Filing System for Success

One of the challenges that all business owners face is organization. With Organize Your Files week this month I wanted to share some insights to organizing your files and keeping things as straight as possible to make it as easy as possible to run your business, keep track of your finances and clients and work and get back to the good parts of running your business as quickly as possible.

Organization starts with a plan. Do you have a plan for what you do with documents you download, print or receive in the mail (virtual or physical)? If you don’t have standard operating procedures for how you deal with your materials pretty quickly you’ll become overwhelmed by them and it will be very difficult to catch up.

Once you’ve got a plan you have to consistently implement the plan. Plans, ideas and concepts are all great, but implementation is the key to success, especially when it comes to organization. Some things you can get away with organizing on a weekly or monthly basis, other things should be organized on a daily basis. Knowing the volume of different types of information and documents in your business will allow you to come up with an appropriate schedule.

So how do we get organized? You may want to create inboxes, both physical and virtual, where you quickly categorize things to be dealt with all at one point in time during the day or week, or it may work better for you if you file things as they come in. Personally I find filing as things come in a distraction and interruption to my work, so I have boxes (physical and virtual) that I stick stuff in to be filed at the end of the day/week/month, for example paid bills, bills to pay, items to shred, things to keep for ideas or clients, and things that need to be done. It takes seconds to put things in a temporary home and that allows me to get back to work quickly and take care of properly filing when I’m not needed with clients or during non-traditional work hours.

The next step is more permanently addressing things.  Have overall categories and more specific folders within the categories to organize things as is most appropriate.  Things that you have a large volume of files for should have many more specific folders to help you manage the clutter like leadership, marketing, and legal/taxes, while things like potential art and decorations for your offices will have a one general folder and no sub-folders since you won’t access it as often or have as much to put in it.

Once you’ve got your filing system set up you have to implement and keep up with the filing.  This is where the specific folders make things much easier for both filing and finding in the future because you won’t have to search for things or go through files of papers before finding things because you’ve got a great system.  If your organization system needs work make time for it this week. You’ll be glad you did in the future.

Strategies for Success: Organizing

Today I want to talk about a success topic that is very important but many people don’t like to think about or actually do: getting organized. Being organized means you save a ton of time trying to find something or get something from an employee or partner, and means you don’t have to sort through a bunch of stuff before you find what you’re looking for. The two principles we’ll go over today can be applied to lots of different types of organizing but I’ll include some examples that will be specific to things that often need organizing.

How do I know when to get rid of stuff?
This is one of the biggest questions most people have and because they can’t come up with a good answer they don’t get rid of anything. Paperwork, especially tax and legal related should always be checked with a legal professional before you get rid of anything. Some things you’ll want to keep forever, like house/property sale paperwork, other things can be gotten rid of within a year’s time or even sooner, especially if you have a digital copy. Clothing and other home goods items should be kept if you like them and if you use them. Don’t hold onto them if you don’t foresee yourself wearing/using them in the future or haven’t worn/used them in several years’ time and don’t see that changing in the near future, or if it would be cheaper to just buy new ones when you finally decide you want them. Oh yeah-as far as food goes, if it looks moldy or tastes stale get rid of it.

How do I know what to get rid of?
Duplicates are one good way of making that decision. There are a few things you need duplicates of but for the most part duplicates aren’t necessary, whether we’re talking papers, clothes or other items. Many people have duplicates of papers because they can’t find the first 6 copies, hence the need to get organized in the first place. Unless it’s a clothing item you wear a lot there’s no need to have duplicates of it, variety is good for you! The other thing to consider is something we talked about with the first point: how long has it been since you used/wore it? If it’s been years there’s no reason to hold onto it, it’s just taking up valuable space.

No, I’m not encouraging everyone to get into the “tiny house” movement (I couldn’t do it), but I know that when I’m organized, the clutter is gone and everything has it’s place, the world feels a little lighter, a little brighter and I feel a little freer to accomplish things and set goals because there are less things distracting me or calling for my attention.

Planning for Problems

As a business coach I talk with lots of business owners who are struggling. Let’s face it, depending on the day any of us could be struggling with something, whether it’s a frustrating customer, a product failure or a timing snafu that screwed with our marketing, plans or productivity. So the struggle is something that we all face, it’s not unique to just those of us who have physical businesses or are trying to succeed with an MLM. The thing that frustrates me most with business owners I talk with, as well as life coaching clients, is that more often than not there were plenty of red flags that showed up and were ignored and now they’re falling off the cliff without a parachute and expecting a miracle.

