Four Tips for Organizing Your Business
January may have just begun, but it’s never too early for a little spring cleaning around the office. In fact, January 12 is ‘Clean Off Your Desk Day,’ a fine time to tackle any clutter that’s built up around your work area and give you a spotless start to a new year of business.
Take a look around your office and prepare for a purge. Anything you haven’t used in a while should probably get a new home, either in a filing cabinet, a desk drawer, or possibly the trash bin. Does your stapler have a layer of dust on it? Is your plant still green, or has it withered and died? Could you hide behind a mountain of file folders and never be found? If so, it’s time to wipe away what’s not needed and get tidy.
Keeping your desk clear of excess papers and unwanted items will deliver several benefits. First and foremost, it will make you look more professional in the eyes of clients, customers and colleagues. It will also reduce your stress level when work gets hectic, and help boost your overall productivity and peace of mind.
But don’t stop with just your desk. Give your entire business a boost and bring more organization to your office environment by following these four tips.
Part with Paper
These days, thanks to the abundance of digital storage and online file sharing, there’s almost no need to keep the mountains of paper that once filled virtually every office. Take advantage of tools like Dropbox and Google Drive to keep your files out of sight.
If there’s something you have in hard copy that you absolutely need to keep, say an important legal or financial document, simply scan and save it instead of sticking it in a drawer to be forgotten. With online storage solutions, your files will always be close at hand wherever you end up, and can easily be attached to e-mails as projects and plans develop. Save your electronic documents in well-labelled folders and be sure to back up anything that’s especially important.
Also, instead of trying to keep track of dates, events and important phone numbers with a never-ending stream of sticky notes, store the information on your computer and smartphone.
Love Your Lists
Like Santa, it’s always helpful to make a list and check it twice. Create a running to-do list of tasks and assignments and review it at the beginning and end of each day. If a daily once-over proves too demanding, chart your progress at the beginning and end of each week instead. Rank your tasks by order of priority and time-sensitivity, and integrate the list with your calendar if possible.
Rather than writing everything down, try out an app like Wunderlist or Todoist to help keep track of what’s next, and when it’s due.
Another helpful tip to organize your work day is to assign an approximate length of time to each task. That way, you’ll have a better idea of what you can reasonably achieve, and won’t beat yourself up over those items that don’t get done. If you find yourself doing similar types of projects time and again, come up with a reusable checklist to make sure you don’t forget any loose ends.
Plug In, Then Unplug
If possible, set aside a portion of each day to deal exclusively with phone calls and emails. Use that time to respond to urgent messages, clean out old voice-mails, and try to tame your inbox (in a previous blog, we discussed how to reduce email clutter). Close your door, if you’ve got one, or ask not to be disturbed, so you won’t be interrupted by trivial questions or idle chit chat.
Then, whenever you can, try to block off some time where you mute your phone and ignore your email completely. Sure, it may be unnerving at first to go incommunicado. Relax. Unless it’s super important, the rest of the world can wait, and you’ll end up being able to get more done without the distractions created by calls and messages.
Focus on the Future
Very often, most of what we work on has to do with what’s happening right now. Staying on top of things in the present is important, but every once in a while it’s a good idea to lift your head and scan the horizon for what might be coming a few weeks, a few months or even a full year down the line.
From time to time, try to block off an hour or two for some big picture planning. Think about the lessons you’ve learned, and how they can be applied to similar situations that might arise again. Ask yourself where you want your business to be in the future, and what it will take to get there. That way, you can start planning ahead, and avoid last-second scrambling later on.
Need more help organizing in the New Year? The UPS Store offers a variety of scanning and digital archiving solutions. Learn more: http://www.theupsstore.ca/services/additional/