Every business can benefit from a good spring cleaning. Here are tips on how to get organized and be more productive by tackling a few key areas within your small business.
Staying organized is one of the most important jobs you have as an owner running a small business. It’s also one of the most challenging. Busy small business owners are running full steam ahead, and it can be tough to stop long enough to file away receipts and clean out your inbox. But taking time out of your busy schedule to get organized will actually save you a lot of time in the long run. That’s why once a year (or more) every small business owner needs to give their business a good ‘spring’ cleaning.
An unorganized business will stop productivity in its tracks.
Giving your business a spring cleaning can mean different things for different businesses. What you choose to clean and organize first should be those areas of the business most directly tied to productivity and, by extension, profitability.
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While every small business is unique, here are four steps every owner can take right now to clean up your business and create a huge boost in productivity.
1. Back-up what you need, purge what you don’t.
Filing your (digital) paperwork is small business spring cleaning 101. And, just as important, is removing documents and files that you no longer need. File or store important documents in the cloud, on an external hard drive, or in a filing cabinet. If you have a stack of old paper documents containing sensitive information, shred them. Today, there are so many options for getting organized digitally that it's possible to put your office in order without ever printing, filing or storing a piece of paper. Just store it in the cloud and/or on a backup drive, and you'll be able to access your critical data no matter where you are or even if disaster strikes (like a fire that destroys your file cabinets). While the digital approach doesn't work for everyone, if it works for you, great!
2. Clean out your inbox. Getting emails into folders and out of your inbox is a spring cleaning task that will make a big impact on your ability to stay organized. You’ll feel less overwhelmed and reduce the risk of that all-important email getting lost in the clutter.
3. Declutter your workstation. Clutter creates stress – something no business owner needs. The items on your desk should be ones you use each day, like pens, notebooks, a laptop or tablet, and any specialty tools your work requires. Everything else should have a home in a desk drawer, on a shelf or somewhere else close-by. An easy and inexpensive way to keep your workstation clean is with drawer organizers, shelves and a filing cabinet.
4. Find tools that help you stay organized. Once you’ve finished your small business spring cleaning, look for simple ways to stay organized. If you’re most productive when you create a list of to-dos, invest in a daily planner and note pads. If you prefer using apps and other tech tools to do business, there are several apps out there designed specifically for staying organized. Look for apps that allow you to manage lists, take notes, connect to your calendar or planner, and set reminders. A few examples of organization apps include Trello, Todoist and Evernote.
The best spring cleaning plan is continued maintenance throughout the year. Make spring cleaning easier by dusting off your business throughout the year.
If you can create a process for maintaining those tasks tied directly to your productivity – like filing documents once a month or taking 20 minutes every Friday to reset your workstation – you’ll increase the health of your business, get more done in less time and, ultimately, be more profitable.
Consider developing a plan. I like Rieva Lesonsky’s suggestions in one of her blogs. She is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. She is one of SCORE’s content partners and she suggests asking yourself “which organizational problems are hampering your business the most? Given the limited time available to us as small business owners, it's important to focus on what will make the biggest difference – not on trying to organize every single square inch of your office. Do you have problems putting your hands on important documents, such as contracts or proposals, when you most need them? Or is the problem more of a time management issue – for example, double-booking yourself for appointments or missing client meetings because your calendar’s disorganized? Figure out what's most vital to making your business run more smoothly, and target your organizing efforts there.”
Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.