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If I could only get Organized!

By Reg Pirie |

Sound familiar? Did you really think the disorganization dilemma would disappear once you opened your own business? Answer "yes" to only a few of the following questions and there is a good chance you may need help.

  • Find there is never enough time to get things done? Are you forever pledging to become better organized?
  • Is your voice mail box often overflowing? Do you constantly save messages - just in case you haven't dealt with them fully?
  • Do you occasionally find you have forgotten to pay bills which are later found buried in the rubble on your desk?
  • Are you often late or barely on-time for business appointments?
  • Do you arrive at parties and gatherings, well after the fashionably late hour?
  • Always mailing belated greeting cards to friends and family? Are you constantly sending gifts at the last minute by courier?
  • Periodically run out of gas (literally) because there was no time to fill up the car?
  • Lost any important papers lately, only to find them hidden in a drawer after the duplicates arrived?
  • Usually writing reports and proposals the night before they are due, or for that matter, are you still fine-tuning the document 15 minutes before a deadline?

There are four key elements to success: focus, organization, research and activity. Of the four, perhaps the most challenging is "getting and staying" organized. Indeed, many contend some of us were blessed with a time management gene and the rest of the world either struggles or fails to achieve an acceptable degree of efficiency.

In today's highly competitive environment, being disorganized will inevitably impact negatively on business profits and personal prosperity. Here are a few simple suggestions which will be of assistance if you are organizationally challenged.

Opt for technology

Buy a client database software program. There are a host of inexpensive products on the market. Your first commitment is to input each and every client / contact, including: name, company name, address, phone numbers, fax and email address. If need be, hire a student to do the initial inputting.

If you invest the time to build and maintain your database, communicating with others will become infinitely easier and faster. No more searching for addresses and numbers and all your outgoing correspondence will be saved in the program. As you become more proficient you might even want to supplement the system with a scanner so you can input incoming correspondence and reduce your paper files.

Respond immediately

Reply to correspondence immediately. If you don't have the full answer, fire off a short email to let the person know where you stand and when you will be getting back with all the information. This action not only portrays a professional and efficient image but you avoid incoming follow-up calls. Of course the next step is to deliver the final response in a timely fashion, as promised.

If someone sends you a message saying they will be in touch next week but you are going to be out of town at that time, react. Dash off a one line email to say you got their message but you will be away and tell them when they should call.

Get rid of paper

We are never going to entirely eliminate paper but the real trick is to physically manage the volumes. For hard copy items set up a simple manual diary system and use it - daily. The expandable file folder with sections for each day of the month has been around for decades but it still works great for paper! Get a piece of mail today that you know you don't need to review or deal with for 15 days - toss it in the appropriate slot in the accordion folder and remove the clutter from your desk.

Answer your messages

Like your correspondence, get in the habit of quickly answering voice mail and email messages. The task is not nearly so daunting if you carve out 10 or 15 minutes to return all your calls and emails at one time. If you reach their voice mail, perhaps you can respond to their queries without the need for further telephone tag. At the very least, leaving a voice mail puts the ball back in the their court. Be sure to suggest a best time for them to return your message.

Negotiate meeting times

Obviously you want to accommodate your clients as much as possible but at least make an effort to schedule out-of-the-office meetings for a time that works well for you. If you are an early riser try to set meetings for first thing in the morning and as an added bonus you might avoid the hassle of morning rush hour traffic.

Consider geography when negotiating meeting times and days. Why make two trips to the other end of the city if you can orchestrate a couple of visits in one area for the same afternoon. This is where a week-at-a-glance diary system comes in handy.

Zealously guard work time

Develop the habit of setting aside specific parts of the day or week to concentrate on "real" work. Those time slots, which you want to actually record on your calendar or in your diary, should be established to achieve optimum results. If you know you are at your most productive late in the afternoon, that's when you need to make an appointment with yourself. Circumstances will occur when you have to cancel your pre-set work times but learn to minimize and manage these situations.

Encourage others to communicate

If people have the impression that you don't respond quickly to correspondence and calls, your business will eventually suffer. Take the initiative to open up efficient lines of communication to make yourself accessible.

On the road constantly? Use your cellphone armed with some productivity apps to help you manage contacts. Ideally you will have full synchronization between your cellphone and your customer database.

Encourage others to use email whenever practical. Almost invariably these messages are short and to the point. Your responses will be the same and you will create extra time for yourself.

Dedicate time to improve

Some people will never become organized. Others will muddle along until a major crisis occurs when they can see that being disorganized has actually cost them money.

Only you can identify the problem and take the necessary action to improve. There are no quick fixes but there are limitless remedies and solutions. Before you buy the latest book / self-help tape on the topic or before you sign up for the hottest new seminar, ask the most organized person you know for their advice.

I'll guarantee they will have the time to offer some great suggestions - ones that will work if you are dedicated to becoming more organized.

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