10 Steps to Achieve Better Organisation – Birds on the Blog

10 Steps to Achieve Better Organisation

Are you an organised business owner?

As a self-confessed control freak, I just love planning and organisation, so  I chose a career in which to use this strength and these skills. Firstly, as an employed Executive Assistant and then, since 2010, as a freelance Virtual Assistant.

I enjoy bringing order to my clients’ lives and seeing them achieve so much more as a result. Many entrepreneurs are so focused on the big picture, their goals or new enterprise that they don’t find time to keep organised and can even lack key organisational skills – something observed in a Harvard Business Review article. It’s now an old summary, but somehow I don’t think the key characteristics of an entrepreneur will have changed much.

Don’t we all know of successful people who seem to live and work in a permanent state of chaos?

However, disorganisation and chaos are not sustainable long-term. Something will give. Perhaps mistakes will be made and sales may suffer, or stress and overwhelm will affect the personal life or even the health of a busy entrepreneur.

Therefore, the more savvy business owners realise the benefits of delegating and outsourcing the detail in order to better focus on the important work they have to do. They know the necessity of treating themselves as an important client!

If you want the best opportunity to stay organised, then you need to allocate time to work on and not in your business. You are crucial to the success of your enterprise so it’s time to treat yourself just as you would an important client. Go-ahead, book time in your schedule for planning, strategy, marketing and even admin tasks. Let me know if this works for you…

Here are 10 tips to help us be more organised in our work

1.) FILING

Let’s start with paperwork as you’ve likely not achieved a paperless office yet? If you have, please let me know how you did this!

Even I don’t like filing, but there’s no worse distraction than a large pile of messy paperwork or conversely, anything so satisfying as clearing it all away! Or is that just me?

Create a filing system that works for you & your business and use it daily.  You may need 2 – 3 filing trays (eg In, Out, Action), but whenever possible, do try to put things away immediately by using the OHIO principle – Only Handle It Once. Or, when your concentration lapses, or you need a stretch, get-up and spend a few minutes to file a few bits. We all now know that regular breaks, or a change in task or focus helps us maintain optimum concentration and productivity.

If you do have an ‘Action’ filing tray on your desk, try to empty it daily, but not necessarily at the end of the day when you’ve had enough and desperately want to leave the office.  I find clearing the tray first thing whilst waiting for my computer to warm up is a great positive start to the day.

2.) EMAILS

Get into the habit of checking your emails just two or three times per day.  Reply to messages, close down the inbox and turn off the alerts.  Quite often a response will immediately ping back, but if it’s not urgent, don’t be tempted to answer straight away or you’ll never escape the inbox rabbit hole. Use the Archive feature or create folders, then use rules and filters to file emails and prevent certain messages from ever landing in your inbox.

Check emails on your smart phone whilst out and about or sat waiting for a meeting. Respond to those which require a quick reply, delete the junk and leave unread those messages which require more time to be worked on later, or move them into an appropriate ‘Action’ folder.

For more tips on email management, check out our other blog post on How to Achieve Inbox Zero

3.) CONTACTS

Keep your contacts up-to-date. Use the short-cut that most email applications have to quickly add an email address or phone number from a received message or call straight into your contact list.  It’s also useful to add a note or two of essential information about the contact which may help when you need to recall who they are.  Ensure your contact list is synced across all your devices and never be without these essential details.

Use an appropriate CRM to record contact information and log details from any communication with your clients and suppliers etc. Some CRM applications link to your email account to save email conversations and attachments with a click. Even record your contacts on a simple spreadsheet if that works for you, as this can likely be imported as a CVS file into a CRM at a later date.

4.) TASK LIST

There are many task list applications so find the one that works for you but do stick to one method and, if you use multiple devices, sync between them. Alternatively, use the task facility connected to your email account and set a reminder alarm or pop-up alert.

For urgent tasks, pop an appointment into your diary as you would for an important meeting to ensure you have the time blocked-out to complete the work.  If you have a team or assistant, then actively use one of the online project management applications and share or delegate appropriate tasks. Set-up a Trello Board and move cards from one list to another as the task progresses to completion, or allocate to others.  Refer to this daily to keep on top of ongoing work.

5.) PLANNING

As well as checking back through my task list to ensure all essential work has been done, every day I look at future appointments in my (and my clients’) diary and for any upcoming tasks.  Being aware of deadlines enables me to plan and prepare for them and, where possible, complete the majority of the work beforehand.

