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Amazing Secrets To Organizing Time And Space

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How To Organize Your Office

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“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” - Rodin

Now you have your home and family well organized. Now you’re ready to tackle your workspace and work life. At work, organization starts with your relationships with your co-workers and your boss.

Just like you did with your home space, take a good long look at your work to-do list. How many items on that list are vital, urgent, important must-dos? Be honest with yourself. Is the world going to end if you don’t do each and every task on that list? Get rid of the non-essential items on that list; you’ll save yourself more time by working on the must-dos instead.

Don’t confuse busy work with effective, creative accomplishment. Looking busy is not the point of this exercise. Finding what’s really important and critical is the point. Don’t let the mundane day-to-day stuff crowd out the real work. If you find your day is taken up with running around putting out small fires, you may want to re-evaluate your system. How are you going to find time for the highly productive, creative parts of your life?

So, it’s time to reorganize your work priorities. Take a good look at your job description. Have they begun to blur a bit around the edges? Have you discovered that you’ve gradually pulled away from your original intentions? Have you helped a co-worker with a task that has mysteriously, over time become part of your job now? Maybe it’s time to return to the basics.

Resign yourself to the fact that there are going to be tasks you never get around to doing. If you feel guilty and disappointed in yourself for not accomplishing these tasks, you’ll hinder your own productivity. Face the facts, you cannot do it all, it’s not going to happen. You’re only going to wear yourself down to a nub by trying, then feeling guilty for not being able to do them all. And that gets in the way of accomplishing the next task.

Keep in mind that working incredibly long hours day after day for months on end will eventually result in losing your perspective on some tasks. You’ll lose sight and focus on what is really important.

This is where organizing your priorities comes in. Many people fill their to-do lists with non-essential tasks that are designed to make them feel busy, but are completely unnecessary and are in fact, time wasters. It’s time to redo that list, with nothing but essential tasks.

In order to accomplish that, you may discover you’ll have to stop being a people pleaser and learn to say “no.” If it’s not part of your job and you truly don’t have the time to help co-workers do them, you have to say so. Maybe they need a little reorganization too. In order to be more productive and waste less time, you must learn to plan your day well. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in the time frame. Set your priorities and work on those first.

Look at each task on your to-do list and determine when they must be finished. If it needs to be finished by the end of the day, get busy now. Anything due next week or next month does not take priority over today’s tasks. Get yourself a Month-At-A-Glance, calendar for your desk and write down all obligations and their due dates. This will keep you on task and on time.

If you can manage it, without procrastinating indefinitely, try to determine whether some of the projects can be put on the back burner for a bit, while you deal with the projects that are due in the next few days.

Are there any steps that can be omitted, shortening the length of time it will take you to complete a task? Be careful in taking some shortcuts. Shoddy work will not impress your boss, co-workers, or clients.

Now it’s time to tackle the ‘D’ word. That’s right- Delegation! It’s not a dirty word, and it doesn’t mean you can’t handle your job. If you have control issues, you may find you have a real problem handing over tasks to someone else. You’ve been raised with that old homily that says, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Only you’re not necessarily doing it right either, because you have too much on your plate; and here you are grabbing hold of yet another task that could just as easily be done by your assistant, secretary, or someone else.

Is fear of losing control keeping you from delegating that responsibility? Or maybe you think it would take too much time to explain to someone else how you want the job done. Or do you fear that others will see you as less than competent? You might even dislike the idea of infringing on someone else’s time. After all, you don’t like it when someone does it to you. You may even fear negative consequences; after all, the ego is involved when asking for assistance.

But think about it. How are you ever going to handle the big jobs if you don’t let someone else help you with the small, mundane day-to-day chores? To delegate, or not to delegate, that is the question.

If you have a long commuting time each morning, use the time to prioritize for the day’s events. When you know exactly what task you’ll be starting with each day, you’re more focused. You’ll find you waste less time first thing in the morning, if you know what you should be working on ahead of time. Making up a schedule of tasks to accomplish for each day is a great way to keep yourself on track.

Always have a Plan B however; you never know what’s going to happen. It’s said that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, so be sure to have a back up plan. Remember Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can possibly happen will.” If you plan for all contingencies, you’re covered; no matter what happens, you’ll be prepared. Nothing is carved in stone; try to be flexible with your schedule.

