Decluttering your business across a number of key areas not only positively impacts your ability to complete tasks, but improves your overall mental health. Clutter isn’t just physical items, it’s anything that gets between you and the life you want to be living – whether it’s your inbox, finance management, operational processes, or mindset… it all adds up.
Before jumping straight into ways you can organise and streamline, make sure you clarify your decluttering goals and priorities. Ask yourself:
- What gets in the way during my working day?
- What are my process pain points?
- What tasks am I spending too much time on?
- What areas aren’t getting enough attention?
- What manual tasks do I frequently repeat?
- What do I feel could be improved? Made more efficient? Removed altogether?
- What’s most important to me as a business owner?
Don’t forget to visualise your endpoint. What does success look like at the end of your decluttering process? For example:
- Completing specific tasks more efficiently?
- Spending less time on payroll?
- Better inventory management?
- Better customer relationships?
- More physical space?
- Increased outputs?
- Increased focus on growing your business?
- More time to develop a new product line / service?
Once you’ve considered the above, it’s time to reverse engineer how to achieve your goal/s before looking at decluttering solutions. It’s important to give each endpoint and solution consideration before actioning anything.
There are many ways you can have a good clear out and reorganisation, but which ones offer the biggest benefits to your business? Here are five approaches that can make a big difference.
1. Automate repetitive tasks
Free yourself up to focus on growing your business by decluttering your never-ending to-do list with automation software. Here are some examples:
Nurture leads and make sales with CRM software: CRM stands for ‘customer relationship management’ – a strategy designed to improve a company’s interaction with current and prospective customers. CRM software does this by collecting and organising customer data, analysing it to understand their needs and automating marketing campaigns to increase sales. It will streamline your sales pipeline and save you time liaising with and retaining customers.
Swapping your email address for a ‘Contact Us’ form on your website: Do you regularly receive email enquiries from your website, direct to your inbox? And struggle to respond quickly? Instead, you can respond immediately by setting up a ‘Contact Us’ form on your website. When a prospect completes the form by entering their name, email address and comments, automation software can send an immediate email reply via a pre-written template. Potential clients will appreciate the instant acknowledgement, while in the background, software can assign you (or a colleague) to follow up with a phone call.
Assign inbound leads to a sales representative: No more ‘please call XXXX’ post-it notes left on computer screens! Automation software is available that allows you to set up an internal form to be used when people call. Simply enter their contact information alongside any relevant notes, then assign a sales representative to follow up. The form will alert them to contact the new lead. And that’s not all – the software will send an automated introduction email from the sales representative to the prospective customer.
Track and reward loyalty: Keeping an existing customer happy is less expensive than acquiring a new one, (which can be between 5 to 25 times more expensive, depending on your industry). CRM software gives you the best opportunity to do this. You can quickly identify the customers that have the best transactional relationship with your business, helping you reward them with exclusive discounts and rewards. You can even automate rewards to be sent to their inboxes! Imagine knowing your loyal customers are being taken care of in the background while you focus on other key areas of your business.
2. Introduce healthy inbox habits
Studies have found that digital clutter can hinder your productivity in the exact same way a messy office does. Similar to tidying and organising your physical belongings, applying the same approach to your digital space is the key to peace of mind. Your inbox is usually the main culprit when it comes to clutter – here are some ways you can take back control:
Tackling your overflowing inbox:
- Move all your emails into one organising folder. Start fresh by dragging and dropping everything into a folder that isn’t your inbox (see it as a new room in which to sort out the mess!).
- Think more about the emails you want/need to keep. Then commit to cleaning up your inbox in one go.
- Question the value of your emails. If it’s over five years old and non-essential, it’s time to part ways. If you’re still unsure, archive it.
- Reduce your email folders. Don’t create too many layers for burying your emails. Once it’s in a folder, it’s likely to be forgotten. If it’s not essential to keep, delete it.
- Use keywords to break down the decluttering process. This method helps you to systematically go through the same types of emails in smaller batches, making the cleaning process more manageable.
- Be more mindful of the newsletters you’re not reading anymore. Unsubscribe!
Effective habits moving forward:
- Turn incoming emails into actions. If you receive an email that requires an action that you can’t complete then and there, such as proofing a document or making a phone call, add these reminders to your calendar or to-do list then archive the original email (if you need to refer to the details).
- Set up email rules that automatically filter your emails. Setting up filters and labels can help you identify emails that are the most important – for example, your important clients or suppliers.
- Limit how many times you check your inbox. This can give a false impression of productivity. Set some healthy boundaries so you can manage your working time better. Turning off email notifications can help with this.
3. Embrace the benefits of accounting software
Accounting software takes care of various accounting and bookkeeping tasks. It stores a business’s financial data, and is often used to perform business transactions. Depending on the software provider you choose, these tasks might include:
- Filing tax returns
- Checking cash flow and profit and loss
- Sending invoices
- Sorting expenses
- Viewing client data in real time
- Sharing data with your accountant, and with employees where appropriate
- Creating budgets and forecasts
- Creating and issuing estimates
What are the advantages?
- Save time on invoicing
- Gain a better understanding of your financial health
- Stay on top of tax return deadlines (and avoid getting fined for late payments)
- Stop logjams where paperwork is required
- Increase productivity
- Manage stress
- Reduce risk by increased accuracy and security
- Reduced re-keying of data
- Efficient management of any late payments by sending automated follow-ups and due-date reminders
Delegation is another way to declutter. If you haven’t managed business finances before, consider using accounting software in conjunction with an accountant, who can tailor your accounting software to your needs. They can set systems up to allow you to do your own day-to-day bookkeeping, while spending their time on other key financial areas such as your tax return, budgeting, or advising on crucial financial decisions.
