The telephone is ringing. There are 94 messages in your inbox. You can't find the check your biggest client just sent to you. Instead of working on your next project, you stare silently at the mess surrounding you.
If you're like most entrepreneurs, you can accomplish multiple tasks at once. The problem is that the electronic age has sped up our world-and the more successful you are, the bigger the piles of bills, e-mails and other work items. Most of us just can't stay organized and productive in an environment full of clutter.
Create a work environment that supports you, and regain control of your work life with a focused plan:
1. Create your vision of a clean work environment. Using your existing office space, sketch the ideal configuration of your office on paper. Reorganization can inject new energy into a room and gives you a chance to determine what you really need. Remember to create a space for your old project files, financial statements and client information.
2. Take one day, right now, and organize. You will never have the time to organize unless you schedule it on your calendar. Using your sketch as a guide, go after your mess. Arrange your large furniture first. If you don't use an item every day, move it away from your desk. Create your ideal filing system, and move important papers into it. Now, when you receive new information, you can file it in an existing area or simply discard it.
3. Unsubscribe from information overload. Throw away the magazines and catalogs you will never read-they just sit there and taunt you. Cancel unwanted subscriptions, and get off any mailing lists that do not help you achieve success. If you can't bear to let go of seemingly precious information, store it in a large trash can. If the materials are still there the following week, throw them out.
4. Create a new project file folder. A new project usually generates a temporary mess. Your time is probably consumed by implementing rather than cleaning. To avoid spillover, put all new project information, drafts and associated paperwork into an expandable file folder. This makes the information readily accessible and keeps it off your desk. As time permits, create a permanent home for the new information in your filing system.
5.Schedule one cleanup day after every vacation. Add one day to your vacation to organize your thoughts, projects and priorities. This is a wonderful way to take control of your clutter. A cleanup day lets you organize paperwork from previous projects, pay outstanding bills and answer client mail.
Discover what kind of environment works for you, and stick to it. Surrounding yourself with information that supports your goals lowers your frustration level and frees up your time so you can achieve success.
Editor's note: Looking for our "Countdown to Startup" series? We've compiled it into one easy-to-use feature. Click here to read it.