I don’t know at which moment my overwhelm registered last week; maybe it was when my husband asked if I had called a contact that I had jotted down on a piece of paper and left God knows where; perhaps it was when I saw with annoyance that in my haste to get things done I had paid a bill from the wrong bank account and gotten an overdraft charge; or it could have been the sight of my "unsorted incoming mail" bin that was overflowing and dangerous-looking. Whatever the culprit was, it made my anally-retentive Virgo nature bristle, and forced me to take a serious break in my action.
I don’t mind juggling many things. In fact, most days I think I am born to do that, so working on various program design projects/laundry/working 1:1 with clients/writing articles and blog posts/taking care of my baby son doesn’t really phase me, it keeps me lively.
Then moments hit like last week and I realize that my swirl of activity has become a cyclone, and havoc is being wreaked, if it hasn’t already. And the first thing to go for me is usually the highly administrative, tedious but critical don’t get thrown in jail/pay late fees/let important things expire kinds of tasks. I loathe administrivia as much as I am fanatic for writing blog posts.
In fact I was thinking, although I never tried the drug-du-jour methanphetamine, I almost feel a kindred spirit for the unfortunate addicts in my love for writing blog posts. I heard that the first time you use meth you can become addicted, and drift off into the dangerous territory of ignoring your family, personal hygiene, social graces and basic human contact in pursuit of its high. At times, when my husband comes home from work to eat Top Ramen again and I notice that I am screening every conversation I have with anyone as a potential blog post, I realize I may need some professional help.
Thankfully, good sense comes to visit and, in the case of my latest administrative relapse, I realized that some extreme organizing measures were necessary. It is very timely, since in the U.S., we are getting ready for a very busy holiday season, when more running around than usual takes place. So instead of finding yourself spinning out of control with to-do lists until you finally explode at poor Aunt Nelly who asks you at a family gathering ( like she does every year) "Dear: What in the world do you do all day working from home? Isn’t it time to settle down and get a real job?" :
- Call in the reinforcements.
I mentioned before that I had hired a virtual assistant, and that is beginning to take shape nicely. She is working on a few key areas of growing my virtual business that I never took the time to do, but that desperately need to get done. I already screened and hired a bookkeeper in addition to an accountant, so data entry and prison time evasion is working nicely. These are all part-time independent professional staff, mind you, I have not hired any full-time payroll positions.
- Don’t be afraid to barter.
You may be stretched financially as you are supporting a family and trying to save for your business, so don’t be afraid to barter for what you need. I realized that one of the reasons why I got so behind on mundane things like filing was because my systems didn’t work for me, so an opportunity came up where a wonderfully talented woman that lived right down the street read my blog and wanted to exchange coaching time for office system organization. Sounds like a great deal to me, and I am really enjoying doing a bit of face-to-face coaching.
- Schedule a no-holds-barred-organize-or-suffer day.
As mentioned above in my blogging addiction confession, there are times when I need to take extreme measures to ensure that I follow through on completing organizing tasks. Although I may not get the "rush" of a published post or the thrill of closing a sale or cultivating a new business partner, having an organized office and up-to-date administrative task list is a critical part of running an effective business. I could make excuses as to why I have fallen behind until I am blue in the face: the reality is, it is my own damn fault if things don’t get done. So I set aside a complete day to do nothing but catch up on organizing. I filled bags up with shreddable documents (you do shred, don’t you?), entered notes and phone numbers from scraps of paper into my Outlook contacts, calendar and task lists, cleaned out closets, dusted underneath plants on my desk and even cleared pesky saved files off my computer desktop.
- Use the take everything out and-toss/keep or sell sorting method.
Somehow it is harder to straighten up when moving piles of paper from one side of the desk to the other. A great tip I learned from my favorite organizing show Clean Sweep is to take everything out of a space and put it in a large open area. Then sort it in three categories: toss, sell (also donate to charity) or keep. Once you get your sort done, you only have to worry about organizing the things you really want in the space, and you will free up room by getting rid of unwanted things.
- Defer non-critical tasks to the new year.
I often get stressed thinking about all the things on my plate to get done, even when some of them might not need to get done right away. So if there is a task or effort that you can put off to a new start date in 2007, by all means do it.
Once things are straightened and organized, it is a good time to reflect on:
- Which tasks could be delegated to someone else on a regular basis so that they don’t pile up?
- Which things should I stop doing/transition to someone else if they are taking up time, effort and energy that I would rather spend elsewhere?
- How can I set up my office systems so that they help me avoid trouble in the first place?
If you take time to organize before the holidays, I guarantee you will have a more relaxed and quality time with your family and friends. And it will be a wonderful, clear space from which to begin the new year … one of the best times to start new projects. I sure feel better, and look forward to 2007 with great gusto.