Take a minute and look around you, not physically in your presence but online, on your blog, your Facebook page, maybe even the files on your computer. Are those online areas of your life organized and easy to use? Are they clean and crisp so you can navigate and find links, files, posts and other online media? If not, take a minute to look at December as the month to clean up and organize so you can make a fresh start in January. The month will whiz by faster than you can imagine so don’t hesitate to get started organizing your online business but don’t feel obligated to do too much any any given time or you will end up just reorganizing your chaos into chaos that you can’t navigate.
I’m going to give you the ideas, it’s up to you to put these ideas to work and make a plan that you can stick to in the future. Are you ready? Let’s get started.
First and foremost, remember what I said above, work on cleaning up and organizing when you are fresh and in the mood to do so but also make sure you have enough time to complete the project. Otherwise, you move things around, clean them up and then forget where you put them. That’s not going to be helpful at all.
ONCE A MONTH
Files on your computer
Let me first say that this is one of the long-term organizing tips but it saves me more time than almost any other. If you plan to use this tip, you need to plan to commit to it over the course of several months in order to get a grasp on how helpful it is. What I’m talking about is, where you put files that you create or download on your computer so that you can easily find them. I’m going to supplement with screenshots but really look at the big picture and not just my personal tags and files.
Remember we aren’t talking physical, I’m referring to the desktop of your computer. I see them with hundreds of icons on them and I see them with only a few. Personally, it’s overwhelming for me to see that big mess of icons when I open my desktop so I
keep things filed away and leave on the minimum amount on the desktop. Here’s what it looks like inside my file folder
And, if you want to see the actual desktop, you can see that not only are my icons few and far between, they are also organized on the desktop itself by type.
So as you can see, I’m not kidding, I’m a minimalist when it comes to the big picture. I have my select icons on the desktop and my most used programs in the menu bar. But, that’s not what is important, what’s important is how I handle the insides of these folders. So, here goes:
On the first day of the month (or the last of the previous one, like today), I open File Manager and look at the desktop via the first image above. Then, I create a folder for the upcoming month.
*Tip inside a tip: I put the letter “a” or “A” (and it does matter) in front of the new month that I am creating a folder for so that it sits atop the files in my desktop folder when I use the file manager view. For instance, by adding the letter “A” to November, I can make it easier to access when I am looking for files through file manager that I want to use to upload anywhere. Today, I’m going to add “A” December and change the title of “A November” to simply November. That will keep my most pertinent folder near the top all the time.
It may seem like a simple thing but as we move through this, you’ll see how much easier it is to keep up.
Now I open both folders at the same time, my new December folder and my old November Folder. I methodically go through the files in the old folder and either move them to the new month folder or leave them where they are. It’s important to actually move the folders and contents that you want to keep close at hand instead of copying because you will otherwise end up using twice as much space on your computer as you need to.
Once you have all the contents of the new month in the folder ready to use, you will want to open your file manager again and look for your tab on the left that says “Favorites. You simply want to remove the old month from the favorites and add the new month to it.
You can right click on the old one to remove it and then drag the new one into the Favorites area. I personally leave the old month on my desktop for a few days just in case there are item that I failed to move to the new month that I need. Once I am fairly certain that I have moved what I need on a regular basis, I then move the old month folder into the year.
Once you are sure, simply move that into the folder for 2014.
Come February, you’ll need to create a new folder called 2015…but it really is that easy to keep the files organized. Here’s what most all my monthly folders look like because generally speaking, I use the same information over and over, each month merely has updated information or info that I know I’m going to need long term.
It really is that easy but it does require some dedication on your part. Really it is and the time you will save the rest of the month is immeasurable.
Next Up, Your Bookmarks
THIS IS TIME CONSUMING… make sure you start this project with plenty of time to finish it the first time, after that, it’s pretty easy and quick and if you stick to the routine, it will be quicker and easier each month.
