Do you have a process you follow that keeps your home office organized? Do you document your expenses monthly or throw your receipts into a shoebox? When tax time comes, will your records be in order? Do you manage your emails daily or is your inbox out of control? It is much easier to maintain your office and manage your records ongoing. It will be difficult to maintain the quality of your work if you have to dedicate a huge chunk of time to finding an important document amongst piles of paper or organizing one years’ worth of business records in one sitting.
Here are the top three problem home office scenarios with solutions that I’ve either discovered myself or borrowed from others. Let’s keep it simple!
1) Problem: Did you pick the bright, airy room with a view to set up your home office only to find that the view is now obstructed by stacks of papers?
Solution: Literature Organizers are great for those who like to pile papers. With 8, 12 or more sorting compartments you can label each section to identify the contents. It keeps papers tidy, organized and easy to access. Prices range from $20 for the cardboard model which are fairly sturdy up to over $100 for larger units or those made of plastic, wood or wire mesh. My cardboard model has lasted me over 3 years!
2) Problem: The cozy little nook in the basement with the gas fireplace would be a great place to work. Your own space away from the distractions of working from home. But, out of sight, out of mind. Your desk has become a catch-all for receipts, pens, papers you name it and now you avoid the space.
Solution: There are a lot of things we have on hand that can work just as well as costly office supplies to keep your work space orderly;
- reuse bill payment envelopes. Collect 12, one for each month to compile and keep track of your monthly receipts for income tax purposes.
- use a mail sorter to contain smaller paper items like notepads, loose notepaper and envelopes
- a couple of mugs will keep your writing utensils close at hand and organized. Use 1 for pens and pencils and the other for highlighters, scissors and glue sticks.
3) Problem: Your inbox shows no signs of slowing down. Each time you sign on there are even more messages and you can’t imagine how you’ll ever deal with all this mail.
Solution: Schedule 30 minutes at the start of each day to manage emails. Some suggest you don’t even look at email first thing as you will get sidetracked. However, knowing I have 30 minutes allows me to skim through, delete any junk and address anything urgent. Then I can read thru 1 or 2 newsletters I subscribe to and keep the inbox numbers down. Knowing I have limited time prevents me from giving too much attention to the non-essential emails. It’s also important to have only a couple of key mentors you follow and unsubscribe from the rest. There is only so much information you can absorb and when overwhelmed you’ll retain even less. Follow only one or two people/gurus/mentors who know what they are doing and are where you want to be.
Home office tasks are ongoing so it is important to set aside time each day to manage this area of your business. A little time spent every day will save a wealth of time and stress in the long run.
Professional Organizers recommend that for every new item you bring into your home or office, you remove an old item. This makes complete sense and I recommend that you adopt this rule. You avoid collecting clutter with this process.
For those of you that have already accumulated clutter, there’s no time like the present to purge and organize and gain greater control over your workday. If you tackle a pile a day or one drawer a day during time dedicated to this task alone, you’ll be back on track in no time. Taking it on in small bites makes it a manageable task and easy to maintain. For example if you set aside an hour a day or every other day, you will be making progress and still have time for your revenue generating tasks.
This ‘Out With The Old, In With The New’ rule is also relevant to our ways of doing things in our businesses. Consider your approach this past year. Did the methods you used help you to achieve your goals? If not, it’s time to ditch your old methods and try something new.
Here are a few points to ponder as you prepare for the new year and contemplate your goals:
- If you were always trying to do too much in a flurry of activity, try doing less and doing it better. The time you spend will be more focused and count for more.
- If you had a lot of goals and didn’t achieve them all, only have one achievable but challenging goal at a time this year. One main focus increases your chances of achieving the goal.
- Are you a Jack or Jill of all trades, master of none? If you had many new skills you tried to learn but only skimmed the surface of a few of them, try picking the one most essential new skill to your business and learn it well before moving on to the next. It is not possible to be proficient at everything but it is to your advantage to have a couple of key areas of expertise. Surround yourself with those that are specialists in other areas and work with each other.
In those areas of your business that didn’t quite go as planned, try doing things a little differently this year for better results.
“Success is not for the chosen few; success is for the few that choose it.” -Gary Keller
Business owners can get stuck in the area of Revenue Generating activities. This initially seems like a good thing, however, it’s important to devote time to other aspects of running a business to enable you and your business to grow and prosper and the cycle of Revenue Generating activities to continue. Business Development is one of those areas.
Here is a guide to help you know where to focus your attention during the time you make for Business Development. I have broken it down into 3 main areas with a definition, suggested activities and time frame for each:
1) Marketing – selling of products or services: the business activity of presenting products or services in such a way as to make them desirable*
Suggested activities: Spend time working on your website and marketing materials. They are your ’store front’ so to speak and a reflection of you and your business. Check that all your information is current including contact details and upcoming events. Ensure website links work. Keep content fresh and regularly post new articles to your blog. Ensure your business cards and logo match your website. They may be in need of a fresh new look. Have an email marketing plan in place or send out a newsletter on a regular basis. These materials leave a lasting impression about your company.
Time Frame: Marketing activities can either be scheduled in amongst Revenue Generating tasks throughout the week (for example, 1 hour twice per week). Or you may prefer to include these in a day entirely devoted to Business Development.
2) Networking – practice of gathering of contacts: the process or practice of building up or maintaining informal relationships, especially with people whose friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities*
Suggested activities: Network regularly in person, via Social Media and Forums. Build relationships with fellow business owners in your industry and those in your target market. Meet regularly both online and in your community. Attend trade shows. Become actively involved in Social Media and Forums providing useful information to your contacts and group members.
Time Frame: Schedule in 30 minutes or less each morning to spend on Social Media sites and in Forums. This doesn’t seem like a lot of time but by being consistent you maintain an ongoing presence and build relationships. The same goes for networking events that you attend in person on a regular basis.
3) Training – acquiring of skill: the process of teaching or learning a skill or job*
Suggested activities: Are you keeping up with the latest technologies? Let’s face it, technology is changing on an ongoing basis and it’s not possible to know it all. Listen to your target market in your networking activities and find out what their needs are. Learn something new that provides a solution to their needs. Attend informational teleclasses to discover new trends that will help you serve your clients better. There are many resources to learn just about anything online (live or self-paced) or in a classroom setting. This applies to almost any industry. Even my hairstylist keeps up with new trends in her industry through teleseminars.
Time Frame: I have found it best to focus on training during my weekly Business Development day where I have longer stretches of time to concentrate without interruption.
Remember, when you devote time to Business Development you ensure the constant flow of business to your company. Keep current clients and attract new ones by allocating time in your schedule to maintain a professional image through your marketing efforts, cultivate your business relationships and add to your skill set. These all translate into opportunities to generate more revenue and live the life you love.
*source: Encarta dictionary