5 Ways To Get Organized in the New Year

Since we don’t know each other very well, I have decided to start off by terrifying you. Sincerity is hard to convey over the internet, and being too friendly can easily come off as crazy. Fear, however, seems to transcend time zones and language barriers.

To begin with, as I’m writing this, it’s exactly 2 weeks until Christmas. Don’t have everything bought yet? Me neither. And, my kids are all in double digits now, so I can’t bail on this, and just blame Santa for the fallout.

The end of December also means many of you are also approaching your year end. Regardless of whether you’re an army of one making $5,000 in your spare time, or in charge of a large staff bringing in millions, the end of the calendar and/or fiscal year means taxes are just around the corner. Are all your financial records in order? More importantly, do you find yourself in a panic every year during tax season?

Show of hands…how many of you are now curled up in the fetal position, slowly rocking back and forth with a glazed terror in your eyes? It’s ok. I promise we’ll get through this together.

Instead of repeating this pattern next year, here are a few ways to help organize your business (and personal) life in 2011.

Tip 1: Hire a bookkeeper

As a bookkeeper, I’d be shooting myself in the foot if I didn’t suggest this. The most important thing an entrepreneur can do is use his or her time wisely. Focus on what you’re really good at, and outsource what you’re not. For me, spending 5 hours trying to redesign my site isn’t productive. No matter how hard I try, I’m just not artistic. If you enjoy doing your own books, or just don’t have the budget to outsource it yet, these next 4 tips will help.

Tip 2: Shoeboxed.com

Are your receipts crumpled up in an box like packing materials? Does the idea of going through them one by one send shivers down your spine? The folks at

Shoeboxed

have a solution. Pack all of your receipts in a prepaid envelope, and send it to them. They will scan, data enter, and organize them for you. All you have to do next is go online and pull out the information you need. There’s an iPhone app that lets you take pictures of receipts or business cards, and you can export your billable receipts straight into Freshbooks.

Tip 3: Evernote

Evernote

is a no brainer for small business owners. Sign up for a free account, and then send everything you want to remember into Evernote. When I pay bills online, I want to keep the details, but don’t want to bother printing out a page. I just take a screenshot and send it to Evernote. At any time, it’s really easy to search out what I need. It even reads text from images, so you can find the contact info from that business card you snapped a picture of. You can even import your data from Shoeboxed, so everything is in one central location.

Tip 4: Mint.com

Finally!

Mint

has finally added Canadian banks. What’s Mint? Well, it’s like an online Quicken (in fact, Intuit now owns Mint), but with a very simple interface. Oh, and it’s free! Instead of trying to go through bank statements each month, just feed your bank accounts through Mint. You can very quickly see where you’re spending your money, and set financial goals for both yourself and your business.

Tip 5:

Freshbooks

Since you’re reading this blog, most of you probably use this already, but you might not be using all of the features. It integrates with lots of other services you may already use, like Shoeboxed, Basecamp, and Salesforce. It’s a great way to keep track of business expenses, especially ones you bill back to the client. Plus, if you submit GST reports, it can generate those too. With great apps for your smartphone, you can track your time and expenses wherever you go.

Let’s face it, running your own business is really hard. Sometimes just remembering your name is too much to ask, let alone what your gross margin on Widget A was last quarter. If you get signed up for these services, and just set aside some time each week to go over the data, I assure you things will be much easier to manage. Who knows, maybe the reduced stress will afford you some luxuries like hair growth or 5+ hours of sleep per night.

Do you have other great tips to get 2011 started on the right foot? Let us know in the comments.