Thursday, January 23, 2014

But I don’t know where to start!

We’ve all been there – the work has slowly but surely piled up, the emails have gone unanswered, and every time you turn your head it seems you’re just being bombarded with more to add to the “not-done” pile – in short, life is out of control.

I recently worked with a friend who was in just this situation and even though she knew she was rapidly falling further down the rabbit hole her issue was, she didn’t know where to start.

So – where did we start?

Well – I wanted to have a one day action plan to get her back on track. Not everything could be accomplished in one day, but everything could be organised and planned in one day.

Only – so we could get off to the right track we started our one day – at about 7.00pm. Now I’m not advocating working at 7pm every night – but when things have gotten to panic stations, being in the office or your workspace at a time when no-one else is might be just what you need.

Step 1. Find and organise the clues

It took about 2 hours, but the very first step was to categorise every “clue” in her office. They went into various “piles” of clues (in no order within the piles). The names of some of these piles were:

·           - Leads for new clients
·           - Random pieces of paper / post its / messages
·           - Personal stuff
·           - Files / checklists
·           - Current clients

Remember, you don’t need 30 post it note squares and 25 pens, minimise the amount of crap on your desk and you’ll minimise the amount of clutter in your brain. Keep what you need immediately within reach, logically store anything else, throw out everything you can that is junk and donate to your office stationery cupboard anything else.

Step 2. Use the clues to generate a plan

So then I took each of these categories and roughed out a plan for the next day allowing spots within the to do list for checking email, confirming that day’s appointments etc.

Step 3. Get an early win

By the time we met first up the next morning there was already a sense of order to the office.  But the list was still terrifying with it’s 9 scary dot points. What we needed was an early first win. The first item on the list was small, it took less than 10 minutes. As lame as it sounds, I invoked a rule whereby we would high five every time we had a “win” (ie: every time we took an item off that list). In the first hour the first three items had all been high fived and we were working on item 4.

Step 4. Throw multi-tasking on it’s ass

Part of the problem, I’ve found, for when everything is getting on top of people is that they’re trying to do everything at once. Multi-tasking is a farse – try and do everything and you’ll get nothing finished and more importantly nothing finished well.

With our little 9 point list – it was clear what we were working on at any time. When we were working on following up every client lead (that’s right, every one) – we weren’t checking email and we weren’t focussing on any of the other 8 points.

Step 5. Rinse and repeat

Pick one thing, do it, complete it, high five, move on to the next.

Systematically work through your list.

Step 6. Remove the memory

As you work through your list – be smart about it. For us in this instance, ever time we followed up a new client lead we put it into a categorised folder and diarised the next follow up. No need to have to “remember” to do anything.  Life is stressful enough without having to wake up at 2.00am because you forgot to do something you were relying on your memory for.

Step 7. Stick-to-it

And finally - being organised, especially if you’re the type of person (read: me) who gets disorganised, isn’t something that will naturally happen if you get organised. You’ll need to keep check of it. Maybe you diarise to clean your desk and remove the clutter once a week, maybe you set aside a time each month to meet with an organisational mentor within your organisation and get 100% on track. 

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