I am a fairly organized person, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at the rat’s nest of cables behind my entertainment unit. Sometimes it’s just quicker to hook cables up and drop them where they can’t be seen, but this, I learned this week, can cause a lot of frustration and wasted time. It would have been better for me to organize in the first place.
I had an HDMI cable go out, and it would no longer supply the audio to the TV. Instead of quickly tracing the cord, I had to pull the entire entertainment unit out unplug all the cables, figure out which one it was and where it was connected and then put everything back. When I put everything back, I did manage to organize and label everything so it doesn’t happen again, but it took 2.5 hours when it could have taken 1 minute.
Working as an Executive Assistant can be a lot like that rat’s nest of cables if you don’t take the time to organize everything up front. Here are my top 3 tips for becoming more organized.
Get a day planner or use an app
Unless you have an eidetic memory, you are bound to forget things from time to time. Getting and using a planner, whether it’s a paper one or an app on your phone, will help you to get organized at work. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I use a brand called Planner Pad to organize my work life. I find it intuitive, functional, and attractive. When planning my week, I like to start with all of the goals I’d like to get finished during the week, then I focus those into daily to-do’s. From there, I make a daily schedule based on the tasks for that day.
Since I’m a pen and paper kind of gal, I’m not super familiar with electronic planners, but I know there are tons of planner apps out there for iPhone, Android, and Windows phones. Try some of the free ones out to decide if any of them will suit your needs.
Get rid of non-essentials
When you spend 8-10 hours per day at your cubical or desk, it may start to feel like you live there. The longer you’ve been at your company, the more likely you are to acquire stuff and your workspace will reflect that. Clutter happens, but it can affect your productivity. When chaos is around you, your brain will feel more chaotic and it will make it harder to focus. Multiple scientific articles support this theory including this one from Princeton University. If you want to read a less “sciencey” summary of that article, this blog does a good job.
If you’re not sure where to begin in the decluttering process, a good place to start is taking a banker’s box and sticking everything you believe to be non-essential for your daily job in that box. Once you do that, try to keep track of how many times you need to get something out of your box during the next month. If you never do, that stuff isn’t essential and should probably go home. Now, I’m not saying to make your space a personality-free, sterile, cold place. It should inspire you! By removing what isn’t essential, you make room for those little touches that make you happy when you see them. For me, I have a picture of my nephew that makes me laugh. I also have little geeky touches that show my personality like a Staples Easy Button, a pocket-sized lightsaber, and a Rubik’s Cube, but the knickknacks don’t overwhelm the space.
Schedule regular breaks during the day
Taking breaks will make you more productive as long as you aren’t taking off for hours at a time. Taking quick, 15-20 minute breaks every couple of hours will help to refocus your brain and get you back on task. Last week I was having one of those days where I couldn’t focus on the tasks I needed to complete. I took my lunch break and came back renewed and was able to complete everything I had on my list, even though I didn’t make much progress before lunch. It just took some invigorating conversation with friends and tasty food.
Running from meeting to meeting not only frustrates everyone in those meetings, but it can make those meetings less productive due to fatigue and loss of interest/focus. If you schedule 15 minute breaks between the meetings, you’ll likely find that those meetings are more productive. You may even find that people have better ideas and are less irritable.
Do you have any favorite ways to get organized while studying or working? Share them in the comments below!