Get a Life by Clearing the Clutter
by Dianna Booher
The way you approach your in-box, workspace, and workload has as much to
do with how much you get done in a day as does the number and size of your
projects. Follow these steps to define and then streamline work habits, patterns,
and methods. You'll have more time and energy to complete what's most important.
Build White Space
into Your Calendar
To schedule your work most effectively, do not schedule enough tasks to consume
every working and waking moment. Plan to about 80 percent capacity when you're
going to be in the office and about 50 percent capacity just after returning
from a trip. That means for a 50-hour work week, schedule about 40 hours of
work, knowing that another 10 hours of "stuff" will appear unexpectedly.
Waiting for approvals, opinions, information, equipment, or resources is a
major time waster. Here are some tactics than can minimize, if not prevent,
Get other people's "buy in" on the due dates before you schedule
Be Wary of High-Tech,
Offer to help people do the work or collect the information you need.
Let people know they don't have to have the information "in formal/final
Escalate the problem to your supervisor to negotiate the information at
a higher level.
Remind everyone involved that you need the information as soon as it's
High-tech may mean high-time. Before buying any "time-saving" gadget, consider
the hidden investment of time in its use: time to select and purchase the appropriate
item, time to learn how to operate it, time to set it up and secure it, time
to refurbish or repair it, time to insure it and replace it. It's important
to recognize that low-tech items like the pencil, ruler, rubber band, stapler,
and broom can be real time-savers themselves.
Clutter Your To-Do
List, Not Your Mind
Your mind can hold only aboutseven chunks of information at once. Why push
your luck? Do you frequently have flashes of brilliance when you're in the
shower, out for a walk, driving the freeway? Write them down immediately rather
than juggle them in your mind. Those who make lists stay on target and save
time between tasks and ideas without wondering what comes next. Those who
don't make lists are at the mercy of events, memory, and mediocrity.
Places of Existence
Wherever you need to do work, have there what you need-paper, pen, stamps,
phone, calculator, computer, food. With the routine tools at hand, you can
FINISH all these petty little projects while you're waiting in the car, in
the line, in the lobby. Get a transport system for what you have to carry
back and forth. Sorting and packing and then resorting and repacking into
your briefcase can be a time-consuming chore. If you have several continuing
projects, then have a bag, case, or binder for each.
and Routines for the Daily Duties
Systems and routines make things faster, cheaper, and better. If you collect
the same information over and over, why not compile a form to hand to your
customers or employees? If you give out the same answers to the same questions,
prepare a flyer for visitors and callers. If you give the same instructions
for operating the same equipment, post the procedure near the equipment. If
you respond to customers about the same products, create boilerplate letters
and proposals ready for customers.
Bonuses come upon the completion of projects. Signed contracts come at the
end of negotiations. Points go on the scoreboard only when the runner crosses
the goal line. Incomplete tasks leave you feeling depressed and wasted. One
thing completed is worth ten things on hold. And you'll feel energized by
Work in Marathons
Marathons serve two motivations: to catch up or to get ahead. When you feel
as though you're slipping further and further behind, decide to do a work
marathon to catch up. Arrive early. Work late. Send out for food. Don't allow
interruptions. Don't rework anything. Work fast and don't look up between
projects. Put in three or four days like that, and you'll feel caught up enough
to face the world again. On other occasions, you may have monumental tasks
before you and want to get a jump start on them. Schedule a marathon and make
it a big deal. The exhilaration from what you accomplish will more than reduce
the fatigue from the actual work. When you get things done quickly, efficiently,
and on schedule, not only do you impress your boss and your co-workers, but
you create a sense of accomplishment that satisfies yourself as well. The
next time you feel like you just can't get organized, try implementing a few
or all of these tips to build momentum.
Dianna Booher is CEO of Booher Consultants, a Dallas-based communications
training firm which offers training in effective writing, oral presentations,
interpersonal skills, and customer service communications. She is a keynote
speaker and has written 37 books, including Get a Life Without Sacrificing
Your Career [McGraw-Hill]. Call (800) 342-6621; Visit http:www.booherconsultants.com.
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