Tips for Getting Organized at Work
“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.” -Barbara Hemphill
Meetings, emails, phone ringing off the hook. How can you prioritize your work in the finance and investment industry where the environment is fast-paced and high-stress, so that you can go home on time?
What time is it????
How often have you wondered where the day went? You worked all day and it seems like you got nothing done. Your “To Do" Post It note is still on your desk with very few completed tasks. It feels like you just got to work and now it's already 5pm.
Have you ever wondered how to get it all done and manage your workload so that it fits into your lifestyle rather than your life fitting into your work? What would it mean for you if you could go home on time because you have mastered your schedule?
If you were to track your time, you may be surprised to learn how inefficient your current schedule is. Read this companion article about Finding More Time In Your Day so that you can get organized and productive!
How often have you gone off on a tangent during your work day only to realize you’ve just spent an hour on something you didn’t need to do right away?
Write it down!
I can directly attribute a major part of my business success to the way I organize my day. I have a Success Book (an actual notebook with the title of "Success Book" on the front). Each day I write in my notebook. I use a separate page for each day and I plan out each day for the entire week.
Even though I have a digital calendar on my mac, I still use a paper notebook for organizing my day because I find that having that visual reminder is important for me in creating intentions for the day.
I list my client calls and times, video meetings, in person meetings, tasks I need to accomplish that day, and people I need to call. This reinforces where I am and where I need to go.
You'll need to purchase a one-subject notebook for organizing your daily schedule. Here are the other steps in getting organized at work:
As the quote above states, messy documents littering your desk are just postphoned decisions hanging around and making a mess. Everytime you glance at your "pile," how do you feel? Distracted, let down, emotionally paralyzed?
Clean up your desk!
Everything has a place, so create the files and put stuff in an organized place where you can find it again. Or, digitize it! Coming to work at a desk that is free from distractions and piles of stuff creates an amazing feeling of peace. So to decrease stress, spend time to organize.
Do it, dump it, get organized!
Back in 2004 when I completed my coach training we had to go through an exercise called "Eliminating Tolerations." We were tasked with making a list of things that were irritating us. Household projects that never got done; car maintenance needed; stacks and piles of stuff that was hanging around; old magazines that hadn't been read.
I was amazed at how much better I felt after listing my tolerations and eliminating them one by one. So get rid of that pile of magazines and articles. If you haven't read them yet, you probably don't need to. Get rid of the pile. Try it! You'll like it too.
What are your work goals? Do you want to go home on time every day? Are there classes you would like to take to improve your skills? Do you want a salary increase this year? Do you earn commission and have goals related to sales? Create goals that give you direction and review them consistently.
Goals are dreams with deadlines
Your goals should be SMART: (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Realistic).
Finally, a goal should have a timeframe (Timely). Unless you add a target date to a goal, it is just a wish. When are you going to achieve the goal? Create goals that are meaningful to you and list them in your Success Book.
Sample personal goals:
• Big income goal
• Project goals
• Skill improvement goals
• Self care goals
• Health goals
Write these annual goals on the first page of your Success Book. Then create a list of actions or activities that will help you achieve each goal.
Don’t forget to assign rewards for each goal you reach. It’s important to reward ourselves for major milestones. For example, I reward myself upon reaching monthly goals by eating at a new restaurants or scheduling a spa service. For significant goals, I reward myself with more expensive purchases such as cars and vacations.
Each and every work day, list the most important tasks you need to get done today. The act of writing your "To Do's" each day creates a subconscious shift and directs your mind to be more focused. Visually seeing your list is helpful to full comprehension of the day ahead.
This list becomes the foundation to your day and your action guide. Is surfing the internet on your list? I doubt it. Is chatting with everyone who walks by your desk on your list? I doubt it. Is answering the phone each time it rings on your list? I doubt it.
Imagine knowing exactly what you need to do today to get closer to your goals? The act of having meaningful goals will propel you towards achieving a more successful career.
Have you ever been deep at work when the phone interrupted your train of thought? Upon getting back to your task you can’t remember where you left off? Interruptions are a major cause of disorganization. It takes 20 minutes to return to productivity after an interruption. Could it be that you need to close your office door and focus on productivity? Could it be that you need firm boundaries in order to go home on time?
Ask yourself daily:
What is the best use of my time?
Is this task a priority for me to do today?
What is the most difficult call for me to make?
When should you make and return calls? Analyze when you have the highest energy level. Is it early morning, late morning, or early afternoon? Save your high-energy time for activities like working with coworkers or clients, designing programs, writing, and marketing. Return phone calls and emails during low energy time. If you have difficult calls to make, however, vow to do them first.
Prioritize your tasks so that you are focusing on what's important!
- Time block for activities you want to work on.
- Give yourself only one hour to work on a project. When the hour is up, move on to something else!
- Only schedule meetings for 45 minutes. The reason for this is that if you allow one hour, the meeting will expand into one hour. If you schedule 45 minutes it gives people 15 minutes between meetings to get situated. They will love you for it!
- Cross off activities from your Success Book as they are completed during the day. Carry activities over to the next day if they were not completed.
- Make sure that tasks you are taking on are those that only you can do. Are there tasks that you can delegate to others?
- Be honest with yourself. Are you spending time on tasks that you could delegate to others? What would it be like to free up time to do what you do best?
- Identify your time stealers. Do you really need to go to every client meeting in person? Teleconference calls are very efficient and can save commute time, not to mention gas and traffic frustrations.
- Are relatives, friends, and colleagues calling you during your high-energy time? If so, make a request that they call you at an appropriate time.
- Learn to say “No” to requests unless they directly relate to your goals.
Vow to organize your work day so that it works for you and your lifestyle. Think about the ways you can be more productive. Through better organization, you can work smarter not harder.