Getting (and staying) organized is one of those things that usually starts off with a great intention – “I must get more organized” or “I need to sort out this office once and for all!” are things we might say when we know things are a little less organised than we'd really like, but it is often all too easy to slip into a habit of disorganization when we are busy. “I haven't got time to get organized, I'm running a business!” or “I know it's a mess but I know where everything is and how it all works” are two phrases I hear quite a lot when I meet clients who need a bit of help in their office, their business or even in their lives.
The biggest challenge many of us face when we run our own business, is not having enough time to spend doing things like administrative tasks (filing, diary management), goal-setting or setting objectives, or even putting proper processes in place, because we are spending most of our time on the day to day running of the business, so we go along hoping that someday we'll have a free afternoon or weekend when we can finally tackle those organisational things that always get pushed to the back of the queue.
The reality is that unless we actually make the time to get organized, it won't happen automatically and that “free afternoon” will probably never present itself (and even if it does, I'm sure we can all think of much better and nicer ways to spend our free time!) So, the key to getting organized in your business is to set some time up in your diary to do it and then stick to it! The good news is that there are five very practical things you can do which if done properly, can save you literally hours, days, weeks and months in the future, and who doesn't want that?
Here are my Top Five Tips to help you get organized in your business…
Put Processes In Place
Processes are an essential part of any business and knowing each process inside out tells you what is working and what needs to be improved. Make sure all your employees and colleagues know each process to avoid problems and/or any misunderstandings later on! Having processes in place helps us to deliver a better service to our clients and save time and money. Many of my clients have never heard of process mapping and have no idea what a process map looks like, so to help you I've included a process map I have devised for the purpose of this article to show you what it looks like. You should have a process map for the business itself plus micro processes for each individual component of your business. This sounds like a lot of hard work (and no one said this would be easy!) but the truth is that if you get your processes in place it can save so much time and money later on if things go wrong and you have to explain to a client why that order got lost or delayed.
Having a process in place is like a blueprint for your business – it shows everyone how things are done and the procedures they need to adhere to so that customers and clients remain happy and loyal.
Set Your Goals And Objectives
Setting goals helps us figure out what we want to achieve both personally and from our business. When we decide on our objectives, this gives us clarity and helps us to prioritize the things that are most important to us. Make a list of your goals and objectives once a month – this will help you spend your valuable time where it is needed the most. For some of us, our goals and objectives change on a regular basis which is why I advise clients to regularly examine their own goals and objectives. You might find that something you wanted six months ago is no longer relevant or important to you. By continuously asking ourselves what our hopes and plans are for our business, or even on a personal level, we challenge ourselves to come up with new and innovative ways to improve our thinking and planning and bring new ideas to the table. This in turn promotes greater creativity and focus and helps us to see our business with fresh eyes. Some of my best ideas come when I sit down to look at my goals and focus on what I want – for example, if I write down my goals and include “I want to build my network and increase my contact list” I then must find ways to do this. This forces me to come up with new strategies and ideas and I will then commit some of these ideas to paper. By writing down our goals and objectives, it brings them into focus and makes us come up with genuine plans and ways to meet those objectives. If we simply sit down at night and think “I must find ways to broaden my network” this floats out of our mind just as quickly as it floated in, so make sure you physically write down your thoughts and ideas as much as possible.
Anyone who knows me, or who has read my Blog on de-cluttering, will know that I really believe de-cluttering is the key to physical and mental clarity, both in your business and personal life. Many of my clients are working in offices filled to the brim with old files, boxes and papers and it is only when they finally de-clutter and get rid of the things that are holding them back, that they say to me how much lighter and happier they feel and how they started to develop new ideas for their business and new ways of thinking. De-cluttering your office clears your physical space, gives you greater mental clarity and promotes creativity. If you are living with clutter either at home or in your business, over time this can prevent you from moving forward and you can remain stuck in old patterns of thinking and doing.
Here are some things you can do to start the de-cluttering process:
Clear your office of old newspapers, journals, articles and scraps of paper
Clean out old cupboards and shelves
Buy a shredder so you can dispose of confidential files properly
If you have large volumes of client files, consider using an offsite document storage system
Only print what you need to!
Learn To Prioritize
Prioritizing is not the easiest thing in the world to do because very often it is hard to know what our priorities are…our clients are looking for solutions to problems, our tax return needs to be filed, that back tooth has been giving us trouble and we know we need a filling and we really need to start spending time with our husband/wife/partner/kids or they'll start to forget what we look like.
Here are just some of the thoughts we have when we feel overwhelmed by our “To Do” List…
“I don't have enough time…”
“There aren't enough hours in the day…”
“My ‘To Do' List is just too long…”
“Everything is urgent!”
“I have no work-life balance…”
Here are two ways to help you figure out what's important and what's not:
Make a habit of writing a To Do List at the start of every day and break it down into two sections: PRIORITIES and WISH LIST. Your priorities are your absolute “Must Do” items, whatever they are. Your Wish List is a list of things you would love to get done and hope to get done. What does this do for us? It takes the pressure off and reduces stress – there is nothing worse than looking at a list of 30 “To Do” items and feeling totally overwhelmed and unable to either do any of them or spending too much time doing the things that are not important.
When working on an urgent project, switch your phone to Silent Mode and do not get distracted by emails, Facebook, Twitter or Social Media. I know how hard this one is…I love Pinterest and could spend hours looking at all the beautiful pins and boards on there, but the reality is that if I did that I'd get nothing done for my clients and they are my Number One Priority!
Use Time Management Tools
There are various ways in which you can manage your time, but I am going to list the most effective ways here. Time Management is essential as without it we cannot get to appointments on time, time runs away from us at every opportunity and we spend far too long on one project and not long enough on another. This is another tough one because it's a little bit like our “To Do” list – everything seems important and really I believe that Prioritising and Time Management go hand in hand.
Here are some effective time management tools you can use:
Break down tasks into blocks of time
Use an App such as Task Timer (available on Google Chrome) or Time Doctor (iPhone App) to help you manage your tasks
Spend no more than one hour per day on Social Media – you can break this down into 3 x 20 minute slots if this helps…one at the start of the day, one in the middle and one at the end
Set an alarm to tell you when it is time to go to meet a client or attend an appointment and stick to it!
Getting organized in your business can seem like a daunting task, but once you break it down into the five areas I have listed above, you can look at each of them individually and see how they work for you. Again, you can tailor these to suit you – what works for one person may not work for another but incorporating these basic 5 Tips into your daily life can have a hugely positive effect on productivity, creativity and sanity!