Organizing a micro-business

There is a delicate balance between producing and organizing. Too much attention on either one is bad for a company in the long run.

At the same time, in a micro-business they are almost mutually exclusive. You are either doing one or the other. If your business is growing, there is always pressure to produce or to spend time with prospects and customers. Organizing under those circumstances takes a lot of determination and will power.

You should not flog yourself if your workspace fails to resemble a spread in Architectural Digest. Most of the successful small companies I worked in had some clutter in all areas along with a purposeful bustle. The main focus was on getting products out and secondarily on improving efficiency through organization.

The secret lies in finding out how little organization you can get by with and still consistently meet your targets. You achieve improvement by getting your work done however you can (coping) while keeping your eyes open for opportunities to organize.

This can be difficult in a one-man-band organization, because business cycles often come in a rush and you are quickly surrounded with piles of notes and printouts that you have no time or place to file.

If you do not take decisive action immediately, you will find your desk and phone are buried and you will be frantically pawing through this debris to find a critical set of notes while making excuses to a client who has called to see what’s up.

Resourceful character that you are, you will probably manage to get through the call, notes or no notes. But you will shortly find yourself working nights and weekends to catch up, all because you haven’t invested enough time in organizing your workflow, your filing, or even your office layout.

You will probably find, as I did, that setting aside time after work to organize does not work because you will discover business cycles that dropped through the cracks unnoticed and you will spend  your time trying to catch up on those instead of organizing.

Getting organized takes an act of will. It is not a matter of working harder.

Start by setting aside 10 to 20 percent of your working day or your workweek if you have a badly organized operation. Try doing it in the early morning when you are fresh and before the phones start ringing. First create places to put related things. Don’t make it complex in the beginning. Stacked boxes will do. Organize by project or by customer at first. Use lots of file folders.

Keep it simple. If you can’t find a file folder that you know you made, make a new one and file it where it should go. The other file folder will immediately show up.

You can even spread out your folders on a big table and operate that way for years. The test of your organizing success is not neatness. Your organizing is successful if  you can do more business without killing yourself with overwork.

You will find that your chances of getting organized are vastly improved if you write up an ideal scene for your daily activity beforehand. Describe how the workflow should go and how you should feel when you are doing it. You will be surprised how much that can help you focus on the things that really need to be done first. Once you get in the key points that need organization, the rest will start to fall in line naturally.

One last point. If you have let things go to the point where you cannot face the confusion you have created, call in an organizing specialist. They can usually help you cut through the confusion in a very short time.

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