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Blog: Organize This!
Working Smarter, Not Harder in the Workplace

Hello Organizing Fans, Welcome to 'Organize This!' I'm your blogger, Vali Heist, professional organizer for homeowners and businesses.
This is the blog that offers practical tips and ruminations about your CRAP! CRAP specifically means clutter that robs anyone of pleasure. So, let's get to it! My rumination about CRAP today revolves around the workplace environment. CRAP in the workplace is a whole different animal! Having worked in the office environment all my life, I know from which I speak. Workplace CRAP involves clutter in your mail box, in your voice mail, in your email, in your head, in your filing cabinets and all over your office. Unfortunately in this economy, many businesses were forced to lay off workers, but the remaining employees are expected to work harder than ever and sometimes with fewer resources. That makes it even harder to stay focused and ignore the clutter around us. So getting organized means working smarter, not harder! As a certified trainer helping employees stay more focused, productive and organized, I want employees to learn how to get more out of their work day and do more with less. There are a few foundational ideas for workplace productivity that are far from rocket science, but they are based on copious amounts of research. The hardest part about making improvements, however, is breaking old habits and starting new ones. As tough as that is, if you want to be organized and take less time to do more, stay with me.
So for the practical tips section of my blog today we'll talk about five simple ideas that can help you stay focused and therefore more productive in the workplace.
Focusing. Learning how to focus is a foundation for being organized in the workplace. Focusing can be a real challenge because everything can feel like a priority and many of us have ten different things coming at us at once. In order to program your brain to form a new habit, like focusing, get yourself a cueing device, for example, a marble, or a rock, or a seashell. Keep it in your pocket, on your desk, on your computer monitor, or in a prominent place and every time you see it, think of the words, 'Right Now'. If you find yourself starting to drift and lose focus, imagine the self-talk statement, "Right now, I'm on the phone…writing a report…finishing this project…meeting with a client and he or she deserves my undivided attention." Try this practice in both your professional and personal life and see if it doesn't change the reactions you get from your colleagues, family and friends. When I first started learning how to focus, I said 'Right Now' a lot so don't get discouraged!  
The Bottom Line: This simple exercise can help you stay focused on what's important, stay on task, be present, and get more done.  
Multitasking. Multitasking is the performance of multiple tasks at one time. Many of us do it and we think we're getting more done, but it's just an illusion.  Multitasking actually requires you to switch back-and-forth between things and this significantly reduces your productivity. It's sort of like Whack-a-mole! According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, people who multitask are actually less efficient than those who focus on one project at a time. Other studies have noted the consequences of multitasking such as short-term memory loss and senior moments.
Now, I know that it would be extremely difficult to get through any day without multitasking. So, start by trying to cut your multitasking by at least 20%. That means try to block out 96 minutes every day (preferably in the morning) for deliberate practice with no multitasking. This time period happens to be 20% of a full day. During this time, stay totally focused on high priority, high impact tasks. Use the cueing device to stay on task. The rest of your day, practice 'mindful' multitasking, which means being aware that your productivity will suffer, but knowing that it is acceptable and appropriate behavior sometimes, but not all of the time.
The Bottom Line: Multitasking will increase the amount of time and effort it takes to complete a task so do it sparingly.
Rational Use of Time. Since we can't control time, we can use our time more efficiently by first, reducing the activities that require the use of time. Second, we can learn to do things in less time. The next time you are experiencing time pressure, ask yourself two questions: 1. Should I be doing this activity…Is this a waste of my time…Is it really important to do at all? 2. If it must be done, how can I do it more efficiently?
Let's use e-mail as an example of one of the biggest time wasters. E-mail is of course also a time saver, but all the filters in the world won't take the responsibility away from you to learn how to process your emails effectively and efficiently. The key is to narrow your processing alternatives down to five choices: Delete, Delegate (forward), Answer it (if it takes 60 seconds or less), Hold for more processing (it will take more than 60 seconds to process), or Print out and file for future reference.
The Bottom Line: We can't control time, but we can control how we spend it.
Solving Problems. Whenever problems come up, they are begging to get solved and a certain skill may need to be mastered in order to solve those problems. Remember: The job of a problem is to get your attention! And there is no substitute for profound knowledge or deeper knowledge of any one subject. As a sole proprietor, I don't have an IT department to call when I need computer training. So, I get the training I need by signing up for a class or calling an expert so I'm not wasting my time figuring out software or how to make my computer work more efficiently. When you have a problem, and it is begging to get solved, you have a number of choices: get training, read a book, call a colleague, take a course, or search the internet. Just do what it takes to solve the problem because allowing that problem to continue is a waste of your time.
The Bottom Line: Don't reinvent the wheel solving a problem, get help!
Clarify Everything. Another time waster is lack of clarification. Without clarification, you are guessing and when you are guessing, you are wasting precious time by not knowing all the details up front. For example, if you ask your assistant to go to Office Max and get some paper for you, how hard would it be for him or her to find it? Pretty hard! Think of how much time would be wasted walking around Office Max and guessing what type of paper to buy. So, if you ask him or her to get copy paper, would that make it any easier? Probably. But, there are still many types of copy paper and further clarification is necessary to get exactly what you want. With this simple example, you can see how lack of clarification really causes confusion, but for more complex tasks, it could cost countless hours of wasted time and money.
The Bottom Line: Clarify, Clarify, Clarify.
Let's close today with two quotes. The first is from Brian Tracy who is an author (Eat That Frog) and a success expert. He says "You can get your time and your life under control only to the degree to which you discontinue lower value activities." In other words, you can't do it all, so eliminate the things that are CRAP and leave room for the really important things. The second quote is from Charles Dickens and he said, "I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time." In other words if you want to be as successful as Charles Dickens, try to cut back on the multitasking and focus!
Thank you for reading 'Organize This'! Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. Have a great day!  

posted on: 2/6/2010 2:30:00 PM by Vali Heist
category: General Organizing Tips

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Organize This!

by Vali Heist

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About Vali:

Vali Heist is a Certified Professional Organizer, the owner of The Clutter Crew for homeowners, and a Certified GO System Trainer for businesses. She is the author of "Organize This! Practical Tips, Green Ideas, and Ruminations about your CRAP. CRAP stands for Clutter that Robs Anyone of Pleasure! She writes a monthly column for the Reading Eagle called "Organize This!". Vali's bachelor's degree is in Business Administration from Shippensburg University and her Master's Degree is in Higher Education from Kutztown University. Vali has an extensive background of 24 years in Higher Education including training, administration, project management, writing, and editorial production. Her passion has always been organization and how it relates to the simplification of work and personal life in order to enjoy both to the fullest. Her ultimate goal is to continue finding simple, easy to implement ideas that work in the real world and pass them on to her clients.

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