Each Xmas holiday starts with this book as it is my bible for organising my office. But please be warned, if you are not prepared to commit 2-3 days in your office doing this or 1-1.5 days per room in your house, then I don’t think this book is for you!
“Organizing from the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern (isbn: O-7336-1350-O)
Julie’s philosophy is – organising must accommodate your personality, needs, situation and goals rather than creating systems for systems sake. Julie suggests three straightforward steps:
1. Analysing: Taking Stock
In this step, you need to ask and answer five basic needs-assessment questions:
1.1 What’s working?
Julie says “Identifying and preserving what’s working offers you many advantages. First, it saves you an enormous amount of time and energy. Second, give yourself credit where credit is due (and your self-confidence gets a big boost). Third, by studying what you like about those systems and why they’re so easy for you to maintain – you learn what appeals to you as an individual and what you will want to replicate.”
1.2 What’s not working?
By taking stock of the whole picture is to be sure you solve all the problems, not just some. That is, if only some are fixed, the areas that remain disorganised will soon begin to spill over into your newly ordered areas, causing the whole system to erode before long.
1.3 What items are most essential to you?
If you have a hard time zeroing in on what to keep, imagine that there is a fire in your office and you only have thirty minutes to save your most important items. What would they be? Your answers will tell you what really matters most to you.
1.4 Why do you want to get organised?
By taking the time to articulate what’s driving you to get organised before you start, when you’re at the peak of your motivation, you create your own coaching tool to turn to for inspiration when the going gets tough.
1.5 What’s causing the problem?
Julie acknowledges it is not uncommon to have several causes of clutter but believes these causes stem from three basic points:
1. Technical errors
2. External realities, and the big one…
3. Psychological Obstacles: Hidden, internal forces that make you gravitate toward disorganisation, no matter how much you crave control. Unless you are aware of them, they can lead you to sabotage any system you set up. Through awareness, you can find a way to work around these issues and achieve organising success.
2. Strategising: Creating a Plan of Action
Working without a strategy is like trying to drive across the country with no map, no idea of what your destination looks like, and no sense of how long the trip will take! Julie has 2 secret weapons to assist with this step:
2.1 Using the Kindergarten model of organisation which involves:
a. Dividing the room into activity zones, thus it makes it easy to focus on one activity at a time
b. Sorting items to be used at their activity zone
c. Making it fun to put everything away, use brightly coloured and clearly labelled containers to store activity items in.
d. Creating a visual menu of everything that’s important. For example, if you are using categories for your (electronic or manual) filing, create an index of what goes into what category so other members of your team know where to store items.
2.2 Acknowledging the time that is required. Most people either dramatically overestimate or drastically underestimate the time required. When overestimating the job, means you are likely to procrastinate forever and never get the job started, whereas underestimating the job, means you will start see little or no results and walk away well short of the finish line grumbling “This isn’t worth it. It can’t be done.” Remember my introduction to this book review!
3 Attaching: Getting the Job Done
Even this step requires a methodical approach and Julie recommends the SPACE formula to make it easy:
• Sorting: It is critical that you handle everything. Pick it up and ask yourself: Do I use this? Does this make or cost me money? What category does this belong in? The idea here is to group similar items together
• Purging: Here is where you decide what stuff to get rid of, and how (toss it, give it away, sell it, or put it somewhere else).
• Assigning each item a home: It is important not to be vague and indecisive about where to put items. Consider accessibility, safety, and the zone and sequence it is to be used in.
• Containerise: Container make it easy to keep your categories of items grouped and separated within their assigned zones so that retrieval, cleanup and maintenance is a breeze.
• Equalise: After 2 weeks Julie recommends making an appointment with yourself to evaluate how well your system has been working. “Is everything as easy as you’d like it to be? Are you following your system?”
by Dr Greg Chapman
Dr Chapman’s book came to my attention when he wrote a feature article in the AICD (Australian Institute of Company Directors) magazine exploring why small businesses stay small. This particular article sparked my interest as I consider myself to be a small business by conscious choice, rather than trapped by my own deeds, or am I kidding myself? Let’s find out:
Dr Chapman research identified five keys reasons why businesses stayed small:
1. No vision for their business. Chapman writes “… Business owners without a vision find decision making difficult. They are fashion followers. They expend much time and money trying different things, and when dropping them when they don’t get immediate results…”
I can cross off this reason – I have the vision!
2. No passion or commitment. Chapman writes “… Passion comes from the right vision, and creates the commitment that drives the business to achieve its goals. Passionate business owners are prepared to make the sacrifices in time, money, and effort to succeed. Passion infects others – staff, suppliers, customers…”
Passion a trait I don’t lack, so I can cross off that reason (two out of two – tick)
3. No goals or plan. Chapman writes “Vision alone is not enough. If business owners don’t have clearly identified goals that create stepping stones from today to their future success, they will lose focus and become caught up in the day-to-day operations of their business…”
Interesting – I have the plans but secretly I lack the discipline to finish the goals by their due date as I love training and solving problems in Word and Excel. So I have to work on this one!
