Organizing at work (sorry - long)

trekarenAugust 16, 2005

I'm nearly one year into this job, and I love the teams and love what I do. But I still work way too many hours.

Life was crazy before I left for vacation the first week of August. While sitting on the beach, I resolved to return mentally refreshed, and to take charge of my job, instead of letting it take charge of me!

Ok, so this is the very super busy time for us, as all the project managers try to cram their pet projects in before year-end freeze. I am buried with emails and requests from people. Here are some things I have done so far in August to try and take charge.

I am bad about not following up on emails or voice mails simply because I get too bogged down and busy. So I started using Outlook's Task List. It is now the first thing I open each morning. The minute someone calls or I see that I need to take action on something, I add a task to the Task List. It is SO much better than jotting things down on little yellow sticky notes or printint out piles of emails! And it feels so good to mark things complete! I find it works far better than flagging emails with the followup flag.

The other thing I did was CLEAN OFF MY DESK! And that has done wonders! I feel great, I'm getting out of here to take breaks more often, and oh did I say how great I feel about it!

I have heard about the good luck, or good feng shui or whatever, about bamboo. DD and I were at the store the other day when she saw a bamboo that was in the lovliest pottery vase, that looks almost like a science fiction painting. She just knew I'd love it so she made me buy it. So now I have a bamboo plant my daughter has christened Bambi! Not only is it nice to see pretty greenery and lovely pottery, but I think of my daughter every time I see it!

Finally, I need something concrete to do in the evenings for ME and no one else. I was going to join back to the choir but that is still up in the air for a number of reasons. So now I am focusing on the house. We finally had painters in and got all the remaining rooms painted. That felt so good (like moving into a brand new house) that I have been motivated to tackle reservoirs of outstanding jobs. Right now, I spend spare time at night sorting thru and organizing photos instead of vegging in front of the TV. And it just feels good to be able to be doing something constructive with my after-work hours. I am also going to try and cook more! I keep watching Rachel Ray on the weekends to get great ideas. Hoping I'll turn into her one day LOL but so far, it hasn't happened! :-)

Anyone else have any tips to add?

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Besides using the task list, I use Outlook's reminder's when I have to get to something that day. Actually, you can set the tasks up with reminder's as well. The best part is that you can set reminders to be sort of a "count-down" clock, i.e., two weeks in advance changes to whatever... that kind of thing.

Since I'm the one project managers have to "tap" for information, it really helps when they set up their tasks for me with those reminders as well. For example, you need something done by me in four days - send the email with a three day reminder.

Another HUGE item which helps (when I get it from project managers) are the meeting minutes. Getting those out as soon after a meeting as humanly possible helps me to review the captured action items of who's doing what and their dependencies. I can also tell when something's missing and let the PM know.

Congratulations on all the activity. Nothing like a vacation to "fill the well", so to speak.

best wishes,

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 8:48AM
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A couple other things I do ...

- I have an email folder called "Toss after a while". In it goes all the stuff that I think I should keep but which I know I don't have to keep. I rarely have to retrieve anything from there; most often I just end up doing a time-based purge ("If you haven't used it recently ...").

- When I pick up my "physical" mail, if it's something in which I'm not interested, it's recycled immediately. No passing "Go", no collecting $200, never sees my desk. It's out of my hands.

- We're so meeting-crazy here that I have taken to marking an hour of appointment time for lunch. To people scheduling, it looks like I'm busy -- and I am. It's a boundary that I can choose to violate (and do, on occasion), but it's there for those who do have no compunction about scheduling lunchtime meetings (at which lunch is seldom provided).

- As mentioned in other threads, I carry a Palm. It contains my to-dos and appointments. I also make sure meeting agendas and reminders for me are associated with the appointment. Saves time scrambling for the piece of paper that I should have at the meeting.

- Here at work we have an event called "Scrappy Days". You're encouraged to "dress down", garbage barrels and mini-dumpsters are brought in, and files are gone through, excess office supplies returned, obsolete office equipment collected, and so on. It's getting harder to work that into the schedule, but it is a good reminder that 'most everyone can get rid of items and free up physical space, if not mind space.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 10:11AM
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what great ideas and advice! of course I have more to say--have I ever been short-winded? except on the stairs, of course.

but if I write now, I'll be late, so more later.

congrats, karen, and good luck! I'm so glad you like your job.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 5:41PM
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I usually post on kitchens... but read here occassionally. I'm excited about this thread as I have a great opportunity to get my desk(s) cleaned up and get more efficient. We're moving our home based office-- into real office space-- and I want to end up with two organized desks/systems rather than one chaotic one!

In addition to being the sales/marketing/project manager for our small web development company, I also teach part-time at a few local colleges/universities. (plus the normal household stuff with two DDs - 8 and 4).

I've always been an "everything out" kind of a person and have stacks of things out (sometimes things get stuck in teh piles)...

I like the suggestions about Outlook and use it (not enough). I've read "Getting things done" and would like to implement the ideas more effectively.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 11:42PM
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"Getting things done" --- is that a book? I shall look it up!

Wow, Mom, teacher, and small business mogul? What do I have to complain about!

When does school start for the kids? Ours started back last Wednesday. Ah, back on the hamster wheel!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 11:46PM
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Office and business organization is crucial for anyone who hopes to succeed.

In an aside comment -- when businesses all over dumped their office staff (the ones who did all the basic but so-vital stuff) -- and expected their workers to suddenly run ALL the sides of the business process themselves (from scheduling to letter-writing to bill tracking) -- I was never surprised to hear ALL the horror stories around dinner tables .....

Horror Stories?? Yes -- about lost time and effort (shocking!!!!) -- and lost jobs -- when businesses of any sort simply refused to take the time to get their processes organized ....

For example -- you would not believe the stories about time spent (sometimes WEEKS) trying to track down a customer's bill-paying records and contracts .......or how many companies simply have no idea how many customers do NOT end up paying for their stuff ....

Yes -- I know that all businesses have put computer programs of all sorts into play -- BUT I am talking about basic HOUSEKEEPING -- a vital but neglected part of business. Nobody wants to clean up -- or do the filing ---------

Rant over.

Organization starts with reviewing basic housekeeping procedures. Clearing out; Storage; Filing; Cleaning. Even dusting!! LOL!! Or Lighting. Or Having a Chair that works for YOU!

Whether at home -- or an office -- think about the WHOLE process ......

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 1:18PM
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My oldest starts next Tuesday and my little one after Labor Day.

Part of my problem is likely not being able to say "no" enough ;-) I've been getting better at that!

Also, the Getting Things Done books is really quite good-- would be even better if I followed the system better-- it actually inclues lots of ideas for implementing the tossing/etc. per Teacats post.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 12:14AM
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I agree about workplaces no longer having anyone to help with admin/red-tape/beaurocratic tasks any more. We have to do everything, and it would be so nice if my director had his own admin assistant that his folks could utilize for all kind of things, like travel arrangements, office supplies, reservations for business activities, arranging catering when there are functions here, ordering equipment, tracking down lost orders :-), etc. We all have to juggle those things on top of our actual jobs.

Ok, I guess I need to go out there and get that book! Sounds like a good one!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 10:58AM
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