../Morning Post
Posted January 4, 2011
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Guest Column

Kick off 2011 right: organize your home business
By Jamie Sutherland

It’s that time of year when everyone is making New Year’s resolutions and some are easier to keep than others. However, if you are an entrepreneur with a home business, there is no better way to kick off 2011 than by getting organized and it’s easy to do. Being organized is critical to ensure that your business is successful, but this can be a difficult task when working from home. Sometimes it can muster irritation, contempt and even unleash a few demons.

In our efforts to become organized business owners, the best and more effective approach is to take our tasks in steps. Chunking it off in smaller pieces will make the job more manageable. Additionally, you will feel like you are accomplishing something while still in the process of fully converting.

• Start with your work area. Don’t keep your desk or work area looking like a tornado just razed it! Although this is perfectly normal, as everyone gets caught up in their daily grind to worry about such things, the fact is, the more organized your work area remains, the more efficient you will be. Maintaining a well-ordered desk will save you time and unnecessary stress when looking for those important papers that your client needs… yesterday. This will also help you stay focused on your work since you won’t be distracted by the disorganization.

• Go tech. Using technology can be the best and easiest way to stay organized because it helps you manage information in a much more efficient way - in a thousandth of the space. Consider investing in:

• business or accounting software that can execute various and numerous tasks, including inventory tracking and invoicing. If you are concerned about cost, the market is full of extremely affordable options that offer great performance – some have free trial downloads and some are available in multiple languages, such as English and French. Try a Google® search on “bilingual Canadian accounting software” for some ideas.

• a low-cost contact management software that not only tracks important milestones, but also allows you to easily maintain client history notes so you’re able to personalize your client interactions.

You may also want to consider taking advantage of free online services. Many of these services can help streamline your processes and save you some time on tasks such as customer invoicing.

• Keep business and personal life separate. The more you keep the two separate, the more distinct they will be and you won’t feel like you are always “at work.”

• Taxes – Keep personal- and business-related financial records separate. Your business should have its own bank account and all transactions should be recorded.

• Set hours for “business.” If you decide to work from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., make sure you stick with it. Not only will your body and mind thank you, your family and friends will as well!

• Invest in a large calendar and colourful markers to keep track of important business dates and place it somewhere you can see it often. These dates would include federal/provincial/local/sales taxes, special events, meetings, bills and more.  If you’re not a visual person, consider putting all urgent reminders in Microsoft Outlook® or your email/calendar client.

• Create and use ‘To Do’ Lists. Although it might sound cliché, the use of notes and task lists are very helpful. They help you remember what needs to be completed and it becomes visually easier to stay on task and motivated when you can see the priorities before you.  Another reason task lists are useful is that it is very motivating to check or cross off the items as they are finished.  Seeing a growing list of completed tasks can be extremely satisfying.

• Put a time limit on tasks. Time is one thing you can never get back. You can lose money and then earn it back. If you lose time, it is gone forever. Think about how long a task should take to complete and write it down. Try to stick with this time frame as closely as possible. If you go over, no big deal; it is the fact that you recognize time limits and as you continue through the process you will become more experienced and better at estimating in this way.
Utilizing these tips can help keep you on track and organized. It takes time, but once you get it, you have it forever. On a positive note – it only takes 21 days to learn a habit!

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