You are basically going to do the same thing you did with your file manager. I don’t use dates for my bookmarks but it would be a great idea and I may try it when it is time to archive them. Basically take a look at your bookmarker bar and decide if those are the folders you need. Then, dive in and start organizing them based on how often you use them. then move the sites that you want to keep in your bookmarks to an archive folder under “other bookmarks”. That way you aren’t left to scroll thru pages of bookmarks to find what you need.
I even break down my folders inside the main folder. This is just how I do it, you will eventually find your own method but the important thing is, the first day of a new month or the last day of an old month, do your clean up.
On the blog:
Open your blog and look to see if you are currently using the mot recent version of whatever platform you have chosen to use. Normally there will be a big alert at the top of the page if you haven’t updated to the latest version. If you are not comfortable updating, I provide a service to help with this and you can see that Alabama Elite Media under Services.
If you are willing to try it, make a backup of your site and then either manually update the site or use the links to do so.
Next, take a look at your plugins. Are they up-to-date. If not, use the same sequence of events to update your plugins such as updating your site before you try to update, install or uninstall any plugins. And obviously, if you aren’t using the plugins, get rid of them to increase the overall health of your site.
About the Blog
How did you do with traffic this month on your blog? Most everyone can tell you some general stats about the current state of their blog. But, can they tell you how it compares to last month? Three months ago? Last year?
I can and here is a simple way to get to that information without having to dig and dig if a PR company asks. The more organized you are, the quicker you can respond and the more likely you are to get someone’s attention.
I use a document that I created that looks like this:
This is just an example of a new blog that I started in July. You can see that I didn’t compare any numbers those first two months nor did I have stats for social media sites. However, once I began to accumulate good stats in September and October, I used those stats to see if I was growing the site or not. And, if not, I needed to figure out what to do.
In order to look at the stats without focusing on the numbers, yes the numbers are there but I try to focus on the big picture, I color code the blocks based on whether the project grew or not using Green and red highlights to the boxes. While companies are going to ask for exact numbers, I’m truly more interested in growth and so I can copy a blogs stats, get rid of the numbers and still see the areas that I need to work on and the areas that I have done something positive for. Here is a different blog, albeit, a new one as well.
The X’s represent the initial numbers for that site in that particular month. Then, the green and red give me the ultimate information.
As you can see, these are two new blogs and so you only see information for certain months. I highly recommend putting the whole year on one spreadsheet, then using the final column to average your information for the year. This will give you some extra information to offer up to a client if you’ve had a bad month and they just asked for stats. You can use this information to let them know that you have had a crisis and your numbers are down but that your overall numbers for the previous year (or you can even average by the 3 months) were much better and you think that those numbers are more indicative of your performance. That’s just my phrasing you can choose your own of course.
To each his own, quickbooks, freshbooks or a simply spreadsheet are all ways to keep up with your income as well a the work that you have deadlines for. I simply made my own spreadsheet, labeled the columns as follows and then as I completed projects, took on new projects, received payment or inquire about the project, I put that information into the spreadsheet. I break it up by the month and simply add a new sheet to the overall spreadsheet on the first day of the new month.
For starters, it looks like this:
|Date||Client||Project||Project Due||Project Submitted||Amount Due||Date Due||Date Paid||Notes|
Then, I simply add the information to the spreadsheet as I need to. Mine is a little more complicated than this now because I have people who pay me and I have people I have to pay. But, this simple sheet will go along way in getting you started.
On the first day of the month, as you make sure you’ve missed nothing in your inbox, make sure you’ve completed as much as possible for this month. If you have any unfinished projects, then carry them over to the next month.
Simply create a new sheet, copy and paste your headers and then copy and paste your unfinished projects. I also use the text marking out tool, this one, to mark out any project that I move from one month to the next. This will allow me to see a timeline for how long this project has been ongoing.
Ahhh, once a year, start a brand new document and use the last years document to aid you when start to work on those dreaded income taxes.
I touched a nerve didn’t I?
I’m lumping the daily, the monthly and the yearly all in here together. Don’t panic, there is no way for you to do this other than one day at a time. So let’s get started with some ground rules.
This works for me, it won’t work for everyone, but it works for me and has for many years. It takes dedication but you can make it happen.
