How to stay organized when you’re running a startup
Files lie strewn across, a coffee mug jostles for space with a laptop that is perched at a precarious angle on the desk; a cell phone lies hidden below a pile of papers as a guy works frantically on completing work that has to be submitted in a few hours. No, I’m not describing a teenager in his last-minute scramble to complete a school assignment; this is a likely scenario at an entrepreneur’s office. I know this from experience – been there, done that; or more precisely, been there and seen someone do it.
Of course, now that a few years have passed after that initial stage, my husband has learned to be a little more organized. He even grudgingly acknowledges that keeping a tidy desk is helping him run the business with greater sanity. There are several other things he’s made part of his daily habits – some easily and some after repeated knocks. Let me share a few ideas that worked for him and you are free to modify these to suit your circumstances.
Keep your documents and workplace organized
It’s much easier to work at a desk that is not cluttered with papers that threaten to fall off and get lost when the maid sweeps the office floor. Things like invoice and VAT documents, your laptop charger, PAN card and passport-size photographs always mysteriously go missing when you need them the most. The solution – have a system of storing such stuff in a specific place and returning it there after you’re done with using it. Or – like the entrepreneur I live with does – entrust it to the safe care of someone you know is better organized.
Prioritize – decide what you shouldn’t do
A friend of mine has a peculiar way of shopping for clothes – as she’s looking, she puts aside the ones she doesn’t want and this automatically narrows down the list of probable clothes to choose from. It is actually a way of prioritizing in the reverse direction – take away what you don’t need and you’re left with a smaller set of things to do.
Do you repeatedly check email even when there is no urgent communication expected? Do you spend time everyday drawing up or discussing several business ideas although they are not needed in the immediate future? Do you fret over every single word in a draft proposal? Weed out the unnecessary stuff from your daily routine and you will find a lot of time available to do the things that matter.
Keep an eye on how you use time
Draw up a weekly schedule of tasks you need to get done and sort them out by the day. Then, take a little review at the end of each day to see if you’ve used your time efficiently. Have you been busy or productive? Identify activities that drain your time and avoid those. If you find some personal activity eating into your business time, cut it out of your calendar. Time management is not just about the apps on your smartphone – any app is only as good as your resolve to use it intelligently.
Deal with unpleasant stuff – it won’t go away
When my husband had to work with a particularly demanding client, his phone would often ring unanswered and the client found this galling. The entire project became distressing, took longer than usual to complete, and my husband didn’t earn any brownie points for cordiality and promptness. But somewhere in the process, he learned that ignoring a problem will not make it go away and that the more you put off handling unpleasant stuff, the worse it gets. Everyone has an Achilles heel; the trick is to identify it and find ways of getting across the problems it causes.
A lot of this may seem like common sense; but as an entrepreneur chasing a dream it may be something that you overlook. Being disorganized can lead you to operating in a state of constant stress; if this continues for long, you could end up losing out on business because you missed something important. Mix in a little pragmatism with your passion as a founder and you will find growing your business is a smoother process.
About the guest author
Anusuya Suresh is Asst. Professor with a college in Bangalore. She is also a youth counsellor and volunteer with a non-profit called DISHA that conducts self-improvement workshops for college students in Bangalore. Besides those roles, she is also an entrepreneurial spouse with ample insight into the mental makeup of an entrepreneur.