4. Declutter your physical workspace
A cluttered workspace not only impacts your productivity (now where did I put that document?), but it can negatively impact your brand. If you’re unable to keep your office clean, tidy, and organised, what might this say to visitors and clients about how you conduct business? Even in a shared coworking environment, keeping your workspace clean not only makes a better impression, but it demonstrates respect for the space and the other people that share it.
The best way to ensure efficiency is to keep things tidy and organised. For example:
- Administrative tasks can involve a lot of paper. If you’re not sure where to start, think FARP: File it, Action it, Read it or Purge it. Once you’ve applied this to your existing paperwork, make this a habit moving forward.
- Think about how you can reduce paper usage. Do you really need to print something out? Could you become a paperless (or paper-light) office that relies on digitised documents instead? Safely stored in the cloud and accessed remotely, you might find that digitising your business documents provides the security and flexibility you (/your team) need to work more effectively. (Don’t forget to seek advice on how long you should be keeping paper files.)
- Ask yourself what you want or need to keep, rather than what needs to be thrown away. This tactic can help you prioritise the essentials.
- Block out 15-minute windows in your calendar to tackle certain areas of your workplace, and maintain this approach moving forward to keep on top of clutter. Little and often is key. Regular screen breaks will also aid your productivity, it’s a win-win!
- Organise based on practicality. Once you’ve reduced your clutter, arrange your remaining items in order of how regularly you use them. For example, pens, notebooks and chargers go in your top desk drawers, while elastic bands, staples, etc, can go into lower drawers. This simple system will improve your workflow and increase your productivity.
- Don’t strip away the things that ‘spark joy’. Only you can know what kind of environment makes you happy – this is the underlying principle of the KonMari Method™. You’ve probably heard “Discard anything you haven’t used in two years,” or “Every time you buy something new, get rid of something old.” But organising consultant Marie Kondo’s method is different. In the KonMari Method™, your feelings are the standard for decision-making – specifically, knowing what sparks joy. To determine this when tidying, the key is to pick up each object one at a time, and ask yourself quietly, “Does this spark joy?” Pay attention to how your body responds. Through the process of selecting only those things that inspire joy, you can identify precisely what you love – and what you need.
Productive workplaces are also about creating a happy, inspirational atmosphere – not stripping everything back to a cell-like state. Have a clear out of the non-essentials, introduce some smart storage solutions, and embrace digitisation – but keep those items that spark joy in firm view.
- Read more: How to set up your home office
5. Declutter your mind
The mental load of running a business is a lot, and it can sometimes feel like your mind is a list of open tabs, waiting to be looked at and dealt with. When your mind is cluttered, it wastes your time and mental energy, preventing you from creating clear priorities, making decisions, having focus, and being productive. It’s time to let go of the mental habits that are keeping you from your full potential.
- Get some sleep. Sleep deprivation disrupts your brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other, leading to temporary mental lapses. If you’re serious about decluttering your mind and creating healthier habits, start with prioritising restful sleep.
- Transfer your thoughts onto paper. This removes the responsibility of having to remember them, which immediately lightens your mental load. Carry around a small notebook for when you need to jot things down on-the-go, or use an app.
- Set and complete priorities. Once down on paper, categorise your priorities in order of importance. If they all seem important, identify the ones that are urgent. Assess the value of other important items. Are they in line with your business goals? This process will add clarity and help organise your thoughts. You can then start crossing them off your list (which always feels great!).
- Schedule time to worry. It’s natural to worry about things, but when they start to consume your mind to the point where it interferes with your life, you need to address things. Sometimes people find scheduling time to worry and ruminate helps them to let their worries go – whether it’s 15 minutes a week, or a day. By confining your worries to a scheduled time, you’re preventing them from taking over your mind (and life).
- Talk to a loved one. Sharing the burden with a loved one can help you gain perspective and clarity.
- Tidy up your work environment. If your workspace is cluttered, the chaos will constantly compete for your attention and restrict your ability to focus and process information. Clear out and organise your physical clutter and you’ll be surprised how much better you feel.
- Spend time in nature. Studies have shown that being in nature is associated with mental health benefits, which include decreasing anxiety and depression. Reinvigorate your mental energy by taking a walk outside to clear your head.
- A classic tip for good reason! Not only beneficial to your body, exercising is great for your mind. As well as decreasing anxiety and depression, regular exercise can aid concentration and help you feel mentally sharp.
- Set a limit on your social media intake. The more you use social media, the more you’re adding to your brain clutter, which can affect your mental health. Be more mindful of your usage and the impact it’s having on you.
- Have a break. Take short breaks often, rather than longer ones less often. For example, 5 to 10 minutes every hour is better than 20 minutes every 2 hours. Spending your breaks resting or doing something that sparks joy can help you recharge and reset. Regular screen breaks also help avoid eye strain, fatigue and headaches.
- Practice meditation. Meditation is both a skill and an experience that can positively impact your overall health and happiness. For example, learning to focus your mind completely on one thing – such as your breath – can help other thoughts disappear. There are some guided meditations available to try on the internet, which help you get into the right frame of mind, such as com (free trial available).
Decluttering your business (and yourself!) is a great way to refocus and drive better results. Not only will the streamlining process encourage efficiency and growth, but you’ll have the mental space to reconnect with the passion that inspired you to start your business in the first place.