Entrepreneurs never have enough time; but those that are successful seem to get the right things done. 

Here are some tips from seasoned business owners on how they get organized and stay energized:

Create a system based on rewards rather than fear.

To gain greater control, you need to be open to change and in touch with your own strengths and blind spots.  Adopting better organizational systems should help with the following two questions:

  • What will make this work easier for me?
  • Can I create time and space for growth? (the important/not urgent tasks)

The type of system that works depends on your personality or brain wiring.  Do you want to prevent chaos, or do you need to feel a sense of possibility?  No one system works for everyone.  You need to find what works for you and becomes a habit.

Left brain folks love systems and hungrily adopt project management, calendars, task lists etc.  The act of crossing items off lists provides its own intrinsic reward.  But what about higher level, less tangible activities?  Improvement may focus on blocking out time and bringing in resources for more creative projects, such as planning, strategy and marketing campaigns.

Right brain types hate structure. Weekly or monthly “to do”s will feel less restrictive than a daily task list, so tasks can be tackled when energy is high.  And here, the messy desk may indeed represent the “work space” that is needed.  Items need to be in sight to be active. Since checking off lists will not bring pleasure, rewards may need to be added.  For example, doing “dull” tasks first in the day and leaving creative “fun” tasks as the reward.

Visualization and Meditation

Create a vision board for your business.  Aviva Goldfarb uses a morning meditation to start her work day taking 10-15 minutes to visualize the day and prioritize activities.  She also recommends tuning into your personal biorhythms – even taking short naps (using recorded meditations with timed wake ups). 

Simple paper systems

Paper systems can still be the best organizational technique.  The physical act of handwriting lodges the task in memory and creates a tangible connection.  The important thing is to create capture tools or areas for different contexts, such as business, family, and personal.  Post-it notes can create a flexible way to capture tasks, with the flexibility to rearrange and discard when complete.  Using different colors can distinguish different functional areas (marketing vs accounting, etc.) or different clients or projects.  Another useful paper system is the Arc project planner from Staples - removable papers and just the right size notebook create an easy place to capture tasks, notes and ideas.

Calendaring

Organizer Jackie Kelly of Clearing House suggests taking charge of your schedule by blocking out time for projects and other important items that are not getting done.  Jackie also is a big believer in giving yourself a planning day to set goals, reorient tools, and set up your organizing system.  To help set up an online calendar where clients, coworkers and employees can schedule time with you, Acuity has an easy to use (and free) tool perfect for entrepreneurs.

Tools for teams

Robin Thieme of Kensington Business Solutions is always looking for new tech tools to help her clients and her team be more productive. Robin’s team loves Slack, a messaging system for quick and easy communication among the distributed team. Robin uses Slack to send reminder notes to herself, sometimes as text messages to appear in the future as a reminder.

Several managers have also reported the huge productivity boost with quick weekly check-ins.  Also called “stand up meetings,” these are no more than 15-minute meetings each week where the team calls in to hear weekly priorities and announcements.   

Let it go

We all beat each ourselves up over productivity.  The key to a good system is to allow yourself to let go and not feel compelled to do everything in your brain.  Some tasks that linger on are meant to die.