Dave Spetrino: Hard at work among the chaos
I got a call Sunday night from one of my very best friends who is also a small business owner, we'll call him Andy Jumbercotta (because that's his name).
No pleasantries, just a desperate request, "Hey, what's that "one" thing you do when your office gets out of control and you've got to get organized before you totally lose it?"
Like every other small business owner I know right now; money is tight, time is short, and we are all working twice as hard with little or no support to back us up.
Andy is no different. His home office (which shares space with his wife's sewing machine and his kids Lego structures) is filled with piles of paperwork which may or may not contain a desk beneath. He's typically on a jobsite all day and unless it deals directly with invoicing or collecting, the paperwork, filing and forms get stacked (or shoved) to the side.
"Exactly how much is on your desk?" I ask
"Well it's only four stacks, but each one is at least 12 inches high - so about 4 feet of papers I guess - I don't even know where to start..."
Believe me, I am no organizational maestro, but, if I've learned anything in my decades of procrastination, I know how to quickly deal with things I don't want to deal with in a responsible and efficient manner.
It's obvious Andy is also procrastinating but this is important and what he really needs is a little motivation as well as a quick refresher course on the famous "One Touch" system that I mastered during my early entrepreneur days at Radford University.
The One Touch System sounds simple - and it can be - but once you start touching, you can't stop until you are completely done.
Step One: Assemble everything on your desk into one large pile.
Step Two: Pick up the piece of paper on top.
Step Three: Do not put it down until you have dealt* with it.
* Dealt is a verb and can mean anything from filling it out, mailing it in, delegating it along or throwing it away.
Step Four: Repeat Steps Two and Three.
This only works if you follow these rules to the "T" (I don't really know what "to-the-T" means but it doesn't matter) under no circumstances can you pick up something from the top that you REALLY don't want to "deal" with and move it to the side. Once you've touched it, that should be for the last time. No exceptions.
I know what you are thinking, "There's not enough time.... I could be 'one touching' for days!"
And my reply: "Well, you should have thought about that before you let this desk get out of control, now get back in there and get to work."
But seriously, this process is something that you can do relatively quickly once you sit down and start one-touching. More often than not, the majority of the papers are no longer relevant and in many cases, half the stack ends up directly in the recycle bin.
I typically partake in my own "One Touch" about once a month. It's usually when I can't find an important piece of paper that I know I didn't throw away. Early mornings, first thing, with no interruptions, I can jam through a 3 to 4 inch stack in less than an hour.
Twice a year I set aside an entire Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon for the really heavy-duty paperwork (tax prep, closed job books and year end documents that need to be scanned to the server) I get my i-tunes going and one touch my way to organizational bliss...if even only temporarily...