Let’s say it right off the bat: You don’t have to wait until the start of the new year to make a resolution about getting organized. You can do it right now. Believe it or not, there’s nothing stopping you from forging a plan and following through except for your own inertia. And what’s good for you in your personal life is great for your business.
What’s that protest echoing through the corridors of your company? We’re too busy to make a major change right now! A classic objection. We’ve made it this far doing things this way! Alright, but you don’t want to grow?
You may be investing a lot of time just in staying afloat. Sure, we get it. You may have always done things the way you’re doing them now, and yet you’re still in business. Fine. But is Ford still building the Model T?
Have you considered the possibility that part of the reason why your business acts like that proverbial headless chicken is because you haven’t systematized processes and procedures? Though that chicken may have been full of energy, it probably wasn’t going to win any productivity contests. And neither will you if you don’t get your company’s head on straight.
It’s easy enough to see the worst-case scenario here. Your business can’t stay on an even keel due to the chaos that comes with lost communications and missed meetings. On staff, everybody’s workload is unpredictable, leading to fatigue, both physical and mental. Good people get exhausted and leave. And then you lack the capacity to handle the clients you already have. Perhaps these customers then start dropping off, heading for the exits in the hope of finding a more attentive partnership. Good luck getting new clients, especially if your company now has a reputation for turmoil within your industry. And the downward spiral continues from there.
Let’s say it together: It doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are some steps you can take to make sure that your company keeps the winning edge by getting organized:
- Let’s get physical: That is, let’s start with the spaces you can see. Einstein may have famously had a messy desk, but unless you’re in the relativity business, clutter is not likely to be an asset. Even a certified genius needs some kind of structure to get those brilliant ideas into production. A good approach is to make sure that every item in your office has a designated place. You may have discovered that you don’t lose your keys when you’re at home if you always put them in the same spot just as soon as you walk through the door. You can manage all the items in your office space the same way. Do you really think it’s good business to have to spend time looking for a hard copy of an important document by sifting through stacks of old papers? Which brings us to our next step…
- Let’s get digital: Here in the 21st century, you have an advantage over Albert and Sir Isaac and those other geniuses of yesteryear. You don’t have to record things on paper. Or, at least, you don’t have to use paper as your primary delivery vehicle. If you don’t already type your notes directly into a device in real time, instead relying on paper to record, say, the minutes of a meeting, you can always scan that paper later on and thereby free yourself from clutter bondage. And if you’re still tied to the pen, you should consider exploring the many options out there for taking virtual notes. Microsoft OneNote, for instance, is note-taking software that enables you to collect and organize text, both handwritten and typed, and store it on the Cloud. Sharing ideas as they blossom has never been easier. And there’s nothing to misplace!
- Speaking of sharing: If your business isn’t already using a project management tool, then you need to schedule an upgrade—and do it yesterday. Applications like Basecamp allow your company to easily categorize all of your work under specific project headings. Within each project bucket, you can upload docs and files, schedule and assign tasks, set up to-do lists, display ideas on a virtual message board, and more. Naturally, tools like this are valuable because they organize all of your work materials in one place. But their true indispensable nature comes out in the way that they allow an office to function efficiently when all of the people working in it don’t actually occupy the same physical space or time zone. Got workers on the other side of the globe? Give them a task to do before you leave at night, then wake up in the morning and find it done.
- Calendarize it: You may carry a small planner with you everywhere you go. That’s good. Your business may also use a shared calendar like Google Calendar. That’s even better. It goes without saying that missing an appointment or a deadline with a client is unprofessional and just an alternate way of saying that you don’t actually want to do business after all. If only 50 percent of your company’s designated representatives show up for a meeting, then that shows that you’re only half-serious about winning that client. That’s not going to cut it. A shared calendar gets everyone on the same page including, and especially, those employees who aren’t based in a central location.
- One big push: Getting yourself organized might seem like a daunting task. You look at the uneven stack of papers on your desk or at your email inbox, bursting at the virtual seams, and think that it can’t be done. But you can do it. And the time to start is now. Entropy will have its way with the universe, so the amount of disorder in your office is going to increase naturally unless you do something to control it. Sort those papers, file those invoices, set up a system and then stick to it. Once it’s there, conforming to it will become automatic, even if getting to that point seems like an insurmountable challenge.
In conclusion, if your business suffers from disorderliness, lack of structure, or 20th-century syndrome, the time to address it is now. Make it a task, put it on the calendar, and let everyone know. Your bottom line will thank you.