This month as we talk about health it’s important to recognize that health is done by sticking with healthy habits or changing bad habits into good ones. We’re not perfect, so more often than not we have work to do when it comes to our habits, and it’s not realistic to assume that we’ll ever attain perfection and not have things that we’ll have to work on.

The question of success comes in with when there’s something wrong, and in our reaction or response to it. Do we wait for all systems failure or do we make the time on a regular basis to tend to things so that it never ever gets that bad? I believe in yearly, monthly, weekly and daily maintenance rather than waiting for stuff to hit the fan. By preparing ahead of time, planning my day/week/month/year out, and leaving room every day for issues that pop up as well as personal time, I’m not facing an unmanageable struggle when bigger issues come my way and force me to move things around by a day or two. But it’s only because I’m prepared personally, financially, relationally, and business-wise that when issues happen I’m not usually dealing with as big of an issue, and I’m more capable of dealing with them if they are.

Your business and your customers depend on you to be on top of things. One of the only ways this happens is if you’re prepared and working ahead rather than catching up. You’ll accomplish more and feel better about yourself, your life and your business and be able to better serve your customers when you take the time to anticipate the issues and have fall-back plans for if they do appear.

“…that it is the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary.” Richard Whately

What’s Your Plan?

Something that makes or breaks many of my clients is organization. A big reason so many people struggle is because of their lack of organization. It usually gets to the point that they’re completely overwhelmed and have no idea whats going on or how to fix things before they realize they need help. The good news is that most people are able to be very fulfilled, happy and successful once they’ve gotten a little organization under their belt. The bad news is that some people miss out on the fact that the organization is what got them to that point, and that without it they would return to their disorganized and frustrated state, which is where they typically end up again. So today I thought I’d share 4 important pointers about being organized.

Have a plan. This is the step that many people don’t start with. They just jump in, do all they can and gather what they think is necessary and run back to put it all together and then realize they have no clue where the instruction book is. It turns out they didn’t bother to really think things through before they got going, and not having a solid, well thought out plan meant that they weren’t going to get where they though they were going without a lot of extra spending, worry, hassle or frustration, unless they were really lucky.

Plan for changes. This is the second thing that usually messes people up. When they are so caught up in their plan being the only plan and having to be followed exactly, precisely and without deviation, they struggle most to incorporate the issues and complications that get thrown at them by the world. You have to leave room in every step of the plan for changes.

Plan time to keep things organized. As I already mentioned this is one of the steps people forget. Leave things a mess for too long and you’ll realize that they don’t clean themselves up or fix themselves. No, you need to plan time into each week for neatening things up, checking things off your lists and making sure that you’re on task and on target to not only have your business or work plans go according to plan, but have a home life that’s going the way you want it to as well.

Which brings us to our last point: plan for fun. Yes, I’m completely serious. We all need to do a better job of planning fun, relaxation, joy and friends into our lives. We’re focused on success and making the world better, which is great, but you’ve heard the saying “all work and no play makes you dull.” Not only is this true but without play we’re not as productive either.

So this weekend I encourage you to sit down and take stock. Are you frustrated because you’re swimming without the proverbial paddle? If so, start making some plans or ask for help.

The Start or Finish Line?

We’ve started a new month, so it seems appropriate to talk about starting things.  I don’t know about you but I know lots of people who start things, and even more who think about starting things.  However, neither of these gets people to the victory that is usually the goal of starting something.  Yes, there are some people who just love to think of ideas and not do anything with them necessarily, but most people like to think of ideas because they want to get the result that they think implementing the idea will bring.  Let’s talk about some of these concepts and what the real truth behind them is.

Ideas can make or break you.  Yes, most thing do start with an idea and if it’s a bad idea that means you’re starting out behind the line and not only have to bring the idea to fruition, but put some serious substance behind it so it has value to others.

But often it’s the implementation of the idea that makes or breaks you.  Ideas are great, but they’re only ideas, they aren’t results unless you get into action in regards to them.  It’s like the saying that unless you’re making money with your business you’ve only got a hobby.

