As a small business owner your ability to self start and stay focused is key. However, few things can derail your best efforts as instantly as a disorganized or inefficient workspace. Poor organization systems and exposure to visual distractions translate into massive amounts of wasted time, frustration and lack of progress.
The great news is that we can avoid these pitfalls by taking a few, simple action steps. Implement the following five tips and prepare to be more effective, productive and in control of your day.
1) Make your space a pleasure to work in.
Take a few minutes to look around your workspace. What about it appeals to your senses? What about it inspires you? What do you find distracting? Is it comfortable and well-lit?
Ultimately, you want your office to be an energizing place where ideas can flow. While a complete redecoration may not be something you want to tackle at the moment, don’t hesitate to move, eliminate or add furniture, change the paintcolor, add lighting or hang artwork. We are at our most effective when we are feeling upbeat and positive which is greatly impacted by our immediate surroundings. Personally, I get an instant pick me up everything is in its place and bright wallcolors add much needed vibrancy to the place where I need to be energized and focused.
2) Create and utilize a task monitoring system.
To keep you on track and focused in your freshly organized space, determine your schedule before the start of the workday. Choose a method you are comfortable with and that is simple to use. Prioritize tasks that will directly help you progress in your business or business planning and that align with your overall business goals. Working independently, particularly when working from home, imposes many potential roadblocks to your productivity. Having a clear list of items to complete at the start of the day will help you avoid the trap of simply completing busywork that won’t make a big impact on your business, and worse, will drain your energy and stall your momentum.
Speaking of momentum, don’t forget to turn off your email notification. It never ceases to amaze me how much time so many of us waste on checking email. Don’t sabotage your efforts to stay focused by utilizing the email pop up notification system. Instead, set two or three times throughout the day to check and respond to email. In addition, if you don’t need the internet for your current activity, don’t hesitate to use internet blocking software. You are actually taking an empowering, proactive step to ensure you can complete your day’s work.
3) Separate business from personal.
I operate from a home office where personal bills, paperwork and tasks naturally make their way to my desk. The resulting stack of unfinished business is distracting, to say the least. It is important to organize these items separately from your business activities. Designate a segment of time apart from your workday to address them and a separate filing system to house personal paperwork. Of course, you will need to spend the bulk of your time focusing on business related efforts so as you handle intermittent or ongoing personal items, be sure to keep clear notes as to status and next steps to avoid later confusion and wasted time.
4) Take the effort out of organization.
Create a simple organization system for your desk and paperwork. Spend some time considering what will work for you; implementing an easy to follow system now will save you time and frustration later. The key is to make the system perfectly clear and intuitive so that it really takes little to no effort beyond just a few minutes at the end of your day. Be sure to create a home for every item that comes across your desk and discard anything that is unnecessary or outdated. Clear labeling and easy access are also important. I used to file personal financial information in a small, overstuffed cabinet in the closet. I often found myself piling paperwork on top of the cabinet to avoid having to kneel in the dimly lit closet. A waste of mental energy! Instead, make the location as inviting and easy to access as possible.
5) Wrap up your day neatly.
End your workday or work session by taking a few minutes to file paperwork and close out documents or programs that you have been working in. Conduct a quick status check of your to-do list and remaining projects so you can gauge how well you stuck to your plan, tweak your approach for next time and know where you need to start the next time.
The end of the day is a great time to create your to-do list for your next work session. (Although I personally prefer to make mine right before I go to sleep when my mind is at its calmest and things are at their quietest.) If you have pressing things to attend to post workday, say a networking event or activities with your children, stop working a few minutes before your deadline. You will thank yourself tomorrow when you are able to start immediately on the important work and plow through your tasks.
Implementing the above habits will do a great deal to determine just how effective and productive you are. Do you have any tips or recommendations for staying focused and optimizing your production? I would love to hear them! Please share below.
Rebecca Malik is the President at 17thandRiggs.com, an online source for contemporary furniture and lighting. Her site has been featured in well-known publications such as Southern Living and online with sites such as the popular Daily Candy. She is a blogger for WomenGrowBusiness.com, where she shares ecommerce and small business management tips. You can connect with her via Twitter (@rebeccasm) or at her blog, The View from 17th and Riggs.