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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Post No. 6: Some Organizational and Time Management Tips for the New Year for Your Small Business

Organization and Time Management Tips

© 2013 and 2015, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

A few months back, I was contacted by a young lady who indicated that her management of her small business consisted of chaos, and that she was extremely disorganized.  She reached out to me for some simple advice, and I jotted down a few things which immediately came to mind.  Over time, I will come up with some other recommendations.   However, since this is the New Year, I thought it appropriate to share these with you so that you can start the New Year on a good foot.

1.       I used to have my employees perform re-organizations of their offices every Memorial Day (I called it Spring Cleaning), and every Thanksgiving. If you do not periodically conduct a major cleaning, you will continue to live in chaos or a state of disorder.  In my view, it affects your ability to think clearly and organize your life;

2.       Your body's ability to handle things, as well as your mind, and your energy, all fluctuate.  Only perform difficult tasks and hard work when you feel your best and are highly motivated.  When you are not, do not;

3.       A corollary of No. 2 is that if you monitor your typical day, you will note various patterns.  For example, when I worked in an office, I found that I typically drifted off around 3:30 – 4:00 pm, so I started leaving the office and going to the movies, working out, or running to the dry cleaners, and then returning later;

4.       I wake up every morning to a "to do" list.  Break down the items into Today, Tomorrow, and During the Week categories. Make sure that your "Today" list is realistic, and that you do not unduly place pressure on yourself.  Each day, shift over the things that you are unable to complete, and re-formulate your list;

5.       Keep a clean desk, and have any resources, reference materials, and supplies which you use regularly close by so that you do not have to get up and look for them. Also, keep them in ample supply;

6.       On your clean desk, only have one task or matter in front of you at a time. After all, you can only work on one matter at a time. Having multiple tasks on your desk only makes you feel disorganized;

7.       The same principle about clutter applies to your e-mail inbox. Clean it out at the end of the night, and only have 10 -15 e-mails in your inbox. Use them as a sort of "to do" or reminder list;

8.       Get in the habit of using a "tickler" or reminder system. You might also buy a large 2'x 3' calendar and put it on your wall. Use red ink for events where you have to show up, black for business, blue for personal, etc.  I like being able to turn from my computer and look up on my wall and figure out what I have to do for the entire next month or two.  Doing so with a small calendar on an electronic device screen is far more difficult to use to gain a comprehensive view of what you are doing down the road;

9.       Not everything in life is digital or electronic in form.  Get yourself a 4 or 5 drawer file cabinet, or buy some heavy duty reinforced "Banker's Boxes" from Staples or Office Depot, and some file folders, and PUT EVERY PIECE OF PAPER IN A FILE FOLDER, with oldest docs in the back, newest in the front, and in chronological order. At the end of the day, make sure that every piece of paper is in its proper file folder, including the task you were working on just prior to retiring. You will not believe the sense of "order" you will feel;

10.     When you receive your mail, attach the envelope in which it came to the paper inside, and write the day and date on the envelope. By noting the day of the week, it will refresh your memory as to what happened or what you were doing when you need to remember it later;

11. If it helps you, use different color paper for different purposes. I print out or write notes to the file and internal stuff on blue paper. Copies of things I send out are on yellow. The overwhelming majority of incoming docs are white. I use green to keep track of financial stuff, such as checks, time sheets, expenses, etc., which are accounting and book keeping issues.  When I need to flip through a paper file, I can quickly find what I am looking for; and

12.     If something is complex, write out a chronological timeline for yourself, or an outline of the important issues.

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