So let’s say we’ve got a great idea, what next?  Next is the hard part for some people: deciding where to start.  Most people do not come up with the billion dollar idea on the first try, no, we start at the bottom and hopefully work our way up.  Some people are so overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that most ideas require to be successful these days that they paralyzed into not doing anything and that’s the end of the idea.  So if we’re accepting that most ideas will involve some failure and trial and error, all you have to do is pick something and get going!

But the ultimate telling factor is how you get over that finish line.  You’ve heard the saying “it’s not about how you start, but how you finish.” In business, like so many other areas of life what people often remember is how you finished things.  There will always be things you could have done differently or things you can change in the future, but if you’ve started and you’ve got something you’re proud of, you can choose to finish strong this week.

3 Directional Questions for Success

Last week I shared some thoughts on how you can grow and improve your business this spring.  Following that this week I have been thinking about next steps.  Sometimes we know when we’re ready for next steps, other times we move to next steps way before we’re ready and sometimes we have no idea what the heck is going on.  If you feel like you’ve got so many plates in the air and are trying to align all things to make your 2014 spring a success, I thought we’d look at 3 questions this week that should be considered by anyone, whether you’re a single entrepreneur or you run a 100+ person company.

1: Is everyone in the organization clear on our overall direction? (Am I clear on where my business is headed?)

2: Is everyone clear on our highest present priorities?  (What are my priorities today, this week and this month?)

3: Does everyone see how their contribution fits into the big picture? (Am I making good contributions to the business?)

The power in these questions is that you’re not only considering what is being done but the impact of what is being done.  But more than that, it also helps you discover some of the things that are or aren’t working with your employees, or even with your customers.  For single entrepreneurs, when you consider these two things together you can choose to outsource some of the stuff that isn’t your biggest and best contribution to your business.  For businesses with employees, when people can’t see the big picture, when people don’t understand why what they’re doing matters today or in the long run, it becomes work instead of passion or pleasure and company culture can suffer greatly.

If you’re struggling or wondering why business isn’t growing and going like you want it to, these are just 3 of the questions you need to ask yourself.  Answering these 3 questions can immediately tell you why your business is headed in the direction it is and the things you need to start working on immediately.

Relationship Revitalization

With spring here I thought I would share a few ways to take advantage of the fresh air, free spirits and new life that comes with the transformations of spring.  Any relationship can get a fresh start at any time, of course, but it’s especially easy to consider when we’ve got all of the changes in the air and world around us.

1-see a coach or pastor.  It may seem like an excessive step to seek professional help, but this can be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to let issues that have been stewing for too long to be aired out and cleaned up.  Involving a coach or other professional gives you both the safety of another set of ears and impartial opinion that a family member or friend would not be able to offer you.

2-hire an organizer.  It’s a great time to get rid of stuff that’s been sitting around in your house for a really long time and is getting in the way of your relationship.  You would be surprised how the clutter around your house can affect your relationship.

3-commit to a date night each week.  A date night, even if it’s just 2-3 hours a week can be the start that you need to begin communications again and work through some of the issues and things that bother you both, and even more important, create time to rebuild and strengthen the bonds of love.

4-figure out your finances.  This is something that everyone should do on a regular basis, but with tax day coming up quickly, it’s an especially good time to really make sure both of you know the ins and outs of your finances and make a plan for where you really want things to be in the future.

5-spend more time outside.  I love being outdoors (even if I have to bring a tissue box). Getting outdoors as a couple for a weekly walk, or playing outside with your kids is important to feeling good and being healthy.

What are you going to do to grow your relationship this spring?

Let’s Grow in 2014

I love that our lives work on a yearly calendar.  Why? Because I think it’s important for all of us to on a very regular basis take time to evaluate who we’ve become and where we’re going.  I take time each year to check my life and business and make sure that I’m aware of what has gone on in the last year and consider whether or not I’m satisfied with the direction things are going in.  So with this new year, I wanted to take a little time to introduce you to me and what the year ahead holds for us.

If you didn’t know, my name is Laura Dickey and this blog is part of my growth consulting and coaching business.  It’s my passion to help individuals, families, businesses and churches grow past their frustrations, limitations and roadblocks and realize their potential.

