Successful Nonprofits : Organization for Low Stress & High Efficiency

Get and stay organized

The Secret to Low Stress & High Efficiency with Susie Hayman

Get and stay organized

The Secret to Low Stress & High Efficiency with Susie Hayman

by GoldenburgGroup

Wouldn’t it be nice to never lose another file? Or have time for lunch between meetings? Or get home on time?

If you feel that way, it’s time to get organized! Organizing expert, Susie Hayman, joins us with some tips to get organized, as well as what you can expect if you hire a professional organizer. Listen in to get organized, reduce your stress and increase your efficiency!

Listen to the Episode Here!


Website: In Your Business

Susie’s LinkedIn

Website: NAPO


(3:18) Paper and electronic filing

(13:12) Emails

(17:05) Managing others’ expectations

(19:44) What you can expect from a professional organizer


Dolph Goldenburg (00:00):

Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast. I’m your host, Dolph Goldenburg. Getting and staying organized takes practice. And while organization may come easier for some than for others, it is important for us all to remember that healthy organizational habits are the core of staying organized. In general, organized people are more productive, less stressed, they sleep better and all around feel less overwhelmed. Being organized at work means you don’t lose important documents or miss key deadlines. It means stronger communication and better focus on the tasks at hand. And ultimately organization means happier stakeholders and, of course, reduced cost for your organization. This comes up so often in my executive coaching work that I’ll actually be hosting a webinar on October 14th on this very topic. You can sign up for the webinars at And I’ll share a little more about the webinar at the close of the show. Today, though, we’re going to be discussing how we can get organized despite those mountains of paper files that might be sitting on your office desk and maybe your home desk, too. Digital documents, stashed all over your desktop that are otherwise either there or haphazardly saved to your server. Competing deadlines. And of course that ever growing list of to-do items. It seems like things don’t really come off of it, but things always get added to it.

Dolph Goldenburg (01:39):

So how can we possibly find the time or energy to organize all of that? There is hope and today’s guest, Susie Hayman, helps us bring that hope in. She started her company, In Your Business, in 2002 and she helps businesses and nonprofits get organized. From developing filing systems to creating workflow processes, Susan helps her clients find the tools and resources they need to get and stay organized. Susie is also the board secretary of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). So Susie is an expert when it comes to developing those healthy organizational habits. So please join me in welcoming Susie to the podcast. Susie, welcome. How are you doing today?

Susie Hayman (02:36):

I’m doing great, Dolph, and thank you for having me. I’m actually the President of NAPO. I served as Secretary prior to coming into my role as President Elect and now President. So I’m really happy to be here today and share my knowledge with all of your listeners.

Dolph Goldenburg (03:01):

Oh my gosh. Well, first of all, I am so sorry. I missed your promotion to President, so I apologize. But I would love for us to get started. You’ve got more than 18 years of professional experience as an organizer. So what tips do you have for us?

Susie Hayman (03:18):

I have a lot of tips, everything from paper management tips to electronic file tips, to tackling email, to setting boundaries, to scheduling and the dreaded to-do list. So I’ll start with paper. I may go back and forth a little bit between paper and electronic file management. Because, ideally, if you have both systems, and there’s nothing wrong with having both, then you need those systems to mimic each other. So, first of all, paper has not gone away. You hear the term “paperless” a lot. Paperless doesn’t mean no paper. It means less paper. So paper has not gone away. The biggest thing about filing paper, I think, is learning how to sort and categorize it.

Susie Hayman (04:34):

So that’s the first step: going through the pieces of paper and deciding if it’s something important that you need to keep, if it’s something you can toss, or if it’s something that needs to be shredded. You should always do this over the trashcan so that you can get rid of it when you need to get rid of it. What I see a lot of times with paper, especially with nonprofits, is that they have multiple copies of the same document. And you don’t need that. One thing from working with nonprofits that I’ve noticed about paper filing is generally there is an individual filing system for each individual, and then there’s more of a central filing system for the nonprofit. So a lot of the decisions that have to be made are going to be made around which pile the paper goes into. So once you’ve sorted the paper, you want to make categories of like things and you want to name those things. Now you can be creative with naming your files. You want to name them so that you know where to look for them, not so that somebody else knows where to look for them. That being said, if it’s a central filing system, it’s going to take a collaborative effort to determine the best naming system.

Dolph Goldenburg (06:01):

How many nonprofit organizations have a naming system for files so that everybody is using the same system? That way, if someone leaves, others know where to find a file.

