Often, entrepreneurs who work from home set up their office in a spare bedroom, in the corner of the dining room or other shared space within their home. Trying to keep this office neat and organized can be a struggle. As we approach the end of the year, now is the perfect time to get organized in preparation for next year. Instead of making grandiose resolutions about beginning the year with new organization systems, start taking small steps now to make it possible.
Set a timer.
Give yourself a small goal, like “emptying out the in-box.” Set the timer for 15 minutes and work on your goal. By setting a small goal, you can slowly work on getting organized and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will inspire you to keep going. Work on a new goal every day and you will quickly see improvement in your office organization.
Organize financial files.
Establish a records management system for filing important documents like tax paperwork and billing statements. Not only will it help you at tax time, it will allow you to keep your desk clear of indiscriminate piles of mail and paper. Speak to your CPA for advice on which paperwork you need to keep and what information they will need from you at tax time. Then develop a filing system that organizes that information. Store the files in an easily accessible location for quick filing. Shred any outdated, unnecessary documents to free up space in your desk and filing system. Be sure to check with your accountant to ensure you’re not getting rid of any documents you may need to keep long-term.
Take control of your cords.
The mess of computer, printer, Ethernet, charger, and other types of cords can be frustrating and unsightly—and even pose a tripping hazard. Use cable ties to corral the mess of cords and keep them safely tucked away. Use labels to mark each cord, making it easy to identify which goes with which piece of equipment. Having the cords neatly stored will not only increase efficiency, it will reduce your stress and make the office look more organized.
Organize your contacts.
Set up a contact system that streamlines your business contacts in one place. Establish a client list, a vendor list, and other categories that will help you quickly find the person you need. Use your email address book for easy access, or find a contact management system that will integrate across your various applications, programs, and devices. Upload business cards into your contact system, and ensure that all information is current and correct. Invest in a scanner that will allow you to scan documents directly into your management system for easy handling of business cards and other paper documents.
Work on marketing.
Develop a coordinated effort for marketing and promotion. By having an organized approach, it can save you both time and money. Use a wall calendar to plan out sales goals, and mark key holidays or milestones that are important for your business. Use tools for social media management to let the public know about your products and services. It doesn’t matter how amazing or useful your product or service is if no one knows about it. Engage with your target market through social media to increase sales and develop a relationship with current and prospective customers.
Develop a priority list.
Keeping your priorities in sight makes you pay attention to them. Use a whiteboard or other visual aid to keep your priority and to-do list visible. Use desktop filing to keep important computer documents easily accessible. Set up folders on your desktop for “Current,” “Urgent,” or other descriptors to keep all relevant digital files together.
Upgrade your technology.
Work-from-home entrepreneurs are often multi-taskers. They are the sales staff, the customer service department, the shipping department, and the cleaning crew. To stay on top of all the various jobs you need to handle, make sure your technology is up-to-date. Back up your computer and all other digital devices to ensure that important files are secure. Update software as needed, opting for applications and programs that are cloud-based for greater efficiency and access across all Internet-enabled devices. Now is also a good time to look at what hardware you might need. For example, if you’re often on the road and have to deal with spotty Internet connections, you might want to invest in a mobile Internet hotspot.
Prioritize your health.
As a small business owner, there is no “back-up” for the responsibilities you have. Take care of your health by ensuring you get adequate rest and exercise. Schedule regular breaks as a chance to regroup, and make a point of eating healthy meals. By working at home, you have the advantage of planning easy, healthy snacks, and you can avoid vending machine foods high in calories and sodium. Stock your kitchen with quick, good-for-you foods.
The end of the year is the perfect time to start organizing. Start the New Year off on the right foot by focusing on these tips and breathe easy, knowing you are ready to meet whatever 2017 may bring you.