Organizing Tips from the Trenches

It seems like you can’t turn on the TV or pass a newsstand these days without hearing the name Marie Kondo. The author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is having a moment, probably because tossing things out is so dang satisfying. (Google the TV series Hoarders if you don’t believe me.) No time for cleaning your closet? Organizing your workday can be just as rewarding. It’s also a smart move, because it can boost your productivity, help you avoid burnout and ensure that you have time for all the stuff that matters, such as, oh, I don’t know, competing in VentureClash.

In an effort to help you do more with the hours you have, CI reached out to the startup community as well as professional organizers for tips. And boy did they deliver. Beyond the usual advice of setting goals, prioritizing initiatives, delegating tasks and employing technology (more on that in a future post), we received some truly original ideas we wanted to pass along right now. Give them a try and let us know how you fare.

Say no to multitasking. “Focus on getting one thing done at a time. It sounds simple, but it can be especially hard to stick to when your attention is being pulled in different directions. I’ve found I’m more efficient and the quality of my work is higher when I work on one project until completion before moving onto the next one. It’s better to have one thing 100 percent done than three things 25 percent done. Plus, it helps reduce mental overhead. Once an assignment is complete, you can put it behind you and move on without the nagging feeling of knowing there is still more work to do.”
—Bob Ellis, CEO, Bavarian Clockworks, 30-year entrepreneur, contributing writer,

Take a breather. “Only when you slow down can you do more. You can’t expect to be running continuously without proper rest and rejuvenation. You have to take time out of work to do more work. Exercise, maintain a work-life balance and spend time with your family to do your work with more productivity, engagement and motivation.”
—Ketan Kapoor, co-founder, Mercer – Mettl

Rethink Your To-Do List. “Plan for a week. A lot of people have a habit of making a to-do list for a day. It lets you feel busy during the day, but it doesn’t move your business forward. Planning for a whole week helps [you] keep a big picture in mind and focus on critical priorities.”
—Marina Pilipenko, marketing manager, actiTIME

Devote Days of the Week to Specific Tasks. “When I was first starting out as an entrepreneur, my days were spent jumping between unrelated tasks, which was a really inefficient way to spend my time. I’ve recently implemented a new way of staying organized by devoting certain days of my week to particular types of tasks: Mondays are for financial work and business planning, Tuesdays and Thursdays are for clients and project work, and Wednesdays and Fridays are devoted to sales. This means that I automatically know what kind of mindset I need to be in each day, and makes it much easier to stay productive. My project management team also knows to only schedule meetings or tasks to the correct day, which really helps things stay organized. I also have scheduled catch-ups with my team twice a day, which gives them a set time to discuss problems or questions with me. This leaves the rest of my day free so I can focus on running my business. Implementing this structure has made my work much more streamlined, and I’ve found that my work and business have both benefited as a result.”
—Ross Davies, managing director, Strafe Creative

Get to Know Your Employees—Then Draw on Their Strengths. “Do you have a team in place that is passionate about your vision and is trustworthy and hardworking? If you don’t…start searching for those valuable players now! In order to grow, we need each other. As an entrepreneur, I try to continually surround myself with people who have a skill set that I don’t. I take the time to get to know my employees on a personal level; therefore, I understand their strengths and weaknesses and can strategically delegate. I’m able to make more room in my brain with a solid team.”
—Sarah Parlos, CEO, One Fine Day

Wake Up at Dawn. “As the CEO [of a startup], I have tried everything to be more productive so I can spend more time with my family. I have counted 43 different strategies that fail (turning off my phone, having a different office space from everyone else, eliminating meetings in the morning, and more). The only thing that made a difference is getting up two hours before everyone else. This lets me do all the essential things first without any interruptions or distractions. If you really want to be more productive, get up earlier, do your magic and in the afternoon come home earlier and enjoy your family! This helped me not only to be more productive but also to feel happier.”
—Christian Rennella, CEO and co-founder, 

Let Your Differentiator Be Your Guide. “Your unique selling proposition, or USP, is what makes you different from other businesses. Do you know what it is? Could you explain it to your customers? This is important because your USP should be guiding nearly everything you do. It determines your target customers and guides the development of your product or service. If you can explain your USP in two or three sentences, great. If you can’t, work on it until you can. Without a clear USP, you will struggle to build a successful business.”
—Bethany Parker, VP of Operations, Xero

Make Inbox Zero a Goal. “Keep your email inbox totally clean. Only open tasks and unreplied emails should be in there. Otherwise, you’ll get lost in your emails. Archive everything to Outlook or Gmail to keep it clean. (I have ONE email in my inbox right now… the one task I have to complete.)”
—David Wachs, chief robot mechanic, Handwrytten

Sweat the Big Stuff. “Sweat-working has been a real timesaver for me. I invite a friend, client or potential client to a spin class or yoga. Before and after we can catch up or chat about business. Not only do we both share in the experience of doing something good for our bodies, but we are also able to get some valuable face time with each other.”
—Lindsay Anvik, business coach, keynote speaker, workshop leader, SeeEndless

And Finally, One We Can All Get Behind. “Take time to take care of yourself. Enjoy a monthly massage or facial, take a leisurely walk outside or spend time with your family.”
Ann Zanon, Certified Professional Organizer® and hoarding remediation specialist

Got your own tip to share? Tweet us @VentureClash.