Susie Hayman (06:14):

Hopefully the majority of them have. I always suggest that when I’m working with a nonprofit. My first nonprofit job was actually a nonprofit that I had worked with in the past as an employee. Their primary challenge was that they had so many copies of the same thing. And a central filing system doesn’t need 50 copies of the annual report or the invitation to a gala or a thank you letter. So when you have that centralized filing system, especially for nonprofits, you have to come up with a name that’s going to work for everybody. And the broader you can make it, the better. When you start getting into a million folders and files, that’s when it really gets difficult.

Dolph Goldenburg (07:21):

I have found that’s not just a paper phenomenon. I cannot share with you how many times I end up as an interim executive director somewhere and I’m looking at a server and there are six or seven or eight copies of the same file, but they’ve all been saved on different dates. And then you’re trying to figure out which one is the current file,

Susie Hayman (07:46):

Right. That’s a really hard thing to crack sometimes, Dolph. Sometimes it’s that way because people name them differently even though it’s the same thing. And that’s why I say you have to come up with some nomenclature that’s going to work for everybody. Decide if you want to make it a topical category and then drill it down. Or whether you want to make it a date category and drill it down from there. Sometimes I think the date category works better because it gives you a more current thing. And then you can take what was older and archive it later on.

Dolph Goldenburg (08:29):

One of the things I love about using the date, especially in something like a finance office, is then all documents can just end up in chronological order. So if you start with the year and then the month and then the day, you know that they’re always going to be in that date order.

Susie Hayman (08:56):

Exactly. The other thing that can muddy the waters a little bit is that people are sharing documents as they create them and make changes, like with Google Docs. There has to be somebody responsible for that document. Somebody who’s going to make sure that the most current revision of it is the one that’s kept. You don’t need a million iterations of it.

Dolph Goldenburg (09:36):

How time consuming is it for that one person who has to be responsible to make sure that they’ve got the most recent, most accurate approved iteration?

Susie Hayman (09:45):

I guess it depends on the size of the group. If it’s just an individual filing system, obviously it’s not going to take as long. You have to take time to do these things. One of the biggest things about organizing and being more productive is that once you’ve come up with a system that works, you have to give yourself time to maintain that system.

Dolph Goldenburg (10:18):

On average, how much time should someone set aside in their week for maintaining their organizing system?

Susie Hayman (10:26):

I would say if you have a good, valid system that an hour should do it.

Dolph Goldenburg (10:31):

One hour a week. And what is the person doing in those 60 minutes? Like really break this down for our listeners.

Susie Hayman (10:37):

If you’ve developed a system, you may not even need that because you’re doing it as you go along. For example, I usually go through all my emails on Sunday and I clear out my inbox. Depending on what kind of week I’ve had and what I need to do, that could take me 20 minutes or it could take me an hour. It’s the same with the digital files and paper files. I think paper files are actually somewhat easier because you can do it as you go along. And some people prefer to do that. I tend to file as I go. So I don’t have a stack of papers to file at the end of the day.

Dolph Goldenburg (11:31):

And so you’re filing throughout the week. But Susie, I know we all have some unfiled digital files by the end of the week. Maybe we threw them on our desktop or we’ve got four or five or six different documents that are in our to-do box. What do you do with all that at the end of the week?

Susie Hayman (11:50):

I only use my desktop for shortcuts to my files that I need to get to on a regular basis. Now, occasionally, if I am working on a document, I will put it on my desktop temporarily. But then I always move it to where it should go. And again, I file any attachments right away that I need to keep when I’m cleaning out my inbox. I’m not probably the norm in that. Some weeks are more hectic and I may not do everything as I go. If my inbox gets above a hundred, I start to get really anxious. Then I have clients that whose inbox is 3,000. That can take a really long time. That can take hours to go through, especially if you’ve got to read everyone.

Dolph Goldenburg (12:53):

I say that all the time: if you get a hundred emails a day and you don’t have a really good system for easily reviewing and responding to those emails, you are going to spend half to three quarters of your day just on email before you do any real work that you’re paid to do. So what’s your secret for keeping your emails down to a minimum?

