Many small businesses may not be devoting enough time or energy to develop a true organizational system. Often, getting organized is an afterthought, or something only addressed out of necessity after reaching a certain point of disorganized chaos.
A 2010 survey from the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and Office Depot shows that, although 82 percent of respondents thought a more organized workspace would improve productivity, 42 percent said they only cleaned up clutter once a month.
The consequences of chronic disorganization can range from lost time (something no small business owner has enough of) to missed deadlines or tardiness to key meetings. Conversely, the benefits of organization have the potential to make a positive impact: Having a handle on your physical space, documents, schedule and staff utilization can free your time so you can spend more time for with customers or or to develop plans to break into a new market.
To help get your company organized, consider the following tips:
- Streamline your desk area so that only the items you use regularly are at hand. A cluttered desk may make you look busier, but constantly searching for documents can erode your productivity.
- Clean off your desk at the end of each day. It will make it easier to get to substantive tasks the next morning.
- Envision an office space that will keep you energized and work on moving toward that goal in incremental steps. If you want it done all at once, consider hiring a professional workspace planner.
- Keep all official business documents (incorporation certificates; insurance policies; emergency plans) in one place and indexed for easy access.
- If you are working toward a paperless office, avoid creating digital clutter by paying extra attention to file organization. Be organized when you first set up your network and shared files so that anyone can find the most current version of a document on your network.
- Use the “one-touch rule” for reading e-mails and mail, i.e. either act on it, file it, or discard it. If you’re not sure what to do, file the document according to the business goal it facilitates.
- Keep a master calendar for business and personal commitments, particularly if you have a small business that requires your attention during the day and evening hours. There are a number of free online tools that can help you manage your time, including Google Calendar and Yahoo! Calendar.
- Minimize information overload by cancelling subscriptions to magazines and online newsletters that do not have a direct, positive impact on your business. You may feel instantly lighter.
- When possible, tackle one task at a time. While it may seem like you’re accomplishing multiple tasks at once, “multitasking” has actually been shown to hinder productivity. A recent Stanford University study shows that while media multitasking in particular has become widespread, processing multiple streams of information and switching tasks frequently can overload your brain and jeopardize your productivity on all fronts.
- Delegate tasks and set deadlines in writing, not verbally.
- Motivate employees to be more organized through your own example, but remember that people’s work styles vary.
You may also find that taking a few simple steps toward creating a more organized work life may help eliminate stress and other mental clutter that can stand in the way of your employee’s and your job satisfaction. What are your biggest organizational challenges? What tips and tools do you use? Please share your thoughts below with the SBOC community.