As a matter of fact I dislike chaos, organised or otherwise. My literary heroine is not Elizabeth Bennett (though I am very fond of her) but Flora Poste. Flora loved order and tidiness and she brought it to Cold Comfort Farm in the most admirable fashion. These two rather maiden-auntly virtues are highly prized in our office.
Many job applicants will be quick to say they are well-organised and can plan and prioritise but the reality is that very few actually have these skills which are developed to any real level. Today’s business world is fast and furious. Information, communication and demands come at us non-stop via emails, calls, meetings, telecons, skype, social media and all the rest of it. So how can you ensure you manage your time and become more organised?
To be organised you need to plan your time and be realistic. All of us have 24 hours in our day and even the super-human need some time to sleep, eat and wash their socks. Write your tasks down in a diary and for each task block out the time you need to do it. That way you won’t over book yourself. Keeping your lists written in Outlook will also mean all your tasks are in the same place instead of having numerous pieces of scrap paper around your desk.
Identify the tasks that need completing first. Each task can fall into several categories, urgent and important, urgent but not important, important but not urgent and neither important nor urgent. Each morning check your diary and do the urgent and important tasks first, followed by the urgent but not-important. Do your planning for tomorrow as the last job today. You could even colour code the tasks so you don’t forget which one needs completing next. After you have completed a task on your list, tick it off. By doing this you will feel a sense of achievement that you are working your way through things. If you don’t complete everything on your list carry it over to tomorrow’s to-do list so it doesn’t get forgotten. Work on one thing at a time. Do it in blocks of either 30 or 45 minutes, giving it your full focus of your attention. Then put it away and you start the next thing (or you’ll end up in a hopeless mess).
De-clutter ruthlessly. Read and deal with emails. This could be bring forward on a date, file or delete. Don’t let them just sit in your inbox. It’s the same with post or other paper information. Scan and decide what you’re going to do with it. Deal with it, file it or recyle/ throw it away.
Don’t rely on remembering everything without help. Left to your own devices, it’s likely that for every one task you remember needs doing there will be at least three that slip your mind. If you send an email to ask about something write down a follow-up check on Outlook later that day or the next. Often people look at emails and think ‘I’ll reply to that later’ only for it to completely slip their mind. There is nothing wrong with a gentle reminder (and everyone then thinks you’re incredibly efficient).
It’s ok to say no. If you really aren’t able to complete what someone is asking of you in the time given then be honest and say so, but offer an alternative date. Be realistic about how much time it will take you to complete the task and get back to them. It is better to overestimate and let someone know you will have the task for complete for the end of the week, exceed their expectations and have it ready Wednesday, rather than promise Wednesday to start with and be running late because something more important came up. Under-promise and over-deliver is the mantra in our office.
I have recently started blocking out a day a week where I have no appointments so I can deal with that day’s calls and emails, but ensure that I can catch up and stay on top of the large pile of paperwork that’s an inevitable part of being out and about the rest of the week.
By getting into a routine of writing down tasks in a diary, considering what is the most important and ticking completed tasks off your to-do list you will find managing your time a lot easier. There’s still lots to do, but it will be well-structured, manageable and you have given yourself time to deliver it with realistic timescales.
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