A guide to Getting Yourself Organized
January is the season for resolutions, and who has never dabbled in the fine art of self-optimization? This author is suggesting a different approach: skip the four weeks of self-inflicted torture and get real about your organizational MO at work! Read how in this week’s blog post.
I have this one friend who’s incredibly well organized. You, dear reader, might recognize the same traits in a person in your life. If you’re lucky, you might even be that person, but I am certainly not it. Let me describe my friend some more to paint a clearer picture of her level of organization. We met back in grad school, and even then, she was a shining beacon of properly labelled folders and neatly placed writing essentials. Nowadays, she sets aside two hours every week to create a custom plan for the days to come in a dotted notebook.
My friend plays that notebook like an instrument: with a ruler and pencil, she designs intrinsic sections that speak of pure strategy and intent. Coloured pencils add melodies of importance and distinction to each task. With the precision of a master conductor, she coaxes the sections of the pages into such a harmonic ensemble of overwhelming lucidity that one wants to burst out in tears and never touch an Excel sheet again. I’d go so far as to say: she’s the Vivaldi of self-organization and her notebooks the Four Seasons – her ongoing masterpiece, bold at times, understated at others, yet always on point.
To be completely frank, I don’t think of myself as a dis-organized person, but rather one who sees the order in my chaos. When I recently transitioned into an Account Manager position, I nonetheless – and inevitably – was reminded of my friend’s thoroughly superior self-organization methods. And the simple fact that I needed a better plan if I wanted to stay on top of everything at work. Here’s what that experience taught me:
Find the tools that work best.Whether it’s a classic notepad or sticky notes all over your screen, it doesn’t matter as long as the job gets done. In my case, I like to “outsource” my memory to electronic tools (e.g. documents or recorded meetings), pen and paper, and – in some cases – my team for additional brainpower (and checks and balances).
Let go of what’s not working.While I love the idea of my friend’s highly efficient weekly planning sessions, I know it’s not the right thing for me. I’ve tried it and failed spectacularly, but there’s a lesson in there, too: if I buy myself a nice notebook, I still have to bring it with me to use it. Turns out that setting reminders on my phone works better for me, and that’s what I stuck with.
Pay attention to work patterns.
At Flawless, we use electronic project management software. It’s a great aide and helps us function as a team. However, there’s a limit to efficiency: as soon as I realize that the tracking and tasking take more time than the execution, it’s an obvious red flag that somethings off. Similarly, if recurring tasks inhibit my day to day, I try to bundle them together or look for different ways to save time. Sometimes it’s as simple as renaming a task on our project management software – 20 minutes saved!
Plan for your thought patterns.
An average human brain only has so much RAM, and to the best of my knowledge, there’s no brain extension surgery. Thus, the important question is how to use it most efficiently. In my experience, it helps to plan for and recognize my thought patterns: I associate information with analytical, spatial, and visual cues but am not good with names. To make finding documents easier, I give my files standardized names, and the same thing goes for folders. That way, my computer is always organized to the extent that I don’t have to worry – even as the number of agendas grows. Every month or so, I do a clean-up to get rid of ‘stray’ documents or stock images that clutter my download folder.
The most important lesson, however, is to let go of New Year’s resolutions. They can ruin a perfectly good January;)!
Share your organizational tips! We keep trying out something new all the time.