As owner of a small business, it’s routine for me to deal with dozens of projects daily. Executive focus changes every 15 minutes. The variety is interesting and includes everything from production and finance, to leases, IT and insurance. The larger your company, the more likely it is you “have people.” However, for those of us in smaller companies, we wear a lot of hats during the course of the month, and keeping organized is key.

We have over 75 deadlines each month, and most of those are packed into the second and third week of the month when we begin our issue layout and then send it to the press. All manageable – until one or two are missed, and then they seem to fall like dominoes. It’s easy to become sidetracked and lose focus on what really is important to accomplish each day. Without question the biggest downfall and consumer of time is e-mail. Sometimes it seems there is no escaping it.

Over the years I’ve been searching for the perfect organizational tool to increase my productivity. I’ve tried pocket daytimers, larger monthly planners, and a variety of electronic devices. I’ve come to the conclusion that they all work as long as you stick to the plan and use them.

Often when I’m the busiest, low tech, inexpensive and simple-to-implement systems are the best for me. Two months ago we moved our office, and I installed a white board with various colored markers. Across the top of the board I wrote, “Are You Doing Something Right Now to Create Revenue?” You’ve heard the old saying – revenue solves everything – it’s true, and it’s my focus.

The white board is mounted on a wall directly in front of my desk. It’s impossible to miss. There are five categories underneath: This Week, This Month, Next Month, This Quarter and Travel. Only the most important items make it onto the board, and all are in some way related to creating revenue – if directly, then indirectly.

If I’m not working on a white-board item, it’s because I’ve gone as far as I can with it, and I’m waiting for response or confirmation from someone. Once I’ve worked through the white board, I can answer phone calls and e-mails, and I schedule internal and external meetings – but not until I’ve worked through the white board. Generally, this can be accomplished by mid morning.

10 It’s creating billable work
10 It’s getting new customers
10 It’s keeping present customers
7 It’s marketing new products to present customers
6 It’s improving productivity
5 It’s effective recruiting and hiring resulting in proper staffing
5 It’s quality on-going training program
3 It’s learning new methods of increasing revenues
3 It’s using the latest computer technology
2 It’s improving community presence

I did some research on productivity tools for this column and found thousands on the web. Check out David Seah (, a writer and designer, who has created some incredibly clever tools to help make you more productive.

They are broken out into categories – planning, scheduling, goal setting, tasks, time and more. Two of my favorites are his “Concrete Goal Tracker” and ”When is Something Worth Doing?”

Just ask yourself how often you have gotten into work that wasn’t worth doing? According to Seah, make a list of tasks that contribute to your business growth, with points assigned that reflect their relative income factors. Give lower weights to tasks that you already do frequently. If an activity is not on the list, it isn’t worth any points. You’ll see that the tasks here primarily are oriented toward generating revenue, making contacts and creating tangible assets. The big points are earned by the big tasks. There are enough small tasks that guarantee that you’ll do one or two of them every day. That feels good, and feeling good is an important part of maintaining a high level of engagement.

Whether you decide to use the crafty productivity tools David Seah makes available on his site or the down-and-dirty white-board method I employ, making yourself and your practice more productive is a simple matter of selecting the right tools and using them.

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