Getting organized and being productive are almost always on the top of New Year’s resolution lists, particularly for small business owners. In fact, more than 60 percent of workers pledged to keep their business email and documents more organized in the new year, according to a recent survey by Intermedia, a communications services provider.
We asked two professional organizers — both small business owners themselves — for their top tips for getting organized and staying organized for 2011. Mary Ann Pate of A Timely Solution is also the president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. Grace Brooke is a professional organizer who appeared on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive last fall. (She also has a blog and a monthly newsletter).
Here are five of their top suggestions:
1) Make a “To-Do Today” list — Pate recommends having an ongoing “to do” list, with all the items in one place and prioritized. From there, you should select the items that need to be done today — your priorities for the next 24 hours. List only those items you know you can realistically accomplish, she says.
2) Manage interruptions — Let non-urgent phone calls go straight to voice mail and when you’re not working on it, turn off your computer so you don’t get distracted by each new email, Pate says. It’s important to stay focused on the project at hand, she says. Each time you start and stop a project, you lose concentration and the momentum that you have built up.
3) Work on one task at a time — With our love for multi-tasking, this can be tough. But Pate says that only having one project on your desk at a time and removing the clutter from other projects will help you keep your mind clear. Once you’re done, put it away and move on to the next one.
4) Keep all your notes in one place — Brooke suggests keeping just one notepad by your phone on your desk. This is where you keep your notes to yourself, jot down phone numbers and so forth. Having that one notepad — and no others — means that you’re not scribbling notes on scratch paper and post-its and promptly losing them.
5) It’s all about maintenance — You may have just spent the weekend cleaning your inbox, your desk, your office. Now the hard part is keeping it that way. Brooke recommends scheduling small chunks of time each day — just five to 10 minutes — to focus on a certain area and do a quick sweep.