Small business owners are typically asked to wear multiple hats throughout the day. By the time you've switched from a fedora to a sombrero to a baseball cap, it's no wonder you're all over the place by the end of the week.
There are multiple takes on disorganization, and not all of them are negative. Some people claim that the disorganized are more productive while others claim it's draining money from businesses left and right. But even if there are perks to disorganization, there's no doubt that it's frustrating on a number of levels. If you're tired of misplacing important documents, missing meetings, and abandoning tasks mid-project, it may be time to take a closer at why you're so disorganized and how to get your business back in gear.
1. Missing Priorities
You don't need us to tell you that your time is finite. And our apologies if you were hopeful, but it takes more than reading about disorganization to actually fix it. Thankfully, you might be surprised at just how much you can get done when you make organization a priority.
This isn't necessarily difficult, but it is time-consuming. If you keep putting it off though, you'll end up wasting more time righting wrongs than you saved time by pushing it to the back burner. One way to keep it in the forefront of your task list is to dedicate a certain amount of time per day.
Getting into the office 15 minutes early may give you the chance to tackle it all when you're fresh. So if you can never figure out how to organize documents that cover 5 out of your 7 cabinet drawers, you'll have a little extra brainpower to strategize.
Clutter will limit your ability to find important items, and it can instantly put your brain into chaos mode. If your desk and office are maintained, you can start fresh every day. Plus, you'll likely have a little extra storage space to work with.
2. Starting Without Finishing
What's it like when you're in the middle of a project and you receive an important email or phone call? Are you able to take the break and come back to it again without feeling flustered? Chances are, it takes about 23 minutes to get back to it. Human brains weren't really built to have so many distractions throughout the day, and the constant interruptions are killing your productivity.
As difficult as it may feel at first, you have to commit to finishing one task before you start on another. This bit of advice will clearly need some tweaking to work for different small businesses though. Sometimes, you just have to be ready when opportunity knocks. But if you're finding yourself derailed by anything from a Spam email to a robocall, you need another approach.
One way you can do this is to silence your notifications while still allowing for certain exceptions. This may mean only allowing top-priority clients to call, or restricting the phone line to those calling from a specific promotion. And when you do take a break, make sure it's an actual break. If you're compulsively checking your email to make sure you didn't miss anything, you're not really giving yourself a chance to rest and recoup.
3. Failing to Plan
The planning process is of tantamount importance to a business, and it's also one that's often overlooked. To a certain extent, all your disorganization stems from a lack of planning. When applying the rules of planning to your small business, it means taking care of things before they become last-minute scrambles.
Social media calendars, quarterly taxes, email inboxes: these are all things that can be tamed when you think about them long before they're due. Write social media postings once a month and automate the postings. Pull out the books long before the quarter is up. Use a third-party app to keep track of your passwords. And don't let your inboxes creep up on you.
There is something to be said for knocking things out as soon as possible. It puts you into a proactive rather than a reactive mode. And the more you clear out tasks, the more energy you can devote to new problems.
4. Avoiding Help
Having the right help can free up so much time, giving you a way to grow your business without having to keep looking over your shoulder. But if you're like many small business owners, it may not make sense to have another person in the office. Or you may not be able to find someone in your area who's both trained and available when you need them.
Instead of hiring a traditional full-time assistant, a virtual assistant can be exactly what you need to get things in order. You pay for as many hours as you need help with, and you will see where those dollars go when you finally have a chance to breathe at the end of the day.
At Delegated, you tell us about your work style, and we match you with someone who can work within your parameters. From communication to file sharing, you call the shots. Plus, you get 24/7 assistance with a support staff who can help when life doesn't go as planned.
The most popular uses for a virtual assistant include email and scheduling management. Instead of culling down an overflowing inbox, you're only notified of the emails that require action. Instead of forgetting about meetings until five minutes beforehand, you get enough of an alert so you have time to prepare. (And you won't double book a plumber on the same day as a client.)
5. Ignoring Your Rhythms
Everyone has their own natural rhythms based on their internal body clock and external environment. Strip yourself of the alarm clocks and late-night social media sessions, and you'll have a better idea of what yours are.
If you know you're a night owl, you may want to get organized when you hit peak productivity. This is usually either right before lunch or right after dinner, though the times fluctuate from person to person. The early birds may find themselves feeling pretty motivated right after their first cup of coffee.
To fix this problem, you likely need to change your habits a little. Your natural rhythms will only emerge if you treat yourself well, which means eating well, exercising, and avoiding blue light when you're supposed to be going to bed. You may also want to experiment with working different hours to see what makes you most comfortable.
6. Falling Prey to Notification Blindness
How many notes do you keep throughout the day? How many alerts do you get? You may have begun to ignore certain items because you now have notification blindness. If you're going overboard on notifications, you can ask a few questions to cut back on your communications.
First, you need to consider the average number of alerts per day, and how many of those are legitimately useful. From there, you can eliminate which notifications can be shut out so there's less time wasted on unnecessary tasks. A virtual assistant can be the key to taking care of this problem without having to puzzle over your account settings.
7. Ignoring Your Thoughts
Let's face it: no one can be productive every second of every day, which means that there will likely be some degree of disorganization in your small business. There's nothing wrong with succumbing to fatigue when you've given everything you have to satisfying customers and putting out fires.
But the root cause of disorganization may have more to do with your thoughts than the unexpected phone call that interrupts you from mapping out your calendar. Some small business owners are plagued by feelings of self-doubt, especially if they're trying to make a go of their business in a competitive industry.
As you make changes to your day, you need to work on blocking out the thoughts that threaten your workflow. (Ideally, you'll work through them at some point so you don't have them anymore.) As you work on staying in the moment, you should begin to see how the future will look rather than worrying that you can't handle the pressure.
Finally, Going the Distance
There are few things on this list where a virtual assistant wouldn't come in handy. The right person can monitor your workday so you're only taking care of the most important tasks. There's no use wasting your time to fire off a quick 'thank you' email when it could be better spent developing a new product or finalizing a special promotion. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by everyday tasks, you can start organizing your life when you have an effective partner by your side.