A recent blog admonished readers not to make New Year’s resolutions; that does not mean that a new year is not a good time to make some positive changes in one’s life. One helpful task is to become more organized with the end result being an improvement in workplace productivity. According to Lisa Zaslow, a founder of Gotham Organizers, “Surveys show the average person loses an hour a day to disorganization, but it actually takes much less time to get and stayed organized.” An OfficeMax study found that nine in ten Americans admit that unorganized clutter at home or at work has a negative impact on their life. Their productivity (77%), state of mind (65%), motivation (53%) and happiness (40%) are affected when there is disorder. Despite this “epidemic” of disorganization, the good news is that 71% of those surveyed in the OfficeMax study feel accomplished when they organize their workspace, while others feel in control (68%), confident (54%), motivated (52%), and relaxed (43%). There are ways to get organized and here a few tips to start you on your way to a more efficient 2019.
Taking some leeway with scientific definitions, it is generally believed that entropy naturally occurs and if not well-maintained, an office, desk, closet, etc. will naturally move toward disarray. It is therefore important to take some time to sort through papers and other items to determine what needs to be put away or discarded. It is nice to have some personal touches on your desk, cubicle or office wall, but take it easy to avoid clutter and appearing unprofessional. While it is easy to say that we don’t have time to clean, if we take time once and then a few extra minutes as we use items to put them in their right place, we will save much time energy going forward. Clear off your desk and keep only daily used items on it.. Think before you print, and store documents online or in a cloud. If you do keep paper copies, create a system of folders and never mark a folder “Miscellaneous.” Folders can be labeled for work in progress, waiting for a response and then once the project is completed, it can be filed away from the prime filing spot. Be careful of cross filing. I worked in an office where it seemed every piece of paper was triplicated and filed by subject and subtopic, document type (report, memo, etc.), and to whom the document was sent.
I love a good to-do list and the ability to cross off completed items. Make your to-do list for the next day before you leave the office the day before. In this way, you will have a roadmap ready to go for the next day. You can also create your own ranking system with color coding or stars or your favorite symbol, to note the most important tasks. At one agency where I worked, we did our daily hot list and shared that with fellow team members. At NRPR, we share our Fire Up lists daily and at the end of the day, Fire Down lists showing tasks completed. There are also numerous apps such as Evernote and Swipes to help you to organize your to-dos. Others suggest using your calendar as part of your to-do and scheduling time to work on specific tasks. Look out for the tendency to dismiss reminders of to-do appointments. Look at your to-do list and decide which items are of highest priority, which can be delegated, and which can be relegated to another day.
Develop good work habits
Some people are morning people, some people are not. We often hear advice on doing the most important work in the morning or quickly accomplishing shorter tasks first thing. There may not be a correct answer here, but in general it is best to do your most demanding tasks when you are at your personal best. It is also important to avoid multitasking, which splits your concentration. David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah has found that only 2 percent of the population has the brainpower to successfully multitask.
As with New Year’s resolutions, the key to organization and productivity begins with small steps and doing what works for you. I may be a morning person who likes to check items off her to-do list. Someone else may like to take an exercise break midday and work later into the evening. As long as your boss agrees with your workstyle, it should all work out.