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28 Oct

“I want to work in a more structured and organized way, but where do I start?”

Datum: 2009-10-28 09:32

When you are expe­ri­enc­ing more chaos in your work­day than you are com­fort­able with and you wish to improve the struc­ture of your day, it is ful­ly under­stand­able if you trem­ble at the mere thought of the extent of the changes needed. 

Per­haps you are hes­i­tant and are even doubt­ful as to whether it is even pos­si­ble to change, and you might even fear that your par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion is a hope­less case.

I am con­vinced that no cir­cum­stances are hope­less and I am equal­ly con­vinced that you can make sig­nif­i­cant changes with small means. 
Do not try to make all improve­ments at once, but choose to work on one aspect at a time and you will expe­ri­ence greater suc­cess. When the first change is done, move on to the next, etc. 

Nice and easy, you will end up more struc­tured and with more time on your hands by tak­ing it one step at a time. 

Here are three ideas on dif­fer­ent steps to begin with.

Are you jug­gling so much that you can not keep up with every­thing and lack an overview of every­thing wait­ing to be done?

Start using a to-do-list. Do like this:

  1. Decide where you want to keep it; on a loose sheet of paper you can always have with you, in Out­look on your com­put­er, in a Word-doc­u­ment or some­thing sim­i­lar, etc. Your choice does not need to be final, you can make a dif­fer­ent deci­sion lat­er on. 
  2. On the list, write down every­thing you know you need to do that will take more than 2 min­utes to complete. 
  3. f you have assign­ments left on the list at the end of the day, leave them until the morn­ing and con­tin­ue where you left off. Do not make a new list every morn­ing, keep your orig­i­nal alive. 
  4. As soon as you think of some­thing you do not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do at once, write it down on the list. 
  5. Browse through the list once a week and cross off assign­ments you have com­plet­ed but for­got­ten to take off the list, add tasks and remove any­thing that has become irrelevant. 

Is your inbox crowd­ed to the brim with emails and does the top­ic say some­thing like RE: FWD: RE: RE: RE: FWD:” on too many of them?

Become more con­crete and con­cise in your han­dling of emails. Do like this:

  1. From today on, express your­self clear­ly in terms of what to do next” (in the form of to-do-tasks) when you are for­mu­lat­ing an email. If you are ask­ing some­one to do some­thing for you or ask­ing them a ques­tion, make a clear sep­a­ra­tion between the request or ques­tion and the rest of the text by for instance writ­ing bul­let-points or in 1,2,3”-form.
  3. In all email-cor­re­spon­dence you receive, search for to-do-tasks (whether they are clear­ly stat­ed or not) and add them to your to-do-list. 
  4. If an email-con­ver­sa­tion is becom­ing too lengthy (too many RE: RE:…), then give a new top­ic or title to your reply since the sub­ject mat­ter prob­a­bly has altered quite a bit since the orig­i­nal message. 

Is your desk so full of papers and piles that you are hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ties con­cen­trat­ing on what you are work­ing on right now?

Make it easy to put away papers you do not need and easy to find papers you do need, when you need them. Do like this:

  1. Go through all the papers and piles on the desk and make a note of the next step for each doc­u­ment on a Post-It-note that you attach to that par­tic­u­lar paper. Trans­fer the next step as a task onto your to-do-list.
  2. Get your­self about 50 sus­pen­sion folders.
  3. Get a fil­ing-cab­i­net or a card­board box for stor­age (can be found in most sup­ply stores).
  4. Tag 26 fold­ers with one let­ter of the alpha­bet each and tag a few fold­ers with the names of impor­tant spe­cif­ic projects, clients or oth­er top­ics for which you wish to have sep­a­rate fold­ers. Arrang­ing your fold­ers in alpha­bet­i­cal order makes it just as easy to put away doc­u­ments as to find them when you need them.
  5. Sort all the papers and doc­u­ments on your desk and file them into your new fil­ing system.

Or, sim­pli­fied: Does it feel too com­pli­cat­ed to get a fil­ing cab­i­net and fold­ers, then just buy about 50 sheets of coloured A3-sized paper in a colour you like, fold them in half, tag them with a let­ter each, sort every­thing on the desk into the new files and arrange them in neat piles in your office. On the one hand you still have your piles, but on the oth­er you can now keep track of what they con­tain, you can eas­i­ly file new mate­r­i­al where it belongs and just as easy find what you need when you need it. When you final­ly grow tired of being sur­round­ed by all the piles, go ahead and buy that fil­ing cab­i­net anyway.

How did you do it?

If you have tak­en the ini­tial steps to attain­ing a struc­tured work­space, then what was the first step you took and that made you get on with it? Leave a com­ment below. As you might have guessed, struc­ture is dear to me and I am always keen to hear oth­ers’ expe­ri­ences. Per­haps I will be inspired myself and con­tin­ue to share your expe­ri­ence with others.