Feeling pressured by paperwork? Overwhelmed by your inbox? We all know the saying, Slow and steady wins the race but being organised can also put you in front of your competition and on top of your workload. Jennifer DeLuca shares a timeless tale plus tips on improving productivity.
It comes to being organised, some of the things that seem to slow you down are the very things that let you work faster in the long run.
Did you know that a single two-second distraction can cost you 15 minutes of your day? When your concentration is interrupted, it takes up to 15 minutes to get your focus back.
I want to share with you a story that I once read and have never forgotten. It sums up productivity and the art of being organised to perfection. It is called the Productivity Fable and goes like this…
Tortoise and Hare were both known for their culinary expertise and were invited to a face-off in the Iron Chef. Soon after the competition began, it was clear that the Hare was significantly ahead of the Tortoise. The audience was amazed at the speed with which Hare mixed ingredients, poured them into another container and tossed the mixing bowl aside to move on to the next step in preparation.
Tortoise, on the other hand, seemed to be well behind. It wasn’t that he was going slower than Hare, but the audience agonisingly watched as he carefully cleaned each bowl, pan and utensil and put them back in their place after use. Tortoise was making progress, but was well behind the Hare in completing his culinary masterpiece.
Hare continued to out-pace Tortoise, but about halfway through the competition, things began to change. Hare needed to mix raw eggs with Tabasco to make one of his secret sauces, but he couldn’t find a clean mixing bowl. He looked around and finally found a dirty one that had been kicked under the counter. He tried to quickly wipe it out with a paper towel, but discovered that the previous ingredients had already hardened.
After spending a few minutes chipping away at the mixture, he left it to soak in water and went to look for another. When he found one that looked like he could clean it easily, he took it back to the sink to rinse it out, but he couldn’t get it under the tap because the other bowl was in the way. He finally got the soaking bowl out of the way, but managed to spill it on the floor in the process. Once he got the bowl clean, he mixed the two ingredients and then headed over to the stove to pour them into a sauce pan. The first two sauce pans had food cooked to them, and he finally found one that was less dirty and headed back to the sink to clean it. On the way, he slipped on the water previously spilled on the floor…
All this time, Tortoise continued to work as before, cleaning each item after use and putting it back where it belonged. He finished on time as the competition ended with a clean working area and a marvellous meal. Hare, on the other hand, had to work extremely fast to even finish and most of the last half of the competition was spent trying to chip hardened food off bowls and pans. He had to skip several of the things he had planned because he ran out of time.
The moral of the story: When it comes to being organised, some of the things that seem to slow you down are the very things that let you work faster in the long run.
The amount of time it takes to stay organised in your business and personal life is much less than the amount of time it takes to get organised when you are working to a deadline. Having an organised desk, a good system for dealing with paperwork, all your contacts in one place, and a well-designed filing system will take time to set up and maintain. Sometimes it might even seem like a waste of time, but when you get busy these are the very things that will let you operate at peak efficiency.
Top level personal coach Cheryl Richardson said, “A new level of success will always require a new level of organisation”. The first step to becoming efficient and more productive in life is to get organised.
Five tips to get organised
Some easy ideas to implement immediately:
1. Plan tomorrow today
Want to get a jump on your tasks for tomorrow? Great! Start today. At the end of your work period, once you clean off your desk, create a to-do list for the next day. That way, when you start working in the morning, you already have an action plan for the day.
2. Stick to a schedule
When you’re trying to manage your time and be productive, there’s a lot to be said for sticking to a routine to stay on track. Of course there will be days when you need to alter your routine slightly to accommodate an appointment or a family commitment, but those days should be the exceptions, not the norm.
3. Ditch the distractions
Nothing sends your time management into a tailspin faster than distractions, but what constitutes a distraction varies from person to person. You need to determine what things distract you and do what you can to eliminate them. Of course there are certain things that distract everyone and should just be avoided entirely.
4. Prioritise your e-mail
One of the best ways to manage your e-mail is to set up a couple of different e-mail accounts; one for work related e-mail and another for your personal e-mail. This will save you from wading through personal e-mail to get to important work ones – plus you’ll be less likely to get distracted by the photos of cute baby animals your friend just sent to you. You can always schedule a few minutes somewhere in your day to look at your personal e-mail. But no matter which e-mail account you’re dealing with, it’s wise to organise your messages. Delete the ones you don’t need and organise the rest into folders that make them easy to find at a later time.
5. Don’t multi-task everything
It’s great to be able to handle more than one thing at a time, but when it comes to work, it’s not good to multi-task everything. Sticking to one task through to completion, especially if it is quite involved, is often a better use of your time than jumping back and forth between tasks, since your brain has to keep shifting gears. Likewise, it’s better to just finish a small task rather than jump back and forth between several small tasks. Believe me, you’ll get all of them finished much more quickly.