With all the meetings, E-Mails, objectives and communications in a typical company, staying organized is a never-ending task.
Yet, there are a few fundamentals to follow to ensure that you stay organized and focused on the most important tasks each and every day.
- Delete, delete, delete: delete everything but the essential. If this makes you nervous, then place what you should delete in one simple “Holding” folder that you delete every month. Deleting is crucial so that you do not have to wade through irrelevancies to find what you are looking for. As has been said:
The key to finding a needle in a haystack is to have a smaller haystack.
- Have a functional To Do list for your daily objectives. This means a To Do list that can actually be accomplished 80% of the time.
- Use Tasks (on your computer) to schedule your longer-term objectives for a future day. This allows you to focus on the daily To Do list without worrying about forgetting longer term work. When that future day comes, put the task on your daily To Do list and get it done.
- Approach all work with the mindset of “What’s the Next Action.” This suggestion (from productivity expert David Allen) requires that you focus on the next activity that you need to do to accomplish your objective. Once you have determined that action you can complete it, put it on today’s To Do list to complete later in the day, or create a task reminder to get it done when you have some slack time.
- Keep your E-Mail In-box as empty as possible (always less than one full screen). As above, do this by reading the E-Mail once, determining the next action, then either delete the E-Mail (no action needed), do the task immediately, put the action on the To Do list for later in the day, or set a task to complete the action at a later time. Then, get the E-Mail out of the In-box (Hint: delete it).
- Name your files in a way that enables them to be easily found and retrieved in a search.
- Go paperless. By doing everything on your computer or your phone (and with well-named files), you have a searchable record of your work and have what is needed handy at all times (not back in a drawer at your office).
- Set up slack time and guard it jealously. In order to be organized and effective, we all need slack time to do the work that was put off by an emergency or to do those important, but non-urgent tasks (like organizing your day and week) that so often get neglected.
- Learn to say “No.” Keep your priorities limited to the essential few. If something suddenly becomes a top priority, then eliminate the lowest of the priorities. As Good to Great author Jim Collins says:
If you have more than 3 priorities then you don’t have any.
- Finally, schedule your most important priorities (including your slack time). As Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, writes:
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
In conclusion, try these 10 ways and go forth and be organized.