Get Organized With Three Transformational Technology Tools
Organize your life around your dreams 'and watch them come true.' --Anonymous
"Organize your life around your dreams 'and watch them come true."
Since getting organized is one of the top three New Year's Resolutions, this is a good time of year to learn some new tools for getting and staying organized so you can have a more productive and fulfilling year.
I work with a lot of entrepreneurs who are very good at what they do professionally, yet they struggle with the "behind the scenes" aspects of running a business. One of my clients offers a service that is of great value to others, but her lack of business skills has been a huge stumbling block to her success. Although she is very skilled in her profession, she lacks skills in handling paperwork, marketing, and the financial elements of running a sound business. Fortunately, technology offers some great tools to help her meet those challenges.
In my experience, there are three technology tools that are essential to creating the infrastructure needed to effectively run a business: a file management program, a contact management program, and a financial management program. These three programs will manage the administrative elements of your business, while providing a method to keep you from getting buried under the mounds of paperwork that besiege most entrepreneurs.
"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it's not all mixed up." --Christopher Robin, in Winnie the Pooh
A Coopers & Lybrand study conducted several years ago found that 1 in 20 documents is lost and never recovered. The average executive wastes 150 hours per year looking for lost, misplaced, or misfiled documents. Imagine what it would be worth to you if you could spend that same time making sales calls or developing a new product or service. That could generate a lot of new business as well as eliminate a major source of stress!
Barbara Hemphill, author of Taming the Paper Tiger at Work, says that there are three components to an effective filing system. If any of these components are weak, your filing system will be an ongoing source of frustration instead of a valuable resource to you.
File Mechanics 'Tips for quick and easy filing:
- Be sure there is adequate room in each file drawer to add more papers to your existing files. 'File papers directly into the hanging file.
- Use staples instead of paper clips.
- Place the plastic file tab in the front of each file rather than behind.
- Do not use elaborate color systems 'keep it simple.
File Management 'Tips for quick and easy retrieval:
- Problem: the biggest source of frustration is what to call the file.
- Solution: create a file index. Before creating a new file, you can check the file index to see if an appropriate file already exists. There are two ways to create such an index: -- Use a word processing or spreadsheet program
-- Purchase The Paper Tiger - a software program that helps you find anything you file or store in 5 seconds or less (no scanning involved).
File Maintenance 'Tips for keeping your files up-to-date:
- Keep your file index up-to-date by adding file names when you create a new file and deleting them when you remove a file. 'Review your entire filing system once a year and transfer items to archive files or the recycling bin.
"The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine." --Mike Murdock
Keeping in touch with the right people at the right time is essential to business growth. Benjamin Franklin once said, "To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions." ACT! helps you to jump at those opportunities by reminding you of important follow-up dates at the appropriate time. For example, if a prospect tells you that she wants to consider your product or services six months from now, ACT! can remind you to jump at that opportunity when she will be more receptive to looking at what you have to offer.
I did away with my Rolodex years ago and have been using Symantec's ACT! as my contact management program since then. It enables me to remember important follow-up at the appropriate time, and I have instant access to detailed information about every contact in my database.
ACT! keeps track of more than just names and contact numbers. It links your entire relationship history -- meetings, commitments, calls, to-do items, correspondence, proposals, e-mails, and more. Plus, with its new mobile features, you can manage your relationships from your PC or PDA (such as Palm or Visor).
ACT! includes a Notes/History field where you can enter information, such as the price you quoted to a prospect or a promise you made to a client. You can also use the Activities field to build in reminders and alarms to help you follow up on promises and commitments...especially helpful when the commitment requires you to follow up several months from now. When you sync ACT! with your PDA, that reminder alarm can travel with you everywhere you go.
One of my favorite features of ACT! is the ability to look up someone's record by a number of different criteria. For example, I can do a search by type of contact (prospect, client, inactive client, referral resource, friend, family, vendor, etc.) I can also look them up by area code, zip code, city, first name, last name, company name, or keyword. And when I find them, all of their contact information and contact history is in one place.
