Small businesses organization is crucial to success. It’s not an opinion, it’s a statement of fact! For a small business to blossom, the owner and employees need to have a strong understanding of operations, systems, product and finances, while keeping more than a semblance of order. Some of my co-workers see me as a highly organized person because I like to have a sense of order about me as I carry on with my daily, weekly and quarterly tasks. It gives me great pleasure to see plans laid out in front of me, though I am entirely aware that in my industry and particular position, plans may change at a moment’s notice. If I can at least get a glimpse of what is expected of me on a rough timeline, I’m a happy person. It’s this kind of planning and preparation that can cause a small business to sink or swim.
As I watched a Bloomberg series called “The Mentor” I heard a startling statistic that about 80% of new businesses fail within the first 18 months of opening their doors, so it seems to me that with those kinds of odds, you want to limit as many X factors as possible. I like to call this doing your homework. In this case, it’s not about research and development; it’s about getting as many “points,” or controlling as many factors that are within your control, as you possibly can, so that when the test comes, you at least have a solid foundation. This helps to ensure not only survival, but growth.
Planning for the future can be difficult, especially if you’re in an industry that depends on other companies’ behaviors or trend forecasting, so the best thing you can do is take care of all the small things in your business. Oftentimes, this starts at your own desk. Let’s get down to details:
Organize your workspace
If you don’t have a clear place to work, how can you expect to get anything done? Remember back when you had a paper to write for school and you found every excuse in the book to avoid beginning work on it? I know I often resorted to cleaning, and I typically found that once my desk was clean, I was more inclined to get down to business. This is one of those times when beginning your workday with a clean desk or office will benefit your productivity immensely. This doesn’t mean that your desk has to be spotless- mine gets pretty messy throughout the day as I work- it just means that you need to have all important documents and supplies at your fingertips so that when you need them, you know just where to find them and don’t have to waste time sifting through unnecessary clutter. Another tip is to make sure you leave your desk clean at the end of the workday so that when you stroll in the next morning, you aren’t looking at a desk full of yesterday’s clutter.
Use a planner
Whether you’re into keeping your schedule of meetings and deadlines on your phone, outlook or on paper, make sure you keep track of all important due dates so that nothing passes you by. I’m a huge fan of going old school style and writing everything down in a master calendar so that I can flip through and see what I have coming down the pipeline up to several months in advance. It also makes it easy for my teammates to take a peek at their own upcoming due dates for posts on the blog, e-books or guest post exchanges. When you are able to see important project deadlines or meetings on paper or on screen, it has a way of becoming more real than if the time or date remains floating around in your head. There’s a much more firm sense of commitment, so be sure you record all dates, times and meetings crucial to your business.
Make to-do lists
Now I understand that not everyone is a list maker, so this might be
kind of tedious in the beginning, but trust me when I say that your day’s productivity will increase and small tasks will not slip through the cracks if you document in the morning what you need to do that day. No job is too small to write down if it is important and needs to be done, so if you feel the need to write out a list of emails that you need to respond to, by all means, have at it! There is a certain amount of satisfaction that accompanies checking off a job on your list, especially when it’s a more sizeable task.
Find your golden hour
I start my workday as early as possible so that I can settle into my own groove without the interruptions of others. It is within this first 60-90 minutes of my day that I get a hefty amount of my small, but many, tasks done and it sets the tone for the rest of my day. Some people are more productive at different points of the morning or afternoon, like, say, after lunch, so there is no one set part of the workday when productivity is guaranteed. If your team has morning production meetings, you mind find your most industrious hours following the close of the meeting when you have a clearer idea of the day’s and week’s business. Either way, you need to make a conscious effort to set aside those 60-90 uninterrupted minutes just for you and your tasks so that you can stay on track with your shiny new to-do list!
Have an auxiliary plan
Remember when I told you that I am a planner? Well, inevitably things will come up and a plan will change, so one must plan for the unknown- the X factors, if you will. A deadline might get moved up or a particularly important client needs a bit of extra attention. Perhaps a co-worker calls in sick and you must cover his or her job for the day. Whatever curveball gets thrown your way, you’ll be better equipped to move forward with the more urgent task if you had an idea of what still needs to be done by the end of the day or week once the more pressing job is handled.
Look ahead but be flexible
A long term plan for future projects will be incredibly helpful as deadlines shift and ideas evolve, so by looking forward into the next quarter, you can at least have a rough idea of where your small business is headed. Present plans and outcomes can have a strong impact on future plans- usually they offer lessons for the future- so, if anything, you can refine and improve your future plan.
As you can see, the above tips offer small solutions to relatively large problems. If you follow even a few of the guidelines, I assure you that your time management skills will improve, productivity will rise, you’ll be able to do your job more economically, prioritizing will be less of an issue and, most importantly, your stress levels will decrease. If you’ve got organization around the office down, why not learn how to grow your small business with “8 Ways to Grow Your Small Business“?