How to keep your small business organised

Workplace and wellbeing

14 December 2020

Being a tactical taskmaster is a major responsibility of any business owner.

Some get a buzz from spinning as many plates as possible to keep their business going. Others find having a never-ending to-do list stops them from knowing what duties should be dealt with immediately and those that should be left on the backburner.

*Video data from The Startup Report | AXA UK

No matter what camp you fall into, being a business owner can sometimes feel chaotic, making it all too easy to let the less urgent – but by no means less important – jobs fall off your radar.

As the old saying goes: for every minute spent organising, an hour is earned. And time is one of your business’ most valuable assets. Therefore, the more time you spend organising your business today, the more efficient and successful it’s likely to be tomorrow.

Here, AXA shares top tips to bring order to your working life to help keep your business ticking over like a well-oiled machine.*

Give everything a home

Cleanliness is next to godliness, so to get the most out of your working environment and help increase your productivity levels, it’s a good idea to keep your workplace neat, tidy and organised.

Keep your desk in good order by investing in shelving and filing cabinets to keep your desk clutter free when you’re working. From stationery to your computer’s desktop, it’s worth allocating everything a specific home so that you can tidy them away and find what you need easily and quickly.

To avoid drowning in a sea of paperwork, create a document filing system and stick to it. That way you’ll be able to access important information quickly. And if you start to feel like paperwork is taking up too much of your office space, maybe it’s time for your business to go paperless?

Make a pile for all the documents you want to keep, and a bin pile for those that are out of date. Scan and digitise the paperwork, receipts and invoices in your keep pile and store them in a digital filing system that lets you access them easily. Err on the side of caution by using the cloud-based software such as Dropbox and Google Drive for data storage, backup and archiving.

It might seem like a pain, but having a place for everything and everything in its place can speed up your processes and help you avoid the stress of hunting high and low for that item you need right now.

Sort out your business’ social media

Most businesses these days have some form of social media presence. But we all know how easy it can be to lose hours to the pitfalls of social media if you’re not using a well-organised system.

Instead of trying to publish posts every few hours, get ahead of the game by scheduling posts in advance using tools like Hootsuite and Buffer. This can help improve the efficiency of your thumb-stopping posts, leaving you with more time to get on with other pressing tasks.

There’s no point in your business being active on every social media site under the sun if the majority of your customer interactions take place on just one or two platforms. Why not consider cutting your business’ ineffective social channels and focusing your efforts on those where customers are keen to chat? That way you can spend more time honing a social media presence that really packs a punch.

And while you’re detoxing your digital world, take some time out to give your website a once over too. Is content well organised and easy to navigate? Does it promote the message you want to attract customers? And have you incorporated the best small business search engine optimisation and social media strategies to make your business rank well on search engines?

If the answer is no to any of the above, consider tweaking your website’s structure to ensure you’re sending the right message to attract the right people to your business.

Get business insurance early

No matter how organised and safety-conscious your business is, accidents can happen when you least expect it. But if your business is found responsible, you could be left with a hefty bill and the stress of having to put things right – not ideal when you’re already dealing with the demands of a hectic working day.

Business insurance from AXA can be a vital safety net for your business and can take just minutes to set up, so why put off till tomorrow what you can do today?

Accidents and mistakes can happen on day one or day 101, so whether you’re a startup or you’re giving your business a bit of a spring clean it’s well worth considering investing in this additional protection for your business sooner rather than later. That’s one more item to tick off your to-do list and one less thing to worry about if something does go wrong.

Not sure what cover is right for you? Take a tour of our Business Insurance Wizard to find out what business insurance cover could be the right fit for you.

Work hard, insure easy

Running a business is hard work. That’s why we’re doing all we can to make your insurance a bit easier. From helping you tailor your policy to your unique business needs, to taking the guesswork out of finding business insurance, find out what we’re doing to help small businesses.

Finesse your business’ finances

When you’re running a business, it’s crucial that you keep your books balanced to get a clear overview of its financial health.

It’s likely that you’ve already got some process in play for invoicing, processing payments and tracking and recording business expenses. At a basic level, you should be:

  1. Recording every transaction – Whether its customer billings, utility bills or vendor payments, you should be recording of every bit of money that enters and leaves your business account at least every week.
  2. Documenting and filing receipts – Keep copies of all your business’ invoices, cash receipts and payments and store them in organised files. You’ll thank yourself when you come to submit your tax return.
  3. Reviewing unpaid bills – Keep a record of your billing dates, amounts due and payments you owe vendors and that clients owe you.

