Maybe is’t because we’re homebound during corona times. Or maybe it’s because we’ve been coming up with so many ideas lately. But we felt the urge of decluttering our team notebook.
Recently we noticed that not just our heads were filled, our note taking app (Notion) was as well. What started out as a well designed notebook, turned into a messy collection. Time to declutter!
How to declutter your notes
We use Notion to keep track of all our ideas for social media posts, blog posts and our business plan. Not to mention the outlines, texts and ideas for lessons and topics for the courses we are developing at Curbn.
Being a startup ourselves, we organize stuff as things develop. In this case it all started out as a one man show (woman actually) and then as Curbn grew, things got out of hand. Plans changed, projects were added, old ideas lingered around. And because we were too busy, no one took the time to sort things out.
1. Time is all that matters
And that’s probably were it starts when coming to keeping your work environment organized: it takes time. And while running a startup no one really has that. So the first thing to do when it comes to this is dedicating time in your calendar. It’s well worth the investment, certainly in the long run and most certainly when your team grows.
Maybe the second would be to ask someone else to help you. This will ensure that you will actual do it, since decluttering is usually something a lot of people procrastinate on. Make sure this person does not have the same aversion to the job as you. Otherwise you both end up doing vaguely related things instead of really getting the job done. Trust us, we’ve been there!
2. Create an outline
Once you have found that person or if it’s just you in the team, start sifting through the notes. At this point, you should resist the urge to read every single one of them. The goal of this phase is to get an idea on what is in your collection of notes. And trying to decipher the logic behind it.
Basically there are two options:
- The logic you started out with still makes sense and is still applicable.
- It is no longer logical and you realize that you need to take a different approach.
So, while going through the system, you might want to jot down some ideas on how to organize stuff in a better way.
There’s one thing startups all have in common: they are very dynamic. So don’t try to make it perfect, just create an outline. You will change it later on, it’s never fixed.
3. Check your logic
Make sure your system fits your team, not the other way around! This only applies when you’re sharing your notes with team members and in such a case is crucial for success. And do you have one or more persons in your team that seem to be a little chaotic? If yes, it would be advisable to check with them first. If they get it and are able to use the system, everyone else will.
So ask your team members how they use the info. Where would they search for it, what sections or items are really important, which ones aren’t?
4. Start reorganizing
Now it’s actually time to do some real decluttering and getting rid of those old ideas. And rearrange stuff in a better way and combining separate lists that belong together.
Again, make sure you don’t spend too much time on reading every item and getting lost. When you find yourself thinking something like “Hmm, oh, this is interesting! I totally forgot why had this!” it’s probably the moment where you pull yourself together and move forward. If it’s really worth reading, you can put it on your todo-list for later review.
How to organize
When it comes to organizing your notes app, it pays off to keep certain things in mind.
1. Keep it simple
This one comes around a lot here at Curbn. But that’s only because it’s probably the most solid piece of advice one could give, simplicity really is the key. If you want to keep track of everything, you better make sure it’s easy to use and easy to understand. And when it comes at that, research unfortunately shows that our brain’s resources are limited.
The culprit seems to be your working memory, which according to science, can only hold 4-6 items at the same time. So if you want to keep track of things at a glance, you should really limit the number of items on a list or in a folder.
2. Put 1 person in charge
Although everybody in your team might be able to add info to the system, make sure that not everybody is allowed to change the structure and design. That would be a sure way to creating chaos, with extra lists that contain similar items. Or new sections added when there already was a section where this info belonged.
So it’s best to assign a team member to keeping your information system organized and have your other team members ask them to add a new section or category. As your startup grows and you form multiple teams, you might want to assign more than one person.
Declutter on a regular base
Small things done consistently, in strategic places, create major impact. – David Allen
Having done all this, you think the job is done, right? Unfortunately, it’s not. Any information system, whether it’s a simple note taking app or a full CRM plus extra’s, will only function truly awesome when it stays organized. Maintenance is the key and that means going through all the steps all over again.
It’s best done frequently, because that will keep you from spending hours figuring out what the best structure is. Make a habit of reviewing it once every month. That should limit the amount of time it takes you to optimize it. And as this will help optimize your performance and your team’s, you will find this a small price to pay.
Happy decluttering and organizing!