For businesses and churches I offer marketing, branding, customer conversion, customer and employee engagement advice and more.  For families I offer guidance in working through and resolving family and relationship challenges including separation/reconciliation, financial organization and family health and organization.  For individuals I offer coaching on life purpose, job satisfaction, relationships and more.  For each I offer a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter as well as these blog posts.  This year I’ll typically be posting 3 times a week; 1 business, 1 family/relationship and an additional post now on Mondays, as well as 2 weekly creative crafting and cooking posts on my other family blog.

For 2014 our themes will be: kindness, love, goodness, forgiveness, gentleness, patience, self-control, peace, faithfulness, compassion, thankfulness, and joy, as based loosely on Galatians 5:22-23:  “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Whether you’ve been here for a while or not I want to welcome you and let you know that I’m a big believer in community and contribution.  I always welcome your comments, thoughts and questions.   Today I invite you to share a little about who you are in the comments section 🙂

Happy New Year!

Lessons of Lists

Have you made your Christmas lists yet?  You know, the one for Santa of all the things you want under the tree this year?  Some of our lists are pretty far-fetched, but that’s part of the magic of Christmas: being able to wish for something you can’t or wouldn’t get yourself.  I’m a fan of both electronic and written lists, or reminders, in my business.  I don’t always make a to-do list each day, but just about every day I use one list or another that I’ve written in the past to remind me how or what to do. So in the spirit of the season I thought it was important to talk about different lists we should read or consider each year, or more often than that.

1-financial lists. You can have several different types of lists here: a list of goals, a list of expenses, or a list of income.  All 3 are important lists to have and regularly review.  Ignoring them won’t increase your bank account, but it certainly could decrease it.  You should review you income and expenses on a regular basis; my suggestion is to review the basics each week and do a more thorough review each month.  Don’t pretend you can pass this off on your accountant and get away with it: you can’t. However, your accountant can print out an easy to understand list of the numbers that are most important for you to review each week.

2-marketing lists.  This is one of my favorites to make each year.  Why?  Because I get to sit down and dream up all the amazing ways I want to connect with people and let people know I can help them.  From a monthly theme list (this months’ theme is thankful), to daily and weekly content on social media and my blogs, I plan it all out so I have to spend less time on coming up with ideas and more time on getting it done and done well.

3-company and culture lists.  These type of lists include things like employees who greatly add to your company, employees who need more training, areas of your business you want to improve, and things that are going well (and things that are not).  You’ll definitely want to review this on a yearly basis, probably even a quarterly basis.  These lists can be the most painful, but they’re some of the most insightful as to why you are or aren’t doing well.

This week I encourage you to sit down and make a list of the things you want to improve in 2014 (contact me if you need help!).  Don’t just say “do better marketing” or “make more money”, be specific about your goals and even some of the tasks you will have to do to get them done well.  It’s been said that without a plan, you plan to fail, so what plan will you make today?

Simple Homes

This month, as I mentioned on Wednesday, we’re talking about simplicity.   I know many of our lives are complicated and likely to remain so, but with a few simple shifts we can enjoy our homes and home lives more.  So today I’m sharing some home organizing tips that will help you make some things simpler at home.

1-paperwork: this is a big challenge for many people.  Just the words paperwork or bills can make someone break out in cold shivers.  Fortunately, that doesn’t have to be the case.  First, try to organize your bills into 1-2 pay dates each month, or set up automatic billing.  You may pay some of your bills early, but at least you won’t have to pay bills every week.  Second, file your paperwork on a regular basis.  At the very least file and shred papers monthly.   Third, keep track of your finances with a program like Excel, Quickbooks, or Mint.com.

2-closets: closets are one of the most underutilized spaces in a house.  Most people have lots of closet space, they’re just not using it right or well.  Invest in a proper cabinet system, or at least good shelving that can help you get started, and from there get boxes that can help you sort and keep things neat and put away.

3-make it easy for just about anyone to clean up: by having under-bed storage and easy-to-reach shelves with boxes for the kids, as well as practical storage in the kitchen, you’re on your way to empowering and enabling the other members to take up some of the responsibility of  keeping the house clean.

If you do these three things in your home, you’ll have a neater home in no time!  It will also feel and be healthier and a more inviting environment to live in!  What part of your house challenges you the most when it comes to organization?