However, every day is a school day, and there is always an opportunity to learn techniques that can help make these taxing administrative tasks that little more efficient. To find out more, take a look at our guide to accounting software to find your next big time-saving investment.

Ditch the to-do list

The to-do list: a tried-and-tested productivity tool used the world over to bring structure and order to our busy lives. But is having a list of the tasks that we’d like to complete really that useful if it doesn’t highlight the urgency and importance of each task to tick off? Probably not.

We’re instinctively wired to complete the easier tasks first instead of the more challenging ones. So even if you think you’ve had a productive day by crossing off 12 tasks, they might be the easier ones that don’t necessarily take you another step closer to your business goals.

Next time you find yourself with a list of things to do longer than your arm, ditch the to-do list in favour of the ABCDE method. Just like a to-do list, start by writing down all the things you want to get done today, then assign each task with a letter from A through to E according to urgency:

A – These are your most valuable, high priority tasks that, if not completed, could have a negative impact on your business. Only assign up to a maximum of 3 A-items, otherwise you’ll stretch yourself too thin.

B – Think of these as nice-to-haves. They help contribute to your business goals but not as much as your A-graded tasks, which should always be tackled first before you move on to your B-items.

C – These tasks don’t contribute to your overall business goals but are usually quick and easy to accomplish. Don’t sweat it if these tasks take you a little longer to complete, just make sure you’ve wiped out your A and B tasks before having a go at these.

D – Your time is too valuable to spend on these tasks, so consider delegating them to people who can do them quicker, cheaper and at a fraction of the price. Sites like Fiverr and Upwork are great places to find freelancers to lend a helping hand.

E – These are the tasks that make no difference to the overall goals of your business. As such, they could be eliminated, leaving you more time to get on with the more important stuff.

The next time you feel overwhelmed when there’s a million things to be done, consider adopting the ABCDE method to determine where to start, what tasks to finish, and where to stop at the day’s end.

If the ABCDE method doesn’t work for you, you can try using some Agile project management methods as well. In our ‘Mind your Small Business’ podcast, BOSH founders, Ian Theasby and Henry Firth, discuss how they use the kanban organisational method to stay on top of the various tasks that need done.

Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Audible to find out all their top tips for staying organised and productive when starting a business.

Take control of your time

Forget about money, time is your business’ most valuable resource. But are you sure that you’re using yours to its full potential?

Time-keeping apps likes Toggl can help you keep track of the hours you’re putting in easily to help you reach your important goals in the most-time effective manner. Alongside this, project management apps like Asana, Trello and Basecamp can give you tighter control over a project from beginning to end by allowing you to track tasks, share files, and allowing colleagues and clients to work and communicate in a shared space.

And to avoid the time-wasting toing-and-froing that goes along with setting up meetings, consider investing in apps like Calendly. Calendly links with all of your other calendars and allows you to share a scheduling link with the person you want to set up a meeting with. Then all they have to do is choose a time that works for them, letting you get on with the more pressing duties of the day.

Empty your email inbox

Let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of letting our email inboxes fall into disarray. But for your business, it’s better to keep everything shipshape so that you can reach those all-important emails as and when you need them.

Start off by archiving the important emails and those that you no longer need to respond to. Then, get rid of all the promo messages and junk that’s cluttering up your inbox before unsubscribing from newsletters and subscriptions you don’t read to help reduce the number of emails you get each day. Remember: be ruthless.

If you’re looking for a bit more organisation guidance, Gmail has plenty of extensions that can help whip your inbox into shape. And if you’re using other email apps, take a look at Sanebox to start your journey to a clearer inbox and increased productivity. 

Organisation is a marathon, not a sprint

Organisation takes plenty of initial hard work and ongoing effort but the productivity rewards it can reap are invaluable.

The key to staying organised lies in the simple little steps you can take each day: from spending a few minutes keeping your workspace in good order to emptying out your inbox at the end of a busy working week. But we know that life can get in the way, causing your circumstances and priorities to change. When it does, simply review and revise your strategy so that you can keep calm and carry on.