Getting Organized For Success

meetingI recently volunteered to lead an informal discussion group on a favourite topic of mine: “Getting Organized For Success”. The purpose of the group was to share ideas and pick up some new ones. The participants were small business owners from a wide range of businesses, both male and female. Although the group was so diverse, when it comes to organization, their challenges were very much the same!

It was interesting to learn that the most pressing organizational issues most small business owners have to deal with are: Clutter, Email Overwhelm and Time Management

Here are some of the ideas I shared with the group to deal with the above along with some of the solutions the group had to offer:

Clutter: the physical clutter i.e. stacks of paperwork, receipts; the home office becomes a dumping ground and papers for both business and household pile up. Over time the paperwork accumulates into unmanageable piles.

  • The best way to avoid clutter is to have a system to manage the paperwork before it gets out of control.

  • If you prefer to have everything neat yet close at hand, try a literature organizer. The cardboard models are sturdy and inexpensive. With 8, 24 or more letter size compartments labeled by category, each piece of paper that crosses your desk can be placed in its respective slot immediately.

  • If you prefer your paperwork out of sight, use a filing cabinet with labeled hanging folders.

  • Use an ‘in’ tray only for the items that need your attention right away.

Email Overwhelm: need I say more? Business owners cannot possibly respond to emails at the rate in which they come pouring in and managing email is too time consuming.

  • Avoid attempting to respond each time you receive a new email. Schedule one or two times throughout your day that work best to dedicate to email management.

  • Sort incoming mail by “From” or “Subject”. This will group emails alphabetically by sender or subject and is a great way to skim through emails quickly to identify what needs your attention now, what can be deleted right away and what can wait until later.

  • Be proactive about managing your email. Take the time to set up ‘rules’ (Outlook has this feature). You can automate what should be done when an email comes in from a particular person i.e. move to ‘x’ folder. You can get very specific with this and assign sounds to alert you when you get an email containing certain key words or other rules you specify.

Time Management: juggling multiple calendars and multiple devices i.e. Blackberry, Outlook and Day-Timer; balancing personal and business commitments.

  • To Do Lists do the trick for most of us. One member of our discussion group writes his lists for the next day at the end of every day and enjoys crossing tasks off his list. He even admitted to adding unscheduled tasks that he had just completed in order to get the satisfaction of crossing them off!

  • I plan for my week ahead every Friday by blocking off chunks of time dedicated to various tasks.

  • Remember to always schedule time to work on your business too. Allocate time for record keeping, managing emails, scheduling and creating your newsletter.

  • I have all my business and personal appointments in one calendar and differentiate by using pen for business and pencil for personal.

  • Remember if you use multiple calendars like your iPhone and Outlook, to keep them in sync.

Getting and staying organized is a continuous process but doesn’t have to be a burden. When you get to the point where you can maintain the systems you implement, you can better handle the day-to-day challenges and demands of operating a business while balancing other commitments such as family. Use these tips and suggestions to make your business the best it can be. Enjoy the journey to a successful business and life.

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