Organizing business paperwork takes dedication and consistency, but once you have systems in place and you (and your employees) use them, it becomes a routine part of business life. Here are my ways to make organizing business paperwork go more smoothly.
1. Shred it and Forget it
When paperwork is past its “keep until” date, shred it if it has personal information. If you have a small business you may be fine with a small shredder. For larger businesses, there are also services like Shred-It that pick up shreddable materials and turn them into recycled paper.
2. New Year, New Folders
At the beginning of your financial year, create new folders you can use throughout the year. Keep in mind the 5-20 rule! Any folder with fewer than 5 items in it should be combined with another, and any folder with more than 20 should be subdivided into other folders. This streamlines searching for documents, saving you time and money!
Reviewing each aspect of your business on a regular basis is an essential part of success! The longer you track your KPIs, the better they can inform what goals you can reach for next.
What to Review: The Seven Essential Elements
Every business is a unique combination of the Seven Essential Elements, which are:
When to Review
Daily/Weekly: Elements of your business that change or fluctuate frequently need to be reviewed more often, like sales, marketing, business development, some financial aspects, and operations. If you make lots of small sales, reviewing each day may be the best way to go. You can also review daily AND weekly, to see small and large trends in your sales.
Monthly/Quarterly/Yearly: These reviews are where you capture big-picture information, and are especially useful in the business development, overall financial planning, human resources, and legal elements of your business.
Note that there’s some overlap between the categories! Daily or weekly financial reviews can give you information about day-to-day sales, while an annual review of your business finances can give you data you can compare to previous years, and help make projections for next year.
When all tasks have the same priority level, it’s difficult for you and your employees to know what to do first. I recommend using a time management matrix like Stephen Covey’s to separate tasks into categories based on importance and urgency.
Create a list of tasks that are done on a daily or weekly basis in your business, and separate them into these categories. Use my free downloadable worksheet to guide you through the process!
Once you have categorized your tasks, you can create a schedule based around the high-priority tasks, and schedule less urgent or important tasks around those foundational blocks.
Step 2: Training
Knowing which tasks to do is only useful if you and your employees know how to complete those tasks! Creating workflows for each task is essential, so that there’s a clearly defined process for reaching each goal. Make sure that each person is trained in these processes, so they can work independently when possible.
Set achievable business goals with my SMART PATH system.
Running a business can be tough. People like to be challenged, but not overwhelmed. How do you make sure your business goals are engaging and realistic?
Tackling too much
Having big dreams for your business is great! But just like making a New Year’s resolution to never eat a carbohydrate again, or to go from never jogging to a marathon winner by February, if the bar is set too high, the chance of burnout or failure increases.
So, how do you make progress without burnout?
In my experience, it’s difficult to make progress until you pay attention to the process rather than the end goal. Instead of making major changes immediately, I advise business owners to break their goals down into the SMART PATH system.You’ve likely heard of SMART goals, and adding the PATH to achieving them increases productivity without sacrificing morale.
It’s always helpful to look at your business with an eagle-eye view, and the new year is a particularly good time to do it! Reviewing your business as a whole shows you where you’re on track, and where you need to spend some time improving. But what do you look at? What metrics do you use to compare this year to last year?
Assess Your Business
Key Performance Indices (or KPIs) are the quantifiable data that tell you how you’re performing in each area of your business. The numbers will be unique to your business, and the goal of using KPIs is to look for patterns through consistent measuring. So, what are the basic KPIs?
Financial: How much money are you making? How much are you spending?
Marketing: How many people know about your products or services?
Sales: How many people are buying from you? How many of the people you’re marketing to are actually making purchases?
HR: Do you have the right number of employees? Do you have the right people in each position?
Inventory: Do you have enough inventory to fill orders? Do you have an excess of inventory?
If thinking about organizing your entire home makes your palms sweat, you’re not alone! Decluttering and organizing every space in your house is a big commitment, involving a lot of effort and time. Having an organized home is a completely reasonable goal, but where do you start?
The short answer is: start small! When a project seems too big and too daunting, start with the smallest achievable step. To find your smallest achievable step, ask yourself: What sounds so easy that it makes you laugh?
If you want to declutter your garage but the thought makes you nervous, scale it back. How about decluttering one category of item, like gardening tools? Maybe your smallest achievable step is sorting your toolbox. Maybe it’s the top half of your toolbox, or even one compartment!
When you’ve found a part of the project that is laughably doable, do it! Sort that single compartment in your toolbox, then congratulate yourself on a job well done. That one small task gets you closer to your goal and starts you off with a win. Little accomplishments are as addictive as big ones, and you’ll soon find yourself taking the next step, and the next. You’ll get the hang of organizing and start modifying what you do to achieve your goal even faster.
Success fuels success, and if you keep the momentum up, organizing will become part of your routine.