How to get things done
Organise your life
Planning your time
How to be organised and get things done – setting achievable goals and timescales
I once knocked on a neighbour’s door to return something I’d borrowed. He invited me in and told me he was having such a busy morning that he just didn’t know where to start. He was trying to sort the garden out first, then he had a number of other jobs. I was slightly puzzled as his garden was very small. The problem was that he wanted to plant some seeds in potting trays, he needed the compost first, so he had to go to the shops, but he had some weeding to do and a number of other very small jobs. It’s easy to feel very stressed about small jobs that you feel you need to get done. I have a pile of small repairs to do on the children’s school uniforms, ripped seams, holes in pockets and so on. I don’t have any thread that’s the right colour, so I can’t put the clothes away. It is starting to irritate me.
There are a number of small simple steps that can help you be better organised and manage your time better, whether it is for you as an individual in your home or whether it is for an organisation to improve its efficiency.
An organisation can follow the Japanese management style of Kaizen, which comes from the Japanese for “improvement” or “change for the better”. It is a type of philosophy or management style that when applied to the business and manufacturing world, focuses on lean manufacturing and eliminating waste. Applying this method involves a careful scrutiny of how you operate and detailing how this could be improved. For example, if you are tidying your house, you might find that you are wasting a lot of time walking up and down stairs to put things away. Leave the things in piles (but make sure it’s not a trip hazard) and take as much as you can in one journey.
If you are a busy Mum, you probably find the school run one of the most stressful parts of the day. Trying to leave the house on time with your children, each with everything that they need for the day can be a total cause for panic. Deadlines in the workplace too can creep up on you unnoticed, until the stress levels become so high simply because tasks have been left until the last minute. What is worse, is that there is often a domino effect, where your role might be the final part of a process and slippage from other colleagues mean that they each go beyond their timescale and hope that you can make up for their tardiness right at the last hurdle. Students revising for exams can also suffer from last-minute panics as the exam date draws near and the revision process hasn’t been completed. The success to managing this is to set deadlines for each stage of a process and let other people involved in the process know what those deadlines are. Organisations often use Gantt charts, which are a type of bar chart invented by Henry Gantt to show a project schedule. A project might be planned as taking 6 weeks to complete, with a number of departments involved. After week one, the first stage should have been completed and the task is moved on to the next procedure. Those involved in task one need to be aware that the final deadline might be in 6 weeks time, but unless they finish their task by week 1, the project will be delayed. This is a similar process to doing exams, where you may have to answer 3 one-hour questions in a 3 hour exam. If you spend too long on the first question, you will run out of time to answer the last question. Each question may be marked out of 50, so you may well score 48 for question one, but only 15 for question 3, so 63 in total. Better pacing may mean you can get 40 marks for questions 1 and 3, so 80 in total, even though you had more to say about question 1.
This also applies to aptitude tests in interviews or multiple choice tests where you may have to answer 50 questions in an hour. Learn to answer a question every minute and then move on, don’t linger too long on the ones you don’t know, you can go back to them afterwards.
On a simple level, plan the everyday things that you need to do for the next day and put them into place the day before. Prepare packed lunches and leave them in the fridge, make sure that in the evening everything is ready for the next day; leave shoes and keys, bags, train passes and coats in a place that is easy to find when you leave the house.
Make a checklist
To be able to assess how much time you have to allocate to your tasks, you need to make a checklist of all that needs to be done in the time available. Once you have worked out what needs to be done you can plan the order that things need to be done. This applies as much to writing essay plans in exams, projects in the workplace or just simple household chores. For example work out what you are going to need for the tasks you need to do and if it involves having to go to the shops make sure you make a shopping list so you don’t have to stop what you’re doing and go to the shops a second time. The wonderful thing about making checklists is that you can set yourself achievable goals and cross them off as you complete tasks. There will always be a number of things that you have been putting off, try and do these first and feel the burden lift of having them hanging over you.
Use your time
When you have your checklist and priority plan, make sure that you can use your time efficiently to get the things on your checklist carried out. Any tasks that only take 10 minutes can be quickly carried out and crossed off the list as “filler” tasks. Small pockets of time can be used to carry out simple tasks that it’s too easy to leave because you don’t have time.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the tasks that you feel need doing. Take time to prepare your space either at home or in the work place so that you feel more positive about your working environment. Clear out storage space in cupboards, desk, wardrobes, shelves, warehouses so that you can easily order things in the right place and in the right order, so you don’t waste time searching for things. This will cause frustration and negative thoughts as you search through clutter. Throw away things that really don’t need to be kept. Recycle things that could be put to better use or store tidily things that you need to use. Tips for dealing with these matters in the office include putting a dot in the corner of a piece of paper every time you handle it. When it has too many dots, you know it’s time to deal with the issue and sort it out, then the paper can be filed or shredded. Clutter accumulates from procrastinating.
Corporate bodies like to do strategy planning, setting short and long term goals and a timescale to achieve them. They often invest in elaborate mapping software that lets them chart how on track they are in achieving these goals. Mapping or mind mapping is simply a way of jotting down ideas on a chart that shows you what you want to achieve and how you need to go about doing it. Businesses like to use computer software tools that lets them devise maps and monitor progress, but you can do it simply by drawing your plans on paper and putting ticks on things you've achieved. You can carry this out on a simple basis in the house, so your everyday chores that need to be done become your short-term goals and your long-term goals can be squeezed in alongside them. You need to be realistic in setting the goals. Here's a funny flowchart that shows you how to procrastinate.
Learn to let go and take shortcuts
Sometimes when you are juggling a lot of tasks and spinning plates, you have to accept that you don’t need to do everything perfectly. When my 4 children were young, I never had time to get them all dressed and ready to leave the house on time for school, so the baby would often be scooped up, wearing pyjamas under a snowsuit, so no-one would know they hadn’t got dressed. I have a way of tidying up where I get a huge sack and quickly run round all the rooms dragging it behind me and just scoop everything off the bedroom floors into it and put it in the downstairs loo if visitors are coming. The clutter is all in one place for me to deal with when I have more spare time. I can be satisfied that I have done the tidying apart from one room.
With your lists of tasks, goals and objectives and your timescales, you will get a feeling of satisfaction as you start to cross things off your list and see how much you are actually managing to get done. This will make you feel more positive and give you more energy to deal with the tasks you have been putting off. I need to go and buy some black thread now and sew up those uniforms so they can go back in the wardrobe!
How to get organised and achieve your goals
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