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Organization Tuesday: End of the Year--Chaos or Quiet?Views: 384
Dec 10, 2008 4:04 amOrganization Tuesday: End of the Year--Chaos or Quiet?#

Julie Bestry
By the time you read this, there will be fewer than a dozen "business" days left in 2008.  Of course, that doesn't mean you won't be working more than that, but in most cases, you won't be communicating with clients on the weekends, or on Christmas or New Year's Eve or Day.  Plus, with both of those holidays falling on Thursdays this year, even if you're in the office on the following Fridays, your clients won't be.

Depending on how your business is experiencing the current economy -- and I'm hearing from savvy marketers who are swamped with new business right now -- the next few weeks might be ridiculously busy or insufferably slow.  Even if you have a great schedule that fits your typical workload, unexpectedly busy weeks might tempt you into forgoing your usually adept time management skills, inducing you to cut corners and skip steps that otherwise keep you on top of things.  Conversely, if things are too slow in your neck of the woods, you might subconsciously find sticking to your usual plans pointless.  If the dark weather is matched by dark moods, you might fall into an abyss, ignoring the essential tasks and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Either way, you may be letting your workload (or lack thereof) control you, rather than the other way around.

So, today, we're going look at some tips for a two-pronged approach for handling your time during the rest of the year.


...then you probably don't think you have time to read these tips.  But the ironic thing about having a full client load is that it tends to prevent you from doing all the mundane, quotidian tasks like marketing (to keep that pipeline full), bookkeeping (so you're sure you're getting paid for all that labor), and maintaining the essential business processes.  So, just three quick tips for you:

Embrace Youthful Thoughts.  Bribe your 16-year-old with car privileges or your 12-year-old with computer time (pay off the neighbor's savvy but under-employment-age offspring) to come in a few hours a week to help you keep your head above water.  They don't need fancy bookkeeping skills (though they can probably learn Quickbooks faster than we did).  However, they can sort receipts by month and date and clip them together for you to make journaling and data entry go more quickly.  If they can drive (or you're within walking distance), let them run your business and personal errands like shopping for office supplies and client gifts (from a list you provide), doing the post office run, making photocopies at the copy place and printing and affixing labels to clients' holiday cards and invoices.  Of course, a virtual assistant is great, but if you need someone to water the plants and transcribe the voicemail messages, get the family tax break of hiring your own kids.

Don't Eat, Drink or Be Too Merry.  Look at your calendar right now through the end of the year.  Do you see any clear spots or crevices where the light shines through?  Book that time for your most important, most needy client:  YOU!  If you run yourself ragged, fail to get enough sleep, eat nothing but holiday food and neglect to wash your hands after you touch germy doorknobs, public photocopy machines and the tester bottles everyone else has already touched, you'll probably spend the holiday weeks in bed with the flu, or the first two weeks of the year, moving at a snail's pace.

Capture Your Brilliance.  If you're working at a speedy pace, it's easy to let those lightbulb moments disappear.  If you get a great idea for a blog post or are suddenly struck by a high-revenue-potential digital product, don't count on your memory and don't scribble on a scrap of paper.  If you're anywhere near your planner or tickler file, write the idea down as completely as you can and tuck it away on a date in early January that you've assigned as Brilliance Day.  Just knowing you've blocked time to craft your blocks of mental clay into works of genius will give your brain permission to stop thinking of the idea, and start thinking about it, contextually.


...you may be a little depressed and wonder about the point of getting into the office "on time".  The more dour your mood, the less likely you'll want to do the social networking that really helps build your prospective customer base, and the less inspired you'll be to write articles that to power up your list and draw new people into your marketing funnel.

Small victories build upon one another.  Work bit by bit on accomplishing any of the tasks below, and you'll find your confidence growing.

Get Rid of Last Year's Shmutz.  Clean your desk, figuratively and literally.  First, start by following all the tips we talked about way back in the Clean Desk Club discussion last year.  Then, get out that Lemon Pledge (or whatever) and clean your desk.  Vacuum.  Dust the blinds--heck, dust the baseboards.  If you have visitors in your office, won't they feel more confident about your skills if it looks like you care about your surroundings?  And even if nobody visits except your kids and the pizza delivery person, don't YOU deserve a pleasant-smelling, dust-less, environment, free of dead plants, broken office tools and wobbly chairs?

