Most of us struggle with organization. Some of us are intuitively organized, and some of us fall far behind the rest. While this tutorial is useful for everyone, it’s most directed at right brainers who are creative and visual, yet lack the logical systematizing minds of left-brainers. For us right brainers, keeping up with everyday tasks or organizing the execution of a project seems a chaotic vortex of overbearing obligation. After years of personally struggling with my left-brain deficiency, I discovered a cheap office secret that cured my organization problem … well mostly cured. Nothing is perfect. But this helped immensely.
Learn and use the term “action items.”
An action item is a single and specific task that must be executed either by an individual or a team. In the professional world, action items come from our emails, business meetings, phone calls with clients, or discrete directives from our superiors. They can be anything from drafting an email, creating a spreadsheet, researching a topic, making a cold call, or picking up the dry-cleaning on the way home. The important thing to remember is that an action item is a single individual task. Our days are full of action items, often so jam packed with them, we fail to remember them all. Not only are they hard to remember, but difficult to prioritize and schedule.
Brainstorm and list your action items.
Sit down in a quiet comfortable space where you can be alone with your thoughts. Your morning coffee is a great aid in this step of the process. You’re energized and your mind is fresh. Without worrying over a chronological or systematic order of everything you need to accomplish, simply list your items one-by-one as they pop into your head. Spend some time thinking over each item. Imagine yourself accomplishing the task. Ask yourself if the item can be broken down even into smaller, more specific tasks and list those.
Purchase a large spiral notebook, and a package of multi-colored Post-it notes.
On the pages of the spiral notebook write each day of the days of the week as headings.
If you really have a lot going on, you can break down each day into 2 or 3 separate pages with headings “Monday Morning, Monday Afternoon, Monday Evening.” Headings can include specific task areas such as “Tuesday Morning: Emails, Thursday Afternoon: Spreadsheets, Saturday Morning: House Chores.” Office supplies are cheap. Don’t worry about filling up your notebook. Toss it and get another one. I find it easier to break down my week into as many pages as is sensible. This allows me to break down my to-do list into very specific tasks, each accomplished in under a few hours. This keeps me from feeling over-burdened by complex time-consuming responsibilities. Instead, I am able to organize such “to-do’s” into several small, easy-to-accomplish tasks.
Take out your list of action items and go through them item by item, copying each action onto a Post-it note of varying color.
Then, stick it directly onto the pages of the notebook, organizing each action item to it’s rightful page, from top to bottom, and in order of priority. Don’t worry about trying to come up with a color-coding scheme for the various Post-It Note color options. It’s only important each action item is a different color. As you continually use the page of Post-its as a visual reference, you will come to associate each action item with its entitled color. It will help you remember each item. You can match any color Post-it to any item.
Get to work!
As you progress through the day, work on one action item at a time. As you accomplish each task, tear off its associated Post-It, crinkle it up, and throw it away (or recycle). As you near the end of the day, your page should be blank and your waste bin froth with little neon snowballs of crinkled 3M paper.
If you have any action items left on your page at the end of the day…just unstick them and move them to the next page, or a few pages into the notebook if it makes sense with your time schedule. The world isn’t perfect and while we generally struggle to finish everything we set out to do in a day, moving the task to another page to be accomplished at a better date is an action in itself.
Is there an office issue YOU know how to resolve that other office workers might benefit from? Write for our blog and get published online. The best part? You get PAID. Learn more now and submit a topic!