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Tips & Tricks – Stay Organized Tip 3

TIP 3 – USE A FILING SYSTEM

 

 A key component of organization is being able to find something when you need it.  A lot of people I know use a “pile” system for their filing.  Often the “system” is; this pile is old, this one is older and this one is new.  Then there is the “I will file this later” system.  I have often fallen into all of these systems myself.  

 

When I moved a couple of years ago, I was forced to downsize my office.  Upon moving into my new office I immediately started working for a client who’s needed support generated lots of paperwork.  I was quickly lost in too much paper and it was time to develop a good filing system for my new office.

 

There are no set rules to building a filing system.  You need to set something up that works for your business needs, is easily understood by others and mostly something that is easy for you to use.  As we discussed with Calendars and Task Lists in previous posts, a filing system is only as good as how much you use it.  The simpler you make it; the easier it is to keep your paperwork filed.  

 

So where do you start to set up a filing system?  The first essential for a paper filing system is somewhere to keep your files.  There are a lot of good options and the space you have available will probably dictate the type of file cabinet you decide on.  A lateral file is a good option that gives you lots of file space as well as a large stable top that might work well for other things in your office such as your printer.  Lateral files do take up more space than a vertical file so you need to make sure you have room for it.  The cost of lateral files can often be more expensive too. 

Vertical files can be a more cost effective option.  They are come in 4 drawer and 2 drawer options and may be a better fit for your available space.   I use a couple of two drawer types that fit nicely under a table I have in my office.  If you only have a small amount of filing you may want to purchase just a stand up file that can fit on a desk top.    I use one of these in addition to my filing cabinets to keep folders for current projects and items I use frequently.

 

Now that you have someplace to put it, how do you decide what files you need?  Start by sorting your filing into categories that fit your business such as forms, brochures, orders, research, etc.  Once you have this sort done take a look at each category and see if it can be broken down any further.  Create a file folder for each pile.  Just that easy you have started a filing system.  Since a good filing system is fluid, you will be adding and maybe even deleting or renaming these folders as you work with the system.  Be sure to create files for Receivables and Payables if they were not a part of your sort.  These two files do go with any good business filing system.

 

Folders, Hanging Folders, Colors and Labels.  After you have sorted your information you may want to consider the color coding your files in some way.  Color coding can be a great way to quickly group and identify types of files that you have.   As an example I use hanging files in different colors.  I have one color for clients; one for forms, labels and other such tools; one for personal filing and so on.  This helps me to quickly find things when I need it.  Make sure that every file folder and/or hanging file is also labeled for easy identification.  You can hand label files but I have found a good label maker such as the ones Dymo makes are a great tool.  This way your files can all be uniform looking.  Neat and organized files make filing and staying organized easier for you!

 

Organize Your Computer Files Too! So far we have discussed only organizing paper based files but you also have computer files that need to be organized.  Start by making a dedicated area on your computer for your business files.  Try it keep it easily accessible instead of burying it under other folders.  Next like with paper files look at the different types of files you need to save.   You are probably going to find that these are similar to the categories you established with your paper ones.  Create a computer folder for each of these categories.  Now be diligent with saving your business files in each of the categories you created.  Yes it might mean a few extra key strokes to save or find your file in the correct folder but it will be worth it in the long run.  Consider creating a shortcut for your desktop to take you to business folders that have information you use frequently.  This will help you find what you are looking for quickly.  It is also important to back up these files so if you experience a computer issue you will still be able to access your business files.  A great way to do this is not to store them on your computer at all but instead using a cloud based service such as DropBox (www.dropbox.com).  These types of services not only protect your files from computer problems but also allow you to access your files via the internet from any computer and smartphones.  This will help you work more effectively and efficiently on the go as well as protecting your files.  

 

 

Need some help with the items discussed in this post?  Holton Administrative provides Business Support for all sizes of business.  Contact us for a free consultation and to learn about our cost effective, as needed support packages. 

Tips & Tricks – Stay Organized Tip 2

TIP 2 – KEEP A TASK LIST

How many things do you need to get done today?

What kind of projects do you have going on?

Did you remember to do that one thing that really needed to get done? 

Do you feel like you are constantly playing catch up? 

Do you get off task easily?

If you can relate to any of these questions, using a Task List can help you get this under control. 

If you are an electronic calendar user, look at your calendar or email software first to see if it has a built in task list.  This will keep you from having to learn another piece of software.   I am an Outlook user myself and this software combines your email, calendar and tasks as well as your contacts and notes into one package that all interact together.  I am not saying Outlook is necessarily the best, just that it is what works for me.  You will also find that both Google and Yahoo and have interactive features with their services.  In all three of these examples the Email, Calendar, Task List and Contacts all work together to help you stay organized.   

If you are looking for a standalone task list, here are three top rates ones that are also FREE:

TO DO LIST – http://todolist.com/ 

Take a look at their web sites to review which one is best for your lifestyle.

