Twelve steps to success

  • 2001-11-15
  • Paul E. Adams
Step 4: The importance of getting organized

"Most misfortunes are the result of misused time." - Napoleon Hill

Tony never had any free time. Yet he accomplished little. He was always busy, always feeling the pressure, always feeling that he never had a free moment and at times feeling sorry for himself. Tony was disorganized.

He responded to every demand, he started and stopped a dozen tasks, and rarely finished any of them on schedule. If you asked Tony how things were going, he would tell you he was too busy. Too busy to enjoy life, to enjoy his family and too busy to grow his business.

At times, we're all like Tony, and usually it's when we are disorganized. We may feel overwhelmed with all we think we must do. In short, our business or our career is not fun. Is it because our plate is too full, or is it because we don't manage ourselves well?

Ask yourself: If you cannot manage your time, how can you manage your business and the time of others? Even though you may hate to admit it, if you are like Tony it's time to change. Go ahead, be honest with yourself, no one needs to know.

Disorganized entrepreneurs find it tough to manage their businesses. They become "reactive instead of proactive," in other words, defensive, allowing the needs of the business and the demands of employees to establish their schedule and workday. They may think they are in charge, but I doubt it.

How do you know if your business is organized? Is your business a mess? Look around. Is your business neat, is it clean, does it look efficient, or is it sloppy?

In most cases, any business that's messy on the outside indicates the financial records are probably in disarray - symptomatic of errors, losses and possible failure. But before you can get your business in shape, let me ask: Are you?

If you have trouble getting it together, here are a few reasons that may tell you why.

To start with, do you find it hard to trust or have faith in others? Ever know anyone who will not have domestic help because they are afraid of "getting ripped off?" Do you insist on doing everything yourself because "no one ever does it right." If you can identify with these traits, it's time to learn to let go, relax a bit and have a little faith in your fellow creatures.

Perhaps you feel you never have enough time? Do you wait until you must tackle some demand, or do you plan? A lack of planning can be frustrating. If you do not understand the demands of a project or task, it can lead to confusion and inefficiency. Then you may be the type that tries to control everything with too many unimportant details.

If you're ever to be efficient, you must learn to separate the important from the trivial. A successful leader knows what is important and what is a time consuming distraction. Do you?

Begin by stepping back and looking at your "to do" list. And if you don't make lists, start. Next ask yourself how important is the task? What will happen if I do not do it? What will happen if I have an employee do it? Am I the boss, or am I just another worker in my own company? Be honest with your answers. Otherwise, nothing will change.

Next, learn to pace yourself, force yourself to slow down. We add to our burden when we rush, as we half-complete tasks. We make mistakes, adding to our frustration as we know better.

Try this. As I suggested in Step 2 ("Getting Things Done"), set goals for each day. You will find that over time the days will get easier and you will become more efficient. In fact, you will have days when there will be a few moments for yourself. That'll be a great feeling.

Have you ever walked into your business to find the phone ringing, and your employees with a dozen questions and requests? Not a pleasant way to start the day. In effect, you've lost it. The tail is wagging the dog.

How do you prevent it? Get to your business early and set aside the first 15 to 30 minutes of the day to have a meeting with yourself, plan your day, review what the most important task is to get done today. Establish priorities.

Getting organized pays off. You will come to understand that you and your time are limited. That you are best at certain tasks. It means asking and expecting your employees to function as employees who help you with the burdens of running your business - not adding to it.

If your employees can't perform, it's time for a change in the help. You do not need companionship on the job, you need help.

As you work to learn the habit of getting organized, you will accomplish more, your business will get more efficient and profitable. You will start to taste success. It's a wonderful feeling to go home and say to your family, "I got a lot done today."