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Get Organized!

Did you know that January is National Organizing Month?

We learned that fact and more from CHAMPS member and Magic Maker Solutions CEO Amy O’Donnell at this month’s entrepreneur meeting on Jan. 10th.

The goal of organizing is to use deliberate decision-making to create effective processes, effective systems, and smart solutions.

It’s important to decide how you want to store your files. It’s great that you have the motivation to attack that pile of stuff on your desk, but where is that paper or electronic file going to go? Decide if you want to archive your work as paper or as digital files. To get further into this process, as yourself a few questions:

  • How does this paperwork come to me? Do I receive emailed receipts that I have to keep, or are most of them paper? Do I have electronic invoices that are paid online by clients, or are they paper and checks that come back to me? One of Amy’s key pieces of advice – file that item in the way it comes to you.
  • Can you reduce what’s coming in? Reduce what you have to manage to save yourself time. Unsubscribe to emails you don’t use, or mail that you don’t want to receive. Catalog Choice is an unsubscribe method for catalogs.
  • What works best for you? Use a system that is intuitive for you personally, and don’t feel that you have to file things down to the micro level. Maybe there’s a broad file for school work, professional development, client development opportunities, or bills. Save the more detailed filing system when necessary for things like individual clients, and then organize by year within those clients, for example.

Organizing for your business can really depend on what kind of business you have. Have lots of detailed or large format files that are in print that you need to keep by client? Invest in physical storage space like filing cabinets, rather than trying to scan and store files.

If you send invoices and receive payments digitally, organizing and storing those files digitally is the way to go. And don’t be afraid to use a combination approach – digital storage for finance/accounting/human resources files, and paper files for client work for example. There’s no right or wrong way, so long as you and anyone else in your organization who needs access can find the information.

Because business and personal life is not clear cut for many small business owners and entrepreneurs, making sure to use a single calendar that has all of your commitments on it (again, coded by color or whatever works for you) ensures that you don’t miss a meeting or an event. Adding reminders through your phone or email can allow you to more easily balance business and personal work.

One of the most important things you can do is create a habit with your organizing and filing. Set aside time daily or weekly, depending on the task and your schedule, to stay on top of things like billing and invoicing, etc.

Or maybe that habit includes an intern or a personal assistant – if something is bogging you down, outsource it. Your time is best spent doing the things that are most important to your business.

Another part of the organization habit is reviewing your day in advance of the next day. Take a look at what meetings or events you have and pull out any information, copies, equipment, etc. that you need in advance. And at the end of your day, put things away so you can start at a clean desk when you next sit down to work.

Piling vs Filing. Do you put things in a pile on your desk and then say – I’ll get to all this later? Schedule a block of time on your calendar so that later actually happens. Then look at how you are collecting these items and look at how you can organize them vertically where you can see them and address them. Categorize them by top priority or topic. And voila – you’ve gone from a disorganized pile to an organized file.

Lastly, if you start a method of organizing and it turns out to not work for you, don’t be afraid to change it. Re-label a folder if you find the priority word or phrase doesn’t exactly fit what you need it to do. Make a more general file or break out a file into more specific sub-categories. This goes for paper and online filing.

Check out Amy’s tip sheet below. Do you have an organization tool, tip or trick that helps you make sense of the chaos? Share it with us so we can add it our list!

Tools, Tips and Tricks:

One Touch

One tactic that you can use is the “one-touch” process. Basically, if you touch it, you address it right then, particularly if it will take under 2 minutes to deal with. Write that check for the bill that’s been sitting on your desk and stick it in the mail. Pay that parking ticket online. Create a 2020 file for those receipts and put it in your standing file.

Color Coding

For paper files, a tactic is to color code them – red for medical, green for financial, etc. Create a system that is intuitive to you.  Visual categorization like this can allow you to pull things faster. Again – you don’t have to file things down to a detailed level.

Genius Scan

A free mobile app for scanning documents with multiple pages. Great for storing information if your business is particularly mobile.

Audio Recording Your Notes

If you’re looking for a simple way to retain meeting notes but don’t have time to type them, try recording them and saving the recordings. In an age where every phone can record audio and video and usually upload it to the cloud, think about whether this medium may be an easier way for you to go paperless and be mobile.

Vertical Storage Solutions

Generally, vertical storage solutions will help you be more efficient, see documents and files easier, and let you spend more time doing work and less time managing documents and papers.