Entrepreneurs

Business-Owner Insight: How To Stay Organized

By Nate Huskins, founder and president of Marshal Group LLC and Export U.S. Autos, exporting vehicles from the U.S. and Canada to destinations abroad. 

I own and manage three businesses. So, staying organized isn’t optional. It’s a necessity. By being organized every day, I know I’m going to make fewer mistakes. And that means I can do a better job managing tasks to help my businesses expand and grow. Here’s a brief rundown of how I do it, and how you can, too.

Don’t keep a to-do list.

I look at a to-do list as basically an excuse not to get stuff done. Here’s why: If I put an action item on a to-do list but I don’t schedule time to tackle it, I know it’s probably not going to get done. The only way I’m going to get it done is if I schedule time for it on my calendar. I also break down big action items into smaller tasks to insert in my calendar. For example, if I have a large goal that I want to accomplish, then I start scheduling all the steps I need to take to get there.

Update your online calendar every day.

Usually, I update mine multiple times a day. If I have a call to make or a meeting to attend or I think of something that needs to be done, I put it on my calendar. I also schedule my daily lunches so I don’t run out of time to eat. I even schedule free time (for my own sanity) and time for nonwork responsibilities like mowing my lawn. Organizing all my tasks on one online calendar means nothing is overlooked. I never risk overbooking my time, and I can reference my schedule quickly and easily from any computer or mobile device.

Take notes with a pen and paper during meetings.

While most of my tasks involve a computer or my phone, I make an exception for meetings. During in-person or video meetings, I write down my notes on paper. There are two reasons for that. Personally, I find that I can handwrite notes faster than I can type notes on a keyboard. Plus, I believe handwriting helps me retain those notes better in my memory. Putting pen to paper simply has a different effect than using a keyboard.

Use a notepad app to store goals and checklists.

The app I use is called Color Note, and I am not affiliated with it in any way. I just happen to like it, and I have used it for a long time. With Color Note, I can create checklists quickly, which is really handy. Then I can reference the checklists later when I’m working on updating my calendar. Also, at the beginning of each year, I list my goals on the app so that I can refer to them at any time right on my phone.

Don’t clutter your phone with lots of apps.

Having too many apps makes me feel disorganized. That’s why I choose not to load social media apps, shopping apps and other extraneous apps on my phone. I find that an uncluttered phone screen featuring icons of just a few select apps is much easier to manage.

Send emails to yourself.

Whenever I think of something on the fly — a random thought, an idea, another task I need to do or the realization that I need to call someone — I send an email to myself. That way, I know I won’t forget it. So, essentially, my email inbox serves as a source of practical reminders. Whenever I open my inbox, I read whatever messages I sent to myself. And then I will act on each one. If it’s a two-minute task, I knock it out right away. If I need more than a couple of minutes to get something done, I will block out time on my calendar for it.

I know some people use a reminder app instead of sending emails to themselves. That can work well, too. It’s about finding whatever method works best for you.

Keep only minimal paper files.

My main business is a licensed vehicle-exporting company, which is required to maintain paper records of all transactions for the past three years. However, our other company files are digital for easier organization and faster retrieval. Plus, all my own files are digital, as well. I have learned from experience not to rely on paper files because I just end up stacking those in piles around my office and creating a big, disorganized mess.

Have an amazing executive assistant.

I delegate a great many tasks to mine so that I can organize my days around my top priorities.

Devote certain weekdays to certain tasks.

Out of my three businesses, two take up most of my time. So, I divide up every week like this: On Monday and Tuesday, I’m physically on-site at one business, and I primarily focus on just that business. On Wednesday and Thursday, I’m on-site at the other business, and I primarily focus on just that business. I find that this schedule works well for me and helps me better organize my thoughts, attention and time. It also helps me organize my availability to employees at each business because they know exactly which days I’ll be in the office. Friday is my float day. I use this to handle any necessary action items that didn’t get done earlier during the week.

Now, while all these methods work for me, I don’t claim to be an organization guru. In fact, I will be the first to admit that my organizational skills are not perfect. For example, I still spend too much time emailing clients, colleagues and employees because I haven’t mastered how to be more efficient. Maybe one of these days I will figure it out. In the meantime, I will keep doing what I can to stay organized so I can succeed as a business owner.

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