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Staying Organised with Lists
If you have ever had days where you wished you had thought of the above statement, then you wouldn't be alone. Having worked in office administration and desk bound roles for over twenty years, I can really relate to Annie Scott's Office Humour. I liked it so much, it has become one of my favourite tweets since it was first tweeted over a year ago now.
Apart from providing a good chuckle, Annie's statement highlights one of the most major challenges that all employees face: being Organised. Its not just those working in administration or desk bound jobs that struggle with this issue.
Staying organised is a constant challenge. Busy working environments often have organisational issues especially if employees lack their own organisational skills that they can apply to their role. Lack of training, old technological resources, unclear duties and policies, and undocumented procedures can result in reduced productivity. Employees who don't exhibit basic organisational skills can suffer from stress effecting job performance, customer service standards and ultimately negatively effecting a business' bottom line.
Organisational skills aren't just an employment issue. Being disorganised can also spill over into your life outside of work. Developing basic organisational skills can also help you with keeping the house clean, purchasing groceries, preparing for a holiday, maintaining a vehicle, growing a vegetable garden, being a parent and obtaining employment.
Using Lists to manage your time and tasks, is a basic organisational skill. With our current level of technology, creating Lists to help organise your day whether it be at work or at home is becoming easier. Many smartphones provide applications that use the basic function of a List. Apple's "Reminder" APP allows you to create lists with alarm reminders, or reminders that alert you when you are near a location. But you don't need a smartphone to stay organised. Creating your own written list can also be just as fun, manageable and resourceful.
What You Will Need
- A4 size notebook
- At least four coloured pens
- Gold stars
How to Create a Simple and Fun List
The following procedure originated from an annual FILEX convention in Sydney in 2011. It may have changed a little from the original process, as it was provided to me by word of mouth from a colleague who attended. I liked it so much, that I adopted the List Process. It employs the creation of daily lists, and the process can easily be transferred to Outlook or Thunderbird “Tasks”, if you lean more towards using a computer than this manual method.
Simple procedure for staying organised at work
- A4 size notebook
- At least four coloured pens
- Gold stars
Each page is to contain all the tasks that you are given, arise or recognise as needing to be completed on that day, not necessarily the tasks you have to complete for that day.
When you receive a phone call from someone with a new request that you can not complete while you have the person on the phone write it down on your page, even if it is a simple request that you think you’ll remember.
- Use at least one page to a day. Put the day's date up the top of the page so it is easy to track your tasks. Start a new page the next day.
- As you are given a new task or recognise a new task that needs to be completed, write it down.
- Use one line per each task.
- Tasks written in RED have a sense of urgency. EG: Must be completed that day!
- A task notated in BLUE is a repetitive task.
- Tasks that are written using a GREEN ink are projects that you expect to take longer than a week to complete.
- Tasks described in BLACK are general tasks and may even come from your role statement or position description.
- You can use other colours for further categorisation, such as defining the difference between daily and weekly repetitive tasks.
- As you complete each task put a straight line through it, or place a tick at the end of the line.
- When the entire page / day has all the listed tasks completed, give yourself a gold star.
- Each day go back through your book and find the pages with no stars and re-assess the tasks that are still waiting completion. If you need to bring a task forward to a new page complete the task on the old page so you don’t keep revisiting it.
If you adopt this process that uses Lists for helping you stay organised, you will find that it is easy to adopt and adaptable to many situations. Starting to use Lists in your every day activities, like any new habit requires self discipline. If you follow it consistently, it will help you get and stay organised.
Giving yourself a gold star when the day’s list is completed not only rewards you visually for your efforts, but it also provides a clear and quick recognition that there is nothing on the page that needs your attention. A page with no star has unfinished business.
How do you create lists?
The Dangers of Not Using Lists
It’s not just the pile of papers that are talking back that you have to be worried about. Before I began using the above List process, I tried my best to quieten them up by putting one stack beneath my desk at my feet. I had hoped that the odour of my gym shoes would reduce its size to something more manageable, or cause the cleaners to remove it. This left two stacks of paper on my desk. One conveniently hidden in a tray labelled “In” while another said, “Out”. (Out to have me as a meal.)
Things could become a lot worse. The hidden electrocution shock tactic that my bosses employed, didn't help my desire to attack those stacks of paper either. They would still deny this implementing it. Yet, for a good few months, every time I went to open my office door, I would receive electrocution shock therapy. I tried to discuss these new methods for getting employees to remain at their desks with one of our Senior Personnel, but it was still denied, suggesting that perhaps it was my shoes.
Lists are a simple and affective tool to use. They are a great resource to help organise your tasks whether they're work related or personal. Lists don't have to be manual, you can also create and manage lists through software such as Email and Calendar programs and Smartphone Apps. Using Lists to shift tasks and piles of paper is much easier than trying to have the cleaners remove the piles for smelling like foot odour.
Like Annie, while you might want to wish those stacks of paper away, they aren't going to disappear suddenly by having a heart to heart with them. Going through the piles and sorting them into tasks, and organising your tasks with a task or list process like the one above, can lead to a lightened workload and a lot less stress.