METHOD: Organization with Dai Smith

If you're a business owner who struggles with organization, this one's for you! Dai Smith is a professional organizing consultant, and she knows a heck of a lot about how to get your business in order. If you've ever struggled with organization, I can guarantee you'll find this blog post helpful!

Below is an abridged version of my conversation with Dai.

Natalie: I know it's really important to talk to folks about the importance of organization. We had talked a little bit about the importance of having a space to work in.

And then we were going to talk about some like business organizational things. Does that seem like a good place to start?

Well, one of the things I said to you last time we talked about this, I was like, “I need to have like my space kind of in order or I can't focus.” What's that all about?

Dai: Oh, everybody struggles with that. I think we're such visual learners. Many of us are visual learners, visual people.

So if we see clutter, it does all these funky things. It makes us feel unproductive. It makes us feel overwhelmed. Like you look at it and all these things are coming up. Things that aren't on your to-do list, it reminds you of that. And then you may have guilt around not doing it. So it's so much bigger than just your physical, like piles and all that stuff. It like affects your, your psyche affects your productivity, how you feel about yourself, how you're going to tackle the day.

I can't operate in unstructured environments. And I think that as business owners, it makes it even more difficult because we wear so many hats and we are even more distracted than the average person.

So we cannot afford to not have our physical space organized. Cause that's really going to impede on that.

Natalie: Like if I get behind, let's say I get back from travel, I unpack right away. It's interesting that you brought up the word guilt because that's what happens if I like see a sack of mail and then a pile of laundry and then a suitcase that needs to be unpacked and then like an empty fridge and like all this stuff, I'm like, oh my gosh, I already have my work to do list. And now I have like 16,000 other things that are coming up around every corner. If I don't stay on top of my, my space. Yeah. I just, I feel like I can't even get started on my work stuff.

Dai: And then you're like guilty. Like “I should have done this. I should've planned better.” That's like unnecessary guilt. So it's just, it's crazy, but that's what that's all about, you know, and everyone has it, but we manage through.

Natalie: Well, first before we talk about like solutions to that, everybody's a little different, so everybody has a different tolerance level for like what they can work in and what I'm sure kind of makes them feel crazy. Like my tolerance level for like stuff not being done is really low. I have to have it done.

What do you suggest for people that feel kind of overwhelmed and can relate to this? What what's a good place to start.

Dai: Yeah, I think you've made a good point.

A lot of people starting that I don't know where to start, so they put it off and don't do it. So the first thing is just like being honest with yourself on what you need. Some people do need every day to declutter their desk to start their day. Some people can do it weekly.

So kind of figuring out what you need to function is the first step. Like what makes you comfortable? And if you're, if you're able to function with a little mess, that's okay. Don't make yourself feel guilty if you have some things on your desk or like some clutter temporarily long as you have a system to turn it around.

So what I'll do is I'll talk with people about their, like, what's your flow? Like, how do you, how do you move your business? Like, how do you move through your home life? What do you need? We'll observe things and kind of figure out, you know, what are your steps? What are your processes that you have in place?

Cause you're going to be a creature of habit. And then what are these tiny tweaks we can make? Like we're not going to overhaul the whole system. We may add a day or a couple of hours to have a to-do list for you to do something different, to achieve what you want.

For example, if you are the type of person who doesn't like clutter every single day on your desk, what we'll do is we'll create your system to where you set an alarm on your phone, whatever, like 15 minutes before four, to clean your desk.

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That's all you're going to do to make that system work for you. That's where you start.

For me, I like to take Thursday evenings to clean my desk off, so I don't have to have a clean desk every day.

Cause I know that's how I like to start fresh or Friday and get ready for the next week. So that's my system. So it's just tiny things you do to make it easier. And then give yourself some grace where you may not be able to follow up on that all the time, but that's where you start to start small.

Find a little quick thing you could do to change your situation and we start there and then we'll build upon that.

Natalie: I like that idea of, of starting small. Would you say that's a way to sort of measure your healthy tolerance level for stuff not being organized is when the guilt starts to creep in?

Dai: I feel like people call me, the organizer, when they're like at their wit's end and they're ready to make a change.

You will know when you're ready when you're like at your breaking point. You're like, “okay, I need help. I can't function.”

And then you just start taking those steps.

Natalie: We're speaking predominantly to small business owners here, but, what about people hiring help?

Dai: I am a huge fan of hiring help. I started hiring early in my business because my bandwidth was probably shorter, smaller than others. I worked, I had little kids, so I knew right away, I'm gonna need help. I hired babysitters. I hired cleaning people. I hired a virtual assistant. I hired someone to do marketing.