My general principle is to use my email box as a to-do list. That means that if there is an email sitting in my inbox, it has a purpose and it needs my attention. And it means, it needs my attention ASAP not in the next year.
So, you say, where am I goanna start?
If you are a habitual 1000 emails unopened in your box kind of person, then it’s going to be a change and take a change for you to get into this groove. This is just my opinion on how to get started and how to move forward, take with you what will work for you and leave the rest behind.
I see most of you skipping right over this section and shaking your head at me as if I am a nutcase. I am a nutcase but I’m a rather organized one.
200 to 1000 emails or more in your box?
Use the select all function so that every email in your current inbox view is selected. Quickly, I said quickly, without reading, quickly skim the sender of those emails and uncheck the ones you know you need to address asap. For the rest of them, hit archive. You still have the emails if someone asks you about them, you can search and find them, but they are sitting there staring at you as if you need to take action on them.
Move to the next page in the list and do the same.
Once you have the list under 200 emails, you are all set to move to the next step.
25 to 200 emails in your inbox?
Set aside a chunk of time to dedicate to email. Take the time to look and address the emails that you feel are most important. Once you have answered the email, not simply indicated that you will get back with the sender but actually answered the email, archive the original. If you can’t help that person right then, then do not reply and leave the email in your inbox.
The goal is to get this number down to less than 50 and preferably 25. Once you have filtered through your emails to the point that you are going to need to write posts, look up stats or otherwise address an email, you are ready for the next step.
25 emails or less in your inbox?
Go into your settings, setup your email account so that only 25 posts show on the page at one time. This will allow you to always have the most important emails on the front page of your inbox. Now, as emails start to roll in, you have to make a choice:
Is this an email I can address right now? If so, reply, send, archive.
Is this an email that I can address but need to find more information. If so, close and leave in the inbox.
Is this email simply here for my information? If so, read it, skim it, or whatever and decide if you will need the information later or not. Then, delete or archive based on this decision.
Is this email from a subscription? If so, do you read them? Do you need them? Decide and either delete or read and archive.
Then, as you start to make certain that you only have 25 emails, opened and unopened total, in your inbox at any one time. You can start to spend a few minutes working on the ones you left when you did the inbox cleaning to start with.
Now, that’s a daily routine, what’s left for Once a Month?
Simply make it a point to see that any emails you have left in your inbox have been addressed. Then, archive or delete and move on. Start the month out fresh with only the emails from the last 2 or 3 days that you have accumulated, not the last 2 or 3 months or heaven forbid the last 2 or 3 years.
And so, what’s left for the Once a Year?
Take the time to look through your inbox, your spam box, your filters, your forwards and simply clean house much like you would if you were physically handling a big project at home.
ONCE A YEAR
Organize your Blog
*Obviously you will have to do this now and again in January but then it will be a once a year deal.
As I’ve mentioned, these are all personal strategies but I’ve been using them for the better part of 5 years so I can tell you, they work. For your blog, my strategy will work for you, however, realize that I don’t blog often on my personal blog anymore and so I have much less content and way less categories than I did several years ago. However, that doesn’t mean this won’t work for you.
Step 1: Go to your dashboard, posts, categories and take a look. Add a category and name it “2014”.
Step 2: Go through your categories and add the categories that you have used in 2014 to that parent category. For example:
Once you’ve done this and it will probably take quite a while, you can list your archives on your main page by year without having to use a plugin. You simply add the parent category to your menu bar and bam there you have it.
Step 3: In January, start fresh with a new category labeled 2015 and then, as you write posts, start a new category for that post and add it under 2015 using the parent category option.
One of the added benefits to having everything broken down and labeled is the ability to return to your blog and pick out content that you would like to continue to use later. For instance, when it is time for you to start thinking about your Holiday Gift Guide, if you have one big category that is lumped as Holiday Gift Guide. But, if you have a new Holiday Gift Guide category broken up into years, you can go back and see who sponsored you and who you might want to reconnect with.
There you have it all in a nutshell. Obviously that’s a pretty big nutshell but if you take your time, dedicate yourself and your time, you will save so much time in the future.