In the real world, I’m an EA which basically means I get paid to be organised, and to not only be able to organise myself, but my manager as well.
To me, being organised comes naturally – I was raised to believe that “everything has its place, and there’s a place for everything”. Having mild OCD meant that I not so much took this to heart, but embraced it whole-heartedly. Everything in my wardrobe and shoe racks has a certain space where it always lives, and likewise my pantry, fridge and linen closet.
But being organised isn’t just about having a neat wardrobe, it’s also about how we organise our life and work. Whether you’re coordinating a party, arranging doctors or vet visits, or simply doing your day-job, being organised is incredibly important, and helps increase productivity and efficiency.
Being organised at work is incredibly important to keep yourself achieving your goals and KPI’s, and keeping your boss happy! However, it’s one of those things that can be easier said than done. So, wardrobe and shoes aside, the following are a few ways I try to stay on top of my workload in the office, and how I manage to not only manage myself but my manager.
Create a daily task list
Each morning I start a new task list for the day, copying over any incomplete tasks from the previous day, ensuring to leave one line between task – the space between tasks is there so I can write down updates, if required. Throughout the day, I add to the list, or tick off items as they’re completed. Doing this means I never lose track of a task that hasn’t been completed, and if my manager asks me where I am with a task I can provide an accurate answer and deadline.
This one is very simple and helps you organise your day, and remember what needs to be done. A lot of people don’t keep tasks lists, relying on “in” or “out” trays, but I find a task list is easier to manage as it’s far more visible, and won’t get lost beneath a pile of paperwork! It’s also incredibly satisfying when you get to finally tick off that task that has been bugging you!
Use your Calendar Better
Everything should be in your calendar – meetings, when reports are due in, when reports are due out, when expenses are due to be handed in, etc. By having all of these in your calendar, both meetings, deadlines, and reminders, it’ll help you be more aware of what is coming up within the next month, or week. Knowing what is coming up, rather than relying on a reminder from someone else, is going to reflect better on you and your work, and will help you be better organised.
When you are dealing with multiple recurring meetings, departments, or reporting deadlines, I colour code all my calendar entries so I can see at a glance what is coming up. Green is typically for staff leave, red for budget deadlines, and I also colour code countries if my manager regularly travels internationally. This means that I can look at my (or my managers) day and know roughly what reports, schedules, and documentation may be required, or where in the world they may be!
It is important to understand exactly how long it takes for you to complete a task, so you can manage your time more effectively. A simple letter may take you ten minutes to complete, whereas a set of accounts could take your several hours. By knowing how long a task takes to complete, it means you can better manage your workload also, as you know you can get this task out of the way quickly before proceeding with that task, and it also means you can provide your manager with realistic expectations of when you’ll be finished.
When providing a time frame for the completion of your work however, always over-quote. That letter takes ten minutes? Tell them 15. That report takes an hour? Tell them 80 minutes. This helps prevent disappointment as we can’t always control technology, and sometimes our computers will crash. Sometimes we may get distracted with a call, or by a co-worker, so by over-quoting how long it’ll take to complete your work your work you’re either meeting your boss’ expectations, or exceeding them when you hand in your work faster than they expected!
Also – always be on time, if not early for any and every meeting, and always arrive at work on time. Punctuality is incredibly important and not only reflects on you, but your work. If you can’t get into the office on time, or attend the meetings you need to, people will being rely on you less, which is a very bad thing when it comes to keeping your job!
Very few companies do paper files these days, so let’s focus on electronic files. Not all companies use an EDMS (Electronic Document Management System which assigns each file a unique number, and has version control amongst other features, and is probably my favourite systems in the world) which means that their electronic filing systems can be a bit of a mess – but that doesn’t mean yours has to be.
Unless where I am working has a set naming convention for files, I save all electronic files using a standard naming convention (i.e. project name_agenda_monthly meeting_ yyyymmdd, or, recipe_roast garlic soup_yyyymmdd). By using this date format, it means you are able to search for files faster, and also prevents the confusion caused by the differences between the UK and US dating structures (i.e. mmddyyyy and ddmmyyyy). Also, by putting exactly what the file is – a letter, agenda, minutes, file note, etc – in the file name, it also makes it much easier to locate when using the “search” feature.
I can’t advise you on filing structure as each industry will have its own unique needs, but if you have a standard naming convention, it’ll make your work that bit easier to locate.
So, that’s just a few ways I stay organised at work. What do you do to keep your workload manageable?