I hired early because I felt like the benefit outweighed the cost. So that's what you have to measure. If you feel like you can be more productive with help, there's no need for you to run around in circles and wear yourself out when there's an out qualified expert to do the job much more efficiently than you ever could.

Natalie: This has been a huge one for me too, because I like that you said that these are folks that can do it better than you can. That is such a huge one for me to recognize. I was hating my life doing my taxes and spending like entire Sundays like cleaning because I was working and busy during the week and then shooting weddings on Saturdays.

You can outsource that. So if you feel like something is that is important is out of your wheelhouse: taxes, social media, organizing, whatever you hire someone so that, that can get you to focus on your business. You are the CEO of your business. You're not the CEO of making sure your papers are filed or whatever. I feel like, normalize getting help sooner if.

But obviously make sure that it's in budgeting, make sure you really bet the help that you're going to get, that they're going to add more value to you in the short-term and long-term.

I was like, this is dumb. Cause now I'm, even though I can do it, I don't have time for other things that are really important, like self care stuff. But like, as soon as I got some of this stuff off my plate, it freed me up to do so many other things in my business.

And not only that, like the help that I do have is so minimal. It could be like a couple hundred dollars every couple of weeks that you'd normally spend going out to eat or whatever.

Dai: If you're doing it, what are you not doing for your business?

If you're cleaning and doing your taxes, then you're not able to go out and complete the jobs or network or whatever you need to do for your business. So the trade off is there for sure.

Natalie: And I think the thing that ends up happening, it's not that you can't sustain that, but I think what I've seen is that's the difference between what I call the hamster wheel and growth. So like you can just maintain and juggle it all, you know, but you're not going to have any room or space or energy to grow your business.

Dai: It may not be exactly how you would do it because a business is your baby, but sometimes done is better than perfect.

But I think that hiring help or normalizing getting help is definitely something us business owners should think about doing for our own sanity and success in our business.

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Dai: So as a business owner, solopreneur, you just cannot afford not to be organized. Organization is so important for your growth, your sustainability and your sanity. And so I really do have a mission and a purpose to help other entrepreneurs like myself, you know, find solutions just to help them grow and make things more simpler by upgrading the systems and their processes that they probably already have in place, just so they can be more present, be more productive and be more profitable in business.

Natalie: I love it. It's so important. It's just such a big one. And I think when I see folks get more organized and more clear about what they're doing, when they sit down to work and what their goals are, they're just happier.

What do you find, what do you see in your own work with folks as like a very common issue, as far as disorganization, what is something that you often find yourself addressing with people?

Dai: They see the need for being organized. Like that's the reason why they reached out to me and they want to do it. They have a desire, but they're stagnant because they really don't see that they have time to do it. Like they put it off because they think, “oh my gosh, I don't have time to figure this out.”

“I don't know where to start. I don't know what I need.” And so they put it off and that just makes them feel even more guilty. Cause a mess is still there, but they know they're responsible for it.

So they come to me with these issues and they want me to be…kind of be a magician, like transform what they have going on. And I take that very seriously because I know that organization is not just like, you know, I'm finding bins and cleaning up paper. It's transformational.

The people that I work with, they keep the organizational systems in place for months, years to come. Cause I'm shifting how they move and how they live and how they run their businesses. I take that very seriously.

Natalie: When people come to me and we worked together on organization, I think that's such a huge important point to make for folks listening is that this is much like diet and exercise. This is a shift in how you do things.

Dai: That mindset shift, “you can do this, we're gonna figure out what you need.” I'm trying to empower them, cause when I leave, you gotta maintain it. You gotta train your staff. You gotta know that “I'm not an organized person, but I can be organized.”

Natalie: Let's talk about some stuff like some actionable stuff that you might have may or may not have prepared.

Dai: So, with business owners, I'm going to help you be more present in your business. You know, if you're distracted or you're stressed. You're not motivated. You're like rushing around just doing everything, all of the things. And you're really not present in your business.

You know, you're like doing the things that aren't necessary for your business growth and sustainability. So I'm going to help you be more present. And we do that by creating, you know, systems that use technology that uses better to-do priority lists, better calendars, different things to really streamline your efforts so that you can delegate, automate and be more present and not be weighed down with the things and the new tasks that aren't as important. So we talk about that because that's super important. You're the CEO. You're probably the most passionate one in the business. So if you're not present and you're not there, then the business suffers.

So let's see how to remove the things that aren't helping you. We talk about outsourcing and hiring. That could be a solution too, so that you can be more present. So that's one thing that I coach clients on using technology and systems and tools and software so that you can be doing the things that you need to do to show up.

Natalie: The delegating and automating thing is so massive.

