Over the years I have worked with clients in varied professions including top level executives, mid level managers, support staff, lawyers, small business owners, entrepreneurs, salespeople, engineers, I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Invariably their perception of being organized is either related to getting rid of paper clutter, improving their filing system or how they need more time each day to get it all done. And it is true, that solving these problems will help them become better organized.
But there is a part of being organized that not many people realize, and really is the basis for solving all these problems.
First, let me say that generally, most people are not very well organized. We are not born organized. It is a learned skill. It is a skill that anyone, in any profession can learn and use to increase productivity and work more efficiently. I was helped along by my mother, because she was an organized person. I learned her ways. I just didn’t know any different then.
During my years as an administrative assistant, I worked closely with executives of large corporations and presidents of small companies. These people were all very organized, which helped them attain these high positions. I learned a lot from them. What I pass on to you is a culmination of the techniques, methods and systems used very effectively by them and by me.
Okay, now back to the real basis for effective organization. Being organized is being in control. A few words but a powerful statement. It means you are in control of how you handle paper, email, the phone, your time, and all the other tasks and responsibilities that make up your work day.
It means knowing the status of every aspect of what is happening in your job at all times. It also means arranging your time and workload to meet your goals. Yes, goals. A very important part of being organized.
If you don’t have goals, how do you know where you are going. You don’t. You end up wherever. A little statistic here, but it makes the point about the importance of setting goals.
In 1953, Yale University gave a questionnaire to all of its final year students. Among the questions were two that eventually had far-reaching consequences.
1. ‘Do you have goals?’ 10% answered ‘yes.’
2. ‘Have you written down your goals.’ 4% said ‘yes.’
Twenty years later, the faculty wanted to repeat the questionnaire, but figured they'd better follow up on the first ones to see how they were doing. They tracked down all of the 1953 leavers and made basic assessments of their lives.
It turned out that the 4% who had written down their goals were miles ahead of all the rest on any measure of success. In fact, so financially secure were they that that 4% were worth more than the other 96% put together. Making and defining goals is great, but it is writing them down that is magic.
I rest my case. It is not my purpose to get into goal setting here. That is an issue that I talk about often and have written articles on, and I will help you with the process. But it is important to mention here as it is a facet of how to control what takes place in your life every day.
To be in control is to be proactive as opposed to being reactive. A proactive person takes responsibility for their own lives. They are in control of how they use their time, and how and when they perform certain tasks.
They make things happen rather than letting things happen to them. Responsibility is made up of two words, response and ability. A proactive person uses their ability to choose their response to any given situation.
A reactive person empowers others or circumstances to control them. They are victims of constant interruptions, are more prone to being controlled by crises and the unexpected events of the day that invariably come up.
Reactive people are controlled by what others think, how they are treated by others, and even the weather. How often have you heard someone comment, “I work so much better when the sun shines than on dreary dark days.”
There are many events and circumstances that can and will present themselves in each work day that can eat up your time. It is how you respond to these events that means the difference between being effective and productive or not.
That is a powerful statement. It makes all the difference between being proactive or reactive.
Each of us has the choice of deciding how to handle the day to day events. What if you are focused on a task and the phone rings. Are you going to answer it and interrupt yourself or are you going to let it go to voice mail until you have completed the task you are working on. Which is more important, the task or the phone. You decide.
Someone walks into your office while you are focused on a project, and you know they just want to chit chat. Are you going to let them waste your precious time or will you tell them that you are involved in an important project, can you get back to them later. You decide.
Besides being proactive, this is also known as self-management. Each of us has the choice of deciding how to handle the day to day events.
What are your priorities for today.
How are you going to spend your time.
Do you have a place for each piece of paper that crosses your desk or does it pile up because you don’t know what to do with it.
Preplanning for what you want to accomplish today, this week, this month, and writing it down is a good goal setting process. It makes you aware of where you are now, where you want to go, and your plan for how you are going to get there.
This is being proactive and taking control of your job responsibilities. Some of you may be able to set aside specific times for specific tasks. For others, the times and tasks may change every day.
Don’t become discouraged if your plans don’t work out the way you want every day. This is not a perfect world. Unexpected events can and most likely will appear that can eat up your time. But if you are in control, it will usually not disrupt your entire day.
Decide how and when you will handle the unexpected event. Is it more important than what you are doing now or can it wait until later. Are you going to address it proactively or react to the circumstance without considering its level of importance.
The top level executives I worked with had goals, focused on the important tasks by being aware of their priorities and were in control of how they spent their time each day. You can do the same.
By reading the articles and tip of the week on my web site, by reading the topics in my newsletters as well as actively using the special reports I offer, you can improve your organizing skills.
Whether it is how to stay focused, handling tons of email, keeping on top of projects, getting rid of those piles of papers, or having a simple, easy filing system, you can now understand that these are all proactive activities.
They all contribute to better organization. Practicing these processes will give you control over your work flow.
Remember, as I said in the beginning, organization is a learned skill. But oh, what a difference it can make in your life!
Take my “how to’s” and use them. That is being proactive. Soon you will be in total control.
©2006 Carol Halsey
Carol Halsey is Founder of Business Organizing Solutions. She is a professional organizer, consultant, speaker, and author. You can get articles, ideas and a free time-saving Idea Kit, simply by visiting her web site: http://www.PilesToFiles.com. Sign up for her free organizing newsletter, “Organizing Ideas,” sent twice a month.