Five Books to Help You Get Organized

Organization is crucial to making sure your business can meet your clients’ needs with a small staff and limited time. As a full time student who works from home, I used to get overwhelmed with the different deadlines, requirements, and pieces of paper. Now that I have a system, it is a lot easier to sit down and work without wasting 15 minutes double-checking deadlines and searching through piles for the right syllabus, CEM assignment, or reading.

A strong organizational system will help you work efficiently, present a seamless face to your clients, and save you time and stress. Here are five books that will help you move from disorganized to organized, depending on your needs and learning style.

If you’re overwhelmed by the process: Small mistakes like lost paperwork, mixed-up deadlines, or forgetting a change in a staff member’s schedule can cause disorganized businesses to lose revenue and clients. Stacy Platt, a New York organization consultant, wrote What’s a Disorganized Person to Do? to cover basic organizational skills. This book breaks the process down into tasks that can fit into an hour, or even a few minutes, in between customers. It is best for organizational beginners, since it covers basics like how to control clutter and keep track of phone numbers. Skip right to the Home Office section if you’re only looking for work tips, or bring it home and let Platt organize your kitchen, photos, and closets.

For the chronic resolution breaker: Lots of business owners resolve to get organized, but don’t stick with it for the long term. Organize Now!: A Week-by-Week Guide to Simplify Your Space and Your Life, by Jennifer Ford Berry and Jacqueline Busser, gives specific steps and checklists to keep you on track. Like What’s a Disorganized Person to Do, this book isn’t business-specific, but it offers advice for time management, clutter control, and filing. Ford Berry and Busser offer short-term goals to mark your progress, and long-term goals to make sure your organizational system sticks.

If you have a neat desk and a messy desktop: Some people have great organizational skills but can’t find any of their electronic files without relying on their “search” functions. Digging for files wastes time, and makes it difficult to share files with other staff and clients. Organize Your Digital Life: How to Store Your Photographs, Music, Videos, and Personal Documents in a Digital World by Aimee Baldridge gives you tips, strategies, and ideas to avoid the dreaded “Hold on, where did I save that?” It covers archives, financial documents, even photos and music.

If you need to get motivated and increase productivity: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen focuses almost exclusively on increasing productivity and efficiency. This book is more business-specific than some of the others we’ve reviewed, and covers strategies for delegation, managing email inboxes, and cutting out confusion in staff communication. The premise of the book is that relaxed workers are more productive, and focuses on removing the stress that comes from disorganization. Since Allen is a motivational coach, this is more of a traditional “self-help” guide than the other books on this list. It’s a great tool for someone who needs help getting motivated to get organized.

If you need to translate your organizational skills to the business world: Pick up a copy of How to Organize and Operate a Small Business by Clifford Mason Baumback, a book commonly used in college-level business courses. This textbook won’t tell you how to organize your desk or set up a calendar. Instead, it gives you the tools you will need to follow your business plan, and make sure you are on track to meet your goals and objectives. Make sure you get the most recent edition; this book has been around for a long time, but is updated regularly.

All the books on this list are available on Amazon in new and used editions. Most local libraries will also order books on request, if you’re willing to wait for them to come in.

Do you have any organizational books that have helped you? Would you like to share any quick fixes that have increased your business’s productivity and saved you time?

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Carolyn "Lynnie" Moore is a traveler, writer, and punster who lives in New Orleans. She focuses on tips to save you time and make your small business work in the real world. When she’s not working or studying, she spends her time running, eating, and reading books.

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