4. Business owners not valuing their time. Chapman writes “…They (business owners) either try to save money by doing the non-core tasks themselves or find they can’t give tasks to others as they have inadequate systems in their business … If, however, they put a dollar value on their time, based on the highest value work that they could be doing instead of non-core work, they would be prepared to pay someone to do these tasks, and pay for advice to help their business.”
I do have the systems, I do value my time, but what I am bad at is doing the work as I am really enjoy the business. I have to work on that!!
5. Lack of business knowledge. Chapman writes “This does not mean business owners have to be experts at everything, but understanding the fundamentals will encourage them to seek out advice and support in those areas in which they are not an expert…”
This is an interesting point, and I totally agree with it. My confusion here is, it is one of those goals on the To-Do list but the deadline keeps slipping. The goal “to set up an advisory board to challenge and keep me in line with my deadlines”. So another thing to work on!
Summary – two out of five (not so good). So it seems my status (being a “micro-stayer”) is not a conscious choice but one of trapping myself in the business because I like doing it rather than working on it! I can see what the Christmas holiday holds for me.
A big change in tempo from last month’s book review. This month I read “Extraordinary Circumstances – The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower” by Cynthia Cooper (isbn: 978-0-470-12429-1)
In this book Cynthia recounts her journey from her upbringing in Mississippi to being a working mother, covering topics of corporate success, the pressures of becoming a whistleblower and being named Time’s 2002 Person of the Year. The book focuses on pressures and challenges that Cynthia and her team felt as they unravelled the financial mystery behind telecom titan WorldCom and the importance of paying attention to their instincts.
The book is a strong reminder that ethical decision-making is not an easy choice, and that you must find strength and courage to defend what you believe in.
While you may find some of the financial references a little challenging, the story is a very moving encounter of the professional growth of a business woman, the passion of an owner and the rise and fall of a dynamic company. The book did leave me wondering if the right persons were charged but it definitely strengthened my passion for fighting for what I believe in.
In the Epilogue, Cynthia writes about her 10 lessons. Here is an extract of them (page 365-6):
1. Know what you believe is right and wrong. Write down the values you will live by and what you will do if your values collide. Is your moral compass pointed in the right direction? Are your priorities in the right order?
2. When making a decision, apply the Golden Rule: Treat other people the way you would want to be treated. “If you lived each day as though it were your last, what would you do differently?”
3. Guard against being lulled into thinking you’re not capable of making bad decisions. Each of us is imperfect and must protect against giving in to temptation. Keep in mind that what is legal and what is ethical are sometimes different. For example, giving the WorldCom CEO loans to cover personal debt was legal at the time, but was it the right decision?
4. Ask yourself: Would I be comfortable with my decision landing on the front page of a newspaper? Would I be okay with my parents, professors and mentors knowing about my choice? What are the potential consequences of my actions?
5. Practice ethical decision making every day. “Good and evil both increase at compound interest,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” Ask yourself, did the decisions I made today coincide with my values?
6. Discuss tough ethical dilemmas with others you respect.
7. Find your courage. Most people want to be part of a team. But groupthink can be dangerous, and the team can be like a herd of bison that follow one after another over the cliff’s edge. Courage is acting in the face of fear. If we practice finding our courage in smaller matters each day, we’ll stand a better chance of keeping the courage of our convictions when we come to the crossroads of more critical decisions.
8. Apply the same code of ethics whether at home, work, school, or a house of worship. Compartmentalising can result in acting different ways in different environments instead of being one unified self.
9. Pay attention to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it may not be. Stop, step back, and re-evaluate the situation.
10. Above being loyal to your superiors, be loyal to your principles. Don’t assume that what superiors are telling you is right just because they are in positions of authority.
I strongly encourage you to read this book. In Cynthia’s closing paragraph she writes “in the end, life is about choices. Our challenge is to choose well.”
by Nancy Flynn (isbn: 978-0-8144-1065-3)\
You may consider this book review a bit boring but let me assure you if you have an online presence you need this book.
Each year possibly millions of emails travel through your business network (and not all of them work-related). Your company (and you) can be left wide open to liability risks, security breaches, and productivity nosedives if you do not have a comprehensive e-policy program that combines written electronic rules with formal employee training supported by policy-based monitoring, management, and achieve tools.
