Everyone has an organizational style, whether consciously chosen or not. What is your style? The spectrum runs from the clear desk without a lick of evidence that it is currently in use to the Pigpen type desk that makes others think quietly of the show “Hoarders”.
The question is whether your style is working for you or whether you find that it is not and you are motivated to change. Your organizational style, and its effectiveness, directly affect your ability to manage your time. It is up to each of us to decide on our own if our style and habits are working for us. In order to change your habits, it takes motivation and focus.
The important part is that this is your decision, not anyone else’s including your boss. If you aren’t meeting time sensitive goals, the question is whether this is related to your organizational style or some other factor. (Was the task clearly defined? Did you have access to the tools necessary to be successful? Did another task come up that had a higher priority?)
Generally accepted theory states that efficiency flows from neatness. This is promoted by neat-leaning people that find this method is useful, but ultimately it is a subjective proposition. My style is probably somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I keep broadly titled files (both hard copy and virtual) and then have progressively more narrowly focused sub folders to categorize everything. This essay is saved in Professional, writing, blog post for instance. But I also keep uncategorized stacks of various items that I am actively working on, or haven’t decided how to use yet. (Plus, I’m convinced that paper breeds like bunnies when I’m not looking.)
So if you recognize that chaos is your style and you conclude that your style should be updated, now what? First you have to identify exactly what isn’t working and why. Can you find what you need at the moment when you need it? Can you meet or exceed time sensitive goals? Can you keep track of multiple tasks at various stages of completion?
If you are stuck on this stage, think about what others have told you work for them, or what they have pointed out to you. Now you can take into account comments from coworkers and bosses, distilling out the constructive portions. (This means ‘man, what a pig sty’ comments aren’t considered.) Look around at people that you know and pick out a few that seem to be successful at organizing their life and tasks. Talk to these people and as the saying imitation is the sincerest form of flattery goes, borrow their best ideas to create your own new style.
Now realize that your current style is based on habit. Here are a couple of quotes for you on habit.
“Life is mostly habit. So now’s the time to figure out which habits you want to cultivate to carry you through the rest of it.” ~ Mary Schmich
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle
In order to change your habits, it takes motivation and focus. (It just keeps coming back to you, doesn’t it?) We’ve all heard that it takes 21 days to establish a new habit and about a nanosecond to abandon one.
Ok, so you made one concise list of the best practices you identified a couple of paragraphs ago, right? No, they are on various scraps of paper, sticky notes and lost in your head. Well, then make a pile of them right now and I’ll go and get some tea while you do this.
What were some of the ideas that you were drawn to? Do you like having a planner that you physically write in? I personally love Outlook Tasks for short term projects because it will act as an assistant and remind me plus it is just so easy to drop an email into it, set up the date for completion and lets me add any notes I need to clarify what my next steps will be to complete this task.
Now you need to try some of these on for size. You are still in the experimental phase, but to get traction you should enlist a buddy to help you decide which of these new practices are working for you. The most important determining factor to your success is your intent. Is your new organizational style getting your closer to your goals?
© 2012 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations