In order for your team to effectively manage their time and to be productive each day, they must create the appropriate environment. By eliminating clutter, setting up an effective filing system, gathering essential tools, and managing workflow, your team will be well on their way to creating an effective workspace.
Declutter The Workspace
Removing clutter is itself a time-consuming task, but a cluttered workspace significantly impairs the team’s ability to find things, and they will get the time back that they invest – and more! To retrieve materials quickly, the team will need an effective filing system that includes three basic kinds of files:
Working files: Materials used frequently and needed close at hand.
Reference files: Information needed only occasionally.
Archival files: Materials seldom retrieved, but that must be kept. For ease of retrieval, organize files in the simplest way possible. For example, the team could label files with a one or two word tag and arrange the files alphabetically.
Once clutter has been eliminated and other materials have been filed, the effective workspace includes only what is essential: a set of three trays to control the workflow on their desks, standard office supplies, a computer, and a telephone. Everything else, except for what they are working on at the moment, can and should be filed where it can be retrieved as needed.
How do you process the mountain of material that collects in your paper and electronic in-baskets? The answer is one piece of paper, one electronic message at a time. Many time management experts agree that the most effective people act on an item the first time it is touched.
Although difficult at first, the practice can become habitual, and is made easier with the four Ds:
DO: If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately.
DELETE: If the material is trash or junk, delete it. Or, if it’s something that you might use later on, file it, and move on.
DEFER: If the task is one that can’t be completed quickly and is not a high priority item, simply defer it.
DELEGATE: If a task is not yours to do, then delegate it.
Remember, to take the S.T.I.N.G. out of feeling overwhelmed about a task, follow these steps:
Select one task to do at a time.
Time yourself using a clock for no more than one hour.
Ignore everything else during that time.
No breaks or interruptions should be permitted.
Give yourself a reward when the time is up.
Dealing with E-mail
Electronic communication can be managed just as easily and as quickly as paper with the four D’s that we just discussed. However, there are some other key ideas that will help your team maximize their e-mail time.
Like other routine tasks (such as returning phone calls, handling paper mail, and checking voice mail), e-mail is best handled in batches at regularly scheduled times of the day.
Ask your e-mail contacts to use specific subject lines, and make sure to use them yourself. This will help you to determine whether your incoming mail is business or personal, urgent or trivial.
Once you know the subject of the message, open and read urgent e-mails, and respond accordingly. Non-urgent e-mails, like jokes, can be read later. Delete advertising-related e-mail that you have no interest in, or which you consider spam.
Use your e-mail system to its fullest potential. Create folders for different topics or projects, or by senders. Most e-mail systems also allow you to create folders and add keywords or categories to messages, which makes information retrieval much easier.
Many e-mail programs allow you to create rules that automatically move messages to the appropriate folder. This can help you follow your e-mail plan.
Finally, don’t forget to delete e-mail from your trash can and junk folder on a regular basis.
To manage all of the things that they have to do, it’s important that the team organize their reminders into a small number of calendars and lists that can be reviewed regularly. A calendar (paper or electronic) is the obvious place to record meetings, appointments, and due dates.
For people with multiple responsibilities, an annual calendar organized by areas of responsibility (e.g., budget, personnel, schedule, planning, and miscellaneous) may be especially valuable. For each of these areas, one can list the major responsibilities month by month and thereby see at a glance what tasks must be completed in a given month of the year.