As soon as you can get your client onboarding experience as automated as possible, at least for me, that was a big first step that I took. Or is that something that you talk to folks about or are there any other things that are sort of first steps for people to think about?

Dai: You can automate how to get clients in. You can automate lead generation systems. Certain ads, certain emails that go out social media campaigns, just to get people in.

And then once they become a client, you said to automate emails, workflow things, document sharing, project management tools. It is a lot that you can do. And sometimes it's overwhelming because you're not a virtual assistant that knows how to use all these systems.

You're a photographer. So it may seem overwhelming that we have all these platforms. That's a whole other hurdle that we'll overcome, but just know that these are the things that if you put in the time now, It's going to pay off in the end, because these are the tasks that are taking you away from being present.

Just think of the investment you put in now with time and money for these systems are going to help you to grow and scale.

Natalie: I think it's worth pointing out for some folks, it's not about growing their business. But [they] just want more time with [their] family or [they] want more time on the beach or whatever. So I think what I'm noticing with all this organization, including the stuff we talked about on the last episode is that it just, it really boils down to, if you were to strip away all of the things, like the thing that we're after here is making better use of time. That is the one thing we only have so much of. And it's almost like our brain plays this weird trick, like, “oh, I've got tons of it”, but like, it goes by fast and you never get it back. And I think that the sooner you can get yourself away from tasks that make you sad, [the better.]

It doesn't really matter what you want to use the time for, if you want to grow your business into an eight figure business, or you just want to like have more time for yoga class or whatever, it doesn't matter.

Dai: You know, you want a shorter work week. You want to end your day at three and go pick your kids up. These systems are here to help you to put those things in place for whatever your goals are.

Natalie: I have one more question since we're talking about time and we're talking about organization. What's something people can do to better organize their time? What would you recommend for people that are like, I feel like I'm working like till three in the morning?

Dai: Setting a plan for your day, you know, mapping it out with some flexibility. Take the time to set a strategic plan for how you're going to function throughout your day.

What are the top three to five things you want to accomplish that day? That is one way to do it.

And include in there. If you haven't put in these systems, carve out some time and data like implement some of those. You know, maybe an hour a day. Okay. “Let me learn about click up. Let me learn about acuity. Let me learn about labeling my email so that they can be organized.” So planning out your day is step number one to being able to have that freedom. Then setting boundaries, knowing that you don't want to work 24 7. You want to work until three or five.

your business energy and how it's helping you to grow or holding you back. organization

So knowing that you may need to cut off appointments at a certain time, you may need to turn down some meetings so that they won't go over. When you have your goals and objectives for your business, stick to those, and don't let other things come in. Set boundaries so that you're not pulled in so many directions to where you can't end your day when you want. Of course, you're going to have some days where you are going to have to be flexible.

But my “no” game is strong. I'm like, “no, I can't do that.” I have this evening and this evening that I'm out and I'm not going to be out on a Wednesday or Monday, like it's not happening.

So it's kind of like, you know, being very diligent about your time is definitely a tip I would give.

Natalie: That's really important. Your “no” game is strong. Learning to say no is something that's taken me a decade to really figure out as far as my business goes, because it's hard, especially when you're starting out and you're like, I want clients.

It's really hard to put those boundaries in, but you end up feeling totally frazzled and overworked if you don't. So that's a good one. I'm glad you brought up, like practicing saying no.

Do you do your planning for the day the night before?

Dai: I do the Friday because I'm clearing my desk, cleaning everything out on Thursday.

I do my planning on Friday. I do annual planning, quarterly planning too.

Natalie: Yeah, that's a big one. I think for me, I revisit my list. I do quarterly planning as well. And then I look at the week and I pull stuff from the week list into my next day. So I get a really good feel for like how much I can get done in a day as well.

Dai: And I say weekly, because sometimes it can't be done in a day. They take a little bit longer. I'm able to have that wiggle room, but if something's due, then obviously that needs to be in the reminder to do it. You can add it onto the next day or prioritize. Just the hard things first is probably a good rule of thumb also.

Dai: Oh, the many hats we wear as entrepreneurs.

So many things to do in so little time. But we make it work.

Natalie: Yeah, we do. I just can't stress enough if you're listening and you're feeling disorganized in your life or your business, Dai has some amazing systems that can help you.

Dai: And if you want to connect me one-on-one and talking about your organizational goals as a business owner, or just for your home, you can visit, meet with Dai at and set up a consultation. I hope you guys will connect with me. We can figure out how to be more organized so you can be more present and profitable and productive in your business.

Natalie: Before we go, what is one piece of advice that really helps you?

Dai: This is from Joshua Becker. “What if the life you always wanted to live was buried under all the stuff that you own?”


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