Springtime Office Checkup
(design by Katie Ridder; photo by Eric Piasecki from Katie Ridder’s “Rooms”)
So here we are, quickly facing the end of the first quarter and 2016 and I know what you’re thinking so say it here with me
Where did the year go?
Spring means that flowers are starting to bloom, pollen counts are rising, and toes are begging to be shown in cute sandals but it also means it’s time to check in on you and your business to see how your systems are supporting you. Maybe that doesn’t sound as much fun as sitting outside, sipping iced tea in the sun but NOT taking the time to check in with yourself and your business is disastrous. You must take care of yourself first so that you are equipped to take care of others AND run your business successfully.
Let’s look at your office and see if it’s supporting and inspiring your business. This is probably where a lot of the magic happens (a.k.a. your command central) and if you don’t have room for the muse to visit you, then how are you going to be inspired?
Do you have piles of papers on the floor or your desk for various tasks to be completed?
Do you have a stack of mail that you haven’t gone through in a while?
Do you have a flurry of receipts that may or may not need to be documented?
Are there half empty coffee/ tea/ water cups or glasses that could wreak havoc if turned over by accident on these papers?
If you answered yes to any of the above then you probably need a date with your office to put some systems in place to save your sanity and get focused on the business of doing business.
All of the items listed above represent a process that is broken or a lack of a system. For the most part, we’ll deal with problems when we know what to do about them. It’s when we don’t know that we stop and those problems start piling up. Literally.
A system you’re not following isn’t your system.
Here are some suggestions for how to deal with these broken systems:
- Piles of papers that are parts of projects have already been sorted for you, which is the good news! The bad news is: what are you doing about that project? Go ahead and put those papers together in a folder and label it. Get a pretty folder that coordinates with your office. Just assigning a label gives it purpose so that you can decide if it’s something that needs to be filed away or attended to more expeditiously. I also advise putting current projects in a vertical file on your desk. That way you can see what you’re working on and what needs your attention without it being strewn all over your desk or floor.
- Designate a pretty (get my theme here?) basket to hold your mail. However, you should start to deal with your mail monster before it even enters your office. Immediately weed out junk mail and unnecessary fliers to the recycle bin. If you’ve got catalogs or magazines over 3 months old, get rid of them. You probably need to rethink your subscriptions if a season passes and you don’t have time to read them.
While you’re at it, get a pretty letter opener, too, and save your precious hands from nasty paper cuts. Plus you look more chic opening your mail with a proper opener. Invitations or appointments with dates and times need to be put on your calendar immediately. Bills need to be opened and assigned their respective due dates. Personal letters should be opened and treasured due to their infrequent appearance. In my home, they live on the refrigerator for months to savor them.
- Throwing receipts for business expenses in a shoebox is at least assigning them a home but you probably need to store them in something a little more sophisticated. Plus you need a system for tracking them in your business. Whether you use Excel spreadsheets or Quickbooks, hiring an accountant or bookkeeper is essential if the financial piece of your business is not your zone of genius. An accordion file with tabs for each month ups your receipt organization game and makes presenting to your accountant a little easier. Just don’t leave them scattered on your desk.
- While I have my ubiquitous coffee cup or water bottle on my desk, I have to take time at the end of the day to clean it up, literally and figuratively.
Take your coffee cup(s) out of your office when you’re done. Put the papers back in their respective files. Write a to do list for the next day. Close your calendar. Close your notebook. Put the pens and pencils back in their containers. Throw any trash away. By taking a little time at the end of the day to put things back, you set the stage for the next day to start it with a clear desk and clear mind. You’re also telling your brain that work is done and you are moving on to the next part of your day.
If your office is always “open” when are you going to have time to take care of yourself and relax? This is especially true for entrepreneurs that work out of their homes. Physically shutting down the office is not only good for your business in keeping it organized, it’s good for YOU to step away and close the door. Easier said than done, I know :-).
Set up some systems in your office for managing the parts of your business you find especially tedious. Make it dirt simple so you don’t have to think about it; you just do it. When you don’t know what to do, so often you do nothing. And doing nothing isn’t solving the problem, it’s allowing it to pile up. If your system isn’t working, it’s time to update it.