Time management is a skill that even the most productive of us can struggle with. Being inundated on a daily, if not hourly, basis with new duties, employee relations issues, and client-related projects can make your organized calendar and to-do list seem pointless. Though there is no way to control some of the random items that pop up, there are a number of factors that are within your control that can help make those spontaneous tasks seem less daunting.
Eliminate unnecessary interruptions. For unwanted visitors, try moving your in-box out of your office to eliminate unnecessary drop-in visits and unproductive socialization. Close your door when you’re busy and put a sign up that says “Do Not Disturb” until X time.
Turn off the speaker and notifications for email on your computer. You don’t need to hear e-mails come in or see the pop-ups which cause you to lose your concentration. You don’t need to immediately jump when e-mails come through.
Do something with each message you open. Either delete it, file it, forward it, delegate it, do it if it’s quick, schedule time to do it later, pend it, or flag it for follow up. View your Inbox as a tool for the temporary storage of messages, not a to-do list for unfinished work.
Use your voicemail. Don’t pick up the phone when working a critical task. If you’re working on a deadline, put a message on the answering device that says you will be returning calls at a certain time so people will know when you’ll be getting back to them.
Discover your most productive hour. This will take some experimenting, but one way to discover this is to block out a different hour each day and judge how productive you were during that time. Make sure you have no interruptions for that hour. Once you have determined which hour of the day you can do your most productive work, save that time each day for the items that require the most brain power.
Conduct quick meetings. Many employees complain that meetings take up a lot of their time. The average meeting runs about an hour and time is often wasted with nonworking-related items. Try conducting more effective meetings by always having an agenda and preferably only one or two items. Set a time limit on the items and stick to your agenda.
The management of your tasks is an equally important managerial organizational skill that is necessary in ensuring that you and your team function as optimally as possible. Sometimes it seems that our duties come in “feast or famine” waves, and during those times that we are inundated with tasks, it can be a challenge to manage priorities and make certain that everything gets done.
There are countless methods you can implement to manage your tasks, but three are three basic method techniques that everyone should have in place to effectively manage both their short and long term projects and assignments.
The Tickler File
A tickler file is an effective way to organize your paper-related tasks down to the day. To set up a tickler file, you’ll need 31 hanging folders (one for each day of the month) in addition to 12 folders in a different color (one for each month). Place all of these folders in the lower right or left hand file drawer in your desk or other accessible place. Rotate the days of the month (31 folders) so that the current day is the first folder in the box. Put the Jan through Dec folders behind the daily folders and leave them in their chronological order. You will only rotate the daily folders.
At the end of every day make sure the current day’s file is empty. Carry over tasks to the next day. Move tomorrow’s folder to the front, empty out the papers and place them in the vertical holder on your desk. You can implement a similar filing system on your computer, creating main folders/directories and subfolders as well.
Many of us are guilty of using multiple calendars. If at all possible, use only one calendar. It saves time and prevents mistakes from happening. It doesn’t make any difference if it is a carry around pocket calendar, an app on your phone, or a desk calendar. Do whatever works for you, but make sure to keep it current.
The To-Do List
Research indicates that the best time to create a daily to-do list is right before you go home. After you have emptied the day’s tickler folder, make a list of the items that need to be done the next day. The most important items take priority.
A time-management expert, Jeffrey J. Mayer suggests: “As a reminder of tasks to complete, most people leave papers and Post-Its on their desks. Instead of piles of papers, create a list of priorities. You can keep adding new items to the list and, when you finish something, scratch it off. Ask yourself, ‘Which is the most important thing to do?’ After you decide which task to pursue, instead of thinking about it, just do it.”
Last week we discussed some practical ways to help manage your workspace, ensuring maximum organization to help you manage your time, duties, and employees in a more efficient manner. One factor that aids in helping keep your office in order is striving to eliminate piles. Piles of paperwork, of old documents, of items you have yet to get to, etc.
Taking that component of optimal organization one step further, we going to learn how to “RAFT,” an acronym for handling paper. Remember, no more piles. The goal of this exercise is to reduce the number of times we touch a piece of paper when going through the mail or when addressing our in-box.