We all have to handle unexpected crisis situations or sudden unavoidable demands upon our time so, if you can, never leave work to be done at the last minute.

To easily find papers for or in meetings, add online documents to the event calendar icon. If you prefer hard copies, then print and prepare essential papers before an important meeting and file by the date required in a numbered concertina file. Check the contents of the file daily. Remember to block adequate travel time and breaks into your diary too so you’re never back-to-back with meetings without time to refresh or prepare in-between.

6.) BACKUP

Try to have someone to help when you’re up against a hard deadline.  If you work for a large company, there’s usually someone to call back in the office, but this isn’t always an option if you work alone.

Why not liaise with a trusted associate who can assist when you’re up-against it, or even take over in the event you’re unavailable. Ensure you have a legal contract in place to prevent poaching of clients etc.

Make contact with your local Virtual Assistant and have a consultation meeting which will most likely be free.  Even if you don’t have regular work to delegate, the VA will learn a little about you and your business and will often work ad-hoc and able to quickly help you out of a tight spot.

7.) PHONE

Why spend time composing an email when a brief conversation will achieve a result much more quickly?

If you’ve just received an email, the chances are the other person is available at that time, so call them straight back. If you do need to leave a voicemail message, then it’s a good idea to follow this with a quick explanation email.

It’s always a pleasant surprise when someone makes the effort to call me and if a diary management query, often resolved in less time than emailing backwards & forwards.

8.) NOTEBOOK and PEN

People often think I have an amazing memory, but it’s not true!  I forget things like anyone, so I always write everything down.

I have a notebook that goes everywhere with me and as soon as the phone rings I’m ready with pen and paper.  Date at the top, details of the task jotted down.  The work is quite often transferred online by one of the methods in point 4 above, but it’s useful to go back through the hand-written notes and check that everything required has been done.

This was invaluable years ago when I worked as a receptionist as every call was jotted down and many times I needed to go back through and quickly retrieve information or a phone number. If you’re techy, then use an online note app and sync across your devices or try out Remarkable, a tablet that has the feel of a paper notebook. Use the stylus to handwrite notes, or add notes to documents, including PDFs, and the system will convert your scribbles to text then sync the notes across all your devices.

9.) MULTI-TASKING

Don’t!

Honestly, it’s just not productive to bounce from one thing to another. The Pomodoro Technique recommends concentrating for 20 minutes maximum, so try not to spend much more than 30 minutes focusing on one particular job before taking a brief break and moving on to another task. Check out the desktop Tomato timer here: https://tomato-timer.com/

Chunk down your day, time-block your calendar and work with your body by tackling challenging or creative tasks according to when you’re feeling most productive or artistic. We have a blog on time blocking too.

It’s your choice to answer the phone, or not, especially if it’s likely to be a distraction. Leave to voicemail and return the call later when you’re ready to give the caller your full attention. Be really ruthless and set the ringtone and notifications to silent and disable pop-up alerts.

10.) BREAKS

Don’t work too long without a break or you will lose focus and concentration. Even if you don’t need to change tasks and are working on one lengthy job, have a break to recharge, stretch and move your body a little. Look away from the screen and stare into the distance to relax your head and eyes. Pop outside and take some deep breaths.

Try a stand-up desk, there are even pedals available to place underneath, or go one better with a treadmill: https://gostanding.org/under-desk-treadmill/

When you feel tempted to access social media, it’s time to stop work and take a break. Check what’s happening on your feeds – on your mobile device is best as you can then move your body too. Walk away from your desk and around the room for a few minutes. At least go sit somewhere else away from your computer.

If you’re feeling stressed, then take time for a little meditation, use an app or listen to music, either quietly, or have a dance!

And with that, it’s now time for me to practise what I preach and take a break…

 

Nancy Benn VA: https://www.nancybenn.com/

About the Author Nancy Benn

As a versatile Virtual Assistant with more than a decade of experience, I help overwhelmed business owners achieve more by assisting with those essential, but time-suck admin tasks that don't directly generate any income or bring in new sales. By providing flexible admin support, I assist and encourage entrepreneurs to focus on doing what they love in their business and what will generate new revenue by identifying tasks that can be delegated and outsourced. Operating virtually, I can work online from anywhere with good Wifi! Initially based on the Notts/Derbys border, since Autumn 2017 I’ve provided seamless assistance and support to entrepreneurs from 12 different homes in Portugal and Spain. After travelling for two years, hubby Rob and I now live next to the Med amongst the orange groves in Valencia, sharing our lives with two dogs and a parrot.