For small business owners, goals and tasks that directly generate revenue typically take priority over those that don’t. While getting organized is a common ambition around New Year’s, it may seem more like a “nice-to-do” than a “must-do” activity.
According to Tracy Bowers, owner of Organize Simply with Tracy, small business owners should make organization a priority, as it will allow them more room for personal and professional growth. “Whether you realize it or not, being disorganized holds you back,” she says. “It’s important to take time to set up organizing systems if you want your business to be successful.”
Below, Bowers shares five things small business owners should do to get their businesses — and themselves — organized.
1. Shed Some Workspace Weight
The first step of any organization effort is to get rid of the excess around you. Go through everything to purge and declutter your workspace, and create a fresh start.
“This is a necessity if you want to be successful,” Bowers says. “Clutter weighs you down and makes it difficult to be productive.”
While it can be overwhelming to address all of the boxes, books and papers, Bowers says getting rid of things you don’t need will relieve stress. “Schedule time on your calendar to clean your office, or it won’t happen,” she says.
2. Get to Know Your Scanner
It’s easy to let stacks of paper pile up on your desk. Bowers suggests going through each piece of paper and scanning, filing or discarding it.
“Scanning is the absolute best,” she says. “Any time you scan something, you help eliminate paper clutter.”
When filing, only keep current projects and papers in a filing cabinet. Archive and label older documents, and store them in boxes for the appropriate amount of time. For example, tax papers should be kept for seven years, Bowers says.
All other loose, unneeded papers should be discarded. Bowers suggests that every small business owner invest in a shredder to destroy printed personal information so that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
3. Leverage the Power of Lists
Create a plan for the new year by making a list. “Lists help make things happen and give you a sense of accomplishment when you check things off,” Bowers says.
Lists also help you think more clearly, as you get all of the tasks in your head out and on paper. Bowers recommends listing out your daily to-dos and long-term projects you’d like to accomplish.
“Lists can be very helpful for people who are lacking in motivation,” says Bowers. “If you’re overwhelmed with the things around you, getting them down on a list helps you focus.”
4. Do an E-Cleanse
Email causes frustration for a lot of people, Bowers says: “Email is clutter, and it weighs you down.”
Unsubscribe to any emails you no longer need. To reduce the volume in your inbox, Bowers recommends an app called unroll.me that bundles email newsletters, such as those from retailers or associations, into a single email and delivers it at the time of day that is best for you.
For emails you want to save, Bowers suggests moving them from your inbox to folders you create in your email program. “This helps put the focus on new things coming in,” she says.
5. Reflect and Refocus
Annually review your business plan and common organizational practices, and decide if they need to be adjusted. What worked? What didn’t work? Things that were productive in 2015 should be continued in 2016, Bowers says. Then, she adds, create goals and affirmations for yourself and your business in the new year.
“Goals fuel your ambition,” she says. “Write them in a notebook or journal, and look at them daily. Affirmations are positive statements, such as ‘I am a success in all that I do.’ Repeating these ideas daily helps you to become the person you want to be.”