April 21, 2021 By SmartBiz Team

A productive business starts with an organized workflow. The less time you’re dedicating to basic tasks, the more you’ll have free to grow your operations.

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The importance of small business organization

When running a small business, you might accidentally distribute tasks unequally, misplace information, or forget about some work altogether. To minimize these issues’ prevalence, keep your small business organized. Staying organized can help save time and boost performance while also leading to:

  • Increased productivity. When your small business is organized, your productivity levels are likely to increase. Each member of your staff will know exactly what to work on and when assignments are due, thus leaving less room for dawdling and raising your team’s motivation to get work done.
  • Increased efficiency. Business success isn’t all about how much work gets done in a day. It’s also about doing more with less while maintaining the same high quality. Staying organized helps achieve this goal since organized employees can better stay focused on the task at hand and complete it faster.
  • Less time wasted: Whether you’re just starting a business or have been running one for years, you know that time is precious. To cut back on wasted office time, stick to your routines and process to ensure everything stays organized. Examples of things you can do to save time during the day include creating a filing system, assigning responsibilities, and coming up with a marketing strategy. These tasks minimize the chances that you’ll get hung up on trying to find a client’s information, or be confused about who is responsible for which tasks.
  • Decrease in employee burnout: When responsibilities are shared equally, everyone is motivated toward a common goal, there is a balance between productivity and efficiency, and employees tend to feel less stressed. When employees feel comfortable with the amount of work on their plates, burnout-induced employee turnover decreases.

16 small business organization tips

Now that you’re ready to get everything in order, follow these organization tips for the best results:

1. Manage your office space

What better way to start organizing than by cleaning up your physical surroundings? Make sure everything has a designated place, whether that be in a desk drawer or in a file cabinet or in a storage bin. Next, think about the items that you don’t use anymore: outdated or broken electronics, old books and stationery, and everything in between.

When your workspace is clean, tidy, and clutter-free, you’ll avoid sifting through loose papers and moving things around.

2. Keep documents and paperwork in order

Don’t spend hours looking for a specific receipt, invoice, or contract. Invest some resources now to organize your paper files with an intuitive system that can become second nature to you.

Organizing isn’t just about rearranging: it means shredding and deleting too. By getting rid of the files you don’t need anymore, you’re making room for new documents that are more relevant and useful. Hoping to stay on the safe side? Try scanning the originals so that only the most recent paperwork is in your office.

Read our in-depth guide to keeping your documents safe.

3. Clean up your notes

It might seem like a no-brainer, but your future self will thank you when all your notes are consolidated in one place. Instead of grabbing the nearest sticky note when inspiration strikes, try keeping a running list. Whether that be a classic notepad, a smartphone app, a voice recording software, or anything in between, the key is to find the solution that works best with your lifestyle.

It can take some time and dedication to find an option that sticks, but you’ll probably notice a spike in productivity once you can easily zero in on the tasks that matter. You won’t lose sight of the items that might turn out to be critical for your business and stay on track. Go from jotting down quick notes to setting calendar reminders to completing goals in no time.

4. Go paperless

With so many businesses moving to the cloud, it might be worth switching to software instead of sticking with the paper method. Not only will this save you time and headaches, but you’ll be able to create calculations and reports out of your data and learn more about your business.

Take receipts, for example. With a receipt management app, you can scan the paper documents and export the files to whichever expense reporting or tax applications you use.

Looking for the right solution for your business? Our top picks for business tax software and free accounting software are on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog.

5. Clean up your files

For digital organization, you’re probably not surprised that the same principle applies. Only keep the most relevant files easily accessible. The rest can be stored, archived, or even deleted. Your computer desktop should be just as organized as your physical workspace: make sure your folders are free of extra files, sorted in an intuitive way, and easy to access.

This is where cloud-based tools can help: not only can you collaborate more easily but you can free up your personal storage and always back up your files in the background. That way, you won’t lose your progress and can pick up where you left off on any device, anywhere.

Learn how you can make your small business workplace “smarter” through cloud-based technology.

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6. Manage your contacts

From staying in touch with business partners to staff to customers, small business owners typically start building up a database of contact information pretty quickly. Luckily, various management systems are available for you to keep track of all the key players in your business.

On a small scale, it can help to start with the built-in apps you already have on your smartphone or computer. Once you grow, consider installing software that can help you do more than store data. With Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, you can develop strong communication with leads, track their behavior, and target new audiences all in one place.

Here are our recommendations for the best business apps.

7. Declutter your inbox

Your email inbox should be your to-do list sorted in order of priority, not a storage unit for every email you’ve ever received. One of the best ways to start is with a totally clean slate: Archive all the threads you don’t look at or respond to anymore and you’ll see an empty inbox.

Once you’ve cleared away the clutter, you’ll need to create a system for managing the new emails coming in. As these emails come in, it is best to respond to them promptly. Leaving new emails to sit untouched in your inbox will increase clutter, and you might even forget to respond or open the message at a later time.

Unsubscribe from the newsletters and notifications you don’t open, create filters so that emails are easy to find in the right folders, and move conversations out of your inbox when they’re resolved. It can take some experimentation to find the system that works best for you—while color coding might boost productivity for some, it can be time-consuming and frustrating for others.

8. Become a password master

The more platforms you use, the more passwords you probably have piling up. What do you use to keep track of all the different combinations? Writing them down on scraps of paper might not be practical when you’re out of the office or you lose the notes between other files.

