Are your physical and digital workspaces set-up to get the most important things done? Here are our top 10 tips to be more productive no matter if that’s at home or an office.
Tip 1 - Feeling overwhelmed and stressed out just looking at your desk? First step, take everything off. Next, let go of the easy items like garbage and recycling and then group other like items together. Next it’s about making decisions about what to keep and what to let go. Everyone’s job is different. When making a decision about what to keep, ask yourself a couple of questions: Do I need this for financial or legal record keeping? Yes = Probably need to keep. Can I find it somewhere else? Might be able to let go. Is this reminding me about something I need or want to get done? Put in your To Do list or your calendar to be reminded about it in the future.
Tip 2 - When putting things back on your desk…label, label, label. Have a letter sorter or multiple letter trays? Don’t put them back on your desk until you know what exactly will go in them. Maybe your tray will be an “Inbox” and other trays to be “To Read” or “Invoices to Process” or “Insert specific category here”. Label each tray or section with the specific type of item that will live there. Don’t forget to label each of your drawers as well.
Tip 3 - Need to have some inspiration on your desk, but feel like it easily gets out of control or spreads too far? Set a limit. Maybe it’s one bulletin board for photos and other inspiration. Maybe it’s one tray of memories from your past conferences or gifts from co-workers. Whatever your limit, set it and if it fills up, time to let-go of the old to make room for the new.
Tip 4 - Do you need an Inbox? Most likely yes. An Inbox is a place for items to go before you’ve decided what you need to do with them (for example: take action, file, read, recycle or shred). Once you’ve decided what to do with it, it goes on your To Do list and then any physical paper related to the action can hang out in the To Do pile until you decide it’s time to get it done.
Tip 5 - When you were cleaning off your desk, did you find a bunch of sticky notes with things to do or remember? Make one pile. Put some of the items on the calendar for when you want to reminded about them again. Put to dos on a list in one place – it could be a digital list or paper list, whatever is most comfortable for you. Then prioritize the To Do list. It’s all about knowing the entirety of what needs to get done and then when you have time to take action, you will be able to confidently choose what gets done next. Have sticky notes or reminders that are ideas or you want to get to someday? Keep them on a separate list. You’ll have them when you need new inspiration or ideas, but they won’t get in the way when you are trying to figure out what to do to move your priority projects forward.
Your digital files:
Tip 6 - Can you go paperless? In my experience, probably not. However, digitizing paperwork can be helpful to clean up your desk, and with the powerful ability to search scanned text, you don’t need to set up a complicated folder system for your files. I love Evernote to help me keep track of my electronic To Do list. I also use Evernote to track ideas and resources. Using tags, I can label a digital file or link with the multiple ways I might want to find it in the future.
Tip 7 - You’ve heard it before, your inbox should only have emails that you haven’t addressed yet…but how to make that happen? Create a folder or label for “To Do” and “Waiting For”. When an email comes to your inbox that needs action, label it “To Do” as well as the category or topic it belongs to (i.e. taxes). Have you sent an email to someone else that you don’t want to forget about or need to follow-up if they don’t respond? Label it “Waiting For”. Your inbox can then remain your inbox and you’ve got an easy way to see your To Dos and emails you’re waiting for a response on.
Tip 8 - You might also have many emails that spark ideas or that you want to read. You can create additional labels for “New Ideas” or “To Read” to further segment your actions. This can be a helpful way to get your ideas and your “I’d like to get these done” tasks into a separate category and not let those items clog up your inbox.
Your To Do list:
Tip 9 - Your To Do list should be made up of actionable steps related to your priority Projects and Areas of Responsibility. What am I talking about? Think about all the areas of life you are responsible for. We’ll call them “Areas of Responsibility”. Consider these at a high level. On your list might be: work, home, health, kids, financial, etc. Under work, you might have other specific areas of responsibility (you could review your job description to get ideas). Once you have this list, you should have “Projects” that fall under each one. Some might be routine that you add as reminders/triggers to your calendar. Others might be distinct projects that will have multiple steps to complete. Your To Do list should be made up of specific, actionable steps that are related to accomplishing your priority projects.
How to maintain your organized system?
Tip 10 - David Allen and I say a Weekly Review. It’s a time to look at all your to dos and “open loops” and then make decisions about your current Projects and what specific actions you’ll take to move those forward. Doing this regularly will help set-up a trusted system. And having a trusted system means you don’t have to keep all those ideas, to dos and stress in your head, but know they are safe, sound and ready for you…when you’re ready for them.
Get help! Working with someone else can be more fun, engaging and productive. If keeping things organized has been a challenge for you to maintain in the past, consider recruiting someone else that can help you stay focused and consistent.
Ready to get more productive with a customized action plan and hands-on support to get it done? Contact us for a no-cost phone consultation!