The Wall Street Journal reported that the average person spends over 150 hours per year just looking for information. The Esselte company conducted a study of over 2,600 executives and found that the average executive wastes 6 week a year just looking for lost documents and information.
If your business is not effectively organized, it’s costing you money. If you are like the average executive, I bet that you have a lot of things that you would like to do, but don't have the time. You are so busy working you can't even imagine taking time off to enjoy life. It is not an easy problem to solve – otherwise there would not be so many places with this problem! The good news is that you can solve it!
1 – Define Success – What is Your Dream
Start by making sure that you and your team know the vision. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you figure out your “why” for doing what you do.
- In a perfect world, how would things work for you? What would no longer happen? What would happen that is not happening today?
- What would success look like? How would you feel? What would you be able to do that you can’t do now?
- What are you building? Why does your business need to exist?
- What could you measure over time to know if you're making progress?
- How do you intend to build the business?
- What are the key projects to be completed this year?
- If you are not sure how to answer these questions, begin by writing down what you don’t want!
You can be as detailed or as broad as you would like. Consider your life, your home, your work, your office, or your desktop. Consider what things might look like. Consider how you will feel. Nothing is too crazy. Don’t limit yourself. It is your dream. Write it out. It is important to understand your “why” because it is the foundation for everything else that you put into place.
2 – Understand You
This sounds really simplistic, but for many it is not. In fact, most of the time this step is skipped completely! We learned back in pre-school that trying to fit a square peg into a round hole just does not work. No matter how we turn it or twist it — it doesn’t fit. Yet, we try to do it all of the time by putting systems in place that don’t match our personal or our organizations’ styles.
Begin by being realistic about your lifestyle and personal style. Focusing on the way you live is important to finding the right organizing strategies for your life. Be realistic about your personal style – it is not about what you should do, it is about what you WILL do.
There are some that think that one system should work for everyone. It would be nice if the world was that simple, but as we all know, people have different thinking and learning styles. They even have different rates that they can learn and absorb information. There are different organization styles too. Understanding your style and developing systems that fit with who you are sets you up for success.
Are You an “Innie” or an “Outtie”? Understand Your Organizing Style
An “Innie” is someone that functions better when their space is clear of distractions. An “Outtie” is someone that will forget items even exist if they are enclosed.
3 – Get Solid Systems in Place – Make Good Use of Routines and Processes
Routines/processes are habits that support your efforts in an effortless way. To illustrate, let me ask you a few questions (no calculators please): What is
2 + 2?
4 + 4?
8 + 8?
7,873,923,740,934 + 981,748,174?
When you read the math questions above, could you answer the first 3 quite quickly; but wanted to reach for your calculator for the last one? Why is that? It is because when we were quite young, our adult caregivers drilled the basic math facts into our minds until they were routine. When you first started to learn 2 + 2 it was not as easy as it is now. That is true of any routine or process you put into place.
Look at the answers you came up with in Steps 1 and 2 above. Then look at all of the different activities that your business does every day. Do you have a process manual and an employee manual outlining expectations and procedure? If not, now is the time to start! Businesses with well-defined systems and processes not only function better, but are actually valued at a higher rate by business appraisers than those that are ran by memory.
4 – Understand the Best Way for You to Retrieve Information
One of the biggest time wasters in the business world today is time spent looking for information. Accenture conducted a survey of 1,000 middle managers in large companies in the U.S. and U.K. and found that 59% miss important information almost every day because it exists within the company but they cannot find it. The paperless society just never happened. We actually have more paper today than we did 10 years ago!
There are 2 parts to a great information organization system. 1) reference information and an 2) action system.
Your reference system is what you might think of as a traditional paper filing system. It contains the information that you need to keep for reference, but is not necessarily accessed on a daily basis.
An action system is created to manage all of those pieces of paper that seem to stay on your desk because you don't want to forget to do something. There are a few different ways that you can create an action system.
5 – Know Where Your Time is Going and Resist the Temptation to Multitask!
In today's society, it is difficult to get away from all of the electronic gadgets that keep us “on” all of the time. Unplugging, even for a short while, is not readily accepted by our co-workers, clients, friends and family. The false assumption is that the more gadgets we have, the more we can get done. The reality is that the more gadgets we have the more we can get done half-way. Completing projects and tasks is harder than ever for most of my clients.
Interruptions Cost You More Than You Think!
University of Califormia, Irvine researchers, Gloria Mark and Victor Gonsalez, found that it takes workers 25 minutes to return to the original task — if they return at all. In another study, Basex, a New York research firm specializing in information overload, found that office distractions and interruptions ate up 2.1 hours a day for the average worker. The time it takes for your brain to get back into its original train of thought is costing your company money in unproductive time! Your brain can really only process one type of thought at a time. Cultivating the skill of just focusing on one thing for 60 minute time period is an important skill that we are loosing with all of the multitasking that we do today. So, the next time you have a project that is important consider the following:
- Block the time on your calendar.
- If you have something electronic around you cell phone, radio, tv – anything that is on or could come on anything that could bug you – turn it to the off position.
- Email is the ultimate distraction that most of us face now. Try to prevent any incoming email from coming in and bugging you.
- Close all online social networking applications – or better yet, close down your internet browser.
- Use the restroom and get yourself something to drink so that you don't have to get up and leave.
- Close your door so that you cannot get interrupted and consider putting a do not disturb sign on the door.
Then, work on your project fully focused. If you find your mind wandering or have a strong desire to check Twitter, resist!
If you are really guilty of multitasking and doing too many things at once, you might want to put a sticky note on your screen that says “Eliminate Distraction and Interruption” – the more you can do that the better you can do in business and life and everywhere else.
Start Small and Build on Successes
If you or your team are exhibiting stress due to disorganization, take a step back and start looking at the causes of the stress rather than the symptoms. Don't know where to start? Take caution in making numerous changes at once. The average person can only work on 3 major changes at once and be successful. Getting organized takes time and a change in habits. When the habits are changed and maintained, a feeling of release will happen and more creative work on the business can begin.
Have some ideas that you would like to “bounce around?” Have something you have tried and it worked? Leave your comments in the comments field below.