So my full-time job is kind of a catch-all, task wise. I support multiple managers, I bat paperwork cleanup, I fill in for the receptionist, I handle unhappy customers…at any given point, I’m juggling several balls in the air. So to keep up, I’ve had to stay organized, and it’s working so well, that everyone in the office is impressed with the caliber of my work. But it’s not easy- when I first started working this job without closing my business, I was having a hard time keeping up with everything. I would forget appointments, I was overly stressed, I was having more trouble sleeping than normal because I was worried I screwed something up. Something had to change, so I stepped back and figured out a better way.
My secret weapon is lists.
So many lists. I have them everywhere, for everything, in every color. I keep an errand list and a shopping list in Google Calendar. When I leave work at night, I make a list of things I want to do the next day. When I arrive at work in the morning, I review that list and add to it anything that’s popped up in my email or my manager’s hands. Throughout the day, my general work list will have things added to it and crossed off, and when it gets too messy, I rewrite it. My guess is I rewrite my list at least 3 times a day. I also have a list for things I’m working on that are taking longer – solving a customer’s complaint, for instance. That list tends to be shorter, but I need more details to remember what’s going on with five different people for a week. Those lists I do on my legal pad, and I leave extra space for updates. I also keep my lists categorized – so I may have one for internal issues, with names of who I’m working with on it, what my end goal is, who gave the issue to me. Then I have my client issue list, with phone numbers for updates, any relevant information, and a timeline so that I can make sure it doesn’t take too long. I also write down any promises I make so that I don’t break them – that is the best way to lose a client’s trust. I might have another list for phone calls I need to make, a list for emails, and I keep a list for future things I want to get done that aren’t on a timeline or highly important. With all these lists, nothing gets forgotten.
Get a padfolio.
I got a pretty pink one from Target. It was inexpensive, it’s surprisingly durable, and it has a pocket for papers. I carry it with me everywhere, which entertained my coworkers when I started, until they realized I always had paper and a pen available for notes, my lists were always handy, and I was never caught off guard when I was handed a new task. Computers are great, but even laptops aren’t as portable as paper – you can’t type on a laptop while walking down the hall, and a tablet just isn’t quite as simple. Having a padfolio makes it much easier to keep up with what’s going on.
Keep your desk neat.
To do this, make sure you have the storage accessories that work for you. For instance, I tend to have a lot of files from different people for different purposes, so I need lots of file sorters and baskets big enough for legal size folders. I have my file drawers set up to hold copies of work I’ve done or problems I’ve solved for future reference. Additionally, at the end of the day, I tend to flip through anything that’s still out. Everything I’m waiting on gets put in a binder clip and placed in a file sorter. Everything I need to do the following day gets put in a different binder clip, with any needed notes, and is placed next to my keyboard on top of my padfolio. I go through my post-its and my call list to make sure I got all of that done, I check my emails, and I make sure any trash has made it into the can. Once a week, I go through my inbox and file away any emails that I don’t need (don’t delete them, just tuck them into subfolders).
Make cheat sheets.
Some of my tasks are involved; not complicated necessarily, just many moving pieces or steps to completion. It’s very easy to lose track of what you’ve done or what you still need to do, or if you press this button for this task or is it only for that task? So when I learn how to do something new, I take notes and then I type them up into a cheat sheet. Not only does this give me something easily accessible in case I forget the next step, but if I ever have to train someone else, I’m going to have a detailed instruction manual at my fingertips!
Don’t give up all the copies!
Never NEVER give up every copy of something! Always keep a copy of everything on file and easily accessible. That way, if there’s a problem later, or someone says you didn’t do this, or you need to remember how you solved something, you can flip through the copies and find the necessary information. I keep my notes on solved issues stapled to the copies of forms, and write notes on printouts of issues in the program. That way, if someone says “Hey! Remember that thing from last Tuesday?” I can say, “Yes, and I passed it to L. because here’s the notation on my printout” or “Yes and I did this to solve it”. It can also protect you if you’re getting blamed for something you didn’t do.
It is so crucial to stay organized at work, but it’s also the easiest way to impress your coworkers. If you’re organized, you’ll appear smarter, be more efficient, and have less stress. Those qualities will lead you to a promotion, and who doesn’t want to move up in the world!?