I tried to plan out several of the same tweets, Twitter immediately posted this message: This is a duplicate tweet and may not be posted.

{ there was some language that I can’t remember but they implied that it might be spam and won’t get posted. }

While I get that idea to eliminate spam, I have always scheduled the same message out at different days and different times.

I wouldn’t consider this spamming my followers because we all know that not everyone is on Twitter at the same time. By sending duplicate tweets, it helps me to reach more people with my tweets.

And repeating the same tweets is not an issue with Hootsuite.

So I had to spend a bit of time working through the steps to decide how to develop my process. But since my goal is to save the time, I realized that toggling back and forth between the scheduler programs may add extra time to my process.

Doing the step-by-step system brainstorm session helped me to see what programs I needed, how long each step took and what else I was missing to help my process flow smoother.

3. System Design

Now take all the steps you worked through in your brainstorm session and put them in  a logical order. The best way to do this step is to write it all out like you were creating a training manual for someone. If you couldn’t be there for them to ask you questions, how would you pull it all together?

As I was writing out my steps, I learned that it didn’t make sense to toggle back and forth between each scheduling program. I could see how much time I was wasting.

I changed my process to work on my content for my posts before I went into the scheduler. Then I could do all my updates in the Twitter scheduler and not miss out on adding images to my tweets.

4. Testing

With your process in place, it’s time to test out your steps. As you move through the testing phase, ask yourself, “Is there anything that I can change or eliminate from my process?”

My testing included pulling up my favorite online timer. Remember, part of my goal is to keep these updates in under an hour so it doesn’t help to create this system if it’s still taking me too long.

The first couple of times I went through the process, I was way over my hour timeline. So I tweaked it and tried again. And then messed with it some more to make my steps more efficient.

After a month of tweaking and testing, I got it down to an hour a week. And now it’s time to implement this system into my weekly things I do for my social media marketing plans.

5. Implement

It took me awhile to develop my process to create my Twitter update system. But now that I have the steps down, I’ll still continue to look for new ways to maximize my time. I’m sure that I’ll shift back and forth between the testing and implementing steps until I lock everything in place.

Eventually, the whole system will turn into a routine. And that my friends, is the ultimate goal.

A routine is a powerful thing for small business owners like us. Because when something becomes a routine, it becomes a part of your day, your week and in the end, it gets done.

PS If you’re looking for time management tips to help you handle your social media marketing, download your FREE copy of my 10 Social Media Time Management Strategies ebook. You’ll learn some cool strategies to help you create a social media routine that works with your crazy busy world.