Susie made the point that being organised is more than just time management. It stretches across a number of areas:
- Physical environment
- Mental environment
- Time management
- Processes & procedures
Susie made the point that having a less cluttered environment can also lead to a less cluttered brain. Being surrounded by piles of paper, subliminally representing piles of things you should be doing, acts as a distraction and a stress factor.
Email (and, presumably, shared drives and other storage places for electronic documents) is really an extension of physical organisation. If your e-storage space is as disorganised as that desk, risk, inefficiency and unreliablity will surely follow. Susie advocated opening an email once - don’t be tempted to close it again, mark it as un-read, return to it later, perhaps repeat this process several times! Instead, deal with the request or information enclosed, action it, then either file the email or delete it out of your inbox.
Turning to time management, Susie made the point that we can’t manage time - everyone has a maximum of 24 hours in a day. Instead, perhaps it should be called time use. We could all plan better how we use the time we have available. Susie suggested that we plan, prioritise, set targets and have rewards for using time better.
Two techniques that can help with time planning are the urgency/importance grid, and using a day book and diary in combination.
An urgency/importance grid looks like this:
(when should this be done - diarise or communicate it)
(Do it now! - or make sure it is done)
(Does it have to be done at all?)
(To whom can I delegate this?)
Mentally allocating each of the items on your to-do list to this grid will allow you to prioritise all your tasks for the coming day.
Susie demonstrated a day book layout that she recommends using. The left hand page of a double spread is divided into 9 empty boxes. These are for notes of phone calls, new projects that come up, ideas for future actions, etc. The right hand page of the double spread is divided into columns. The column headings include:
- Item name/description
- Time to complete
- Final deadline date
The final deadline dates, and reminders days or weeks in advance, also go into your diary or electronic calendar.
Finally Susie turned to processes and procedures. She distinguished between these by saying that a process is the ‘what’ needs to be done (and by whom) whereas the procedure is the detailed description of ‘how’ to do it. For you to be organised, processes and procedures need to be documented, so that someone else could pick up your work and continue with it when you are on holiday, leave the role or are off sick. This documentation could be using flow charts (process diagrams) or text documents, and should avoid assumptions wherever possible (who to get information from, who to send things to, where things are kept, etc).
Susie’s final piece of advice to achieve a more organised life? Learn to say ‘no’. When someone interrupts your day’s work with a request, being able to say “I can’t do that right away but I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished this email/call/report/etc” is a powerful way to keep your day on track.
We then spent a very enjoyable time networking, with wine and wonderful nibbles kindly provided by Susan Dennis and Charles Russell LLP. I was particularly impressed by the 'sausage and mash' - coctail sausages split hot-dog style with a miniature amount of mash piped down the middle - a very nifty idea!