It’s that time of year where we all vow to be better, more organized, thinner, healthier, nicer…well, you get the picture. We read articles, gather diet advice and look for organizing tips.
Truth is, most of us fall short of the lofty goals we set this time of year. But you can use the month of January for the one thing you can put into place something that can be invaluable to your peace of mind and your efficiency: organizing.
Some of us are naturally better at organization than others. If you’re struggling with it, here are some “not-so-painful” organizing tips to help you start the new year off right.
If you’re not an organized person or you find no Marie Kondo-like joy in it, you may feel overwhelmed by the idea of beginning this undertaking.
There are some valuable reasons to get organized and they’ll make you a better chamber professional.
Being more organized can help you:
- reduce stress: piles of things create “visual noise” that unsettles the brain. It can be likened to loud music or someone shouting making it difficult to find peace. Not knowing where things are or feeling like there’s not enough time in the day can be very stressful. Organization can help you move past those feelings of dread.
- increase efficiency: knowing where everything is means you won’t waste time trying to find it.
- work on punctuality: being organized means you’ll be less likely to run late as you will have a calendar and alert system that works for you.
- do more with less: when you increase efficiency, you can do a lot more and work a little easier even if you have a very tiny team or none at all.
- free your mind: we all carry a lot of clutter up there. Taking the time to create an organized “dump” of all the mental clutter can help us use more brainpower for the things we really need to concentrate on.
While most people won’t argue that organization is a good thing, those who don’t do it often cite time as the reason. They believe they don’t have the time to implement organizing tips. But it can be a lot less painful than you might think and in the long run, maintaining the system you set up will require a lot less effort.
Easy and “Not-so-painful” Organizing Tips
- Find tools you like to use. Efficiency and organization are largely about the tools and programs you put in place. Some people will get organized on paper while others prefer apps. Take some time ahead of your organizational project to figure out the types of tools you want to use. If you like the tools, you’ll be more apt to use them. Don’t force yourself to use a particular way you hate just because a guru tells you it’s the best way. It’s the best way for them. It may not be for you.
- Go vertical. A lot of people only use space on their desk and that is quickly cluttered. Instead, look to bookshelves and single shelves mounted to the wall for additional space. Figure out a spot for everything and then ensure that at the end of the day, everything goes back to its “home.”
- Organize your file names. Have you ever tried to find a file on your computer and couldn’t find it? Going forward, create a file naming structure and folders that make sense to you. You may decide that every new member doc should be entitled new member/year/lastname. Whatever your system, be consistent. Also always save things to the same location and backup everything. That way you don’t have to search in different places. Don’t expect you’ll remember which place it’s saved when you use several. You won’t and that will only frustrate you more. Coming up with naming conventions can also help if your chamber office uses a shared doc file system.
- Use an e-calendar. I love paper calendars. I have several. When I worked in an office, I enjoyed looking at my month at a glance. But now that I work from home and could be in any room based on noise level and proximity to others, I’m no longer in one location all day. That makes a paper calendar more challenging. So I switched to a calendar I manage on my phone. You can use the basic phone calendar or download a fancier app with other features. If you’re out and about for the chamber, an e-calendar is essential to ensure you don’t miss important appointments. If you have an AI at home (like Alexa) you can even set up a routine where she will review your calendar items with you every morning when you tell her to like when you first get up or when you exit the shower.
- Deal with paper. Organizing tips often assume either you are a paper person or you’re not. If you’re a paper person, you’re going to turn to a filing system you can use. Whether that’s implementing an urgent and “when I get to it” tray on your desk or ensuring there’s a file folder for everything, a paper file system will require more space. If you can, it probably makes sense to go virtual as much as possible. There’s less clutter and search features online or in the cloud are easier than searching your chamber office. Whatever you decide is the way for you, paper is a major challenge to organization and it’s one you’ll want to figure out right away. If you have papers you need to hold onto but don’t need them every day or every month, consider moving them offsite or to a storage spot. You can also have them digitized.
- Master your universe. Sync everything. Phones, laptop, tablet, desktop. All of these items should know each other’s business. It will make you much more efficient. It will also creep you out when it comes to your search history because it will allow you to pick up exactly where you left off on your other device.
- Use your car. This organizing tip may be a future idea, what with COVID limiting where we go. Still, there are a few things in your car that can make life much easier. For instance, there are thin plastic containers that fit between the front seat and center console. They can hold change, pens, notebooks, your cellphone, or a host of other things. They also keep things from falling between your seats. Having a cellphone holder (like what Uber drivers use) can make your phone easily accessible without being a distraction. Keep things organized in your car and you’ll find it much easier to use it as a mobile office.
- Clean up your passwords. If you haven’t done this in a while, change and organize them. Lastpass is an easy program to use but there are a lot of other ways to ensure your passwords are safe and accessible to you while not remaining accessible to others.
- Use notes. I’m always scribbling something down. A few years ago, I ditched the scraps of paper and cocktail napkin ideas shoved into my purse for using my Notes feature on my phone. Again, it syncs to my laptop so I always have access, no matter what device I’m working on. Plus, they’re easily searchable. Not something I can say about my notes at the bottom of my purse.
- Employ ticklers. Most chamber management software allows for member notes. With some, you can create ticklers, reminders, and follow-up activities. These are easy to set up, won’t get lost, and aren’t employee dependent. Many chambers rely on their CEO or membership director to remember what touchpoints or follow-ups are required. But if that person leaves, forgets, or is out, others won’t know about them. If you keep all of that info in your system, it won’t be lost.
Organization can be daunting at first but implementing these organizing tips for chambers can save you a lot of time and energy in the future. If you don’t have time to reorganize everything, then implement your new systems with things going forward. The beginning of the year offers an excellent opportunity to draw that line in the sand and plot your course toward better organization.