You can also generate mailing labels after doing a group sort. For example, let's say that I want to send a letter to all referral resources. I can run labels for them and do a mail merge with a Word document to create a personalized letter. I determine the criteria, and ACT! sorts the contacts for me.
Think of all the people with whom you've lost contact... people you thought you'd never need to contact because you did not offer products or services that were of interest to them. But now you have developed a new product or service that you believe would be of great interest to them. You've lost the opportunity because you did not keep their contact information since you had no way to manage it. With ACT!, you'll have a way to capture contact information and keep it as long as you like...AND you'll be able to find it instantly when the need arises for you to make a connection.
"The one lesson I have learned in life is that there is no substitute for paying attention." --Diane Sawyer
One of the greatest challenges many entrepreneurs face is the ability to pay attention to and manage their company's financial records. With a poor bookkeeping system in place, many can only hope that they don't get audited by the IRS. Using a financial management program eliminates the worry about such things. The program that I've used for the last seven years is QuickBooks.
QuickBooks (or QuickBooks Pro for time-billing companies) gives you the ability to keep your finger on the pulse of your financial matters. Since fiscal health is critical to the success of any business, business owners must have a working knowledge of their financial picture at all times. The QuickBooks accounting system can be customized to match the flow of income and expenses within your business. Once accounts are set up, you can easily enter daily transactions such as invoices, customer payments, payroll, inventory, and business expenses (broken down by various accounts). Sales tax is automatically computed.
QuickBooks offers a comprehensive sorting capability, so you can run reports for analysis of income and expenses by such criteria as customer name, transaction date, transaction type, vendor, or account. Regular reports can be created to provide you with a snapshot of the big picture as well as the details of the fiscal health of your business.
Best of all, the most current version of QuickBooks Pro (2002) interfaces with ACT! so you don't have to re-enter data once you convert your prospects into paying customers!
A CALL TO ACTION!
"How come there is never enough time to do something right the first time, but there is always time to do it again?" --Anonymous
January is filled with organizing holidays... What are you doing to celebrate them? Here are some ideas...
- New Year's Day -Block out some time to do the following:
--List your accomplishments for 2002 and celebrate them.
--List your "incompletions" for 2002 and decide what you choose to do about it in 2003.
- Clean Out Your Closet Month -- Identify which closet(s) in your home or office need to be cleaned out, and carve out some time in your schedule to do it. You may discover a significant tax deduction if you choose to donate things to charity. Click here to read about an excellent tool that helps you value donations. They guarantee you will save at least $300 in taxes, or your money back. Use this code to save $5 with your purchase: RAF 228662
- National "Be On Purpose" Month -- Identify the following:
--What are your top three personal goals for the year 2003?
--What are your top three professional goals for the year 2003?
--What one personal quality do you most want to develop in the year 2003?
- Life Balance Month -- Identify what will build greater balance in your life in 2003: --Self care
Check out my January teleclass series for assistance with this.
- Organize Your Home Day (January 6) -- Identify which areas in your home need to be de-cluttered and organized, and carve out some time in your schedule to do it. Click here for tips on how to do this. You may discover a significant tax deduction if you choose to donate things to charity. Click here to read about an excellent tool that helps you value donations. They guarantee you will save at least $300 in taxes, or your money back.
Use this code to save $5: RAF 228662
- National Clean Off Your Desk Day (January 13) -- Plan an office party and have everyone clean out and organize their files, e-mail messages, and electronic documents. Create a "white elephant" room and ask people to bring their no-longer-needed office equipment and supplies to this central location. One person's discarded office tools may be another person's treasure!
About the Author
Kathy Paauw helps busy executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs de-clutter their schedules, spaces and minds so they can focus on what's most important. She is an organizing & productivity consultant, certified professional & personal coach, and speaker. Contact her or visit her website at and learn how you can find anything you file or store in 5 seconds'guaranteed!