Susie Hayman (13:12):

First thing is always check your email when you have time to process it. If you don’t have time to process it, then you’re just wasting time looking at it. It’s not doing anything. If you have 15 minutes to process your incoming email, you can automatically delete things. You can move things to folders, you can flag them. The other thing that I suggest is that you have a separate email for all those personal things or things that you order from stores because we all get those daily. And we don’t want to always unsubscribe because we’re afraid we’re going to miss a deal or something. So have a separate email that those kinds of things go to. Also, I highly recommend that you schedule specific times throughout the day to check your email.

Dolph Goldenburg (14:05):

You and I are so similar in that. I always try to schedule a few times every day to check my email. I have the four Ds: do, delete, delegate, defer. Do: if I can do it in a minute or less, I’ll do it. Delete: I ask myself, can I just delete it? For example, if I’m one of 123 people blind copied on an email, there’s probably nothing really required of me and I can delete it. Delegate: is there someone else I can send this to and have them do it? Defer: if it’s going to take 10 or more minutes, I defer it. Though I always schedule an email I defer for later that week or the following week. And I reply to the person to let them know when I’ve scheduled to work on it and when they can expect a response by.

Susie Hayman (14:53):

Exactly. And letting them know when to expect your response is good, especially for those people who want the instant response. Another recommendation I’ve heard is to do an important, constructive task first thing, before you check your email. Some people wake up and they go get their phone and they check their email. And then all of a sudden they’re consumed into it.

Dolph Goldenburg (15:33):

So Susie, I have that experience, too. I had to train myself to not check my email first thing, because email becomes this monster that hijacks our day. So we get this email and think we’ve got to deal with it right now. And suddenly two hours are gone. I start almost every day with a little 3×5 card with a list of things on it that I want to make sure I get done. And my goal is the deep think, because my best time is the morning. So if I need to write something, if I really need to work through something, I’ll do that in the morning before I check email. Because once I’ve checked email, that can destroy the whole day.

Susie Hayman (16:09):

Right. And the other difficulty that I see a lot of people having is their ability to set boundaries. Because the email thing works in the evening, too. I’m working with myself not to check my email after 8pm because there’s always somebody on the West Coast that’s emailed me. And all of a sudden I’m thinking about how I’m going to respond to that person tomorrow. But it interferes with my sleep and interferes with my me-time. And it can really grab hold of you. Having to manage that email gets harder and harder, especially as technology just keeps taking over such a big part of our life.

Dolph Goldenburg (17:05):

So Susie, how do you manage expectations? Let’s say you’ve got a client or multiple clients on the West Coast and you’re on the East Coast. How do you manage expectations about when you’re going to be responsive and when you’re not?

Susie Hayman (17:18):

I think you have to make the decision and then you have to let people know what that decision is. I’ve told members of NAPO and my NAPO Board that I go to bed early. So if you’re on the West Coast, don’t be texting me or calling me at midnight. You have to manage those expectations like you do with anything else. Distractions are really bad now. And the ability to focus is really bad now. And obviously COVID has added to that because so many people are working from home and the distractions are greater. When you’re in the office, the distraction is a coworker coming in with a question or a supervisor coming in with more tasks to accomplish. You still have to manage those expectations and let people know, “Hey, if my door is closed, don’t bother me.” Or, “On Mondays between 10 and 12, I’m working on payroll. Don’t bother me.”

Susie Hayman (18:28):

It’s harder when you’re working from home, obviously because people have animals and children. They have more distractions than ever. And it’s even more important to determine what your boundaries are, to set those boundaries and to let people know what those boundaries are. And they have to be realistic. I see all kinds of smart, bright, successful people over-scheduling themselves. And then wondering why they are always rushed. They schedule back-to-back meetings. They don’t give themselves time to breathe, let alone to eat, sleep, or take a bathroom break. And things never happen as quickly as you expect them to happen.

Dolph Goldenburg (19:22):

To your point, I think that organizational system we’ve created falls apart when we’re not scheduling that break, that downtime, that time to do deep work or even that time to do busy work. Because we don’t have the time. Even though it might only take a few minutes a day, we don’t have those few minutes a day to actually keep that system.

Susie Hayman (19:44):

And that’s when you need to call on a professional sometimes.

Dolph Goldenburg (19:48):

I love it. So let me ask you this: when someone calls in a professional, what should they be expecting?

