This labor day weekend I have decided to get organized at my home office. It feels good to have less clutter and to create breathing space. And you never know what you are going to find (I found an unopened bottle of nutmeg seeds, go figure)! Here are 10 ways to get organized at work:
Can´t find the half eaten cookie on your desk? Are you rushing to find papers and files before heading to meetings? Is your IT person begging you to clean out emails before you bring down the network? Are you feeling as though you are not on top of things? Try this:
Understand your purpose and priorities
It would be a shame if you took the time and effort to get organized around the wrong work! Planning and organization begins with a clear understanding of purpose and priorities. If you had to describe the most important reason your job exists, what would you say?
Take 10 minutes to plan the day
In the time it takes to enjoy a double tall skinny hazelnut latte (I live in Seattle), you can get work off to a smooth start. Begin the day right by taking the first few minutes to plan. Prepare and set aside materials for the day´s meetings. Clear some of the clutter from your work area. Verify your calendar and decide what your focus will be.
Close out the day well
One of the ways to ensure that you do not walk into a mess at the beginning to the workday is to make sure you leave things organized. Even fried and tired brains can answer quick emails, tidy up the desk piles and prepare for tomorrow. No brain surgery needed! Ever watch how a restaurant closes for the day? Servers and cooks put everything away and clean all the surfaces. We can do that too and it can take as little as 10 minutes.
Get rid of LVA to-do list items
Scan your to-do list. There will be some items that should not be there because doing them would not be a great use of your time. These LVA, or low value added, items need to come of the list. If you can´t recognize which tasks might be LVA, ask a trusted peer or manager. For each task ask two questions: 1. Should I be doing this task? 2. Will completing this task make a significant difference to the business? If the answer is no or maybe, question whether the task belongs on your to-do list.
Get rid of your to-do list
Some managers live and die by their to-do lists. Try working without one for a week and focus on the work that you know to be important and useful. Focus on ways you can impact your function´s success and move work forward. You may find that you feel more organized and focused without your to-do lists (ironic since its purpose is to simplify work). Managers who spend time doing great work do not feel disorganized.
Organize when no one is around
Are you so disorganized that 10 minutes in the morning just isn´t going to cut it? Try coming in for a few hours on the weekend when less people are around (or on labor day, like I am doing). It will feel great to organize and plan for the week. Get a jump on the week by scheduling all your meetings for the next two weeks. Clear out your email backlog. Create new files and determine your top priorities.
Many managers do not delegate as much as they should and agree to do too much. As these tasks pileup, you will lose control over your time and effectiveness and begin to feel overwhelmed. Deciding how to spend your time is easier when you can delegate tasks to the appropriate team member.
Use the tools that work for you
We have different organizational styles. Some of us have piles on our desks while others go nuts unless they file everything in a cabinet. There are no right or wrong ways to be, but you should select organization tools that match your style. For example, asking the person who prefers desktop piles to use file cabinets will likely fail. Some managers like to use planners, some prefer laminated wall calendars, and some want everything computerized. Whatever your preference, find the tools that match the way you like to work.
Get rid of clutter
If you follow the practice of Fen Shui at all, you have heard that clutter is our enemy. A messy workspace clutters the mind and gets in the way of our productivity. Clutter feels bad and eats away at our consciousness — ties up our ability to think clearly. It feels good to get rid of clutter and in doing so we can free up our mind for more meaningful work.
Ask for help when you need it
Are you disorganized because you are in over your head? If so, ask for help. Temporary or project based support can enable you to get back on track and organized. No one likes to feel behind in work. If you are in this predicament, define the help you need and ask for it!
Happy labor day – don’t work too hard!