Organization and Time Management

I have a confession to make before you start reading this love letter to time management and organization. I’m not a busy mom on-the-go. Years ago, at my first post-college job, I worked for a busy mom on-the-go and she wrote a piece for the company newsletter about this same topic. She pointed out that when she’s got a lot to do, she’ll multitask. She said she’d start the dishwasher and then move on to the next task like there might be readers who would start the dishwasher and then stand there until it’s done. I like to think she had a different idea in mind and someone new to English edited her article.

So as you may have already assumed, I am totally a dude (Beards! Smelling like sandalwood!). You don’t stand there and watch your dishwasher run, do you? Please don’t tell me if you do. That’s between you and your pastor. Instead, let’s talk about my Grade-A ideas and tips to help anyone who wants to up their getting-it-together game.

First things first. Let’s see if we can balance that workload. Like Courtney Love’s carpet cleaning team, I find myself pretty busy a lot of the time. As Creative Services Manager, all of the projects that our Creative Department works on pass through my office (also known as a cube) – and that’s a lot of projects. If I have a pile of jobs that I need to assign/distribute to different people in our Creative Department, it helps me if I take a moment and assess that pile. I consider its essence and live with it for a second. Then, I treat it like laundry and sort it. I make a pile of projects due today and put it next to the pile of jobs with rather simple changes and later due dates. The jeans pile and the gym clothes pile, if you will. On another part of my desk I put the jobs with more complicated instructions (gentle cycle) or don’t have clear instructions (aka: things that need ironed). Once I’ve got smaller piles, I reassess. Breaking down a big pile of work makes it more manageable to me.

Another technique I like to use I have affectionately nicknamed, “Multiple Choice.” If I start reading through a job request and it turns out to be a monster and I don’t even know where to begin with it, I do the same thing I’d do if I was taking a multiple choice test: move on to the next question and come back when I’m finished with everything else. Coming back to that job request later, even if it’s only been a few minutes, means I’ve soaked it in some. Familiar tasks are easier to navigate, I think. It should be noted that if this strategy is applied to interpersonal relationships, it may lead to a restraining order.

Everyone has found themselves wondering how they’re going to get everything done. The wondering is the part we have in common. What needs to be done varies (as any kindergarten teacher, my cat and Mariah Carey’s PhotoShop team can attest to). If I’ve got a boatload of things to do, I like to set some interim goals. I figure out what needs to be done and what needs to be done now.

As you can see, almost all of my advice is of the “divide and conquer” variety. I’m going to be ready to lead an invasion of Canada in like, three years. “Maple syrup can’t save you now,” I always say.

We’re all feeling good about managing our workloads and getting everything done now, so let’s talk time management tips. I like to just let my body tell me when it’s time to start a new project or move on to the next task. Just kidding – I’m not a hippy. But, here are five tried and true ways for you to turn that To-Do List into a Ta-Dah! List (that’s the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever written).

  1. Stay focused. Hunker down and don’t get distracted. Plow through what needs your attention. If you keep your focus, you will get through this. You are Rocky Balboa. “Eye of the Tiger” is blaring from somewhere. WIN, dammit!
  2. Think of what it feels like to be finished. Remember the last time you wrapped everything up? Cling to that memory and strive to get there again. You can do it!
  3. Ask for help. If you need help and there are people available to lend a hand, ask them to help. Have you ever been to a funeral where the eulogy pointed out how great it was that the deceased never asked for help? Me neither.
  4. Offer help. If you have the capacity to help someone out, do so. That generosity will come back to you, I guarantee it. It’s the circle of life – hakuna matata!
  5. Develop an organizational system that works for you. You’re a weirdo! Me too. Off-the-rack day planners and tab dividers don’t work for everyone’s organizational needs. Figure out a way to keep yourself organized and use the hell out of it. Romy and Michele inventing Post-It Notes is all the inspiration you need!

Did I miss anything? Which tips and tricks do you like to use? Reveal your secrets, please.

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