I have an annual year-end ritual: During the slow week between Christmas and New Year’s, I clean out my small business office and get organized for the new year. Those days are a great time to declutter and simplify your small business life. This year, it’s more important than ever because you’re probably working at home at least some of the time. And, c’mon, aren’t there a whole lot of things from 2021 you want to leave behind?
Getting organized can seem overwhelming, so let me break it down for you in three steps: “eliminate, automate, delegate.”
What’s cluttering up your life, your time, your desk? What are some things you’d be better off getting rid of? Here’s where you should start:
1. Stacks of stuff. Do you have stacks of paper on your desk, on your floor, on your kitchen counter? It’s time to get rid of them. Get a trash can, a scanner, a filing box, and a shredder. Now be ruthless. Toss or shred most things. Scan and digitize info you want/need to keep. For the very few things you really need to hold on to physically, file them.
2. Distractions. Do you check email all day long? Do you find yourself surfing the web, reading social media, playing spider solitaire in the middle of the day (my guilty pleasure)? Try using a focus app like LeechBlock or SelfControl.
3. Unprofitable and/or time-wasting lines of business or activities. The end of the year is a good time to evaluate which things are not really making you money. Look at this more closely when you do your annual plan in January (stay tuned!) but start analyzing where you really make money to see which things you can jettison.
4. Other activities. Just say “no.” The easiest way to keep something off your “to do” list is to not put it on there in the first place. Before you commit to anything, make sure it’s something you’ll value.
What are the processes you do every day, week, month or year? If you’re still doing them by hand or with an old software program, I’m betting you can use a faster, easier cloud-based app. Some cost a few bucks, but they save you many hours and headaches.
1. Paying bills. Set up autopay for virtually all your bills. Your credit rating will improve, and you’ll have a lot more time.
2. Sending invoices. Yes, you will still have to figure out how much to charge, but use an invoicing program like Freshbooks or Quickbooks to make things a whole lot easier.
3. Payroll. No excuses. Use a payroll processing service like Quickbooks Payroll, Sure Payroll or Gusto .
4. Social media. If you’ve decided that being on social media is actually worth it for your business, then use a calendaring program like Hootsuite or Buffer so you can set aside time for posting rather than being distracted throughout your work day.
5. Create templates. In most small businesses, there are things you send or use over and over, such as proposals, bids, customer service emails, inquiry responses. Don’t create these each time from scratch. Keep a file called “Templates” and save time.
Sure, you can do everything yourself and yes, much of the time, you’d do it better than anyone else. But do you really need to do all those things? Isn’t your time better used making money than on routine administrative tasks, filling orders, buying office supplies? Isn’t it time you got some help?
If you aren’t ready for full-time payroll employees, look for part-time workers or contractors. My first admin was a 10-hour-a-week/$10-an-hour person who worked at my kitchen table, and she changed my life. If you already have help, delegate more stuff.
Finally, there are other end-of-year things for you to think of doing, such as switching banks or administrative systems you’ve been thinking of changing. The turn of a calendar year is a perfect time, making it easier to separate information for record keeping.
Finally, use this slow period to spend time with friends and family. After all, they’re a big part of the reason you work so hard. Enjoy them and have a very happy holiday season.
Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
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