Thursday, January 03, 2008

How to really start fresh in 2008

From my email is the following column by Harvey Mackay. I have posted items from him in my other blog (Collective Wisdom, dedicated to advertising, marketing and the creative process), but this is advice for all of us.

And the good part is any of us can do this anytime, but don't make that a reason to procrastinate.

New Year a good time to get organized

I am a habitual packrat. My filing system is piles ... one pile for each project. And that's a lot of piles. I like to joke that I never lose anything; I just misplace things. But I am vowing to do better in 2008. And if I can do it, anyone can do it.

Is one of your New Year's resolutions to get organized? Here's some incentive: January is Get Organized Month, a perfect opportunity to streamline your life, lower your stress and increase your profit and productivity.

If you want even more incentive, a recent poll by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) found that an impressive 78 percent have found money or un-cashed checks during an organizing project. A fairly remarkable 26 percent of respondents have even found $1,000 or more. It proves it literally pays to get organized!

Getting organized also saves money. I remember some years ago that the Wall Street Journal reported that the average U.S. executive wastes six weeks per year retrieving misplaced information from messy desks and files. For an employee earning $75,000 a year, that translates to a loss of $9,221. For a company with 100 employees at that salary, it translates to nearly $1 million in lost productivity.

The new calendar year is an ideal time for most of us to get organized. Face it, if your office is a mess, putting it off won't make matters better.

Productivity guru David Allen, author of "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity," says we need to get organized so we can do what we need to do. Allen says the mind stores up all the things you have to do and then constantly reminds you on some level. That's when the stress kicks in, because these reminders come at times when you cannot take appropriate action. Sounds pretty familiar so far!

Allen's advice is to both think and stop thinking about the things you need to do. Sounds contradictory, but it's not. Think in a concentrated way so you can accomplish the necessary tasks. Stop thinking about what you need to do at other times because that is a huge time waster, which contributes to disorganization. Making lists takes some of the clutter out of your brain so you can concentrate instead on performing tasks.

Sounds simple enough—so why aren't we doing it now?

Well, the first—and hardest—part of getting things done is getting started.

A friend of mine has a novel approach. She declares "Out with the Old Day" the first working day of the year. After her staff has a couple of hours to handle the routine chores that can't be ignored, the rest of the day is dedicated to cleaning out offices, files, desks, even the break room. It gets the year off to a fresh start, and sends a very important message to employees: she values order and organization and is willing to support their efforts to do their jobs efficiently.

At another company, Friday afternoons are clean-up time. An hour or two allows staff to clear off the week's completed projects and organize for Monday morning, when it often takes a little longer to get in gear.

Whatever way works best for your situation, I think it's important for employees to have some work time set aside when they are not only allowed but also expected to clear out the clutter.

As a manager, you must also provide the tools your employees need to get organized and stay organized. In this cubicle-oriented world, managing information and files and general stuff requires some planning.

It's amazing how the industry of getting organized has taken off. We now have huge stores dedicated to supplying the perfect box, hook or rack to store our stuff. There are huge filing cabinets that slide every which way to fit in any size space. There are websites, webinars, teleseminars and podcasts, all about getting organized.

There will always be individuals who claim they can find anything in the midst of the clutter that has overtaken their office space—and amazingly, they can. Believe me, they are the exception to the rule. You may have to relent and overlook some messiness if their contributions to the organization are otherwise valuable. But trust me, most of your employees will welcome your efforts to help them stay organized. It's a great way to start your engines for the New Year.

Mackay's Moral: A successful organization depends on good organization.

Miss a column? The last three weeks of Harvey's columns are always archived online.

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