An integral part of a good system of time management is an organized workplace. If you create a good order, you will start to see immediate results. It’ll take less time to search for things, be those meeting notes, phone numbers, or files on your computer. In addition, and just as importantly, physical order leads to mental order, which will help you become more efficient.
Clean up your desk
Start with organizing your desk:
- Try to eliminate as many of them off your desk as possible. Ideally, you will only have the most critical elements left – your computer, telephone, perhaps a calculator and your daily planner and a folder or two that are most essential to your daily work. Remember, the fewer distractions you have on your desk, the easier it will be to concentrate and be efficient.
- Hang family or friends pictures on the bookshelves, walls or sides of the cubicle
- Move any supplies you use only once in a while (stapler, Scotch tape, etc.) and various reference material and manuals in desk drawers and filing areas. File all your papers and folders in some sequence. It can be time-, project-, subject-, department or group-related.
Put a 15-20 minutes on your calendar once a week (e.g. on Friday afternoons) to go through all the documents that have accumulated during the week and file them away. Eventually, you’ll develop a healthy habit of getting rid of non-essential items throughout a week and completing the cleaning up task in less time.
Remember that the best strategy for maintaining an organized workspace is to avoid creating the clutter in the first place. Try to stay disciplined about that.
Organize files on your computer
Give some thought to how you want to organize your files. Build your filing tree with major folders and sub-folders on paper first. Replicate it on your computer. Then move the files in the folders they belong. Follow this sequence, as it will make the process less frustrating. It will help you save time because you won’t have to re-sort and re-organize the files if you changed your mind. It is difficult to ‘see’ all files at once and know where they are going.
Just like with paper documents, go through the folders and saved files updating their names and moving them to folders they belong. If your work requires you creating similar documents frequently, consider creating a generic template (or a set of templates), that will allow you to cut and paste and tweak the document as necessary, while saving time.
Organize and manage emails
If your job involves sending similar emails on a regular basis (dashboards, performance updates, etc), create a standard response, or a template (email template), which you can tailor when you send a new message. You can create a separate folder in your email system where you can easily access them.
Create various folders using the same approach you are using in organizing your paper documents - time-, project-, subject-, department-, group- or specific employee name- related. Establish a dedicated ‘recycle bin’ where you can move emails that are of least importance that you can follow up later. Go through it and clean it up once a week or a month depending on how important they are.
Set up automated “out of office” messages when you go on vacation or just take time off. In your message indicate when you’ll return, whether you have access to email system, and who they should contact if they need immediate assistance.
In the Contacts section (under Notes) you can store relevant and important information about your clients, co-workers, etc. For example, ‘remembering’ that your client likes to do, or details about his or her background could get you bonus points. This information could also be stored in dedicated CRM systems.