Combine Holiday Sales with Tax Deductions.  Do you need office supplies?  Is that plastic static guard under your desk cracked and in need of replacement?  Are you craving a new desk chair, an upgraded computer or software, calendar/planner pages for 2009?  Take a peek at the expense side of your ledger from the current year.  Whether or not your income kept pace with where you needed it to be, there are some expenses you eventually have to take, so why not take advantage of holiday sales and coupons to ramp up those lasts-minute tax deductions before the deadline?

Organize the Money, Honey.  If you practice sound accounting, you probably keep a general journal of accounts and expenses.  But when was the last time you recorded transactions?  I've seen clients lately who haven't input expense or revenue information since just before Labor Day.  If your receipts and financial paperwork have turned into clutter creep, gather all your paperwork together, follow my RAFT method and once you have a hearty stack of "to input" items, get going on that data entry.  Play holiday music in the background to keep yourself in a festive mood.  The various online radio stations with holiday themes are particularly motivating.  Schedule two 15-minute blocks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  No matter how sluggish you're feeling, you can do anything for 15 minutes, right?

Purge and Archive the Files.  I know what you're thinking.  BO-RING.  Right?  Wrong.  I guarantee that if you start with your client files (assuming they go from A-Z...if not, what a perfect time to get them in order), you'll find gold in them.  Plan to go through two letters of the alphabet each day (though you'll probably zip though W-X-Y and Z all on the same burst of inspiration).  Pull out each client folder, peruse the pages, and see if there is any unfinished business.  

Did you have something to research for this client that you never got around to, or have you learned something new and helpful since the last time you chatted?  Send a cheery email or leave a message when you know they'll be out of the office, providing that helpful nugget.  They won't fear you'll be taking up their super-busy pre-holiday time with an eventual sales pitch, they won't associate you with a twinge of guilt for not having hired you back (the economy might be an awkward topics for them right now, too), and they'll be thrilled you took the time to think of them.

Next, purge out out-of-date information.  Keep only what is accurate and current.  If a client was a one-time-only type, or you had a negative interaction, archive those files and get the bad energy out of your office.  Send the archives to live away from your prime real estate, either in a dedicated file drawer where the "dead" files won't depress you when you go looking for the active ones, or in a banker's box in your storage closet.

Set the Stage for 2009.  Imagine you're so active with new business 60 days from now, you can barely catch your breath.  Wouldn't it be nice to know that you had all the supplies, files and scheduled tasks already covered?  Consider the following:
  • Buy your new calendar/planner and fill in all the recurring information (client's birthdays, conference dates, etc.)  Check your Chamber of Commerce web site to find out when the local business expos and trade shows will be scheduled and block time on your calendar to attend.
  • Next, make appointments for the coming year.  Look through your calendar to see who you met with last year, and brainstorm who you'd really like to meet.  Get on the schedule now before people hit January and realize they need to get their acts together.  
  • Follow the money--schedule appointments with your CPA by the first week of February, by which time you should already have all your 1099s, 1098s, and whatever else you need.  What about your financial planner?  Your bookkeeper?  Your insurance salesperson.  
  • Don't forget your health and self-care.  Schedule your annual check-up, recurring tests, dental cleanings and vision checks...even your massages, fitness training sessions and chiropractic or acupuncture appointments.  Just as the financial advisors say, you have to save and pay yourself first or you'll always find ways to spend the money before you've saved a penny.  You have to schedule your life-saving, sanity-saving times to preserve your mental and physical strength.
  • Finally, build administrative days into your schedule.  For example, I schedule no client sessions on Mondays, so that I know I will always have one day per week for marketing, attending to finances and handling other administrivia.  It also makes Sunday nights stress-free, as I know the only meanie I'll be facing on Monday morning...is me!
Just as you've created space in your schedule for everything you need to handle, create fresh spaces in your office.  A feng shui expert recommends putting ten new, blank manila folders at the front of your customer/client files.  I think it's some sort of "If you build it, they will come" ritual.  Create folders for handling your 2009 expenses and 2009 tax prep (personal and business) and start developing files for conferences you'll attend, giving the registration and travel information somewhere to live.  Then put the file away until the next time you need it, but put a note in the appropriate month's tickler slot or calendar page to remind you where you've sequestered it.  (It's not cheating.  It's time travel--talking to your future self!)

Whether you're Speedy Gonzalez or one of the Slowskys, take a few minutes every day for a deep breath.  Clear the decks, clear your desk and enjoy the holidays and the last few weeks of the year.

Julie Bestry, Certified Professional Organizer®
Best Results Organizing
"Don't apologize.  Organize!"
Visit http://www.juliebestry.com to save time and money, reduce stress and increase your productivity

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