Being reliable, whether at home, with your family and friends or at work with your colleagues, is a fundamental value. People appreciate those that follow through on commitments in a timely manner. At DLC, our consultants demonstrate this value through organizational skills with an eye on deadlines, budgets, and excellent customer service.
How do our consultants consistently deliver this level of service on time and on budget? There are many dimensions including, effective time management and organizational skills.
Prepping the To-Do Lists
We all keep to-do lists, whether in our heads, in our email, in a notebook, or anywhere else where thoughts and ideas can be recorded. The key to managing our lists is to have consistent organizational skills.
There are many tools and approaches available to manage time effectively. The following is an organizational approach that has consistently made me a reliable person.
Effective Time Management and Organizational Skills
Being organized starts with email. Does that sound crazy? It’s easier than you think. Most email can be categorized as either a call to action or informational. Emails providing information should be filed as soon as they are read. Emails requesting an action can either be dealt with immediately or triaged.
You don’t need a complicated filing system to keep track of emails. A simple folder titled “Filed” will suffice. Newer email tools, from Outlook to Gmail, are powerful and provide many options to search through emails. You can quickly find a note, sorting by “From”, “Date”, “Subject”, etc.
For emails requiring your response or action, use built-in flags and keep the emails in your inbox until you’ve addressed them. The key here is to prioritize what you respond to and when. By continuously filing emails that you’ve read and prioritizing the ones you need to respond to, you’ll manage to empty out your inbox, or close to it! Your inbox essentially becomes part of your to-do list.
While we’re discussing email, I also leverage the calendar to block time with a specific to do when it’s time-sensitive. The calendar can also be a part of your to-do list.
Finally is the actual to-do list. I use Microsoft OneNote since it’s compatible with all my devices and has everything I need to effectively manage tasks. There are many products that offer similar functionality including Apple Notes, Evernote, among others. They all deliver the same value and it comes down to your own preferences.
I have three main tabs in OneNote: Triage, To Do, and Waiting.
The Triage tab has raw notes that I’ll need to deal with at the end of the day. The To-Do tab is further divided into ASAP, SOON, and LATER, depending on prioritization. The Waiting tab is a list of actions I am waiting for others to take before I can proceed on my own responsibilities. I note the deliverable, the person’s name, and the date they committed to on this tab. I also set agendas, record conversations, and note ideas I might follow up with in the future on other tabs, as needed.
Putting It All Together
My day starts at the end of the day. This is when I go through my meeting notes and Triage list. I move items into my To-Do tab as either ASAP (within 5 days), SOON (within the next three weeks), or LATER (sometime in the future). It is critical that the Triage list gets managed down to nothing every day. This is the key to making the system work. A to-do should never remain in the Triage tab.
As I take notes during meetings, I number all my actions and use alpha characters to note actions others are taking that impact me. When I triage at the end of the day, I clean up my handwritten notes in Word. I move numbered items to the To-Do tab or put them on the calendar if they are time-sensitive. Move alpha characters to Waiting.
Lastly, I go through emails, filing informational emails after I read them and working through the rest by either responding or prioritizing the action by putting it on my OneNote To-Do tab, adding an action to the calendar, or leaving it in email with a priority flag.
When I come in the next day, I know what is expected of me and I start executing on my deliverables. I attend meetings, record notes, and check email throughout the day working away at the ASAP to-do list. Once the ASAP list is cleared, I start working on LATER, which eventually turns into ASAP when the deadline is imminent.
Organizational Skills Results
Behavior changes take time and require real motivation. Once you’ve developed your organizational system you’ll notice a reduction in stress levels, you will forget things less, and you’ll be meeting other’s expectations of you.
Now that you’re organized, it’s time to get to work and deliver value to your stakeholders in both your private and professional lives!