Unfortunately, this mountain of paper reflected badly upon my productivity:
- I was disorganised, and therefore inefficient.
- I did not know the extent of the problem, so I could not prioritise effectively.
- Things were out of control. I was, therefore, being irresponsible in my approach to my job.
- The heap itself just didn’t look good. Although I was unaware of the fact, it had a negative impact on my self-esteem and upon my colleagues perception of me.
Considering the problem, I recognised that there were actually two distinct problems:
- The visible chaos. Everything in ‘the heap’ and my in tray.
- The invisible chaos. Everything in my head, in various other lists, lost in the heap etc.
I needed to address the problem before I receive complaints from my customers. The good news is that I had identified a problem, and that I had the opportunity to be proactive in solving it.
I formed a strategy on two levels to solve the problem.
At the first level was a meta-strategy to PLAN, DO and REVIEW how I was going to tackle ‘the heap’. I needed to:
- PLAN: Develop a strategy to bring the problem under control, and write it down.
- DO: Execute the strategy.
- REVIEW: Write about the results and (hopefully) learn something.
I sketched out a basic plan on a scrap of paper, and then worked out the finer points as I went along. Here is the plan that I came up with.
- Gather up all the paper into one big heap (in my in-tray, to save desk space).
- Work through the whole lot, dealing with every piece of paper.
- File everything, making a big list of to-dos.
- If I can deal with an item quicker than I can do anything else, act on it.
- If I can bin an item, bin it.
- If there is an action to perform, list it.
- File everything else.
- For items with actions, note the location of the paper on the list. Add to-dos from other sources, eg:
- The incident / work request system.
- Existing to-do lists.
- The mass of stuff in my head.
- Prioritise and categorise the to-do list.
The most important outcome was to reinforce my belief that:
- I can develop strategies to manage my life more effectively.
About the clutter on my desk, I discovered:
- By filing everything, even things that need action, I am better able to keep clutter under control. I have never done this before, but have found that it really helps.
- It is really pleasant to have a clear desk. I feel good about it.
I have several areas for development (I have to-dos for these on my list):
- I have a big pile of reading matter, and I need to develop a strategy to manage this.
- My drawers and filing system need a good sort out as well.
About my workload, I discovered:
- I actually had several to-do lists that I had forgotten about. Most (but not all) of the tasks have actually been done. Some of the work I need to do had been forgotten. At least I know about it now.
- I have more work to do than I had realised, but at least I can prioritise it now.
- The long list of to-dos that I have generated is actually a bit frightening.
About the time to perform the task, I discovered:
- It took longer than anticipated to action the strategy, but not much longer.
- It took considerably longer to write up the process than I had anticipated. I anticipate that this will become easier with experience.
About future management of my work I learned:
- The corporate paper to-do list doesn’t really suit me. It used to work for me, but I have outgrown it now.
- I will need to maintain my new master to-do list.
About future mini-projects I observed:
- During I needed to open several new files. I was pleased that I had already collected some empty files for just this eventuality. Next time I will need to anticipate the need for materials and make sure I have a good stock (or easy access).
Additional Jobs I need to Undertake
- I have some personal paperwork (now in a ‘small heap’ on my desk) that I need to take home and file.
- I need to set up a weekly task in my diary to manage my in tray and paperwork on my desk.
- PLAN-DO-REVIEW worked well in this situation.
- Productivity is enhanced through organisation.
- Self-esteem is enhanced through organisation.
- I have developed an effective strategy for dealing paperwork and work items.
- I will need to maintain the to-do list.
Of course, this was all very good, but now I have to go and do some real work. It is well past mid-day, and I have just received a call from a client chasing me for actual results…