As 2020 came to a close, not only did I do the happy dance (didn’t we all?!), but I also took some time to get organized for the year ahead. From time to time people tell me that I’m organized. If I don’t furrow my eyebrows or look at them like an alien, I almost certainly always think, “Wow, I sure have them fooled! Clearly, they don’t know me.” In fairness to myself and in honor of those who may notice something in me that I never have, it is time that I come to terms with the fact that maybe—just maybe—I AM organized. Organization doesn’t have to look like a neat house or desk where everything has its place (I certainly don’t win the award for that!). Perhaps organization is more than that.
It seems that people who successfully organize also are strong planners—they know where they’re headed and how they’re going to get there. Planning is my jam and you know what? It has served me well.
In that spirit, I want to share some key things I do to keep organized through planning that I hope you’ll also find helpful as we get into our 2021 groove. Some of these ideas are now habits and ones I first learned after hearing a presentation by Bruce Breier many years ago. Bruce is an organizational consultant and is best known for his seminars on “The Organized Executive.” The greatest part is that the lessons from a decade ago with Bruce still apply today.
First things first. Are you productive or effective? Generally, people are one or the other, and most people fall into the productivity trap at the cost of being effective. Bruce points out the difference. When we’re productive, we get lots of things done and when we’re effective, we get the right things done.
The 3-step process Bruce outlines will set you up for greater effectiveness if you stick with it for at least 6 weeks (habit formation doesn’t happen overnight, and the rumors about habits being formed in 21 days are a complete myth):
• Step 1 – Set your top three priorities for the day and commit to getting them completed before ending your day.
• Step 2 – Set the tone for your day with the Morning-Start Up, a 30ish-minute daily ritual that will get faster with time.
o Get your office set up and ready for work (turn on the lights and computer, grab that caffeine fix, and open your blinds/shutters)
o Check your email and voicemail. Do a quick scan to see what you need to deal with right then. The rest can wait.
o Prepare for any meetings scheduled for the day. Do you need supplies or presentation materials? Do you need to refresh yourself with notes for the meeting or review the agenda that was distributed? This part of the process is a game changer and will help you feel more confident, collected, and less frazzled.
o Then get on with your day and with tackling those 3 priorities you set.
• Step 3 – Close out your day with a Daily Wrap-Up, a 30-60 minute daily ritual (this, too, will get faster with time).
o Review your top three priorities and complete anything that is not done.
o Respond to any final emails and file or purge emails.
o Calendar a new time to schedule any tasks you didn’t finish.
o Add new tasks to your “to do” list and calendar.
o Check your Sent Items folder, to make sure you’ve heard from everyone you need to.
o Electronically delegate any tasks others need to get done — let them know what you want and when you want it. Be specific.
In a society where we all lean toward the quick dopamine hit from responding to everything that comes our way, it’s time to re-gain focus and some sense of control over your day.
Drop me a line to let me know what transformations you see after trying this for a few weeks. You’ve got this!