It never seems to be the right time to think about organization within your business. That’s because it usually means putting work aside and just, well, organizing. Who has time for that?
It’s not as hard as you think to get a few systems in place, but then, I tend to be on the hyper-organized end of the spectrum – I sleep with a notepad on my bedside table, so if I think of something important during the night, I can write it down immediately. My husband is my polar opposite and can fly by the seat of his pants in any situation. But it should be noted that he graduated from a comedy school with a degree in improv. Most people fit somewhere between these two extremes, and everyone’s version of organization differs.
Because of that Type A personality of mine, I choose my outfit the night before and iron any garments before I go to bed. I brown bag it for lunch, so I make my lunch the night before. It never fails, if I skip even one of these steps, I will invariably wake up late the next day and start my morning by running around the house like a chicken with my head cut off. It’s not the way I prefer to start my day. Throw in a few kids and a carpool and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
You may be thinking, running a business is so different from running a home, or doing routine prep-for-the-day tasks. A business includes more people, schedules, tons of email that represent more to do and things to read, etc. Perhaps you’ve tried, and really hard, to get more organized but get so frazzled and focused on what you need to do that organization has to take a back seat to due dates and end dates. Or, maybe you’re thinking, I already have a system in place; it’s not that effective, but I’m not about to revamp it completely.
Check. Not asking you to pull your hair out. There are ways to implement organizational strategies that are pretty easy to adopt and add into a routine. Here are some simple yet important ways to keep yourself, and your colleagues, on the same page:
Keep Communication flowing! Some businesses have employees or freelancers who work from remote areas. You don’t encounter each other whileScreen Shot 2016-02-07 at 18.22.08 walking through the corridors, and you can’t call a staff meeting in the conference room at 10:00 am. And sometimes out-of-sight means out-of-mind. So how does everyone know what is happening?
The answer is, they will IF you utilize communication in many forms – phone calls, emails, memos, texts, conference calls. Yeah, yeah, I already do that. But do you keep written documentation of all communication? No matter what the medium used to meet, take some notes and record in a place where multiple people can access.
It is always good to have-it-in-writing because days later, many people don’t remember what was said or agreed to. All the visual learners out there (about 50% of us) will appreciate it as will those of us who tend to forget as soon as the conversation ends. Phone conferencing programs will record your calls so you have the discussion available to replay. [Just make sure the person on the other end knows they are being recorded.] Maintain a log of all emails related to a project until the project has been completed and some time has passed and keep them in labeled project folders.
- Once you collect all this written material each day, what next? Flood everyone’s inboxes? And does every single person need to have access to every conversation? The answers to the second question is no. The answer to the first is not as simple. It may require you to take time each day to look over the communications for the day, cross-reference them with employees involved in the project/task discussed, and make sure those involved receive the relevant communications. And the “To do” lists that are out there? Make sure that any new To Do’s that have resulted from the day’s discussions get added to your and every other person’s list. Yes, this does require more time in your day. But if spending time now will save headaches later, isn’t worth it? Plus the more you do this, the easier and faster it will become.
- Keep track of who is responsible for each stage of a project. There are excellent online versions of planners that let all employees see what projects are currently being worked on, which ones are on hold and the deadlines for all projects. Within this tool, your employees or colleagues can communicate with others assigned to the same task. Each person is asked to estimate the best and worst case scenarios for completing his or her portion of the job. These planners also allow everyone to see a name or names connected with each task. This way it will be clear who is taking care of what. Turning over some of this “paperwork” to technology can free up more time for you to focus on what’s most important. We’re talking about software like Basecamp, LiquidPlanner, Mavenlink, Smartsheet, Workfront.
For your own work, keep your “To Do” list active and update. Check off what is finished (some technology does this automatically and then archives the item) and keep adding new tasks as they come up. Prioritize them by moving the most important to the top, or organize them by delivery date. Use Stickies or Notes on your mobile device to record things you need to remember or access quickly. These tools can be used to track expenses, keep login information, note To Do’s for the day, etc. Sometimes, I use my phone’s voicerecorder to remind me to do something. It’s a great way to quietly and quickly get a note to yourself.
Chances are when you replay the message you’ll remember exactly where you were when you recorded it and what you were thinking about at the time.
Designate people to lead projects so everyone will know who is in charge. Too many cooks can ruin the stew, and too many alpha personalities can ruin a project. If a person has not been assigned to lead the group, one of two things will usually happen. One, everyone wants to be, acts like, or thinks they are in charge. Or two, no one steps up to the responsibility. In either case, not much will be accomplished, egos may be bruised, and the business’ reputation will be on the line. If you had ten seconds to name the team player with the best leadership qualities, I bet you could do it. But don’t be afraid to try different people in positions of responsibility. Start them on small projects. By showing your willingness to trust people with new responsibilities, you are showing your team members that you want them to succeed and are aware of their potential. Everyone likes a vote of confidence and don’t forget the pat on the back or a grateful phrase of appreciation.
- Ask for updates on a regular basis. The intervals between updates should be established by the size of your company and importance of the task. You may not need an update every day, but if two weeks pass and you haven’t spoken to your colleagues or employees, you may receive an unexpected call from a client, and you will be stumbling over your own words, or worse lying, because you do not know how the client’s product or service is progressing. Avoid the embarrassment — know what is going on. You can arrange preset days and times each week for updates. And it would be a good idea to take notes during the conversation.
Being organized at work can flow into an organization in other, if not all, aspects of your life. It’s a win-win for everyone. By maintaining regular communication, making it clear who is working on each task, assigning people to lead tasks, keeping To Do Lists active, and staying up-to-date on progress, you and your company will be more productive and hence more profitable. These two characteristics of your business will lead to a more upbeat, engaging, and fulfilling work environment which leads to happier colleagues, less stress, which leads to better overall health which leads to . . . The point is, there is positive, reinforcing energy and a desire to keep moving forward toward bigger and bigger challenges for those who are organized.
Please visit www.enfusionize.com to meet our team of organized masters!