Time is the thing that most small businesses owners wish they had more of.
The best way to gain time is to spend time thinking and planning before leaping into action. A bit of time spent on strategic planning and sales and marketing planning saves wasting a lot of time in the 'doing' stage. Having a clear direction and a plan for how to get there makes everything so much easier.
Once in the 'doing' stage, being organised then helps us get work completed faster and can help reduce anxiety and stress. However, organisation seems to fly out the window when we're busy, which is, of course, the very time we need it most.
There are many different things you can do to be better organised. This list only includes a few things that work for me, and hopefully there will be a couple that will work for you too. It's good to pick just one or two things to focus on (from this list or from something you come up with yourself) and do those things consistently for three or more weeks until it becomes habitual. Then pick another couple and focus on them. Before you know it, you'll be a master at staying organised at work!
Desk and office
Have a designated place for everything, and put things back in their place as soon as you're finished with them.
Keep paperwork and stationery you regularly use or refer to within arms length, and keep everything else out of sight.
Clear your desk before you finish for the day.
Planning and to-do lists
Write monthly and weekly plans at the beginning of the month and week, so tasks and projects with deadlines are scheduled with enough time to complete them.
Put monthly or weekly plans and deadlines somewhere highly visible.
Write tomorrow's to-do list before you leave for the day, with the three most important tasks prioritised as such. (This has the added benefit of getting things out of your head so you sleep better and ensures no wasted time in the morning.)
Learn to use your email system to its full capacity; email systems have excellent features to help you save time and stay organised, like archiving, nudges, automatically forwarding emails and/or putting emails into different folders.
If your industry and job allows for it, block out set times during the day to check emails, with one final time set for the very end of the day. Turn off notifications and don't even look at your inbox in-between times so you can focus on the important tasks and projects you need to get done.
In your allocated email times, only act on the urgent emails. Save all non-urgent activity for the period you have blocked out at the end of the day.
Add emails that require time to complete to your to-do list, put a deadline on them, and allocate them to your monthly and/or weekly plan.
Once emails have been actioned, delete them. Only file them if they're important to keep.
Files and filing
Update CRMs and databases as you go, so the information you need is always at your fingertips.
Use logical, consistent naming conventions for files and folders so you can easily find what you are looking for.
Delete and throw out old versions as soon as the final version is complete (or at the very least, archive them).
Make your digital calendar your best friend. It is so helpful for tracking and notifying you of upcoming appointments. You can colour code appointments so it's easy to see what you have on at a glance, set up recurring appointments, annual reminders and so on. You can put appointments into other people's calendars, and share your calendar with staff so they know when you're free and when you're not.
Combine your business and personal calendars so everything is in the one place and you never double book.
Or... if you prefer to keep work separate, keep your business and personal lives completely separate, using separate phones, computers, calendars, emails etc.
Use excel to your advantage. I've lost count of the number of people who 'hated' excel until they learned how to use it. It's a truly brilliant tool.
Integrate the right digital tools into your business. There are all sorts of planning and organisational tools available. CRM's, project management apps, calendar apps, kanban apps, mind-mapping tools - there will be tools that are perfect for your business and that work for your unique thinking and working style.
There are, of course, many more things you can do to stay organised, this is just a handful of suggestions and you might a few in here that are useful for you. Whatever you decide to try, start today. You will never regret becoming more organised.
Author: Pip Mehrtens | May 2020