Small business owners get busy. After all they wear at least 27 different hats everyday taking care and growing their businesses. Keeping things organized and uncluttered can be a daunting task even for those who don’t wear 27 different hats.
Could clutter hurt your business?
"Some clutter is normal and may be the byproduct of a high-functioning, well-engaged mind," Robin Raflo Hurtado, LCSW, a geriatric outpatient care coordinator for Piedmont Sixty Plus Services, says.1 Clutter is known for facilitating falls and attracting pests in the home, and that idea could be applied to workplace safety as well. It also affects productivity and increases the production of cortisol (the stress hormone). (Like small business owners need more stress!!! Yikes!)
Can everyone safely escape your workplace in an emergency? Can the firefighters get in?
An over cluttered environment can affect our performance and wellbeing at any age. True clutter is more than just being messy. It can facilitate accidents, draw pests, and impact one’s ability to safely escape during an emergency. It is known to create a more stressful environment and sometimes signal more serious mental health problems. 2
Can hoarding affect a business, just like a home?
Why not? How easy would it be to hang on to outdated promotional items, reports, and other materials? Attacking some of this clutter may delay moving your business to a larger, more expensive venue where you can store more junk...
Does the glare from all of the paper on your desk hurt your eyes?
As someone who collects paper, the diffused paper glare can create distraction and eye stress. Light scattering.3
Can you easily find stuff?
You know, like promotional flyers, bills, orders, tax receipts, and other paper critical to your business? If so, this could lead to major problems for your small business affecting both customers and suppliers.
Is there a way to assess business clutter?
Maybe. The Institute for Challenging Disorganization has a personal assessment tool that seems like a fairly good fit for assessing a business with a few slight modifications. This site has both a questionnaire and answer interpretation information. The questionnaire is subjective tool with a scale, rather than just yes/no answers and was designed for professional organizers to determine how clutter affects your quality of life. The interpretation could be eye-opening when applied to a business.
Some questions do not need modification to fit a business environment, such as “I can’t find things when I need them because of clutter.” Others may need a slight change such as substituting the word “business” for “home” as in “I try to avoid thinking about the clutter in my business.” It seems like a great tool for periodically measuring the impact of clutter and gauge the impacts on your quality of life.
1 Is clutter and disorganization hurting your health? From https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/is-clutter-and-disorganization-hurting-your-health
2 Does Clutter Affect Children? Even The Littlest Family Members Get Irritated With A Mess. From https://www.romper.com/p/does-clutter-affect-children-even-the-littlest-family-members-get-irritated-with-a-mess-15905653
3 Why Doesn’t a Plain White Piece of Paper Reflect Light but a Mirror Does? https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-doesnt-a-plain-white-piece-of-paper-reflect-light-but-a-mirror-does/
Is it possible to organize your electronic mail? SURE Here are a few tricks that can help get things organized and save a little time.
Every email system has its own bells and whistles (functions) but basically all of them to the same things. For instance, all of them can sort things by date, by subject, etc. What is the first thing readers see? The subject line. A subject line can be formatted to help you quickly identify priority action items.
1 Make the subject line interesting and unique enough to make the reader want to see more and make it stand out from other similar messages. This will help the reader when they get the message and the sender when they get the reply.
BEFORE Staff meeting 8 am
AFTER We're #1! Let's celebrate at the 8:00 staff meeting
Sorting out the important stuff. Typically, there are several ways to sort information--even email messages. Most often messages are sorted so that the newest message is first or by the sender’s name, but there are other ways to sort data such as the subject line. To start the process, set up the subject line in the message you will be sending. The format will hold, unless edited, as a default when replying. Two examples follow formatting the subject line for sorting by a business name or by a priority marker:
LUCKY YOU (Business): New Furniture (topic)—Your order was shipped! (attention grabber).
CRITICAL (Priority) Project Saturn (topic)– Can’t find the keys to the rocket? (grabber)
When the subject line is sorted, all of the mail related to ‘Lucky You’ or ‘CRITICAL’ messages clump together. All of the various projects under that Business/priority also clumps together.
The same kind of sorting algorithm used elsewhere on your computer applies and can be really handy in retrieving data regardless of location. One trick is to add a symbol at the beginning of the data like an explanation mark (e.g., !CRITICAL: Project Saturn) which typically forces these file names and subject lines to the top of most alphanumeric type of sorts.