A common mistake that overtaxed people make is to try to keep too many plates spinning at the same time. Multitasking sounds good and productive, but can actually work against you, time-wise and productivity-wise. Having a great many projects going all at the same time sounds efficient, but not if you never finish any of them. Stick to one project as much as you can until it’s finished. You may get slowed down while you wait for others to finish their part of the task. That’s when you may have to put a project on the back burner temporarily and tackle something else while you wait.

Many people get a real high from finishing tasks and crossing them off their to-do lists. Staying focused is the key here. Too many people love to start new projects; it’s actually finishing those tasks that gets them into trouble. Yet they will go on to another project, most likely leaving that half done as well, but moving on to the next project, and the next, and the next. Try your best to stay with a project through its completion. There’s more satisfaction in finishing a task than in beginning one.

You may find that your day is filled with potential time wasters, lurking around every corner, just waiting to break into your concentration, and distract you from important tasks. Some of these time wasters camouflage themselves as legitimate sounding business work, but beware of finding yourself exhausted at the end of the day and not actually having anything to show for it.

Some of these time wasters are deceptively disguised as your co-workers. They stand around the water cooler, hang around your desk or around your doorway, chatting. Too bad it’s not about work. You may have to stand firm when it comes to these well-meaning, friendly folks. Maybe you could let them know that if your door is closed, it means that you are busy; and unless it’s crucial, they should come back later or save the chitchat for the lunch hour. You also might want to switch your phone to voice mail and turn off the email alarm.

And while it may be human nature to jump eagerly into the easier, routine tasks, rather than tackle the more difficult work, it’s just another way to waste time. Procrastination will not aid you here. Not only is jumping on the complex problem first a smart move time-wise, but it will make you feel so much better about yourself, when you finish it early on. It’s a real energy boost mentally and physically. Pat yourself on the back and move on to the next task. By finishing the hard job first, the rest of the day will roll along very smoothly.

If you allow that big task to haunt you all day, telling yourself you’ll get to it eventually, your day will be ruined. That’s all you’ll be able to think about all day.

If you’re in a management position at the office and in charge of meetings, bear in mind how long those meetings are taking out of everyone’s day. Try to schedule meetings so that your workers can get more done. If they’re sitting in interminable meetings, they’re not getting anything else done. If you’re not in charge in these matters, maybe a suggestion to the right person could ease the situation. Instead of progress reports every day, perhaps they could be scheduled once a week or twice a month.

One of the biggest time wasters found in the modern office is email, and the average worker’s incessant need to check their inbox. The organizing guru, Julie Morgenstern said, “Email is the biggest time suck of the modern workday.” Many of the professional organizers today would advise you to avoid your inbox for the first hour of your workday.

If you’re not careful, you will get sucked into the need to read everything in your inbox and deal with each and every message. This could very well take up your entire morning and that big task will still be waiting in the wings for you when you return from lunch; or unlucky you, you miss your lunch while you play catch up. As Parkinson’s Law states, “A task expands to fill the time allowed for it.” Give email messages a very short time for reading and replies.

Okay, so you learn to avoid that little time wasting pit and get right to that big project that’s due in a few days. Good for you; keep up the good work! Whatever you do, if you’re in the middle of a highly productive work time, don’t stop in the middle to check your email. You’ll lose your train of thought; your creative mood will be shot and the flow will be halted. It’s hard to get going again when that kind of interruption occurs. Wait until you’ve decided to take a break from whatever you’re working on. But watch out! Make sure that email break doesn’t gobble up your working time and keep you distracted. As for whether email is a time saver or a time stealer, the jury is still out on that one.

Whether you’re an average emailer (receiving only about twenty emails and sending probably five out) or whether you’re considered a power emailer (receiving fifty a day and sending out twenty), you have to find ways to deal with all the messages. For starters, you might want to turn off the email alarm system. It was cute in the movie, with the computer letting you know “You’ve Got Mail!” It ceases to be cute when you hear it every five minutes.

If the emails can be dealt with quickly and easily, then of course, deal with them ASAP. If a message requires a long reply, you might want to save it for later, if you have more time. Sometimes, a reply can be made succinct enough to fit into the subject line, making it easy to zip off that email question or reply. If that’s not possible, at least tell the person what you require of them first thing and make it short and sweet.

“For disappearing acts, it’s hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight of sleep and eight of work.” - Doug Larson

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