Lean in to the Chaos: Get Organized (Time to Get Your Ducks in a Row)

Life can be hectic! As a small business owner, or new entrepreneur, the stress can become too much at times! Productivity can drop to a dangerous level.

Here are a few steps I use to help me get back on track:  

#1 – Clean up

When mentally stuck, a good clean-up will help “shake things loose” – both literally and figuratively – and clarify appropriate action.

The physical office.  

When clutter reaches a certain point, concentration is compromised. Organizing the physical mess takes a lot of stress away. It can be energizing to accomplish something tangible.

The computer.

Emails accumulate! Setting up Outlook folders has helped me enormously, automatically removing non-critical emails from my Inbox and organizing them for future examination. My “industry” folder receives industry newsletters; my “emarketing” folder gets the promotional emails.   


If there is a relationship issue that needs to be addressed, concentration can be difficult. By taking a few minutes to make a call, write an email, or add it to my To Do list, I can re-focus on work. 

#2 – Prioritize

We all get distracted. It helps to be intentional about where we spend time.

Immediate needs

What have I overlooked that needs attention right now? Don’t stop until these tasks are handled.

Overall Priorities

On occasion, I need to step back and take a breath. What are my top priorities – the really big ones? Include personal and business priorities.

Priority of Each Task

Update your “To Do” list and classify each task into one of three categories:  High, Medium and Low; or A, B, C; or use color coding. I am a visual person and find that colors work best for me.

#3 – Focus on short term goals

Looking too far ahead can be overwhelming. Use your prioritization system to decide what should come next.

Start with priorities for the next seven days.  

Big priorities may not be completed in a week, requiring small intermediate steps. Monitoring my calendar and “To Do” list a week in advance helps me avoid surprises.

If you work with others, there is incredible value in weekly meetings. If you don’t work with others, have a meeting with yourself for one hour each week. Review your plan and “To Do” list and decide on your goals for the week.

Don’t let the bottom level priorities drift. Spend a little time on them each week – or delegate them if possible.

Each morning, have a plan for the day.  

Include a half-dozen items you hope to accomplish. Many days, new items will take priority, but there is always tomorrow. I like to prepare my work list before I leave the office, and my personal list before I go to bed. (I always feel better when I know I have a plan!)


I do not follow these steps in detail all the time. Sometimes that would add more stress! When I do use these guidelines – in my work and in my life – they help.

In addition, I believe in the power of prayer, the importance of relaxation, the refreshment of relationships and the benefit of physical exercise. 

Productive habits help minimize stress before it begins. Thirty days can turn a new pattern into a habit.

You have the power to lower your stress level. What efforts will give you the greatest stress-reducing impact?

Until we meet again,
The Entrepreneur’s Friend

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The Entrepreneur’s Friend® is a registered trademark of Wheaton Consulting Group LLC.   Photo credits: All photos were taken by Cynthia Wheaton and owned by Wheaton Consulting Group LLC except as noted. Coffee cup art by Jim Wheaton.   Author support: Fellow authors from The Wrinklings and Light of Carolina Christian Writers Group.