5 Steps to Organize Your Way to Efficiency
By Kelly Sims
It's 10:38am and you are on a roll. You are so deeply involved in your work, that you barely notice the world around you. You are in the zone. You just need to verify the date on that invoice…but where is that invoice? It was right there a second ago. Nothing throws off your concentration faster that disorganization. You may have to spend the next 10 minutes looking through drawers, the piles on your desk and maybe even the recycling bin to see if it accidentally ended up there.
Are you one of those people who say they have their ‘own' filing system? This usually is just a cover for ‘I basically know what each of these various piles are here for and can probably tell you what's in some of them.' There is no telling how much time can be lost in a day due to disorganization. Imagine if every time you needed something, it was right where it was supposed to be. What a time saver that would be! If you are trying to find a way to avoid losing precious minutes out of your day trying to find that file, email, invoice or pen, the following tips may be valuable to you.
1. File everyday. Don't let papers build up on your desk. Piles of paper sitting on your desk not only hamper your efficiency, they create stress as well. Imagine sitting down to work with nothing but your current project on your desk. Now imagine it (if it doesn't already resemble this) with piles of work everywhere. You can feel the stress those piles create. Set aside 15 minutes each day to create files, label them clearly and set up a filing system or just keep them in alphabetical order. This will be a great time saver the next time that you are looking for that invoice. The 15 minutes a day you put into this will be regained and then some in the time that you don't have to spend searching for things.
2. Organize your computer files. Just as you set up a filing system for your papers, you need to arrange a filing system on your computer. Not being able to find a document on your computer is every bit as frustrating as losing one on paper. But this is very easily avoided, since every time you save a document on your computer, you are asked where you would like to save it. If you have just been randomly saving your work wherever your computer prompts you to, it's time to clean up. Create folders for larger topics and subfolders within each topic. For example, if you work with contracts, have one folder called ‘contracts', and within this folder have a subfolder where you keep your contract templates called ‘templates' and other subfolders for each of your clients where you can store copies of the contracts you have with each customer. You should also regularly organize your desktop in order to avoid sitting and staring at it unproductively for long periods. You need to eliminate the clutter on your desktop by erasing any shortcuts for programs that you don't use often. This will enable you to quickly access your frequently used programs.
3. Make to-do lists. Do you ever feel so overwhelmed with work that you don't even know where to begin? Making a to-do list at the start of each work day is such a simple step, but will help enormously to keep you on track. You will avoid starting one task only to realize that you have something more important that needs to be done first. I personally have found to-do lists to be the most effective time saver and I am constantly amazed at how doing such a small thing as creating a list makes me a great deal more efficient.
4. Be neat. It's incredibly simple and amazingly effective at saving you time. Put things back in their place when you are finished with them. There is nothing more irritating than having to stop working in order to find your pen. If you don't have them already, find some organizational objects for your desk such as, a cup for your pens, a box for your paperclips and an in-box for your newest tasks. Keep the supplies you use frequently such as staples, staplers, highlighters and hanging file folder tabs in one easily accessible place.
5. Keep a calendar. With all of the responsibilities you have in a day, you can't possibly expect to remember everything. A calendar will keep you on track and help you to avoid missing important meetings, appointments and even family events. If you use Microsoft Outlook, and have your computer on throughout the day, use its calendar or you can find many free calendar programs online. Just do a Google search for ‘free online calendars'. If you don't work at your computer all day, consider buying an agenda to keep you on track, or a handheld such as a Palm Pilot or Pocket PC, or check if your cell phone has a calendar you can use.
Organization is the key to efficiency. Using these few simple steps will help your work day run considerably smoother. Taking the time to get organized is just the first step. Maintaining organization is the solution for helping you to remain effective in your work. Take charge of your time by following these tips, it will cost you little time, but will ultimately save you considerable hours.
Kelly Sims is a Virtual Assistant and President of Virtually There VA Services. Please visit her website to sign up for her monthly newsletter providing useful information that enhances and simplifies the lives of busy entrepreneurs. => http://www.virtuallythereva.com .