Instead of spending time combing through various notepads, piles, and drawers or just resetting your passwords every time you forget them, it can help to consolidate all your passwords with a password manager.

When you organize your passwords, you must do so in a safe manner. This means more than just your notebook full of domain name and passwords – it means using a secure online password manager. A good password manager can work across devices and operating systems so that you have one less issue to worry about. Most will allow you to turn on multi-factor authentication so you can be sure that you’re the only one who can log in. Then, you’ll have stronger security and more peace of mind.

9. Get ready for growth

You’ve set your business up for success with solid organization practices—what can you expect next? As your operations grow, you’ll probably be looking to strengthen your bottom line with low-cost financing.

That’s when SmartBiz Advisor can help. As the #1 online marketplace for SBA loans, we have unique insights to help you learn what banks consider when evaluating the financial and credit health of your business. SmartBiz Advisor helps make SBA and bank term loans easier by providing valuable recommendations throughout your journey as a small business owner.

When you’re ready, you can apply for a small business loan, and we’ll match you with the bank partner most likely to fund your business.

10. Plan social media in advance

Using a social media calendar can help you better understand how your marketing strategy will proceed. This way, you can make changes even before your social content is posted.

On the other hand, when you post something on the fly, your copy and images may appear unfinished, messy, repetitive, or ill-fitting with the rest of your social media presence. By noticing what is missing by scheduling and planning from your social media in terms of product sales, advertisements for services, and more, you’ll stay one step ahead instead of noticing this detail after the fact.

Scheduling your social media posts in advance also keeps your content consistent. Your target audience will begin to know your posting habits and may even look forward to your content throughout the week.

A content calendar app can keep these habits on track and store all your future social media ideas. Most of these platforms will automatically post your content, captions, and links to your pages when you specify, giving you one less task to worry about.

11. Manage your receipts

As a small business owner, you should keep track of your expenses and stay on top of all your costs. With this careful receipt management, you can see exactly what you have spent and where you have properly spent it. There’s no need to try and memorize each and every purchase you’ve made (and doing so leaves room for error and complications).

Managing your receipts also gives you adequate documentation of your expenses. If you’re asked to produce documentation for tax purposes, you’ll be able to validate your costs with your receipts.

If you need help organizing your business receipts, consider using a tracking software or app to manage this task. Your app should make everything easy to input, read, and find when needed, so you won’t have to search through hundreds of paper slips in folders or drawers.

12. Use the right productivity tools

As a small business owner, you should be able to easily reach your employees, either individually or all at once, in real-time. Email isn’t right for this task, as you may wait hours for a response depending on when your recipient opens your email. With productivity tools, messages and push notifications alert the recipient right away.

Productivity tools don’t have to be just or communication purposes either. In fact, you can use these tools to establish and meet deadlines. When you create a task, a deadline can be added so you’ll have a better handle on project management. Most productivity tools even have calendars that will show your deadlines in an organized fashion.

Along with easing communication and schedules, productivity tools also help organize and assign tasks to your employees. People can be separated into their own channels based on project, department, role, or any other group type. Information is easy to find and kept all in one place for all to access, so confusion regarding projects, meetings, schedules, and more will be a thing of the past.

13. Unclutter your computer desktop

If you’re a business manager who spends the entire day on your computer, you might realize how cluttered your desktop can get. You probably have icons all over the place, not to mention lots of unknown and randomly titled documents that made their way there at some point. This clutter is inefficient and impossible to navigate in any meaningful way.

To address this issue and keep your computer organized, clear unneeded icons, documents, and folders from your desktop. Go through your files and decide what needs to be saved and what can be deleted. Once you do, start organizing everything into your own digital filing system. This digital organization facilitates finding the documents you’re looking for, especially when you’re in a rush.

14. Track how much time you spend on tasks

While working overtime is sometimes necessary, getting everything done without going into overtime is generally better. That’s because it’s a sign that you’re working efficiently. To better determine your efficiency, track your time while working.

If you find that you’re not getting all your tasks done within a certain time period, tracking them can determine which tasks are occupying too much of your time. When you see just how much time you’re dedicating to each task, you can increase your productivity and time managing skills.

To track your time, you can set a timer, check the clock routinely, or use time tracking apps. These apps can also provide you with the information you need to make changes and set new goals. You may be surprised to see the real data of your work habits right in front of you — tasks that you think you’re finishing quickly may actually be taking you half a day. When you’re aware of this, you can analyze what you’re doing the next time you perform a similar task and use that information to cut down on time without sacrificing quality.

15. End your day by writing a to-do list for the next day

At the end of your workday, you might struggle to feel relaxed because you left certain tasks incomplete. Instead of going home and thinking about these tasks relentlessly, create a to-do list for the next day so you know that you’ll get it done.

Move pressing tasks that you didn’t start or complete today to the top of the list for the following day. Doing so can help you feel as though you have a fresh start the next day with nothing lingering from previous days.

To-do lists also give you a clear outline of prioritized tasks so you stay focused, motivated, and on track. With a thorough to-do list, you won’t have to spend the first 30 minutes of the day trying to figure out where to start — your day will already be planned. When you complete a task, you then get to cross it off and feel a bit more accomplished.

16. Dedicate time to reaching out to clients and prospects

On top of all the other hats you wear as a small business owner, maintaining your business relationships is one of the most important. Reaching out to current clients and prospective ones should be a regular part of your routine, but it can be easy to push off this task with all the other work on your plate. Block off time from your schedule each week dedicated to picking up the phone or sending those emails you’ve been pushing off.

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