Recently, I began to feel like I was no longer an organized leader. My desk overflowed with paper; the emails in my inbox kept piling up. Finally I’d had enough; on my desktop, I created folders for each project; I prioritized which emails actually merited a response; and once I dealt with the small stuff, I made a primary list of my priorities and created a timeline for completion.
Becoming an organized leader (or an organized anything, for that matter) isn’t an enormously difficult task, but it does take a bit of work—and an attention to detail. If you’re not yet convinced to get your life in order, here are some points that might motivate you. Being organized yields:
More Productivity: Organized leaders who have a task list can see exactly what they need to do, and when they need to do it. Because they can prioritize their time more effectively, they can dedicate their full attention to the particular task at hand—leading to greater efficiency gains.
Less Stress: Leaders who’re organized know there’s less chance of uncompleted and forgotten tasks coming back to haunt them. That leads to confidence—and way less stress, because they’re not worried about being caught off guard.
Increased Working Space: Clearing your desktops (both real and virtual) gives you more free space for working on projects, which means less chance of things being lost in the shuffle.
How to Get There
But how can someone reach this blessed state of organizational nirvana? What can you do on a daily basis to ensure your desk stays clear and lists up-to-date?
It’s key to set realistic goals and stay focused on them. You must keep each goal constantly front-of-mind, so you’ll maintain your focus on achieving it. The key word here is “realism”: If the goals are too ambitious and unrealistic, you could get discouraged.
Maintaining your goals hinges on maintaining an accurate calendar, preferably one that allows you to dynamically update appointments, due dates, and other important information. However packed your schedule, though, make sure to devote 15 minutes at the beginning of each business day to set priorities—without phone or email interruptions.
Your calendar is separate from your priority list, which should arrange the aforementioned priorities from highest (most important) to lowest (least important). Here’s the important part: Don’t make tasks low-priority simply because they’re easy or hard; evaluate which ones will help you most effectively reach your goals, and place those first.
Set aside at least 15-30 minutes at the end of your business day to tie up loose ends: Follow up on your remaining work, forward information to coworkers as necessary, respond to email and voicemail messages, file away the things that you need to keep, and toss the rest. Finally, quickly review your appointments for the following day.
Another important thing to schedule, although most people overlook it: Take an hour or two every week to stay organized, whether that means cleaning your desk or just dumping everything on your PC desktop into the handy Trash icon. (Too bad keyboards don’t have a physical trash button; that would make it so much easier just to chuck things that don’t matter.)
So why should you invest in getting organized? Because you need to be on top of the things you can control. You owe it to yourself, your employees, and your organization to always be the best you can be.