By Michael Shelton

One big key to great management is being organized. You can waste time and energy looking for misplaced notes, lost office supplies, and scattered piles of files. You can create more value for your project with simple organizing skills. But first, let’s have some fun and measure your personal organizing quotient.

Answer the following questions on a scale of one to five, with one being strongly disagree, and five being strongly agree:

  1. I keep project documents in strategic piles across my desk. I know where stuff is, it just takes a while to dig up what I need.
  2. I am like a Pavlovian test subject, responding to every email, text and voice mail notification as it comes in.
  3. I pick through my in-box to find something interesting or enjoyable to do next.
  4. I have great ideas at random times in odd locations and can’t remember them later.
  5. My notes are scattered in a lot of different places.

Well, how did you do?

  • 5-7: An organized, productive machine
  • 8-12: Mostly organized with just a few leaks in the system
  • 13-18: Average, but could use some help with organizing
  • 19-22: Staying one step ahead of disaster
  • 23-25: Totally disorganized, stressed and causing some project delays

There are some things you can do to get organized and increase productivity as a project leader or manager. I coach my clients to take these basic steps to regain control:

Move the Piles

Most people think a cluttered desk is a sign that they are important, busy, indispensable or fill in your own adjective about relevance. A disorganized desk is a constant reminder that you don’t really know what is in those piles. You have no clue what nuggets you can pull out of there to get the next most important thing done. Messy desks create stress. Clean desks create order. Move those paper piles into unique, clearly labeled files for quick access later.

Turn off Message Notifications

An interruption of any kind can take your focus from the current task to something that may be much less important. One of the biggest drags on productivity is the sound, light or vibration from email, voice mail, text and social media notifications. We discount the time and energy it takes to move from one task to another. Multi tasking is a myth. We can only rapidly switch between activities. Get more organized and productive by checking messages at scheduled times during the day. Stay focused on the next step to keep your project moving along.

Last In – First Out

LIFO is an accounting term used to describe the way the cost of inventory moves through a company’s financial records. The newest materials go into production first. Similarly, we should batch process our incoming items by starting with the last one to arrive. By processing what’s on top first, we avoid the temptation to find something fun or easy to do. Empty your in-box by going through all the items from top to bottom. You also need a strategy to decide what to do now, what to schedule for later and what to delegate to others.

Be Note Ready

Keep pen and paper, a voice recorder or some other note taking system handy at all times. Your best ideas will come in the shower, driving to the office, in the middle of the night or other inconvenient times and places. You need a way to record these random thoughts, get them out of your head and recall them later. Bring all of these loose ideas into a trusted, reliable note management system.

Clear your desk and make an ordered filing system. Be ready to record your brilliant ideas at the odd times and places they sometimes happen. Limit interruptions from the phone, email system, office door and social media applications. These tools are for your convenience, not the caller’s. You can dramatically improve your organizing quotient by taking these simple steps today.

Michael Shelton is President and CEO of Shelton Business Services, LLC providing coaching and consulting.

Copyright © 2013 Shelton Business Services, LLC

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