By Donna MacMillan
Do you feel overwhelmed at work? Does there never seem to be enough time to get things done? If so, the primary cause is probably a lack of organization. Taking the time to get organized and staying the course will bring both you and your company rewards. Take a look at your desk right now. Is there stacks of papers to wade through? Is your inbox overflowing? Well today is the first day of the week and it's as good as time as any to get started. If you take the time now, you will be organized and feeling better about your job by the end of the week.
First of all clear your desk of any unnecessary clutter. And then go get some file folders - if you are fortunate enough to have access to different colors so much the better. Set up a folder for each of the following categories:
- Immediate Action Items
- End of the Week Action Items
- End of the Month Action Items
Now sort all the items in your inbox into each folder. Discard any item that does not fall into one of these categories. These are the only folders that should reside on your desktop. The immediate items are items that need to be dealt with on the day they are placed in their folder. All other actions items are to be placed into the End of the Week Folder or End of the Month folder. Now sort any paperwork sitting on your desk into these folders. Your desktop should be clear and you are ready to work. At the end of each day, take 10 to 15 minutes to sort through any items put into your inbox during the day. Also if you are using a calendar/diary tool such as DayTimer, then list any important tasks that need to be accomplished the following day. Now you have a good idea of what your schedule for tomorrow will be.
Upon arriving at your desk the following day, after checking your email and listening to your voice messages, the first thing to do is to review your lists of items to accomplish for the day and the actions items in your Immediate Action folder. As these are the most important tasks to accomplish attend to them first. Unless there is an emergency, answering your email and voice messages can be done after taking care of the items that need to be addressed today. Select a time that you will either be finished with your list or can take a break from them to answer email and voice messages. And then only answer those messages that were in place when you arrived in the office. You will have the opportunity to address any others later in the day by setting aside a time slot in the afternoon. Emails, telephone calls and other interruptions steal from your productivity. Unless your prime responsibility is contact with customers, vendors or employees then these tasks need to be managed in a way that allow you to perform your responsibilities.
That takes care of your everyday responsibilities, but what about those projects you need to work on? This is where the End of the Week and End of the Month folders come in. Leave enough time in each day to spend working on those projects. What ever you do, do not wait until the deadline is looming. A little done every day will get the project done right and on time. Use your planner to track key points for each project.
Your Reading folder is for items that have come across your desk that don't require any action, but you want to read or research. Review the contents of this folder at least once a month, more often if possible, and discard anything that is not pertinent. Any item or article you would like to retain place in your Filing folder.
Select a day and time to file. If done regularly, once a week for example, then it will not take much time. If you leave it until the folder overflows, it will turn into a project.
If you follow this plan and you are still overwhelmed, then it is time to talk with your boss. Make an appointment, come prepared with an explanation of the problem and possible solutions. Continuing to take on more work than you are capable of doing does not make you a hero. It will in fact result in you and your boss being unhappy with your performance.