September of 2002 was the first time I experienced one of my favorite days in college - student planner day. The day the student union front desk would get boxes of paper planners that were sponsored by the university. I’d wait in line clutching my student id. My student id had the iconic early 2000’s photo with my scrunched hair, crunchy with gel that smelled like alcohol, you know you can smell it as you read this. Hemp necklace, American Eagle tank top, and very frosted pink lip gloss.
Amazing student id photo aside, this day sticks with me because it quickly became evident that if I was going to succeed in college I had to organize myself in a way that worked for me. Paper planners quickly became my preferred method to organize my goals.
Organization is critical to my success in small business ownership. After publishing my blog post about optimizing your small business while working full time, my dear friend Angela asked for a follow up post about organizing tips. She knows the way to my heart - I love this topic.
In addition to loving paper planners, organization goes deeper for me because it's a critical component of managing my anxiety and my mental health. My anxiety is triggered by feeling out of control or chaos that I can't make sense of. Knowing my personal organization style has helped me to identify ways to re-center or create some control where I can.
While organization is different for everyone and the goals of organizing will change through projects, life stages, and growth, I’m sharing what is working for me now.
Identify systems (that work for you!) - There are so many organization systems out there - wall calendars, online systems like Trello and Asana, GANTT charts, paper planners, google calendars, and the list goes on and on. When I first started Leo and Lynn Jewelry I envisioned myself using these wonderful electronic project planning systems that would create automation and ease. Who am I? Did I suddenly become a different person when I started my business - no, no, I didn’t. I’m still the same paper planning loving Summer. So...I quickly realized that I wasn’t updating those planning systems, I dreaded learning the features, and I always revert back to paper when under stress.
I tried to take the best of both worlds and create a system that works for me. Everything gets written down on paper - goals, designs, blog outlines, timelines, etc - and then they move to the final system whether it’s a google doc, e-commerce site, or Trello for larger project timelines.
Quick plug for another small business, I love my Rad and Happy undated planner.
The Procrastination Pad - Procrastination happens but it can also create unnecessary stress. I use a 3 day ‘procrastination pad’ system, specifically for tasks or projects that I know I will procrastinate on. My procrastination trap is product photography, it’s a hard task for me, and I will make ridiculous excuses until the deadline. So I put my product photography deadlines on my calendar as 3 days earlier. So even if I procrastinate I will still meet the deadline.
Plan and Reevaluate - I often tell my kids to write in pencil so they can make changes and corrections. I feel this same way about planning. It helps me to not create unrealistic goals or deadlines, and to know when a deadline is truly concrete, like when others are impacted or I’ve promised a deadline.
Knowing that I can continually reevaluate my plans gives me the creative freedom to have new ideas, learn from my network, and build my business success as an aligned part of my life and not in addition to my life.
Communicate Your Needs - First, I need to high five myself on this one because it’s a recent growth area that I have been conquering. In the beginning of 2020, I was working hard on my business goals and looking for support from my partner, Michael, but I didn’t feel like I was getting what I needed. The problem was, I wasn’t telling him what support I needed so of course he couldn’t meet a need that he didn’t know!
So I took some time to think about how I can communicate those needs and one major way was to share all time commitments on our shared calendar. Michael gets calendar notices for photoshoots, pop ups, deadlines, product launches, Instagram Lives or Clubhouse chats, and time chunks that I need to have uninterrupted work time. I share with him what my week looks like and what I’m hoping to accomplish so he knows where he can support, and then I ask the same in return - how can I support his goals or plans?
Communicating with your loved ones can make a big difference - they can ask questions, they can support in a new way, and you can respect each other's time in a mutual way.
Automate Recurring Tasks - Use technology to benefit your busy brain! The tasks that always creep up on me are the yearly or quarterly tasks that I think I have tons of time to think about but then they just fly by. So I use my calendar to put recurring tasks - business license renewals, insurance policy review, monthly review of customer feedback, responding to Google reviews, and other important business tasks that are easy to forget about.
Voice Notes - Prior to the pandemic I had a 1 hour commute each way and car rides often leave time for thoughts and ideas. I use the voice note feature on my phone very often. It’s hands free, I can explain my thoughts to myself in a quick manner, and they’ll be there when I’m ready to listen.
- When the Inspiration Strikes - As a product based business sometimes the inspiration for designs strikes me at random times. When that happens I take the quick time to embrace it and write it down wherever I can so I don’t lose the vision. That might mean I’m using the back of a receipt, but I’m getting the ideas out and I find that more ideas will come if I allow my creativity to have freedom.
I could talk about personal organization style forever because I love to see how it evolves. I also have a slight obsession with paper and office products… but that’s another blog post.
What are your favorite organization tips for your business or life? What’s a new tip you want to try?