We entered the workforce well educated, but few entered well skilled. Gaining skills on the subject matter of your job is critically important, but so too are skills for managing how you actually get your work done. Workflow processing and organizational skills focus on the actual completion of your work – how efficiently you accomplish what needs to be done. Consider, also, the perceptions others of have you based on whether you appear in command of versus enslaved by your work.
Concepts into Action
The following suggestions take these concepts – workflow processing and organizational skills – and wrap them in some productive behaviors. Give ’em a try:
- Develop a Mechanism for Removing Closed Items. One of the biggest organizational mistakes people make is failing to identify when something is “closed” and handling it as such. Work is closed when nothing further needs to be done on it. Ask yourself, does anything need to be done on this? If the answer is no, it’s closed. Closed work converts into one of three things: trash, archive or reference. Trash can be tossed/deleted. Archive items belong in long-term storage, which is someplace other than the far reaches of your workspace! Reference materials – things you refer to often to do your work – belong nearby but shelved. Processing your closed items efficiently eliminates a tremendous amount of bulk from your workspace and visually demonstrates a greater command of your work.
- Use an Electronic Task Management System. Your e-mail Inbox is a good place to keep you incoming and unprocessed e-mail. It’s not a good place to keep your tasks. Written tasks lists suffer from the inefficiently of being rewritten periodically. An electronic task management system allows you to put all your to-dos in one place and mange them more efficiently. The result is that your Inbox gets cleaned up and you don’t have to constantly re-write your task list. Note, utilizing the reminder mechanism built into most electronic tasks management systems allows you to spread reminders out into the future ensuring that you’ll never forget anything.
- Drive for Defined Deadlines. There is a sense of urgency attached to everything we do today. Unfortunately, the most common deadline associated with this sense of urgency is vague. Specifically, “A.S.A.P” and “Urgent” are not specific. Neither deadline appears on calendars, which, ironically, marginalizes the sense of urgency attendant with them. Whenever you are given such a deadline, diplomatically seek to further define when something truly needs to be done. For example, respond that you’re looking forward to working on the matter and would Wednesday at noon be satisfactory? Remember, no sarcasm or irony. Just present an honest, sincere question that is being asked in an effort to maintain command of your workload. The work giver may stop-up short when first presented with this much clarity, but they’ll soon adjust. If this doesn’t solve the problem, enlist the work giver’s assistance in determining which A.S.A.P. is the most urgent and which is second most urgent. Again, no sarcasm can be emoted or your efforts will be undermined.
- Do One More Thing. We work about 220 days each year. Try this suggestion: at the end of each day, before going home, do one more little thing. Don’t do two or five. Do just one. And make it a little thing. Return one quick call or e-mail. Put something away, process a stack of files growing musty in the corner or your workspace. If you do just one more little thing each day, you’ll get 220 more things done thing year than last. That’s a lot of stuff!
The Benefits of Being in Command
Honing your organizational and workflow management skills does more than just increase your productivity. It also increases your sense of accomplishment and career satisfaction. Thus, there’s more to these work-a-day behaviors than just getting the piles off your desk.