Featured Guest Blogger: Anthony Fasano, P.E., CPC, LEED AP
Associate Civil Engineer and Professional Career & Leadership Development Coach
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Just recently I was asked to give a 7 minute talk to a group of professionals and small business owners. I believe that when you speak to a group, everyone in the group should walk away with good information that they can apply immediately to start to increase their potential for success, however they define it. What can you discuss with a group in 7 minutes that will help them move forward in their careers…..ORGANIZATION!
Organizational skills are critical to career success for several reasons. First of all, people that are more organized tend to be more productive. They typically get a lot of things accomplished in a small amount of time. More importantly, organized people are less stressed because they tend to be physically organized which leads into them being mentally organized. For example, instead of thinking to themselves all day, “I need to call so and so,” they have it written on their calendar which will remind them at the proper time. Hence, no need to worry or stress over things that have to get done. This factor is underrated as people fail to recognize how stress can amazingly decrease productivity.
I recently read a book called Getting Things Done by David Allen in which David takes his readers through a thorough process of getting organized with many specific steps and recommendations. So based on my own experience as well as information I picked up from the book, I offer the following:
Notepad: Write down everything you do throughout the day in a bound notepad. Whether it’s notes from a phone conversation, a meeting or a seminar, this forces you to have all of this information in one spot whenever you need it instead of writing it in 10 different pads or on different sticky’s which get lost. If a client or your boss asks you about a conversation or meeting you had a week ago, just flip back a few pages in the notebook and you’ll have the answers (assuming you took good notes). This is a cheap, simple way to start to get organized.
E-mail: E-mail is like air today, we can’t live without it in the workplace. Regardless of the e-mail system you use, keep your Inbox as empty as possible. If an e-mail comes in that can be dealt with quickly, deal with it and then delete it or save it in a project file. Don’t let your e-mail pile up to where you need hours to go through them. Not only will you have to spend a lot of time going through them, but you will start to get that dreaded “I am so overwhelmed” mindset which can really stress you out and slow you down.
Contacts: Keeping an organized contact list is key to success. As soon as you meet someone, enter him or her into your rolodex system; a digital system would be preferred. Too many people go to meetings and then come back with some business cards which get lost or thrown out and lose important information. Soon after writing a phone number down in your NOTEPAD, be sure to enter it into your contact system. Organize your contacts by category if the system you use allows it. For example, clients, prospective clients, consultants, contractors, etc. Then when you need a contractor or consultant you can browse by category, saving time.
Calendar: Similar to contacts, as soon as you make an appointment put it on your calendar with a reminder and be sure to digitally invite anyone that will be attending when feasible. Again if it helps you, categorize your calendar (i.e. personal is green, work is blue, vacation is gray). Programs like Microsoft Outlook allow this color coding which helps you to get a quick read on how the upcoming weeks look.
To Do List: We all have tasks and things “to do” but how do we keep track of them? Whether it is handwritten or on the computer, create a to do list with two columns. The left column should have the task and the right column should indicate the next step to be taken towards completing that task. Don’t leave out the next step column, that is how “to do” items get stalled. To avoid your list becoming overbearing you may want to place items that are due on a certain day, like phone calls or meetings, on your calendar with a reminder. As long as it is somewhere other than in your head, you will prevent stress from building!
Desk: This may be obvious but it is good practice to keep your desk as clean as possible. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to organize your desk so that you don’t walk into a mess the next morning. If you do walk into a mess you will waste a half an hour trying to figure out what to do first. You will be surprised how co-workers, staff and your boss may tie the cleanliness of your desk to your work performance, which could start you off on the wrong foot with someone.
There are many ways to stay organized, but these tips above are some things that you can implement immediately to start to get organized.
Remember this equation Organization = Less Stress and More Productivity!