Clutter comes in many forms. It can be seen in a pile of messy papers or recognized in a mind muddled with worry. All forms of clutter, however, can lead to one result: stress. Stress, then, creates chaos. It is estimated that a valuable six weeks of time is lost in a single year due to clutter and disorganization. In order to gain control of your “wasted” time with your small business, take action. Courageously clean out the clutter, master the muddle, and release the stuck energy.
Disclaimer: Even if you are one that may think more clearly with a messy desk, you can still make sure that the mess does not interfere with organization. There is a difference between an ’organized‘ messy office and those office spaces in which the most important documents get lost daily.
Conquer Paper Problems
Make a point to file papers weekly. Twice yearly, do a “make-it-lean” clean. This will entail throwing out client files that are over seven years’ old and shredding obsolete financial records. Consider current client information as well; determine what is still valuable and relevant. In addition, create attractive storage units and areas so filing and organizing are more aesthetically pleasing. Surround yourself with information that is actively and routinely needed.
The key here is to make it easier for you to find what you need fast. When you need to pull records, it's far easier to search for a document on your computer than to get up and go find the right box (maybe) and rummage through your records. So why not you're likely to have to scan it and clean it up anyway.
Be aware of what zaps your time. Make a definitive schedule and abide by it. Designate a specified time for social media, and do not fight other people’s battles. Also, establish “you time” throughout the day. Creating this time will aid in rejuvenation of both your mind and body. Denying yourself will result in “personal bankruptcy” and ultimately rob everyone who works with you and for you.
If you're looking for easy ways to track your time, check out Toggl.com and Tickspot.com. Tick has a free version that lets you quickly document time spent on projects – add a Facebook line item if you're really serious about saving some time.
Create a routine. Modify the routine as you diligently hone your productivity, skills and activities. Have select employees follow the routine to make it more “employee friendly.” Then, create an essential Organization Manual for all employees of your small business. Establishing a protocol of procedures saves considerable time and energy.
Keep in mind that on the front end of establishing processes, you lose a lot of time in the setup. The long-term result, however, is a consistent, step-by-step set of tasks that are followed consistently. In my case, training new contractors used to take 4-6 hours. Now, I forward them a single document which guides them through training, which takes me 30 seconds. The end result is that they performed the tasks on their own and know it better than I could have taught it in person anyway.
Delegate by Design
Create To Do lists. Establish which tasks are burdensome, time-consuming, or boring for you personally. Assign these tasks to others who may see the tasks as enjoyable, easy, or exciting. Appropriately designated positions rev up morale, which then bumps up productivity.
I use a paper checklist that sits in front of me all day. I start my morning with creating a list and prioritize. As things come up throughout the day, I add to the list. You can use Excel or any word processor to make your own list. Alternatively, Google has a Task feature built into calendar.google.com that you can pop out and use all day.
Delegation takes a bit more organizing as you have to track who is taking care of what. This is where a spreadsheet or project management tool can come in very handy, depending upon the level of complexity of your day-to-day job. I use Google Spreadsheets to track tasks and assignments, but Creative Pro Office is also a widely used project management tool that is very affordable. Another great project management tool is Open Workbench, which is free but has a bit of a learning curve.
Worry is a mind drain and makes you fruitless. When a concern creeps in, keep going. Do not procrastinate. Or, if the worry is too strong to keep going with the task at hand, come up with a plan to implement when the time is right, and get right back to your current task.
Stress is a major productivity killer. Reducing stress will result in better decision-making and improved quality of life in general. This is where you have to know your own limits and when to get away from the computer to stretch, take some deep breaths, meditate, or just call it a day. Balance is the key. While not a specific clutter tip, stress can lead to a cluttered approach in how you work and think – reduce the stress, improve performance.