Your organization strategy will determine your level of success.
Having a strategy that works for you will help you complete tasks, and keep up with your goals. Once you get behind it’s hard to catch up.
This past spring when my kids started virtual school, this is what I told them too.
Simply keeping up is not as effective as being organized and keeping on top of it all. Just keeping up by the skin on your teeth doesn’t feel good.
We want to thrive, not just survive.
I love organization and some would say I am super organized but it came from years as a paralegal in the legal profession that required me to be on top of it all. Keeping track of documents, sometimes massive amounts of documents, being able to ensure others could find things quickly, calendaring deadlines, tracking timelines to ensure we had everything in by the time we had to produce documents or use them for hearings. It was a crash course in being organized to the nth degree.
Naturally, I carried this organization over into my own business and into my marketing career.
You don’t have to be organized by nature – you just have to have a strategy or system that works for you.
These are some of the ways I stay organized. This is not to say this exact system will work for you. You have to spend some time finding your groove. Learn what helps keep you on track, where you struggle and how you can adjust or hand it off as needed.
1. Planner & Calendar
First, paper is my jam. My go-to is a planner I can use daily, one I can outline annual goals that I break down my 90-day goals, and break them down further by week. I prefer a weekly preview and with a daily layout to track my appointments and take notes. I like to use sticky notes in my planner that can be moved around too. Never know when something might change.
I use Google Calendar for my appointments and reminders. My day-to-day appointments will get jotted into my planner along with my daily top three.
My project planning and annual goals are done in Asana. My goals are tracked on my 90-day Goal Sheet that I use to guide me.
2. Keeping Up with Email
This one might cause a strong visceral reaction in you. I clear out my email almost daily. This is one I do not like to get behind on. Once I do, it’s over the war is lost.
Ok, a bit dramatic, but I know the struggle with email and I know so many people who say they have thousands of emails, as if it’s a badge of honor. That triggers massive anxiety for me just typing it…
This is how I attack it.
First, work-related emails. I use Outlook. I like Outlook because I can flag emails, schedule reminders, and I can organize emails in a way that things are less likely to slip through the cracks.
- Flags to remind me that I have a task in the email.
- Unread email: If I get an email from a colleague or client and I need to do something on it – the email gets marked as unread to remind me to come back to it.
- The rest gets filed into a client/account/case folder and moved out of my box right away.
- Folders: Clients (get their own folders), Software, Office, Business, Resources, are just some of the folders I have to organize my email.
Non-work-related email (newsletters, industry email lists, sales emails, etc.)
- Schedule 30 minutes daily. You may end up down a rabbit hole so do it when you can afford to jump in (say the end of your work day?).
- If I haven’t read it in a week it goes straight to the trash bin. If I haven’t read it by then I know it’s not going to get read. A week’s worth of new emails came in and if I haven’t read or processed the email, well, it’s probably not that important to me.
- Don’t go through emails if you don’t have time to read and organize them at that moment. It’ll save you from being sidetracked when you are in the middle of work. Save it for (your less productive time of the day)
- My less productive time of the day is after dinner sitting in front of the TV.
- Or your end of the workday wrap-up. This will force you to limit your time, because, well, you gotta go home! And if I do end up down a rabbit hole, it’s not during my most productive time of the day.
- Have an “opt-in” email address “firstname.lastname@example.org” for all offers you sign up for. This skips using your business or personal email for clutter. If emails become important to me or are from my mentors, those emails get moved to my personal or business email for daily reads.
3. Don’t say YES
Don’t say yes to everybody and everything. This is my biggest hold-up and I end up with TOO much on my plate. All.The.Time.
If you’re like me wanting to help others to a detriment can be a roadblock to success. I have to say no sometimes and that boundary is my priority. People might not be happy about it all the time, but they will surely respect your time more when you don’t always say yes.
How? Well, add things to your schedule before others take up your time. Block time slots on your calendar and hold to the commitment, this is most important to do for tasks you know you never complete.
4. Your most optimal time?
I work within my optimal work time. I’m most productive in the morning and I can get up before my family and knock things out.
My brain is over it by 2 pm. I know I am not most productive when my family is up and about or in the evenings.
But it’s a great time for my daily reading and email clean up.
Know yourself well here when and how are you most likely to get work done. Don’t set yourself up for failure if you know you won’t get it done early in the morning or after the kids go to bed, if those aren’t your peak performance times.
5. don’t let things pile up.
This is very likely the key to my organizational success.
I do not let things build up and “come back to them later” (as you saw above in my email rules) because it will only overwhelm me and will result in No Result!
Some things have to be done daily, do it and get it over with you’ll thank yourself tomorrow.
Luckily for me, I have a slightly obsessive tendency to avoid letting things build up. I just can’t do it, it’ll make me anxious.
If you don’t have this tendency, you’ll have to create a daily habit and probably plan some time for the things that need to be done daily. (Tip: Schedule it on your calendar).
- Mail gets taken care of immediately. Toss what I know I won’t read or pass it on and process what needs my attention.
- Get through things on my daily top 3 list – do these first.
Speaking of, if you need help with not letting things pile up, make a list of the things that need daily attention, jot them down and make sure you knock it all out before your day ends.
6. Be mindful
This is another biggie.
Be mindful of how much wasted and distracted time you spend – chatting, reading news, checking your phone, checking Facebook notifications, checking email that doesn’t matter in the moment.
Are you just putting off what needs to be done? How do you feel after those distractions? Did it help you feel productive and get the important things done?
Do these things take you down the rabbit hole?
Turn them all off – NO NOTIFICATIONS on your phone or computer – at least during work time.
This is a painful habit to break but your success will suffer if you don’t control them.
Tough love here – if you want to be successful you have to follow through.
Especially as a business owner.
7. Planning meals
Planning my meals is so good on so many levels. It means shopping once a week, and no brainpower and energy necessary each night. Avoid the dreaded “what’s for dinner or lunch today” question, it’s an interruption that requires tapping into willpower and bandwidth.
You can even go as far as meal prepping but if full-on meal prep with all the washing, chopping, cutting and storing is too much then just plan out the meals and shop before the week starts. That saves a lot of bandwidth.
8. Prep for the week
Each Sunday I take 20 minutes to review my monthly goals and plan out my weekly goals.
At the end of the day, I review what I did and did not get done. I plan out the next day in my paper planner and markdown my top 3-5, and what needs to carry over from today.
This is time well spent to ensure I’m on track, and it clears my mind so I can enjoy my family and sleep well at night without waking up worried I forgot something.
Having all my goals written down and my week outlined I can think of other things without fear I’m going to forget things. It clears VALUABLE mind space.
Being organized is a big factor in whether I feel overwhelmed or out of control.
We have lots on our plates as business owners.
Wasting time thinking about what needs to be done next, rechecking things 3-4 times to make sure it did in fact get completed, even things that sound as simple as what’s for lunch can add to the daily overwhelm and drain valuable brain resources.
Organizing and getting ahead of things can significantly help reduce your overwhelm allowing you to focus on the important things in your business.