Organization Station

As managing editor of Qualified Remodeler, one of my primary responsibilities is to know the status of each of our articles for each issue. There was a time I used sticky notes to write my tasks on and posted them on the rim around my computer monitor. That was effective for a bit, but eventually my computer monitor wasn’t big enough to hold all my to-do items and I was going through sticky notes at an alarming rate.

Nowadays, I keep a detailed color-coded Excel spreadsheet, use my Outlook calendar to set tasks with reminders and rely on an old-fashioned desktop calendar so I can see the whole month at a glance. On a personal level, I use a color-coded Google calendar to keep track of appointments, vacations, birthdays and much more.

As remodelers, you have to juggle many projects at once. The kitchen five minutes down the road from your office might be in the final stages while the deck addition four suburbs away might be stalled because of material delivery delays. Meanwhile, the clients of the exterior facelift you’re working on have decided to change their design vision. How do you manage all this, still run a business and remember to pick up a gift for your niece’s third birthday party this weekend?

For many, smartphones, tablets, Blackberrys and other tech devices are the key to organization success. Some still prefer a paper and pencil approach. Whatever your chosen method, as long as nothing falls through the cracks, it works.

Many of you have been struggling for years to stay afloat and, in the process, have watched colleagues and friends go out of business. Those of you who are in business are realizing the scope of your job has changed. Whereas before you may have had an entire team to manage projects, today you might have just one or two people, yet your customers still are expecting quality, timely work. Part of the solution to that equation is to plan for each of your responsibilities. Know exactly what you need to do, know each task’s deadline and know approximately how long each task will take.

I’ve found that designating chunks of time for my tasks has helped. If I have a feature-length story to write, I’ve learned it’s most effective if I ignore the flood of emails I get daily and carve out a few hours of uninterrupted time. Although it’s difficult to step away from cyberspace, once I accomplish my task I have the time and focus to thoughtfully respond to messages I missed.

A recent LinkedIn discussion in our Qualified Remodeler group revolved around calendar apps. Our members recommended Basecamp, Google Calendar,, and BuilderTREND, to name just a few. Myriad options are out there. What you choose depends on personal preference and certain features you’re looking for in your program.

Tell us, what are your secrets to staying organized?