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In the Terry Gilliam Film, BRAZIL, there is a fantasy sequence where Robert De Niro is enveloped by a swirling cloud of papers and memos. Some days, as I look around my office, I know exactly how he felt.
In this age of information, it is really easy to get bogged down by all the little bits of paper that seem to infest an office, whether it's a corner suite in a downtown skyscraper or just your kitchen table. If you use a computer, it can be even worse--you could end up with hundreds of files that are hard to identify and impossible to locate.
If you don't take steps to organize your information, all of this "information clutter" could cause you to lose valuable time as you try to find what you actually need. Even worse, you could lose business by losing that key piece of information you need to make the sale.
Here are just a few simple pointers on how to be more organized as you try to run your business:
1. Folders, Folders, Folders: A good filing system, used religiously, is the best way to avoid the "clutters". Whenever you start a new project, label a folder to hold the information. Then, whenever you receive something that pertains to the project, make sure to file it as soon as possible. Make sure to mark and organize your folders. A good system is to have a place to keep your past folders and a place (easily within reach) to keep the folders that you are currently using.
You should use this same system on your computer. Create a folder for each project and keep everything you need right there. The nice thing about a computer is that if you have a file that pertains to more than one folder, you can just copy it and have a copy of it in each folder.
2. Use Your E-Mail Boxes: This is similar to the advice above. I don't know how many times I've seen people who only use three mailboxes in their e-mail program: In, Out, and Trash. These people have about 1,000 e-mails in their "In" box, and have a devil of a time finding a past e-mail when they need it. You can avoid this by simply creating new mailboxes, which are basically just like e-mail folders.
I like to create a new mailbox for everyone who writes me, even if they are not placing an order. Everything they send to me I keep in their mailbox, and I separate my mailboxes into three categories: Finished, Present, and Possible. As a client's status changes, all I do is move the mailbox. Then, when I'm looking for information on "Jane Does" order, all I have to do is open her particular mailbox and all her correspondence is there in one place.
3. Mark Everything: My biggest problem with clutter is that I end up with a lot of notes that have some piece of information, like a phone number, that I can't identify. It's really kind of amazing--when we write down the number or the message, we just KNOW that we'll remember who it's from, but 20 minutes later, it's like we have amnesia!
The cure for this particular problem is simple--just identify each message you jot down. You can put the client's name on the paper, or you can identify it by the project name. In either case, be consistent with your system, and don't rely on abbreviations. And remember, you should file the information as soon as you're through with it.
These tips are fairly straightforward, but it is common for us to forget them when we are pressed for time. The thing to remember, however, is that if we take the time to follow these steps, we'll actually be making MORE time for ourselves in the future.
Ron Sathoff is a noted speaker and manager of Dr. Nunley's
http://internetwriters.com. He provides
copy-writing, marketing, Internet promotion, and help for business speakers.
Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or