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28 Oct

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

Date: 2009-10-28 09:32 Comments: 0 st

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.

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