Tips on Getting and Staying Organized

The age in which we live is what I like to call a “microwave society”. When you think about it, everything is hurried—from rushing to work to eating on the go to buying entire meals already prepared (or as the military calls them, MRE’s, meals ready to eat!) We have computers to help us do much more work in less time, and we wonder why we’re so tired at the end of the day. It’s increasingly difficult to find time to do the things we like to do because we’re so busy trying to keep up with things we need to do. That’s where effective organization becomes vital in keeping our work and personal lives sorted out. On this page are some helpful tips for getting and staying organized.

Part I – Getting Organized

The key to effective organization is to remain consistent. Planning, prioritizing and setting static time slots for key functions—such as filing and making phone calls—will help you maximize on productivity, allowing for more efficient work in less time. This will also help create time for unexpected events. Below are some areas in which effective organization can be achieved and maintained. It may seem like a lot of information, with even more to do. However, once the plan is implemented and practiced, maintaining it will become routine and require much less follow-up.

Beginning the Work Week

Decide which single day of the week should be used to organize the week. This will help to ensure that you know exactly what is planned and expected before the week actually begins.

Review all current and outstanding tasks, setting priority levels for each. Ask yourself what items are critical, and which ones can be done last. Be careful not to move items to another day (“Tickler tasks”). Getting into the habit of moving tasks leads to procrastination. The goal here is to get as much planned activity done as possible.

Review scheduled appointments for the coming week.

Confirm appointments and meetings

Phone Calls

Check voicemail and return phone calls at the start of each work day.

Decide on a set amount of time for each phone call to determine how long the returned phone call process will take. This information can be used in the section called “Using Microsoft Outlook to Stay Organized”.

For new or follow-up calls, include these in the callback time slot, or if time is limited, make these calls from a cell phone while driving to appointments. Using a cellular headset is an excellent option because it allows you to transact business while driving.

Email

Check email messages at the start of each work day and respond/reply immediately

Office and Desk Space

Use a stacking tray (preferably an integrated tray with at least five or six slots) on the desk, in clear view. Label each slot and use only for each specific thing. Example labels include: “Outgoing Mail, Incoming, Bills, Projects in Progress, Items Awaiting Response, Require Follow-up.”

Clear off and reorganize desk and work area at the end of each workday. Not only does this signify closure of the workday, but it also gives you a clean start the following day.

A media storage tray is very useful for holding CDs, Flash drives and other electronic media.

Using slotted drawer organizers will help keep the desktop neat and provide a consistent place to store writing tools, paper clips and other office supplies.

Filing

Designate one day of the week for filing, and stay with that day. This may be decided by reflecting on which day of the week is generally slowest.

Set a weekly recurring “Filing” task with a 30-minute reminder.

Stick with the designated filing day and file everything in order to stay up on filing.

Use a single four-drawer locking filing cabinet to centralize all files (contracts, bills, music, contact information, etc.)

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