The alternative to an electronic task list is of course a piece of paper.  It can be as easy as keeping a note pad in your work area with a list of items that need to be done.  I highly recommend using a dedicated notepad or spiral notebook just for your task lists.  This way your lists are not getting lost on scrap paper, backs of envelopes or post it notes.  I like to use a steno note pad when I make paper lists.  It is a good size and provides me with two columns for multiple lists.  With this type of list management you will want to rewrite your list periodically as you cross off tasks and add new ones.  This will keep your list clear and manageable.  

With either type of list try using color coding for different tasks (i.e. personal vs. work, etc.).  This is another good tool to help you stay organized.  Another thing I use sometimes when I have a lot going on is what I call my Hot List.  This is when I do find a post it note works best so that I can keep my Hot List short and concise.  I use the post it for a list of my “have to get done” items.  This is then put on my laptop keyboard for quick reference.

 

Your main goal with your task list is to keep yourself organized.  All of the above methods only work if you are dedicated to your list, adding and deleting as needed.  Be sure to visit your list at least once every day (along with your calendar) plus several more times throughout the day.  Think of it as your road map to guide you through your day.  If you get distracted, stuck or lost just look at your task list to help you get back on the road again!

Tips & Tricks – Stay Organized Tip 1

STAY ORGANIZED

Many Clients ask me how to keep their life from being so crazy.  While I don’t have all the answers, some good first steps are getting and staying organized.  Over the next few posts in my Tips & Tricks series, we will be discussing tools to help you do that.

 

 TIP 1 – USE A CALENDAR

Whether you are a high tech person or a low tech person, there is a calendar for you.  Electronic or online calendars are a great resource that are normally easy to use, can provide reminders and can sometimes be shared with family, friends or co-workers.  Look to your email provider as a resource for electronic calendars.  Many can tie in with emails to create reminders.  If you already use Microsoft Office and have Outlook for email, the calendar included with it is easy to use and can do all of the above.  If you are not a Microsoft user take a look at online calendars such as Google Calendar or Yahoo Calendar.  A web search for Free Online Calendars can locate other free calendars.  If you use a smartphone be sure the calendar you choose can be synced with your phone so you always have your calendar at your fingertips.

 

If you prefer a low tech paper calendar there are also a variety to choose from including ones with daily, weekly and monthly pages.  Take a look at what is available and choose the one that best fits your needs.  Be sure that you have enough room to include the amount of appointments you normally have as well as some room to grow.  Cramming too much information into a small space will make it hard to read and understand.  This may cause you to forget something.  Select a size that you can live with and take it with you everywhere so you always have your appointments handy.  Find a dedicated place for your calendar at home and at the office so it is always easy to find.

 

Once you have decided on the calendar that is right for you, use it!  Be dedicated to your calendar and put everything into it.  Spend time with your calendar every day to review the present day’s needs as well as future needs.  Don’t assume you will remember to do something on a specific day, write it down.  We all forget things in our busy lives!  Try color coding different types of appointments using online calendar features or colored pencils or highlighters on paper calendars.  This will help you to keep your personal life separate from your business life.  Birthdays and Anniversaries are appointments too.  Be sure to include these on your calendar for family, friends and business associates.  Everyone appreciates when you remember important events and your calendar is the tool to help you shine with these.  

 

Remember your calendar is your best friend and your first defense in being organized! 

Why Should You Hire A Virtual Administrator?

When talking to people about Holton Administrative it is a constant education process of why they should hire a Virtual Administrator as well as what it is that I can do for them.  People have a set idea that having an Admin or Assistant means having someone physically in their office.  This is far from the truth.  I run my business by phone, email, internet, etc. just the same as most other business people do today.  I can actually be more effective for you then hiring someone because I already have the skills as well as tools that I need to do the job.  Since I can work for multiple clients, I can offer you a savings over hiring that physical person because I charge you only for the work I do for you.
In one of the on-line networking groups I belong to I found a VA who had posted a link to a blog by Michael Hyatt, a writer and leadership coach.  He has been using a VA for some time and has some great insight on why a VA is a better option for most entrepreneurs.  You can access this blog post here:  7 Reasons You Should Hire A Virtual Assistant.  Take a minute to read this from someone who already uses a VA.

 

After you have had a chance to read this article, think about all of the things you do each day to keep your business running.  At Holton Administrative we can help with:
  • Completing/Tracking Expenses
  • Making Appointments
  • Research
  • Correspondance
  • Phone Follow Up
  • Email Follow Up
  • Travel Arrangements
  • Invoicing Customers
  • Blogging/Social Media Posts
  • Editing
  • Presentations
There are lots of other things that may be specific to your business that we didn’t list above.  Save yourself the stress of doing these tasks yourself and give yourself back time to work at what you love about your business.  Give me a call today:  517-481-6276.