You started with a dream: to build a powerhouse small business, offering your customers products or services you care about deeply. But it turns out there’s nothing “small” about owning a small business. Every day, you seem to have a gigantic and endless-seeming list of tasks, all equally urgent. And there’s only you and maybe a few other employees to get them all done. How can you possibly stay on top of deadlines, handle customer inquiries, manage your inventory, and drum up new business?
Here are four tips to help you keep organized and get your business running like a well-oiled machine. Read on and discover how to build up your organizational acumen.
1. Leverage Technology
From messaging apps to project management tools to scheduling software, there are numerous tools that can help streamline all of your most routine processes. For example, scheduling meetings can eat up your valuable time, with lengthy email conversations back and forth to determine when everyone’s available. But an automated meeting scheduler can easily let your team settle on a meeting time, record it, and keep everyone informed as you go.
Nor are meetings the only thing tech can schedule for you. Lean on to-do list apps to prioritize daily tasks and specify the timelines by which they should be completed. When you’re juggling multiple projects, break down deadlines into smaller, more achievable goals so they feel less daunting. As you complete each task, cross it off the list. Seeing your progress visually can keep you motivated.
With technology, there’s no reason to keep reinventing the wheel. Templates enable you to quickly create a set of standard documents that you can reuse over and over again. There are other mundane tasks, such as invoicing and sending client welcome emails, that you can automate, too. And the best part of leveraging technology? Software vendors often offer free introductory plans, so you can easily check tools out before investing in additional features, user seats, or storage.
2. Optimize Communication
Open communication channels are key to keeping your business humming, but you have to avoid communication overload. You might rely on a single messaging platform, such as Slack or Trello, for all your internal communications, including project updates and meetings. This helps keep your people from being bombarded with messages from all directions. But it can also lead to messages piling up, making it tough to figure out what’s urgent and what’s not.
To facilitate communication, be clear about what types of messages should be sent by what means. Slack might be preferred for answers to quick questions, while email is better for matters that require more deliberation — and attachments. If there matters you’d prefer to discuss in person or over the phone, let your team know what these are.
Finally, set boundaries for yourself and your employees. As the business owner, you may feel compelled to be available 24/7, but no one can be on all the time. Turn off notifications during specific hours and encourage everyone else to do the same. Set designated times for checking emails and making phone calls. Use that time to respond to all urgent messages.
3. Maintain Your Focus
It can be hard to limit distractions in a busy office. But nobody will accomplish anything when they’re being interrupted all the time — even by themselves. Self-interruption is essentially what multitasking is, and it’s a productivity killer.
To maintain your focus and do your most efficient work, try out the Pomodoro Technique. It involves working for a set amount of time (usually 25 minutes), taking a short break, then repeating the cycle. During the work period, concentrate on the task at hand and nothing else. You’ll make steady progress by breaking larger projects into smaller chunks and not get overwhelmed.
Further enhance your ability to focus by taking some time to tidy up your space every morning. Having a cluttered workspace leads to stress and distraction, which is the last thing you need when running a business. So organize your files and papers, stow office supplies out of sight, and give everything a place. Once you do that, you’ll feel less overwhelmed by the chaos around you — because there won’t be any.
4. Collaborate and Delegate
When your team works together well, everyone can get more done. But to do that, people and teams need to talk to each other. Write down clear goals and deadlines for each project and make sure everyone understands what their role is. Better yet, consign this information to a project management system, which will give the entire team visibility into project deliverables and milestones.
Encourage communication and regular check-ins, and when a project is finally finished, take the time to pat yourself on the back and celebrate. This kind of positivity builds up morale and makes sure people will want to collaborate and work together on future projects.
Lastly, don’t forget about the power of delegation. As a business owner, you probably wear many hats. While you may feel compelled to take on everything yourself, you hired your team for a reason. Look at your to-do list and pinpoint tasks that can be handled by someone else. Then delegate to the appropriate individuals and let them work their magic.
Achieving the Well-Oiled Machine
Organizing a small business can seem like a monumental task and one that never ends. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a few simple tips and the right tools, you can keep your business organized and running like clockwork. When you do, you’ll ultimately serve your customers and your employees better.