R – Refer Pass it on to another person to take care of. Never keep what you can refer, what you can delegate. Just write a note on the document and send it on.
A – Act If it needs immediate action, do it now. If the action needs to be taken in the future, file it in your tickler file for the appropriate day. You determine when you will need to begin working on a particular project, then mark the date the project is due at the top in erasable pencil so you won’t have to reread the whole document. Place the paper into the tickler file for the day you will start the project.
F – File Some items need to go into permanent files. This is why you should have an expandable file readily accessible. You will file under the appropriate heading and then once a day, transfer the documents to their appropriate, permanent location.
T – Toss A trash can and shredder are important tools to have in your office. Use them liberally. Don’t keep even one unnecessary piece of paper. Toss and shred.
Next week we will go into further detail of the tickler file and other methods to aid you in effectively managing your tasks, leading to more resourceful project and time management skills you can teach your employees to ensure that your department runs as smoothly and productively as possible.
Having a functional and clutter-free workspace is one of the best things you can do to create an environment that promotes the efficient management of your work and in essence, your employees. Most of us can benefit from some desk decluttering from time to time, but there are a number of ways to keep this cleaning and purging process quick and infrequent, saving you time and resources.
Your desk is a tool to facilitate your work. It is not a storage tool and was not constructed for holding up endless stacks of paper and gadgets. Ideally, the only thing that belongs on your desk is what you are currently working on. We don’t live in an ideal world, but that would produce the highest level of workspace efficiency.
There are two basic rules for optimal desk organization:
- The most frequently used items must occupy the most convenient accessed space. The desk drawer that is easiest to access should hold the most frequently used tools or supplies. Prioritize your storage space by ease of accessibility and then do the same with your supplies and tools.
- Always return an item to its place immediately after its use. Don’t put it down anywhere else. Always put it back in its proper place. Rule 1 gets you organized and rule 2 keeps you organized.
With your in-box on your desk, there is always the risk of becoming distracted with conversation when people want to chat when they bring you something. If possible, put a hot file on the wall outside your office, or leave the in-box with a receptionist or in the mailroom. But by all means, get it out of your sight so you are not interrupted.
Two items that will help you stay organized are vertical magazine holders and a vertical paper or document holder. Always avoid horizontal stacks. Keep everything vertical where you can see it. The danger with horizontal piles is that documents are out of sight, out of mind. We don’t want to lose or forget things and vertical storage eliminates almost all of the lost paper problems.
One of the easiest ways to accumulate clutter is using multiple note pads. No more sticky notes! Commit to one place where you write down all reminders and tasks. It will help you to see everything you need to accomplish and keep your desk clear of extra papers.
Consider a side table or credenza to store and organize some of the less frequent items you have in your office. Put it behind you or next to the desk, but not on top of the desk. Remember, your desk is a tool to facilitate your work, not a platform for holding piles of paper and gadgets.
We all know them. The “pilemaniacs” of your team. The individuals whose desks are constantly covered with piles upon piles of documents, paperwork, and notes. Most of us have had moments where we have spent time looking for an important document, you KNOW it is somewhere in your office, but where the heck did you put it?!
This month we are going to discuss a variety of practical and proven skills and activities that can help you become a more effective manager through useful organizational techniques. We would all like to be more productive, to have more time to get work done. Through the application of a few of these organizational “clean up” methods, you can establish a work environment (both from a physical and time management standpoint) that encourages productivity and efficiency.
There are four critical areas that will we will address in this month’s series. Your work space, your paperwork, your tasks, and your time. Each of these areas can be well organized and run smoothly, or can end up being a source of stress and anxiety for you. We are striving to arm you with the resources to ensure the former is the primary occurrence in your office.
Managerial Organizational Skills is part of HRCentral’s Professional Management Training series. With a focus on providing managers and organizations with the resources and tools necessary to effectively manage their employees, HRCentral specializes in training on a variety of topics that are vital to the success of any manager, including communication skills, conflict resolution, and empowering employees. Contact us today for more information on how we can work with your managers to create a professional, productive, and peaceful workplace.