Being a big picture type of person is a huge asset if you start a business. Being able to envisage your future success – preferably in full technicolour, with a soundtrack – will massively boost your chance of getting there. But the flip side of that kind of entrepreneurial mindset is that it’s generally not great with detail. Great ideas are nothing without equally great execution.
In an ideal world you would find a highly organised person to work with you: a virtual or real PA who sorts out small but crucial details, while you get on with the front end of the business. But if you’re not yet at the stage of bringing someone else on board, you’ll need to learn how to be organised. It’s all for the good; you’ll get even more out of staff or partners if you get yourself and the business in great order first.
1. Clear out the Clutter
Clearing out the clutter has to be the starting point. When it comes to your business efficiency, less is definitely more. De-cluttering not only clears your space, it also clears your mind, literally freeing up space to think. If you can’t bear to throw things out, then box them up and put them in the attic or a cupboard, for now. Clutter clearing also applies to your handbag or briefcase. Parkinson’s law applies here: the rubbish expands to fill the space available. If you’re carting around a massive bag, chances are you can never find anything in it.
2. Paperless Office
Next, the paperwork. When I first suggested a paperless office a few years ago colleagues fell about laughing. But it is here now. You can even use free online storage and sharing facilities like Dropbox and access your files from any location. Set-up a logical filing system, scan all your bits of paper in and ask people to send you electronic copies in future. If you are worried about filing, try your best, but also bear in mind that keyword search on most computer systems is now excellent and should be able to ferret out even the most weirdly filed items.
3. Block-out Online Distractions
If you work on a computer for any length of time, then email and the internet are probably the biggest threats to the new organised you. Constant, enticing distractions drip-in throughout the day. You can get them under control if you take just a little time now to put some systems in place. Set-up filters on your email, so that any non-urgent emails go straight into folders for you to read when it suits you. Google’s free email service, Gmail, is great for this. I use filters with all the email newsletters I’ve signed-up for. I generally browse through the folder when I’m winding down at the end of the working day.
There are also various programmes you can use to restrict your internet usage. Web blocking software, Freedom, which is available for both Macs and PCs, allows you to shut the web out completely for a set period. However if you need to use the web, but just can’t trust yourself with certain time-wasting sites, I can highly recommend Stay Focusd. It’s a free app for the chrome browser which allows you to block or limit your access to any sites you choose for specified periods. I have mine set to block-out social media sites, for all but 10 minutes, office hours Monday to Friday.
4. Do it Now
Procrastination is the downfall of many a big picture person. Annoying details can be easily ignored. We’ve all heard of the successful business person who somehow doesn’t find time to pay their bills or put the cheque in the bank!
Start by doing small tasks immediately. ‘The longer you leave it to respond to a phone call, the more of a genius you have to be,’ said the late, iconic fashion editor, Helen Gurley Brown. You can apply that to email too. And the thing is, if you don’t respond right away, you have to waste more time listening, reading and thinking about the same thing over again.
The real key to over-coming procrastination is to break things down into small achievable chunks. Do a list of five things every morning that you will achieve today. Keep it short and very simple: this is one area where paper can be better. It’s easy for an online list to get lost behind other files, but you can’t hide from that brightly coloured post-it!
Start with the most unpleasant task, or eat that frog as author Brian Tracy puts it in his best selling book of that name about overcoming procrastination. His idea is that you should get the thing that you’re procrastinating most about out of the way first. That then frees you up practically and emotionally to whiz through the rest of your list and beyond. So what are you waiting for…?
Here are a few more practical tips and techniques to get you started and don’t forget to add anything that’s worked for you in the comments below!
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