A Tip for Success as an Independent Consultant
The last ten days of the year are classically slow for business, and unless you’re crunching on a big project deadline, you might have a little extra time right now. With this in mind, today is day four of a ten day countdown of tips to help you build the foundation for a profitable consulting business in 2011 and the decade to come.
Clean Out Your Desk (and Inbox)
It’s the perfect time to organize your workspace, both physical and mental. So stop telling yourself you've gotta organize your desk and documents, and get cracking.
Start With the Physical
For projects like this, sometimes it helps to work from the outside, in, and from the large strokes to the details. If your desk is buried beneath an ocean of paperwork, clear it off. When things get bad, I recommend you scoop it all up and take it to another space entirely (say the dining room table, for those of you working from home). Then grab a cleaning cloth and dust the keyboard, mouse, monitor, and desk essentials. Make your desk glean, and while you are at it, give your chair a wipe down or vacuuming. Don't forget to chase off the dust bunnies . . .
To that sparkling clean space, add back any necessary paperwork, filing expired or completed documents or shredding them for recycling. Make your way through the mega pile of mixed paperwork. Your filing system is up to you, but I like to have one pile for educational reading and then have separate stacks and folders for more immediate paperwork. During the cleaning process, it is also ok to check off any paperwork that can be quickly completed, as long as you don't get bogged down in a normal work session. Keep your focus on clearing, and if you play your cards right, when you do sit down for a normal work session your productivity and focus will be improved.
Finish With the Virtual
Once your workspace has been physically cleaned and cleared, it is time to deal with the digital clutter. As with the physical, it's ok to complete any fast tasks that you can just do now, but don't get bogged down in the details of trying to do everything now. Let this exercise be about clearing project materials that are long finished and organizing the work to come.
While inbox zero might be a distant fantasy, at least cut things down to a low roar and use folders to incubate open-ended projects.
I find that sorting my inbox in different ways can help file old, closed business. For example, first sort by date and try to file and delete email over a few months old -- go for the low hanging fruit. Then, sort by sender and quickly folder projects that are limited to a particular client or project. Finally, sorting by subject line can help you find entire conversation threads that are ready to be archived.
Investing in Organization to Improve Productivity
If you are already organized to the nines then perhaps you don't need to spend a day filing documents and wrangling desk litter. But for most of us, this is an incredibly valuable time investment. The result? Your mind will feel clearer, and the extra organization should make it easier for you to call up old reference documents as needed when the time comes, making you more productive.
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