4 Steps To Organizing Lists and Notes, For Small Business Mavens

by Joanne Steele on February 26, 2010

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messy desk loaded with paper and notesAs a small business owner in charge of everything and doing everything, you probably rely heavily on LISTS. You make them on yellow pads, you keep them in your pda, you write them on paper napkins in restaurants, you jot them on backs of envelopes.

And then you spend valuable time looking for them…

I promised you that this series on time management would give you some easy to implement tools to free up the time you need to improve your marketing.

This little skill will help you discover time you didn’t even realize you were wasting; all that time you spend looking for lists and important notes and phone numbers.

I learned the basis for this technique years ago when I carried a Franklin Covey day planner, and had the most organized administrative assistant on the planet (thank you, Judy!)

It works for lists you make on anything, as long as you do these four simple things.

1. When you’re about to jot down something important, start by noting the date. Yes, for anything, just start by writing down the date, then write your important list or phone number including the person’s name, or message.

2. Have a special place at your desk at work, in your brief case, wallet or purse, and a basket in your family room or kitchen where you always put lists and notes. Lists always live in these places until you file them or toss them.

3. If you’re taking notes at a meeting, always start with a header including the date and who or where you’re meeting. I like to note this just the way it is listed on my calendar.

4. Try to organize lists once a week. I’m not good at this – this step often gets put off for a month, but all my lists always live in the 3 places I’ve designated, so if I haven’t organized lists for a while, I only have 3 places to look.

By organizing, I mean, go through the lists and discard everything you’re finished with. Then file everything you need to keep BY DATE.

Here’s why this system has worked so well for years, regardless of whether I’m noting things on computer or paper:

I still have one consistent habit that gives me almost immediate access to everything. THE DATE at the top of every note.

You want to quote something you jotted down at a meeting 3 months ago. You vaguely remember that it was early in the month at a coffee shop, with Joe.

You go to your calendar, find a listing for a meeting with Joe, note the date, check your filed lists and notes for that date, and viola, there is that important quote! This works for checking things filed on your computer as well.

Two things have happened. You’ve saved a huge amount of time and heartburn. You have nearly immediate access to almost anything you’ve created in the past, that you thought was important enough to write down.

How do you stay organized?

Photo by Lincoln-log on Flickr

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