Sounds all too hard? In 2006, it was reported that 24% of organisations had employee email subpoenaed, compared to just 9% in 2001. Sure this is an American statistic but we are in a global society. What this book emphasises is that no employer is immune from electronic risk, for example:
- If a former employee subpoenas company email in the course of a hostile work environment lawsuit, your business could face a lengthy and expensive search for messages, attachments, and other electronically stored information.
- If an employee uses Facebook, YouTube, or another social networking or video site to post racist or discriminatory content, your organisation could face negative publicity, a public backlash, or worse.
- If a distracted driver, engaged in a business-related cell phone conversation, crashes and kills someone, your business may be liable.
So what can you do? Take the initiative and buy this book. It will assist you in developing an e-policy that focuses on content and not so much on the technology tools. As e-policy rule #2 suggest: You cannot afford to ignore new and emerging technology. If you fail to provide the hot, must-have technologies of the day, chances are your tech-savvy employees will bring them in through the back door. Left undetected and unmanaged, that’s a recipe for disaster!
by Paul Watkins (isbn: 9 780473 141394)
On The book opens with a quote by Seth Godin …
“The mass market is dying. There is no longer one best song or one best kind of coffee. Now there are a million micro markets, but each micro market still has a BEST. If your micro market is ‘organic markets in Tulsa’, then that’s your world. And being the best in THAT world is the place to be.” (www.sethgodin.com)
So what does this mean? Instead of being all things to all people define your market and become the best and the biggest in that market space. Or as Paul writes “If you want to be a big fish in your pond – rather than making yourself bigger, reduce the size of the pond.”
This book gives lots of anecdotes on why being specialised is more desirable and profitable than trying to be all things to all people. For example, consider the simple question “who makes more, a GP or a Specialist?”
Another story to ponder is the jam experiment. In this story Iyengar and Lepper conducted an experiment to examine whether the number of options on offer affected consumer’s subsequent purchasing behaviour. In some shopping centres shoppers were offered a limited (6 items) tasting and in other centres, shoppers were offered an extensive (24 items) tasting of different jam flavours. The result: Nearly 30% of consumers in the limited choice test subsequently purchased a jar of jam. By contrast, only 3% of the consumers in the extensive-choice test purchased a jar of jam.
Paul is also bold in proposing that there are 2 questions you should ask prospective clients:
• Can you afford me?
• Do I like you?
The book is a great read. Some of the ideas I am sure you will go ‘ah ah’ to, and some of the ideas you will throw away.
When you have finished reading the book, re-visit your business goals to see if you can zero in on becoming a Big Fish in Small Pond.
By Timothy Ferriss (isbn: 978-0-09-192353-2)
On my initial read of this book I thought that Timothy was selling virtual secretarial services in India (not a bad idea for sole operator that is, having a virtual secretary to support you in your business and personal life). Then I thought the book was about selling products on the Internet (another great idea which I am working on) but no, the book is about YOU. That is, “How you can find the time for you now and not when you retire”.
The book contains heaps of great quotes, questions and tips (I have nearly coloured in every page). So I would encourage you to get hold of this book from the library and check it out (I bet you will buy it).
An example of each:
- Do you own thinking independently. Be a chess player, not a chess piece. (Ralph Charell)
- The question you should be asking isn’t, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals”? but “What would excite me?”
- Limit access to your time, force people to define their requests before spending time with them, and batch routine menial tasks to prevent postponement of more important projects.
PS – Check out Timothy’s comments on setting goals in Chapter 4 – System Reset
by Leah Squire (isbn: 1-921362-91-x)
I usually side step business books whose titles include “no money”, as I am a firm believer that you need money to start a business , even if only a little, and you definitely need money to sustain your life while your business is in its infancy / growth stage. So when Leah called me and asked if I would review her book I thought ‘I shouldn’t let my bias let me miss an opportunity’. So here I am having now finished the book and about to give it “you should add this to your reading list”.
The book has short sharp chapters (a reading style that is desirable to busy people) that quickly remind you why you started your business and how to get the most out of the everyday tools that you use in your business.
I found the index was a great check list to make sure I was using the most of what I have in my business, such as ‘email signature … viral marketing made easy’. For example, I have always been a HUGE promoter of email signatures to facilitate the recipient having easy access to various ways to communicate with me, what I had thought of was adding a marketing line to my email signature such as ‘Would you like to receive a monthly time saving tip, then join our monthly newsletter’. So Leah has made good on her title “Marketing with no money”.
What I particularly like about this book was Leah’s last six chapters on internet related topics. There is so much hype about SEO (search engine optimisation), blogs, affiliate marketing, forums etc, that business owners don’t have much chance of knowing which way to turn without wasting time and money on possible marketing solutions for their business. Leah does a simple, realistic job of explaining these terms and the implications of using them in your business. So if for no other reason I would recommend that you read this book to get a better and realistic understanding of how these tools can assist your business.