2 Keep all of the mail related to an active project where you can easily find it; archive it when it is done. Keeping active information so that it is close at hand works in the paper and electronic worlds. It is possible to save email in one place along with your documents, maps, balance sheets, etc. in one file directory (file drawer). Further organization in that directory is also useful so every file related to budget, for instance, is filed under budget rather than filing thousands of email messages in one ginormous directory.
3 Limit how often you use “Reply All.” It is easy to get overwhelmed by mail, and each of us most likely has a different threshold for that amount. One thing that can greatly increase the amount of email is the overuse of ‘Reply All.’ Generally, the option “Reply All” is rarely needed, but it is easy. Most of the time it just irritates busy people and often wastes time. Routine, improper use of any tool can create problems. Sometimes there are legal reasons to use this or distribution problems that make sense. Let the use make sense and everyone is OK.
4 Consider a phone call. This might seem old fashioned but sometimes email is not the best communication tool. It often fails to convey emotion. It may take a lot of time to edit the message especially if the topic is complicated. Email records and remembers your words and some words just shouldn’t be remembered.
Do you have mixed feelings about electronic mail (email)? Email can really be an excellent tool for sharing information, but also frustrating when the box gets over full and people share too much. But heh, what do we expect when more than one-half of the global population (somewhere around 4.3 billion by 2023) has a SEND button close at hand? 1
And SEND they do. By 2021 it is expected that 124.5 billion business emails will be sent/received each day. The average office worker will be receiving/sending 121 messages per day which is a relief until you consider how much time even that much can eat out of your day (multiply it times 3 minutes and POOF! more than half of your day is gone just dealing with email!) 1
Here are five ideas for helping recapture some of that time:
1 Limit how much time you spend reading mail and how frequently you process mail. It is just like the paper mail. There is a certain amount of it that is pure junk and doesn’t deserve your time and the real important stuff doesn’t always float to the top. What’s the first mail the average person reads? The first one on the list, good or bad, important or not...
2 Consider setting up specific times of the day for checking the email, and hope for a few more free minutes later. Spending 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the day may help you re-enter the work environment and remind you of key activities underway.
3 Limit who sends you mail. This can be done by marking mail as junk. Most email applications allow you to do this. It will help reduce the mail, and in some cases where there are repeat offenders it can even get them blackballed off of a site. Think of it as a 'no call' list for email.
4 Clean out your mailbox, at least a little, every time you use it. One of the easiest things to do is to delete junk messages. There is something wonderful about getting rid of 50 email clutter in one swoop. If you delete a message by mistake, there is a good chance you can retrieve it from a delete file (perhaps before the end of the session). Then focus on the more critical or time-burdened stuff. This will help keep it relatively clean but the mail box can grow tremendously over time and get junkie.
4.3 When a mailbox gets really junkie, try resorting the mail by date with the oldest first. It is usually easier to clean older mail because it is less relevant (theoretically). Remove anything that is sensitive (e.g., that has personal information like address, account numbers, etc.) as soon as you can to minimize the spread.
4.6 If you MUST use email that contains sensitive information, consider passwording the file. The password generally hangs with the file through an email process and even a conversion into a different file format. This is NOT the most sophisticated security trick, but the password can be very long and very, very difficult to hack. Software makers will not hack the file if you don’t know the password. So, a password will keep a lot of prying eyes from seeing your data, and should you forget the password, those eyes might be yours. Be sure to send the recipient, perhaps in a separate email message or by phone, the password.
5 Consider organizing the important messages into folders or saving them as files or documents. This provides an opportunity to add identifiable information to the file name that might make identification easier. Consider how you might look for things--by a topic name or project number? Naming email by date may be hopeless if you get very many messages. Typically, email applications have the ability to create folders that can hold message, they have ways that you can save the files offline and give meaningful names to the files, it may even be possible to glob all of the messages related to a particular topic, for instance, into one file.
And finally, don’t assume that email is or will remain private, as once you press SEND you lose total control of where it goes and who sees it. Some applications will let you cancel and retrieve mis-sent mail, but not very many.
1 The Shocking Truth about How Many Emails Are Sent, https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/2019/05/shocking-truth-about-how-many-emails-sent/
Business Retention& Expansion
Entrepreneurs often wear at least 27 hats and have to do many tasks to make a business succeed. Email processing can be one of those hats and take an extraordinary amount of resources out of an already packed schedule!