If you showed up late to a meeting or missed a deadline, it would be obvious to you that disorganization and clutter were affecting your job performance. There are less obvious ways, however, that being disorganized can impact the quality and efficiency of your work. Take this quick quiz to see if it might be worth your time to become more organized:
- Do you spend less than 60 percent of your day focused on the most valuable work for your job?
- Do client/supervisor requests often linger unanswered for more than 24 hours?
- Do you ever feel like you don’t know where to start working on a project?
- Do you have action items on your to-do list that have been there for more than a week? a month?
- Have you led a meeting without providing an agenda to its attendees?
- When you come into work in the morning, does it take you more than 15 minutes to start doing work-related tasks?
- If something happened to you, and a qualified replacement would need to step in to work for you for awhile, would she be constantly frustrated or have to pick up the phone to have you help her find things she needed?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, disorganization and clutter may be negatively affecting your job performance.
Start by opening your calendar and scheduling an hour every day this week to focus on organizing. These hours will not be wasted, as your improved efficiency will quickly make up for the time expenditure. Here are some tips that correlate to the questions above.
The first question: To ensure that you are spending 60 percent or more of your day on your most valuable work, you need to plan each day before you start work. You may not follow your plan exactly, but the act of creating your plan will help you to stay more focused on the important work.
The second question: Even if you’re just sending an e-mail or making a quick phone call saying that it will take another day to get back to someone, contact within 24 hours is essential for good client/supervisor relations. Schedule 15 minutes after lunch and at the end of your work day to process these requests.
The third question: If you work in an office that has a preferred project management software, take a class or online seminar and learn how to effectively use this system. If your office doesn’t have such software already in place, research online project management tools and find the one that works best for you. Then, learn how to use it and take advantage of its features.
The fourth question: When planning your day, schedule 30 minutes to focus on these lingering tasks. Keep scheduling time for these activities until you are able to cross all of them off of your to-do list. Then, make a commitment to never let an action item linger on your to-do list for more than a week (or two, based on your type of work). These lingering items create a great deal of anxiety, and that anxiety can slow you down.
The fifth question: A meeting without an agenda can be a waste of time for everyone involved. Learn how to organize a business meeting so that it’s valuable to you and its attendees.
The sixth question: Before you leave work for the day, make sure your desk and supplies are prepared for tomorrow. You need to be ready to “hit the ground running” immediately when you arrive to work.
The seventh question: If you’re out of the office for any reason (emergency, illness, vacation, sudden promotion), someone should be able to come in and take over your work without much difficulty. Unless you are self-employed (and even then, you may have legal responsibilities to your clients), you do not own your work or the materials used to complete that work. Keeping this simple fact in mind can often help to keep you more diligently organized.
Good luck, and I hope that in a matter of days your organizing efforts begin to show you great rewards.