I have always been the type of person that would prefer to do things myself. I like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I do things myself and I like the challenge of figuring out how to do it on my own. In all honesty, I think one of the biggest factors that played into me being a do-it-yourself-er was that there was never an excess amount of money that I could use to hire others to do it for me.
So what should you keep and how long should you keep it? Following is a list of documents and suggested retention times offered by the Better Business Bureau (BBB):
If your filing system consists of piles of paper on the kitchen counter, or bulging file folders in an unlocked drawer, you could be setting yourself up for identity theft, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.
This is the “after” picture of the files. As you can see, we broke the files down into sections using colored hanging folders, and we even put the filing tabs in a straight row for each section. This makes locating and returning files much quicker, and eventually without much thought at all.
This is a before picture of the filing system of a very busy, overwhelmed executive client of ours. The problem she was struggling with is a very common problem with entrepreneurs, her business grew very quickly. Doesn’t sound like a problem, does it? Actually it’s a good problem to have, but it causes a great deal of everyday stress because there are no systems in place to track or complete the endless amounts of office work you have as a business owner.
Look at the dramatic difference in this after picture from our Messiest Desk Contest. Imagine how much more productive the client will be now that they are organized and not distracted by all of the visual clutter.
One of our areas of expertise, and an area we love to coach people on is paper management and workflow. So many people struggle in this area. It’s a real joy to be able to teach someone how simple it really can be to be more productive if you take the time to set up systems and processes for your paperwork, tasks and stuff.
I have the priviledge of speaking to a networking group for small business owners this Thursday. I will be talking to them about how taking the time to get organized can increase their bottom line.
As a small business owner there are so many things to keep track of for your taxes. One of which is keeping track of your mileage. It can be a struggle to make sure it is tracked and documented all year. Either you forget to mark it down, you forget to bring a piece of paper to mark it on, or you lose the paper you marked it on.
What do I do with all of these business cards? That’s a question we hear alot. Here’s my suggestions:
- Purge cards from people you don’t even remember.
- Purge duplicates.
- Spend a moment on each card, and decide if you really want, or need, that person’s contact information. Purge those that you don’t need.
- The top 3 suggestions will probably weed out at least 1/2 of the business cards you have, if not more. Enter the remainder into a contact management database such as Outlook or ACT!.
- Toss the cards after they have been entered into the database.
If you are a small business owner like me, chances are that you wear many different hats. You are the sales person, the marketing person, the administrative person, the research person and the person that goes out on the job. With so many tasks to manage, it is very important to plan your week, to allow time for you to work in the various roles. It is equally important to come up with systems and procedures of how and when you will execute each task.
If you want to be more productive at work, it takes planning. What do I mean by planning to be more productive? That means taking the time in advance to:
- Determine every task, paper or project that comes across your desk.
- Establishing a home for each task, paper or project. This is where it will live until you have the time to work on it.
- Do like things with like things. Make all of your phone calls at once, pay all of your bills at once, etc.
- Create a schedule for when the work will be done. Normally tackling the biggest project, or the thing you dread the most, first thing in the morning when your energy level is at it’s highest, is best.
- Combine tasks. Is there a way to get two things completed at the same time?
- Clear your desk at the end of each day so that when you return in the morning you will start your day feeling inspired and motivated, rather than overwhelmed.
If you are a small business owner like myself, you probably started your business because you love the work you do. Unfortunately, running a small business requires much more than just doing the thing you love. You have financial records to keep, marketing to create, clerical work, customer service and much more that steals your time.
Taking the time up-front to get organized in the office results in a large number of benefits including increased productivity, reduced stress and more time to work on what really matters.
While I suggest going through your mail daily and at least discarding junk mail, if you’re not doing that, make it a point to go through your mail weekly. Mail management is a real issue in our world today and a problem that I see with clients daily. It can easily get out of control and leave you feeling overwhelmed if you don’t stay on top of it.
Some say empty your inbox every day, some say set a limit to how many emails you’re comfortable with. My limit is one screen (i.e. no scrolling). My inbox is limited to things I need to do right away or that are so important I want them staring me in the face until they’re done.
Yesterday’s post talked about the power of deleting emails. Today’s post is about doing your emails. There’s a great rule which basically says if you can do this in 2 minutes or less, do it now. That’s because it will take less time to finish the action in 2 minutes than it will take to park it somewhere else for later and go back to it. So just get it over with—it’s a great feeling!
In today’s world, we are bombarded with information at a much higher rate than in years past. One of the biggest culprits is email. If you’re honest with yourself, probably 80% of what lands in your inbox can be deleted immediately or after a quick scan. Imagine if you get 50 to 100 emails a day, 40 to 80 of those can be deleted in a few minutes! How would it feel to have only 10 to 20 emails you need to really think about each day?
As a small business owner myself, I understand the challenges other small business owners are faced with. More often than not paperwork, filing and electronic information are seen as the enemy. It is a struggle to keep everything in order, pay everything on time and keep up with the constant stream of incoming information.