When you notice that something has been neglected, when you have been unsuccessful in completing a task as planned, when piles have formed on your desk again, even though you did not want them to, when you are behind schedule again in spite of that you worked yourself up to date last Sunday, I have a suggestion on what you can do:
When you were a child, perhaps you had a box of toys with all items necessary for playing “the little post office” or “going shopping”.
With those toys, you bought and sold goods, received change from customers, stamped things, wrote receipts and so on. You practiced working in an office and interacting with customers, colleagues and suppliers.
Actually, this wasn’t such a bad idea. You played your way to a way of working (“a game”) that really worked. If something didn’t work as well as it could, you used your rich imagination to find a solution quickly. You can do the same thing today, as an adult.
If you notice that something in your workday fails you, you might need to step out of your regular context (out of your office, away from your desk) in order to view how you work from an outside-perspective. You will get perspective on things and see clearer what isn’t working, what is missing and what you need to attend to the most.
- Get to an empty whiteboard or get yourself a simple, empty sheet of paper, landscape orientated.
- Make a sketch of your desk and draw the tools you have available. They may be an inbox, a reference material-system, an e‑mailbox, a to-do-list, well, in short, all the things I talk about in the Done!-tips on structure.
- Think through what types of materials are sent to you, for instance
- Supplier invoices
- Colleagues asking for things
Pretend that it is a normal day at work, any day at all, and something shows up:
An e‑mail with an inquiry or request from a client
The invoice of the delivery you received last week
A phone call from a colleague who is away on a business-trip
A brilliant idea regarding a new service which will beat the competition
- Decide on what to do with it.
Draw an arrow from where it comes in (to the e‑mail inbox for example) to where you will put it or what you will do with it (for instance, putting it on the to-do-list).
- You are not allowed to put the paper/invoice/e‑mail in a pile
- You are not allowed to just read the e‑mail and then leave it unattended to in the inbox
- You are not allowed to let go of the phone call without taking action on the content of the conversation, without deciding on what the next, concrete step you can do in one go, is
- Either it is trash, or it may be “reference material”, or it consists of “need it later, but not now”-information, or it is a two-minute-task, or a to-do-task, or a sometime/maybe- idea, or a project, or something you are waiting for someone else to get back to you with.
- It will qualify into one of these categories and now you need to have one and only one place prepared to put it in, and a single method for putting it there, so that it is easy for you to do so.
- Notice the kind of situations when it is not clear where you should put the material. These are critical points in reality as well, and this is where you put away the material in that “smart” place which you then forget where it was. If you notice yourself being hesitant and feel the tendency to reach for the pile, it is a clear indication that you are lacking structural tools.
- If the process is quick and easy, it’s all good. If you notice something not being optimal, decide what you need to buy, create or fix in order for your workday-process to proceed as smoothly as possible.
More time for what is important
If you refine your workday-processes so that they all run smoothly, you will have more energy and time over for what is more important in your business, in your work and for you personally. You will be less frustrated, less stressed and instead feel more energetic in your everyday life.
By playing office you will clearly see what components you are missing in your structure-system. This will make it possible for you to quickly get to it and get yourself the tools you are lacking, so that clients or colleagues will not be neglected again.
How do you do it?
What is your way of improving your personal processes so that you work smoother and smoother?
Please leave a comment below.