Organization – you either love it or hate it; but the reality is you need it to complete your responsibilities and maintain your sanity.
I love organizational “stuff.” I could spend hours in stores that carry all kinds of items that help you organize everything from socks to your most important papers. However, all the “stuff” in the world won’t make you organized until you take some simple steps to make it happen.
Frustrated with your workload? Do you have trouble losing things on your desk? Wonder where your time went and why so little got done? Try some of the following suggestions I have learned along the way.
1. Most experts say “Keep things vertical!”
Your in-box is important, but things can get lost in a horizontal in-box. When papers pile up, you can miss an important contact or deadline. At one seminar I attended, it was suggested you use an expandable file with a flap as your in-box. This works especially well if you have confidential items that are placed in your in-box. The vertical file makes it easy for you to see and prioritize your work, and the flap keeps people from lingering to peruse items in your “in-box.”
2. Touch a paper one time, if possible.
If unable to handle immediately, file it in the appropriate vertical file to handle later. You can separate these files by category or by time frame to complete it.
“But I Hate Filing!” If you can file immediately, do so. This will save so much time when you need the item again. You can spend 20 minutes looking for a piece of paper that would have taken 1 minute if it had been properly filed? If your files are not located near you, place these items in a ‘To be filed” section and schedule 10-15 minutes a day to file.
To manage your time and workload, you need to evaluate the importance of each task. After reading several books and attending seminars, the consensus is to arrange your work/tasks as follows:
- Important – Urgent
- Important – Not Urgent
- Not Important – Urgent
- Not Important – Not Urgent
You can fit your entire day into one of these categories. Important/Urgent, and Important/Not Urgent need to be your focus. Some phone calls, mail, conversations, and even meetings can fit into the bottom two categories. If possible, these items should be limited and/or delegated. People are still more important than schedules, so handling these interruptions takes some graciousness and skill.
4. To Do Lists.
10 minutes at the end of the day can make tomorrow start smoothly. Before leaving work and while unfinished business is fresh on your mind, create your “To Do” list for the following day. The next morning, you don’t have to waste time trying to remember what you wanted to do first. No need to search for all those little notes you made to yourself. If you like, you can also put together the items you will need (files, reports, etc.) to complete your tasks.
Keep your “To Do” list realistic, so you are not frustrated with the impossible. If you have an item that needs to be handled next week, pend it to the day you will do it rather than clutter up your list for today. I keep “to do” lists electronically by date. That way I can add a pended item for the day I plan to do it. Once on my list, I can file the paper in the correct category file and not worry about it until it shows up on my list.
5. Don’t forget the “stuff.”
If you need things to help you organize your work area, the cost is minimal compared to the time you will save and the increase in productivity. Check options for organizing your area, plan out your space by considering your priorities and needs, and go shopping. If you aren’t naturally a well-organized person, get the advice of someone who is! A few dollars in the right place can save hundreds and even thousands in mistakes and lost revenue!
Remember, “getting organized” is a process. It takes time to develop what works best for you. No matter how much you plan, there will be times when you have to be flexible. If you miss a day filing, do it tomorrow. Carry over unfinished things to tomorrow’s To Do list. If you are organized, you can be more productive and satisfied with your work.