Susie Hayman (19:53):

Well they should start off by going to There’s a lot of information on the website about what a professional organizer will do, what someone who is in move management will do, what a productivity consultant will do. So all of those things are there to help you understand. This is a group of over 3,000 professionals who basically change lives. They help clients with their environment and with their workflow. They do everything they can to bring order and efficiency to their clients’ personal and professional lives. It’s kind of like a personal trainer or a financial advisor or somebody like that. The idea is to improve your quality of life, whether it’s your personal life or whether it’s your professional life. Everybody works differently. Some work in person and some virtually. Some people will work one-on-one, side-by-side with you sort of like a body double. You’d be amazed how much someone can get done when they are working with someone like that. However, when it comes time to do it themselves, oftentimes everything falls apart. Then those are people who need ongoing support. Our goal is to transfer skills. At least, that’s, that’s my goal. You can’t always do that. It doesn’t always happen.

Dolph Goldenburg (21:39):

For those folks that do need ongoing support, what does that look?

Susie Hayman (21:44):

It could be anything from once a week to once a month to once a quarter. It’s kind of like having somebody set up a system and conduct a maintenance check. For example, I come in and set up a filing system for someone in their home office. They, for whatever reason, are unable to maintain that system. So I come back once a month and I might do all their filing for them. I may come back once a month and help them with their scheduling or help them block off some time for a particular project or block off some time for a particular task that they’ve been unable to do.

Dolph Goldenburg (22:38):

So you’ll provide that high touch if they need it. You will file if they need help with filing. You’ll give a scheduling refresher course if they need help with scheduling.

Susie Hayman (22:48):


Dolph Goldenburg (22:49):

Awesome. Susie, I want to make sure that we have time for the off-the-map question. This is a way for our listeners to get to know you just a little bit better, get to know you as a person. And I understand that you have been married for almost five full decades.

Susie Hayman (23:11):


Dolph Goldenburg (23:11):

First of all, it’s pretty amazing. You don’t see that many people who marry their high school sweetheart and then stay married for five decades. What have you learned and what do you have to share with us about a successful marriage?

Susie Hayman (23:27):

Well I’ve learned a lot from my family. I had two very loving, dedicated parents, and it wasn’t hard for me to want the same for myself. I’ve actually been with my husband since we were 15. So it’s a little more than 50 years that we’ve been together. I think the biggest things are honesty, trust, and transparency. And devotion and commitment and wanting to make the relationship work. I think another big factor is letting each of those individuals be their own person, as well as being part of you and part of the relationship. I can only hope that I give my husband that same freedom that he gives me. We both have always allowed one another to do what we wanted to do, to pursue what we wanted to pursue and not judge or try to control the other’s goals or where they want to be.

Dolph Goldenburg (24:59):

Susie, thank you so much for sharing those tips for us on how we can all have successful marriages and relationships, too. I can only imagine that with five decades of marriage, you’ve been through good times and you’ve been through bad times. And as you said, sometimes you just have to say, okay, we’re dedicated and devoted and committed to making this work. Thank you so much for sharing,

Dolph Goldenburg (25:20):

Susie, I am so grateful that you’ve joined us today on the podcast. Listeners, if you want to learn more about Susie and the ways that she can help you get organized, whether that’s at your nonprofit or in your personal life, visit In Your Business’s website at Or you can connect with Susie directly on LinkedIn. Susie is the President of NAPO, so you can also visit NAPO’s website at There you can find professional organizers in your area that can help you and your nonprofit get organized, or even perhaps learn how to become a professional organizer yourself if you’re ready for that career shift. Hey, Susie, thank you again for joining us.

Susie Hayman (26:19):

Thank you, Dolph, it’s been a pleasure.

Dolph Goldenburg (26:22):

Listeners, if you missed those links because you were writing up your organizational to-do list so you can start feeling less overwhelmed and more productive, then head over to You will find the URL for Susie’s business, as well as the URL for NAPO. And if your list involves getting things in your organized, make sure you reach out to Susie via her website or LinkedIn. But if your list includes addressing issues with your board, your staff or funders, then reach out to us about our coaching opportunities at As I mentioned at the top of the hour, a lot of my coaching work also involves helping nonprofit professionals feel less overwhelmed. In fact, this comes up so often with my coaching clients, that I will be hosting a free webinar on this very subject on Wednesday, October 14th. If you want to spend 50% less time on email and take control of your schedule, visit time to learn more. That is our show for this week, Listeners. I hope you have gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.

Dolph Goldenburg (27:42):

I am not an accountant or attorney and neither I nor the Goldenburg Group provide tax legal or accounting advice. This material has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified, licensed professional about such matters.


**  We have edited this transcript because how you listen is not how you read. If you have a problem with this, remember you got this for free!


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