The Organized Entrepreneur

Jan 24th, 2013 by Acton

Let’s face it, staying organized isn’t easy. Sure, there are some personality types that seem more prone to keeping order, but at best, true organization’s a choice. Whether entrepreneurs are consumed with the startup lifestyle or swamped while giving their all in 1-year MBA programs, making the decision to be organized and sticking to it requires determination, as well as intent-filled actions. Organization is as much about organizing your life and managing distractions as it is about a clean work space.

The Big Picture

“They say we live in the Information Age. That may be true, but many days it just feels like the Distracted Age.” It’s hard not to agree with Holly Green, who discusses the relationship between focus and organization in her article “Get Organized to Win.” One crucial component of staying organized: keeping your eye on the goal.

Green advocates the use of “what if” questions that encourage the strategic organization of time. Questions like “What if you started each day by taking three minutes to ponder whether what you have on your agenda for the day will really matter a year from now?” And of course, questioning whether those “urgent” updates and notifications really need an instant response that requires you to interrupt the task at hand. Green points to the value of visual reminders to emphasize the big picture, such as a sign in your office with a goal-focused message that forces you to “pause for a few moments, review what [you] have planned for the day, and make sure [you] focus on those tasks and activities that support reaching [your] destination.”

Up Close and Personal

It’s time to get a little too close for comfort. Yes, we’re zooming in on your desk. The big picture is important, but so is the space you have in front of you. We’re not going to tell you that there’s one right way to organize your desk. That would be presumptuous and a little controlling. However, there are some basic areas in which you can focus your efforts. In an Inc. article by Josh Spiro, President of the National Association of Professional Organizers Laura Leist recommends taking a look at items such as paper and office supplies, as well as arenas such as the layout of your space and electronic information.

For example, the naming of your documents (both physical and electronic) should reflect your organizational strategy, ultimately making the items easy to retrieve. Leist also encourages a true assessment of the office supplies on your desk, including a grouping of like items and an examination of the role they play in your larger organizational technique, before impulsively buying more stuff to keep things tidy. In other words, make sure every item on your desk serves a purpose. The things you don’t use often may just be creating visual clutter—stash them in a drawer to preserve a sense of visual serenity.

Don’t forget about electronic spaces, such as your inbox. Some entrepreneurs vow to have no unread, unanswered messages at the end of the day, while others have systems for sorting, storing and marking them. However you choose to organize your inbox, make sure this area of your entrepreneurial life is kept clean. Same goes for your computer’s desktop.

Organization is key for entrepreneurs with their own businesses, and even for those earning Degrees in Entrepreneurship. When it comes to staying organized, don’t be hard on yourself if you fall off the wagon. There will be days when your desk and life seem cluttered. But just as you give yourself permission to fall behind, make a point to catch up.  When things are running smoothly in the organizational arena, they can’t help but spill over into the “life outside of work” arena. As blogger Penelope Trunk reminds us, “…the smartest people in the world are in a position where they have control over their work and room to grow a personal life.”

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