Say Good-bye to Paper Clutter

I walked into the office of a flustered client. Let’s call her Flo McFlurrie. Her office was not in bad shape, she seemed organized, but she confessed to me, that this was just a front. She said she missed several appointments last week, and forgot to call a client back on Thursday. Flo speaks with over 50 people a day, either on the phone or over the internet. And as proof, there were yellow, neon green, and florescent pink sticky notes hanging everywhere. There they were, on the front of her monitor, on the shelf over the computer, and more near the phone. As we collected them we counted sixty-two notes. And you guessed it, not many of them were current!

Flo’s Missed appointments and follow-ups were the result of poor paper and information management. If we lack organization in these areas it can destroy our business, not to mention say a lot about our lack of credibility. Sure, sometimes we all make mistakes, but poor organization habits can be corrected. To ignore this problem can cause many of the above results and can drive a business to bankruptcy. It does not matter how great your product is, or how inspiring and personable you may be, if you cannot follow-up on commitments because you lose them through poor paper management, you alone will lose.

We are bombarded daily with information of all kinds. Some of it we want to remember, some of it we need to know. I recently read that the New York Times Sunday Edition is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest newspaper in the world. On an average Sunday, there is more information in that newspaper than the average person in the 18th century saw in a lifetime.

Do we need all that information? Well yes and no. We need it if it is going to grow our businesses, or it pertains to people and promises we make. So how do we get it organized so that we don’t end up like Flo McFlurrie?

I use several easy methods.

1. Keep all communication in a spiral bound notebook. I keep an 8 ½ x 11 inch one by my computer and phone. I date each page as I use them. As I get new information, or speak to a new client, prospect or supplier, I enter the time and a quick note. This method is much like what I used in my Policing career. You have a permanent record of all your phone calls, order dates, and notes about things to follow up on. I write these down while I am still on the phone.

2. As soon as you make an appointment, mark it down. If you use a daytimer, include travel time. Also enter the number of the person you will be meeting and how to reach them as well as the exact address if you are going to their location. If you need to follow up on a call, mark the time and date of the follow-up down as you finish the call. If you use your computer, make sure to back everything up and transfer it to your palm or electronic organizer as you leave the office.

3. Keep a book of ideas and books to read nearby. I keep a small spiral ring book in my briefcase (or purse) in caser I see a marketing idea, or get inspired by something. That way I do not have to carry all that information around in my head! If someone mentions a great book to read, I also put that in a list at the back of my notebook.

These are a just a few ideas you may want to consider. What do you do though, if you do miss an appointment, or a call? (and we all do this once in a while!) Grovel! Don’t laugh it off! Everyone’s time is just as precious as yours. As soon as you realize you have missed an appointment, call and apologize. Make it up to that person in any way you can. This does not mean sending them just a token, that costs you little. Do something that costs you, that is a bit of a sacrifice for you. Show you care and mean what you say. This is a big part of integrity, and we all would like to be remembered for being honest and having a bit of class.

Do not Overbook! I had a busy February, and overbooked myself. In my haste to get somewhere I neglected to back-up my palm pilot. I missed a lunch meeting, and did not notice until later in the evening. Thank-fully the person I was supposed to meet was very forgiving, however, I still knew I had let them down. I will always remember that, and now make a point not to overbook. (And yes, I took them to lunch!)

So keep it simple. Keep all your communication in one place. When one book is done date it and store it. You never know when you will want some of the information it contains. Get rid of the sticky notes. (All sixty-two of them!) Sometimes you get so used to seeing them, you forget to read them.

"One of the keys to effective communication and dispute resolution is understanding ourselves and how we think and also understanding how others are wired as well. Each of us has personality styles that are unique to ourselves - however there are also patterns as well. When you understand the differing personality styles and their blends - you begin to see people as they are with more understanding! For more information on understanding personality styles please contact Mandie at"

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Mandie Crawford is a marketing expert, business coach, trainer and motivational speaker who was recently awarded Calgary Business Woman of the Year for her contributions to the business community.

Mandie also has skills and expertise in providing high quality guidance in time management and system implementation for small a medium sized businesses. Her passion as a business and professional development coach is to helps women recognize their value and self worth.

She is the Preside...

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